Time for a Randy Choate reunion?

What Went Wrong: Brett Gardner
Jeter, Cano Teixeira take home Gold Glove awards

Not long after the 2010 season came to an end, Brian Cashman let it be known that he’s looking to add a second lefty reliever behind Boone Logan next year. Damaso Marte won’t start throwing until after the All Star break because of shoulder surgery, nevermind rejoin the team and be productive. For all intents and purposes, the Yanks should consider him a non-factor for 2011. If he manages to contribute anything down the stretch, it’s a bonus.

Since the Yankees already have $4M committed to Marte and what could end up being another $1M committed to Logan (he’s arbitration eligible for the second time), I don’t expect them to go for a big name lefty reliever. Scott Downs (Type-A), Arthur Rhodes (A), Brian Fuentes (B), and Pedro Feliciano (B) figure to be the top names thrown around, but Rhodes was the cheapest of that group last year at $2M. There’s no reason to think any of them will take a pay cut after how they performed in 2010, and all but the 41-year-old Rhodes will likely get a multiyear deal this winter. There’s little benefit to signing a middle reliever for several guaranteed years; the Yankees have learned this the hard way with Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, and of course Marte.

I was originally planning to look at some of the second and even third tier free agent LOOGY options in this post, but after my initial research I came to an unsurprising conclusion: they all suck. Seriously, pretty much all of them. Joe Beimel can’t miss a bat to save his life, Dennys Reyes puts way too many guys on base, Bruce Chen is Bruce Chen, Mike Hampton … you get the point. There’s only player that stood out from the pack, and it’s an old buddy of ours.

Now 35 years old, Randy Choate originally broke in with the Yankees way back in 2000 after they selected him in the fifth round of the 1997 draft. He was often miscast as a long reliever under Joe Torre’s watch, which is why 231 (or 57.9%) of the 399 batters he faced in his Yankee career were righthanded. Choate bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues from 2000 through 2003, eventually being dealt to the Montreal in the first Javy Vazquez trade.

The Expos didn’t keep him long, trading him to the Diamondbacks for John Patterson during Spring Training the next year. Choate spent parts of four seasons in Arizona, again going back and forth between Triple-A and big leagues without being able to establish himself. The D’Backs cut him after the 2006 season, and he signed minor league deals with the Twins, D’Backs again, and Brewers. It wasn’t until he landed in the Rays organization (on another minor league deal) that things started to break his way.

Tampa started Choate in Triple-A last year, but they quickly called him up in May and made him a bullpen mainstay. Unlike Torre and whoever was running the show in Arizona, Joe Maddon seemed to understand that a side-arming lefty with a mid- to high-80’s fastball probably isn’t the guy you want to face righty batters. Eighty-three of the 142 batters Choate faced in 2009 (58.5%) were left-handed, and he held them to a .190 wOBA, setting down more than a quarter of them on strike three. When lefties did manage to put in play again him, 68.5% of them hit it on the ground.

The Rays gave Choate his first guaranteed big league contract in half-a-decade last winter, signing him to a one-year deal worth $700,000 to avoid arbitration. Maddon wisely used him primarily against lefties again this year, this time to an extreme. Of the 187 batters Choate faced in 2010, 138 of them (73.8%) were left-handed. Choate again did a great job of keeping them in check, leading the league with 85 appearances and holding lefties to a .261 wOBA with 9.17 K/9. Again, his ground ball rate was an astronomical 61.8%, far above league average. It’s not often that balls beat into the ground go for extra base hits.

For the first time in his career, Choate now hits the free agent market on a high note. He’s got two very good seasons behind him, and teams are perpetually searching for quality left-handed relievers. Choate’s familiar with the Yankees and the AL East and the Yankees are familiar with him, so perhaps that prior relationship gives Cashman a bit of an advantage. Strikeouts and ground balls are very desirable in the New Stadium, so there’s a pretty good fit here. He’s almost certain to be a more cost effective option than guys like Fuentes or Feliciano.

What Went Wrong: Brett Gardner
Jeter, Cano Teixeira take home Gold Glove awards
  • Granderslam

    I wouldn’t be opposed at all. If he is cheap enough, he’s a decent option in comparison to the other costly Lefty arms on the market. I would definitely test out potential Trade candidates, whoever they may be, but Choate seems like a great fit.

  • Andrew

    I would imagine the Yankees have insurance on all the player contracts. I would be interested to know if/when the insurance pays out. For instance, if the Yankees collected some insurance money that paid all or part of Marte’s salary, they could pay more for a LOOGY (not that they would/should.)

    • Chris

      When I saw something about insurance a while ago, it only paid for missing half or more of the season. Unfortunately, Marte made it just past the half way point this year. Not sure whether this has changed, but if it hasn’t it’s probably not something the Yankees could bank on.

  • Clay Bellinger

    I was thinking that this would make sense too. It’s probrably their best low risk/solid reward LOOGY option.

  • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    Have I mentioned how little faith I have in Girardi to competently manage a bullpen with two, and when Marte comes back, three lefties?

    The starters will be coming out in the fifth.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Marte’s not expected to start throwing until the All Star Break. I’d say the chances of his coming back and pitching at all effectively are somewhere between slim and none.

      • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

        Even two is bad enough. I still have nightmares of the 2009 ALCS with seven relievers in four innings and LOOGYs relieving LOOGYS. Or last year when Boone Logan was relieving the starter in the sixth.

        When he has two lefties he seems to feel obligated to use them, regardless of where we are in the game.

        • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S

          Logan wasn’t here last year, are you talking about his usage in Atlanta?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Yeah, I have nightmares of that 2009 ALCS as well, and how badly we were outmanaged in that painful series loss.

          Wait, what?

          • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

            I don’t think winning a series means the manager did a good job. I’d like to hear the argument *for* running through relievers like he did, to the point where Damaso Marte pitched to one batter only to be relieved so Phil Coke could come in and pitch to one batter.

            Girardi’s an absurd overmanager, and giving him multiple lefties brings out the absolute worst in him.

            • Jorge

              I think winning the World Series means the team won the World Series and trying to nitpick the bullpen management over a season later means having a point you want to make beforehand and looking for the information to plug into it afterwards.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                What he said.

        • Ted Nelson

          A. Joe Girardi can’t throw pitches for these guys. The fact that a starter gets shelled or relievers get shelled is not entirely his fault. If he were using his bullpen differently and it didn’t work out, I’m sure you would be criticizing that approach too. When you look at the Yankees rotation last season, can you fault him for taking the starters out? Ivan Nova, Dustin Moseley, Javy, AJ… Hughes was rightly on an innings limit while his connective tissue is still developing… Pettitte is ancient and came back from injury. CC didn’t seem to have a problem pitching late into games and as long as he wasn’t getting crushed Girardi didn’t have a short leash. Maybe consider the context a little bit.

          B. The Yankees might have 3 lefty starters next season.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona



  • Clay Bellinger

    I just came across this from Verducci…

    “Last winter, clubs handed out second guarantee years to only five set-up relievers, and four of them absolutely bombed: Danys Baez of the Phillies (5.48 ERA), Ryota Igarashi of the Mets (7.12), John Grabow of the Cubs (7.36) and LaTroy Hawkins of the Brewers (8.44). The one exception was Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies (3.61).”

    All the more reason to stay away from the higher end relievers and go with a guy like Choate.

    • Chris

      It’s sad that LaTroy Hawkins qualifies as a higher end reliever.

  • vin

    Yes, please.

    Choate is the type of FA reliever teams should go after. I believe he projects as a type B, which is far from a deal breaker.

  • Mister Delaware

    Semi OT: In a different version of this universe, we would have gone really hard after John Patterson as a free agent. Guy was awesome in 2005 and a little bit of 2006 before blowing out his arm. One of a thousand pitching what-ifs.

  • Mike44

    Marte was still worth every penny (See: World Series, 2009).

  • http://janeheller.mlblogs.com/yank_c.jpg T-Dubs

    Hard to get excited about Randy Choate but it was also hard to get excited about Boone Logan. The one thing I know for sure, if I ever have a son he will be holding a baseball in his left hand from the second he leaves the womb.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      I may cut my son’s right arm off just to make sure he doesn’t get any bad ideas.

  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook fka Johan

    Expensive relievers = disaster waiting to happen.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Because expensive relievers rarely pan out. So even the “quality” that you speak of is no guarantee.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Yes, let’s go get B.J. Ryan.

  • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

    It’s just too hard to not call him Randy Choake.

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    When I first saw this, I immediately remembered the Yankees teeing off on him and thought “No fucking way” but.. not so fast.

    It turns out the Yankees absolutely went to town on Choate this year. In 20 PA against the Yankees, he gave up 12 hits, 2 doubles, a homer, walked 2, and struck out no one, giving up 10 (ten!!) runs to them. His triple slash against the Yankees? .750/.778/1.063


    Luckily, he was very good against every other team in the league. His next-worst line was, of course, against the Red Sox who beat him to the tune of a .412/.444/.529 which is cause for concern but not something to get crazy over.

    So, I’m willing to give him a go. At the very least, he could pitch some BP to the Yankee hitters, they clearly love facing him :)

    • dan genovese

      that is right batting practice p………………..!

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      It sounds like the worst part of getting him is that the Yankees hitters would no longer get to face him.

  • Yank the Frank

    He does not scare me. When Tampa would bring him in I would think “Thank God” and then it would seem like the Yankees would score some runs.

  • OldYanksFan

    It seems Cashman has a formula for the BP
    Start with 1 part Mariano Rivera.
    Mix in 3 parts of the best kids from the privious year.
    Mix in 1 or 2 inexpensive retreads with some potential.
    Mix in 1 part rotating kids from the farm.
    If things are dour by August, go out and get someone’s salary dump.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Mix in 1 or 2 inexpensive retreads with some potential.

      Sounds like Randy Choate, eh?

  • Ted Nelson

    If that’s what you call horrible, I don’t know what to say…

  • Avi

    Pass on Choate.
    I’d rather have an strong righty than an average LOOGY pitching to a lefty.
    The value of a dominant setup guy can’t be overstated.
    I’d lOVE to see the yanks sign Rafael Soriano. Second to a front line starter I think Soriano improves the yanks more than any other player not named Hanley or Tulo.

  • larryf

    Didn’t Ron Washington have 6 lefties in the pen against us after September callups? Let’s give him a call-that way we can get 2 of their former lefties this off season.

  • Avi

    Tom Gordon was a reliever signed as a free agent that turned out to be very effective for the yanks.
    Karsay was good in first year until Then the Scott Proctor treatment form Torre caught up to him.
    I don’t think the Joba/Robertson/Logan setup team is strong enough.
    I think the Yanks need to bring in a strong reliever to strengthen that group this offseason. Soriano would be the Rolls Royce, but if he’s too pricey I think Jon Rauch or a couple others would be a good fallback option.

  • cranky

    They should sign Choate……AND Fuentes!