Mailbag: Montero, Lee, Burnett, A-Rod, DH

Past Trade Review: Mark Wohlers
Trading Joe Girardi

Mailbag’s back, and we’re not going to make a whole day out of it either. Just a few questions with some rapid fire answers. If you want to send in some questions in the future, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. I’m thinking every Friday morning is a fine time for the mailbag, no? Anyway, on to the questions …

Den asks: Just a thought. Is it a good idea to get Mo back as a pitching coach instead of a player? I thought that would be a good compromise without losing a ‘face’ of the Yankees. Would that even be possible?

No, give me Mariano Rivera as a pitcher every day of the week, he’ll way more valuable to the Yankees that way. Mo’s a great pitcher, one of the greatest that will ever play, but we have no idea about his ability to coach. If they did that, it would be a move based on sentimentality and not evidence of his ability to run a pitching staff.

If you’re talking about after he retires … still no. I suspect he’s the kind of the guy that you won’t see around the ballpark often once he hands ’em up, just during Spring Training and stuff. But that’s just me.

Sean asks: How well does Montero call games? Are there any reports (scouting or otherwise) on this? If his defense (throwing runners out, blocking balls, etc.) is even at the same level of Posada or Cervelli, how can he not be with the club out of spring training (assuming his bat shows up)?

You don’t hear much about how well (or how poorly) minor league catchers call games because not many do it. A lot of times they’re told to focus on the physical aspects of the game as well as their training, and let the coaches call pitches from the bench. Also, a lot of times the pitcher will be working on something, say a changeup, and he’ll be mandated by the organization to throw X number of those pitches per start. There’s no game calling skill or strategy to that, it’s just a pitch for development’s sake. Outcome is meaningless. Long story short, I know nothing about his skills as a game caller.

Montero could probably break camp with the big league team next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent him back to Triple-A for a month or two just to keep his service time down. The Yankees have plenty of money, but there are legitimate baseball reasons for Montero to go back down, namely his defense. The service time thing is an added benefit.

Anonymous asks: Who would you take, Wil Myers or Jesus Montero?

Montero, but Myers is awesome. The Royals’ prospect hit .315/.429/.506 with 37 doubles and 14 homers split between High-A and Double-A this year, his age-19 season. He’s just as likely to move out from behind the plate as Montero, probably to the outfield. Montero has more power and is a better pure hitter, but Myers has more plate discipline. They’re both awesome, but I’ll take Hey-Zeus.

AD asks: Any chance that having Lee on the team will help out A.J.? Burnett had his best year in Toronto observing and emulating Halladay’s work habits. A.J. likes Lee…same hometown..and A.J. was inspired to pitch a great critical game 2 in 2009 WS after watching Lee’s shutdown performance against the Yanks in gm 1. Whaddya think?

Eh. It’s all up to Burnett, not the people around him. I mean, yeah, the support system counts, but there’s only so much they can do. He and Lee share an agent and (essentially) a hometown, so maybe it would help more than we realize, but I’m not going to hold my breath. A.J. is what he is at this point of his career.

Anonymous asks: Checkout the numbers: 535 AB, 112 R, 137 H, 40 2B, 1 3B, 29 HR, 104 RBI, .256 AVG. That’s Alex facing a lefty over the last 4 years. I would have thought it would be a lot higher. Any clue why this is?

Yeah, I wish I knew. Here are his wOBA’s vs. LHP since joining the Yankees, starting with 2004 and ending with 2010: .446, .412, .421, .402, .378, .402, .323. His performance really started to suffer in 2008, so perhaps the hip is to blame. Maybe he’s having a tougher time getting to stuff on the outer half, and instead of driving those pitches with authority, he’s tapping them on the ground or popping them up to the outfield. Maybe he’s just getting old, can’t ignore that possibility.

Based on the last few years, even with the bad hip, 2010 looks like a massive outlier, so I’d expect some sort of rebound against southpaws next year. A-Rod‘s just too talented to all of a sudden stop hitting a demographic he’s typically annihilated.

Anonymous asks: Who would be a better DH option for next year, between V-Mart, Dunn, and Berkman? Granted that Dunn “doesn’t want” to be a DH, but he will try to be and the Yanks were interested in him during the trade deadline. V-Mart could give Posada a break at catching, and Tex a break at 1B once a week. Despite V-Mart stinks at catching, Cervelli won’t have to catch 100 games like this season. Simply resigning Berkman, and hope that 2010 season is just bad luck.

Of those three, give me Adam Dunn. He could legitimately hit 50 homers in Yankee Stadium and is always an on-base threat. Victor Martinez might be more useful since he could spot start behind the plate and at first, but he’s pretty awful defensively, not much better than Jorge Posada at all. We know all about Berkman, would be nice if he started hitting lefties though.

I don’t think the Yanks will sign a designated hitter this winter, at least not a big money one like those guys. At some point Montero is going to work his way into the lineup, and they’re going to need that DH spot so he and Posada can rotate. Unless someone like Berkman falls into their laps dirt cheap in February, I think you’ll see Posada, A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Marcus Thames (assuming he re-signs) rotate at DH until Montero forces their hand. If he doesn’t, they’ll probably look for someone at the trade deadline. These kinds of guys are easy to find in July.

Past Trade Review: Mark Wohlers
Trading Joe Girardi
  • Mattchu12

    If we can get him at a reasonable deal, I’d love to see Berkman back in pinstripes. In all likelihood, he will find a starting gig somewhere, but he really seemed like a great clubhouse guy and he’d be great as that lefty DH type who spells Teix at first base once a week or so.

    But yeah, I’d assume by mid-season we’ll see Montero and Posada doing most of the DH duties (and the catching duties obviously). Tough to sell Berk on a job that will see him on the bench most of the time, I think when you consider Posada’s superior numbers against lefties than righties and obviously Montero is a right handed slugger, it’ll be tough to sell Thames on that job too.

    • Poopy Pants

      I couldn’t disagree more with everything written.

      • Mattchu12

        Two guys who could probably start on another team, or at the very least platoon with someone, somewhere not wanting a job where they would probably see little action? Yeah, I could see why you would disagree. . . .

  • Rob

    As much as I love the thought, Mo as a pitching coach would be like Jordan as a basketball coach. The supremely talented rarely know what it means to struggle. So they never have to figure it out.

    • BigDavey88


    • JobaWockeeZ

      I agree but Jordan isn’t exactly the best comp.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Teddy Ballgame was also a lousy manager. Couldn’t understand why the players didn’t want to hit until their blisters bled like he did.

    • Ed

      On the other side you also hear some good stories of the greats helping people out. Manny Ramirez is supposedly known for giving good advice for improving your swing.

      I think that a player’s physical talents and their understanding of the game/mechanics/etc are independent aspects. You’ll get people with various combinations of those attributes. Ideal players will excel at both, but obviously that’s rare.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    I don’t think the Yanks will sign a designated hitter this winter, at least not a big money one like those guys. At some point Montero is going to work his way into the lineup, and they’re going to need that DH spot so he and Posada can rotate.

    What if we sign a non-1B-only position player to fill the DH slot who can then provide value spelling a starter at 3B or in the OF after Posada and Montero monopolize the DH at bats?

    Like Ty Wigginton or Troy Glaus to give ARod an occasional day off at third? Or Jorge Cantu or Bill Hall a notch below them if they’re too expensive? Or a Jay Gibbons or Jim Edmonds who could also serve as a 4th outfielder?

    One of those guys could probably be had for the 2-3M price range we’re probably shopping at, no?

    • Clay Bellinger

      It would be worth exploring some bench options for the left side. Ideally, I’m sure they’d like to be able to give ARod and Jeter days off in the field without putting a hole in the lineup – like Pena. But I really doubt that the Yanks will be an attractive place to play for guys like Wigginton and Glaus. Both of those guys had a significant amount of playing time in ’10 and would have to be willing to accept a huge drop-off in that if they were to sign with the Yanks. That, in turn, would seriously hurt their next contract.

      • MikeD

        My guess is Pena is not on the Yankees MLB roster next year. He’s probably back in AAA most of the time, assuming he still has options.

        They’ll probably give Nunez a chance to win the backup job, or more accurately, he’ll probably have to play himself out of the backup job, figuring he can bring a bit more bat (not hard to do) and a bit more speed. Pena is more sure handed, but if the Yankees are planning to reduce the number of total games that A-Rod and Jeter have in the field come 2011, they’re going to need something more than Pena.

        Unfortunately, they’ll also need more than Nunez, unless he has more upside than I think he has. Thought it funny that in Law’s chat yesterday, someone asked him if he though Nunez could replace Jeter in 2012. His response was something like, “You’re kidding, right?”

        • Clay Bellinger

          I agree…if they’re unable to convince a veteran to come to NY, I would think that Nunez will have every chance to beat out Pena next spring…he just has more upside. haha…great response by Law…I’m sure he’s dead on.

        • Thomas

          I wouldn’t be surprised to Nunez in the minors, in order to him more experience/PA. The Yankees seem to see him as a future starter and whether that be for the Yankees or someone else, he will get more PA in AAA than backing up Jeter and A-Rod. This will either increase his chance to be the Yankees SS of the future or increase his trade stock.

        • Am I the only Kevin?

          Can Nunez play 2B?

    • Ross in Jersey

      Have you seen Cantu’s splits this year? My god, he fell off a cliff.

    • Andrew

      Yeah I like this idea in general. It gives them some insurance in case A-Rod hits the DL with a strain/whatever, but it also alleviates some pressure from pushing Montero onto the roster leaving Spring Training. My only worry is these kind of guys asking for too many $s, or just being off the market because other teams pay them and offer them more PT than NYY can guarantee.

    • ZZ

      Did you really just suggest the Yankees sign Jay Gibbons?

      Also Troy Glaus? He fell off a cliff the 2nd half and is like a wooden statue at 3rd base.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I’m suggesting that those players could be the best of a bad situation. None of them are wart-free; if they were, they wouldn’t take the job we’re offering.

    • Dick Whitman

      Glaus, yes.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      Why not just use Laird?

  • China Joe

    If AJ was inspired by Cliff Lee in the 2009 World Series, why wasn’t he inspired by Cliff Lee’s Game 3 in this year’s ALCS? AJ is what he is: a guy with little command who got by on pure stuff. His fastball and curve are losing started losing life, and he can’t compensate. If there’s someone in the world who can teach AJ command and/or some more secondary pitches, then Cashman needs to pull a dumptruck full of money up to his driveway, pronto.

    • China Joe

      …his fastball and curve are both starting to lose their life…

      • MikeD

        Command issue related to mechanics. When he’s on, the velocity is still there on the fastball and the break is still there on the curve. Frankly, he could lose several miles on his fastball and be a very effective pitcher if he could improve his commmand. I’ve always had hope that AJ in his 30s would be better than AJ in his 20s once he could find a consistent release point. Just isn’t happening.

    • Clay Bellinger

      The dude was throwing 96 and buckled the knees of some of the Rangers in game 3. The velocity and stuff still seems to be there. Where he gets hit is when he misses his spots or can’t throw his curve for strikes. He falls behind 2-0, and since he’s basically a 2 pitch guy, the hitter knows that fastball is coming…it catches too much plate and the hitter hits it hard somewhere. That seemed to be the trend all too much in 2010.

      • JohnnyC

        A lot has been made of his mechanics as well. He’s too side to side rather than over the top…ball tends to drift in the strike zone, curve tends to stay on the same plane, etc. Is a mid-30s guy too old to make major changes in their mechanics? Any changes will have to be subtle because he just doesn’t have enough time to completely overhaul (unlike the much younger Halladay did).

      • Thomas

        By pitch values, his fastball and curveball scored the worst values of his career. His average fastball velocity was the slowest since the data was recorded in 2007 and his fastballs’ and curveballs’ horizontal movement were the smallest since 2007 when data was first recorded.

        It seems to me that he is definitely losing his stuff.

        • MikeD

          Mechanics impact all that.

          • Thomas

            All I know is his fastball velocity has been decreasing since 2007:
            2007 95.9 mph
            2008 94.4
            2009 94.2
            2010 93.1

            It could definitely be from bad mechanic, but that problem has plagued him every year and this year was clearly the worst. It also could be from age.

            My money’s on age.

        • Clay Bellinger

          I know…I know…I’ve seen that too. His stuff just wasn’t as good this year as it has been in years past and I guess that’s to be expected from a guy his age. But it still looks pretty good at times. He can still dial it up in the mid 90’s and his curve can still fool hitters. That should be enough to get guys out.

          Mechanics do affect that too though. Not necessarily the velocity so much, but definitely the command. AJ’s always been one of those guys who’s mechanics always seem to get out of whack at times and so much has been made of it. At this point you know it’ll always be an up and down ride with him. We just hafta hope for a little more of the good than bad moving forward.

  • LGY

    I want more mailbag :)

    • Chris in Maine

      I agree.

  • Ted Nelson

    While defense is definitely the bigger baseball reason to consider keeping Montero in AAA, it’s also not a given that he’ll adjust to Major League hitting out of the gate. I guess you have to base some of it on his spring training. Not that it will necessarily happen again, but he struggled out of the gate with Scranton for whatever reason(s). His offensive struggles might be about in line with Cervelli’s normal hitting anyway, but struggling in the Bronx is more costly tothe franchise than struggling in Scranton. Starting in AAA might give him a chance to gain some more confidence/development time/warm-up/etc.

    • Andrew

      I agree, but he’ll have to conquer NY and the big leagues at some point anyway. He straight dominated AAA last summer and while there is always room for improvement, I don’t know how much more he needs to prove offensively in Scranton. His hypothetical role, if he made the roster to start the season, would not be as high-impact given that he wouldn’t be penciled in for every single game, and he would presumably hit towards the bottom of the order.

      They survived lesser hitters occupying the 8 and 9 spots (Melky, Cervelli come to mind) for long stretches the last few years, so I think it would be worthwhile to ride out the growing pains with The Jesus once he actually makes it to NY.

      • Ted Nelson

        I mostly agree, but I can see an argument either way. I don’t think there’s a clear cut right answer. Some of it, to me, depends on how his spring goes (and winter too I suppose). You can push him and just say he’s up here all year no matter what, give him an entire year in AAA (especially for his defense if he’s a long-term C), or anywhere in between… I don’t know that one is clearly the best long-term strategy.

        I don’t know that he has to “prove” anything in AAA, but you can always improve. And I certainly hope he continues to improve. He probably should based on age and ability. Part of the question is whether you expect he’ll improve more, less, or the same in AAA v. NY.

        I don’t think hitting is THE reason to leave him down, but taken together with defense, service time, maturity/confidence/etc., NYY roster situation… *maybe* there is enough reason. Maybe not.

    • ZZ

      Him likely going through an adjustment period when he reaches the majors is precisely why he should make the team out of spring training.

      • Ted Nelson

        Again, if he looks good in spring training… sure. He’s still really young, though. If the Yankees don’t think he’s the best guy to help them win immediately OR they think some AAA time will help his development… they should leave him down.

        There may or may not be an adjustment period no matter when he comes up, but if the Yankees clearly think the adjustment period would be significantly shorter/less severe with some more time in AAA they probably leave him down.

  • Ted Nelson

    “We know all about Berkman, would be nice if he started hitting lefties though.”

    He looks so awkward hitting right handed that I wonder if he shouldn’t stop switch hitting… A bit risky to just up and do it and I doubt this happens, but maybe try it out in a winter league or something…

    • the tenth inning stretch

      Berkman tends to look awkward on the field most of the time. He cruches a few balls right-handed in the playoffs though. I think K-Long was getting him straightened out.

      • the tenth inning stretch

        *crushed. Idk what happened there.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Berkman trying to hit lefties as a lefthander would probably be even less successful than him trying to hit lefties as a switch hitting righthander.

      • Ted Nelson

        Possibly, but it’s really tough to say unless he tries. I’m not sure I would say “probably…” Maybe going forward if he fixes some things, but his line against LHP this season was: .171/.261/.256. Granderson’s line as a lefty hitting LHP was .234/.292/.354. Despite all the crap he takes for not hitting lefties, Granderson crushed Berkman. That’s not proof of anything, but I certainly think it’s possibly for Berkman to hit lefties better with his lefty swing than his pitcher-looking righty swing.

        On his career Berkman is a .776 OPS guy v. LHP, and it’s a lot harder to speculate he could do that from the left side. .517, though? I think he could top that lefty.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          But he hasn’t really faced lefties as a lefty in, what, probably 20 years? Maybe more?

          It’s a steep adjustment curve.

          • Ted Nelson

            Maybe… hitting is still hitting though and .517 OPS is pretty horrific for a major league hitter. Same season he was a .847 OPS hitter as a lefty. He could lose 300 points of OPS as a split and still be better off than hitting righty. 300 points is a pretty huge split for someone who hits only from one side of the plate. I have no idea how much not hitting lefty-lefty in X years would hurt him/how long an adjustment would take. It’s something I would at least consider as an option if my name was Lance Berkman, though.

            Again, though, it was one year and maybe he corrects it a bit going forward.

            I just watched him flail at the ball righty (looking like a light hitting SS) and crush balls as a lefty and wondered if he would be better off from his natural, dominant side.

            • Zack

              That OPS v RHP is for 82 ABs….

              • Zack


              • Ted Nelson

                It’s a small sample, but it’s pretty indicative of how he looked… A small sample means that a number is unreliable, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily an inaccurate representation of the larger population: Berkman might well also have put up a .517 OPS in 500 PA v. LHP last season. He might not have. His split career wise is pretty similarly dramatic, he was just a better hitter from both sides.

                I’m just throwing the idea out there. He looks like a pitcher hitting from the right side and his historical splits are bad. He has a 300 point drop off in OPS from left to right even on his career. That would be a nice steep drop even for a single side hitter. Maybe he would be even worse from the left against LHP, but hard to imagine he would be *that* much worse. Maybe more power and less OBP or something…

      • Ed

        It’s certainly possible – the ball will be moving differently than he’s used to.

        But what if the decline is because of his history of knee issues? Maybe his knees just no longer let him swing as well right handed?

        I’ve got nothing to back that, I’m just throwing out an idea.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Did ya’ll see what Baseball America posted today? I didn’t have a subscription so I couldn’t read the rest of the article but the byline was Graham Stoneburner was a young Jake Westbrook with more life on his fastball. That is pretty awesome.