It is a rare trade deadline that passes without a sound in the Bronx, and it's impossible to watch it go by without wondering why there wasn't more activity. In 2008, Brian Cashman dealt four prospects for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady even though the team was deeply flawed, but 2009's squad didn't merit any attention from the front office.
Why the dichotomy? The party line has been that Cashman got the choice of Mark Teixeira or roster flexibility over the winter. If true, he made the right choice. It's hard to believe it's true, though. This is a team that traded for Marte and Nady when they were in third place and giving regular starts to Sidney Ponson, after all, so their sudden fiscal responsibility comes as a pretty big surprise. You've already spent $201 million, so what's a few more nickels to make sure that Sergio Mitre or Brian Bruney has less say in whether or not you make noise in October?
Has the economy and the resulting issues selling tickets to the new Stadium played a role in this decision? The Yankees have and will swear up and down that there is neither a problem nor a connection, but it would be a perfectly reasonable reaction, especially if you're unsure that you're going to do a better job of unloading seats for the 2010 season.
Let's be clear, we're not talking about deals for the real big tickets on the market here. We're talking about the trade the Tigers swung for Jarrod Washburn or the deal that sent George Sherrill to the Dodgers. A pending free agent and an arbitration eligible reliever who would have plenty of suitors on the offseason trade market aren't going to explode your payroll, and neither one cost a bigger trade package than the Yankees could have borne.
There is, of course, another explanation for passing on trades, which is that they simply didn't like any of the players being offered up enough to trade good prospects for them. One of Cashman's favorite canards is that teams always ask for more from the Yankees than from other teams, but you have to wonder how hard he's working if the Tigers could get Washburn for a pair of fringey pitching prospects. It's reasonable not to give up too much, but the way things went down Friday raises some questions about the team's honesty and talent evaluation.
If they're being honest about Joba Chamberlain's innings limit, that means they think Mitre or Kei Igawa will be good enough to start meaningful games in September and, possibly, October. Sure, Al Aceves is around but his shoulder's barking and his outings have been unimpressive of late, which means that you can't pin that massive payroll to his back.
There's also Cashman calling the July 31st trading deadline "fictitous" because you can still make deals for players who clear waivers. Cashman's theory is that, because of the economy, teams won't be claiming players which will make for trades this month. Are the Red Sox really going to just sit back and let the Yankees deal for anything other than mediocre players though? To say nothing of the other American League teams that are currently behind the Yankees in the standings?
And if they do wind up making deals in August, wouldn't that mean the Yankees have all the financial flexibility they've needed all along? On top of that, they'll use that money to buy players who are so overpriced that no other team would dream of having them, and thus head back down the road of Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright.
At surface, that seems dishonest but perhaps it isn't. It fits with the idea that the Yankees are paralyzed by economic reasons, which could lead to the ultimate irony of their high regular season ticket prices keeping them from realizing the revenues of their even higher priced playoff tickets.