Mailbag: Jurrjens, Catchers, Extensions, Shortstops

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Hooray for mailbag day. Four questions, four topics, including one about contract extensions and two about the futures of two up-the-middle positions. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions in.

That would be Mr. Gardner at the plate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Daniel asks: So I’ve heard on the RAB Radio Show that you guys aren’t huge fans of Jair Jurrjens, personally I have been. He has shown some serious signs of life … what would it take to acquire him, and would it be worth it?

I always try to find comparable pitchers when dealing with questions like this. We’ve got a 25-year-old right-hander with a career 3.41 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 6.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 45.5% ground ball rate, and two-and-a-half years of team control left (assuming a midseason trade). Jurrjens also has an injury history (including offseason knee surgery and shoulder tightness three years ago), so we can’t forget that. So who’s the comparable?

Matt Garza doesn’t fit, he had better numbers and a better track record of health, so go adjust down from there. Brandon Morrow isn’t a great match, neither is Scott Kazmir or Dan Haren. Edwin Jackson? That might work, when he went to the Tigers for Matt Joyce. Joe Blanton to the Phillies also works well, and he cost them one really good prospect (Adrian Cardenas), a decent big league ready pitching prospect (Josh Outman), and another throw-in prospect (Matt Spencer). Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena happened so long ago, but it’s still along the lines of Jackson-for-Joyce. You know what might work best? Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for three good prospects (A.J. Morris, Michael Burgess, and Graham Hicks).

The Blanton and Gorzelanny blueprints say three good (but not any of them great) prospects is enough, though one above-average, young big leaguer could get it done. Atlanta reportedly had interest in Eduardo Nunez, so maybe you built a package around him and one of the Triple-A arms (preferably D.J. Mitchell) is a good starting point. Fill in from there. I’m not a Jurrjens fan, but I’d almost certainly pull the trigger if that’s the cost.

Romine's probably the Yankees best chance for a long-term, homegrown backstop. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Anonymous asks: People often mention Yankees as a team with great depth at catching prospects but do you think any of them can actually stick at catcher? Montero’s struggles at C has been chronicled extensively but KLaw reiterated in his chat last week that he doesn’t think Romine can stay at catcher. Sanchez supposedly has the tools to catch but is obviously struggling to field right now. J.R. Murphy‘s ability to handle catching is also doubtful from various scouting reports. So do you guys think any of them will catch in the big leagues? How would you rate each of their chances?

I don’t think Jesus Montero can catch long-term in the majors, but I think he could fake it for two or three years before he really fills out in his mid-20’s. Austin Romine is better, and Keith Law has always been the low man on his defense. Most other publications see him as average behind the dish, which is good enough. Gary Sanchez has been a defensive disaster early in his career (25 passed balls and 11 errors in 42 games behind the plate), and Murphy is spending more time in the outfield and at DH than at catcher. Those two have a long time to improve, but the early returns are not good.

Montero’s bat is so special that I’d make it work behind the plate for as long as possible, then figure things out once he’s completely unplayable. Romine almost certainly has the best chance to catch in the show when it comes to long-term staying power, though Kyle Higashioka is the best defender out of all of ’em. Too bad the kid can’t hit.

Paul asks: With the shift across the league towards locking up young players for the majority of their productive years, do you see the Yankees rethinking their strategy of not handing out extensions to their own guys? It seems with less premium players hitting free agency, this may be something to look at in the near future for the Yanks.

Yes and no. I don’t see any reason for the Yankees to take on that risk with pitchers since all we have to do is look at Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes to see the potential downside. Position players are a different story since they’re generally safer bets to remain productive. They locked up Robinson Cano just as he entered his arbitration years and that contract (four years, $30M guaranteed) turned out to be a steal regardless of what happens from here on out. I don’t who would be a candidate for such a contract now, certainly not Brett Gardner or Frankie Cervelli. Maybe Montero if he comes up and kills it for two years or so. So yeah, they should at least consider such deals, but I don’t really blame them for not wanting to assume the risk when they can afford big arbitration raises.

Bill asks: What is the FA situation next year and the year after at SS? Jeter cannot be a realistic option for the next two years (hopefully) and after watch Nunez sail throw after throw against Detroit it’s safe to say he is out too.

After this season you have Jose Reyes, Yuniesky Betancourt (nope), Ronny Cedeno (also nope), and aging Jimmy Rollins (no way), and personal fave J.J. Hardy on the free agent market. The post-2012 class offers Erick Aybar and Stephen Drew, who are both legit options based on what we know right now. Jason Bartlett would be an okay stopgap at best. For better or worse, the Yankees are stuck with Jeter (or Eduardo Nunez) at short for the foreseeable future. Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez ain’t walking the door, sorry folks.

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  • Mister Delaware

    I have an irrational love of Erick Aybar.

    • Johnny O

      I have an irrational hatred of Erick Aybar. It’s a wash.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Atlanta reportedly had interest in Eduardo Nunez, so maybe you built a package around him and one of the Triple-A arms (preferably D.J. Mitchell) is a good starting point. Fill in from there. I’m not a Jurrjens fan, but I’d almost certainly pull the trigger if that’s the cost.

    Nuñez and Atlanta’s pick of any of our B- or C+ arms (Mitchell, Phelps, Warren, Hall, Garrison, Pope, etc.) and probably a lower level flyer guy like Scotty Allen or Zach Nuding or something like that.

    Yeah, I’d totally part with that collection of semi-quality “maybe” players for Jurrjens. He has flaws, as you’ve noted, but he’s also still only 25 years old with plenty of team control left. At worst, he’s probably a duplication of Ivan Nova; at best, he’s a #3.

    With Phil’s future quite nebulous, we could use a guy like that.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Bonus: With both Jair Jurrjens and Andruw Jones, we’ll be one step closer to cornering the market on awesomely-named Curaçaoians.

      Maybe we can resign Yurendell de Caster and bring Bam Bam Meulens out of retirement.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        You’ll have to do more than bring Bam Bam out of retirement. You’ll have to retrieve him from SPACE.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Hensley Meulens can speak Russian.

          In French.

          He is… the most interesting hitting coach in the world.

          • Tomatonator

            He bats… underhanded.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              He can check out books at the Library of Congress.

              • A-Rod’s Wingman

                I remember going to the Library of Congress when I was like 12, and being royally pissed that I couldn’t actually go in and browse.

    • Kosmo

      Atlanta doesn´t need any of those b- grade arms.Unless NY lands a solid SS in a near future trade I doubt Nunez is going anywhere anytime soon.Stephen Drew in 2013 is the only future option that makes a whole lot of sense otherwise Jeter and Nunez for another 1 year or so.

    • Johnny O

      Jurrjens ain’t a savior (can’t we just talk about pretend things like King Felix trades and unicorns all day?), BUT would definitely take him given the potential implosion of Nova/Garcia/Colon.

      Doesn’t seem like there are any other SP trade targets out there?

    • Ted Nelson

      Why would you do that trade if you’re Atlanta, though? Jurrjens’ 25 and his career 580 IP features a 3.41 ERA and 3.79 FIP. He’s got almost 10 career fWAR already. He comes over as the Yankees’ #2 starter… I mean who else do they have? Hughes? Burnett? Garcia? Colon? Nova? And at worst he’s Nova? Nova’s only 1 year younger and has a career 4.76 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and 0.8 fWAR. With Phil’s future nebulous? He is far more successful than Hughes at the same age.

      • MikeD

        Because we’re on a Yankee-centric board. Over on a Braves-centric board, they’re constructing deals where the Yankees send Montero, Banuelos, Nova and Nunez for Jurrjens.

  • Pat D

    Larry Bird ain’t walking through that door! Kevin McHale ain’t walking through that door! Robert Parish ain’t walking through that door!


    I’m sorry, I was thinking of something else.

  • Kosmo

    Jurrjens is worth a lot more than what Mike is suggesting.
    With Teheran and Minor almost MLB ready the only pitcher Atlanta will jettison come the trade deadline is Derek Lowe if any team is willing to take on a portion of his contract.

    • V

      “Jurrjens is worth a lot more than what Mike is suggesting.”

      Well, that’s all the proof I need…

      • Ted Nelson

        The proof is in his career stats compared to those of Edwin Jackson and Joe Blanton’s.

  • Steve H

    Montero’s bat is so special that I’d make it work behind the plate for as long as possible

    I always struggle with this. Since Montero’s bat is that special, is it worth having him DH and get in an extra 20-30 games, especially considering how poor his glove is. In a vacuum it’s a very tough question. In the Yankees situation it’s even murkier. If you can keep Martin around, or are fully convinced that Romine will be a major league catcher, I almost think you abandon Montero as a catcher, get him to DH (and accustomed to DH) and get his bat in the lineup sooner. Then you start working him at 1B and have him ready to move there when the spot opens up. Of course the problem is that you likely will need DH for A-Rod in a few years.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      My hope is that Montero follows the Victor Martinez plan.

      He catches (badly) for half a decade or so, and having his bat at C more than makes up for his defensive deficiencies. Then, in his late 20s, he transitions to 1B/DH to keep his bat in the lineup everyday and eliminate his negative defense and injury risk.

      (Tex’s contract expires when Montero’s 27, btw.)

      • Steve H

        That would be ideal.

      • Steve H

        Though, since Victor Martinez turned into a gold glove caliber catcher once he worked with Gary Tuck in the Sox organization, maybe we can have Jesus work with the Sox to fix all of his flaws behind the plate.

      • A-Rod’s Wingman

        Yeah, I dunno. Montero’s historically huge for a catcher, all catchers his size tend to get injured. I don’t want some Mauer weak legs stuff happening to him, and Mauer’s a better athlete and worlds better defender than Montero could ever hope to be. I’d rather just DH him and use him as the back up catcher and not risk the wear and tear on his body. Russell Martin’s been a revelation and there’s guys in the farm that are there to provide depth if he goes back to his injured ways.

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    This is random, but I remember a while back, when the Yanks were playing either the Tigers or Braves (whichever one Jurrjens was on at the time), some fan of that team came around and got everyone annoyed by claiming Jurrjens was better than Joba. He was, of course, shouted down.

    Le sigh.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder
      • pat

        I think that’s from something else.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          I don’t even remember, that might have been it. I remember it being someone in the RAB comments as opposed to discussion of a conversation at another site, but it was a while ago and I didn’t really concentrate on it too much, I could be wrong.

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    “Gary Sanchez has been a defensive disaster early in his career (25 passed balls and 11 errors in 42 games behind the plate)…”

    I’ve been wondering lately about Sanchez being overhyped. Actually, I should amend that, I’ve really been wondering about it since last season but never felt the need to speak up about it. I don’t mean to knock the kid at all, but it seems like his stock shot up so quickly, based on a pretty small sample size, and without too many people actually having seen him play. And then for him to be so high on the prospect lists coming into this season, and for the Yanks to push him all the way up to the Sally League when he was in the GCL for 31 games and the NYPL for 16 games last season… It all just seemed a little aggressive to me. I guess when the Yanks pushed him to the Sally to start the year I actually figured I shouldn’t worry about the hype, since they clearly have been watching and thought enough of him to push him pretty far at a pretty young age, but with his early season performance I’m starting to get a bit concerned again. Just seems like maybe people are overhyping him a bit b/c we just watched Montero rise to quickly – like maybe there’s a bit of a Montero halo effect going on and people expect the same development path for this kid.

    Obviously I hope he turns in a Montero 2010-like performance and adjusts to the league and starts mashing (and improves his defense) and justifies the hype, just a concern is all.

    • Johnny O

      $3M bonus babies who rake from day 1 are going to be overhyped. But then if he has a 4 K game he’ll automatically turn into a BUST. there will be no in between.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        I don’t think you were accusing me of this, but just to clarify, I’m certainly not calling him a bust based on early-season performance.

    • Steve H

      I think any hype for a 17 year old is overhype. He’s just so far away, there are a million things that can go wrong before he even gets close to the majors. You mention the Montero effect and I think you are right, because Montero wasn’t hyped they way Sanchez was so early.

    • Mike Axisa

      Oh yeah, I definitely think he got overhyped this past winter, no doubt about in my mind. That doesn’t mean he sucks, because he’s still really really good. He’s not Jesus Montero though.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Yeah… I think, for me, this goes back to the late-season rankings last season, when people were criticizing you for not ranking Sanchez as high as some others were ranking him. For the most part I agree with you about ranking very young IFAs without much exposure to the States, and I thought it was interesting how a few really hot weeks made this kid’s stock absolutely explode. There’s just not enough of a track-record there yet to rank this kid that high.

        Again, fingers-crossed that he turns into Babe Ruth and makes the people who ranked him high look good and make me look overly-conservative in my prospect outlook. There was just such a rush to crown this kid as the next Montero, I just think it was all a bit too fast.

        • Ted Nelson

          It wasn’t just a few weeks, though… That really helped push the stock up, but this was a $3 mill bonus baby at a premium position already playing in the states at 17. He could have had less success last season and still been considered a top prospect. Miguel Sano was also highly ranked and he isn’t expected to stick at SS and hit an OPS of .804 in rookie ball (compared to Sanchez’s 1.016). Jameson Taillon came out of HS and was the #11 prospect according to BA. Harper was their #1. This isn’t particularly unusual to Sanchez, and 19 Gs in the Sally league shouldn’t really change his prospects all that much.

          “There’s just not enough of a track-record there yet to rank this kid that high.”

          I don’t think you can only rank higher minors prospects highly, though. I do think probability should be considered; however, you’re projecting how good these kids will be on their careers. You can’t take a kid you project to be worse just because he’s closer.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            I think you’re saying something a bit different than what I’m saying here. Sanchez’s stock rose considerably between preseason 2010 and preseason 2011. He was a ‘top-prospect’* before his success in the GCL last season, but his stock rose a bunch with that success. Just one example, but Manuel in BA had him 7th in the org before 2010, behind Banuelos, McAllister, Heathcott, Arodys, Romine and Montero, and then had him 2nd in the org after 2010, behind only Montero. This was after excellent seasons from guys like Banuelos and Betances.

            *Although not nearly as ‘top’ a prospect as he was entering 2010, which is my point.

            So, am I ok with a very young IFA being ranked in the org top-10 before playing in the States? Yeah, I may be a bit more conservative with that, but I can’t argue too much with that ranking if the kid is good and got a big bonus, etc. But the thing I think I’m talking about here is the significant bump his status received last year, based on a relatively short hot-streak in the GCL.

            And the reason why I think you’re arguing something different than I am is that you said this: “19 Gs in the Sally league shouldn’t really change his prospects all that much.” And that’s kind of what I’m saying too, right? It’s just that I’m saying it about 2010 and you’re saying it about 2011.

  • Guns of the Navarone (a mushroom cloud layin’ muthafucka, muthafucka)

    Would (or is) Atlanta even open to trading Jurrjens? They’re going to be contending for the next few years it seems and I haven’t seen his name pop up.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Jurrjens no but rumor has Lowe possible being available.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t see why they’d be in a rush to give him away. Maybe if they’re really high on Nunez. I’m a Nunez fan, and I wouldn’t trade Jurrjens for Nunez and DJ Mitchell. Seems like a homer package to me.

  • Mike HC

    Jurrjens – I’m assuming he is more valuable to the Braves than he is to the Yanks. I don’t see a match there, but you never know.

    Montero – I don’t think he ends up catching the majority of games for the Yanks in the near future. The Yanks are not going to let Martin go, and keeping Martin at catcher, and Montero as DH makes too much sense. He can then play some catcher and first and maybe even outfield to give guys days off.

    SS – It could be worse than Jeter and Nunez for the next couple of years. I wouldn’t write off Nunez just yet because of his throwing problems. That is something that can definitely be worked on, coached and fixed.

    Nice mailbag.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      The Yanks are not going to let Martin go

      It’s 27 games so far right?

      • Mike HC

        Yea. He is looking pretty good in those 27 games though.

        And the Yanks have the luxury of waiting another year or two before deciding anything long term. In the fast paced world of internet blogging comments, you have no such luxury. Decisions need to be made.

        • Rick in Boston

          If he stays healthy, Martin will be back next year, which is his last under team control. It would not surprise me if they broke camp with three catchers – Martin, Cervelli, Montero – with the plan being that Martin is the primary catcher, Montero the primary DH. Cervelli’s job would be to take some starts at C, be Montero’s caddy on days when Jesus starts behind the plate, and provide the sacrificial lamb when Girardi bunts.

    • David, Jr.

      Agree with you.

      Juurjens – What has been discussed here isn’t even in the ballpark for what it would take to get him, plus I’m not sure that we would want to trade Nunez.

      Montero – I could see them locking up Martin long term, which should settle the catching situation barring injury. Montero is an obvious DH, perhaps combined with some position play as he improves. The sooner he is brought up to DH, the better.

      SS – It could be worse, but only because it is a pretty sorry lot of them generally. That isn’t a great reason to be enthused, but it is true.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Nunez sail throw after throw…. Let’s be a little more patient here. He had 1 error in 15 games last year and the team played pretty well during that stretch. He played OF in ST and a bit this year. He needs more reps and some more practice/advice with Arod and coaches and will be fine after that.

    • Rick in Boston

      But it’s not been just this year. Outside of last year, Nunez has a had high error totals at every stop in the minors, with most of them being of the throwing variety. Yes, error totals in the minors can be misleading, but if someone has the same problem at every stop then there’s something there.

      And for all the coaching they do, and all the advise he gets, Nunez just might not be able to throw cleanly to 1B on a regular basis.

      • mike hc

        True, but without giving the kid consistant playing time and letting him find a groove, it is far too early to say he will never get it down.

      • Ted Nelson

        He didn’t have the same problem at every stop, though… last season he kept the error total down. He certainly could have worked on it and improved. One bad game isn’t proof of much. If AJ has a bad start, it doesn’t mean he’s automatically on the same spiral track as last season. If A-Rod hits a couple of grounders in a game it does mean he turned into Derek Jeter.

    • Bills

      A player who cannot field the basic ground ball to short cannot stay on a team. If we were looking an Nunez making really tough plays and he sailed an off balance throw, we would not be having this conversation. He cannot make simple throws. Between 2005 and 2009, Nunez racked up 153 errors in 535 games. He had fourteen in 2010 which may have shown he can field but now he is right back to error prone ways.

      • Ted Nelson

        It’s a really small sample to draw those conclusions on.

        • Bills

          Well what is the more representative sample of Nunez’s fielding capability: 153 errors in 535 games, 14 errors in 127, or 5 in 12 games?

          • Ted Nelson

            We don’t know… We’ll have to see going forward. That’s my point.

            5 in 12 seems really unrepresentative. Yet, you say “A player who cannot field the basic ground ball to short cannot stay on a team.”

            He showed some improvement last season, and a few bad throws isn’t indisputable proof he can’t continue at his 2010 rate going forward.

            You know who committed more errors per game than Nunez in the minors? Derek Jeter. His high was 56 Es in a season and he made at least 21 every season (21 coming in a season where he only played in 57 games). Jeter then made 22 errors as a rookie and 24 his 26 year old season.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    Comparing Jackson and Blanton to Jurrjens isn’t even remotely fair? Not only is Jurrjens better than Jackson and Blanton in every way, but he’s also better than Jackson and Blanton in every way.

    • Ted Nelson

      Neither one has even had a season that matches Jurrgens’ career numbers… Not sure where those comparisons come from either. Also not sure why Atlanta is giving him up, though.

      • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

        Yeah. Not quite sure either.

  • Ted Nelson

    A couple of errors makes Nunez obviously not the answer?

    Erick Aybar has a career .306 wOBA…

  • The BIG 3

    I think this is the first article I’ve ever read that implied JJ sucks. Odd, last I knew he was a flame-throwing kid with excellent control.

    I’m of the opinion that if Nunez is a central piece of said proposal, it goes no further than that.

    • Mister Delaware

      Flamethrowing? He’s always been a low 90s guy, 0.1 away from averaging in the 80s this season.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Cano to SS. Nunez to 2b for the shorter throws!

    • Bills


  • Brett

    I dont mind the notion of Jeter at short this and next year. Year 3 will be an issue. I have always been a fan of Erick Aybar. He always had that annoying game that p’o’s other teams. I would deal Nunez in a heartbeat to Atlanta for Jair. He has a huge upside and could be in the rotation for years to come. I like his moxy too. Aybar would come fairly inexpensive and would probably relish the opportunity to play next to Cano. Correct me if I am wrong but Aybar is Dominican right? Cano seems to be the new Dominican hero in baseball so it would be a career boost for Aybar. I like Aybar over Drew only bc Aybar has performed on big stages before.