As far as trades go, the ones the Yankees made in advance of the non-waiver deadline are pretty low-risk. They added about $5 million in salary (with no obligations for 2011), and Mike Lupica’s concerns that the moves make the Yankees appear “insecure” aside, they gave up nothing of note to acquire Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood, or Austin Kearns. (Plus, they’ll be replacing guys on the big-league roster — Chan Ho Park and Juan Miranda, especially — who Joe Girardi wouldn’t dare use in a big spot anyway.) If they’re all a bust, the Yankees are pretty much where they were a week ago. And if they contribute? Then Brian Cashman’s a genius. So what do you need to know about the men wearing Yankee pinstripes for the first time tonight?
Lance Berkman had, until this weekend, played all 1,592 games of his big-league career with the Houston Astros. He liked it there, too: He’d even vetoed a trade to the White Sox, a team competing for a playoff spot. What’s different about New York? Well for one, he’s pals with Andy Pettitte from their days as teammates with the Astros. He gives the Yankees some stability in the designated hitter spot — the kind they haven’t had since those few weeks when Nick Johnson wasn’t sidelined with one of those Nick Johnson injuries that never heals. Girardi batted him second over the weekend but dropped him to seventh tonight, and though he’s a switch hitter, he’s better from the left side of the plate. (He’s hitting just .188 as a righty facing lefties this season. Needless to say, Berkman isn’t the hitter he once was.) He has two nicknames: Big Puma and Fat Elvis, so finally the Yankees have a use for that otherwise nonsensical dancing Elvis graphic they sometimes show on the scoreboard.
Dealing for Kerry Wood eleven years ago would have been the trade of the decade. Now? It gives the Yankees a third option in the eighth inning, with the added bonus of getting Park off the big-league roster. The oft-injured Wood has been on the disabled list twice this year and hadn’t pitched since July 11 until the Yankees used him yesterday, when he struck out three but loaded the bases in the eighth and was bailed out by Chad Gaudin. In 23 appearances, Wood was 1-4 with eight saves, a 6.30 ERA, and a 1.60 WHIP as Cleveland’s closer. Worth noting: Girardi caught Wood when the two were teammates in Chicago. He has no fun nicknames (or at least, none that we’re aware of).
As for outfielder Austin Kearns, he provides some depth in the outfield, and will likely see action against lefties instead of Curtis Granderson. More importantly, when he homers for the first time, John Sterling’s inevitable catchphrase — Austin powers one to left! — should pretty much write itself.