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Monday, September 7, 2009
Pirates swindle Yankees

In the Times, Tyler Kepner writes about the Pirates and mostly about Ross Ohlendorf, a smart guy who's going to spend part of his offseason as an intern in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I'm going to write mostly about Jose Tabata, who's going to spend the next six years making the Yankees look might foolish.

But first, Ohlendorf:

Granted, the equation would look quite a bit different if Marte hadn't fallen apart the moment the Yankees got him, and if Nady hadn't missed most of this season with a serious elbow injury. But even if both players had done exactly what we'd expected -- Marte a serviceable lefty reliever, Nady an average (at best) American League outfielder -- this deal still would have been a steal for the Pirates.

Or it would probably have been a steal, anyway. That's what happens when you trade two marginal veterans for a quartet of talented young players. Ohlendorf's good enough to start for the Yankees, right now. Karstens may yet find himself as a reliever. McCutchen may soon be as good as Ohlendorf. And Tabata ... well, he's the real prize, isn't he?

Between the ages of 16 and 19, Tabata was routinely the youngest player in his league, and he routinely batted .300 (while drawing plenty of walks for a teenager). Everybody said Tabata couldn't miss. Said he was the Yankees' best prospect. Said they wouldn't trade him because he was their center fielder of the future.

And then he got off to a lousy start in Class AA last year. He was still just a teenager, and probably was yet again the youngest player in his league. But he got off to a lousy start, and the Yankees needed Xavier Nady. Well, they didn't need Xavier Nady. Nobody in the history of baseball has needed a player like Xavier Nady. (Not until after the fact, anyway. If the Yankees had qualified for the playoffs last season, afterward it would have seemed like they had indeed needed him.)

So the Yankees essentially traded Jose Tabata, so recently their very best prospect, to the Pirates for Xavier Nady. Someday, historians will read that sentence and snicker.