Nov
30

The winter of our content

By

(Darvish photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Wilson photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) (Danks photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

As noted by pretty much everyone, the 2011-2012 Hot Stove Season has been a slow one for the Yankees. Thus far the primary transactions relating to the Major League club have been extending CC Sabathia, picking up Robinson Cano‘s and Nick Swisher‘s no-brainer options, and re-signing Freddy Garcia to a reasonable one-year deal. While these have all been important moves — none moreso than keeping Sabathia in the fold — Yankee fans have grown accustomed to fitting the annual free agent du jour for pinstripes, and the general lack of not only news, but even pot-stirring interest has made for one of the most boring offseasons I can ever remember.

Ever since I discovered the wonderful world of Yankee blogging in early 2004, there’s almost always been a plethora of eagerly anticipated potential signings and/or cause célèbres each winter.

That 2003-2004 offseason saw the Yankees undergo some pretty radical changes, starting with the acquisition of Javier Vazquez for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. Prior to executing that deal, the Yankees were also discussing the possibility of trading for Curt Schilling (and later on, Randy Johnson, who they eventually acquired a year later), but owner Jerry Colangelo’s hatred of George Steinbrenner meant nothing short of asking for the sun, the moon and the stars for his ace. Colangelo stuck it to the Yankees even further by subsequently trading Schilling to the Red Sox for a bag of balls.

This incredibly busy offseason — as you’ll recall, the Yankees wound up losing three-fifths of their 2003 AL pennant-winning rotation in Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells — also saw the Yanks swap problems with the Dodgers in the Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal; had Brian Cashman get overruled on what would have been an incredible signing in Vladimir Guerrero and undercut as Steinbrenner himself worked a three-year deal out with Gary Sheffield; sign key bullpen cogs (and eventual bullpen pinatas) Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon; extend Vazquez’s contract by four years before he threw even one pitch for the team; and, oh yeah, trade Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.

The 2004-2005 offseason found the team looking to atone for its historical exit against the Red Sox in the ’04 ALCS, and pitching was yet again at the top of the wish list. This time the Yankees patched their holes with Carl Pavano, who signed a four-year deal that at the time made a lot of sense but went on to become one of the most reviled contracts in sports history, and Jaret Wright. A few weeks later Steinbrenner finally got the long-coveted Big Unit, trading Vazquez away after a rather unfortunate first season in pinstripes, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro.

The 2005-2006 offseason was rife with speculation about the Yankees pursuing Johnny Damon, which they ultimately did, signing him to a four-year deal two days before Christmas. They also re-upped with Hideki Matsui for four years the previous month, but outside of securing two-thirds of their outfield it was a fairly quiet winter.

The ’06-’07 offseason was initially dominated by Daisuke Matsuzaka speculation until the Red Sox blew everyone out of the water with their insane bid, which prompted the Yankees to make their own ill-advised Japanese signing that winter in Kei Igawa. However, the most important move of that offseason was the bringing of Andy Pettitte back into the fold in the first of what wound up being four straight one-year deals.

The ’07-’08 offseason was perhaps the most intense I’ve ever experienced as a Yankee fan, as rabid talk of the Yankees acquiring Johan Santana for a package centered around Phil Hughes drove me to the point of kickstarting my Yankee blogging career. RAB of course also launched its heralded “Save the Big Three” campaign, and after all of the hoopla the Big Three did indeed make it through that offseason as Yankees. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy subsequently rewarded the Yankees with some abysmal pitching performances that season, but you know what they say about baseball, Suzyn. For the second straight winter the Yankees didn’t make any major external personnel moves, with the primary signings coming in the form of re-inking Jorge Posada to a four-year deal, and A-Rod to the dumbest contract of all time.

The 2008-2009 offseason was the most expensive in franchise history, but also yielded immediate fruit. Sabathia dominated the headlines and eventually agreed to his historic pact after a few weeks of silence, and the team followed that up by adding A.J. Burnett to the fold. At that point, it seemed as though the team was finished shopping, and while I’d been banging the Mark Teixeira drum all winter long, all signs were pointing to Tex signing with Boston. Which is why I’ll never forget finding out that Tex had indeed agreed to a deal on December 23, as that was pretty much the best holiday surprise ever.

Fresh off their 27th World Series trophy, the Yankees weren’t content to rest on their laurels, and made several big moves to heat the Hot Stove up during the ’09-’10 offseason, trading for Curtis Granderson and re-acquiring Home Run Javy Vazquez. They even brought what wound up being my personal biggest cause célèbre back into the fold in re-signing my favorite and yours, OBP Jesus himself, Nick “The Stick” Johnson. Of course, seeing as how Nick Johnson’s gotta Nick Johnson, he obviously got injured and wound up being near-useless, but I still have fond memories of how loudly I was beating the Johnson drum and how exciting it was to find that the Yanks were indeed signing him.

And of course, last offseason was all about Cliff Lee, until it wasn’t anymore, forcing Yankee bloggers to write post after post about every potential scrapheap option available to the Yankees, until they actually did sign what appeared to be two of the scrappiest of the entire heap in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Which brings us to today. To be fair, this offseason hasn’t been entirely devoid of rumors and speculation. We know the Yankees have been linked to C.J. Wilson, but internally view him as more of a #3/#4 starter and will only acquire him if they can pay him like one. We also know the Yankees like Yu Darvish, and while most if not all of us at RAB wholeheartedly endorse a Darvish pursuit, it seems less and less likely that he’ll be posted with each passing day. And the team will continue to be mentioned in any and all trade rumors regarding young starting pitchers that may or may not be available, as these are the kinds of rumors that make the Hot Stove burn bright during cold winter nights, although as Cashman has been fond of saying for a good while now, he doesn’t seem terribly inclined to move any of his own players at current asking prices.

Unfortunately all of this inertia has made life a bit difficult for those of us trying to find a fresh angle to write about the team on a daily basis. However, in the aftermath of the Cliff Lee non-signing, standing relatively pat for the remainder of last offseason (with the exception of Pedro Feliciano; I’m pretty sure I could get a deal with the Yankees if I threw with my left hand) and continuing to stand his ground at the trade deadline back at the end of July, Brian Cashman’s strategy of waiting things outand perhaps not even making a significant move at all — may not be such a bad thing. Especially if Kenny Williams finally comes calling bearing gifts of John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd.

Categories : Hot Stove League
  • Jake H

    it does seem like a super slow winter so far.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      I feel like that’s league-wide though.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    It is slow for the Yankees because the motivation for Fielder and Puholz is not there. Wilson is overpriced, etc. Patience is a virtue and looking back over all the Boss’s meddling and the trades which produced nothing. I’m not unhappy because Cashman knows the value of the players who hold our interest. He is patiently waiting for the value to seek the level of realism.

    Wilson at 100 million for 5/6 years is wrong. I know its not our money but obviously the Yankees must get the right fit and curtail some costs.

    • Holy Ghost

      Wilson probably won’t get the 20 mil per season he’s looking for but 16 to 17 million per season is what #2 starters are getting on the market these days(Lowe, Lackey, Burnett, etc) and I don’t see why the Yankees couldn’t live with that if they could get him to sign a 4 to 5 year deal.

      • Steve (different one)

        True, but there is a pretty sizable difference between $64/4 and $85/5…

        • Holy Ghost

          The only difference is the length of the contract. At 31 years old with good but not dominant stuff, I don’t think any team is going to offer Wilson the six years and 120 million he’s looking for. So I think his asking price will come down before he signs anywhere. But 16 to 17 million per season seems within range for what he ‘should’ get.

          • RetroRob

            I don’t see six years, although all it takes is one team to push his contract over the edge. Someone like the Washington Nats who blew the market away with Werth last year, and supposedly have had higher bids in on other free agents, like Teixeira, but were rejected.

            My guess is Wilson wants six, teams would prefer to give four, and someone will settle on five.

            I actually like Wilson a little more than many people do here, although my preference would be on a four-year deal. Problem is, someone will offer him five.

      • MattG

        Wilson Rafael Soriano probably won’t get the 20 mil 11 mil per season he’s looking for but…

        All Boras has to do is wait out Hank. If the Yankees somehow whiff on the other targets, this could get interesting.

  • Professor Longnose

    A starter! A starter! My kingdom for a starter!

    • flamingo

      A+

  • CP

    sign key bullpen cogs (and eventual bullpen pinatas) Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon;

    They got Torre’d

  • Plank

    The Yankees also re-signed Cashman. Can’t forget that Stop the Presses moment.

  • MattG

    Danks Danks Danks!

    I don’t share RAB’s enthusiasm for the possibly available pitcher. I even re-read the post to which this post is linked, and I can’t muster any excitement at all. These career numbers are lack-luster:

    7.00 k/9 2.94 bb/9 2.38 k/bb 1.06 hr/9 4.14 FIP

    That’s a good pitcher, sure, but he hasn’t earned all these pixels.

    And he has only one year of control remaining. I will be very critical of the eventual trade package surrendered for John Danks.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      He’s a solid pitcher, not a complete standout. Probably a #2 or 3 starter for the Yankees depending on who does or doesn’t step up next season. Agree with you on the 1 year of control remaining. It’ll be interesting to see (if a trade happens) what the Yankees would be willing to give up for him.

    • Larry Koestler

      Hey Matt,

      Those career numbers are weighed down somewhat by a rather lousy 2007 rookie year. No one’s looking at an acquisition of Danks as if he’s a potential co-ace, but a lot of folks also seem to be unaware of the fact that Danks has actually been the 9th-most valuable starting pitcher in the AL by fWAR since 2008.

      He’d be a very nice option in the #2 slot behind Sabathia, especially what with being a lefty in Yankee Stadium and all. Additionally, he’s only going to be entering his Age 27 season.

      I have no idea what it would take to acquire him, but based on Cashman’s recent reluctance to part with pretty much anyone, I wouldn’t get overly concerned about who might be included in a package to land Danks. If anything, I’d be excited at the prospect of Cash coming up with yet another way to swindle Kenny Williams.

      • thenamestsam

        I think people tend to undervalue the ability to stay healthy in pitchers which is why quoting those total WAR numbers is helpful. His rate stats don”t blow your mind, but a guy who puts up those numbers while consistently getting near or above 200 innings is extremely valuable. It’s also worth noting that his rWAR is even higher than his fWAR because he has consistently beaten his FIP (with the exception of this past year).

        • MattG

          Sam, Larry,

          You can’t ever change someone’s minds in blog comments, you know that, right? Yet I like this durability point, and the age 27 point. Danks is a more worthwhile pursuit than I’ve allowed.

          • Don W

            Until I read your comment I thought you could change someone’s mind in a blog comment. I now realize you can’t.

  • http://jukeofurl.wordpress.com Juke Early

    Nobody wants Cashman to emulate Mr. Steinbrenner. But when the big news of the last 2 wks. coming off a GM meeting, is re-signing Garcia*-a guy who wasn’t even assured a roster spot to start 2011, wtf? Other team suits are not coming to any senses — they want prime talent from the Yankees. When they can’t skunk Cash, they take whatever they can & a sack of balls from somebody else. There’s your fresh angle: follow the used-car money trail to the Kill the NYY conspiracy, Butt Sellout initiated during the 2010 season.

    *Hey! sure he turned in a solid season. Anybody really counting on that again?

    • BigDavey88

      “Kill the NYY conspiracy”

      I can’t buy into this whole screw the Yankees conspiracy stuff. I’m pretty sure Bud Selig and his people love when the Yankees win the World Series with the ratings and (assumption warning) revenue generated. There are Yankee fans all across the country, including the lovable “casual fans” – they gotta show off their shiny new 2012 World Series fitted caps.

      The league goes as the Yankees/Red Sox go more so than other teams.

    • RetroRob

      I’d need to see evidence of that. Sure, as one example, we hear that the Rockies asked for Montero and Nova and Banuelos or whatever for Ubaldo, and then the package they got from Clevelend was less than what the rumors were, but we don’t know what the Yankees counter offer was, and if that counteroffer was better than the one the Rockies got from Cleveland. My belief is the Rockies took the best offer.

      No way a GM takes a lesser offer from an out-of-divisin club. It’s his job on the line.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Bear with me Yankee fans. I just came up with a trade proposal. We ge Garza and we take Soriano with the Cubs paying half his salary for Phelps, Romine and another AAA pitcher not named Betances or Banuelos. Maybe the Cubs will accept because they would be saving about 16M. We would use Soriano as the RH bat off the bench and occasinal LF. I know he is terrible defensively but I believe he could hit more than Jones.

    • MattG

      Here’s one way to look at it:

      The Yankees paid Andruw Jones $2M in 2011 (I think). Let’s say they value that roster spot for $2M annually.

      They will pay Soriano $27M over the three years of his contract, instead of the $6M they would budget for that spot. That puts them $21M over budget (let’s assume, for the hell of it, that Soriano would exactly equal Jones’s production over each of the next three years).

      Garza’s under control for 1 year, at around $10M through arbitration, so if the Yankees see him as a $31M ($10M + 21M) pitcher, and if they give up absolutely nothing in a trade, it’s an even deal!

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        I believe Soriano makes 16M so that the Yankees would be paying 8m per year and getting a good pitcher in return. We don’t know what Jones will be asking for this year maybe 4-5M?

        • MattG

          No, sorry. $18M per on Soriano.

          And if Jones wants that sort of raise, I suspect he’ll have to get it elsewhere.

          In short, Garza for one year is not worth the privilege of paying Soriano $27M.

          • Jose M. Vazquez..

            If that is the case then forget about it!

            • BigDavey88

              I still like the nostalgic value! However, I don’t think Alfonso would like being a bat off the bench as much as we might.

        • Jose M. Vazquez..

          What if we take half of Alex Rios’ salary for the next five years and Danks for Phelps, Romine and another triple A pitcher not of the Bs ilk? I believe the Yankees would have to pay about 6M per year for Rios who still is an outstanding outfielder who may regain his bat under the tutelage Prof. Long. The White Sox would be saving about 30M and the Yankees get Danks.

          • Ted Nelson

            It’s pretty hard to say how motivated a certain team is to save money or pay a certain player to go away… Certainly possible, but pretty hard for a fan to comment on without knowing the financial situation of the team (and Chicago is one of the biggest markets in the U.S.) or their projections on how good both the SP and OF are likely to be going forward.

            • Ted Nelson

              White Sox, for example, could be saying Danks is too inconsistent so let’s move him rather than re-sign him, Danks is our guy so we’ll let Buehrle walk to re-sign him, or anywhere in between.

            • Jose M. Vazquez..

              I agree with you that both Chicago teams are big market. However, they may be motivated feeling that they may have acquired in one case or signed a bad contract in the other. Everybody likes saving money no matter how much he has.

              • Ted Nelson

                I specifically said that they might. My point is that as fans I doubt anyone here is qualified to comment intelligently on whether or not a team would give away their best young SP to move a bad contract.

                Everybody likes to save money, but not necessarily if to save money you have to give away your most prized possession. It’s possible they do want to, but it’s also possible that they don’t.

      • Ted Nelson

        Except that Garza is under control for two years. $10 million also seems like an aggressive arb ruling, as it’s roughly what he’s made the past two seasons combined.

        So at roughly $40 million over two seasons (assuming Soriano is of no use… and the guy is only one year removed from a 3.1 fWAR season) one could argue that Garza is a better value than Wilson or Darvish at similar (maybe a bit less) AAV for a longer duration. I’m not a huge Garza fan or saying he definitely is a better value, but one can certainly make that argument.

        The Cubs aren’t a small market team, so I don’t see them giving away their best starter from 2011 just to save money on Soriano. Who knows, though?

  • Grover

    Great post. Imagine Cashman’s abilities if management hadn’t forced several less than stellar players at bloated salaries on to the payroll. I hope he has autonomy in his latest contract.

    • YanksFan

      The Sori thing is overblown as taking away authority from Cash. Cash has full authority. He also has a budget which needs to be followed. That is the same as 29 other GM’s out there. He wants to go over budget he asks ownership. Ownership can also go out and get someone they like to go over budget.

  • Plank

    I just looked at the Yankees drafts from 1997 to 2003 (7 Drafts). They were truly awful. Arguably the best players drafted and signed by the Yankees in that time was Shelley Duncan at 1.6 WAR (with another team) and Tyler Clippard at 6.1 WAR (with another team).

    There’s really no one that gave positive WAR to the Yankees during that stretch. Matt Smith drafted in 2000 pitched 12 innings and got 0.4 WAR in 2006 then was quickly traded to Philly where he did not much of anything.

    Truly awful. To be fair, these aren’t arbitrary endpoints. The year before and the year after were pretty good drafts, but 7 straight years?!?

    Sorry for off-topic-ness but in a thread about how not much is going on, I figured it’s not too major of a transgression to post this here.

    • Gonzo

      I remember a story about how those years could be summed up in one war-room draft moment. Again, I don’t know how accurate this is.

      In 2000 with Girardi gone and Jorge ready to step up, George was worried about the catching position. Supposedly he made it clear up to the draft pick that he wanted a catcher. The FO rewarded him with both a “name” and a catcher with David Parrish. Even though Parrish was not considered a 1st round talent by even Yankee people, they had to please George.

      I can’t find the story, but I know I read it somewhere.

      • Plank

        In 2000 with Girardi gone and Jorge ready to step up, George was worried about the catching position. Supposedly he made it clear up to the draft pick that he wanted a catcher. The FO rewarded him with both a “name” and a catcher with David Parrish. Even though Parrish was not considered a 1st round talent by even Yankee people, they had to please George.

        Thank god for degenerative brain disorders…too soon?

    • RetroRob

      You must now be shot!

      The drafts and the farm system have improved dramatically since Cashman was given greater control.

      But sort back on topic, perhaps the only excitment we can have this offseason is looking forward to what Jesus Montero will do in 2012. I do think there will be a trade, or something here for another starter.

      And I’m sticking by my prediction that AJ is gone by opening day. Now perhaps that will be the real excitment this offseason. (Not that I’m AJ hater, which I’m not.)

      • Plank

        I’m hoping the newly productive draft strategy is a sign of a real improvement and not just a blip of randomness. I’m thinking it’s the first one, but really, I have no idea.

  • J.R. O’Grady

    Darvish looks like an ostrich I once hunted down at an exotic-game preserve in Ohio.

    • RetroRob

      Could the ostrich pitch? Don’t shoot it the next time. Bring it to NY.

  • YanksFan

    I love hearing all these rumors for entertainment purposes & conversation pieces. They mostly mean nothing as the majority don’t come to fruition.

    I also love Cash’s job as GM since he got full authority. He has a value on players for dollars and/or prospects. Yet, he is vilified no matter what he does by the media. How different is he than the vaunted Boston values on players?

    I believe he’s correct in that everybody is tradeable. Some are just more untradeable than others.

  • Ted Nelson

    Still pretty early in the off-season… has been a quite off-season so far overall, not just for the Yankees. Just about all the top free agents are still on the board and the Lowe and Melky deals qualify as major deals so far. Most of the guys that have signed are UTL, BUC, and RPs. I’d imagine that the CBA negotiations might have had something to do with delaying things. So might teams waiting to see whether or not Darvish posts and whether or not they win the bidding if he does.

  • TomH

    I’m also on board in support of Cashman and his autonomy, etc. However, I’m also still nervous over his the-hitting-is-ok remark at the beginning of the off-season. Teixeira has been slipping in the manner so often noted on this board. ARod has been slipping similarly and is another year older. Yes, Jeter, comeback of the post-ASG, but I wouldn’t count on his being able to keep Father Time at bay. Granderson: great year. Is it repeatable? Hard to believe, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Gardner can be relatively easily controlled by good pitching–as can Swisher. As can Martin. Hell, as can Teixeira and ARod lately.

    The Yankees surely do need that #2 starter, but I would not give up Montero for a #2. They’re going to need that stick in the lineup.

    This is still an aging team–we all know the names–and when such teams go they can go pretty damned quickly.

    • Ted Nelson

      Any evidence that all those hitters do worse than expected against good pitching besides confirmation bias? I have no idea if they are or aren’t, I’m just wondering if you know that from stats or merely your own guess based on watching games.

      Teixiera is not really slipping. He put up roughly the same wOBA in 2011 as 2010. He more slipped and then held constant. At 31/32 years old I think it’s more likely he continues to hold constant or regains his stroke than it is that he’s in an irreversible decline.

      “This is still an aging team–we all know the names–and when such teams go they can go pretty damned quickly.”

      Not really. Their oldest regulars outside of Jeter and A-Rod is Teixiera at 32 next season. Swisher and Granderson will be 31, and are then free agents in consecutive years. Cano and Martin are 29. Gardner 28. Nunez 25. Montero 22. They’re “aging” every day, but I wouldn’t call them old…

  • Billion$Bullpen

    I would like to see the bench built to the quality it was last season. I would like to see a top line starting pitcher, and if one is too expensive in costs via trade at this point sign a risk / reward type and save our chips for the trading deadline or before.