Two thoughts on the recent transactions

The Rookie of the Year race
Yankees have been scouting Rich Harden
Ewww, a former Met. (Photo from Flickr user slgckgc via Creative Commons license)

Despite being the payroll champions of baseball, the Yankees have turned to the waiver wire for a pair of pickups in the last week. First they claimed lefty reliever Raul Valdes off waivers from the Cardinals, then they claimed fellow lefty reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners. Two minor moves, certainly, but I think they tell us something about the team’s plans for next month.

The additions mean …

… that Manny Banuelos will not be called up September. A call-up was never really a sure thing to start with, especially given Brian Cashman‘s comments earlier this week. Cashman told Jack Curry yesterday that Laffey will join the big league team today and that Valdes will come up in September to be a third lefty, giving Joe Girardi some “inventory” for matchups in the season’s final month. Banuelos is already at 116 IP on the season (a career high) and doesn’t figure to go much beyond 130-140 IP on the year, so he’d have to work out of the bullpen for the big league team if they were planning to call him up after the season ends. It’s possible they still might, but adding the two southpaws this week makes it seem less likely.

Gus Molina’s DFA’ing means …

… that Jesus Montero will be a September call-up. Molina was the team’s third catcher, the only viable alternative to Montero if the Yankees wanted an extra backstop. Third catchers are a rite of September, they’re always among the first guys called up. It’s very likely that Molina will clear waivers and return to the Yankees, so yeah they probably would still be able to call him up for September, but it seems very unlikely given the way they just took him off the 40-man roster. Rumors of an imminent Montero promotion have been circulating for weeks, and sacrificing Gus’ 40-man spot seems like another indication that the team’s top prospect will be with the big league club in a little less than two weeks.

The Rookie of the Year race
Yankees have been scouting Rich Harden
  • Beat Of The Bronx

    I’m kinda upset Montero hasn’t been called up yet, just because I’m going back to college soon and won’t be able to see his first game live (assuming it’s at home, of course)!

  • Rich in NJ

    I sometimes wonder if Cash has wanted to call up Montero before now, but he hasn’t because he thinks Girardi wouldn’t play him.

    • Cuso

      I doubt thats the case. I think The Montero Plan is something that they’ve all talked about often and have agreed upon (even though we have no clue what it is).

      If Martin hadn’t been what he has been to this point, or if Posada had a season-ending injury, we probably would’ve seen Montero before now.

      They’re probably pretty satisfied with the way it’s turned out. Martin has has a great year and has been healthy. Posada….well…

      • Rich in NJ

        But what has Martin been? His offense was basically replacement level from May 1-August 1.

        The reasons for my supposition are: 1) Newman told NoMaas a few months ago that Montero wouldn’t be called up because Girardi trusts Martin and Cervelli; Cash told Francesa in May that if Martin was DL’d, Montero would be the every day catcher; 2) the point mentioned about Girardi’s defense-first mentality.

        Again, Posada is a borderline HoFer because of his bat. His career was far superior to that of any defense-first catcher.

        • Ted Nelson

          Martin hasn’t been amazing, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that calling up Jesus at 21 would lead to a good offensive output. Martin has a .325 wOBA in MLB and Montero has a .342 wOBA in AAA. Montero might not hit any better than Martin in the big leagues and most people feel he would not catch as well either.

          The Yankees have literally said that Montero hasn’t been called up because he wouldn’t play regularly and they’d rather have him playing every day in AAA than a couple of times a week in MLB. The part that becomes more speculation is your theory that Cashman disagrees with Girardi over whether Montero is a superior option right now to Martin. Could be, could not be… I don’t see anything that makes it more than pure conjecture. If Martin hit the DL, it would create the opportunity to play every day that the Yankees, again, have literally said is the reason he hasn’t been promoted. It doesn’t mean that Cashman thinks Montero is a better option than Martin, because Martin would not be an option while on the DL.

          There have been catchers who caught better than Posada and had better careers, but the biggest point remains that Montero was not a lock to have come up at 21 and hit like Jorge has on his career (like he has this season… sure). I wouldn’t act like Montero was a lock to come up and hit as well as or better than he’s hitting in AAA, nor would I act like catching defense is not important. As well as the Yankees pitching staff has performed relative to expectations… it’s totally possible that Martin’s pitch-calling and defense are a significant part of that success.

        • OldYanksFan

          You are probably wrong.

          Notice that Pudge R. has a slightly better WAR/G then Posada, althought Pudge has a career 106 OPS+ compared to Po’s OPS+ of 121.

          Now I’m not saying that this chart is absolute, as WAR is flawed, as Defensive stats are flawed.

          However, when looking at Catchers, offensive stats alone don’t tell the story.

          Also notice how Munson (116 OPS+) compares to Po. I guess that CS% of 44% goes a long way to a Catcher’s value.

      • JU

        I really can’t stand when certain players are “protected” from criticism by the media, and subsequently by the fans, while others have to perpetually prove themselves, or they are subject to a “see I told u he wasn’t that good” at the first sign of a slump.

        Martin has been a replacement level hitter this year, and an atrocity for significant stretches. He’s also had some hiccups defensively, as well, though he is deemed a great defender because Yankee fans have spent the past decade watching one of the worst defenders ever at the position.

        I’m tired of these throw-away comments about how great Martin has been this yr, but then the same people will come out of the woodwork to label Brett Gardner a 4th OFer after his first 0-8 stretch.

        Martin is what he is – an NL hitter and above avg defender. There’s no reason for him to be beyond reproach or for him to have kept Montero in SWB all year.

  • crawdaddie

    Defense is first for Girardi, when it comes to catching as he clearly stated so in yesterday’s postgame show.

    • Beat Of The Bronx

      Yeah, Martin is really underrated defensively. He’s throwing out over 30% of guys and calls a great game.

      • Jesse

        I don’t know if Matt will agree with you on the calling a great game part.

        • Mike Axisa

          The calling a great game part is very, very tough to quantify anyway. The bottom line is that the pitcher has to execute the pitch. The catcher can do everything right, but ultimately it’s out of his hands.

  • dkidd

    i can’t believe we are days away from actually seeing jesus montero in pinstripes

    what number will he wear?

    • Eric Duncan


    • Steve in PDX


      • dkidd


    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      I’m still holding out hope for #6. Penalize Torre for that book. You’ll get your number retired Joe, the same day as Montero someday in 2028.

      • Jesse

        That would be a completely idiotic move if they did that. They’re already over that book, hence the Yankees inviting him back for Old Timer’s day. No one will wear that uniform again.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          I’m not even sure why manages wear numbers any way. Unretire #37 and #1.

    • Jedile

      He will wear Alpha and Omega.

      The signs for them of course, not the names.

      • Midland TX

        Good, but a more concise choice here would have been ?.

        • Midland TX

          “infinity” sign showed up OK on preview. oh well.

  • Rich in NJ

    The Yankees were pretty successful with an offense-first catcher.

    • steve (different one)

      And no one said they won’t go this route next year and the next 5 years after that.

      But THIS YEAR they have been very successful with a DEFENSE first catcher. The Yankees have gotten so much unexpected production from so many pitchers, I have to think Martin is at least come part of that.

      You could argue that the Yankees were most successful with an “offense first” catcher when they had a rotation of 3-4 first ballot/borderline Hall of Famers. Maybe those guys didn’t need the extra strikes Martin steals, the extra base runners he catches, etc. But maybe a staff anchored by Garcia and Colon DOES need that. It’s prob not a coincidence that Colon has so many called 3rd strikes.

      I don’t know, just spitballing. I think Martin has done a great job.

      • Rich in NJ

        If they go that “route next year and the next 5 years after that” it will be done contrary to Girardi’s stated preference. That’s my point.

        I also don’t know that one can assign credit for the fact that “Yankees have gotten so much unexpected production from so many pitchers” to Martin in light of Rothschild’s presence.

        • steve (different one)

          Well, hardball times did a study of pitch framing and Martin graded out near the top, to the tune of a win per season that isn’t captured anywhere.

          Of course Rothschild deserves credit, prob even most of the credit, but I think it’s pretty ridiculous to say Martin deserves none of the credit.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    I will be at the game on sep 2, it would be great if he’s in the lineup, not like the yanks are playing badly, but it would be exciting. As much as it seems he will be called up sep 1, i am surprised it hasn’t happened yet. At the beginning of the year I think most would be surprised that montero wouldnt be called up by august, but played well and hasn’t been traded. i guess it proves that it’s been a really good year.

  • Captain Beatty

    Montero will be called up and he’ll be backup catcher and part time DH. Anything that takes ABs away from Cervelli is a good thing.

    • crawdaddie

      I’ll be surprise if that happens this year.

    • Shuffle Cards for fun

      Except when there are RISPs

  • crawdaddie

    Yes, they were, so it will be interesting to see how Girardi uses Montero next season. By the way, Posada had some years earlier in his career in which he was fine defensively, at least as it pertains to throwing out runners.

    • MannyB ace2be

      Minor league stats don’t count.

  • Guns of the Navarone

    Agree with all of this.

    I can’t wait for the Jesus “Lavarnway Light” Montero era to begin. I also agree with not bringing up Banuelos as a LOOGY option. It may just be my opinion, and I’m no scout (as I’ve been told), but I don’t think his stuff would play well as a LOOGY. He’s fastball-changeup with a curveball as his third pitch that is still a work in progress. He doesn’t have that sweeping slider that you look for in a lefty reliever.

    If he were a little farther along in his development, and his curveball and command were up to par, I wouldn’t mind seeing him come up just to get his feet wet out of the pen against righty and lefty batters. As it is right now, let him finish the season in Triple-A and be one of the first in line for a call up if/when a rotation spot opens up next season.

  • Accent Shallow

    Really not thrilled about someone like Laffey being on the 25-man.

    • 28 this year

      its only for another 11 days before rosters expand. The Yanks just want to try to find another lefty reliever, who knows, he might go on a run. I don’t think there is a major downside because the Yankees have enough of a lead, and enough of a bullpen to try some things out just to find another diamond in the rough.

    • steve (different one)

      I’d agree with this if it weren’t August 20th.

      There is so little downside to this. Why not see what he can offer? They have a 9 game cushion and in 10 days, the “25 man roster” becomes the “40 man roster”. The yankees can carry a weak 12th pitcher for 10 days.

      • MattG

        There is no upside either, though. Laffey’s already shown that he is not good. Yes, he would be the second best left-handed (healthy) reliever on the roster, but he’s not even in the top-ten when you consider all relievers. There is nothing he can do in a small sample size of six weeks to change this. He might retire 30 batters in a row between now and the end of the season, and I would still argue he does not deserve a spot on the post-season roster.

        I like the move for the 2012 regular season, however. In that respect, it is a good move on the margins, but you have to believe that he’s nothing more than Marte- and Feliciano- insurance.

        • steve (different one)

          Yeah, I don’t disagree. There is limited upside as well. My point was really that no one would complain if he was sent to AAA and then called up 9/1. But since it’s 8/20, there isn’t all that much difference.

  • Jayfoot

    To me not bringing Montero to the big leagues this year is a lot like other yankee fan’s thinking, if we aren’t winning games 20-0 and 162-0 we seem to suck.

    What would be the difference if Montero was in the big leagues this entire season versus Martin??? If Montero had a better offensive season then Posada ever had and was average defensively we would still be what – in first place? Guess what we are in first place!

    Montero is 21 years old…he grew up a lot this year in triple A, he learned you can’t become complacent and that you always need to work on your craft.

    Next year he will start and the yanks will have a defensive catcher as a replacement.

    Right now you can’t really complain about this season and what could have been different/better with Montero.