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Yankees trade for Stephen Drew and Martin Prado
The Yankees undoubtedly improved themselves before Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, but just how much is debatable.
"I think we're going to compete," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think we're improved, but again, we're going to find out if it's enough or not."
Although he didn't upgrade what has been considered the Yankees' two primary issues this season -- starting pitching depth and offense -- Cashman did bolster a season-long weakness, their infield defense, by acquiring Stephen Drew from the Red Sox. They also added the Diamondbacks' Martin Prado to play multiple positions but mostly rightfield, Cashman said.
The Yankees, who are five games behind the AL East-leading Orioles and 31/2 games out of a wild-card berth, sent infielder Kelly Johnson to Boston and minor-league catcher/first baseman Peter O'Brien, who has 33 homers in 386 at-bats between Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this season, to Arizona.
Drew, 31, will shift from shortstop to second base for the first time in his career, displacing Brian Roberts, who will be designated for assignment.
Prado, 30, has been primarily a third baseman but is capable of playing multiple infield positions and both corner outfield spots, although he's played only one previous game in right.
Though improving the relief corps is not nearly as pressing a need as getting rotation help, Cashman wanted to bolster the bullpen and picked up righthander Esmil Rogers off waivers from the Blue Jays. Rogers, 28, is expected to be in the bullpen Friday night at Fenway Park when the Yankees open a three-game series against the in-total-rebuild-mode Red Sox. He had a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances in two stints with the Blue Jays this season before being designated for assignment Sunday.
For much of the afternoon, it appeared as if that acquisition would be all Cashman would have to show for his efforts on a wild day in which the already pitching-rich A's picked up Jon Lester and the Tigers countered by trading for David Price.
In the final hour before the 4 p.m. deadline, however, Cashman obtained Drew -- the first deal done between the Red Sox and Yankees since 1997 -- and then Prado.
Cashman said "we tried to be in on a lot of big names" that were dealt Thursday, "but they weren't moving them to us . . . within the division."
In an effort to upgrade their floundering offense, the Yankees did check in with the Rays on jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist. In recent weeks, they expressed interest in the Phillies' Marlon Byrd and the Twins' Josh Willingham, neither of whom was moved.
"There wasn't a lot of big bats [available]," Cashman said. "Everybody's looking for offense. Offense in the game is down. Trades [to be made] for significant offensive pieces weren't plentiful."
The lefthanded-hitting Drew, a free agent after the season and a potential replacement for Derek Jeter in 2015, has a slash line of .176/.255/.328 in 39 games this season after re-signing with the Red Sox on May 20. He has four homers and 11 RBIs in 131 at-bats.
How well he adjusts to playing second base is a roll of the dice, but Cashman said his scouts assured him Drew will be able to handle it.
"We are asking him to accept a new challenge and we believe his abilities will allow him to do that," Cashman said. "It's an understandable question. As we went through our assessments here internally with our scouting personnel, everybody was shaking their heads, 'Can he do this?' The belief system is he can."
The righthanded-hitting Prado, in the second year of a four-year, $40-million contract that takes him through 2016, brings a bit more hope on the offensive end with a slash line of .270/.317/.370, five homers and 42 RBIs. He was brought in mostly for the flexibility he can give manager Joe Girardi.
"He becomes a valuable piece for us because he covers a lot of options as we move forward as an organization," Cashman said. "It gives Joe a lot of choices on a daily basis."