As it stands today, the New York Yankees are 19-16, in second place in the AL East and a game and a half behind the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees just placed CC Sabathia on the DL, the third guy in the Opening Day starting rotation to see DL time this year. Their starting pitching is a mess. On top of that, future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter is batting about .255 and there have been rumblings that his playing time may be significantly diminished now that defensive wiz Brendan Ryan is off the DL.
At current, the Yankees are a pretty good team with some serious problems that may very well keep them from being a legitimate title contender. One of the biggest of those problems is one that has been around since spring training. After the season long suspension of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees came into the season with journeyman secondbasemen Kelly Johnson penciled in as the starting thirdbasemen (yes, a different position) and oft-injured Brian Roberts as the everyday secondbasemen. Thus far, the plan has not been an absolutely disaster, but that’s about the best thing I can say about it.
Johnson came into Sunday’s game batting .221, Roberts a robust .243. Neither player has been particularly impressive and while the fact that neither one has been particularly terrible either might be fine for the Cubs, Astros, or Mariners, it is not good enough in the super competitive AL East.
The Yankees lack of infield depth was showcased a few weeks ago when Mark Teixeira went down with an injury. The Bombers were forced to move Johnson to first base, another new position for him, and give significant playing time to Dean Anna, a guy who’s no longer on the roster.
The Yankees saving grace so far has been Yangervis Solarte. Solarte is batting above .300 and can play either second or third. The new fan favorite has been great but even if he does keep up his present level of production, the Yankees are still left with some significant holes in the infield, especially in the likely event of another injury.
The ideal player for New York would be a guy who could play second or third consistently and first or short in a pinch. He should be an established veteran and not a shot in the dark player, the Yankees need some reliability and consistently. Salary isn’t a huge issue this season but New York would like to avoid a long term commitment so they have flexibility going forward.
That kind of player would allow the Yankees to rotate Johnson, Roberts and, mostly, Solarte through one infield spot and only play two of the three regularly in the case of injury.
Luckily, just that sort of player exists and he might even be available.
Former Brave Martin Prado has been playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks since he was acquired in the Justin Upton trade before last season. Prado is a 30 year old infielder who, while off to a slow start this season, has twice garnered MVP votes, once finishing in the top 10. Prado regularly plays both second and third base but should be the starting third basemen in most cases. In his career he’s also made appearances at first, short, and in the outfield. He is one of baseball’s most versatile players.
Unfortunately for the Dbacks, Prado is not the only guy in the desert off to a slow start in 2014. The team, which expected to contend, is 14-25, good for 3rd worst in the game. Arizona is rapidly approaching seller status, where they may look to dump as many contracts and veteran players as possible with an eye towards the future. If they do go that route, Prado might be one of the first guys to go.
Prado is owed $11 million this season and each of the next two seasons. That’s a lot to pay for an Arizona team who can’t compete with it’s current roster. If the Diamondbacks were willing to pay some of that money, say $5-8 million of it, they could pretty easily find a taker for the rest of the contract.
The Yankees are perhaps the most logical trade partner. $11 million isn’t such a bad price for a legitimate starter now and an A-Rod insurance policy next season when the whole infield is in a state of flux after Jeter’s retirement.
Right now, Prado would slide into the 6 spot in the Yankee order and would, historically speaking, provide some better offensive production than Johnson or Roberts. Depending on where manager Joe Girardi wants to play Solarte, or whether Johnson or Roberts is the other infielder, Prado’s versatility allows for better matchups. Also, if someone does get hurt, Prado could slide to whatever position needs to be filled without missing a beat. He’d certainly be a better 1st base option than Kelly Johnson. Finally, with Prado’s offense, there might be less pressure on Derek Jeter to swing the bat well and the “bench Jeter?” controversy might be shelved for at least a little longer.
Prado gives the Yankees the starting caliber infielder and depth that they need, while adding a consummate professional and veteran presence.