Mailbag: Joel Zumaya

Contracts For Relievers: Paying For Consistency
Open Thread: Hello From Dallas
(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Jon asks: Should the Yankees have any interest in Joel Zumaya?

Oh yes, absolutely. There’s no way they could give him anything more than a minor league contract though, the guy just can not stay healthy. Zumaya hasn’t pitched in a game since suffering that scary injury against the Twins in June of 2010 (video), a fractured elbow that required two surgeries. He’s also missed time with numerous shoulder surgeries and a finger problem throughout the years. Paying the new $100k retention bonus will suck, but that’s the cost of doing business these days.

Despite all those arm problems, Zumaya was still sitting (sitting!) right around 99-101 mph with his fastball at the time of his injury last season. It’s been five years since he’s thrown more than 40 IP in a season, so we have no idea what his current performance level is like. If he gets back to what he was in 2010, we’re talking about a guy with a good (but not great) strikeout rate (7.98 K/9) and a strong walk rate (2.58 BB/9) to go along with a lot of fly balls (just 35.8% grounders in his career). Typical power pitcher kinda stuff.

It’s tough to consider Zumaya anything more than a total wildcard at this point, he’s the definition of a scrap heap pickup. One thing he has going for him is age, having just turned 27 last month (five months older than David Robertson). Zumaya is scheduled to work out for teams later this month, and about ten clubs are expected to attend the showcase. It’s unclear if the Yankees will be one of those teams, but I would guess yes. They seem to scout basically everyone. It’s just a question of Zumaya’s preference, since he figures to get a whole lot of minor league offers.

Contracts For Relievers: Paying For Consistency
Open Thread: Hello From Dallas
  • Plank

    I say go for it as long as there is a Guitar Hero ban in the contract.

  • Cy Pettitte

    Cashman’s been running hot when it comes to the scrap heap pickups, I say go for it.

    • Plank

      In all seriousness I feel like Zumaya will be more Prior than Colon next year. Still, doesn’t hurt to find out.

    • Ted Nelson

      I have to hope that the “hot run” has as much to do with superior talent evaluation as luck. Especially since I wouldn’t expect above average luck to continue indefinitely.

  • Dave203

    There is rarely ever a downside to a minor league contract…

  • Jesse

    Go for it.

  • http://NYBronxBombers24-7 Brian L

    I like it go for it!

    • whozat

      …well, the problem is that he’ll have other minor league offers at LEAST, and probably for teams with a less-settled bullpen situation that offer more opportunities for him, should he prove healthy and effective.

      Given a minor league offer from a team with an unsettled closer situation he could potentially work himself into, or an minor league offer from the Yanks…which do you think Zumaya will take?

      • Fin

        He could still choose the Yankees. He would be pretty assured he wouldnt get over worked as Girardi is very good at not abusing his relievers. He could look at the Yankees as a safe way to work himself back into pitching shape, without high leverage innings and maybe stay healthy for a year. Even with a settled bullpen, if hes healthy he works his way on it. I’m not saying it will happen, just that its not out of the question.

        • whozat

          But there’s no way he works himself into the closer’s role, which — as we have seen — carries benefits on the open market in terms of guaranteed money and years.

          And, while it’s possible, why would Zumaya give up greater opportunities elsewhere for a lesser opportunity with the Yankees? Think about it from the player’s point of view.

        • Ted Nelson

          Who knows what he’ll do, but besides the upside of a bigger role other situations can also offer a better downside with more of a chance of at least making the team out of ST. If you assume health all around the Yankees already have 5 of 7 BP spots fairly well wrapped up with some prospects (and maybe even Hughes or AJ) who Zumaya might have to compete with for the 2 open spots… then Joba taking up a 6th spot when he returns. If another team with 5 of 7 spots pretty open offers him the same deal as the Yankees that would seem hard to turn down. Not only would it be theoretically easier to become that team’s #3 reliever, but also to at least be their #7 and accumulate service time. So my guess is that the Yankees might have to tempt him with a slightly better deal since all else is not equal. Maybe stronger incentives at least. Then again maybe he’s always dreamed of being a Yankee and/or living in NYC and jumps at the chance… or just has a lot of confidence in his ability and doesn’t weight the downside much.

  • kevin w.

    Didn’t he say he absolutely hated the Yankees? I think I recall him ranting about that a few years back…

    • your mom

      That’s what I remember too. Exactly why I hate the guy. I can see him signing with the Red Sox just because.

  • Amol

    Joel Zumaya: Average fastball velocity – 98.5mph, K/9 – 9.01
    David Robertson: Average fastball velocity – 92.1mph, K/9 – 12.03

    I love baseball.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    You’d be insane not to take a flyer, but don’t go into it expecting much. I fully believe that Joel Zumaya will wake up one morning and find his arm lying on the bedroom floor.

  • John Ya Ya

    If he can still sling a 99mph fastball, some delusional GM will offer him a major league contract.