The Yankees rebounded on Sunday and defeated the D-Rays 4-2, on the strength of a solid performance from Mike Mussina and key hits by Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter (Hmmm, solo dingers in the upper deck: them bitches come in handy). Damon jerked two solo bombs into the upper deck in right field, one in the fifth, another in the seventh; Jeter added a two-run double. But the biggest news on an unbearably hot Sunday in July involves Bobby Abreu. Abreu and starting pitcher Corey Lidle are coming to New York. ESPN reported the deal early in the game and the Yankees made it official with two out in the bottom of the ninth and Mariano Rivera on the mound. According to John Heyman, the Yankees will send minor leaguers C.J. Henry (the Yankees' number one pick in 2005, reliever Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios. The postgame show on YES reports that the Yanks will send a total of four minor leaguers to Philly, no names as of yet. Abreu is signed through 2007 and has an option for 2008, but the Yankees will not have to pick-up that option, a huge plus for New York.
I've long appreciated Abreu's wide variety of skills, and though he has underachieved for the better part of the last calendar yet, and has a reputation in some quarters as something less than a gamer, I will be excited to see him in pinstripes. This is the guy that BP's Rany Jazayerli pronounced as one the most underrated players in baseball at the begining of 2005. He's not going to be asked to be the team's best player. Perhaps he'll fit right in. He is a better defensive right fielder than anything the Yanks have got. Offensively, he is exceedingly patient and a high-percentage base stealer to boot. I don't have much of a gut feeling as to how he'll do in New York--I could see him going David Justice or Raul Mondesi--but I'm looking forward to finding out. I suppose this spells the end for either Aaron Guiel or Bubba Crosby. It will surely impact the Yankee future of Gary Sheffield.
Bobby Abreu may or may not have lost his power -- I think it's overblown, as he's still on pace for 40-plus doubles and doesn't look like he's lost bat speed or raw strength -- but he's still one of the best offensive players in the game. He's about to post his eighth straight 100-walk season and has the fifth-best OBP in the game. The Yankees have been running a Bernie Williams/Aaron Guiel platoon out in left, and while Guiel has hit a few homers since he came to the Bronx, he's still a four-A player who has no place on a contending club's roster. Even if Abreu's home run total remains low, he's worth two extra wins to the Yankees if he takes at-bats away from Bernie and Guiel, and more if his home-run power comes back.
Cory Lidle is a finesse right-hander with excellent control who will probably struggle to be a league-average starter in the American League at this point, but he is an enormous improvement over Sidney Ponson, Kris Wilson and Aaron Small -- whom the Yanks have employed as fifth starters this year. Lidle's best pitch is a splitter, but his fastball is a tick below average so he has to have good command to be effective and keep the ball out of the seats. Since the guys he's replacing have been so bad, he's still a one-to-two-win upgrade for the balance of the season, making this one of the biggest impact deals any club will make this month.
As for the game, Mike Mussina threw a lot of pitches early on, running into jams in the third and fourth innings. A throwing error by Jorge Posada got Mussina in trouble in the third, but he struck out Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford to escape cleanly. After giving up a one-out single to Travis Lee in the fourth, Mussina walked Jorge Cantu before giving up an RBI single to Johnny Gomes. Russell Branyon flew out to deep center field and then Mussina got the hot-hitting Tomas Perez (who had four doubles on Saturday) to wave at an 0-2 knuckle curve in the dirt. Posada scrambled for the ball as Perez started back to the Devil Ray's dugout and Mussina walked off the mound. But the umpire called "foul tip." A bum call for sure, one that got worse when Perez lined Mussina's next offering into center field for a game-tying single.
That was the only real danger Mussina would face all afternoon as he retired ten of the next eleven hitters, striking out eight overall. Kyle Farnsworth struck out the side in the eighth and Mariano Rivera buzzed through the Rays in the ninth to lock down the Bombers' 61st win of the year. Mike Mussina earned his 13th win, and is 6-1 following a Yankee loss.