Mailbag: Oswalt, Liriano, 2014, Jeter

A shifting future for the Yanks' radio broadcast
4/27-4/29 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

Got five questions this week but only four answers because I lumped two of them together. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Steve asks: With the news that Michael Pineda is gone for the season and the way Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are performing, can Roy Oswalt be an option for the rotation?

Sure, I definitely think he’s option. You have to be careful not to fall in love with the name though, because Oswalt is not the guy he used to be with the Astros. He has two degenerative discs in his back and has openly talked about retirement, plus he’s expressed a preference to play close to his Mississippi home. Oswalt has never pitched in the DH league full-time and has always been a guy that relied more on limiting walks (2.09 BB/9 and 5.6 BB%) and getting ground balls (47.3%) thank missing bats (7.35 K/9 and 19.8 K%).

I think Andy Pettitte‘s return has set the market price for Oswalt, a quality older pitcher voluntarily spending time away from the game. If the Yankees could get him on a low-risk minor league deal that pays him $2-3M if he makes the team, by all means do it. Heck, I’m sure he and Pettitte are pals after their time in Houston together, maybe that gives him more of a reason to join the Yankees. I just can’t see guaranteeing the guy anything without getting him in camp and having him throw to batters in the minors, proving that he still has something to offer.

Potter asks: If the Twins were willing to do it, would the Yankees think about a Francisco Liriano for Hughes trade? They both seemed to be going down the same path with their respective ball clubs and maybe a change of scenery would help. It can’t be much worse then what’s happening now.

Liriano’s been very bad this year — 22 runs and 39 baserunners in 16.1 IP with more walks (13) than strikeouts (12) — and the Twins took advantage of yesterday’s off-day to skip his turn in the rotation. I have zero confidence that Hughes can be an effective starter but I do think he can be a pretty good reliever because he is still able to blow his fastball by hitters in hitter’s counts. I have no faith in Liriano’s ability to be competent in any role, plus his salary is substantially higher ($5.5M vs. $3.2M). I’ll keep the “maybe he won’t suck as a reliever” guy rather than trade him for the “he’s awful at everything he does on a baseball field” guy. It’s been too long since Liriano was effective.

Grant asks: With Hughes pitching so far below expectations, Pineda out with an uncertain future, and Garcia, Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda all likely gone after 2012, what do you think the odds are the front office abandons the austerity plan and goes after Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels? As they get as close as they are to free agency, you have to think they’ll at least test it. Is it possibly contingent on Manny Banuelos‘ development?

Tyler asks: In your perfectly ideal situation, what do you picture as the Yankees roster these next few years to get under the luxury tax? Along the same lines, which prospects do you think are most important to develop in big leaguers to fit the 2014 and beyond Yankees?

(Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

I don’t expect the 2014 payroll plans to change after Pineda’s injury but I would not be surprised if they still pursued Hamels*. There’s a lot of money coming off the books both this offseason and next, and he is by far the best hope to add an elite hurler to the rotation. The Dodgers will definitely provide some stiff competition, but it’s doable. The problem is that the Yankees would have to skimp elsewhere, particularly in at least one corner outfield spot, the bullpen, and basically the remaining three-fifths of the rotation.

Unless you’re talking about a true cornerstone player, someone like Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longoria or Matt Kemp, one injury should not throw a team completely off the rails. Especially an injury to a one-in-five starting pitcher and especially not the Yankees. Guys like Banuelos, David Phelps, Jose Campos, and Adam Warren are that much more important following Pineda’s injury because they are going to have to contribute something as starters, relievers, or trade bait. Same deal with Mason Williams and Tyler Austin as outfielders. The 2014 plan was going to take some creativity even before Pineda’s injury, now it’s just that much more difficult.

* Forget about Greinke, they’ve already declared him unfit to pitch in our fine city.

Alan asks: I just wanted to know your opinions on what you think realistic expectations are for Derek Jeter‘s numbers for the rest of the year. I admit, before the season started, I said I would be happy if he hit .280 this year. Now, do you guys think he could actually hit .310 this year? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but can he really approach his 2009 numbers at the ripe old age of 38? Thanks!

Well, I know for sure that he will not maintain his .420/.442/.642 batting line all season. Derek’s good, but he ain’t that good. I was thinking the same thing before the season, that a .280 average a .350-ish OBP would be fantastic. Now? He looks so good and is driving the ball so well that you can’t help but be optimistic. It’s not like he’s beating out infield singles and just slapping some ground balls through holes, the Cap’n is flat out raking. Line drives all over the field.

Jeter hit .334/.406/.465 in 634 at-bats back in 2009. He’s at 81 at-bats now, so to finish the season with a .334 average, he’ll still have to hit .322 the rest of the season. A .465 SLG would require a .439 SLG the rest of the way. I have a hard time expecting anyone to hit .320+ over any prolonged period of time, but can Jeter hit .300/.360/.430-ish from here on out? I definitely think that’s possible. Without questions, Derek’s resurgence as been the most exciting development over the last 12 months or so.

A shifting future for the Yanks' radio broadcast
4/27-4/29 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers
  • JobaWockeeZ

    Amazing how the depth couldn’t even last one month until people understandably asked for trade or free agent options.

    • G

      You just never know when Levine and Hank will manage to get their way and make a hasty signing. That was more of what I was getting at, not that we needed to sign anyone. I have total faith in a Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Pettitte, Phelps/Mitchell/Warren rotation. The thing that needs to change immediately though to ease the problem, is Phil. I was long on the be patient and he’ll reward us side, but he can’t start. He needs to be a reliever. Change just that and all is well.

      That said I’d be doing backflips for months if we signed Hamels.

  • Kosmo

    The Hughes for Liriano trade suggestion shouldn´t be altogether discarded. Liriano is having the same problems that Hughes is having that being no command. Liriano is a FA next year and Hughes is arbitration eligible in 2013. Where does Hughes fit in to the current bullpen situation ? Hughes would only be the mop up guy or long man. Should we start to think Hughes future is in the bullpen?
    A trade could (operative word) help both pitchers and at this time the gamble would be worth it. If Liriano is ineffective he walks at the end of the year and Hughes the headache is gone for good.

    • Kosmo

      The problem is Hughes can´t blow hitters away in fastball counts. This isn´t 2009. Hughes has no real consistent secondary pitch to rely on and his fastball command sucks.

    • Mike Axisa

      The Yankees have no long-term commitment to Hughes, they can just non-tender him after the season.

    • jjyank

      I’m inclined to agree with Mike on this one. I think the Yanks would be better off seeing what they can get out of Hughes in the bullpen. I doubt Liriano’s value to the Yankees outweighs what Hughes’ value could be in the bullpen.

      • Kosmo

        Hughes would have to leapfrog over all the current relievers for there to be any value to having him in the pen. Unless NY puts Phelps into the rotation or someone in the bullpen is injured there is no real role for Hughes in the pen other than mopup-longman. You can choose 4-5 pitchers at AAA for that role.

        • Ted Nelson

          There is absolutely value in a good long-man. Remember Ramiro Mendoza or Al Aceves by chance?

          I don’t know if Hughes is any better than some of those AAA guys. They have proven nothing whatsoever at the MLB level at this point, though. Having better pitchers pitching every inning is better for the team. Keeping a 3, 4, 5, run lead just that if the starter exits early gives the offense some chance to come back.

          What value does Liriano provide? You’re saying Hughes doesn’t provide value, but Liriano is beyond awful.

          • Ted Nelson

            And assuming Pettitte is coming for Freddy’s rotation spot the corresponding move to Hughes exiting the rotation would be Phelps entering the rotation.

        • jjyank

          I’m not saying that Hughes will be immensely valuable or something, I’m just saying that Liriano sucks and I believe that Hughes could at least be a useful bullpen piece. I realize Hughes wouldn’t be the set up guy or anything, but he could (if effective) easily pitch in decent leverage situations, like Wade does. And there will be plenty of times that D-Rob and Soriano won’t be available, making a deep bullpen useful.

          Again, I’m not saying that Hughes will be great, just that he could be better than Liriano.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Disagree. The team can always point to 2009 as (dated) evidence that bullpen Hughes can work well, even with the stuff he’s got now. He won’t be bumping Dave Robertson, but I don’t see the team choosing Wade or Logan over him, even now.

          • Need Pitching

            I would think Rapada would be the odd man out if this scenario unfolded.

    • Ted Nelson

      Liriano’s primary problem is said to be work ethic, which is something that’s unlikely to change at this point in his career. Even coming off a Cy Young caliber season the Yankees reportedly weren’t interested in him for more than Nova (pre-breakout) and Pena, reportedly because Liriano just isn’t that into baseball.

    • DM

      I might’ve agreed with this concept earlier — swapping talented headache for talented headache — but I’d be hesitant to do it at this point for someone like Liriano. But from a Twin pov, I’d do it in a second. Also, I could see many teams taking a shot at Liriano down the stretch for that remaining money.

  • j6takish

    I think Liriano needs to get as far away from the Twins coaching staff as possible. That being said, he’s a reclamation project, not someone a contending team needs to spend almost 6mm on.

    • Kosmo

      Actually if you trade salaries it would only be 2.3 million.

  • Peter North

    I’d LOVE to have Cole Hamels but I don’t want to sacrifice offense/bullpen to get him. With the way the Yankees are constructed,just running out a few league-average pitchers behind CC would be enough to give the team a chance to win every game. What drives me nuts is that alone seems like such a difficult thing for the team to do.

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Yeah it’s been really tough for the Yanks to get decent starting pitching that gives them a chance to win ballgames….as they’ve had the best record in the AL 2 of the past 3 years.

      How many more games do we expect them to win?

      • Mike Axisa

        They’ve also been top four in ERA+ the last three years.

        • Peter North

          Maybe I didn’t communicate it well, but I’m not being critical of the past pitching, just frustrated about the current situation and pointing out that with the team’s offense and bullpen, they should be able to do well with lower-cost, league-average SP. Sp, it might not be a great allocation of resources to spend the big money on SP if it means losing some big bats.

          • Ted Nelson

            Goes both ways, though. A 1.a. ace behind CC takes pressure off the offense.

            Ideally you’re not sacrificing much production on offense, just paying less money for similar production. It’s not easy, but it’s what a team on a budget has to do to excel.

            I would definitely sacrifice bullpen depth for an elite starter, but I’m not sure it will come to that. Between the inevitable failed starting prospects and fast-moving BP prospects the Yankees shouldn’t have too much trouble filling in the bullpen the next few years.

          • G

            As of now it would probably mean replacing Swisher and Martin and letting cheap arms in the system fill out the rest of the rotation. I love Swish and Russell but if Romine can get healthy and produce and there is a viable replacement for Swisher, I’d have no problem signing Hamels instead.

            Good news is they can make an educated decision on this, unlike some past times were they had to just pay and pray. Next year they should have Nova, Banuelos, and Pineda to fill out the rotation behind CC, and as always the AAA Trio is there for the 5th spot. Still, a man can have nice dreams about Sabathia, Hamels, Pineda, Nova, and Banuelos.

  • Dan

    Mike, I was wondering from your answer to the 2014 questions what you think the chances are that Williams and Austin will be with the ML club in 2014?

    • Mike Axisa

      Very, very small. More likely to be traded chips than players as far as 2014 is concerned.

  • Jason

    How about this: trade Granderson who they cannot sign an extension too because of Cano for either Greinkie, Hammels or Lincincom. Move Nunez to the outfield, bring up Wise and dump Jones & Ibanez.

    • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

      Grandy for Hamels would be cool, but not Grandy for Hammels. I might even trade for Matt Hammil.

    • CS Yankee

      Your spelling and thoughts seem to go together well.

    • Ted Nelson

      Why are you dumping Jones and Ibanez for Wise?

  • LiterallyFigurative

    Cole Hamels can be signed, but you’d have to lose Swisher or decide not to resign Granderson after 2013.

    Russell Martin is looking like less of a must-have, so his salary demands should come down from Yadier territory.

    So here is the basic question: Do you prefer a sick rotation (CC, Hamels, Nova, Pineda/ManBan/Phelps/Warren) with only 1 top offensive outfielder and a young/platoon catcher situation, or the potent offense (Cano, Grandy, Swisher/Miguel Montero) and a still pretty decent rotation?
    (At least for one season)

    • jjyank

      Yeah, that is pretty much the right question. Not sure if there’s really a wrong answer, but I would lean towards the offensive side of the coin for two reasons:

      1. As we’ve seen with Pineda, pitchers are volatile and more injury prone. I’d rather resign a Swisher, a Granderson, or a Cano, who have all proven to be very durable, than throw it all at a pitcher.

      2. I think it will be harder to replace the position players considering our farm system. Our real position player talent is too far away to count on them for anything, but we have several potential pitching options in AAA. I’m not saying that Phelps/Mitchell/Warren/Banuelos/Betances will be as good, or even remotely close to as good, as Hamels might be, but we at least have presumably competent arms in AAA we can fall back on, whereas the Yankees would likely have to go outside the organization to replace a position player. Unless of course we’re cool with Nunez or a guy like Wise in the outfield, which I am not.

      I can see the other side of the coin though. Elite pitching is rare, and teams are locking up their good, young pitching more than ever now, making it even harder to come by on the free agent market. I just feel that our minor league system is better prepared to handle a pitching shortage than an offensive shortage.

      • Peter North

        This is what I was trying to get at as well, regarding targeting offense over expensive SP.

      • LiterallyFigurative

        With the elite pitching, you could arguably survive with LESS offense out of catcher or Right field.

        It’s like would you rather win 5-4 or 4-3? Which would be more sustainable?

        If for example the lineup was:

        Nunez or average RF

        with a rotation of


        Would you feel good about that team in 2014? I would.

        • jjyank

          Oh absolutely I’d feel good about that team. Like I said, I don’t think there’s a wrong answer.

    • V

      Personally, I want Hamels. Lefty with a dominating changeup? Perfect for YS.

      Though, if he’s going to get 6+ years, that’s probably too pricey. I don’t want to be stuck with him if his fastball velocity declines (making his changeup less effective).

      Without some improvements this year from ManBan/etc., I don’t see how they can hold auditions for a rotation spot.

      Free agents I like: mid-rotation – Anibal Sanchez; back of rotation – Brandon McCarthy (probably not ideal for the Yankees though, as he needs a strong infield defense to be effective).

  • OldYanksFan

    With the Pineda situation, people are understandably concerned about this year. But I believe the magic $189m number is indicative that Cashman is really thinking about the long term. Our current roster is expensive, and will probably leave us with at least a few players in decline in the years ahead. In 3 years, who knows what CC, Teix and ARod will produce… but we all know what they will cost. Even Robbie, if signed at $20m+ could hurt in the long run.

    The $189m number is critical to our future.
    People need to stop talking about abandoning it.
    If we don’t meet it, our future will be SERVERELY handicapped.

    While we may always have the highest payroll, it does have a limit… especially with a 50% tax. Elite FAs are becoming rarer, as many young studs are being locked up early. And those that do hit the market, are almost always overpriced, and command too-long contracts. Also, many other teams now have money, and the competition for these guys is fierce.

    While winning this year, in 2013 and in 2014 will aways be the Yankee’s goal, I don’t believe they will throw our future under the bus, in hopes that ‘one more’ overpriced, longterm contract will ‘make the difference’.

    I believe in the near future, we will see more youngsters filling holes, to compliment our existint studs (Robbie, Grandy, D-Rob, Gritner) and veterans (Teix, ARod, CC) we already have.

    Cashman is going to have to be very smart over the next 3 years.
    Until 2015, our bottomless checkbook will be Out-Of-Order.

    • Need Pitching

      how does not getting under 189M severely handicap the future?
      If the Yankees didn’t cut payroll and their luxury tax payroll ended up about 219M instead of 189M, the difference between a 50% rate and the former 40% rate would only amount to about 3M.
      The only thing not getting under 189M does is lower the profitability of the Yankees. It appears the Yankees, even under the new CBA, could sustain a payroll well above that number and still be at least marginally profitable.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Thank you.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Would I like Cole Hamels in pinstripes? Sure. I can’t see how someone wouldn’t What I don’t like if Episode #456 of “We are screwed if we don’t get this one elite guy that’s been identified.”

    Giving Hamels big money handicaps the team moving forward in keeping its other players. I don’t think one starter cures your pitching woes. There is nothing indicating the team is suddently less serious about its austerity plan because one of its young pitchers needs shoulder surgery.

    I like Hamels, but I’m not attaching myself in the least to the idea of having him in pinstripes. It’s fun blog banter. That’s it.

    ….and, as always, kids, just say no to Francisco Liriano.

  • CC

    Without being overly reactionary, I think the Pineda injury should absolutely affect the Yankees pursuit of Cole Hamels. Pineda was brought in to be a front of the rotation starter and now there is no guarantee they get anything from him let alone high quality innings from him. Getting mid-level starters to fill a rotation is obviously important but so is having a strong pair of starters that can start playoff games for a team. It’s not a knock on Nova, but he’s not Hamels. Pineda was supposed to be that 1a Ace to CC and just in general, the Ace of the future. Things change (a la Pineda’s injury) and in my opinion at least, that should change how the Yankees attack this off season. This doesn’t mean they should by default break the bank on him. I just think given the changing conditions, it should move to the forefront of the off season goals. More over, maybe a mid-season Jake Peavy trade would work. Obviously it is still VERY far away from the deadline and he has no recent history of staying healthy, but hey, maybe its something to watch for.

  • Brad G.

    What’s the thought on having Phil Hughes audition for the closer role after Mo retires. His stuff would generally play up in the pen and for one inning I’d have to imagine he’d be electric.

    • Peter North

      How do you explain that to David Robertson?

      • Devil’s Advocate

        Lower BB/9, Lower career WHIP, two years younger?

  • dan scabet

    one positive note for nest yr. curt schilling had the same injury as pineda and even though i cant stand him, he did have a fine career and was able to throw heat.

  • Brad G.

    Well that’s why I said audition. I didn’t say give it to him outright.

  • dan scabet

    after pineda starts his rehab i think he should spent a lot of time withe the yankees, if nothing else the home games, there is a lot of knowledge to ne gained watching and listing there compared to tampa, just saying