The Final Open Thread of 2011

I have to say, 2011 was a pretty good year. The Yankees won the AL East again, Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000th career hit, Mariano Rivera became baseball’s all-time saves king, Curtis Granderson and Robbie Cano had MVP caliber seasons, CC Sabathia made another run at the Cy Young, Jesus Montero did his thing in September … not a whole lot to complain about. Plus baseball around the league was incredible, mid-September through the end of the World Series was basically the best six-week stretch of baseball I’ve ever seen.

In terms of traffic, 2011 was also RAB’s best year ever. We had more visitors than ever before this year, by a not small margin either, and we set a new record high for page views in a month in three consecutive months (June, July, and August). We didn’t break our all-time single day record though, that’s still July 9th, 2010, when all the Cliff Lee madness went down. Thank you folks for reading and another great year at RAB. We couldn’t do it without you.

We’re going to leave you with this open thread for the day. Have a happy and safe New Years. We’ll see you in 2012.

Buster Olney ranks the ten best everything

Nothing will start a debate quite like a national baseball writer ranking the best anything, and Buster Olney went nuclear on the baseball faniverse by publishing a series of top ten lists this week. The Yankees didn’t place among the ten best rotations, which shouldn’t be all that surprising, but they ranked second in bullpen (behind the Braves), third in infield (Rangers, Reds), second in outfield (D’Backs), and third in lineup (Red Sox, Rangers).

All the links are Insider-only unfortunately, but the Yankees relevant stuff is here. I generally agree with Buster’s rankings, though I’d have the Yanks ahead of the Reds on the infield (who’s their shortstop? what was Scott Rolen’s OBP last year?). That’s just a minor quibble though, I don’t think there are any egregious mistakes where the Yankees were multiple spots off the mark. The Rays didn’t appear in the outfield list though, not sure how that happened.

Open Thread: Kenny Rogers

(Cataffo/NY Daily News)

Man, I really disliked Kenny Rogers. It all started with his dreadful two years in pinstripes, and just carried on for the remainder of his career. I despised watching him take the mound, far more than I do when A.J. Burnett gets the ball these days. The left-hander’s stint with the Yankees officially started 16 years ago today, when he signed a four-year deal worth $20M.

Rogers pitched to a 4.68 ERA in 30 starts during the 1996 season, then was absolutely horrible in three postseason starts. He put six men on base and allowed two runs in two innings in Game Four of the ALDS, then allowed four runs in three innings in Game Four of the ALCS, then topped it off by allowing five runs in two innings in Game Four of the World Series. Amazingly, the Yankees won all three games primarily because David Weathers and Brian Boehringer were nails in long relief (five earned runs in 17.1 IP that postseason, and three came on one Andruw Jones homer).

The Yankees traded Rogers to the Athletics for Scott Brosius after the 1997 season, after he’d pitched himself out of the rotation and the team’s future plans. Brosius obviously worked out well in the sense that the Yankees won three World Series with him at the hot corner, but he wasn’t all that great aside from 1998. Anyway, that’s a trade no one in New York regrets. Rogers … well everyone regrets that signing.

* * *

Here is your Friday night open thread. Both the Rangers and Nets are playing tonight, but talk about anything you want here. enjoy.

Andruw’s Back: Yanks & Jones reach agreement

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

We can cross one item off the Yankees’ to-do list. Jon Heyman is reporting that Andruw Jones has agreed to wear pinstripes for another year and will earn a $2M base salary plus another $1.4M in possible incentives on a one-year contract. The deal is still pending a physical, which probably won’t happen until after the New Year.

The reasons to re-sign Jones were obvious: he mashes lefties (.400 wOBA vs. LHP in 2011, .401 from 2010-2011), plays solid enough defense in the corner spots, and reportedly is a great clubhouse guy. He accepted the role of being a platoon/bench bat last year and thrived, especially in the second half. As a reward, he saw his first playoff action since 2005. Jones had minor surgery after the season to clean up a slight tear in his left knee, but it’s nothing serious.

We heard the two sides weren’t making progress on a new deal as recently as two days ago, so it goes to show how quickly this stuff can come together. Surprisingly, Jones didn’t even get a raise; he had a $2M base salary with $1.2M in incentives last year. He must really like New York. The Yankees have a full 40-man roster, so they’re going to have to cut someone once the signing becomes official. I’m guessing it’ll be Kevin Whelan, but don’t hold me to that.

RAB Live Chat

Levine: We have money to improve the team

Via Mark Hale, team president Randy Levine confirmed that the team has money left to upgrade the roster despite reports to the contrary. “There’s obviously room to improve the team,” said Levine. “I don’t like to get into the amounts, but obviously there’s room to improve the team … We intend to always improve in whichever way we can. So far, after [CC Sabathia], as far as large contracts, we haven’t done anything. But that’s really our choice.”

I roughly estimated that the Yankees are sitting on a payroll of about $197MM right now, but I wouldn’t take that number as gospel. It’s just an estimation and the error bars are probably in the $10M range. There’s really only three players left on the market that would require a contract in excess of $10M per year (Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt), but I don’t see the Yankees going after any of those guys at that price. The bench still has to be addressed, but so far the Yankees haven’t spent any money because there really hasn’t been anyone worth spending it on.

Mailbag: Danks, Kuroda, Oswalt, AL East

Just three questions today, but they’re good ones. After you recover from New Year’s, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions along.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Peter asks: Does Danks’s extension really spell the end of the Yanks interest in him? Or is this the White Sox trying to get a MUCH better haul for him than if he only had one year of control on him left? Does the length of the contract now scare the Yanks (and other teams) away or does the price in potential prospects for a number 2 starter for half a decade do it instead? Thoughts?

Kenny Williams and the White Sox are very hard to figure out. They say they’re going to rebuild, act like they’re rebuilding by letting Mark Buehrle walk and trading Sergio Santos, then they turn around and sign one of their most tradeable assets long-term. I don’t get it. What’s the plan, sign Danks and hope you’re competitive by year four of his five year deal? This isn’t the first time they’ve done this either. They said they were going to rebuild a few years ago as well, then ended up signing Buehrle and Paul Konerko long-term. Doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, yeah I think that contract effectively halted any interest the Yankees had in the left-hander. Danks for one year was not only cheaper (in terms of salary and trade cost), but it also gave the team time to evaluate him in Yankee Stadium, the AL East, New York, the whole nine before deciding if he was worth that kind of commitment. Now they’d be locked into the guy until 2016 in a sink-or-swim type deal. I’m a big John Danks fan, but no thanks.

Late add: Apparently Danks has a full no-trade clause in year one of his contract, so so much for that. It’s a partial no-trade in years two through five, allowing him to block trades to six teams.

Anthony asks: I fully understand (and agree with) the Yankees stance on the free agent and trade markets. I don’t think John Danks was worth any 2 of Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and I feel the same towards Gio Gonzalez. But why do they *seem* hesitant with going after guys like Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt on 1 year deals? Banuelos and Betances are most likely not ready to bring Spring Training as the 4-5 starters. So, what gives?

I think it’s because they just don’t see Kuroda or Oswalt or even Edwin Jackson as clear upgrades, or at least big enough upgrades to invest something like $16-17M in them (including the luxury tax). Do I think they should sign one of those guys (preferably Kuroda)? Yes. Can I understand why they’re hesitant to sink that much cash into someone that’s not guaranteed to be any better than the six or seven pitchers they have already lined up for the 2nd through 8th rotation spots? Also yes.

That money is money they won’t be able to use later. Sign Oswalt and his back goes out (again), and they’re out of luck. They won’t have that cash available to them at the trade deadline if something comes along. It’s the same situation with lesser pitchers like Paul Maholm, Jeff Francis, Joe Saunders, Joel Pineiro, etc. Yeah they’d cost less money and add a smidgen of depth, but where’s the upgrade? The Yankees need someone better than Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, and although I think Kuroda and Oswalt are, you can certainly make a case they aren’t.

Dennis asks: Since the Yankees won 97 games in the AL East, which is easily the best division in baseball, how many games do you think the Yankees would win if they played in each of the other 5 divisions in baseball – ones with with much weaker competition?

A lot, almost certainly over 100 on an annual basis if they played in another division. The Yankees have gone 122-94 (.565) against the AL East and 173-97 (.641) against everyone else over the last three seasons, and a .641 winning percentage is a 104-win pace. That’s pretty nuts when you consider that we’re talking about a three-year sample.

Just think, while the Yankees are busying playing the Red Sox and Rays a combined 36 times next year, the Angels and Rangers will each get to play the Mariners and Athletics a combined 36 times. Then starting in 2013, the Angels and Rangers will each get the M’s, A’s, and Astros a combined 54 times. That’s a third of their schedule against teams that apparently have no interest in being competitive. Some life, huh?