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Yankees deal with eye on October
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
A couple weeks ago, when George Steinbrenner was closing in on a trade that would have brought Sosa to the Yankees, New York's starting pitching was in such disarray that the Boss' wise circle of advisors talked him out of Sammy and into a prevent mode that included acquiring David Justice and holding the rest of his bargaining chips for a pitcher.
Steinbrenner listened, and for about what it was going to cost to acquire Sosa, they got Justice and Neagle.
The Yankees were willing to give up Drew Henson and Jackson Melian, as well as two pitching prospects to get Neagle, for good reasons:
Neagle has eight wins and a 3.52 ERA. Let's put that in perspective: The only left-handed starters with better ERAs are Randy Johnson, Al Leiter, Mike Hampton and David Wells. Neagle's ERA puts him in the top 12 percent of starting pitchers, and remember that each team averages just 3 1/2 starters who have qualified for the ERA title.
From Cincinnati's perspective, Reds GM Jim Bowden said a week ago that he would line his players up and see what happens.
"I have to do the big-picture thing," Bowden said, and if the Reds get back in the NL Central race, maybe Bowden can trade Henson to Detroit for a bat or pitching. Bowden loves Melian, and knows Henson can pound the ball. Very few GMs would have the guts to do this, but guts is something Jim Bowden doesn't have to worry about.
This deal puts a lot of pressure on Bowden to sign Henson away from Michigan, where he'll be the starting quarterback this fall; the Yankees knew that in his heart, Drew wants to play baseball, but didn't know what that love would cost. Henson's arrival in Cincinnati could open the door to Barry Larkin being moved before July 31 as well.
The Reds will always be on the edge, and they still are going to be very good for years to come. But the Yankees have stopped their bleeding and thrown down the gauntlet in front of the Red Sox and Blue Jays with an eye toward playing in October.
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