Trade Analysis: Xavier Nady

Yankees get: Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte
Pirates get: Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and OF Jose Tabata

This was the trade the Mets needed to make — unfortunately, they simply did not have the depth in their minor league system to do such a deal. Originally, a number of pundits identified the trade as highway robbery by the Yankees, but I don’t see it that way.

Yes, the Yankees received exactly what they needed — a righthanded-hitting outfielder / first baseman and a lights-out setup man who happens to be lefty — but to poo-poo the players going the other way is being nearsighted.

For one, this time last year Jose Tabata was ranked AHEAD of Fernando Martinez by many scouts. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) project as a big-time slugger, but the rest of his game was highly regarded — what scouts like to call a “toolsy” ballplayer. He got off to a rough start this season, and has supposedly had an attitude problem — both issues sent his stock plummeting. But the bottom line is this: his talents have NOT regressed, and he’s 19 years and playing in AA. Personally, I think there is too much guesswork with a 19-year old who is not dominating his league. Like F-Mart, I would prefer to have seen him in A ball, where he has an opportunity to shine. But here’s the thing: you can’t think F-Mart is second coming AND think Tabata stinks. Right now they are very close in skills and projection.

In addition to Tabata, the Bucs also collect three young arms, two of which have already tasted the big leagues. Ohlendorf was the key prospect in the Randy Johnson deal, but has not turned out to be the big-league starter people once thought. Instead, he has carved a niche as a future setup man, throwing in the mid-90s with a strong sinker and a decent starter. I think he’ll benefit from leaving the Bronx and pitching in small-market Pittsburgh. In fact, I compare his career path to that of Aaron Heilman, and believe he’ll be a major contributor to the Bucco bullpen next season.

Similarly, Jeff Karstens was once a jewel who didn’t quite live up to his billing in the Bronx, but might flourish in a place with less pressure such as Pittsburgh. He’s also 26, so like Ohlendorf at a crossroads. He has numbers on his side: a career 1.26 WHIP in the minors. He doesn’t walk many, and strikes out plenty for a “pitch to contact” guy. I’m not sure that he’s a bonafide MLB starter, but at minimum he should be a contributor in the bullpen.

McCutchen is the sleeper of the deal. Another 26-year-old righthander, he wasn’t exposed to the pressure cooker of New York. Quite the contrary — he spent most of last year in AA, where he developed at his own pace and dominated before holding his own for 7 games in AAA. His fastball touches 94 but scouts say his best pitch is an overhand curveball — if that’s not a recipe for success I don’t know what is. He’ll be a big leaguer before the end of this year and likely start next year on the 25-man roster — the only question is, whether it will be as a starter or reliever.

All in all, this was a very fair deal, and benefits both clubs. The Yankees received what they needed for the ’08 pennant drive (as well as a first baseman for ’09) and the Bucs bolstered their pitching staff with three live arms for 2009. Tabata is seen by many as the central piece but he could turn out to be the gravy of the trade.

Next analysis: LaTroy Hawkins

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.