Consider Craig Counsell


(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

While the Yankees boasted baseball’s best record in late July, we all knew they had a few flaws. The bench looked a bit out of order, with players like Ramiro Pena and Colin Curtis taking up roster spots. The bullpen was also in need of a reinforcement or two. Brian Cashman acted at the deadline, acquiring Lance Berkman to be the DH, Kerry Wood to shore up the pen, and Austin Kearns to fortify the bench. Still, that left a few positions as a weakness, most notably utility infielder.

Ramiro Pena is a good story. Throughout his pro career he made a name with his glove, but wasn’t able to hit a lick. Then, one spring, he demonstrated some bat skills and ended up breaking camp with the team, because the regular utility infielder was pressed into regular duty. Pena provided some highlight moments early in the season, including a game-changing double that led a comeback against Anaheim. Later in the season he returned as the utility infielder, and heading into spring training it was assumed that he’d again fill that role in 2010.

This year hasn’t gone nearly as well as his rookie campaign, in which he produced a .312 wOBA in 121 PA. This year he has 112 PA already and has a puny .219 wOBA. The problem isn’t the production, in that this is probably more in line with what the Yankees can expect from Pena. He still has the glove, but his bat just isn’t going to play at the major league level. If the Yankees had an infield composed of young, healthy players this might not be a problem. But with the left side aging and, in A-Rod‘s case, not completely healthy, the Yanks could use a better utility infielder.

A few such players are likely to pass through waivers this month, whether because of contract size or general disinterest. There probably won’t be a stellar multi-position player available, but there will be options that will produce better than Pena. Two have reportedly cleared waivers already. While neither Geoff Blum nor Craig Counsell will change the Yankees’ season, either could step right in and fill Pena’s shoes while providing at least some semblance of offensive value. The best part is that neither will likely cost much in a trade.

Counsell, who will turn 40 later this month, has seen his numbers drop off a bit this year. That could be a combination of his age and his reduced playing time, neither of which will get better with a move to New York. But even in a down year he has produced a .284 wOBA. He can play anywhere in the infield, and has even played 185 innings at shortstop this year. As far as the currently available options go he’s among the best.

Astros utility man Geoff Blum, 37, has also cleared waivers. While he has played all infield positions this year he has spent the most time at SS and 3B, which fits the Yankees’ needs well. Looking at the past few years of his defensive data he’s been about average at third and below average at shortstop, which doesn’t bode well for a utility player. His bat this year is also about equal to Counsell’s, though he has a far worse career track record. In other words, if you’re going to gamble on a currently available veteran, Counsell is your guy. Taking defense into account, Blum might not even be that big an upgrade.

Two more weeks remain in the waiver trade period, so acquiring a player like Counsell is probably not high on the team’s priority list at the moment. But if the opportunity arises to add him on the cheap, I don’t see why the Yankees would pass. It would be one thing of A-Rod and Jeter were healthy and productive. With A-Rod’s health a lingering question, the Yanks could use an upgrade on the bench. If he’s the best available, so be it. He’ll at least be more productive than Pena.

Categories : Trade Deadline


  1. Hey, he is better than Ramiro. Hell, anyone is better than Ramiro.

  2. Counsell’s probably better than Blum.

    But my eyes can’t stand watching Craig Counsell in the batters box in pinstripes. That’s torture.

  3. kosmo says:

    Is there an explanation for why NY decided to jettison Chad Tracy?
    Tracy is no worse then Blum or Counsell.

    I thought at the time he´d fill in at the corner IF positions and DH some.Not a great defensive player but a fairly decent gap hitter and far better hitter then Pena.
    I guess they decided to go with the higher profile player in Berkman.

    Watching Counsell wave the bat well over his head is enough for me to take a bathroom break.
    He was on the 2001 D-Back team which is still after all these years a bitter pill.

    • Steve O. says:

      Tracy had a clause in his contract that if he wasn’t in the majors by a certain date, he could opt out. So he did. He was a 3B/1B anyways, he couldn’t play the middle IF.

      • Joe in Upstate NY says:

        I saw Chad Tracy play in Scranton 2 days before he opted out as a free agent per his contract with the Yanks. It was indeed his call, per the contract. I read where he was quoted as saying that it was clear to him what with the trades that his future with the Yanks was bleak.

        It did not take long for the Marlins to pick him up as one of their bench players. He did score the winning run for them in a game 2 weeks ago after a walk-off double that drove him in, sliding in with a head first slide for the winning run for the Fish.

        Tracy’s career is nearing an end, but he still has some off the bench punch left in him, with unquestioned 3rd base ( and 1st base) skills.

        The Yanks could have moved him up. Too bad.

  4. Bret says:

    One thing that kind of confuses me. There was just a War and Peace like Post on the Yankees prospects but whenever there is a hole the Yankees look to outside sources (Berkman, Kearns, Wood, Vazquez, Granderson and on and on). If you are going to develop prospects but then not trust them to play or look to them when there is an opening then why even talk about them? How about Eduardo Nunez or some in house cheap option instead of Craig Counsell? How about Austin Jackson playing center or Joba being fifth starter (his ERA was lower last year than Vazquez’ was this year)? If FA is going to solve every single problem which it has other than Hughes/Cano since about 1996, isn’t it kind of stupid to even keep track of the prospects? I’m not saying this to be a jerk, I’m saying this as an honest question. If the prospects are never going to make it to the Yankees major league roster, isn’t it akin to me writing a really long post about winning the lottery? I mean, teams like the O’s or Rays are always bringing up new players so the prospects are of vital importance, the Yankees can’t even trust them at backup infielder. It just kind of confuses me.

    • It just kind of confuses me.

      That’s the only important takeaway here.

      • Bret says:

        Arod until 2017, Jeter, Cano, Tex are set for the next at least 4-5 years. The outfield is set for at least the next few once they sign Carl Crawford. Burnett Sabathia Hughes for at least the next few plus Pettitte or Lee or other FA pitcher. And I guarantee you that Ivan Nova will not be trusted to start 2011 in the rotation. So all this talk about any prospect other than Montero is kind of a pipe dream, after all there are only 9 positions on the field.

        • Well, we promoted Dustin Hoffman. That’s a start.

        • Steve H says:

          after all there are only 9 positions on the field.

          Way to contradict yourself. Your first point was that they can’t even trust a minor leaguer to handle a backup spot which is at the end of a 25 man roster. Now you’re saying there’s only 9 spots. Which is it?

          • Bret says:

            I’m saying there is no room for anyone to play most of the time but when injuries or opportunities open which do happen from time to time they always opt for the FA over the prospect (Ajax, Vazquez, Berkman, Kearns, Wood etc.) It isn’t contradictory at all.

            • Steve H says:

              Well they found room for Berkman, Kearns and Wood. Counsell would replace Pena.

              It sounds like you’re saying the Yankees have too many good players. Not a bad problem to have.

              • Bret says:

                I don’t think you get my point. They were all outside options.

                It is an FA team, not just now but for quite a while in the foreseeable future. I just don’t see much sense in talking about prospects when they will never see the light of day. My opinion only, you don’t have to agree.

                • jsbrendog (returns) says:

                  no no, you’re right. free agent team. posada, jeter, cano, posada, cervelli, rivera, hughes, robertson, joba, curtis, huffman, all free agents and terrible ones at that. cut them all. bums i tell you bums! they couldnt eve tear a thumb ligament beating up their would be father in law if ny acknowledged common law marriage!!!

                • Mike HC says:

                  Jorge, Cervelli, Pena, Hughes, Joba, Pettitte, Jeter, Cano, Gardner and Robertson were all Yankee prospects and have played a major role on this team. That is 10 of 25 guys. Not bad.

                  And guys like Miranda, Golson and Curtis have all got some playing time as well.

                  You can’t understand why Yankee fans would want to know about the prospects they have?

                  Maybe they also want to better understand trades. When we trade for Granderson, and give up AJax, Kennedy and Coke, us fans can form more of an educated opinion on the deal. Same as the Javy deal. You seem to have very strong opinions about both deals. Maybe that is because you actually know about the prospects.

                  How is that so hard to understand?

                  • jsbrendog (returns) says:

                    golson was a FA signing. but melky won a ring last yr.

                    • Mike HC says:

                      Yea, I was not even including last year and melky.

                      But even guys like Golson who was a FA signing, still played in the minors before getting called up.

                      Plenty of guys get called up here and there that die hard Yankee fans, which many of us are, would want to know about before they actually get called up. Even if it is only for a month or less.

                  • Mike HC says:

                    Add to the fact that we are all baseball fans, and enjoy watching talented young players improve and follow their careers. Even if we can only follow their stats and scouting reports while they are in the minors. It is about better understanding the sport as a whole and having a larger knowledge base than just the Yankees 25 man roster. It is all for entertainment.

                  • Mike HC says:

                    And how could I forget Mo in that. That is 11 or 25 guys, all directly from the Yanks system.

    • T-Dubs says:

      If the prospects are never going to make it to the Yankees major league roster, isn’t it akin to me writing a really long post about winning the lottery?>/b>

      bolded for emphasis

    • Chris says:

      You don’t call prospects up to be bench players. It stunts their growth. Let em play down on the farm and eventually become trade bait or what have you.

    • bexarama says:

      I’m not saying this to be a jerk, I’m saying this as an honest question.


    • Steve H says:

      isn’t it akin to me writing a really long post about winning the lottery?

      What if you bought a lottery ticket with a potential $10 million purse, then sold that ticket for $500,000. Doesn’t that lottery ticket, even if not held onto by you and not potentially cashed by you hold value?

    • IRememberCelerinoSanchez says:

      The problem with your logic can be found with the 2009 championship team. The catcher, second baseman, short stop, center fielder, fourth outfielder, third starter, and the entire bullpen were products of the Yankee minor league system.

      The purpose of a strong minor league system on a good team is for the elite to work their way to the Yanks, and the rest to provide trade chips to bring in established players. Austin Jackson and IPK did their jobs in allowing the Yanks to get Granderson.

      We will see prospects getting long-term chances in New York, but it will be the elite guys (Montero and/or Romine, e.g.) rather than fringey guys like Nunez and Nova. Already this year Curtis, Golson, Huffman and Russo have gotten chances in New York.

  5. Tank Foster says:

    Slow news day I guess…..I can’t get excited over this. Pena is fine. Demoting a guy with a very solid glove and speed to “upgrade” to a 37 or 40 year old with less glove, less range, less speed, and a few more points of wOBA seems stupid to me.

    He’s a weak hitter….but there was a time when weak hitters started, regularly, in MLB. Brinkman, Belanger, Kessinger, Aurelio Rodriguez. Some of this was stupid orthodoxy of thinking–that, say, you needed a little fast guy who was a defensive whiz at SS and it didn’t make sense to try to get a great hitter as a SS–but some of it was because of the overall lower offensive output of the day.

    We are clearly on a downward offensive trajectory in baseball, and the fractional value of a good glove is increasing. Ozzie Smith was close to an offensive zero early in his career, but he improved. Pena could be a better hitter, if he played daily. I’m NOT suggesting he play daily, but am just pointing out that to dismiss him because he’s a crappy hitter right now is short sighted, on many fronts.

    Keep him, and give him as much playing time as you need to. It will only help him.

    • T-Dubs says:

      had me on the first paragraph, lost me on the rest.

      I also don’t think Counsell is enough of an upgrade. I’d be happier going after a backup catcher with at least one legitimate skill. At least Pena can pick it and can run a little. I’m not sure what the Cervix is providing other than emphatic fist pumps.

      • kosmo says:

        when Arizona wanted to give away Chris Snyder for a bag of balls where was NY ? An OK hitter with some power who has been known to hit the ball out of the infield on occasion.Plus he´s an upgrade over Cervelli as a defensive catcher.

        • when Arizona wanted to give away Chris Snyder for a bag of balls where was NY ?

          Acquiring Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood.

          • kosmo says:

            As a Yankee fan I somehow got wind of that.Thanks

          • T-Dubs says:

            This pretty much. Also not wanting to take that salary and the 2nd year on the deal.

            • kosmo says:

              Maybe I´m mistaken but didn´t Arizona eat a good portion of that contract? Pittsburgh isn´t exactly the last of the big spenders.

              • Snyder’s due about 1.5M for the rest of this year, 5.75M for 2011, and 6.75M for 2012 (or a 750k buyout). That’s a guaranteed 8M for him, if you don’t pick up his option.

                The DBacks sent along 3M in the deal, so acquiring Synder cost a decent relief prospect in D.J. Carrasco and 5 million dollars (minus the 800k or so that Church and Crosby are making for the rest of 2010).

                Arizona ate some, but far from all. I’d imagine that the money we took on in acquiring Berkman/Kearns/Wood made Snyder an additional price burden we weren’t willing to take on.

        • I don’t believe in acquiring a catcher mid year unless its a total emergency. Learning a new pitching staff on the fly doesn’t seem like a good idea to me – ask I-Rod.

          • Poopy Pants says:

            But Cervelli is the worst player ever and Posada can’t participate in a game more than 3 times a week! Isn’t that an emergency?

          • nsalem says:

            Does being put in a position where we have to use Cervelli
            4or 5 times a week and possibly as a starter in a playoff game constitute an emergency.

          • JohnnyC says:

            What would Toronto ask for in return for Jose Molina?

            • nsalem says:

              We would have to overpay. The BJ’s would probably want someone that they believe could perform on a major league level. I would not consider giving up a top prospect, but if they wanted someone like an Abaladejo or a Ring and maybe a lower level prospect who is perceived as having a shot I would do it. Abaladejo though he had a great season does not appear to be on the Yankee’s radar and I think the Jays have expiring contracts on several off their better relief pitchers at the end of the season. I don’t believe Jorge will be able to make it through the playoffs catching every game and an upgrade on Cervelli is imperative. I think having to use Cervelli in the playoff’s seriously impacts our shot at another ring.

    • I agree with Tank Foster, Pena is good enough. and there’s no guarantee that anybody the Yankees brought in could handle New York – you know how that goes. And I also tend to believe that anybody that old could go down with an injury at any team. I pull a muscle just mowing the lawn… but whoever compared Pena to Cody Ransom… that was just harsh. Take it back! =)

      • jsbrendog (returns) says:

        handsome cody ransom is gonna tear you limb from limb brother. when we get in that steel cage he’s gonna smash your face into ground beef.

  6. nsalem says:

    Pena starting a couple of times a week so Arod or Derek can DH is not a bad situation. A long term injury to either of them which puts him in the starting line up on a daily basis would be very bad. This also applies to our catching situation. Since the chances of Posada and ARod suffering a long injury are much higher (due to their age and their track record of recent injuries) than the average major league ball player, I believe that possible upgrades such as Counsell or finding a way to bring back someone like JoMo to catch should be considered.

  7. nsalem says:

    an rbi machine

  8. Zach says:

    I know Colin Curtis was young.. but he still had hits. And just from what he’s done so far…Berkeman has been a wash. I truly fail to see how we upgraded with him.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.