Yankees Deal Sheffield To Detroit

After exercising their $13 million option on him last weekend, the Yankees pulled the trigger on trading outfielder Gary Sheffield on Friday, sending him to Detroit for righthanders Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett.

In Sheffield, the Tigers add a legitimate power threat to the middle of their lineup, and might still be looking to add another lefthanded bat to bolster production. Detroit also agreed to a two-year contract extension with Sheffield through the 2009 season.

Sheffield, 37, batted .298 (45-for-151) with six homers and 25 RBIs in just 39 games for New York in 2006, spending much of the season on the disabled list with a left wrist injury.

The nine-time all-star has played for the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees over his 19-year career. He holds a .297 career batting average with 455 home runs and 1,501 RBIs.

The biggest piece the Yankees get in return is Sanchez, a 2001 31st-round pick signed as a draft-and-follow out of Connors State (Okla.) Junior College. The starter for the World team in this year’s Futures Game, Sanchez was born in the Dominican Republic, but grew up in the Bronx, just miles away from Yankee Stadium.

One of the premier pitching prospects in the Tigers’ system, Sanchez has power stuff starting with his fastball that regularly tops out at 97 mph. He complements his heater with two hard breaking balls and an above-average changeup. His repertoire was major league ready by midseason, but a tender elbow shut him down after a promotion to Triple-A Toledo.

Sanchez’s biggest problem over the last two years has been staying healthy. The 23-year-old worked hard to trim his weight after lat muscle and groin problems hampered him throughout the 2005 season, and he needs to keep his weight down in order to enhance his overall durability.

Sanchez went a combined 10-6, 2.63 while posting a career-high 123 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in 2006.

The Yankees also add a potential future piece to their bullpen in Whelan, a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2005. A converted catcher, the 22-year-old righthander already has two plus pitches in his fastball and splitter. The splitter is his best offering, and he shows two different variations of the pitch–one dropping down lower than the other–and it’s been clocked as high as 89 mph. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph with average life.

Though Whelan has above-average stuff, he lacked consistent command of it in 2006 at high Class A Lakeland, where he walked 29 in 51 innings. Part of the high walk total was due to Whelan trying to develop a slider, which is his third pitch.

Claggett, an 11th-round pick out of UC Riverside in 2005, ranked in the top five in the low Class A Midwest League with 51 appearances. He struck out one batter per inning with West Michigan while relying on a 92-94 mph fastball and slider. Both pitches grade as average to just above-average, but they play bigger because of his size and deceptive delivery. The 22-year-old also tinkered with developing a changeup in 2006, though it is still a work in progress.

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