ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Brian Cashman wanted to improve the Yankees before yesterday's non-waivers trade deadline, but he wanted to do so on his terms. And the general manager thought the flurry of activity that brought Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood to the Yankees in a 24-hour span accomplished that.
"As I approached the deadline, I was looking to see if I could secure players that were upgrades on what we currently had. We feel all of these do that," he said yesterday. "We wanted to protect the farm system to the highest levels that we could; I think we've done that. And we wanted to improve our club; I think we've done that. We did a lot of hard work assessing who was available in the marketplace and what were the price tags attached to those players, then gravitated to the ones that fit the criteria that we set up for ourselves.''
On Friday night, the Yankees acquired righthanded-hitting outfielder Kearns from the Indians for a player to be named or cash considerations. Yesterday, their deal for the switch-hitting Berkman - who will mostly DH, as the Yankees think Nick Johnson's return is a long shot at best - went through, with righthanded reliever Mark Melancon and minor-league infielder Jimmy Paredes going to the Astros. And just before the 4 p.m. EDT deadline yesterday, the Yankees landed righthanded reliever Wood from the Indians.
According to The Associated Press, the Yankees will send Cleveland a player to be named or $500,000. The Yankees will pay $1.5 million of the $3.8 million left on Wood's salary.
"It's just about giving your manager an array of choices. We're trying to provide him with as many weapons to choose from as he matches up on a daily basis as well as an inning-by-inning basis," Cashman said. "We're certainly more protected now as we move forward with some legitimate alternatives than we were in the last 48 hours."
Berkman entered 2010 with a .299 career batting average, .412 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage, numbers that have dropped to .245, .372 and .436 this year. Many believe that's a result of his slow recovery from knee surgery March 13.
"I wish I could say that was the reason I was hitting .240, but I can't blame it all on that," said Berkman, 34, who hit second last night. "I think that certainly contributes to getting off mechanically a little bit. As you know, in this game, things can snowball on you in a hurry. That was part of what happened, I think. I'm starting to feel better, starting to feel more comfortable."
Berkman, whose childhood idol was Don Mattingly, became close to Andy Pettitte when the lefty was an Astro and didn't have to be talked into giving his OK to join the Yankees. "I had a lot of great years there, but I'm very excited and very happy to be here," said Berkman, who has much better stats hitting lefthanded than righthanded. "It's a great situation. Who doesn't want to play for the Yankees?''
Landing Kearns enables Joe Girardi to keep Marcus Thames, who has hit .315 in 54 at-bats against lefties this season, out of the field, where he has struggled. Against tough lefties, Girardi can sit Curtis Granderson, shift Brett Gardner to center from left, put Kearns in left and have Thames DH. If Jorge Posada is at catcher that night, it makes the lineup even stronger.
"Prior to that, we had to wrestle with do you want to go a different route, but you sacrifice some defense when you go that route," Cashman said of putting Thames in left against good lefthanders. "This way we're not sacrificing defense."
Kearns said he isn't concerned about when or where he plays: "Whatever they want. I'm not picky. Just anything to help out."