4:35 pm Jul. 31, 2012
The Yankees didn't make the kind of deal by the 4 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline that is likely to earn them any tabloid back pages. But they made one quiet move that should help them weather the recent injury storm.
The Yankees traded Chad Qualls, a recent waiver-wire pickup surplus to needs in a strong bullpen, and received Casey McGehee in return. It is precisely the kind of trade a team with a lead like the Yankees have—6.5 over second-place Baltimore—should have completed.
McGehee, 29, was a late bloomer, playing just nine games in the major leagues before turning 26, then posting stellar seasons with the Brewers in 2009 and 2010. His offense slipped considerably in 2011, and the Brewers traded him to the Pirates last winter for reliever Jose Veras.
For Pittsburgh this season, McGehee has played both first and third base. He's struggled against right-handed pitching, but his .807 O.P.S. against lefties will come in handy for the Yankees. Their other first base/third base option, Eric Chavez, has recorded a .178 O.P.S. against lefties so far. So while Alex Rodriguez spends the next few weeks recovering, the Yankees can put an .800+ O.P.S. hitter in his place, whether facing a lefty or a righty. Considering that Rodriguez has an O.P.S. of .806 this year, that allows the Yankee offense to continue as it had prior to Rodriguez's injury.
The move also gives the Yankees a first base option while Mark Teixeira recovers from his wrist injury. The news on Teixeira was reportedly good, and Teixeira hopes to play as soon as Friday. How much of that was for public consumption to help Yankee leverage ahead of the trade deadline will be determined in the days ahead.
As for Qualls, it is likely that he would have been the odd man out when Joba Chamberlain returned from rehabbing, which was set for any day now. (Reports have Chamberlain making a beeline out of Trenton, where he was set to pitch, to rejoin the Yankees instead.)
So consider: Brian Cashman picked Qualls up a few weeks ago on waivers. Rather than lose him for nothing, he traded him for a key piece to help the Yankees in August and September. And his replacement, Chamberlain, is probably a significant upgrade.
Smart move by a team that has (almost) everything.