Money Drives Abreu Trade To Yankees

In the first blockbuster of Trade Deadline weekend, the Yankees filled two holes on Sunday. New York acquired Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle from the Phillies in exchange for four minor leaguers: shortstop C.J. Henry, lefthander Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and righthander Carlos Monasterios.

Though the Yankees farm system is improving, this trade was all about money. New York will absorb the remainder of Abreu’s contract ($13 million salary in 2006, $15 million in 2007 and either $16 million or a $2 million buyout in 2008) and the rest of Lidle’s $3.3 million salary for this season. Because the Yankees took on roughly $23 million in financial commitments, they didn’t have to part with any of their best prospects. Smith is the only player Philadelphia received who’s playing above low Class A. Henry, who has the best pedigree of the group as a first-round pick in 2005, has struggled mightily in his first full season.

The 32-year-old Abreu’s power numbers have dipped since he won the Home Run Derby at the 2005 All-Star Game, but he remains a formidable offensive player. He’s hitting .277/.427/.434 with eight homers and 65 RBIs in 99 games. He is producing for gap power (25 doubles), excels at getting on base (National League-best 91 walks) and can steal once he reaches (20 swipes in 24 attempts). Abreu has a strong arm and good range in right field, but his 2005 Gold Glove overstates his defensive value. He’s conservative going after balls and has a reputation for lapses in concentration. In 1,428 career games, he has batted .301/.412/.507 with 198 homers, 841 RBIs and 261 steals. With Abreu now on board, the Yankees won’t miss the injured Gary Sheffield nearly as much.

Lidle, a 34-year-old righthander, should replace Sidney Ponson in New York’s rotation and represents a huge upgrade over the portly Aruban. Lidle, who has won four of his five starts in July, is 8-7, 4.74 in 21 starts overall. He has a 98-39 K-BB ratio in 125 innings, with opponents batting .271 with 19 homers against him. He doesn’t have a plus pitch but throws strikes with his fastball, curveball, splitter and changeup. Lidle will be a free agent at season’s end. He has a career record of 78-69, 4.54 in 267 games.

Henry, 20, was the 17th overall pick in 2005 out of an Oklahoma high school. Considered one of the top athletes in that draft, he could have played basketball at Kansas, where his father Carl played en route to a brief NBA career. There were some concerns that Henry’s swing was long and mechanical, and that he would have to make several adjustments in order to hit for average. Those have proven to be well-founded. He batted just .249 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his debut, and just .237/.326/.350 with two homers, 33 RBIs and 14 steals in 76 games at low Class A Charleston this year. His raw power and his speed are both plus tools, and he has the physical skills to play shortstop as a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder.

Smith, 27, was a 2000 fourth-round pick from Oklahoma State. He made his big league debut earlier this year, pitching 12 scoreless innings in as many appearances. He has spent most of the season at Triple-A Columbus, going 0-1, 2.08 in 24 appearances. He has a 22-8 K-BB ratio, .267 opponent average and three homers allowed in 26 innings. With an 88-92 mph fastball and a sweeping slider, he projects mostly as a situational lefthander.

Both Sanchez and Monasterios signed out of Venzuela in 2004 and have made their U.S. debuts this season in the GCL. Sanchez, 18, is quite athletic for a catcher and has promising catch-and-throw skills. His biggest drawback is a lack of power at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds. He’s hitting .264/.343/.319 with no homers and 10 RBIs in 23 games.

Monasterios, 20, has a live, loose arm and has a fastball that has been clocked up to 96 mph. The rest of his stuff is fringy at this point. He owns a 1-2, 2.97 record in seven games (three starts). He has a 24-3 K-BB ratio, .207 opponent average and two homers allowed in 30 innings.

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