Note to AL: Don't let Yanks get Henson Back

by Ross Friedman

I'm going to suggest a very unorthodox strategy for any of the 13 American League teams. Trade for a player who will never play for you. Yes, trade 2 marginal prospects for absolutely nothing in return, sort of.

The Yankees traded stud power-prospect Drew Henson in their deadline deal for Denny Neagle. The reason they included the third baseman in the deal was they weren't sure if he would play baseball. Henson's not only one of, if not the best power prospect in baseball, but also one of, if not the best quarterback prospect in football as he currently is Michigan's starting QB.

This puts Henson in position of power as few prospects ever have. He has been strongly hinting that the only way he'll play baseball over football, is if he's playing next to Derek Jeter for the New York Yankees. This means the Reds can either trade him back to the Yankees, most likely for two marginal prospects, or get nothing from him as he goes and plays football.

It seems that before we hit spring training, the man who set the national record for high school home runs, may be back with the Yankee organization. The rest of the American League cannot let this happen.

The Yankees are on an amazing run right now. One that they are going to try to sustain for years to come, and with the way their organization is run, and the amount of money they have to spend, it is seeming more and more possible. But we all know the Yankees biggest vulnerability, and I'm not talking about facing left-handed pitching. The Yankees are an old team. Age is the most likely factor that could end their run and end it quickly.

This is the reason a team should pull off the trade to make sure the Yankees don't get Henson back. One Major League scout said that the three best high school players he ever saw were Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, and Drew Henson. Many think it sounds ridiculous to concentrate that much on what another team is doing instead of doing what is best for your own team.

I don't think that's so weird. Last off-season the Indians gave a 37-year old lefthander a 3-year contract, at $9 million per season, because he had a history of beating the Yankees. Over baseball history plenty of teams have signed left-handed pitchers in an attempt to beat the Yankees. Maybe two AL teams can get together to pull off a three-way trade, where they both give up one marginal prospect to send Henson to the gridiron.

One of the Yankees big weakness is the age and deterioration of Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, and Scott Brosius. Well, by the end of the 2002 season, the Yankee infield may have Derek Jeter as it's oldest player, by four years! Don't be surprised if the infield by then looks like Henson at third, Jeter at short, with stud prospects D'Angelo Jimenez at second and Nick Johnson at first.

All of a sudden the Yankees would have an extremely young infield that most likely would be hitting better than the current one. Now there is more than a distinct possibility that they don't all work out. Heck, Henson himself may not work out. But should the rest of the AL take that chance?

Henson may become a 45-home run guy. All of a sudden the Yankees would have a young, more productive, AND inexpensive infield. The money they would save with having three kids there would be over $16 million. Add O'Neill's salary and they would have $22 million to replace O'Neill in the outfield. Just about enough to sign, say, Vladimir Guerrero.

Basically, letting the Yankees get Henson allows for a better possibility that the Yankees could set a system that would allow them to win at the rate of the old great Yankee teams. At the same time these three infielders would be hitting free agency and demanding big dollars, would be the same time that Bernie Williams and Mike Mussina would be retiring. A nice fit for those salary slots. Then the Yankees would most likely replace Williams and Mussina with the next crop of young talent, as they do the most scouting and international scouting in all of baseball, thus continuously funneling talent to the Major League level.

It's like the Yankee system of old. Bye-bye Bill Dickey. Hello, Yogi Berra. Joe DiMaggio retires. Here comes Mickey Mantle. The American League teams don't want to let that happen, and the best way to assure that is to cut the Yankees off at the knees. Don't let them get Drew Henson to begin with.

It's normally considered a bad strategy to do something to stop another team instead of doing something to help yourself. But a team would be giving up just marginal prospects to stop the Yankees from having a potential All-Star player.

The Yankees are getting old and they know it. That's the best chance the other AL teams have right now. But since the Yankees do know it, it's also going to be their focus to fix. The other AL teams can make it much harder on the Yankees if they stop them from getting Drew Henson back. Try to beat the Yankees off the field, since no team has done a good job recently of beating them on it.

Send Ross your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at ross@JBaseball.

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