I am a firm believer in what I am about to tell you. Gary Sheffield's 2004 and 2005 campaigns were the two most productive seasons by a Yankee Right Fielder since 1997.
Consider his competition:
An aging, and rapidly deteriorating Paul O'Neil years 1998-2001.
2002-2003 was the ever so overrated Raul Mondesi.
Okay, so not exactly earth shattering. Sheffield has made, afterall, just a tier below Vlad Guerrero type money.
So here's what it's come down to:
A half-season's worth of injuries for a 37-year-old in his own stage of rapid decline results in the acquisition of Bobby Abreu. So what's the next course of action, naturally? Rumor, innuendo. I pre-cursor the following the link by saying only 'consider the source':
Yankees Mull Sign-And-Trade of Sheffield
And so there is apparently division amongst the Yankee braintrust as to what to do with this somewhat-valuable resource that's name is Gary Sheffield. Arbitration eligible in 2007, the Yankees could retain him, of course at high market value, and trade him. But what does a 37-year-old in his stage of decline, being overpaid bring back from the trade market?
The supporter's of this idea's position is essentially this: If you cut the leash on Sheffield, you get nothing in return for him. Sure, the Yankees already have locked up his replacement in Abreu for the 2007 season, but why let Sheffield go off on his own if you can pull a return out of him?
The detractor's of this idea's position is essentially this: This is a gamble, there's no telling how limited the market will be on an aging outfielder, and at best the return would probably look something similar to a salary dump.
So here's my contention on the issue:The Pros:
1) Sheffield's two full seasons with the Yankees were remarkably consistent. His average, and offensive production were both within a few percentage points of each other for the two years. His swing is slowing down, and his power is beginning to reduce itself, yes, but when you're a consistent 35-HR per year hitter, a reduction in power to something like say, 20, is not as career altering as if he wasn't a complete murderer of the baseball to begin with. No line-up, even the bloated Yankees line-up, couldn't find room for a .285/20HR/90 RBI guy that they can stick at the bottom of the order.
2) Double A washouts are better than no washouts. At least you're getting some sort of return for Sheffield. You'll never know when the next .207 hitting Bubba Crosby will pop up, ready to hit a considerably crucial home-run and insert himself meaninglessly on the Yankees bench for multiple years!
3) Sheffield could probably be retained and fair better at first base than Jason Giambi. So could a lamp post, but that's beside the point. We all remember two years ago when Sheffield moved to third in extra innings against the Red Sox and looked marginally better than a sack of potatos would at the position, but the transition to a more stationary, and forgiving place, like 1st base may also be an easier transition. He's saying the right things, to, at least so far. But that leads me into the cons.The Cons:
1) It's no secret that Gary Sheffield can be a tremendous dick. When rumors began swirling last year that he was possibly on the block to be traded, to help improve the Yankees various other desperate needs, Sheffield began his public outcries, threatening teams to drop their interest for him, because, as Sheffield put it, "a traded Gary Sheffield will be an unhappy one."
2) The risk involved. When do the Yankees find it necessary to make salary dumps? And now they're chasing one?
3) A non-competitive free agent market still has 3 large names who can play the Outfield coming up for free agency next year: Carlos Lee, Jermaine Dye, Alfonso Soriano. There are only a handful of teams who would be willing to take on Sheffield's contract at the risk of seeing him return to everyday 2003 form to begin with: The Angels, The Giants, The Dodgers, maybe The Mariners or a handful of other less considerables. Assuming Soriano becomes a free agent, then the likelihood that Dye, Lee and Soriano split themselves between the three primary interested parties also makes this a big risk for the Yankees; there simply may not be a place to trade him once his arbitration year is upheld.
Here are Sheffield's stats as a Yankee, as well as his last year as a Brave:
Year Ag Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG TB SH SF IBB HBP GDP
2003 34 ATL NL 155 576 126 190 37 2 39 132 18 4 86 55 .330 .419 .604 348 0 8 6 8 16
2004 35 NYY AL 154 573 117 166 30 1 36 121 5 6 92 83 .290 .393 .534 306 0 8 7 11 16
2005 36 NYY AL 154 584 104 170 27 0 34 123 10 2 78 76 .291 .379 .512 299 0 5 7 8 11
So anyone can see the decline. Call 2003 a career year, and you're still seeing Sheffield's numbers drop a little more each year. The dropping of the power numbers are especially disconcerning.What would I do?
Cut the leash already. The downsides to a sign and trade are less in number than the upsides, but they're considerably heftier. Sheffield could become a clubhouse cancer, overpaid and flat out stink. That's three strikes. That's an out.
Plus, the deal to me does not seem whatsoever Cashmanian, which is the era we're suddenly apt to believe we've been thrust into, and away from Steinbrenner's second reign, correct? Sheffield was a Steinbrenner signing, perhaps one of the last Steinbrenner signings before Cashman manuevered himself into the position of authority that he has now, and everybody know's his MO: Hold on to prospects, build upon the farm system, and get rid of old guys. Sheff's only been around for two years of course, but he's an old guy now. Cashman is supposedly one of the supporters of this idea, and maybe that is because of the possibility of building into that farm system via trade, but I just don't think the possible return is worth the risk of being stuck with that sort of contract.
One thing that Cashman continues to do is pull money from the wallet. For someone who is supposed to be one of the young genius GM's, the man still doesn't seem to care that much about reaching into the deep pockets when he sees no other possibilities. Having that money has made Cashman too susceptible to letting himself make mistakes. This could be another one. I hope not.