Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yankees acquire Eric Hinske

It's just been announced that the Yankees have acquired Eric Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers, OF Eric Fryer and RHP Casey Erickson. Joel Sherman suggests eight reasons this deal got done.

First off, Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson were essentially non-prospects on the Yankees. Fryer is behind current big leaguers Gardner and Melky, and the much balyhoo'd Austin Jackson (among others). The Yankees will likely target Matt Holliday in the offseason as well (if they don't resign Johnny Damon, who is having his best year yet). Casey Erickson is having a fine season at Single A ball, but he turns 24 in August--at his advanced age, he should be toying with that level of competition. Neither have ever made the Yankees top 30 prospect list as published by Baseball America.

That the Yankees didn't give anything significant up for Eric Hinske does not necesarily make it a good deal. Especially as the Yankees have indicated that they will send Ramiro Pena down to clear space for him (opting for Cody "Angel Berroa" Ransom as utility infielder, and virtually assuring that Francisco Cervelli will go down for Jose Molina).

I suppose that Hinske's ability to play 3B, 1B and the corner OF positions makes him somewhat attractive, and Fangraphs' defensive metrics have him as a positive contributor at all but 3B over the course of his career. Additionally, he was very valuable as a member of the AL champion Rays last season, when his batted ball statistics were very closely in line with his career averages, with one exception: the percentage of his fly balls which left the yard, which stood at 16.8%, a full five percentage points above his career average. This year, his power seems to have fallen significantly, as his fly balls are only clearing the fences a measly 3.2% of the time, and he is hitting line drives at a 15.4% clip, 4.5% below his 2008 performance.

Coming to the Yankees will instantly drive up his HR/FB%, as has been documented just about everywhere (though it isn't helping Nick Swisher, for some bizarre reason). The Yankees are also probably counting on his LD% returning to previous norms. It appears this will be the last hurrah for Cody Ransom, who has really had it bad this year, between starting off terribly and then getting significantly injured. Pena will be back at some point, very possibly to stay in the team's "Chone Figgins" role, otherwise known as utility OF/IF.

Hinske is on the wrong side of 30, but he's essentially free, cost just about nothing to acquire, and has a bit of upside in him if he rediscovers last year's power.

Update: Uber-Blogger Rob Neyer weighs in on the subject.

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