Revisiting the 2005-2006 Offseason (Part II)

Farnsworth. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Farnsworth. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Time to continue the series. If you’re looking for more, don’t worry. There will be at least one or two more entries.

Nov. 17, 2005 – Yankees interest in Brian Giles intensifies

From the New York Times:

If a free agent gets a phone call from Joe Torre, he knows the Yankees are serious. Torre, the Yankees’ manager, has made successful recruiting pitches to Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano in recent years, and now he is calling Brian Giles.

Well, that nugget should be good enough to tell you just how interested the Yanks were in Brian Giles. Besides his age (35), Giles was a very attractive option for the Yankees because of his bat and his eye. Also, he was a lefty hitter, which is always a plus for playing in Bronx.

If you need a refresher on how good of an offensive asset Giles was, from 1999 to 2005, he hit .303/.418/.554 with 207 HR’s, good for a 150 wRC+.  Also, he didn’t strike out much either, walking 747 times while only being punched out 492 times in that span. That’s just beast-like. Sure, he was not as flashy as guys like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez or A-Rod, but his 150 wRC+ in that time span was the ninth-highest in all of ML, surpassing guys like Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Lance Berkman, Jim Edmonds, etc. That’s an elite bat right there.

One interesting tidbit in that New York Times article is that Torre would have considered shifting Hideki Matsui to center had the Yankees signed Giles. Now that’s a scenario. Matsui did play center primarily for the Yomiuri Giants but he was rather unimpressive with glove in ML. An outfield of Giles-Matsui-Sheffield would have drove a lot of runs in but, well, also cost at least some for the Yankee defense.

Nov. 21, 2005 – Yankees make a reliever move: Jose Veras?

Yankees made a somewhat headline-worthy reliever acquisition! It was … Jose Veras.

I actually remember reading this news back then and was like who? Very certain I wasn’t the only one either. Veras was a then-25-year old reliever who had never pitched in the bigs and had a 3.79 ERA in 61.2 IP with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2005. After debuting in the Devil Rays system as a 17-year old in 1998, he posted some very mediocre stats as a starter. After signing as a free agent with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2005 season, the organization used him exclusively as a reliever and, well, he did decently.

The article didn’t specify if it was a ML or MiLB deal but this quote from Veras makes me feel that it was the former:

“I feel proud that the Yankees have signed me to help set the table for Mariano Rivera,” Veras told The AP. “That’s something very important to me.”

I assume the Yankees must saw something that basic stats had yet to tell. Veras ended up having a decent ML relief career  – marking a 3.91 career ERA and 27 saves in nine seasons with eight different teams.

Nov. 22, 2005 – The Red Sox trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. The Marlins had talked to the Yankees prior to the deal. 

So yea, big deal for the division rival. Boston pulled off the deal that brought them Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota for four prospects, a package that included Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.

Josh Beckett was a young starting pitcher with an upside as big as anyone’s. The only major deterrent to his game was that he was quite injury prone. He was placed in the disabled list nine times in the previous four seasons. Most of them had to do with hand injuries but yea, that was an alarming number. Mike Lowell, who had been an All-Star caliber third baseman for the Marlins for years, saw his production dip down in the 2005 season, hitting for a measly .658 OPS. That and his salary made Lowell a very easy candidate for trade.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Prior to coming to an agreement with BoSox, the Marlins front had reached out to the Yankees and asked for a package including Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano. Needless to say, Yankees did not want to give them up. The article says, at one point, Marlins asked for a package of Chien-Ming Wang, Eric Duncan and a third prospect. Ten years later, that sounds like a pretty intriguing proposal. Josh Beckett ended up being a Cy Young caliber pitcher (at times) for the Red Sox and Mike Lowell regained his All-Star form with Boston, hitting for a .829 OPS from 2006-09. Sure, losing Chien-Ming Wang would have hurt but Red Sox did receive two ML’ers that panned out well for them for several seasons.

But here’s another caveat though – Yankees did not want to take on Lowell’s salary.

The Yankees also did not want to absorb the $18 million owed Lowell over the next two years, the same official said. ‘‘They (the Marlins) called everybody, but you had to take Lowell and give up substantial prospects, too,’’ the official said. ‘‘The Yankees can’t take on $18 million and a player that doesn’t fit (Lowell) when they’re trying to cut some payroll and still have needs in center field and the bullpen. ‘‘They (the Yankees) would’ve loved to be in this, but under those criteria, it doesn’t make much sense.’’

So that’s that.

Nov. 29, 2005 – Yankees closing in on Kyle Farnsworth

Back in 2005, there wasn’t that many pitchers in ML who could throw as hard as Kyle Farnsworth.

According to a Mark Feinsand article at MLB.com, the Yankees were set to sign the right-hander for a three-year deal worth around $15-17 million. Farnsworth had a breakout 2005 season. With the Tigers and Braves, he recorded a shiny 2.19 ERA in 72 games with 87 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched. He also only allowed one home run all season and walked 3.5 batters per 9 IP – an improvement over 4.4 from 2002~04. He seemed like a guy who finally learned how to use his explosive stuff and settle in as one of the finest relievers in baseball.

I actually remember being quite excited hearing the news. As I still am now, I was a sucker for pitchers with big velocity. Farnsworth also had another asset to his game – taking down people in brawls.

Paul Wilson, by the way, is listed as 6’5”, 235 lbs and Farnsworth took him down rather easily. He’s one strong guy. Some guys are gifted with a 100 mph arm but Farnsworth, man, this guy is pure strength.

Nov. 29, 2005 – Scott Boras’s ultra-high pitch on Johnny Damon

So this isn’t really a move but because all of you probably now how this ended up, I thought I’d just show some quotes from this Boston Herald article.

“He’s the ironman of baseball,” Boras said yesterday from Dallas. “What Cal Ripken used to represent, Johnny Damon does today.”

“Johnny Damon is the most durable major league player in the game today,” Boras said. “If he had been on the disabled list three or four times, then OK, what kind of contract are we talking about — two, three years? Yet this guy plays all the time and hard all the time. You have to be unique to talk about a seven-year deal.”

Ho-hum, okay. Since his first full-time ML season (1996) to 2005, Damon did play more than 145 regular season games each year. Longevity definitely seemed to be his asset but then again, he did not have any season in which he played a full 162 set of games. I don’t know about Cal Ripken comparison or the ‘Ironman’ tag, but, you know, message received.

Johnny Damon is a model physical athlete with a body type that no one else has.

You know, I’m not a swimsuit salesman or anything so I can’t really say I’m the best judge for human physiques but if Damon did indeed have a ‘body type that no one else has’, good for Damon I guess. I wonder if any teams requested for muscle mass and body fat percentages data from Boras.

“Boras details his case for Damon in a bound, 10-section, three-ring notebook that he makes for most of his elite clients. It extols Damon in chapters entitled “Best leadoff man in baseball,” “Better than future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson,” “Elite performer at age 31” and “Franchise Icon.”

First off, that’s a big bounty of info if Boras did indeed fill out that notebook. I would love to get my hands on it and read it through. Better than Rickey Henderson? That’s way off though. In the first eleven ML seasons of his career, Damon amassed for 102 OPS+ with 281 stolen bases. Henderson? 134 OPS+ with 871 SB’s. His 110 OPS+ in the 2005 season is good but elite? Not quite. But you know, can’t blame Boras for trying. He had a job to do.

“By using Damon’s offensive averages the last four seasons, Boras projects seven years into the future and has Damon entering the 3,000 hit club in 2012 and cracking the all-time top 20 list in runs, hits and doubles. ”

And in case Damon decides to play through 2015, when he would be 41, Boras, again using his last four season averages and assuming no dropoffs, shows that Damon would finish third all-time in runs with 2,223 (ahead of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron) and fifth all-time in hits with 3,619 (ahead of Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner).”

It’s so wild to see articles from ten years ago that foreshadow into years that have passed by now. I don’t think many believed in Boras’s crystal ball back then, just a hunch. Damon did amass 2,769 career hits but nowhere near 3,619 that Boras projected.

So yes, Johnny Damon was a talented baseball player for sure. He was a two-time All Star, played vital roles in two World Series titles, hit more than 2,700 hits, etc. but I don’t see him as a Hall of Famer or anything that Boras hyped him up to be.

Damon. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Damon. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Nov. 30, 2005 – Yankees sign Kelly Stinnett

The Yankees were not going to re-sign John Flaherty as their backup catcher. Instead, they signed Kelly Stinnett to a one-year, $650,000 deal. Stinnett definitely showed better bat than Flaherty in the 2005 season (.736 OPS vs. .458 OPS). I guess it was somewhat of an upgrade that way but backup catchers don’t really have to hit. One major thing was that Stinnett had developed rapport being Randy Johnson’s catcher for the 1999-2000 seasons, both of which the lefty won the NL Cy Young Award.

Don’t think Stinnett’s tenure with the Yankees was all that memorable (released by New York in July after hitting to a .586 OPS in 87 plate appearances) but he did accidentally break Jorge Posada’s nose in the Spring Training. They were playing catch, Georgie got distracted for a moment and boom. Thank goodness it was not during the regular season.


Part three will be coming soon. It’s still kind of hard to believe it’s been ten years since all of these happened.

Revisiting the 2005-2006 Offseason (Part I)

Bradley. (Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)
Bradley. (Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)

Let’s take a time machine back to ten years ago. Why ten years? Well, I don’t need to try hard to answer that. Ten is a pretty neat round number and it was also around the time that I started to become a fanatic MLB watcher – a lot of the things that happened back then made huge impressions on me.

The Yankees were coming off a 95-win season but were stopped in the postseason by the Angels in ALDS. They had a very fine offense – Alex Rodriguez came off an MVP season with a 173 OPS+ and guys like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada also positively contributed to offense. Oh, and they had a rookie second baseman named Robinson Cano perform well enough to be voted 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year race. However, the team wasn’t without question marks. The center field position was a big question mark. Bernie Williams had the worst season of his career and Yankees clearly needed an upgrade there.

Pitching was also a concern. Two of the big 2004-05 free agent acquisitions – Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright – suffered arm injuries and majorly underachieved when healthy. Randy Johnson had a bounceback second half but his age, of course, was always a concern. Mike Mussina had a 4.41 ERA, which is just below league average (96 ERA+) and it wasn’t clear if the breakout performances by Shawn Chacon (149 ERA+ with Yankees) and Aaron Small (133 ERA+) were for real. They did have a promising rookie starter named Chien-Ming Wang but, at least at the time, he wasn’t considered a secure rotation anchor. While New York did not end up making a major SP move, their bullpen clearly needed some help. Tom Gordon was going to be a free agent and he was one of the two only reliable relievers in the staff (the other being Mariano Rivera). Besides them, no regular reliever had an ERA+ over 100 so yea, upgrade was needed.

Anyways, it would be a super long post to summarize all the newsworthy 2005-06 offseason stuff in one so I’m going to do this in parts. Enjoy!

Nov. 4, 2005 – Yankees discuss center field options

The center field position was a big focus back then. Again, Bernie Williams had posted worst offensive numbers of his career (.249/.321/.367 with 12 HR’s) and his defense was, well, not great. FanGraphs defense metrics gave him a -30.2 rating, which is plain abysmal. Yankee fans were asking themselves – who is the next great Yankee center fielder? With Bernie’s contract coming off the books, it was almost inevitable that Yankees were going to make a move or two.

George King III wrote that the Yankees discussed multiple names that they could trade for: Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley. If not a trade, they were to explore signing Johnny Damon to a multi-year contract worth $10-12 million per year. Which, may not seem like much in 2015 but a hefty amount in 2005.

Now here’s a curious one. King wrote that Yankees definitely discussed Milton Bradley.

That brings us to the Dodgers’ Bradley, a talented 27-year-old switch-hitter with power and above average defensive tools that are packed in a suitcase with a lot of emotional baggage.

The Yankees have internally discussed acquiring Bradley, but every time his name is brought up, his problems usually scare Yankee brass in a different direction.

His temper got him traded from Cleveland to L.A., where he had a major problem with teammate Jeff Kent. And he missed time this past season with a knuckle injury and had left knee surgery in August.

Still, throughout the Joe Torre era, problem players have come to The Bronx and turned into solid citizens. The Yankees were so convinced Torre could handle problems they were on the verge of signing Albert Belle in 1998.

As a player, Bradley was a fine one. From his age 25-27 seasons (2003-05), Bradley was one of the most promising potential perennial All-Star outfielders. In those three seasons, he hit for a .290/.379/.463 line, good for 123 OPS+. But that temper problem raised an issue and, boy, it turned out to be a major problem throughout his career. Bradley’s knack for violence led to multiple fracas and some definitely unforgivable, despicable and irreparable moments.

Later in the offseason, the Dodgers traded Bradley to the Athletics for a package headlined by then-prospect Andre Ethier. Bradley would bounce around among four teams for rest of his ML career, which is marred by violence and a disastrous three-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs.

Nov. 6, 2005 – Yankees interested in Brian Giles

Giles. (Mangin Photography)
Giles. (Mangin Photography)

From 1999 to 2005, Giles was one of the most consistent and solid outfielders in the majors. In that period, the El Cajon, CA native hit for a .303/.418/.554 line, good for a 151 OPS+ in a span of seven seasons. Furthermore, in 2005, he led the league with 119 walks. How could he not have been an attractive option? Brian Cashman realized that and kept in touch with Giles’s agent, Joe Bick, wrote Anthony McCarron of Daily News.

It’s not clear from the article whether the Yankees were interested in Giles as a center fielder. McCarron wrote that, if the Yankees were to re-sign Matsui and get Giles, the team could “shift Matsui to center and use Giles in left” which is just a weird thing to think about. Matsui did play center in Japan and for 77 games in his ML career. He’s definitely not remembered for his glove though.

Nov. 8, 2005 – Yankees decline Tino Martinez’s team option for the 2006 season

In the previous offseason, Yankees gave a homecoming contract to Tino Martinez as a backup 1B to Jason Giambi. Martinez had a .241/.328/.439 line that season with 17 home runs, good for a 103 wRC+ – not bad numbers for backup 1B. He also had a scorching hot May in which he hit for a 1.065 OPS with ten (!!) home runs (all in a span of 12 games nonetheless). After that month, the first baseman went on to hit for only .660 OPS in 188 PA for the rest of the season. Besides, Yankees had another backup 1B candidate in Andy Phillips.

Martinez didn’t seem too fazed about Yankees not bringing him back. “I know the team has to get younger,” he said in an interview with Mark Feinsand, “I totally agree with that.”

The 2005 season ended up becoming Martinez’s final ML ride. Andy Phillips, who hit .300 with 22 HR’s in with the then-AAA affiliate Columbus Clippers, ended up not hitting all that much in 2006 (.240/.281/.394 with 7 HR’s) so that’s that.

Nov. 9, 2005 – Team’s priorities: Matsui, CF, bullpen

In Mark Feinsand’s MLB.com article, he talked about what the Yankees had in sight for their team in the 2005-06 offseason. First and foremost: Hideki Matsui’s first Yankee contract, a 3-year $21 million deal, expired in the end of the 2005 season and he did provide a lot of offensive production in the duration. The Japanese slugger hit for a 125 OPS+ in those three seasons, mashing 70 HR’s on the way. Even more remarkably, he did not miss a single game to that date. Who says no to a power lefty batter who has proven himself to be very durable? Probably no one.

In the article, Feinsand mentioned Johnny Damon and Preston Wilson as the two prominent CF names in the FA market. He also brought up Juan Pierre as one of the possible trade targets. I do remember Yankees getting into talks with Juan Pierre and they tried to acquire him but nothing came of it. The Marlins proposed Juan Pierre + Luis Castillo for Robinson Cano + Chien-Ming Wang. Boy am I glad that New York didn’t pull the trigger on that one. MLBTR has a tidbit about Yankees possibly looking at Hunter but again, nothing came out of it. You guys all know how New York took care of this CF matter.

For the bullpen, I pointed out this before: besides Mo and Gordon, it wasn’t great. Oh yeah, also Flash was going to be a free agent and really wanted to close for whoever was going to sign him – as you know, that wasn’t going to be the Yankees.  Needless to say, New York was interested in big bullpen names at the time like B.J. Ryan, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Eyre, Julian Tavarez, etc. to bolster their ‘pen.

Nov. 15, 2005 – Yankees and Matsui agree to a new deal

Matsui wanted to stay with the Yankees but wanted to be “paid to his worth” – and he got it. Back when four-year, $52 million contracts weren’t given out to closers, it was for All-Star caliber/above-average everyday ML’ers. I can’t think of any scenario back then that Yankee fans would’ve wanted anyone but Matsui as their starting left fielder. The deal pretty much made everyone happy – the Yankee front office, Matsui and his agent and the fans.

For his 2006-2009 contract, Matsui performed as expected. He hit for 120 OPS+ with .851 OPS in 429 games – not bad at all. Unlike his first three years though, Matsui was limited by injuries, missing 219 out of 648 regular season games. But, of course, we will all remember his beast-like MVP performance in the 2009 World Series, a pinnacle and an ending to his memorable Yankee career. Yankees let him go after that season. He had one more season with 100+ OPS+ season (2010 with the Angels: 126 OPS+) and was out of the majors after the 2012 campaign.

Sturtze. (EdTseng.com)
Sturtze. (EdTseng.com)

Nov. 15, 2005 – Yankees pick up 2006 option on Tanyon Sturtze

Before Scott Proctor came out of the bullpen 83 times and pitched 102.1 IP for the 2006 Yankees, there was the 2005 Tanyon Sturtze. Aside from Mo and Gordon, Sturtze was basically the team’s best reliever and Torre didn’t really have much reliable options to get the game securely to eighth inning. I mean, look at the list of relievers the Yankees had that weren’t Rivera, Gordon or Sturtze:

  • Paul Quantrill (released after pitching to a 6.75 ERA in 22 games)
  • Mike Stanton (same fate after 7.07 ERA in 28 games)
  • Alan Embree (got him after he was released by the Red Sox mid-season. Had a 7.53 ERA in 24 games in Bronx)
  • Felix Rodriguez (had a solid career up to that season. Faded away into obscurity after pitching for a 5.01 ERA in 34 games)
  • Wayne Franklin (Believe it or not, Torre saw him as a potential go-to LOOGY, despite having a 5.47 ERA in 302.2 IP prior to that season. Predictably, he didn’t work out – had 6.39 ERA in 13 games before getting released)
  • Scott Proctor (not yet a reliable reliever. Had 6.04 ERA in 29 games)
  • Buddy Groom/Steve Karsay/Ramiro Mendoza/Jorge DePaula/Jason Anderson/etc. (Yeah, no)

Sturtze had a pretty nice season up to June 27, when his ERA sat at 3.43 in 42 IP. From the beginning of July till the end of season however, he had a 6.25 ERA in 36 IP. It was clear that he was getting gassed by Torre’s frequent usage. Sturtze’s 2006 ended prematurely with a shoulder injury that shelved him for the remainder of the year. He would pitch 3 games for the 2008 Dodgers (managed by none other than Torre!) and never pitch in the bigs again.

Nov. 18, 2005 – Bullpen options shrinking for the Yankees

By then, it became clear the few relievers Cashman and Torre eyed weren’t going to be feasible targets. In the Feinsand article, Joe Torre apparently had a conversation with LHP Scott Eyre. Eyre had a career-best 2005 season, leading the National League with 86 appearances while pitching for a 2.68 ERA and somehow getting an MVP vote. However, the 33-year old signed with the Chicago Cubs for a two-year deal with an option for third. Eyre did not replicate his solid season during the contract but he did alright – 3.81 ERA in 139.1 IP with 159 K’s.

Feinsand also noted that B.J. Ryan would also be an unlikely target because the lefty preferred to sign with a team that would grant him the closing spot. New York, of course, had Mariano Rivera. Ryan definitely had a credential to be closing for any ML team. From 2003~05, Ryan struck out 285 hitters in 207.2 IP and had a 172 ERA+ for the Orioles. He later signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for a five-year, $47 million contract, huge money for relievers at the time. Ryan had a sublime 2006 season (1.37 ERA, 38 saves, 335 ERA+, yeesh) but needed Tommy John surgery in 2007. He turned in a solid 2008 campaign (2.95 ERA, 32 saves, 144 ERA+) but was released during the 2009 season after walking 7.4 batters per nine innings and striking out only 13 batters in 20.2 IP. I’d say New York dodged a bullet here.

Also, as mentioned, Tom Gordon wanted to sign with a team that would give him the closing spot and a three-year contract. Yankees offered him a two-year contract and, of course, a set-up role. Needless to say, that didn’t really get it done. The 38-year old later signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for a three-year, $18 million contract and a closer spot. After a decent 2006 campaign, Gordon wasn’t really closer-caliber for the last two years of the deal, being replaced by Brett Myers during the 2007 season. As a Yankee, Gordon had a 2.38 ERA in 170.1 IP and as a Phillie, 4.19 ERA in 129 IP.


That’s it for part one. Gotta say, it’s pretty fun digging up news from ten years ago and see how things have changed or could have been different. Stay tuned for part two soon.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Wei-Yin Chen

(Getty Images)

Recently, reports indicated that the Yankees will pursue the free agent lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The team’s interest in adding starting pitching in general is not surprising. As Mike and many others noted, the rotation is full of question marks.

I will elaborate on this later but Wei-Yin Chen isn’t really a guy that brings uncertainty. He’s a solid mid-rotation pitcher that shows up, pitches solidly more often than not, but does not fit into that “ace” mold. He’s shown that for four seasons in MLB. Yanks probably won’t need to break a bank to get him a la David Price or Johnny Cueto, but he won’t be too cheap either (Boras client, market likes paying big bucks for a starting pitcher, etc.). It will all come down to how highly the front office thinks of Chen and how much they are willing to pay. (Also, if they want to sacrifice a draft pick for him, of course)

Recent Performance

Barring a major injury or sudden decline, Wei-Yin Chen seems like he would perform as expected. In four ML seasons, Chen was a solid mid-rotation starter for the Baltimore Orioles. He compiled 9.5 fWAR in four seasons, averaging around 2.4 per season. Steamer projects him for a 2.6 fWAR season in 2016, which sounds about right.

In those four seasons, Chen posted all-around consistent peripherals: strikeout rate around 7.00 K/9, walk rate around 2.00 BB/9 and allowing dingers once in awhile (1.24 HR/9 in ML career). He’s also not a ground ball pitcher at all with a 38.5% GB rate. Barring a sudden change in approach, his style as a pitcher is pretty apparent: a control guy with an average strikeout ability who gives up fly balls.

There are two things in Chen’s performance that saw improvements though: LOB% and ERA. Well, those two things are very positively correlated so I’ll focus mainly on LOB% here. After posting a 72.8% LOB in 2012, which is right around league average, Chen improved steadily with runners on base with 76.0% in 2013, 77.5% in 2014 and 80.5% in 2015. That’s a pretty nice number for a starting pitcher, especially considering that Chen doesn’t really strike out hitters that much.

Chen had Camden Yards as his home stadium for past four years. That venue, by the way, has a park factor of 117, an extreme hitter’s park. Give the man a cookie. However, if he were to be a Yankee, it wouldn’t get much easier – YSIII has park factor of 119. Chen had a HR/9 rate of 1.32 this past season, which is not great. Unless if he undergoes a major overhaul in his arsenal and approach, don’t expect Chen to lower his home run rate under 1.00/9 anytime soon. I wouldn’t say he’s getting killed by long balls – but he is susceptible to it.

Luke Jackson, a Baltimore-based sportswriter (@luke_jackson10 on Twitter), pointed out few more kinks in Chen’s game. First off, he is not great against right-handed batters. In 2015, he allowed a .217/.250/.326 line against lefties but a .270/.318/.496 line against righties. He allowed 97 home runs total in his ML career and a whopping 79 of them have come off RHB’s. The split is quite stark, if you ask me. Buck Showalter, his manager with the Orioles, started Chen only twice versus the righty-heavy Blue Jays lineup in four years (none this year), which is incredible.

For what it’s worth, Chen also has three ML playoff starts under his belt. He beat the Yankees in 2012 ALDS Game 2 (6.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K), got hit around by the Tigers in the 2014 ALDS (3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 K, 2 HR allowed) and pitched a decent one against the Royals in the 2014 ALCS (5.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K).

The Stuff

Here is a YouTube video of all the pitches Chen threw in a July 12 game versus the Washington Nationals.

Here’s his velocity tabular data from Brooks Baseball.

Wei-Yin Chen velocity

The Taiwanese lefty threw 65.6% of all pitches as fastballs and that approach didn’t seem to change at all through out the years. He mixes in a slider, curve and split/change as different weapons to show hitters. None of his pitches are considered elite but they are good enough to get by as a solid starter in ML.

According to Pitch f/x, Chen will use his fastball pretty much everywhere in the zone. He likes to bury his slider and curve towards RHB’s feet and away from LHB’s. As for split/change, he throws it below the strike zone – or keeping it middle-away from RHB’s. Doesn’t seem like he has a trademark killer pitch but he seems to have a strategy with different pitches to face hitters.

Injury History

This is an interesting one. In the states, the only instance of Chen missing an extended amount of time was in 2013 with an oblique injury. Otherwise, he’s been able to start 30+ games each year. However, if you look beyond his MLB career, he’s been through few issues in NPB days.

Chen underwent a Tommy John surgery back in 2006. In 2011, he saw overall decrease in velocity after suffering a lower body injury preseason. Even though he had a solid 2.68 ERA, he struck out considerably much less hitters (94 in 164.2 IP) than before (153 in 188 IP in 2010). Here’s a video of a 2011 start – fastball sits more around the high-80’s, which is several notches below his usual self. Considering that he posted an eye-popping 1.54 ERA in 164 IP in 2009, had he been able to showcase his best stuff in 2011, he might have been targeted with much higher offers than the three-year, $11.3 million contract (with a 2015 team option) that he got from Baltimore.

So his injury history isn’t perfect but he’s shown he’s capability of handling the Major League schedule, which is longer than the NPB one. Well, his record faltered towards the later months of both 2012 and 2013 seasons but he held his own in late stretches in 2014 and 2015. Signing a pitcher for a long-term contract will always come with some kind of injury risk but it’s good to know that Chen does not quite seem Pavano-ian in terms of visiting the disabled list.

(Getty Images)

Contract Projections

It’s been said that Chen wants a five-year deal, possibly six. I don’t know if he will necessarily get that length but given that 1) he’s a Boras client, and 2) there are a lot of teams hungry for solid starting pitching in the market, it’s not really out of the realm of possibility. I think there will be a good amount of teams comfortable giving him four years but the one that will offer him the fifth will come out as the winner. Will New York be that one? I don’t know.

He’s basically the best lefty starter in the market not named David Price. Teams that want a starter but not at Price, Zimmermann, Cueto, etc. prices will most likely consider Chen at some point, so yeah, I feel like him getting a big contract as a result of a bidding war is very much a possibility.

One major knock against pursuing Chen is that he was offered the qualifying offer from the Orioles and, of course, he declined it, meaning that Yankees would have to give up their first rounder if they were to sign him. Here are some projections/predictions of his next contract from different publications:

If you had told me back in the 2011-12 offseason that Chen would someday get a contract five times bigger than what the O’s gave him, I would have been pretty skeptical. But hey, life works that kind of way for some. The Orioles got an absolute steal in Chen and now he’s looking to get paid. A deal around five years, $80 million does not seem like an outrageous outcome at all.

Wrapping Up

I think Chen could be a very serviceable starter for the Yankees. He’s shown consistency as a solid mid-rotation starter in the same division and in a hitter’s park. At least for the first two or three years of the contract, Chen will be a nice guy to go for most days of the week.

He definitely won’t come cheap for Yankees though – in more ways than one. First off, he’ll get a big contract. He will be an attractive commodity to teams that aren’t willing to spend Cueto/Price money on FA starters and, in my opinion, that will certainly create some kind of bidding war, which could drive the price up higher than a lot of us could foresee. Once a team wins the bidding, then they’d have to give up a draft pick. New York could definitely get extra wins by having Chen for next few years versus not having him, but at what cost?

My gut feeling says that Yankees will monitor the market for Chen for awhile and, at some point, the price will go out of their comfort range. We’ll see how it goes though.

Yankees miss chances, drop one in the extras against Boston for a 9-5 loss

Well, the Yankees came close to two big feats tonight: the 10,000th franchise victory and a postseason berth. I do think both will happen soon but it would have been nice to get those out of the way tonight, especially against the Red Sox in a game that should have been won. New York missed multiple chances late in the game and allowed one to slip away on a cold night in Bronx. You know what they say, the 10,000th win is the hardest.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Masahiro, not a hero tonight

Masahiro Tanaka had a good beginning for the first two hitters – a strikeout of Mookie Betts and pop out of Dustin Pedroia. However, he allowed a single to Xander Bogaerts and walked David Ortiz to put two on with Travis Shaw on plate. Shaw, as you may know, has become somewhat of an unprecedented slugger in ML. His numbers in the bigs have completely surpassed the minor league ones. The Boston first baseman took a 89-mph fastball down in the zone out of the park to give his team a 3-0 lead. That went from 0 to 100 real quick.

Tanaka had an easy one-two-three second inning. In the third, however, he allowed a ground-rule double to Pedroia to start the rally. Two batters later, Ortiz drove him in with an RBI single to give Sox a 4-1 lead. Well, that’s about all the damage Tanaka allowed. He had two more one-two-three innings for a mixed bag of an outing — five innings, four runs, five hits, one walk and three strikeouts. He labored and breezed at different times. Hopefully he’s getting some rust off before his next start, which, possibly could be, the AL Wildcard game.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Miley, what’s good?

Wade Miley had a pretty rough start to the season but he’s progressed for better. Prior to tonight’s game, he had a 4.39 ERA/3.80 FIP in 188.2 IP, good for a 2.5 fWAR. Not bad. The Yankee bats didn’t really leave him alone though. In the bottom of second, trailing 3-0, Chris Young singled and Greg Bird walked to put two runners on with two outs. Rob Refsnyder, in the lineup as a righty bat platoon for second base, hit an outside fastball to opposite field for a ground-rule double. That was not a good break for the Yanks – had the ball stayed in the park, they would have scored two. Nonetheless, the Yankees deficit cut down to 3-1.

Fast forward to bottom of fifth (4-1 Red Sox by then), when Yankees put together a bigger rally. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With one out, A-Rod worked a walk and Carlos Beltran drilled a ground-rule double to trim the deficit to 4-2. With one out and runners on second and third, Brian McCann hit an RBI groundout and Chris Young hit an infield single to drive in another – a 4-4 tie game. Unfortunately for New York, the team would not be as successful with runners on later in the game.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Getting the lead and spitting it back

Former UConn product Matt Barnes came in for Boston in the sixth to relieve Wade Miley. With two outs, A-Rod took his 95-mph fastball and turned it into a go-ahead home run. That was his first home run since September 15 against the Rays. Also since that game, up to tonight, he had only been hitting .147/.268/.206, which is not great. Hopefully his bat will start to get hot heading into the postseason and beyond. Oh, and Yankees took their first lead of the game, 5-4.

In the bottom of seventh, however, after Justin Wilson got the two first outs, Joe Girardi replaced him with Dellin Betances because why not? That’s how things had been going. However, Dellin allowed a booming, game-tying solo homer to Mookie Betts on a 96-mph fastball right down the middle. 5-5. According to Ian Browne of MLB.com, that was 96 mph in, 105 mph out. Whoosh.

Missed opportunities

Against Heath Hembree in the seventh, McCann worked a walk and was immediately lifted for Rico Noel because, running. Noel stole second and advanced to third on a long Brett Gardner fly out. Noel did make a big turn at third for maybe a chance to get to home but he didn’t bite. Boy, he’s fast. In the postseason, where late-inning runs can be very, very precious, I’d love to see some Noel pinch-running heroics. Torey Lovullo switched Hembree to lefty Tommy Layne and Yankees countered the move by pinch-hitting for Bird with John Ryan Murphy.

After a 3-2 count battle, Layne got Murphy fishing with a 84 mph slider diving in. Red Sox opted to intentionally walk righty-hitting Refsnyder and face lefty-hitting Didi Gregorius. And, well, Boston’s strategy worked. Didi flew out to strand two runners and kept the score tied at 5-5.

The Yankees’ futile offensive attempts continued into the eighth. Ellsbury walked to lead off but got picked off by Layne. Not ideal. Chase Headley did get on base via walk and A-Rod also walked. All of sudden, here was another good scoring chance for the Yanks. Lovullo brought in the Red Sox closer Jean Machi against Carlos Beltran, who grounded into force out to make it two outs and runners on corners. With it being Brendan Ryan’s turn to hit, Girardi put Dustin Ackley to pinch-hit and … he walked. Yankees had four base-runners reach in that frame by then and none of them were via hits and they did not get any run — Brett Gardner grounded out weakly to leave the bases loaded. That’s 13 runners left on base.

Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless ninth to keep it 5-5. Bottom of ninth, Red Sox put Alexi Ogando to pitch and Murphy led off the frame with a single. However, Refsnyder struck out (after multiple missed bunt attempts), Didi popped out and Ellsbury flew out to waste it. In the tenth, Beltran walked with two outs to put another base-runner on (would also be lifted for pinch-runner Heathcott) but Dustin Ackley flied out to deep left to strand another Yankee base-runner. Yep, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s that kind of night.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Falling apart

Andrew Miller tossed two scoreless so Yankees turned to the next option to keep the game tied in the 11th inning, so they went with Andrew Bailey, the former All-Star. Travis Shaw reached on an infield single but All-Star Brock Holt bunt popped-out for the first out. Bailey battled Swihart to the 3-2 count and allowed a single to put runners in the corner with only one out. The next hitter, Deven Marrero, hit the first pitch just out of reach of Didi and Refsnyder to give Red Sox a 6-5 lead. It was far from over — Girardi brought in Chasen Shreve, whose charm seemed to have ran out lately. With runners on corner, Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled a suicide squeeze to drive another one for a two-run lead. And Mookie Betts connected for his second homer of the game to put the nail in the coffin, 9-5 Red Sox.

Robbie Ross Jr. came into pitch in the bottom of the frame to close it out for the Sox. Gardner led off with a single to keep the hopes alive but Murphy lined out and Refsnyder GIDP’d to end the game. Yankees are stalled out at 9,999 wins for another day.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees and Red Sox wrap up this series Thursday night. CC Sabathia and Rich Hill will be the pitching matchup.

Beltran’s HR all Pineda needs in 3-2 win over the White Sox

(Source: Getty)

Always good to get a win, especially against Chris Sale this late in the season to give the Yankees a chance to take the AL East crown. Carlos Beltran‘s three-run homer is all the runs the Yankees needed as Michael Pineda pitched brilliantly and Dellin Betances escaped a scare in the seventh.

Carlos Belts one! 

The Yankees struck against Sale first in the third. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to lead off the inning but got called out on fielder interference when he blocked Alexei Ramirez from reaching a Chase Headley pop up. As Headley remained on first base, A-Rod worked a walk and Beltran followed it up with a home run that just barely, barely got over the left field fence. 3-0 Yankees. Man, I wasn’t watching the White Sox broadcast but I can’t imagine Hawk Harrelson being happy about that one.

That was Beltran’s 18th dinger of the year. After tonight’s game, he is now good for a 120 wRC+ for this year. Man, April was such a long time ago, wasn’t it?

Big Mike

White Sox aren’t a good offensive team and it’s pretty well-documented. But, you know, seeing Big Mike with a strong outing like this on the cusp of postseason is not a bad thing.

(Source: Getty)

Pineda allowed the sole run of the game in the sixth. Trayce Thompson hit a long home run on a 92-mph fastball to put Sox on the board. That was the only major mistake Big Mike had all night. For the rest of the game, he was, well, vintage – great power stuff and good command all around to strike out eight in six strong innings.

Sweaty seventh

Justin Wilson started the seventh to replace Pineda. He got first two outs but walked Adam Eaton and allowed a single to Jose Abreu to put the runners in corners in a hurry. Naturally, Joe Girardi brought in Dellin Betances to get the last out of the frame.

Dellin has had trouble with command of late and tonight was no exception. Betances went to a full count against Melky Cabrera before missing with a 100-mph fastball outside to load the bases. Against Trayce Thompson, Dellin again went to full count and walked him to force in a run. 3-2. Still leading but not ideal. However, after a mound visit, Betances settled in and struck out Adam LaRoche in four pitches to get out of the frame.

Betances’s eighth went more swimmingly. He did allow a leadoff single to Alexei Ramirez but induced a quick DP against Carlos Sanchez and struck out Tyler Flowers.

And, as always, to close out the game, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless one in the ninth for his 35th save.

Box score, standings, highlights and WPA

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standing, video highlighs and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


Yankees will have CC Sabathia against Carlos Rodon tomorrow for the second game of the four-game series. Sabathia is making a strong case for the postseason rotation and we’ll see if he can carry that momentum into tomorrow.

Yankee bats snapped like straws by Stroman in a 4-0 loss in Toronto

On a bright side, the Yankees won’t face the Blue Jays for rest of the regular season and, well, that’s pretty much it. Ivan Nova pitched 5.2 solid innings but the offense came up empty handed against Marcus Stroman and Jays bullpen to drop the series finale 4-0. Joe Girardi‘s gamble on inexperienced relievers didn’t work to New York’s favor either.

(Source: Getty)

Nova, not terrible this time

Nova didn’t look awful. In fact, this was his best outing since August 2 when he held the White Sox to two runs in six innings. His line tonight: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB and 6 strikeouts. That’s good – especially against the lineup the Jays have.

His stuff looked good. At least to my naked eye, it seemed like his fastball and curve had more North-South depth to them, leading to a lot of chopped fouls, grounders and overall more weak contact. I don’t think he’ll be in line for the postseason rotation (if they were to go as far as ALDS and more) but tonight’s start, at least, gave some hope.

Bullpen management? 

The Yankee bullpen gave first. After Nova departed in the sixth following Russell Martin‘s walk, Girardi brought in lefty James Pazos to face lefty-hitting Ryan Goins. After getting ahead 0-2, Pazos allowed a single to center to make it two outs and runners on first and third. You might think, with division race at stake, Girardi would bring in someone like Justin Wilson to shut the inning down. Instead, he brought in Caleb Cotham – who, in my opinion, has fine stuff to be a future ML reliever but would I trust him wholeheartedly to hold the 0-0 tie? I’m not sure.

On Cotham’s first pitch, Kevin Pillar lined a single up the middle to give Jays a 1-0 lead. Pillar tormented the Yanks all series and this was just a slice from the highlight reel. Cotham issued a walk to PH Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases but induced a long fly out to Ben Revere to barely limit the damage to a run. Damage done, nonetheless.

So these bullpen guys are talented but not a lot of them have been ML-tested – especially in a high-stress situation against the best lineup in the league. Girardi put on a heck of a gamble by putting the names James Pazos, Caleb Cotham and Andrew Bailey to protect the pitching side of things of the game and it clearly didn’t work out that way.

To be fair, a lot of the main guys – Wilson, Betances, Miller, etc. – have been worked a lot and it’s important to keep them fresh for longer run for late in the season and, possibly, postseason. This could have been a different outcome had Masahiro Tanaka not tweaked his hamstring and be able to go deeper into the game. All I can say at this point is – it is what it is.

The new 6 god? (Source: Getty)

Wasted chances

Stroman was no straw man. He was quite nasty and did a lot to miss the Yankee bats – throwing different kinds of fastballs (cutting, sinking, straight, etc.), locating them very well, changing speeds, uncorking that nasty hard slider down and in against lefties, etc. – he had a lot going on. With his return, the Jays postseason rotation is suddenly looking formidable.

New York definitely had few shares of scoring chances. Greg Bird led off with a single in the fifth. Two pitches later, Chase Headley, in a bit of a cold streak, grounded into a double play to immediately kill the rally. Considering that Dustin Ackley followed that up with a deep double to right-center, that GIDP represented some big missed opportunity to get edge or New York.

The Yankees had another chance to rally in the top of seventh. Carlos Beltran walked with one out against Stroman but Bird flew out. Headley, who killed a potential rally earlier, singled to center to make it two outs and runners on first and second. Up came one of the hottest hitters in the lineup: Dustin Ackley.

Ackley had already doubled in the game and it wasn’t out of question he would do more damage against a tiring Stroman. He hit an offspeed offering from Stroman quite hard – maybe too hard as it went right into CF Kevin Pillar’s glove in no time. It was that kind of night for Yankee offense.

Bigger deficit

Andrew Bailey relieved Cotham to start the bottom seventh. He promptly allowed a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson on a hanging curve. Jose Bautista grounded out to advance Donaldson to third. The Yankees followed it up by intentionally walking Edwin Encarnacion. With one out, runners on corners, Bailey struck out Justin Smoak with a nasty curveball – a display reminiscent of his All-Star days.

Bailey almost got out of the inning scoreless – with two outs, on a 1-2 count against Martin, the righty threw a 95 mph fastball just off the corner, maybe an inch away from a called strike. However, the ump called it a ball and Martin drilled the next pitch – a 93-mph fastball right down the middle – for a three-run homer. 4-0 Jays.

The Yankees had another shot at rallying in top ninth against the Jays closer Roberto Osuna. A-Rod led off with a laser double. Brian McCann hit a grounder up the middle that almost nicked the base but that didn’t happen – Goins threw him out for the first out while A-Rod advanced to third. Osuna overpowered Slade Heathcott for a strikeout and Bird flew out to finish the shutout. The AL East deficit grew to 3.5 games again.

Box score, standings, highlights and WPA

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees return home to the Bronx to face the White Sox for a four-game series (it’s really four games this time, I checked). Chicago’s South Siders have not been a good team this season and the Yanks need to capitalize on this opportunity – they’ll need to tackle the White Sox staff ace Chris Sale tomorrow as Yankees turn to Michael Pineda.

Yankees take the Subway Series with a 11-2 win behind CC’s arm and big bats

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This game didn’t start well – CC Sabathia labored through the entire first inning while Matt Harvey mowed down Yankee hitters. There’s a reason why you don’t stop watching after the first few innings though – the Yankee offense took advantage of non-Harvey Mets pitchers later in the game to make this win look very, very easy. The guys from Bronx took two out of three in the enemy territory to win the Subway Series before they head up north for a crucial series versus the Blue Jays.

It’s a Sunday night. I had a long day of watching sports (attending the Redskins game, watching more NFL and MLB games and this) so let’s do this 11-2 win bullet point style.

– CC is good again?: The Mets took a quick 1-0 lead in the first only after first two hitters – both Ruben Tejada and David Wright hit a double each (on 0-2 counts, go figure). By then all of us were wondering if we were in for a long night of CC struggling and bullpen laboring. Well, CC did have to work a lot to get out of the first inning without any more damage – he loaded the bases with two outs with a pair of walks but induced a Michael Cuddyer pop out to escape.

For the rest of the night, Sabathia was brilliant. He only allowed three more hits in five innings while striking out five more. Thanks to the offense imploding post-Harvey, CC earned his first win since July 8, which, in my opinion, is a long time ago (a lot of things happened to me in that time period). After being a thorn on the side for the Yankee rotation until early August, Sabathia is making a strong case to be a playoff starter now, who would’ve thought?

– The top of sixth: So you probably know about this Matt Harvey pitch count deal. Well, Harvey was just dealing tonight, allowing only one hit in five scoreless innings. Starting in the sixth, though, Terry Collins took Harvey out and put in Hansel Robles as the first reliever. Jacoby Ellsbury reached second to lead off on an infield single and Daniel Murphy’s throwing error. Brett Gardner followed it up with a fielder’s choice grounder that Wright botched. That was not a pretty sight for Mets fans and it got worse for them. Carlos Beltran, whom they booed mercilessly all this weekend, hit a go-ahead double to put the Yanks on top, 2-1. Three batters later, with two outs and two on, Dustin Ackley homered to right to make it 5-1. Dustin Ackley! The man has been on fire as a Yankee (1.057 OPS in 22 AB prior to tonight’s game). I doubt he keeps that up but it would be nice if a change of scenery/being coached by new people in new org somehow tapped that former second overall pick potential. Only time will tell but it’s awesome to see Brian Cashman‘s sole deadline acquisition pay off pretty neatly.

– More runs!: Yankees scored another in seventh thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Chase Headley by Eric O’Flaherty. In the top of eighth, facing Carlos Torres and Tim Stauffer, they tacked on five more. Ellsbury drove in Rico Noel (pinch-running for A-Rod) to make it 7-1. Torres struck Gardner out but walked Beltran before getting yanked for Stauffer. Brian McCann followed it up with an RBI single for a 8-1 lead and Greg Bird hit a dinger to left-center to make it 11-1. Holy cow, did anyone imagine this kind of outburst when the lineup was being shut down by Harvey? Chris Capuano would allow a run in the next frame to shorten the lead to 11-2 but that was pretty much it.

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


So that series win was a plus to any Yankee fan’s night, right? Well, they are about to face the Blue Jays for the next four days – we’ll see how we feel after that series.