Sep
04

Yanks flirted with Mike Cameron, Brad Penny

By

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees again looked into acquiring Mike Cameron before the August 31 waiver trade deadline. Over the winter it seemed like the Yankees were close to a deal for Cameron, but Brian Cashman put on the brakes. A few weeks later, they landed Mark Teixeira. After getting Andy Pettitte to sign on the dotted line, it appeared as if the Yankees were done spending for the winter, and the Cameron talks evaporated.

As the season progressed, it became clear that taking on Cameron and his $10 million salary might not have been the most prudent move. Melky Cabrera had a hot April, and Brett Gardner picked it up when Melky fell off a bit. They made a serviceable tandem through July, for a fifth the price of Cameron. There were some murmurs of a deadline deal possibility after Brett Gardner broke his thumb in late July, but that looked like more speculation than substance.

Come the end of August, things looked a bit different. Melky, playing every day with Gardner still on the shelf, fell into a major slump. He hit .223/.264/.350 on the month, and that gets even worse if you look at his numbers after hitting for the cycle: .202/.248/.277 in 102 PA. Why Jerry Hairston didn’t take more reps in center I do not know (and I doubt it has anything to do with his Type B free agent status, which will be compromised if he plays much more in the outfield). In any case, by the end of August a platoon partner for Melky seemed like an attractive option.

The Yankees, according to Rosenthal, didn’t want to add the remainder of Cameron’s salary, roughly $1.5 million, to their ledger. Again, some might wonder what a mere $1.5 million means to the Yankees. As I mentioned yesterday, there was a similar story regarding Brian Bannister, where the Yankees were interested but didn’t want to pick up the tab. These cases are similar, but it’s not a pure money issue.

In both cases it seems that the Yankees didn’t want to take on the salary because they believed the player in question wasn’t worth the upgrade. They didn’t want to pay the remainder of Banny’s salary because they believed that their in-house options could provide similar production at no increase to the payroll. With Cameron, they thought it wouldn’t be worth the money and the roster spot to add Cameron, especially when Brett Gardner should be making his return soon.

Adding a veteran like Mike Cameron is nice, but when you have an in-house tandem that has worked, taking on him and his salary, in addition to the roster spot he’d cost, doesn’t seem all that worth it. Perhaps when he hits free agency the Yankees can entice him. He could platoon with Gardner or Melky next season, freeing the Yanks up to trade whoever brings the bigger return for another part. I do find it doubtful, though, that Cameron would come into such an obvious platoon situation which also involves a soon-to-be-promoted top prospect.

On the Brad Penny front, it appears the Yankees were deadly serious about adding him. Rosenthal says that they “recruited him with calls from manager Joe Girardi, outfielder Johnny Damon and Penny’s former teammate in Florida, right-hander A.J. Burnett.” From the Yankees standpoint it made sense. Despite Penny’s failings in Boston, he’s still probably a better option than Chad Gaudin. But unlike some other upgrade options which would have costed prospects and/or money, Penny was essentially free — he’ll cost the Giants just around $100K.

Penny was smart to go to the NL. After pitching poorly for the Red Sox he had a chance for a fresh start. Why press your luck in the AL East when there are two NL teams looking to employ your services? Both the Giants and the Rockies were better options, and Penny made the right move by going to the better pitcher’s park. The guy wants to get paid this off-season and he wants to pitch in the postseason. San Fran presents the best of both worlds.

The Yankees were — well, not necessarily smart, but certainly shrewd to decline a trade for Cameron. He’s an offensive and defensive upgrade over Melky, but the question is of how much. Probably not $1.5 million worth. Plus, with Gardner on the mend, that would make three center fielders on the roster. Sure, they can carry 40 men on the bench now, but come playoff time would the Yankees carry all three? Doubtful.

It looks as though the Yankees were active in exploring deadline deals in both July and August, but each time found little to their liking. It seems to be Brian Cashman’s M.O. He doesn’t make moves for the sake of making moves, though he’s more than apt to make small moves, and those have worked out well this year. But when a deal doesn’t represent a clear and significant upgrade, it seems like he’s more than willing to hold. Sometimes that’s the right move.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Call me crazy, but it seems like you guys don’t like Melky Cabrera.

    • Jersey

      Eres loco!

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

      Yes, and Melky Cabrera seems to take no issue with it, if not welcoming the critiques:

      Melky Cabrera since August 18th (8/18 was date of this RAB</i post: http://riveraveblues.com/2009/...../#comments ) in 60 plate appearances: .345/.390/.455

      • BklynJT

        Everytime RAB opens their mouth about Melky, he seems to prove them wrong. Hate on you haters.

  • http://twitter.com/Hopjake Jake H

    You have to wonder how much playing time Melky would have gotten if Gardner had been healthy.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      the same amount…but he would have OPS’d 150 points higher.

  • Sam

    I starting to worry about this season. The Yanks just keep winning and everyone gets as cold as they do hot. I just feel like were going to get cold at the wrong time. I just wish they could save this hotstreak for the postseason.

    • Jersey

      Their current hot streak began in May.

    • Derby

      Sam, don’t you realize that a cold for us this season is only like a 2 game losing streak? Lol, then we go on 7 game winning streaks like they’re nothing.

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

      I have never in my life understood this line of reasoning. When a team is as cold as ice, people need to be fired, and guys need to be traded or demoted to get the team going again because the current group of bums can’t turn it around or their own. However, if a team is playing up to their high potential, a market correction is always in sight, and winning “too much/often” is actually viewed in a negative light.

      Why is is that people can be realistic and have this market correction ideology when a team is playing well, but not when their playing like crap?

      • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

        Why is is that people can be realistic and have this market correction ideology when a team is playing well, but not when their they’re playing like crap?

      • Ed

        Why is is that people can be realistic and have this market correction ideology when a team is playing well, but not when they’re playing like crap?

        Probably because for the past 15 years or so, the team’s hot streaks have usually resulted in a level of play that history tells us is rarely sustainable. The 1998 team sustained it almost all year, but even that team had a September slump.

        But over that same time span, the team’s slumps have generally resulted in a roughly .500 record over a prolonged period of time. It’s fair easier to believe that a streak of strictly average play is what the team really is than it is to believe that a prolonged streak of .750 play is what the team really is.

        Also, the Yankees have typically had a relatively old team for most of the decade, which makes a sudden decline in skill easy to believe. Take a look at how many people here are ready to believe that Pettitte and Posada are going to fall off a cliff any day now.

  • Derby

    You also have to think about the games Melky has won for us. Earlier in the year he was downright clutch in clise situations, including 3 (maybe more I can’t remember them all) walkoffs. Once Gardner comes back we will be set with out CF, and maybe with that added competition Melky will pick it up again. The first half of the season Melky would be golden for the playoffs.

  • kimonizer

    Does anyone think Cashman will get any love as Executive of the Year. I mean, between off-season signing (CC, AJ, Tex), mid-season acquisitons (Hinske, Hairston, Gaudin), continued youth pitching health (Joba, Huges management), bullpen reorganization (Edwar, Veras, Albie out D-Rob, Aceves, Hughes in), correct non-acquisitions (Washburn, Bannister, Cameron), and the team’s sick record he’s gotta get some recognition. Maybe the bottomless pockets excuse will lose him some points, but he has done an excellent job over the last 10 months after a brutal season.

    • A.D.

      He should, but as you note the big money GMs that have teams with high expectations rarely get the love.

    • Jersey

      I think the “deep pockets” factor is too much to overcome. People forget that you still need to be shrewd even if you can afford more toys than everyone else. It’s why Girardi is unlikely to win another Manager of the Year award in the Bronx.

    • kimonizer

      Oh and I forgot to add the Nick Swisher trade/steal (did the Yanks really only give up Betemit on that one?)

      • andrew

        Nope. Jeff Marquez too.

        • kimonizer

          Forgot about that, thanks. Still a hell of a trade, especially considering Marquez’s stats this year:

          2-8 9.85 ERA 45.2 IP 72 H 51 R 50 ER 12 HR 27/22 K/BB

          OUCH!

    • http://twitter.com/Hopjake Jake H

      I doubt it. Most people will just say he spent the money and that’s it.

      • jsbrendog

        yankee’s buy another championship with paid mercenaries at eveyr position and no homegrown talent.

        \ig’nant’d

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          Dear Executive of the Year Committee (also known as you deep pocket hating bastardos),

          You keep your crappy award, I’m too busy counting my World Series Rings.

          Sincerely,
          You know who you bastards

  • A.D.

    Basically Brian Bannister & Mike Cameron probably aren’t the difference in winning a WS or not. They might help the teams win a few more games down the stretch, mainly if Bannister would be able to outperform the Gaudin/Mitre/Spot Start combo but that doesn’t appear like its going to be a big issue.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I definitely understand not trying to upgrade CF in the middle of this season, but I wonder what they’ll do for 2010. Austin Jackson does not seem ready to come up and play right away and it’s hard to feel comfortable expecting both Melky and Gardner to perform at a league average level again. The CF options, aside from Cameron, look pretty bleak, though. Cameron said, though, via MLBTR yesterday, he’d consider taking a discount to stay with the Brewers, though.

    • Will

      Gardner aside, because I am not high on him, why can’t we expect Melky to improve? He does have skill and is only 24.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Well, he’s had over 2,000 PAs already and he’s really shown nothing but flashes of brilliance around long stretches of being below average. Gardner has more upside, IMO, because he profiles to have better on base skills than Melky and can somewhat make up for a lack of power with his steals. His defense is also better than Melky’s. Regardless, I don’t think either guy is anything more than a fourth outfielder in the long run.

        • Will

          I am not a huge fan of similarity scores, but through age 23, his comps range from solid guys like Flood and to All Stars like Damon to a Hall of Famer in Heilmann. When so many of the PAs take place at the tender ages of 20-22 (a time when most prospects are facing A level pitching), the early production is going to be low. The fact that Melky held his own at 21-22 and has been near league average at 24 is impressive. I mean, everyone is falling over Adam Jones and his 103 OPS+, but that isn’t much better than Melky’s 98 OPS+.

          The reason I don’t think of Gardner as having the upside of Melky is because aside from speed, he really doesn’t have anything projectable. Also, GArdner is older.

          • jsbrendog

            agree to some extent but jones exhibited starlike potential in the minors and was a high prospect.

            melky was always just meh.

            again, he totally could blossom but based on his meh past and average to poopy ml time so far he does not seem toproject to mroe than 4th outfielder.

            i guess what i mean by development is that he won’t ever be a greta player or a solid starter but he could go from being average to a very good 4th outfielder..

            prove me wrong melky, you sonuvabitch. (totally hopig he does)

            • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

              …not seem toproject

              Does that count? It’s way too early to drink.

              • jsbrendog

                heh…i think it’s more like below in my answer to your other comment :

                inr eality

                tiny sips. it’s gonna be a long day

                • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

                  its 5:00 somewhere…

            • Will

              You have to becareful when you compare minor league stats. Where and When they are compiled is very important. Melky was in AA and AAA, by age-20, so alot of other prospects (maybe 21 or 22 in AAA) are going to look better. Also, at age 21, Melky did have an OPS of .995 (only 135 PAs) in AAA. In more ABs, Jones had a .967 OPS in AAA at age 21, but again, that was in the PCL (lots of high altitude teams).

              Melky doesn’t have a “meh” past, unless you compare him to older players at more advanced stages.

    • A.D.

      it’s hard to feel comfortable expecting both Melky and Gardner to perform at a league average level again.

      I dunno, neither did anything ridiculous this year that you wouldn’t expect them to re-create it. Maybe a little less of a hot April for Melk, but him coming out hitting strong is back to back years now.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        True. I’m not saying the Yankees should go all in for Cameron, but if he’s there for the right price, go right ahead. The other mitigating factors for that decision are Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston. If both of them come back, then the team gets a little more crowded. In that case, I’d rather not lose one of Melky or Gardner just for the sake of bringing in a new player that wouldn’t be more than maybe a one win upgrade over the guy he’d be replacing.

        • jsbrendog

          i don’t think the roster thing is an issue. Look at it this way. if they all come back:

          hairston is a backup infielder (3b, ss, 2b) who can play the OF

          so inr eality you have 5 OF gardner, melky, damon, swisher, hinske.

          swisher can play 1b and hinske can play 1b/3b (if neccessary)

          hinske is a lefty pop off the bench and is fine with that role. I don’t see the roster issue.

          Ideally you have 12 pitchers and 8 position starters leaving you 5 bench spots.

          1. backup catcher
          2. backup infielder (hairston)
          3. backup outfielder (hinske)
          4. starting dh (matsui/damon/etc)
          5. wildcard (pena)

          so if your bench is let’s for argument’s sake say cervelli, pena, hairston, hinske that means that you have 2 guys who can play 3 if positions and OF positions (hairston/pena) and your of/1b/emergency3b lefty pop off the bench.
          (and it is kinda cool how hairston si the emergency catcher too. sriouslt wtf doesnt this guy do???)

          • kimonizer

            But that means there is no roster space for Cameron and we need to shed someone, which I think is what Matt’s point was.

            • jsbrendog

              derrrr..

              my bad

              • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

                …or, how about, we actually do what jsb just said?

                BRING THEM ALL BACK!

        • wilcymoore

          Cameron stinks. Choosing him over a 24-year-old Melky would be absolutely inexplicable.

    • http://twitter.com/Hopjake Jake H

      Most players don’t hit their peak until their mid to late 20′s

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        That’s true, but what’s Melky’s peak going to be? From what we’ve seen, I’d expect his peak to be probably a 2.0 WAR player, which would be just about league average.

        • kimonizer

          Isn’t it okay if our weakest player is league average? That means all the other players are above average, which thereby means we are really well off when compared to other teams since they are bound to have below average players.

  • Will

    Cameron would have been a small upgrade (111 OPS+ in the NL is probably a tad better than a 98+ OPS in the AL), but I don’t think it would be worth disrupting the makeup of the team. Melky has become a part of the fabric and it seems like he is well liked. We know he and Cano are very, very close. Also, Melky is only 24! Hitting at league average is pretty solid for a CF’er that young. Dealing for Cameron would pretty much stunt any further development by Melky. Regardless of price, trading for Cameron would have been a mistake.

    • jsbrendog

      pure speculation on my part with no facts to prove it (at least i am admitting up front) but I am willing to make a friendly internet gentleman’s bet that melky’s development as you put it cannot be stunted as it is what it is.

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      I know he’s only 24, but I’d be, as JSB is, willing to say that 95-99% of Melky’s development is finished.

      • Will

        Is any player’s development “finished” at 24? Even a replacement level player is probably making improvements through his prime. As he heads toward his prime, Melky should improve his pitch selection and his strength at least marginally. If you give him a mulligan for 2008, he has a three year track record of being around an OPS+ of 95. Even marginal improvements would push Melky’s bat above league average, which is pretty good for a CF’er.

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          Yeah, his PS/PD has seemed to improve this year. We still see some frustrating swings from the Melkman but he’s improved his out of zone swing percentage to 24.6% (league average is 25.1%). His walk rate and strikeout rate have both trended the right way, too. If only there was someway to make a true Brmelky Gardbrera and give him Melky’s bat and Gardner’s defense.

          http://dontgetmestarted-lindas.....hris_2.gif (safe)

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          Hm, looks like what I wrote got caught. Anyway, you’re right and I hope Melky proves me wrong. His BB% and K% have both trended the right way this year and he’s swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than he did in ’08. I just wish we could combine Melky’s good for his position power, Gardner’s on base skills, Melky’s throwing arm with Gardner’s accuracy and Gardner’s range.

  • Omar

    Meh…I kinda wish they brought in Cameron, the only issue I see is the roster spot. Melky right now is doing something worse than sucking, now granted Cameron might not adjust to the AL East very well, but I would have been glad to add Mike Cameron for a lesser player.

  • Goldmember

    I think Eddie at MLBTR has Hairston Jr. as already losing his Type B status due to his time in the OF. I was kinda bummed especially since the Angels and Sox have 5 and 3 Type A’s, respectively. Although not all will be offered arbitration.

    • http://www.teamnerdrage.com leokitty

      Just because the Angels will potentially have 5 first round picks doesn’t mean they’re going to go suddenly spend a ton of money on them all and snatch a ton of ill talent. Their draft MO certainly doesn’t make me think they would.

      Red Sox I would be more concerned with but if they lose Bay it’s because they think they can sign Holliday. And honestly, I’d rather see them gain a draft pick than have either of them on the team next year.

  • miketotheg

    every time i read about mike cameron i think of that game where him and carlos beltran collided. it was rough.

    • whozat

      And remember the game where Damon collided with (I think) the SS?

      Was that the 03 postseason? He had to be carted off the field? That was horrendous.

      • Pasqua

        It was ’03. I think he collided with Damian Jackson?

  • http://z.about.com/d/tvcomedies/1/0/F/-/-/-/judge310_72.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    There’s no need, in the immediate future, to spend money or prospects to upgrade the CF position. The Yankees have a couple of guys in Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner who can ably hold down the position and while making a relatively minor ding in the payroll.

    On the eternal topic of conversation around these parts – Melky Cabrera… The guy is cheap, and he performs at about league average, and he’s only 25 years old. Not convinced he can hold down the CF position on his own? Not a problem, he can split time out there with Brett Gardner. Even the most stubborn person in the ‘Melky doesn’t have much projection left’ camp (of which I’ve long been a part) has to admit that the guy is about league average now and will improve at least a little bit as he hits his prime.

    Even if you don’t believe in Melky, the way this team is constructed, he’s a positive since he doesn’t cost much and the Yankees don’t need big offensive production out of the CF slot. The Gardner/Cabrera combo can field well, hit a little, and hold down that position while the Yankees continue to spend money in other areas and hopefully develop some more options for the OF.

  • wilcymoore

    What is with this freaking annual obsession with Mike Cameron?!

    He’s a .250 career hitter who strikes out a hundred-and-fifty times a year. He’s got some power, used to have speed, and I suppose he’s still a good defender. But at 36 years old and for $10 million a year?? Please. I want to hear no more future rumors about the Yanks being interested in Mike Cameron.

    • toad

      Agreed. Surely there are more productive ways to spend $10 million than Cameron.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        This is a red herring. No team is going to give Cameron $10 mil next year.

  • Michael Kay

    did someone tell Cashman Mike Cameron shits bricks of pure gold or something? You know what Brian, I’m sick of this fascination you have with Cameron. You want him? Get him, and much like the little kid that so desperately wants a toy for christmas don’t expect any sympathy when it breaks 2 minutes after you open it.