Arms race doesn’t just mean starters for Yanks


When the trade deadline nears each year, there’s always a big name or two associated with the Yankees. This year is no exception, as the biggest name on the market, Roy Halladay, has been linked with the Bombers. That talk has since quieted. Toronto is asking a lot for their ace, as they should. The Yankees, already spending over $30 million on their top two pitchers this year (counting CC’s signing bonus), apparently don’t want to take on yet another hefty salary and surrender their top prospects. There’s still a chance they swoop in at the last minute, but it’s not at all likely.

This morning, Mike looked at other starting pitchers who could be on the market. With Sergio Mitre holding down the fifth spot in the rotation until further notice, the Yankees are right to keep their feelers out for any potential deals. But does it have to be for a starter? After all, they do have a perfectly good starter in the bullpen right now. They could always acquire a reliever and take the time to stretch out Hughes. What relievers could they acquire?

We’ve surely done this exercise before, but the landscape has changed in July. Some guys we’d thought were available are now not. Others who previously flew under the radar are now showing up. Here’s the most up-to-date list. I’m sure we’ll do this again next week.

Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch

At 21 games back in the NL West and 12 games back of the Wild Card, the Diamondbacks are essentially done. This puts them in the sellers’ column. The Yanks could be interested in two of their relief pitchers: Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch. Both are 30 years old, and both are posting solid seasons.

Qualls boasts a decent strikeout rate and a super-impressive walk rate (1.1 per nine). He could fit into the eighth inning role nicely. His Major League experience dates back to 2004, and he’s never posted an ERA above 3.76 in any season. He’s also kept his walk rate below 3 per nine in every season he’s pitched. The only problem is that he’s relatively cheap for a closer ($2.535 million this season), and still has one more arbitration year. The D’Backs might want to hold onto him for their 2010 campaign.

Rauch pitched horribly after the Nationals traded him to the Diamondbacks last season, and started off equally poorly this season. Since the 27th of May, though, the 6′ 11″ righty has been quite good, allowing just five runs over 22.2 innings, striking out 12 and walking five. He’s thrown strikes — 65 percent — and has kept the ball in the park, surrendering just one homer in that span. He’s another one the D’Backs might want to keep, though: he has an affordable $2.9 million club option for 2010.

Rafael Betancourt

After three and a half solid seasons at the big league level, Rafael Betancourt exploded in 2007, posting a 1.47 ERA and striking out 80 batters over 79.1 innings. More impressively, he walked just nine batters all season. After a clunker of a 2008 season, Betancourt has returned to his pre-2007 form this year. That is, a fairly capable bullpen arm. He’s striking out about a batter per inning, though his walk rate is way up (4.4 per nine). The last-place Indians could certainly deal him now rather than make a decision on his $5.4 million club option in the off-season.

Betancourt missed all of June with an injury. He’s appeared five times since returning, pitching an inning each time and allowing just two hits and one run, walking one. It’s nothing to make a trade on, but it could entice a team with a bullpen need to make a move.

John Grabow

Neal Huntington took over as Pirates GM in September 2007, and he’s absolutely cleaned house. Of the main eight starters that season, based on plate appearances, just two remain: Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. And guess what? He’s making an effort to trade them now, though both could hit free agency after the season. He does have a few pitchers left over from before his time, and just about every one of them is available in some capacity.

The Yanks already snagged Damaso Marte from Huntington, and the hope is that he can contribute in August. Even so, the Yanks could add another arm. Seemingly atop Pittsburgh’s dish-list is free agent to be John Grabow. His ERA sits pretty at 3.07, but his walk rate, almost 5 per nine, is unacceptable. Looking at his hit and walk rate combined, it would seem that he’s due for an implosion. Let that happen on another team.

Michael Wuertz

The Oakland A’s are just no good this year. When they’re not competing, you know Billy Beane is working behind the scenes to pick up some young players. One interesting name is Michael Wuertz, a 30-year-old righty who quietly pitched well in the Cubs bullpen before this season. The A’s acquired him in a minor move, and it has paid off.

Wuertz currently boasts the lowest walk rate of his career, and is combining it with excellent strikeout numbers. His slider has been deemed the toughest pitch to hit in baseball. Problem is, the A’s have his rights through the 2011 season, so he won’t come cheap. Players rarely do when Billy Beane deals them.

This list doesn’t look too promising. Most of the players are either bad or under team control for a number of years. The Yankees won’t want any of the former — they have enough mediocre bullpen arms, thank you very much — and the latter might cost a bit much. Still, if they’re going to deal for an arm, these are basically the guys on the list. What’s the preference out in Yankeeland? I’m a Rauch guy myself, and think he could come at the best value, considering his contract, age, and team.

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. The D’Backs seem “unlikely” to move Qualls, but would ask for a strarting pitching prospect in potential trades.


    I may, MAY have given up Z-Mac for Huston Street. But not for Chad Qualls. There’s a big difference between 25 and 30.

    If they’ll take a below Z-Mac level prospect, sure. Otherwise, no.

  2. kenthadley says:

    how about Ian Snell as a reliever….sort of the lefty version of Hughes……relieve now, start next year?

  3. Moshe Mandel says:

    I would like to take a closer look at his peripherals, but I would consider putting together a package for Heath Bell. Then we can stop with the whole turning starters into 8th inning guys and back again once and for all.

  4. Dela G says:

    chad qualls is overrated

    i saw him pitch in houston for years, and his nickname was chad “gopherball” qualls, because he would seemingly give up the longball at the most inopportune time.

    • ChrisS says:

      Wuertz is the closer in reserve for the As currently, since Bailey has a bum knee that could put him on the shelf.

      The As already have two Cfers that can’t hit, I’m not sure why they’d want Melky.

      • Because those two CF’s they have that can’t hit are even worse at hitting than Melky is?

        What if I throw in Zack Kroenke? He’s young, he’s a lefty, he’s got no service time.

      • A.D. says:

        I agree on probably no wanting Melky, but Beane would just package him if he was worth it in terms of value.

        Realistically the A’s don’t care about a back-up closer for the season, they’re so far out of it its just about next year.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      I think Melky is more valuable to this team now than another reliever. I know it will not be a popular opinion, but I think he pro vides value by hovering around league average and allowing them to keep Gardner on the bench for lefties and Damon off the field late in games.

      • I agree that Melky has value. I just think Wuertz probably has more. Both this year, and next.

        • Moshe Mandel says:

          Wuertz has never pitched this well in his career, and I’m not sure it is sustainable. That said, while he may have more value than Melky, I think the 2009 Yankees need Melky more’ unless AsJax is ready to fill that role.

          • ChrisS says:

            And trading for relievers currently pitching better than their historic norms is a recipe for disappointment.

            I see no reason for the Yankees to trade for anything unless it’s a zero consequence swap of talent for money.

          • You may be right. But, if I can turn Melky into a good reliever, I’ll play Gardner 90% of the time in CF going forward and slide Nick Swisher over for the other 10% and play Damon and Hinske in the corners. It’s not what I wanted to do, but it’s probably worth it, IMO.

            Oh, and, come September, maybe Ramiro Peña can man some CF down the stretch.

            • Moshe Mandel says:

              I would never do that- it would be the worst defensive outfield ever. I honestly would be loathe to give up much to get a reliever pitching above career norms, considering the fact that I don’t think they desperately need a reliever as constituted.

            • Mattingly's Love Child says:

              I’m all for adventure movies, but I’m not sure I want to see the adventure that is Nick Swisher in center.

              But like you said, if Melky can turn into someone like Wuertz, well then I might have to deal with it.

  5. Jamal G. says:

    His slider has been deemed the toughest pitch to hit in baseball.

    You should’ve seen what that pitch did to Justin Morneau in that crazy 14-13 game on Monday that Oakland won.

  6. JeffG says:

    Rafael Soriano – if or when the Braves fall out of it he could be a nice target.

  7. Joltin' Joe says:

    I vote for Wuertz.

    Melky and AAA reliever junk, though Billy Beane could probably get more from someone else.

  8. Tank Foster says:

    I haven’t sat down and really tried to determine value for value, so I really am just shooting from the hip. It would have to be a very good relief pitcher with an expectation/track record of good health before I’d trade Melky. If I’m going to spend money and prospects on something for the team, I’d prefer it be a reliable back end starter, or more offensive (sorry for the Red Sox terminology) “redundancy.” If ARod’s hip goes kerfluey before the end of the season, the team has got a serious problem. I guess Hinske addressed that to some degree, but I’d rather have something better.

    Something better is probably not available, though.

    • Kiersten says:

      If any team loses its best player to injury, I would say that team has a serious problem.
      Maybe we should get Evan Longoria in case A-Rod gets hurt.

      • Tank Foster says:

        Why do so many people feel the need to be obnoxious on this site? Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox do things like prepare for losing their good players to injury.

    • A.D. says:

      1, as you say something better probably isn’t available, Hinske is a solid insurance policy, way better than the one we had at the beginning of the year.

      2, at this point A-Rod is stealing bases, running around he’s probably similar in likeliness of getting hurt as Jeter, or Tex or Cano…there’s no way they can insure to that, so better to secure the team where they can, i.e. rotation depth & pen

  9. Adam says:

    just curious… what would zack duke cost? z-mack + another good prospect?

    • leokitty says:

      Zach Duke would cost more than he is worth, if you want a guy from the rotation in Pittsburgh now for the Yankees Paul Maholm is a better choice. Neither of them are any kind of last puzzle piece if Mitre can be solid, though.

  10. I’m sad that Arthur Rhodes and David Weathers were left off the list…

    • leokitty says:

      Residual trauma from the first time David Weathers was in New York, maybe? ;)

    • Mattingly's Love Child says:

      Do you really want any pitcher that Dusty Baker has had his slimy hands on?

      I’m not sure what smoke and mirrors Weathers has been using to survive in Cincy’s bandbox, but his K/BB of 1.47 is worrying.

      Arthur’s a little better in that regard, but didn’t he used to close out games for Satchel Paige?

      • Bo says:

        Arthur Rhodes? People got short memories in NY. Have you seen him in any game against the Yankees????

        • V says:

          You mean, the Yankees, one of the BEST OFFENSIVE TEAMS IN BASEBALL over the last decade, has hit the d00d hard? You don’t say…

          Career 3.34 ERA vs. the Red Sox, btw. 67.1 IP.

        • Yes, Bo, we’ve all seen him in games against the Yankees. But if he were pitching FOR the Yankees, well, then he wouldn’t be pitching AGAINST the Yankees.

          That said, no on Rhodes.

        • Mattingly's Love Child says:

          What, when he used to face off against Mickey Mantle? That was 50 years ago! He’s gotta be better now!

          He has pretty horrendous stats vs the Yankees, no wonder you think he stinks, only the Cubs and Cardinals have hit him better. But the Cubs and Cardinals are in the National League.

          I’m definitely not advocating Arthur Rhodes, but as a flier, for minor league filler, I’d give him a shot.

  11. Joe LA says:

    It might be impossible, but what about Nick Masset from the Reds? Still pretty young (26), quietly having a solid year: 24 hits in 39 and 2/3 innings, only 13 walks, some starting experience, 2.50 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.

    The Reds are on a bit of a slide, losing 3 in a row and sitting in 5th place. Any chance that they drop to 9 games back at the deadline and deal a little bit?

    Here’s his page:

  12. ChrisS says:

    As the trade deadline approaches, the frequency of Melky+ trade proposals by internet blog commentators increases.

    I don’t doubt that the Yankees could trade Melky, but he’s not so young anymore, he’s getting to be expensive for a less-than-league average player, his defense is average, and he doesn’t provide any speed or pop from the bench. Every team has players like him, or close enough, that he doesn’t represent any kind of significant improvement. Scott Hairston, a better, albeit older, version of Melky, was traded for minor league roster filler and a PTBNL.

    • Tank Foster says:

      I guess I’ll always be a “fool” for Melky. I see him as more valuable than most people do. I still believe he has decent upside potential. He’s not a burner, but he runs pretty well. He has an excellent throwing arm and although his various zone ratings have fluctuated through the years, I think he’s an average CF and a good LF/RF at the very least. He’s a switch hitter, and will probably hit 12-13 homers this year in less than a full season. He’s 25?

      I like him. You look at OF lists on fangraphs and BR and there are quite a few outfielders who make a hell of alot more $$ who aren’t much, if any, better than Melky.

  13. pollo says:

    After reading that article on Fangraphs that ZMac is leading the EL in FIP I’m not getting rid of him.

    Let’s just throw shit on the wall and see what sticks. Dunn is up as well as Whelan: it’s time for these kids to put up.

    Coke and Aceves were both in AA a little before this time last year and the AA bullpen has been lights out, (no hitter today through 7). It’s time to see if we can find someone else to approximate the production of these two.

    • V says:

      Well, Coke was also a starter in AA, and Aceves was not your typical prospect, having been signed out of Mexico basically already a finished product.

  14. Bo says:

    Cashman isn’t trading his starting CF for a 4th option in the bullpen or back end starter.

  15. Tony says:

    Incredible how many people seem to think contending teams are just dying to hand over key players down the stretch.


    “Oh, they need another starter. I mean, I would put Joba in the bullpen, but they need another starter.”

    In essence, he just requested this:

    CC, AJ, Andy, Mitre, TBD

  16. Frank says:

    I wouldn’t mind Baez although he’s rumored to be going to the Rox. Jason Frasor is also rumored to be on the block- don’t think Jays would deal him to Yanks though.

  17. josh says:

    i realize that most people on this site dont like melky and have wanted him gone for awhile now. i supported him last year and he made me look like a moron, but here we go again: he is young, he is homegrown, he plays very solid defense with a real good arm (good enough for all 3 positions), he has improved at the plate (a lot), and our outfield is not all that great to begin with (its good but lets be realistic, the infield is whats dominant), if jackson falters next season we will need him (even if jackson is good and we resign damon or another outfielder the combo of gardner and cabrera makes for a great 3/4th outfielder.) He also has many game winning hits this season and deserves to win a world series with this team this year. IMHO. i really dont understand the hatred of this guy. in that playoff game at cleveland he hit a hr and threw out a runner (at home, if i remember correctly) – joba gets the outs and he and pettitte are the heroes of the game and maybe the series. i know it seems like i love the guy, i dont, but he is a good role player and i like him on this team

    • Tony says:

      My “hatred” of Melky is related to him being fool’s gold and his general suckiness.

    • I never said I hated him.

      I said he’s worth trading in the right deal. That’s not hate. If I hated him, I wouldn’t have tried to trade him because I’d think he has no value whatsoever because he’d be crappy.

      Notice that I’ve never suggested trading Shelley Duncan for something.

      • Mattingly's Love Child says:

        Hey, if the Cardinals can get Julio Lugo for their Duncan……

        Oh yeah I guess that is getting nothing for a Duncan.

      • josh says:

        i was exaggerating using the word hate, but the point is that i like him on the team. he is valuable. he is by far the most complete fielder in the outfield and has shown signs of improvement. the bullpen is GREAT right now, and as it has been pointed out hughes is staying there for the year. i love the idea of getting a top notch reliever and putting hughes in the rotation but we have to realize that is not happening. unless melky is a must in a package for a halladay/haren type pitcher i say we keep him

        • jsbrendog says:

          ” and as it has been pointed out by bloggers, reporters, and speculatively by the Yankees (the same front office who said bubba crosby was the starting cf and nick swisher was the starting 1b) hughes is staying there for the year”



    • Joltin' Joe says:

      I think Melky is definitely worthy of a 25-man roster spot, but seeing as how he will be one of the first guys on the chopping block when Montero/AJax/etc. are ready, swapping him for a decent, under-30 reliever is worth trying. Even if it is only trying.

  18. Stephen says:

    I don’t know where else to post this, so I’ll do it here. From Jason Stark’s most recent column:

    On Joba Chamberlain: “They’re waiting for him to become the next Josh Beckett, and it ain’t gonna happen. He just doesn’t have the power stuff Beckett has. He doesn’t have the delivery. He’s not the athlete Beckett is. And he doesn’t have the breaking stuff. If they ever get smart, they’ll put him back in the bullpen and let [Alfredo] Aceves be the [No.] 3-4 starter he ought to be.”

    • Jayson Stark has murdered baseball writing history.

    • Joltin' Joe says:

      I’m warning you ESPN. I live five minutes from your headquarters. I’ll bring down your IT infrastructure if this BS continues.

    • Tony says:

      ESPN put it into overdrive today, between this and the AJ Mass piece. They know what they’re doing.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      WHAT. THE. FUCK.
      I thought Fox had the worst people working for them because they knew nothing while praising the Red Sox every second.
      But ESPN thinks they know something while praising the Red Sox every goddamn second.

      I love how he fucking portrays the Yankee brass as idiots but this moron hasn’t a single clue!

      Josh Beckett of 2002 (22 years old) – 107.2 IP, 93 H, 49 ER, 44 walks 4.10 ERA
      Joba Chamberlain of 2009 (23 years old)- 95.2 IP , 100 H, 43 ER, 45 walks 4.05 ERA

      The reason I chose Beckett’s 2002 season is because it was the closest amount of innings that can be compared to Joba.

      JOba has been worse but not incredibly bad that he can’t be considered a starter and must go back to the bullpen.
      Shut up Jason Stark.

    • Mattingly's Love Child says:

      This is why I stopped reading Stark completely. Boycott. No page hits from my computer. Ever. Again.

    • Kilgore Trout says:

      You need to practice avoiding anything Stark.

    • ChrisS says:

      Josh Beckett has never lost a postseason game because of f’in insects.

    • V says:

      Let me guess. Much like Mr. Olney re: ARod = finished, first baseman, etc., when proven wrong (http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/g.....19_DET@NYY), he won’t admit it.

    • jsbrendog says:

      if you read the article stark doesn’t say that. he is quoting (therefore the quotations) under this section:

      The Rumblings Scouting Bureau
      Once again this week, we check in with some of America’s sharpest scouting minds.

      On Joba Chamberlain: “They’re waiting for him to become the next Josh Beckett, and it ain’t gonna happen. He just doesn’t have the power stuff Beckett has. He doesn’t have the delivery. He’s not the athlete Beckett is. And he doesn’t have the breaking stuff. If they ever get smart, they’ll put him back in the bullpen and let [Alfredo] Aceves be the [No.] 3-4 starter he ought to be.”

      • A.D. says:

        He still chose to print it

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

        They didn’t say that when he was in the minors and last year, they’re only saying that because he’s starting to struggle a bit and they’re drinking the kool aid.

  19. Mike HC says:

    Unless the Yanks give up basically nothing for these relievers, I don’t like it. These guys are not even that good. They are ok. If we are going to add anything, it should be a starter. If most of us agree that a starter is more valuable than a reliever anyway, and a good starter can make a pretty good reliever as well, I would rather go for the more valuable pitcher.

    • jsbrendog says:

      but by adding a reliver you are adding a starter. by adding a reliever you are adding phil hughes the starter.

      • Mike HC says:

        I don’t think these relievers are good enough to replace Hughes, if the guys we currently have are not good enough to replace. Adding one more mediocre bullpen arm is no the thing the Yankees are looking for to move Hughes. Having another starter go down is what they are waiting for, and even then, they may go to Aceves. While you are looking for ways to get Hughes into the rotation, the Yanks are not doing that.

  20. Joe LA says:

    Would it be possible to get a hold of Nick Masset from the Reds? Has a bit of starting experience, still young at 26, 2.50 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 8.2 K/9, 177 ERA+ and less than a hit per inning. The Reds are painfully weak on the field and are sitting in 5th place after losing 3 in a row. Any chance that they might deal Masset for a triple-A outfielder and some salary relief?

    Here’s his B-Ref page:

    • Tony says:

      And he is a badass in my OOTP franchises.

    • Mattingly's Love Child says:

      My thought is that the youngness means that they won’t deal him. He could still be good by the time they get all of their young pieces together.

      • Exactly. IMO, people need to stop suggesting we trade for Young Player X or Young Player Y.

        All the guys in both the starter and reliever markets we’ve discussed fit the same profile: Older veteran, higher salary, team not in contention.

        Rebuilding teams don’t sell off their young and cost-controlled pieces when they fall out of the race, they sell their older and more expensive pieces nearing the end of their contracts to recoup some value to build around their young core.

        Rhodes and Weathers are available from the Reds. Asking for Nick Masset is pie in the sky.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

          Dan Haren! Dan Haren! 1.97 ERA!

        • Joe LA says:

          I have to completely disagree with you on this one for several reasons.

          1) The Cincinnati Reds aren’t a rebuilding team. They’re just bad. Wrong players, wrong manager in Dusty “Clogging up the bases” Baker, wrong GM in Jocketty. Their farm system is ranked 23rd (!!!) out of 30 by the hardball times. http://tinyurl.com/bsnjhx. This says to me that they aren’t competing now, and they won’t (most likely) be competing at any high level in the near future.

          2) Asking for a 26 year old Nick Massett isn’t nearly as crazy as asking for a 23 year old Joba. He’s closer to 30 than 20 and is having a good year (104 career ERA+). If you were the GM of a straight-up BAD team, wouldn’t you accept 2 B+ potential everyday players in their early 20s for someone who most likely will be on the wrong side of 30 by the time your team is a contender?

  21. Joltin' Joe says:

    I really hope that this whole “Phil Hughes is in the BP” is just PR speak for “We will stretch him out once we acquire a veteran reliever”.

  22. pollo says:

    Grand Slam Josh Fields. Scott Kazmir is still broken.

    • jsbrendog says:

      jim/dan (i forget) duquette right now is smiling somewhere. granted it is because he is drunk and probably crying at the same time, but still.

    • Tampa Yankee says:

      The word in Tampa is that the TB front office wants to move him and his contract. I think that they babied the shit out of him and with the right pitching coach, he could turn it around and be dominate again.

      Melky for Kaz – It’ll allow them to stop trotting out the Gabe’s in RF every other day and Zobrist can stay at 2b.

      DO IT CASH!

      • Mattingly's Love Child says:

        Yeah I’d love that trade….but then I wake up and realize it’s crazy one-sided.

        • Tampa Yankee says:

          Yeah I’ve been patiently waiting for the day Kaz was in pinstripes hence the crazy trade talk.

          Its just funny to be that people want to write him off after a bad season. He’s still only 25 and I think it’s all mental right now. I see this as a Verlander 2008 season for him, not a Willis 2007 season.

          • Mattingly's Love Child says:

            The Rays would be crazy to part with him unless they are sure that he is Willis 2.0. Then they should get whatever value they can for him. But if they are’t sure, the Rays should do everything in their power to fix him, including firing their pitching coach. Skills like his don’t grow on trees.

            • Zach says:

              it’s not crazy to part with a starting pitcher who still cant finish 6IP/S thats owed 6m, 8m, 11m, 13m (team option) with history of elbow soreness and decreased velocity of the last 3 years

    • 27 this year says:

      I hope today’s game doesn’t get rained out because I would love the Yanks to go up 6.5 on Tampa and 2.5 on Bonertown.

  23. Tampa Yankee says:

    Apparently the Rays are interested in Qualls as well as V-Mart and Lee.


  24. Jersey says:

    You guys seeing Buerhle here? Perfect through six, 74 pitches?

  25. Well, one option is off the table. Betancourt to Colorado.

  26. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    21 up 21 down for Buehrle.

    Nobody write the words perf…ga… or n…hitte…, don’t want to jinx it since it’s vs. the Rays.

  27. Russell NY says:

    You can take Betancourt off this list… traded to Colorado.

  28. J.R. says:

    Word is the rockies just snagged Betancourt.

  29. Russell NY says:

    Buehrle is reaching the 100 pitch mark. Anyone think they’ll swap him out for a relief pitcher in the 9th?

  30. Drew says:

    looks like espn will have the 9th live for anyone without the mlb package

  31. Joe B. says:

    So, this Buehrle guy… available? :D

    • Zach says:

      buehrle has a no hitter and perfect game. joba has neight. trade joba for buhrle!

    • Mike bk says:

      sadly enough he was a couple of years ago. i believe in 06 when he had his worst year they talked about moving him at the deadline, kind of like those andy to philly rumors the one year.

  32. Kingjoe793 says:

    would it be crazy if i said to look at someone like bedard and even try to get a cheap righty for end of the rotation stuff or another bullpen arm ?

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