The Yankees have officially announced the trade that will at long last send Tony Womack hurtling into the sun, or at least Cincinnati. It's a minor deal, with the Yankees unloading an unwanted, unproductive player for a pair of minor leaguers, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a minor miracle.
Not only have the Reds agreed to take Womack and his $2 million salary off the Yankees hands for 2006, but they've sent, not one, but two able-bodied young men back to the Bronx for the privilege. Were these kids ticket takers or pretzel vendors (seriously, the Stadium is in dire need of more pretzel vendors, I can never get a pretzel without having to retreat into the concourses) it would have been a steal, but they can actually play baseball.
The lesser player, outfielder Ben Himes, is too old for his league, having failed to advance beyond A-ball at the age of 24. But he did hit .320/.372/.533 for Sarasota in the Florida State League last year. Himes is a fourth outfielder at best, but given that strong showing and the fact that he got a late start (he was drafted out of college in 2003), there's no reason to write him off just yet.
Kevin Howard, meanwhile, was ranked by both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America as the top player available in today's Rule 5 draft. A 24-year-old, lefty-hitting second baseman who spent all of 2005 in double-A, Howard doesn't have a whole lot of power, but gets his hits and knows how to draw a walk (his .296/.346/.428 line in Chattanooga last year is fairly representative of his abilities at the plate). Howard played 3B in college and returned there in October in the Arizona Fall League where he crushed to the tune of .409/.475/.557, winning the AFL batting crown. A left-handed hitter, Howard's never had a great defensive reputation, but his offensive skills and ability to play multiple positions (it's thought he could also be used in the outfield) could make him a useful utility player as soon as the latter half of this year, which means he's probably already more valuable than Womack. Best of all, the Yankees got him without having to keep him on the 25-man roster all year.
That's a hell of a take for a player who is almost guaranteed to cost the Reds both wins and a couple mil. Indeed, between this trade and the list of players not offered arbitration last night, the Yankees have drastically improved their ballclub in the last 15 hours simply by deleting deleterious players. Check out the dearly departed and their 2005 VORPs:
John Flaherty -9.6
Kevin Brown -9.5
Tony Womack -8.9
Darrell May -8.5
Tim Redding -5.4
Alan Embree -4.8
Matt Lawton -3.5
Ruben Sierra -2.3
Mark Bellhorn -1.0
Rey Sanchez -0.5
Mike Vento -0.5
Russ Johnson -0.3
No, those aren't dashes, those are negative numbers. If the Yankees can replace those twelve men with replacement level players--the sort that can be acquired via the waiver wire or promoted from the minors--they stand to improve by nearly 55 runs in 2006, that's five and a half wins. For example, John Flaherty's replacement, Kelly Stinnett, had a VORP of 5.3 in 2005, that's a net improvement of 14.9 runs, or a win and a half in the back-up catcher slot alone. Oh, Glorious Day!