The Yankees currently reside in fourth place in the A.L. East at 55-51 (52-54 Pythag. record), and are 3.5 games back in the Wild Card hunt. A postseason berth is absolutely doable, but in order to get there, the team will have to address a number of hot topics — notably, the overall offensive ineptitude, the starting rotation concerns (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes have all been pretty unreliable) and the huge elephant in the room that is the team’s high-priced third baseman being banned for the foreseeable future. This will be challenging given that the trade deadline is basically here.
Schedule wise, the team has some noticeable hurdles as well. It began last night in L.A. as the team faced off against the Dodgers and lost a winnable game. I’m guessing the Yankees will likely be dominated tonight by Clayton Kershaw, and will probably also surrender a whole bevy of runs to guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, and Hanley Ramirez. Who knows though; maybe they can pull a win out of the bag. Either way, I’ll be one of those folks on the East Coast struggling to keep their eyes open during tonight’s late night game.
This brings us into the month of August. The team will face some weaker opponents such as the White Sox and Padres (in Chicago and San Diego respectively) right off the bat, followed by an off day on August 8th. Who knows, the roster could look more formidable by this point if guys like Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and David Phelps all rejoin the roster. I don’t know if Francisco Cervelli is still on his original recovery time table or not (or whether he too will ultimately accept a plea deal for his involvement with Biogenesis), but maybe he’ll make an appearance around this time too.
From there, they’ll enter a seven-game homestand against the defending AL champs, the Tigers, followed by a four-game series against the Angels. I don’t expect sweeps of any teams, but I’ll be disappointed if they don’t take the series against everyone not based out of Detroit through this point. Of course, it’d be nice if they could at least split with the Tigers too. After the off day, the Yanks will trek north to Boston for a critical three games against the Sox followed immediately by the second off day of the month on August 19th.
The following nine days include four games (in three days) against the Blue Jays in New York, three games against the Rays in Tampa, and then three more back in Toronto. August 29th is the final off day of the month, at which point they’ll begin a three game set against the Orioles at home which will take us into September. The team has a chance to capitalize here on some (theoretically) winnable series. They could also gain a few important games in the standings within their division. On the other hand, if the team struggles in August, that probably seals the deal on the season.
September, unfortunately, looks equally (if not more) daunting and will likely be a lot more nerve racking if the Wild Card race comes down to the wire. After Baltimore, the Yanks have a quick three-game set against what will hopefully be a depleted White Sox squad. Then it’s three games against the Red Sox (at home), four more games against the Orioles (this time in Baltimore), and three more games against the Red Sox (this time in Boston). They’ll get one day off on September 16th, followed by a quick trip to Canada for their final series against Toronto.
After that, the team will have a three-game set against the Giants back in New York followed by their final off day on September 23rd. The Bombers will get another crack at the Rays (at home) before concluding their season in Houston with a three-game bout against the Astros. Overall, 18 of their final 27 games will be played against A.L. East teams. They better make them count.
Assuming the team doesn’t raise the white flag and punt the rest of the season by the deadline, they’re going to have a hard road ahead of them in the second half. It’s definitely doable, but in order for a postseason berth to remain plausible, the team is going to have to sort out a bunch of lingering issues in a hurry and then make the most of the games remaining.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like this season’s trade market has been pretty pricey thus far. It’s a seller’s market for sure – just ask the Brewers, who managed to turn Francisco Rodriguez into a decent prospect in Nick Delmonico (the fourth best prospect in the Orioles system according to Baseball America). The Rangers gave up Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and a player or two to be named later to the Cubs for Matt Garza. The White Sox will most certainly be sellers by the deadline, and you can bet they’ll place a premium price on guys like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and even Alexei Ramirez even though each of those players have some obvious warts.
A large part of the trade market’s demand is certainly a byproduct of the second wild card. More teams are contenders, or at least, more teams are on the verge of being contenders. Teams that probably should be considering selling realistically (i.e. the Mariners, Phillies, Royals) are instead showing a hesitancy to do so because they are still in the race (sort of), or perhaps because they think they’ll be competitive in the near future. In any event, I contend a lot of teams have a false sense of security with where they rank among their competition. Getting back to the original point though, and maybe this is an over simplification, but this season’s trade deadline has basically been defined by a bunch of teams who while are capable of “selling,” are afraid to commit to the idea which has thusly jacked up the prices on all the available players.
Instead, what we’ve seen is a lot of inaction by these very same teams as the deadline rapidly approaches. Meanwhile, the likelihood of these same teams moving dramatically through the standings remains rather unlikely. Hell, teams like the Phillies may ultimately wind up buying. I’ll be interested to see how teams like the Royals or even the former World Series Champs, the Giants, position themselves heading forward for the rest of the season and moving onward.
Then there is the Yankees. On one hand, they’re absolutely in the mix right now. With a 54-49 record, they’re seven games out of first place in the A.L. East but only 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. Mike discussed a few of the reasons why it makes sense for the Yankees to try and contend via acquiring a few pieces by the deadline. Namely a few of the injured players will be returning, and who knows how many more productive years the team will get from older vets like Derek Jeter. Then there’s the unfortunate fact that this will be the last year they’ll have one of the all-time great relievers closing out the game. Of course, all of these points have not deterred the majority of RABers from advocating the white flag.
Realistically, I don’t see the Yankees as sellers. They’re perennial contenders and I don’t think the organization can philosophically accept the path of concession – in fact, they’ve already brought Alfonso Soriano back. The problem is, even if the team can squeak into the postseason this year, what’s the plan for next year? At some point, the team will have to consider radically revamping the core of the team, especially if many of the anticipated roster changes ultimately happen in 2014.
While trading players for prospects isn’t a sure bet, teams have proven that rebuilding doesn’t have to be an agonizing process – particularly teams with some financial backing. The Red Sox went from awful last season to divisional leaders this year after giving up several of their core players to the Dodgers. If the Yankees wanted to do something similar, they could trade Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, and even Robinson Cano. Some of those guys would net huge returns, especially in this tight market.
Of course, there are complications that cannot be ignored. Kuroda has shown a willingness to block trades. Granderson and Hughes both may be useful pieces next year, while Gardner and Cano are arguably the team’s most important players right now. The hurdles involved with moving these guys is not really the point though. I think the primary point here is whether it makes more sense to take advantage of the seller’s market while the team can capitalize on the return the most. Of course, maybe this is an irrelevant point anyway considering the trade deadline is less than a week away.
A while back, I wrote a post cynically entitled “MLB players should consider cheating.” The basic premise of the article was simple: the financial incentive for many players to cheat often outweighs the incentive not to (i.e. repercussions such as suspensions or tainted reputations). I used Melky Cabrera as my primary example. He basically went from being a fringy fourth outfielder on the verge of losing an MLB job to a guy who enjoyed a two-year, $16M contract after being suspended for substance abuse and despite obvious performance concerns. Moral relativism aside, I argued Melky is better off now financially than he may have ever been before had he not cheated — a point that I still stand behind.
Given all the hoopla surrounding the Biogenesis scandal, I thought this might be a convenient opportunity to revisit the subject. Has the league taken the appropriate actions for deterring banned substances? For starters, some prominent athletes like Ryan Braun are facing lengthy suspensions (65 games in Braun’s case, which is resulting in $3.25M in lost wages for the rest of the 2013 season). Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz will likely follow with similar penalties of their own along with several other notable players, though it does appear that the players will have some flexibility in the plea bargain in terms of timing, which certainly helps their wallets.
Then, of course, there’s Alex Rodriguez, who will probably face a massive suspension given the abundance of evidence apparently piled against him. Mike touched on this earlier — specifically discussing whether there’s an ideal time for A-Rod to accept his suspension. As an aside, this would also represent the first time the MLBPA has shown limited interest in defending one of its players on this particular matter, and players seem as vocal as ever about having the game cleaned up. Are a few high-profile suspensions enough to stop the majority of players from entertaining the idea of banned substances moving forward though?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I mean, we’re still talking about suspensions as the primary consequence at the end of the day. The “three-strike” rule (50 games for the first offense, 100 for the next, and a lifetime ban for the third) seems to generally still be the preferred avenue of Major League Baseball as a response. The problem with this mode of punishment though, at least as I see it, is that it doesn’t quite solve the issue. Players such as Melky can still take banned substances long enough to possibly earn a big payday without fear of much more than a 50-game suspension if it’s the first offense. Meanwhile, their respective teams are left out to dry once the penalty is issued. Unless the league makes these suspensions radically more severe (such as an immediate lifetime ban regardless of the substance or the circumstance), I just don’t see it this form of cheating ending as neatly as Selig might hope.
What if the repercussions worked a little differently though? For example, imagine if the team had the right to void a player’s contract altogether if they were caught taking PEDs? In the case of the Yankees and A-Rod, this would allow them to redirect a lot of dollars to other parts of the team that would otherwise be allocated to one player. I would have to think that a voided contract would certainly make players think twice about PEDs, though this might also be too extreme for the MLBPA’s liking.
Or, perhaps you could go another direction. Maybe a player who faces a suspension is automatically forced to accept a league minimum paycheck afterward for a couple seasons. If that player is part of some mega-contract already (like A-Rod) and the team chooses not to void the deal, the player would have to accept a few seasons at a discount. This allows the team to keep a player if they choose too, but also have a bit of a security blanket in case he doesn’t perform quite the same afterward. More importantly, the player won’t have the option of cashing in immediately upon return. Basically, he’ll have to prove himself all over again for a season or two prior to getting a big pay day. On the other hand, a player’s career won’t necessarily be over after one mistake thanks to an immediate lifetime ban.
Frankly, I don’t know if either of those options are feasible or even if they’re appropriate suggestions. I think the point here is that a different approach could potentially prove more effective if the league’s expectation is to have a clean game. I don’t think there’s a professional player on the planet who isn’t very conscious about his salary, and if the economic incentives of the game blatantly favor honest play, maybe the vast majority of players might consider it. At least, that’s the theory.
We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s while I covered the D’s. Let’s wrap this up with the F’s and incompletes.
Every championship-caliber team has a group of individuals who go above and beyond, who perform incredible feats in incredible moments. These are the players who carry the team on their shoulders through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the players listed in this post are not those guys!
No, instead we’re going to discuss the “F” team. These are the retreads. These are the players that we, as fans, wish we did not have to watch on a daily basis. These guys are the ones who make us cringe, curse, and grind our teeth for three hours or so a night on a daily basis.
It’s sad, really. The Yankees shortstops have collectively posted a .241 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (-1.2 fWAR). Relative to the rest of the league, this production (or lack there of) is ranked second worst in all of baseball.
While power is certainly a bit of a rarity from the shortstop position, it is both saddening and mildly surprising (at least to me) that this group, together, has only managed two (!) homeruns thus far. Hell, even the Marlins have three (though to be fair, the Cardinals and the White Sox both have one, and the Rangers none). I think, more than anything, what this tell us is a) how fortunate the Yankees are to have had Derek Jeter all these years, and b) how even a super-star in decline (like Derek Jeter or A-Rod perhaps) can still be a really preferable option to the alternative much of the time.
If the Yankees expect to reach the playoffs, they’ll need more from these guys, plain and simple. We’re not talking Troy Tulowitzki production (though that would be okay too), they just can’t be well-below replacement level. Right now, the shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup and it’s noticeable.
* I was a little torn about whether Nunez belonged in the “Grade F” group or with the “Incompletes.” At the end of the day I chose to throw him in with this lot which is probably a bit unfair. Nunez had a really great opportunity to prove his valuable to the team early on when it became obvious that Jeter would not be available for much of the year, and simply has not capitalized on his opportunity. Anyway you look at it, Nunez’ season has to be deemed a disappointment thus far. Of course, if you feel it’s unfair to give him a letter grade given his limited playing time, that’s fine too.
The Third Basemen
Next stop on the depressing infield tour is third base. It’s ugly. Really ugly. The good news is that the Yankees third basemen ranked higher relative to the league than their shortstop counterparts. The bad news is it’s not by much. They rank fourth worst in all of baseball with only the Twins, Blue Jays, and Brewers trailing. The group has managed to hit six home runs collectively (over 625 plate appearances) and has batted to a .219/.279/.295 (.256 wOBA, 56 wRC+) line. They haven’t taken many walks (6.2 BB%) though they have struck out at fair pace (25.8 K%), and as already mentioned, power has been a scarcity.
The culprits hear are pretty obvious. Kevin Youkilis was the super non-durable (and super desperate) backup plan to Alex Rodriguez. Even prior to his back injury, which ultimately sidelined him for the year, he looked pretty shot. He was getting an awful lot of weak ground outs down the third base line. His patented patience never really surfaced and he basically looked uncomfortable at the plate from moment one. I suppose if you’re generous you can give him a pass if you want to call his season “incomplete” too. I’m not that generous though. He’s getting an “F” in my book.
From there you can talk about Nix, who really has been used way more than he probably should be in an ideal scenario. Frankly, he was getting exposed out there. He’s an adequate fill in on occasion, but he’s not a starter. If the Yankees keep throwing him out their day in and day out, they should expect below replacement level production. As for Adams, I wrote a while back that we should temper our expectations. Well, our expectations certainly have been tempered. After an impressive hot streak following his big league arrival, he’s basically looked lost at the plate for months. There was a pretty clear reason why was he was optioned to AAA.
I hate seeing the young guys come up and struggle even though they do it most of the time. I mean, it has to be tough making the transition. After a lifetime of hard work, a prolonged stay in the Majors simply doesn’t pan out for many. For others, it’s a precious window that closes quickly. Very few stick around for an extended period of time, and even fewer make a big impact. That’s not to say Romine won’t enjoy a successful MLB career, but he’s had a pretty rough start.
At this point, Romine has batted .160/.182./.213 (.176 wOBA, 0 wRC+) and has been worth -0.4 fWAR. He’s taken basically no walks (1.3 BB%) and has struck out 22.8% of the time. This includes zero home runs. Of course, he’s only had 79 plate appearances. Joe Girardi‘s been unable to play Romine because he’s been awful in limited opportunities. It seems like this has probably been fairly detrimental to Austin’s confidence (and the team’s confidence in him). Romine, on the other hand, really hasn’t been able to bounce back because he rides the bench almost full-time. On the plus side, when he is in the game, he puts forth solid defense for the most part.
When I think about Romine’s predicament, I ultimately arrive at one point: the Yankees were not adequately prepared at catcher, and Romine was probably not ready to be a big leaguer when he was brought up. He missed substantial time during his minor league development due to back injuries in 2011 and 2012, and really never had the chance to progress at a typical pace. He was thrown onto the big league roster when Francisco Cervelli went down, and backup catcher Chris Stewart became the primary backstop. Maybe we should be apologists for Romine. Maybe we shouldn’t be. Either way, he’s been pretty abysmal through the first half.
It appears as though the Joba Chamberlain saga is finally coming to a rather inglorious end. The once heralded prospect turned elite setup reliever, turned failed starter, turned back into not-quite-so-elite reliever will likely be gone by the trade deadline, or if not, most certainly by the off-season. Although Joba spent some time this season on the disabled list with a strained oblique, there were no massive setbacks to deal with like Tommy John surgery or an ankle dislocation.
As for Joba’s pitching stats, they speak for themselves (negatively). Through 22.1 innings pitched, he’s produced a 5.24 ERA (5.03 FIP). Joba’s strikeout rates are definitely respectable, as they generally are (8.87 K/9), but he’s given up way more walks (4.3 BB/9) than normal. He’s also seemed way more prone to the long ball (1.61 HR/9) than he has in the past. While I’m sure Joba wasn’t delighted about losing his eighth inning gig to David Robertson a couple seasons ago, I’m sure he’s been pretty disheartened this year about losing the seventh inning job as well. In fact, he’s no longer really being used in any high leverage situations, mostly just mop up duty at this point. Instead of responding to the challenge positively, Chamberlain has taken a step backward. As David Cone noted on Sunday afternoon’s brutal loss to the Twins, he looks like isn’t throwing with any conviction.
I do believe Joba is a better pitcher than what we’ve seen this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned things around in the second half whether with NY or somewhere else altogether. Not to bludgeon a dead horse much further, I also believe the Yankees have mishandled Joba for a few years now, which in turn has hindered him to some degree. Ultimately though, Chamberlain needs to be accountable for his production, which has been pretty lousy. Basically, this seems like a sad ending to what otherwise could have been a promising career in pinstripes. In any event, I think the relationship between Joba and the organization has soured, which is a shame. Such is life.
Mike and I were originally thinking of dedicating a separate article to the walking wounded. This includes Derek Jeter (ankle, quad), Mark Teixeira (wrist), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), A-Rod (hip), and Cervelli (hand, elbow). What is there really to say though? Injuries have decimated this team.
Would the Yankees be six games back out of first place if these guys weren’t all injured? Maybe. I have to believe though they’d be much more formidable. I suppose it’s appropriate to throw Zoilo Almonte into the mix as well. While he’s been a breath of fresh air offensively with all the quality at bats, he hasn’t been around all that long. After a torrid start, he’s since cooled somewhat, and who knows what he’ll happen from here (though if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll turn back into the AAAA guy I expected).
The team could have absorbed extended injuries to one or two of these guys perhaps. Having them all out basically all season has been a nightmare though. Who knows how long Jeter will be sidelined with this most recent setback, or whether A-Rod will face a big suspension. Granderson’s basically a non entity at this point. All we do know is that the guys who have been brought on board to supplement the production of these big names aren’t getting it done. While we can’t grade these players on game performance, I think we can say it’s been a very disappointing season for them (and the team) in terms of injuries.
We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s. Notice he left me with the scrubs – the D’s!* Well, at least the D’s aren’t the F’s. Am I right?
I know some of you might protest our decision to give Phelps a “D” grade. Whether you’re lobbying to give him a “C” doesn’t make much of a difference though — it doesn’t change reality. He’s not been great overall despite some solid starts. It’s also funny, in a peculiar kind of way, how quickly the shine wears off of a guy.
Anyway, Phelps has pitched to a 5.01 ERA (3.85 FIP) and has been worth 1.1 fWAR thus far. He’s struck guys out at a decent rate (8.17 K/9) and hasn’t given up too many long balls (0.87 HR/9). Phelps has allowed a few too many free passes though (3.48 BB/9) and gives up more hits throughout his starts than one would ideally prefer.
Consistency has been the issue here. Despite several quality starts, Phelps has seen his numbers balloon thanks to some really awful games (particularly of late). He allowed four earned runs in 6.1 innings against Minnesota, nine runs against Baltimore (in 2.1 innings!), and four runs to the Mets in a third of an inning. On one hand you can look at Phelps a bit less critically when you consider that he is and always was expected to be a back of the rotation type of arm. One other hand, results are results. Sorry, David.
Getting tired of reading about Phil Hughes yet? Well, we all know the story here – frustrating inconsistency topped off by too many home runs surrendered (1.58 HR/9, here’s the list of pitchers with the most HR surrendered — good to know the Yankees have two guys cracking the top 15). Through 102.1 innings, Hughes has pitched to a 4.57 ERA (4.48 FIP), and has been valued at 0.9 fWAR. In terms of peripherals, he’s striking out 7.74 batters per nine and has limited the walks (2.29 BB/9).
Despite very legitimate concerns over next year’s rotation, it seems pretty clear the Yankees are willing to part ways with the once-heralded Hughes. If they don’t trade him for a bat by the deadline, they’ll give him the qualifying offer after the season, which he probably won’t accept. The funny thing is, as maddening as Hughes has been, he’s still capable of throwing the occasional gem and should he string together some solid starts through the remainder of the season, you know some team will decide he’s worth committing a lot of dollars and several years too. It’s a shame it hasn’t really worked out in New York but that’s how it goes sometimes.
This is a tough break for Chris. He’s basically producing at a reasonable level, I argue … for a backup catcher. The problem is he isn’t a backup catcher. After the Yankees elected to forego Russell Martin for Francisco Cervelli, the most obvious predicament in the world occurred. Cervelli was injured and the team had to figure out where to go from there. That’s when Chris Stewart stepped in as the every day guy.
So what happens to a guy like Chris Stewart when he’s forced to play day in and day out? Well over 197 plate appearances he’ll hit .241/.316/.306 (.282 wOBA, 77 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). He’ll take a decent number of walks (9.1 BB%) and will put the ball in play frequently (14.2 K%). He’ll also hit for no power whatsoever (three home runs, 0.65 ISO). Defensively, I think he’s generally regarded favorably. Again, I would argue that none of these stats are necessarily bad, they’re just not good.
To put it in perspective, the Yankees catchers collectively rank twentieth in all of baseball in terms of fWAR (1.1), twenty-fourth in wRC+ (68), and twenty-fifth in wOBA (.275). Obviously, not all of this production is Stewart’s doing, though he’s logged far and away the most innings behind the plate. Basically, the production the Yankees have received from their catchers ranks in the bottom third of all of baseball in just about every meaningful category.
Remember when Wells hit .300 with six home runs through April? Remember when folks were wondering whether Cashman was actually a genius for taking on one of the worst contracts in all of baseball? Yep, that didn’t last long. In completely predictable fashion, Wells turned back into the pumpkin he’s been for years — that is to say a grossly overpriced fourth outfielder.
Overall, Big Vern has batted .238/.276/.371 (.282 wOBA, 73 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR). On the plus side, he’s been generally pretty good in the outfield defensively despite a few questionable plays of late. On the down side, he’s managed to hit only four home runs since April. He’s also hit in the heart of order basically all season, even during his putrid May slump.
Given the amount of exposure he’s seen thus far, it’s not surprising he’s shown noticeable splits either (batting .207 against righties). Back in late May, I wrote about Vernon and what we could expect moving forward. Long story short, the conclusion was that he most certainly wasn’t the player we saw in April, and hopefully also not the guy we saw in May. I think this still holds true. Unfortunately, what we can expect is a “D grade” player who was brought to the team out of necessity. Hopefully, he’ll be used more sparingly going forward when and if Curtis returns.
First, let me start by saying that I for one am shocked that Hafner has made it to this point. I was expecting Pronk to pull a Kevin Youkilis and suffer some season-ending injury after the first month or so. Surprisingly, he has generally kept himself in the lineup despite some nagging injuries here and there (most recently a foot contusion that happened during batting practice). Unfortunately (and much like Wells), Hafner has been lousy since May and he too, has shown noticeable splits as to be expected.
Overall, Pronk’s batting .218/.314/.407 (.317 wOBA, 97 wRC+) and has been worth exactly 0.0 fWAR through 277 plate appearances. He has knocked 12 balls out of the park though, which is second on the team to only Robinson Cano (though Lyle Overbay and Wells are right behind him with 11). Hafner continues to take his fair share of walks (11.2 BB%) while striking out at a fair pace (26.0 K%).
Pronk was brought on board for one thing: his job is to mash. The thinking was simple. As long as he’s healthy (or at least relatively healthy), he’ll hit the ball. This hasn’t really been the case though. He’s struggled a lot. He’ll need to turn it around for the rest of the season as the Yankees need some much needed depth in the batting the order.
*Mike did not stick me with the D’s. It just worked out that way because of timing. Actually, I claimed the F’s too.
Behold! The fourth and final installment of the 2013 Potential Trade Targets series has arrived. We’ve had a lot of names to parse through so far, but we’ve done it. Feel free to go back and check out Part I, Part II, and Part III at your convenience if you’ve missed any of them (or you’re simply in need of a second glance). Alright, let’s dive in.
Colvin is kind of interesting. He came up through the Cubs system and got his first taste of the big leagues in 2009. In 2010, he had his first real opportunity to showcase his abilities, and produced a 1.8 fWAR in limited exposure (395 plate appearances). After a disappointing 2011 campaign, the former 2006 first round pick was shipped out west to Colorado where he’s remained since (he was part of the trade that sent Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers to Chicago).
Last season he hit 18 home runs while batting .290/.327/.531 (.365 wOBA, 117 wRC+) in 452 plate appearances (2.3 fWAR). Unfortunately for Colvin, 2013 has been tough. The Rockies elected to keep him in AAA to begin the season after he struggled in Spring Training, preferring the services of Eric Young Jr. as the fourth outfielder and Reid Brignac as the extra roster spot. Colvin’s struggled since being recalled (.160/.192/.280, .202 wOBA, 7 wRC+), and it’s not really a lefty/righty thing either. He’s been bad against everyone; granted, it’s been 78 plate appearances so those numbers could still change pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there’s also been some discussion that Colvin struggles with breaking balls and off-speed pitches. While the home runs are appealing, there’s a good chance he may never become more than a depth guy too though I think the verdict is still out on that one given his inconsistent opportunities.
What you’re getting with a guy like Colvin is a player who doesn’t show a ton of plate discipline (he’s swung at 37.9% of pitches outside of the strike zone in his career) which subsequently limits his walks (career 6.0 BB%). He strikes out a fair amount (26.6 K%) but has some power (.214 ISO). To his credit, he can play first base as well as the outfield, which certainly is convenient for the Yankees roster this season. He’s also pretty cheap. The Rockies and Colvin settled on a $2.275M salary heading into this season, but he still has three more years of arbitration-eligibility before he’s slated for free agency.
It seems a bit unclear how the Rockies value Colvin given their preference to not guarantee him regular playing time, and who knows whether they have any interest in moving him anyway. Maybe a mid-level prospect gets it done if they don’t feel he’s an important cog to their future success. After all, it’s not like the package the Rockies gave up to get Colvin initially (along with D.J. LeMahieu, who was the other piece of the deal) was particularly overwhelming. Then again, you also have to consider the fact that the Rockies are a team still on the fringes of contention, so they may not be sellers anyway. In any event, while Colvin has some attributes that are appealing (namely the potential for home runs), he’s not without risk.
Can we just have Mike Trout instead and call it a day? No … okay, let’s talk about Pete then. Since reaching the show in 2010, the results have been pretty mixed. The 2011 season was, by far, his best season (he was valued at 4.1 fWAR and batted .271/.327/.438 with a .335 wOBA and 113 wRC+). The next year was pretty disappointing for Bourjos though, as he saw his playing time dwindle after the emergence of Mike Trout (along with Mark Trumbo’s first half success). So far, in 2013, he’s done well over 147 plate appearances (.333/.392/.457, .373 wOBA, 140 wRC+). He rarely walks (5.5 BB%) though and strikes out regularly (21.7 K%). He also hits for basically no power whatsoever.
Positionally, he’s a center fielder by trade, which really doesn’t do the Yankees a whole lot of good as they have a superior version of Bourjos already in Gardner. On the plus side, Bourjos is basically earning league minimum and remains under team control for a few more seasons. I have nothing against Bourjos personally, but I just don’t think his skill set is a realistic fit for the Yankees at this juncture. Pass.
Now here’s an Angel (albeit a former one), that I could potentially get behind. Morales, a first baseman/DH, makes sense for the Yankees in a lot of ways. He’s historically been an above-average batter (career .281/.333/.486, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC+), plus he’s a switch hitter — which is a skill the Yankees sorely need at this point. He’s also spent a lot of time in the American League and has been a certified Yankee-Killer over the years, so there’s that. On the down side, he’s the guy who fractured his ankle celebrating after a walk off grand slam off Brandon League in 2010 which kept him sidelined through all of 2011.
Morales has shown noticeable splits at times, though they aren’t really severe at this juncture. In 2012, he struggled against lefties as a righty, batting .229 against them, which interestingly was still considered better than average (110 wRC+ from that side). This year he’s hit lefties surprisingly well though (149 wRC+), but has been only slightly above average against righties (.257/.312/.479, .329 wOBA, 113 wRC+) which is surprising given that he usually excels from that side of the plate.
Kendrys does have some decent power (.181 ISO this season), and we all know this team could certainly use some of that. He won’t take many walks (6.9 BB%) but won’t strike out that often either (17.4 K%). The best part of this scenario though is that he’s owed only $5.25M this season (which would leave the Yankees on the hook for about $2.5M for the remainder of the year) and is a free agent come season’s end. The Mariners stink and should theoretically be sellers. I’m guessing a decent prospect and some salary gets it done. Yeah, I’d probably be on board with this.
Apparently there’s a decent number of Yankee fans out there who are itching to bring Raaaauuuul back in his age 41 season. Those epic home runs towards the end of last season (and in the postseason) still resonate, I suppose. If we’re being honest though, over the past couple seasons, Raul’s been a very mediocre player offensively, if not sub par (91 wRC+ in 2011 and 102 wRC+ in 2012). Historically speaking, he’ll take a few walks (career 8.4 BB%) while not striking out a ton either (16.1 K%). Of course, his interpretation of base-running and defense leaves much to be desired.
This season, his bat has been fairly solid despite playing in the pitcher friend confines of Safeco Park. He’s hit for a lot of power (.295 ISO!), generating 22 home runs in the process (14 of which have happened in Seattle mind you, after hitting 19 total over the course of a full season last year). Unfortunately, outside of the home runs, he hasn’t done a whole lot else (.301 OBP). He’s also taking a few less walks this season, and his strike out rate has jumped up several percentage points (24.4 K%). Interestingly, Raul’s done a good job handling both lefty and righty pitchers this year. Given the Yankees current offensive woes, that 135 wRC+ sure is enticing for a half-year rental — even if he is really exclusively a DH at this point.
In terms of cost, the Mariners signed Ibanez for a single season at a modest $2.75M. In terms of dollars he certainly wouldn’t break the Yankees bank as a midseason acquisition. Assuming the trade price for Ibanez isn’t too high, I could see the team making a move such as this as a security blanket down the stretch, though I’d be surprised if Ibanez ultimately resurfaces in New York — it’s not like the team didn’t have plenty of opportunity in the offseason this last go around to bring him back. I’m also sort of leery of having Wells, Ichiro, and Ibanez in the same lineup day in and day out for a number of reasons.
If I were ruining running the Yankees, I absolutely would not surrender anything beyond a B-level prospect, and I’d probably plan on not re-signing him after the season regardless of how he performed through the second half. Even if he does well for the rest of the season, my money is on him returning to 2011-2012 form moving forward. As it stands now, he’s only been worth 0.8 fWAR this season so far. Raul had some big moments in NY for which I’m thankful, but I think that relationship has probably run its course.
The Marlins are awful. You can bank on them listening to a trade for pretty much any player not named Giancarlo Stanton (who knows, maybe they’re secretly listening to offers on him too — eventually he’ll be shipped out!). Morrison has looked pretty good this season in limited playing time. Over 89 plate appearances, he’s batted .304/.382/.557 (.399 wOBA, 157 wRC+). He’s struggled against lefties this season (granted, in a very limited sample), but if last year was any indication, that could be an ongoing issue. Traditionally, LoMo will show some discipline behind the plate (10.9 career BB%), and doesn’t strike out too frequently (17.7 K%). He’ll also hit for some power.
On the plus side, Morrison can handle both first base and the left Field. He’s also only 25 years old. Contractually, he’s making basically nothing (at least relative to most baseball players) and is currently in his final pre-arbitration year. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in each of the next three seasons, meaning he’ll be relatively affordable. On the downside, he’s been fairly injury prone during his brief Major League career (most recently coming off knee surgery).
Assuming Logan can stay on the field, he’d definitely represent an upgrade for the Yankees at either position. I’d probably sign up for this one too, though who knows what the Marlins asking price is. Given his team friendly salary, I’d have to assume he’d cost a decent prospect, especially since he’s been swinging a hot bat since his return. He’s another guy not without some obvious risk though. He’s had only one big league season where he’s amassed more than 500 plate appearances. Durability is a major concern.
1. Last night, when the Royals took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh off a Billy Butler no-doubter, I sarcastically tweeted that the game was over. Well, as it turns out, my cynical sentiments weren’t far from the truth. The Yankees are averaging a measly 3.89 runs per game and have now managed to score only one (!) run in each of the last three matches. This has resulted in a negative-six run differential, and according to their Pythagorean record, the team should officially be two games under .500 at this point. Collectively, the team has garnered a 83 wRC+ which is third worst in the majors. It’s painful to watch. It’s also really unfair to the pitching. You could march a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, and Matt Harvey out there every night and it wouldn’t be enough to win if the team only scores a single run. Ugly, really ugly.
2. Call it selective memory, but I feel like Mike has claimed that each series is very important for the Yankees over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, I kind of agree. It’s beginning to feel as though each game is a “must win.” The team sits six games out of first place in the AL East, which is by no means insurmountable at this point in the season. It’s not that these games are weighted differently from other season games. It’s just that the team needs to capitalize on its opportunities – particularly against some of the weaker opponents, like the Royals, if they hope to make the playoffs despite a failing offense. Yesterday, James Shields looked as shaky as I’ve ever seen him early on. The team simply needs to do better if they hope to remain in contention. On the plus side, the Yankees are only a game or so back from the Rays and Orioles in the standings, so a Wild Card berth is still very plausible even if a division title is looking less likely. Also, the Yankees have a bunch of games against Texas, Tampa Bay, Boston and Baltimore remaining which helps (or hurts) their cause depending on how you look at it.
3. Doug Mittler wrote a quick blurb about Brian McCann on ESPN yesterday (Insider required). It noted how McCann will likely be one of the top free agents available in the offseason and could demand a contract comparable to Yadier Molina – that is to say, a five year, $75M agreement. I don’t know if the Yankees have the goods to acquire McCann from the Braves before the trade deadline, nor do I know if the Braves have any interest in trading him, let alone to the Yankees. I also don’t know if the Yankees would be interested in him in the offseason given some of his prior injuries (including his most recent shoulder surgery) and their pending austerity budget concerns. I’ll tell you what though, right about now he’d look awfully good in pinstripes. Then again, so would Russell Martin (but that’s another point for another day).
4. So it looks like Robinson Cano has finally locked in his roster for the Home Run Derby. To be honest, I generally don’t spend much time watching the All-Star break activities. I’ll generally watch the first couple innings of the game itself (along with the last inning if I can to see Mariano Rivera pitch), and occasionally I’ll watch the first round of the Derby. Still, I have to hand it to Cano for picking a really solid group. Fielder, Davis, and Cespedes can all hit the long ball with the best of them. It’ll also be nice not having the Kansas locals bitch and moan about Billy Butler getting snubbed this year. I have to assume Robbie will have his father pitch to him again. Hopefully he can knock a couple into the stands this go around. On the other hand, I don’t quite get David Wright’s decision to invite Michael Cuddyer even though they’re apparently good friends. I’m guessing Carlos Gonzalez and Bryce Harper will be shouldering most of the load for the National League squad. It should also be interesting to see how many home runs get swallowed up by the vast dimensions of CitiField.
A few days ago, I asked my Twitter followers if they had any requests for my next post topic. I considered a few of the responses but ultimately chose this one: “Make the case that the Yankees should trade Phil Hughes right now.” Well, I’m not sure I personally agree with this proposal, but for the sake of discussion, I’ll give it a shot.
Hughes is out of here at the end of the season anyway! At this point, it seems inevitable that the Yankees will allow Phil Hughes to walk once the 2013 campaign ends. I discussed some potential contract outcomes for Hughes back in mid-May; he figures to have a decent payday coming his way even if he is mostly mediocre for the remainder of this season. You know some team will give him an Edwin Jackson-esque contract. If he finishes the season strong, who knows, maybe he gets even more. Despite the obvious question marks surrounding next year’s rotation, it seems like the presumed austerity budget will prevent the Yankees from re-signing him once he hits free agency. Although Buster Olney thinks a qualifying offer could happen, I wonder whether it actually will happen considering that the price tag would be pretty high if he actually accepted, which could strain the budget.
He’s a perennial underachiever! He was supposed to be a future Yankees ace. Instead he’s a middle-to-back of the rotation type of arm with the potential for the occasional hot streak. He owns a career 4.41 ERA (4.27 FIP) and has never been valued at more than a 2.5 fWAR. Is that useful? Sure. Is it that hard to replace? Questionable, especially if he’s being paid Edwin Jackson money. He also has shown the propensity for giving up the long ball. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher in a hitter’s ball park. His skillset just doesn’t make sense for New York and their stadium. Let the kid find a niche elsewhere. He’s 27 years old. Maybe he’ll figure things out in another season or two. Maybe he won’t. To make matters worse, he’s also had some obvious durability concerns over the years.
Perhaps a decent player in return is plausible! To follow up on the first argument, the team could potentially use Hughes to acquire a player who could help the team now and down the road since he probably won’t be back after the season. Some team will be looking for more starting pitching down the stretch and heading into the playoffs (whether that’s due to their own rotation’s ineffectiveness or injury), and if Hughes continues to put up quality starts he may draw some interest. While I’m not sure that Hughes could bring back a useful player by himself, maybe if he were packaged with one of the team’s better prospects, a quality trade could be possible. If the idea is to shed team salary, then trying to find a young MLB ready position player with a few years of team control would make a lot of sense – especially if the team has soured a bit on some of their own prospects. For what it’s worth, the team has already begun testing the market with him and Joba.
The rotation will be fine without him! With the exception of the last few starts, Hughes hasn’t been one of the team’s more consistent contributors this year. He could become one down the stretch, but who knows how that’ll play out or if it’ll ultimately even matter. The team could potentially piece together some decent starts in Hughes’ absence with Ivan Nova – not to mention Michael Pineda, who will be available soon as well. Frankly, given the offensive woes, it may not make one bit of a difference who pitches anyway unless they’re prepared to throw a shut out every start.
Would you look to trade Phil Hughes right now?
Would you look to trade Phil Hughes right now?