Pitching Options, Part 23094.5


One positive Saunders brings to New York: Phil Hughes hair. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

It’s seems like we’ve been doing this forever, looking at vaguely mediocre (sometimes downright bad) pitchers and trying to come up with legit reasons that these guys actually deserve a spot on the team. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m really, really getting tired of this. If Cashman (or anyone else on the Yankees) could just pull a fifth starter out of his closet right about now, I think we’d all really appreciate it. Personally, I wouldn’t even be mad at him for holding out this long. He was just waiting until he was sure he needed to break the emergency glass. So that’s what he meant about preaching patience.

Sadly, this doesn’t look like the case, so it’s back to the depressing reality that if you’re still on the market right now, you’re not very good at all. Rosenthal reported the Yankees are tossing around names of some possible lefties. Stephen’s already covered the Padres, so I thought I’d look beyond of the pitcher-friendly walls of Petco Park and see what else is out there. Luckily, I don’t have to move away from the west to find other possibilities.

Perhaps Joe Saunders? Saunders was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in 1999 but didn’t sign, and the Angels nabbed him in 2002 as 12th overall pick. He did well in the minors, although he missed all of 2003 with a shoulder injury between his low A and high A stints. By 2005, he was pitching in AAA, and spent three years bouncing between AAA and the big club, making 13 starts for the Angels in 2006 and 18 in 2007. In 2008, he finally broke into the Opening Day Angels rotation and rewarded the Angels by throwing nearly 200 IP with a 3.41 ERA and a 4.36 FIP, along with a career-low 1.212 WHIP. His 2009, sadly, was not half as impressive, seeing an increase in his ERA, FIP, and BB/9, with a drop in strikeouts. When he performed at his 2009 and not 2008 levels in 2010, the Angels traded him to Arizona for Dan Haren. Saunders’ short stint in Arizona helped his numbers (especially his K/BB, which went from 1.45 to 2.63), but it’s hard to say how much of that was from a whole new crop of batters unfamiliar with him and how much was actual improvement on his part.

Even with Saunders’ All-Star 2008, his numbers have remained fairly consistent. He’s picked up between four and five strikeouts and two to three walks per nine IP each year. What concerns me is the 43.7% of groundballs he got in 2010, a huge decrease from his earlier numbers. Also, Saunders has been moving to progressively more and more hitter-friendly parks, so we’d be looking at an even bigger growth of his HR/FB% if the man was pitching in the bandboxes that the Yankees play most of their games in. The only thing Saunders gives us for sure besides these average-to-mediocre numbers is innings – since his shoulder injury in 2003, the lowest IP he’s thrown so far is 186.

Maybe there’s someone better floating around on the west coast?  Gio Gonzalez, for one, is perfectly accustomed to being moved around. He was drafted by the White Sox in the first round (38th overall), but was traded to the Phillies as a player to be named later when the ChiSox picked up Jim Thome. The Phillies than traded him back to the White Sox for Freddy Garcia, and the Sox sent him away again, this time to the A’s with Ryan Sweeney for Nick Swisher.

As a Bay Area resident, I saw this guy throw a couple of games, and to my non-statistical eyes, he looked good. 2010 was Gonzo’s first full season, and he didn’t disappoint, starting over thirty games with an ERA of 3.23 and a FIP of 3.78. His problem is and has always been his walks: his career-low BB/9 is 4.1, which certainly isn’t anything to be happy about, and it came with his career-low K/9 of 7.7, a huge decrease from his 2009 total of 10 k/9. There’s also the problem of the cost: the A’s could conceivably ask for plenty for Gonzales, who has potential and many years of team control left even if he’s still trying to get a handle on throwing strikes at a major league level.

These guys both line up as solid ‘mehs,’ for the coveted position of fifth starter of the Yankees. They’re coming from weak divisions into the AL East, which is always a cause for concern. Not only that, but even assuming that both pitchers find their best stuff, there’s no denying the obvious: their stuff is just not that good. Baseball, please come back so we can stop writing about all these mediocre possibilities we don’t really want. Thank you.

Categories : Pitching


  1. felixbanuelos says:

    Does anybody think Dallas Braden could be available?

  2. These posts are depressing.

    It’s like going to Bloomingdales, where everyone else is walking around in the latest, most hip designer clothes and the salesman says to you “Would you like a pair of Costco store brand jeans or something out of the dumpster for the homeless people? That’s all you can have.”

  3. icebird753 says:

    No, just no

  4. mike c says:

    killer B’s or bust

  5. Simon says:

    I know this is probably not likely but I’ll just throw it out there, what about Edwin Jackson?

  6. Brock Cohen says:

    I’ll admit to never having seen Gio pitch, but I love his BB/9 frightens me. That said, he’s young and cheap – and can miss bats.

  7. CS Yankee says:

    You know it isn’t good when the article couldn’t even stay on Joe Saunders.

    15th of June, 2011 is when it will get interesting in the trade market. Hopefully we are at/near the top and someone expensive is available; as the only way they will fall our way is that a) said team is far behind & b) they need to relieve themselves of a high-priced SP.

    Would be good to hear more about Noesi & the other AAA possibilities.

  8. Jerome S. says:

    I like Gio, because I think he could do better… but I think that the A’s could justifiably ask for Banuelos+ for him. The jury’s out.

  9. mark says:

    I’ve seen Goo pitch in person. He’d be a great 4/5 starter and he is lefty.

  10. Craig says:

    I don’t like Joe Saunders. For a guy who’s biggest strength (supposedly)is keeping the ball on the ground, he sure gives up a lot of HR. Besides, call me picky, but I don’t want the Yankees going after guys who can’t strike guys out.

  11. Bojo says:

    Sure–the really low end guys on Padres each get one article each with several paragraphs of analysis, butSaunders and especially Gonzales only warrant a quick few paragraphs dumped together.

    And that comment about not liking their stuff displays a general ignorance about pitching. Did you like Andy Pettitte’s stiff at 24, or Jimmy Key’s, Tom Glavine’s, Greg Maddux’s? It all about mixing pitches up and improving as you learn more. Gonzales has a plus curve and change, with a good enough fastball to win. And as a young LHP in Yankee Stadium, I’d love to see him with the Yankees offense and defense behind him.

    Can you have someone else re-write Gio’s review as a stand-alone?

    • bpdelia says:

      Just to nitpick Maddux had some killer stuff when he came up. I mean he was a consistent low 90s with a moving fastball and kick ass control guy.

      But that bein said I agree. There is not enough value placed on a guy like Saunders. Because 200 IP of a 4.75 era is NOT very easy to produce so for me Joe Saunders would be a nice #5.

      I tend to think that the idea that any pitcher is “replacement” value has led many of us astray. Odds are good teh “replacement” SP gives you 100 ip of 6 era ball.

      There is real value in any one who can make 30 starts, throw 200 IP and keep his era under 5. Now I don’t love saunders, just think innings eaters are way undervalued because (in a way) “replacement” pitchers are over valued in that they simply don’t exist. There is no magical replacent guy. I woud thik that Saunders or Kazmir (both of whom would presumably be very cheap) would be enough of an upgrade ot be worth it.

      I don’t wanna trade what it takes to get Gonzales (p.s his parents own a store half a block from my house here in Miami Beach which is a virtual SHRINE to Gio. . .and they are SUPER solid nice people) For e Suanders would be nice because I want innings eaten a league average or a little below. +

      • Bojo says:

        I would pay hte cost for Gio simply because I think he has #3 potential, and is a potential 15-20 game winner on the Yankees.

        And what good are all the prospects if we never use them?

        • Steve H says:

          And what good are all the prospects if we never use them?

          Robinson Cano
          Derek Jeter
          Jorge Posada
          Phil Hughes
          Mariano Rivera
          Brett Gardner
          Joba Chamberlin

          All once prospects. All used. And thankfully none of them traded.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Gio is a quality lefty starter for a cheap team that intends to contend in 2011 and is under team control through 2016… If they’re going to give him up at all (especially before the season) they’re going to look for a great return.

          So, if the price is that of a “potential #3″ then ok, but if the price is that of a #1 starter for a potential #3…

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Saunders has some value, but to the Diamondbacks as well as the Yankees. Right now the Diamondbacks can legitimately entertain the idea of being this season’s Padres and catching lightning in a bottle. They’ve got a decent line-up: Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Chris Young, Miguel Montero… Some potentially solid support in Juan Miranda, Xavier Nady, Melvin Mora: guys who are good ballplayers and might produce or might not.

        There rotation could be ok. Hudson looks good and Kennedy is coming off a strong season. Then they’ve got 3 innings eaters of the basic Saunders variety between Saunders, Duke, and Galarraga.

        If they fall out of contention then maybe Saunders is available cheaply (even then he’s cost controlled for 2012 as well), but I don’t see why they’re in a rush to part with him now.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Also, there’s a decent chance that both Garcia and Nova can give you something close to what Saunders can. Even if it’s for 50 innings less over the course of the season the Yankees bullpen is capable of picking up that slack.

  12. Brian says:

    Saunders is a “proven winner,” so it will cost a ton to get him

  13. CMP says:

    I think the best scenario besides Pettite coming back in July and Rothchild performing a miracle with Burnett would be for Aceves to be healthy. It wasn’t long ago when many felt he could be a solid number 3 type starter and he’s young, cheap and at least as good if not better than most of these other pitchers being discussed.

    • camilo Gerardo says:

      and a minor leaguer of our imagination’s choosing crushing Sanchez/Mitre/Colon as well as Nova further maturing

  14. Ted Nelson says:

    “If Cashman (or anyone else on the Yankees) could just pull a fifth starter out of his closet right about now, I think we’d all really appreciate it.”

    I think it’s more so “if Cashman could pull a #2 starter out of his closet.” He has pulled a few potential #5 starters out: Garcia, Nova, Colon. The bigger issue to me is that the front-end of the rotation is questionable going into the season.

  15. John - YF says:

    I think calling Gio Gonzalez a solid meh is way off base (with all due respect of course). Sure he’s only performed to those 2010 numbers once at the Major League level, but he was a well thought of prospect. He didn’t appear out of thin air or sneak up on anyone. Not to mention his 2010 was significantly better than Hughes. The same Hughes we are calling our #2. To call his stuff just not that good seems unfair for a guy who k’s more than 7.5 per 9. Sure his BB/9 are high and he isn’t a big strong guy, but he’s certainly more then “Meh” and most certainly good enough to be part of the 2011 Yankees rotation.

    The bigger question to me would be why would the A’s move him?

    Again, all due respect just thought Gio was being undersold.

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