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Yankees deal with eye on October

Special to

July 12

If you are Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez or Juan Gonzalez, this may be bad news at the best of times: Denny Neagle is worth more than Sammy Sosa.

Denny Neagle
The Neagle trade will benefit the Reds, according to ESPN's Peter Gammons.

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 likely is the best pitcher who will be on the market between now and the end of August, and by pulling a pre-emptive strike and paying Nieman's prices, they got him four starts before the July 31 deadline. Those four starts could mean New York is in first place if and when Boston and Toronto repair their tatterered starting staffs.

  • Neagle should be a very good pitcher in Yankee Stadium, a groundball/changeup guy who can take advantage of the left side defense of Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius.

  • The Yankees' pitching staff, which had the worst ERA in baseball in June at 6.00, now has a rotation of Neagle, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens and David Cone. If anything happens, Ramiro Mendoza will be ready to move up.

  • Look at some of the rest of the starting pitching market: Ismael Valdes (1-2 with a 4.83 ERA and eternally questionable because of blisters); Scott Erickson (4-6, 7.22 with a high contract that has a clause that calls for more money if Mike Mussina passes his salary); Hideo Nomo (3-7, 4.74); Steve Trachsel (6-8, 4.76); Omar Olivares (3-8, 6.64); Pat Hentgen (maybe); Esteban Loaiza (5-5, 5.19). Pleased to meet you, hope you remember my name.

  • Yes, now the Yankees need a right-handed bat to replace Shane Spencer, but while he made great strides, Spencer is still a No. 8 hitter that Chad Curtis replaces, if they desire to re-acquire him from Texas.

    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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  • Gammons: 2000 column archive

    Yankees find way to finagle Neagle in blockbuster
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