Jorge de la Rosa a longshot for Yanks rotation

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(Jack Dempsey/AP)

What does it mean for a team to express interest in a player? I’ve been writing about hot stove issues for five years now and I still don’t have a clear definition. Did they call his agent? Did they sit in a conference room and ponder the possibilities? I’m sure it means different things to different people, too, which makes it harder for us to determine a team’s intent. In today’s Daily News Mark Feinsand and Peter Botte write that, “the Yankees have expressed interest in lefthander Jorge de la Rosa.” It’s an interesting thought — a plan B should they lose out on Cliff Lee — but I’m not sure de la Rosa fits with the Yankees.

The first thing that stands out about de la Rosa is his walk rate. In his career he has walked 4.55 per nine, and that number has come down only slightly in recent years. In the last two seasons he has a walk rate of 4.05 per nine, which is still quite high. For comparison, A.J. Burnett‘s walk rate was 4.22 per nine in 2009, which was the second highest mark of his career. It was 3.76 per nine this year. I imagine Rockies fans often uttered, “throw strikes!” in earnest when de la Rosa was on the mound.

The Burnett comp can be taken a step further. Before signing with the Yankees Burnett boasted a strikeout rate of 8.4 per nine innings. That’s the rate at which de la Rosa struck out batters in 2010. His career rate is 7.98 per nine innings, though he did see a considerable jump when moving from the Royals to the Rockies in 2008. The problem is that when Burnett came to the Yankees he saw his strikeout rate take a dive. After striking out 9.56 per nine in 2007 and 9.39 per nine in 2008, Burnett struck out just 8.48 per nine in 2009 and 6.99 last season. The last thing the Yankees need is another high strikeout, high walk pitcher who loses his strikeout stuff.

The Yankees need a pitcher who can give them length. CC Sabathia can go deep into games, but everyone else in the rotation has issues. Phil Hughes didn’t have many eighth inning appearances in 2010, and forget about it with Burnett. In 2009, when de la Rosa pitched a career-high 185 innings he averaged just a sliver more than 5.2 innings per start. Burnett averaged 5.2 innings per start last season. All those strikeouts are nice, but if they mean de la Rosa is regularly turning the ball over to the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning, I’m not sure it helps the team all that much.

De la Rosa’s low innings totals should also raise a red flag. Not only has he topped out at 185 inning, but after that he hasn’t pitched more than 130 innings in any season. Part of this involves his injury history. From 2006 through 2010 he has spent 164 days on the DL, each time with a hand or arm in jury. True, one of them was a non-recurring fingernail tear, so perhaps we can write that off as a fluke. But we can’t write off an elbow strain that caused him to miss 41 days in 2007, nor can we look the other way when we see that he missed 74 days last season with a strained flexor band in his middle finger. He also ended the 2009 season with a strained groin. In fact, if you head to Baseball Injury Tool you can see that he’s had five separate hand injuries. I’m not sure if that bodes poorly for his future, but I can’t imagine it bodes well.

What does de la Rosa bring to the table, beyond strikeouts? He does get a decent number of ground balls, and posted the highest rate of his career in 2010. I’m not sure that’s sustainable in any way — I’d definitely take his career track record over a 121 inning sample. He also could stand to benefit from leaving Coors Field; his HR/FB ratio is consistently high. Then again, Rockies pitchers in general don’t have a higher than average HR/FB ratio. If changing stadiums helps bring that rate down, though, de la Rosa could be a quality pitcher. He has produced xFIPs of 4.06, 3.76, and 3.77 in the last three years. His numbers have trended higher, at least in part, because of that HR/FB ratio.

In writing this post I’ve tried to look for the positives in de la Rosa. I remember when the off-season started I thought he might be a decent addition. But then I started researching him a bit more, and nothing really impressed me. If his strikeout rate takes a hit in the transition from the NL West to the AL East, he has even less worth to a team. The Rockies tried to retain him, but it appears as though he’s seeking the biggest payday. Let another team sign him to a four or five year deal. The Yankees might be short on pitchers should they lose out to Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte retires, but even then I’m not sure I’d get on board with signing de la Rosa. He just has “bad experience” written all over him.

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  • Richard Iurilli

    Please, no. I already can’t stand de la Rosa’s right-handed twin.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    And he’s a type A too.

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Just a few quick points, since I don’t care enough about de la Rosa to really get into this nor do I want to rehash a twitter convo…

    I get the Burnett comp for the high-walks, but the other stuff is highly speculative and I think a little unfair. Yes Burnett’s K-rate has dropped… He’s also considerably older than de la Rosa and just a different pitcher. Just because something happened to Burnett doesn’t mean it’s imminent with another pitcher.

    His low innings totals are a red-flag, for sure. The flip-side is that he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm (which also leads me to believe we’re not looking at an imminent drop in velocity or anything like that, that would result in imminently falling K-rates, to circle back to the point above).

    And the 4 or 5 year deal thing… I don’t know, I mean, I want the Yankees to give me a front-office job or free Legends Suites tickets for life or any number of other things, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I agree – if you have to give him 4-5 years, you laugh at whoever gives it to him. We’ll see, I just don’t think he’s getting it.

    • Thomas

      I agree the age difference is a major problem with the Burnett De La Rosa comp.

      I do see this comp though. Another left-hander with these stats the 2 years before free agency.

      Player A
      177 IP 1.311 WHIP 7.8 H/9 1.1 HR/9 4.0 BB/9 8.8 K/9
      194 IP 1.402 WHIP 7.7 H/9 1.1 HR/9 4.9 BB/9 8.4 K/9

      De La Rosa
      185.0 IP 1.378 WHIP 8.4 H/9 1.0 HR/9 4.0 BB/9 9.4 K/9
      121.2 IP 1.315 WHIP 7.8 H/9 1.1 HR/9 4.1 BB/9 8.4 K/9

      Both have had severe injury issues and have had poor seasons with another team before hand. Though player A was younger (his seasons are age 25 and 26 compared to De La Rosa’s age 28 and 29 season).

      Player A is Oliver Perez. Not saying De La Rosa will become Oliver Perez, but they have been very similar and even during his good seasons on the Mets I wouldn’t have wanted Perez.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        “Player A is Oliver Perez.”


        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Here’s the thing though… I’m not talking about considering de la Rosa for a 4-5 year deal, I’m saying… You don’t sign Lee, and you can sign de la Rosa for, say 2-3 years? I think you consider that.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            … And then you probably say “meh, we can ride with what we’ve got, or look at other options now or during the season, and pocket our first-round pick,” anyway. I don’t know.

            • vin

              Yeah, I’d rather hang onto the first round pick. The upside of having De La Rosa vs. Joba or Nova is minimal, IMO.

  • MikeD

    Jorge de la Rosa is bad karma in Yankee-land. He was one of the players the Red Sox shipped to Arizona to land Curt Schilling prior to 2004. Schilling wanted to come to the Yankees, but Diamondback owner Jerry Colangelo really disliked Steinbrenner, so they asked for a ridiculous package of players knowing that the Yankees would said no. Th3y then traded Schilling to the Red Sox for de la Rosa, Fossum and a bag of balls.

    My guess is de la Rosa would become just the latest in NL rejects to get destroyed coming to the AL, and worse, the AL East. Pass. Even if we lose Lee and Andy retires, Pass.

    • JohnnyC

      How the MSM works: Schilling to the Red Sox is portrayed as Theo showing up at Curt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and convincing him to accept being traded to Boston. Rarely is it revealed what you just wrote — that he wanted to go to the Yankees and was denied by the DBacks’ owner. Also, the MSM will not remind you that Schilling’s first choice when he was traded by the Phillies to Arizona was — the Yankees.

      • Tom Zig

        Schilling’s son is named Gehrig

    • Neil

      You win the prize for the appropriate description “NL pitcher.” We should put it on the sign outside the Stadium. NL pitcher not needed here!

  • ZZ

    What does de la Rosa bring to the table, beyond strikeouts?

    Probably that he is LH. The Yankees and Yankee fans will always be intrigued by LH pitchers. I would think, that his left handedness is initially what drew in some people to be attracted to De La Rosa.

    When the Yankees signed AJ Burnett, I hoped that would be the last non-elite starter they would sign for quite some time.

    I really hope that desire is not quashed just 2 years later with De La Rosa.

  • Andrew

    The last time the Yankees talked themselves into signing a pitcher coming off a good year with Colorado, and valued his ability to get ground balls and succeed in a hitter’s environment, it was LaTroy Hawkins and that ended very poorly. That’s just an anecdotal reason for me to not want De La Rosa and the circumstances are obviously much different, but the general mediocrity and the lack of durability are the biggest red flags. He is not worth a multi-year deal nor worth giving up a 1st round pick for, since he’s a Type A.

  • JohnathanCold

    This guy sucks, please no.

  • Rob

    Of course. Fucking Cashman.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Seriously, how dare he give de la Rosa a 5-year deal for all that money.

      Oh, wait…

    • Steve H

      You forgot the /sarcasm tag. Right?

    • bexarama

      First Name Only Male Handle Rule! bringin’ it back

      • Klemy

        Randal Graves: Oh, no no, it’s cool, I’m taking it back.

  • vin

    I’d rather see Joba or even Nova get a shot in the rotation.

  • Frank

    I’d take a chance on Westbrook before de la Rosa. Westbrook also has a favorable ground ball rate and experience in the AL.

    • JGS

      de la Rosa pitched in the AL. Not well (5.64 in 178.2 innings in 2006-7), but he did pitch there.

    • vin

      I agree about Westbrook. Although he would be crazy to leave Dave Duncan’s side.

      He’d make a perfect #5 starter. Of course the Yanks are looking for a top of the rotation guy (Lee) in addition to Pettitte. Both De La Rosa and Westbrook would be back of the rotation guys for the Yanks, and since Jorge should get relatively big money he doesn’t make a lot of sense for that role. Westbrook may be had for cheaper, but probably not much.

  • Yank the Frank

    No thanks. Next.

  • kenthadley

    this is just a message to Cliff Lee:
    “we are considering alternatives”

    • ZZ

      Kristen Lee is unimpressed with the alternatives.

      • kenthadley

        I’d like to impress her with some alternatives……

        • Tom Zig

          she’s no Laura Posada.

  • Accent Shallow

    Ah “expressed interest”, the “hooking up” of the Hot Stove.

  • Section 39

    IMO, this is the Yankees way of saying, “Lee, while we want you badly, we won’t give you a blank check. We are looking at other options if you aren’t reasonable.” I don’t think Lee believes this stunt at all, but doesn’t anyone honestly think the Yanks are pursuing anyone except Lee. Really…

    • ROBTEN

      I don’t think it is so much that they’d present de la Rosa to Lee’s agent as a serious alternative, but rather that it would be irresponsible of Cashman to not at least inquire into the potential contract demands of other free-agent pitchers. Pitching is always valuable, so you call and find out what they are asking for. If nothing else it helps you get a sense of how agents are approaching the market this year and, in the best case scenario (which I am not saying is de la Rosa per se), you might find a deal that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I think it is simply due diligence. It would be worse if they didn’t contact anyone but Lee.

  • cranky

    DeLaRosa wouldn’t be a bad signing, but fans would have to keep their expectations in check. He’s a #4 or #5 starter for a strong team, and not anything more than that. I’ve seen him pitch plenty of times. He can be dominating. However, he can also be wild. If he’s the alternative to Cliff Lee for the Yankees, the Yankees are in trouble. But, if DeLaRosa were to be signed in lieu of Andy Pettitte, he’d be a great fit.

  • jiffy

    i might take him as a LOGGY

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