Jun
15

What’s a Brian Gordon?

By

(milb.com)

Word got out last night that the Yankees not only agreed to sign some 32-year-old right-hander named Brian Gordon, but they agreed to sign him to a big league contract and have put him in the mix to start against the Rangers on Thursday. Yeah, this move came completely out of nowhere, so let’s take some time to introduce you to the newest member of the Yankees’ rotation, or potential member anyway.

Originally selected in the seventh round of the 1997 draft by the Diamondbacks, Gordon was an outfielder when he came out of Round Rock High School in Texas. He steadily climbed the minor league ladder with Arizona, making it all the way to Triple-A before becoming a minor league free agent after the 2003 season. In over 2,900 plate appearances in the D’Backs system, Gordon hit a very respectable .280/.323/.446 with 63 homers and a 22.8% strikeout rate. He hooked on with the Astros the next year, hitting a serviceable .241/.310/.488 with 16 homers in just 340 plate appearances for their Triple-A team. That was the end of Gordon’s career as a position player; he went to Houston and suggested he give pitching a whirl rather than retire. He’s been doing that ever since.

Gordon, 28 at the time, made his pitching debut with the Astros’ Double-A affiliate in 2007. He struck out 51 and walked just 14 unintentionally in 61 IP (39 appearances) in his pitching debut, posting a fine 3.25 ERA. He made one appearance with Houston’s Double-A affiliate in 2008 before they released him in early-April. Gordon caught on with the Rangers, pitched to a 3.51 ERA in 95 relief innings for their Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, then earned his first and only big league call-up that September. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced as a Major Leaguer (Dusty Ryan), retired the second (Curtis Granderson), and then finished the season with four scoreless innings for Texas.

Another solid season for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2009 (3.49 ERA in 77.1 IP) was following by a fine season for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate in 2010 (3.46 ERA in 78 IP), but not another taste of the big leagues. Gordon returned to Philadelphia’s top farm team in his usual relief role this season, but when injuries to the big league rotation sent Vance Worley to the show, Gordon told the Triple-A Lehigh Valley coaching staff that he wanted the opportunity to work as a starter. Since moving into the rotation in April, he’s struck out 53 against just five walks in 51.1 IP with a 1.23 ERA. Over his last three starts, Gordon has whiffed 31 of 72 batters he’s faced (43.1%) with no fewer than nine strikeouts each time out. He had an opt-out clause in his contract that was contingent on him finding a big league job elsewhere, which is what the Yankees are giving him. Since he made his last start on Saturday, the newest Yankee lines up perfectly for Thursday’s game.

As for the scouting report, Gordon told Jack Curry lasts night that he’s a six pitch pitcher that relies on command more than overpowering stuff. PitchFX data from 2008 says that his three fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter) sit in the high-80′s and occasionally touch the low-90′s while his slider will run in low-80′s, his curve in the low-70′s, and his splitter in low-80′s. His swing and miss rate has climbed from 9.3% in 2009 to 10.1% in 2010 to 11.6% in 2011, though his ground ball rate has sat below 40% for the last few years. That could be problematic in Yankee Stadium, although he hasn’t demonstrated much of a platoon split in his relatively brief career as a pitcher.

The Yankees have had some luck with scrap heap pickups like this over the last few years, and I get why they made this move. Gordon’s having a fine year and he adds depth, plus starting him on Thursday will allow them to keep one of the kids (Hector Noesi, David Phelps, whoever) away from a powerhouse Texas Rangers’ offense. Given his bullpen experience, he could easily slide back into that role if Noesi steps up or if Bartolo Colon and/or Phil Hughes start getting healthy. They could certainly use the help there, if nothing else. And heck, with interleague play coming up, his position player experience might allow him to serve as an extra pinch hitter in NL parks (.275/.321/.460 career in more than 4,100 minor league plate appearances). Gordon’s not going to save the Yankees’ pitching staff, not by any means, but he’s an upgrade over Lance Pendleton and Jeff Marquez on the margins of the roster, and every little bit helps.

Note: Mark Feinsand is reporting that the Gordon signing can not become official until 6pm ET time today. If one of the Phillies’ starters gets hurt between now and then, they could still call him up and the deal with the Yankees is off. Since Cole Hamels’ back tightened up last night, there’s a non-zero chance I may have written this post prematurely.

Categories : Pitching

82 Comments»

  1. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    Gordon is apparently a hard worker who may have been just overlooked by past organizations. You can’t get to excited because the plus fastball is non existent. But may be just maybe he might be our lightning in a bottle.

  2. Tacitus says:

    Who is John Galt?

    At this point what are their other options? They don’t have much.

    Wasn’t Brian Gordon a (human) character on Sesame Street for decades? It may have just been “Gordon” but I thought maybe a Brian was in there. Oh well.

  3. Johnny O says:

    Imagine if this is an Aaron Small-like lottery ticket? Ah, the good old days. I wonder if Shawn Chacon is still serviceable?

  4. pat says:

    For what it’s worth, he’s first in the International League in era (1.14) and whip (.88). He has objectively pitched better than any of our internal candidates. I don’t see anything wrong with giving him a shot.

  5. Ted Nelson says:

    Very interesting stuff all around. Good write up.

    Seems like a nice low-risk, solid-reward ninja move. Will be interesting to see if Philly lets him walk.

  6. According to Wikipedia, Gordon was probably a high school teammate of Ryan Langerhans. Langerhans also went to Round Rock HS and is only a year and a half younger than Gordon.

    What does that mean? Absolutely nothing.

  7. Mitchell says:

    Mike – It’s sorta harsh to call a talented minor league player “scrap heap”, no? :-)

    Give him a shot, let’s see what he can do …

  8. Is he better than Lance Pendleton? Probably.

    Is he better than Pants Lendleton? AW HELLS NAW.

  9. steve s says:

    Based on the info in the Feinsand Note, the Yanks should have kept this under wraps until Gordon opted out; the Phillies can probably extract something from the Yanks now to seal the deal under the threat of calling the guy up today. Yanks lead with their chin on this one.

    • the Phillies can probably extract something from the Yanks now to seal the deal under the threat of calling the guy up today.

      I doubt that very highly. Gordon is an option to take the start over Noesi/Phelps only because he costs nothing but a prorated portion of a rookie scale contract and a 40-man roster spot. If the price is higher than that, we just roll with Noesi/Phelps and call it a day.

      If Amaro says “Hey, Cashman, toss me a prospect for Gordon or I’m keeping him for myself”, Cashman tells Amaro to kick rocks.

    • pat says:

      Like Amaro didn’t know Gordon was going to opt out?

      • steve s says:

        It’s one thing to let him opt out; its another to know that Yanks already penciled him in to pitch on Thursday. If the situation was reversed would you be happy if Cashman just let the guy go knowing that another team had a very strong interest in him? Yanks, a year or two ago, thwarted Mets/Red Sox deal regarding Chris Carter so teams acting just to thwart deals does happen. Better strategy would have been for Yanks to have kept quiet. No big deal but just seemed that Yanks were a bit careless about the process.

        • The Feinsand link is just a 140-character tweet that says the transaction can’t become official until 6pm EST. It doesn’t say why it can’t become official until then, though.

          For all we know (and what sounds logically probable given what we know about contractual opt-outs and rights of first refusal), Gordon may be able to opt out of his minor league contract once another team tells the Phillies they intend to place him on their 25-man active roster but only after the Phillies have a 24-hour window to subsequently put him on their own 25-man active roster before allowing the opt-out.

          In other words, in all likelihood, Cashman was forced to give the Phillies a chance to block the claim and promote him themselves. And your complaints are thus moot.

          • steve s says:

            Sure, if your assumptions are true then the complaints are moot. In thinking about this some more I don’t recall a comparable opt-out that was conditioned on being placed on a major league active roster (the more typical is what Yanks did with Millwood etc. which is bring me up by a date certain) so I agree that it was most likely designed that way to give the Phillies a last shot window.

        • practoctix says:

          The Phillies would have to drop someone from both the major league roster and the 40 man roster in order to retain Gordon.

        • pat says:

          They gummed up the Carter trade to make the Sox keep him on the 40 man roster for the playoffs.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t think they can “keep it under wraps.” I believe they have to pass their transactions through the league offices. Gordon also has to actually opt-out, and apparently have an MLB deal lined up to do so.

  10. Mister Delaware says:

    Given that its Amaro Jr., I figure there’s atleast a 25% chance we end up with Cole Hamels.

  11. infernoscurse says:

    i dont like this move cause this team build their players and doesnt reward them unless the MLB team is in panic mode with injuries, David phelps, Jova among others have performed enough to warrant a promotion but yet they won give them a chance unless theres 20 freak injuries

    • Kosmo says:

      I couldn´t have said it better myself ! This is a very low risk high reward transaction.If doesn´t pan out then you´ll see Phelps and “Jova“ soon enough.

    • I think this is the wrong way to look at it. Gordon may be from outside the Yankee organization, but, at the same time, he’s sitting right there, available to the Yankees. If Gordon was pitching in the Yankees’ organization instead of the Phillies’ to this point, with the numbers he has put up this season, would you have a problem with the Yankees calling him up for a spot-start before throwing Phelps/etc. into the fire against the Rangers?

      I suspect the answer to that question is no, which I think means this move is fine. The Yanks didn’t go out and give something up to get this guy (if they do, in fact, wind up with him). He was, in effect, just as available to them as any of their minor league arms.

      (Not to mention, we have no idea what the Yanks really think of this guy. Maybe they’ve seen him early this season and think there’s really some lightning there that they can catch in a bottle. In any event, it’s a totally no-risk move, with a possible payoff. I don’t see any problem with this.)

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It rewards the players they think will do well. They don’t owe minor league players major league call-ups for their good play. They owe themselves and their fans decisions that they think are in the best interest of the organization. David Phelps doesn’t go away by signing Brian Gordon (the two are not mutually exclusive), but if you don’t sign Brian Gordon now you might never have the chance again.

      And, yeah, injuries are often required for minor leaguers to be called up in every org. You start with a full roster… so someone has to get hurt, demoted, cut, traded for a minor leaguer to be promoted… sort of how it works.

  12. JohnC says:

    Gordon = Aaron Small II

  13. Monteroisdinero says:

    WWJS?

    Did Jesus face him? Stats against SWB?

  14. Mister Delaware says:

    Given the Phillies current pen, if they do retain last refusal on Gordon, I can’t see how they don’t use it. Could either option Herndon or cut loose some junk in Baez, Romero or Kendrick.

    • Kosmo says:

      Herndon has been very good for a month or so .Kendrick is a spot starter and has been pitching OK.Baez so-so.Romero is their 2nd loogy .Does that warrant demoting or releasing any of these guys for essentially a 32 yr old rookie ? If that be the case the Phillies could have acted on this a couple of weeks earlier. Nothing would have stopped them from doing so.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I’m also wondering if they’ll keep him… but they do have to cut loose someone to make room on their 40 man, and they might not agree with you that any of those guys is more “junk” than Brian Gordon.

      I don’t know their 40-man well enough to say who is expendable, but there might not be anyone more expendable than Gordon. Kendrick is a solid 6th starter. Romero is a lefty. Optioning Herndon doesn’t solve the 40 man issue if there is one. Baez is bad for the 2nd straight year, but they still keep running him out there a lot (may be out of favor finally with Stutes stepping up) and are paying him a solid chunk of change… rightly or wrongly, I think it’s unlikely they cut Baez for a 32 year old AAA All-Star. Maybe.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      I’ll respond to both and thus quote neither.

      Herndon wouldn’t be a reflection on his pitching, just on roster flexibility. Keeping two assets rather than one. If Gordon can do the same job or better, he stays. If not, he goes and Herndon is back up and nothing is really lost.

      Kendrick sucks. The difference between him and about 100 other pitchers in AAA ball and below is that Philadelphia always stuck with him after his fluky 1st season.

      Baez and Romero are simply known names at this point. Baez is right about 4/3 SO/BB and Romero is upside down.

      Status quo is simple but the Phillies have an actual cost to maintaining their status quo at this point (again, assuming they have last refusal). I’m sure Gordon isn’t a world beater, but he’s worth a look.

      • Mister Delaware says:

        (As for the 40 man, they’re holding almost 10 middle IFs. There’s room there.)

        • MannyGeee says:

          in the NL you could use those 10 MIFs.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            “Yup, like, you know I kinda agree with ya, Manny, like, when ya gotta have, like, players to play, like, they gotta be there on the field for ya.”

            /heardwaytoomanyCharlielikeManuelpresserswhenIlivedoutsidePhiladelphia

  15. Kosmo says:

    A little off topic-

    Scott Kasmir anyone ?

  16. the tenth inning stretch says:

    Gordon had a career .280 minor-league average? So in one move, we’ve added a pitcher AND a 5th outfielder?

    • nsalem says:

      No If Gardner goes hitless for two games he goes back to being our 4th outfielder and if he goes hitless for 4 games he becomes the 5th outfielder

  17. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    Scott Kasmir in the bullpen is worth a look IMHO. If he doesn’t go more than 1 inning is has the stuff and stamina.

  18. MannyGeee says:

    so, from all of this, what I have gathered is….

    pray for rain.

  19. steve (different one) says:

    There is another “cost” to promoting a prospect for what might be a short term need, roster flexibility. If you grab a non-prospect to make a few starts, you can dfa him if he sucks. If you add say, Warren, to the 40 man, that spot is now closed off after you send him back down.

    This doesn’t apply to Noesi, obviously, but it does for some of the other people eing advocated.

    If you really believe the need is short term, this approach is perfectly logical, fanboyism aside.

    Plus there is that whole issue of Gordon having outperformed the internal options…

  20. Cuso says:

    I knew as soon as they started talking about it on BB2N, that the deal was destined to blow up.

    Not 10 minutes after they mentioned it, Cole Hamels left the game with some back issue.

    Everyone (including Gordon, himself) jumped the gun and blabbed.

    Now, here comes a Gordon to the Phillies roster move to negate the opt-out clause.

  21. Bpdelia says:

    I will defer to fo guys who have seen gordon.

    Im dissapointed. I wanted to get a look at warren and to a lesser extent phelps. So its less a happening for me now.

    Still sure that one of phepls/warren will be up at some point.

    Wouldnt mind easing warren into highish lvg pen roles if sori can’t get back. Despite what many scream here its ok to use young fuys in the pen as has been done for about 1oo years. Warren may be an rp anywho

  22. CAYANKSFAN says:

    The red sox had their “bridge year” and this is the Yankees “lightning in a bottle” year…

    If Michael Kay says that one more time I’m going to go nuts…

  23. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Props to Phillie for releasing him a day early so he could sign with NY. Just goes to show you can run a business and still have a sense of morality and humanity.

  24. Brian says:

    His name is Brian. He’s cool in my book.

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