Checking in on Bonderman & Saito

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Might the Marlins make Anibal Sanchez available?

As the Yankees continue to search for pitching, plenty of RAB readers have come up with suggestions of their own. Some are worth exploring and we end up posting about them, others simply aren’t worth the time (Pedro Martinez? come on people). There’s been a rash of Jeremy Bonderman and Takashi Saito comments and mailbag questions of late, so I figured it was time to dive in and see what we could come up it. As it turns out, not much…

(AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)

Jeremy Bonderman

It feels like Bonderman has been around forever, and he kinda has, but he’s still just 28 years old. That’s what happens when you’re thrown to the wolves at age 20, going to the mound for 28 starts (and five relief appearances) that result in a 5.56 ERA (4.69 FIP) for a Tigers team that lost 119 games in 2003. Bonderman managed to survive that disaster and actually developed quite nicely, seeing his FIP drop from 4.69 in 2003 to 4.27 in 2004 to 3.90 in 2005 to 3.29 in 2006. As a 23-year-old in ’06, he struck out 8.5 batters per nine innings (2.4 BB/9 removing intentional walks) and got a ground ball 48.2% of the time, resulting in a 6.1 fWAR season. Before his 24th birthday, Bonderman had a ridiculous 749 innings to his credit.

All those innings started to take a toll on Bonderman after that season, unfortunately. He missed most of May 2007 with blister issues and finished the season on the shelf with cartilage damage in his elbow. He still managed a 4.19 FIP in 174.1 innings that season, but it was a disappointment coming off his 2006 season. The next year saw Bonderman’s season end after a dozen starts due to shoulder surgery. He started the 2009 season on the disabled list as he was recovering, made one start in June, then went immediately back on the DL after re-aggravating the injury.

Bonderman managed to make some relief appearances that September, and other than a sore rib cage in late-August (no DL trip required), he was perfectly healthy in 2010. His performance, like his velocity, had dropped off considerably. Bonderman was sitting right at 90 mph (even lower late in the season), down from the 93.3 he averaged at his peak. His strikeout rate was down to just 5.89 K/9, his third consecutive season with a below average swing-and-miss rate (7.7%). The walks and ground ball rate declined as well, though 3.1 BB/9 (minus intentionals) and 44.7% grounders is still plenty fine.

It would be foolish to count on Bonderman recovering the magic from 2004 through 2006, when he accumulated just 0.1 fewer fWAR than CC Sabathia. He’s just been hit by too many injuries since then. I can’t see how a team would give Bonderman anything more than a low base salary (like, $1M or less) with incentives given his recent performance and injury history. I wouldn’t even want the Yankees to go that far, to be honest. There’s just so much risk there, if anything I’d give him a minor league contract and tell him to show what he’s got in Spring Training. I suspect someone out there will give him a guaranteed contract though.

Takashi Saito

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Saito’s worst season in the big leagues was his 2009 campaign with the Red Sox, when he set new career worsts in K/9 (8.41), BB/9 (4.04), HR/9 (0.97), ground ball rate (30.6%), swinging strike rate (8.7%), FIP (4.25), xFIP (4.86), and a whole bunch of other stuff that measures underlying performance. Many will use that as ammo to claim that he can’t hack it in the AL East, but we can’t ignore the sprained elbow ligament he was recovering from. Saito was one of the first to undergo the platelet-rich plasma treatment, which he had late in the 2008 season.

Aside from the one season with the Sox, Saito’s been a certifiable beast in the majors. He’s struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings, walked just 2.6 unintentionally, and generated a ground ball more than 42% of the time. If we take out his rookie season, his ground ball rate jumps to 45.4%. On the surface he appears to be a great bullpen option, but the 40-year-old right-hander finished the 2010 season on the shelf with a bum shoulder that kept him off Atlanta’s postseason roster. That’s a huge question mark, and will probably prevent him from finding a guaranteed big league contract this winter. If he’s willing to take a minor league, prove yourself in Spring Training kind of contract, I’m all for it. I just wouldn’t expect much at this stage of his career.

* * *

The Yanks have a definitely need for a back-of-the-rotation starter at the moment, but Bonderman carries too much risk. They need sure innings, something the former Tiger can’t give them. Saito’s an interesting bullpen option but his recent shoulder trouble makes me extremely skeptical. Both guys are damaged goods and reflective of the market, but the Yankees aren’t this desperate yet. Toss both into the maybe pile.

Starting Rotation Disabled List Projections
Might the Marlins make Anibal Sanchez available?
  • Jeff Levy

    I’d take a chance on Saito. There’s not a ton of risk, at worst the Yankees are out a million bucks. Best case scenario they have a top reliever for the 8th inning.

  • AJ

    I really like both these guys. But then again, I’ve always been interested in the high-risk high-reward guys. Saito had some shoulder issues at the end of the season but he did pitch in October (even though it was only .1 IP and a disastrous result) and he was health all year. And besides 2009, he’s been excellent against righties, which would be great if a Yank lefty could get out both sides. His strike out rate has been great every year and last year was a beastly 69ks in 54IP.

    Bonderman’s K rate has been down the last few years but he has so much potential and he’s only 28. I don’t think he’s going to command a big contract with a lot of years. At worst, he’ll be a nice risk to take instead of just Sergio Mitre in that 5th spot.

    • Jeff Levy

      Bonderman’s performance might have been negatively affected by all the time he missed. As he gets more time on the mound he might regain velocity. It takes a pitcher who has Tommy John surgery a couple years to be effective again. Other serious injuries must take a similar rehab route.

  • Matt DiBari

    I’m not sure Bonderman isn’t a more ridiculous option than Pedro.

    • AJ

      Well Bonderman pitched last year and didn’t break Derek Jeter’s hand a few years back. I think Pedro is in the Jose Canseco coming back category.

      • Matt DiBari

        I don’t want either one of them. If we’re resigned to warm bodies, I’ll take the warm bodies we already have.

  • JohnathanCold

    If Saito can be had for cheap, I’m all for it. Bonderman is another story. I’d rather see Nova start.

    • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

      The current question is – would you rather see Mitre start?

    • Ted Nelson

      Not only might Nova start, he might be their 4th starter. Right now the rotation is CC, Hughes, Burnett, Nova, Mitre. 3/5 of the rotation are complete wild cards, while Hughes is still so young that he might regress. If none of those 4 really works out and CC gets hurt… epic disaster. Bonderman would at least be another wild card to spread the risk a little if no better options are available (at a reasonable price).

      Even if Pettitte comes back you’ve got an old guy who missed 1/2 of last season. Maybe Bonderman would come in willing to start in extended spring training or the pen to get his stuff together, though I sort of doubt it given the demand for starting pitching out there. Could start him and let Nova warm up in AAA to take his spot should he fail.

      • A.D.

        In addition Hughes wasn’t that impressive outside of the first 2 months

  • Gerald Williams

    No thanks to both.

  • Ted Nelson

    When your biggest competitive advantage is $, one good time to use it is when a guy is looking for a minor league deal. If Saito really can’t get a major league deal the Yankees should spend the relative pennies it takes to sign him.

    In terms of Bonderman… If the guy is really looking at $1 mill in base salary and willing to come to the Yankees I also think you have to do it. Every time any risky pitcher is mentioned, Mike comes out and writes about how there’s no way it will work out and the Yankees should never do it. You have to also consider what they’re giving up to get him, though… Basically nothing. This is not AJ Burnett, a case where an article describing why the risk is not worth be great. Worst case they cut Bonderman and lose one half of one percent of their budget. If they find better starting options or he falls on his face they can always move him to the pen, trade him, cut him. The Yankees do have a hole in their rotation and could use another arm in their pen, so for $1 mill I don’t see much harm if it gets to the point where he’s the best left and the Yankees don’t have another solution. Bring in someone to push Mitre/Nova in spring training if nothing else. You sign him and have you have options. Maybe he works out. Maybe it gives you leverage in a trade for another starter since you no longer seem desperate. Worst case you lose $1 mill and a 40 man roster spot.

  • Pounder

    Ridiculous suggestion #2…..What if,a BIG IF granted, Mike Mussina has grown tired of contemplating his navel and has an urge to pitch again?Would he be worth a look-see in spring training?

    • Kiersten

      Have you seen that video they play at the stadium? I think Moose is quite content hunting and fishing and coaching Little League and doing whatever else he does out there in Whothefuckcares, Pennsylvania.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      He’s 2 years removed from playing baseball AND he’s over 40. Forget him as an option.

  • vin

    Rapidly declining K Rate, decreasing velocity, big injury risks… pass on Bonderman. I’d rather throw Nova or Phelps to the wolves as the 5th starter. I still fully expect Pettitte to return, but if he doesn’t, then I can’t see Cashman not acquiring an established pitcher. Barring injury, Sergio Mitre AND Ivan Nova will not break the season in the rotation. I just can’t see it.

    It’s like putting cheap gas in a sports car.

    • Jorge

      It’s not a sports car. It’s a baseball team. Your analogy does not work. You can’t continue to feed the team known names that may, or may not deserve, the money they’d probably get and expect them to be competitive.

      The rotation may improve before the season starts, but the pieces may not be there in a manner for it to be benifical in both the short and long term in order to justify a move.

      The Yankees winning a championship in 2009 made missing the playoffs in 2008 worth it. I’m not saying it’s a foregone conclusion in the least that it will happen again in 2011, but I don’t want this team feeling like it’s one big time free agent or bust ever again because short-term moves (like not being patient with Joba the starter) created such holes. Sorry.

      • vin

        “The rotation may improve before the season starts, but the pieces may not be there in a manner for it to be benifical in both the short and long term in order to justify a move.”

        I think I’m following you… Are you saying Cashman should NOT just rush out and get a starter that we’ve all heard of just for the sake of acquiring someone with name recognition? If so, then I agree with you. Fortunately, Cashman will also agree with this sentiment which is why he hasn’t signed anyone.

        I’ve mentioned Joba a few times over the past couple weeks, so I’ll leave him out of it. However, I feel the opportunity that Bonderman presents is, overall, less than what Ivan Nova or David Phelps can offer.

    • Ted Nelson

      But if Pettitte does retire, Cashman may be in a situation where he has to seriously overpay for an established starter via trade or trade for a guy who might not be that much better than a Mitre/Bonderman. He might may not be in that situation, but hypothetically he might be.

      I’m not saying let’s go sign Bonderman right now, but under the right circumstances maybe it’s a reasonable risk (either a. Yankees need another option to throw into the mix to start the season while waiting out the trade market or b. he’s open to possibly pitching out of the pen or some sort of extended spring training if he needs time/work or C. a minor league deal). I mean $1 mill is 1/2 OF 1 PERCENT their budget… And if they have to stretch the budget from $200 mm to $201 mm I don’t think it’s going to kill them.

    • A.D.

      The other option would be putting no gas in or unknown type/experimental gas

      • Jorge

        …and that may be the option Brian Cashman elects to be the best option.

        A poster above your post said that Cashman may be in a situation “where he has to” overpay for an established starter. Why would he “have” to?

        “Because they’re the Yankees and they’re built to win every year” isn’t a reason that leads to sound ideas.

        • A.D.

          Yes, I agree with what you’re saying, one shouldn’t overpay now just to bring in some pitcher with a name. However signing a Bonderman to a low risk incentive laden deal isn’t overpaying, and the Yanks are in a spot where these guys might be more interested in the Yanks than years past because of the uncertainty at the back-end of the rotation and thus the opportunity to win a job.

        • Ted Nelson

          *Would have to overpay if he wanted to trade for that established starter, specifically in response to a comment that stated that the Yankees will acquire an established starter instead of going with Nova/Mitre. Take the comment in its context. I think I pretty clearly go on to make the case that he doesn’t *have* to and could elect for a Bonderman or Edwin Jackson or Mitre or whoever type option for the short-term. In fact, that’s the whole point of the comment you are referring to.

  • Johnny Blaze

    What about Edwin Jackson? The more I think about it, the more he seems like an obvious candidate. I’m sure he has some unimpressive acronym I’ve never heard of attached to his name, but I gotta think he’s a much better candidate than Bonderman. Yes, essentially it is a fairly pricey 1 year deal, but it wouldn’t involve trading a blue chip prospect and Lord knows we have no problem paying steak prices for hamburger. At the very least Jackson strikes guys out and gives you 200 innings. Why not?

    • A.D.

      Cause Edwin Jackson isn’t very good and the Sox did give up Hudson for him, so they probably will want something in return

    • Steve H

      I’m sure he has some unimpressive acronym I’ve never heard of attached to his name

      Not Very Good

  • A.D.

    Can’t say I have a problem with either of these two, even on ML deals, as they can always just be DFA’d at the end of spring if it doesn’t work out

  • CS Yankee

    Agree with the article, these two don’t add up to much.

    Cashman needs a SP now, he said he is set but that isn’t fooling anyone. If AP retires (which we all should assume), then he must secure another viable starter…if AP returns, he can wait until July and see how the first half is playing out.

    I like having the 20-25M$ available versus just over-paying middle relief/bench, but they won’t enter the season with 3 proven pitchers and two (almost) complete unknowns.

  • SRB

    Once again reduced to arguing about the value of retreads we KNOW won’t pan out- How about Brackman, Banuelos, Betances, etc..- Instead of speculating on their ability, let’s find out!!!!

    • RL

      Why not give them a little more seasoning, maybe even let them get their feet wet in AAA before bringing them up? It’s standard procedure, usually, to let pitchers progress through the minors and learn their trade, not just throw them to the wolves!

  • Corey N

    Hey mike,
    what about giving Ducsherer a shot?

  • JMA

    how about Carl Pavano. He was 4-2 down the strench in his last stint in NY. He posted a 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA. Time to swallow some pride?

    • B-Rando

      It’d be tough for Cash to pull the trigger on Pavano after how Vasquez worked out. Yes, they’re completely independent players who should have no effect on each other, but they left the Yankees on similar terms. I imagine fans will not be very keen on a Pavano return.

      • JMA

        I think Pavano would be worth it. He’s injury free at this point and he has pitched tough against us. What happened before was a bazar set of circumstances. Besides, except for CC, Cashman is no good judge of pitching.

        • David Nelson

          Haven’t heard anyone mention Chris Capuano from the Brewers. LH, Free Agent, probably come cheap, looked healthy when he came back in 2010. Any thoughts?

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I always liked Erik Bedard because he reminds me ofJimmy Key. He has been injured but should be ready to make a comeback. He is lefthanded and always pitched well against the Bosox. Maybe he could be signed to a low risk contract and he might just surprise you.