Archive for Guest Columns
The night was getting late,
The base paths hardly trod,
Girardi pondered fate
And pinch hit for poor Arod.
The 40-year old bald guy
Sauntered to the plate
And with a timely mighty swing
Sent Arod down the grate.
Oh, Arod tried to smile
But he knew that he had died
A washed up veteran showed him
How to give the ball a ride.
Old Raul brought joy to thousands
Who were mired in a pout
His stellar blast consigned thirteen
To his new home–the dugout.
(via Wayne Kabak, Ben’s father)
The following is a guest post by my dear friend David Meadvin, with some assistance from me on the statistical/research front. Dave previously contributed to TYA as an occasional guest poster, and is probably the world’s biggest Pascual Perez fan. We’re talking about someone who, as a nine-year-old, literally filled three nine-card binder sheets up with nothing but the same exact 1990 Topps Pascual Perez card seen at the right (that’s twenty-seven (!) identical cards) for reasons that remain unclear to this day.
On a warm Dominican spring morning in 1957, Pascual Gross Perez came into this world – and Major League Baseball would never be the same.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not an advanced stats kind of guy. I’ve never been that interested about baseball on paper; I love the game because it’s unpredictable in a way that stats can never fully capture. When Larry and I were growing up dodging beer bottles at Yankee Stadium and trading Topps cards, I was never a huge fan of the big stars. Sure, I loved Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry (I know he was a Met, but good God what a swing) – but my heart was always with the oddballs. And there have been few odder balls in MLB history that Pascual “I-285” Perez.
One of the many strange things about Perez is that his Minor League performance was mediocre at best. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1976, Perez spent five years in Pittsburgh’s minor league system putting stats that hardly screamed “I’m ready for The Show.” In 1979, at AAA, he threw 103 innings of 5.50 ERA ball with an ugly 4.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He improved considerably the following season at AAA, throwing 160 innings of 4.05 ERA ball with a 5.9 K.9 and 2.7 BB/9, and he made his MLB debut on May 7, firing six innings of three-run ball, then getting sent right back down for his troubles. At the age of 24, Perez started the 1981 season at AAA for the third consecutive year. Today, it’s hard to imagine a pitcher with his minor league stat line ever seeing the bigs, but with a staff that was fronted by John Candelaria, a struggling Rick Rhoden, an ancient Luis Tiant and no one else anyone’s ever heard of, the Pirates were clearly desperate for pitching.
As a result, despite a 4.94 ERA and a worse walk rate (4.1 per nine) than strikeout rate (a paltry 3.2), Perez earned a Mid-May call-up. At the Major League-level, Perez actually pitched slightly better than his MiLB number might have indicated, but still, he was hardly a star. He tossed 86.1 innings of 3.96 ERA/3.57 FIP ball — numbers that few would frown upon from a middle-of-the-rotation starter these days, but back in 1981 were 10% and 1% worse than league average, respectively. Not to mention the fact that Perez still wasn’t striking anyone out, with a 4.8 K/9. Unimpressed, the Pirates demoted Perez back to AAA for the start of the 1982 season, which prompted the Dominican to consider leaving Major League Baseball and returning to the Caribbean League. Fortunately for all of us, the Atlanta Braves decided to take a chance on him and acquired him in a trade for Larry McWilliams, who had pitched to a putrid 6.21 ERA/1.91 WHIP the season before, but somehow managed to put up two solid years for the Pirates in 1983 and 1984.
The Braves may not have known exactly what they were getting in the rail-thin Perez, but it didn’t take long to find out. On August 19, 1982, Perez was scheduled to make his debut start in Atlanta. As game time approached, Perez was nowhere to be found. When Perez finally showed up – well after the game began – he explained that he drove around I-285 three times looking for the ballpark before finally running out of gas. Here’s how the story was reported in Sports Illustrated:
“When I get lost, I been in Atlanta for four days,” says Perez. “I rent a car and get my driving permit that morning, and I leave for the stadium very early, but I forget where to make a turn right.”
Thus handicapped, Perez made an afternoon-long ordeal out of what is normally a 15-minute ride. Circling helplessly, he finally pulled off the freeway at about 7:10 p.m., well north of Atlanta and running on fumes, and using gestures and his minimal English, persuaded a gas-station attendant to pump $10 worth of free gas for him. “I forgot my wallet, too,” says Perez.
The incident earned Perez the nickname “I-285,” which he proudly wore on the back of his warmup jacket. As Yankees fans are well aware, the Braves’ manager at the time, Joe Torre, is not known for treating rookies kindly – much less rookies who miss their first start. In fact, a famed poster commemorating the incident is described as including a mural of Torre, looking baffled, staring at his wristwatch. If anyone owns this poster or can unearth even a JPEG of it, please let us know [UPDATE: We finally secured a copy of this poster during the summer of 2012].
Surprisingly, Torre stuck with the enigmatic righthander. Incomprehensibly, Perez’s mishap lit a fire under the Braves. Heading into his Braves debut, the team was mired in a 2-19 slump. Yet, according to Sports Illustrated, the team “found the mishap so hilarious that they laughed their way into a 13-2 winning streak and then went on to win the National League West, thereby making Perez’s ride more familiar to Atlanta schoolchildren than Paul Revere’s.” The title run was also helped by Perez’ 79.1 innings of 82 ERA-/89 FIP ball for the Braves that season despite a K/9 of just 3.3(!).
Perez also began establishing a reputation around Major League Baseball that season for on-field antics that included shooting batters with an imaginary finger-gun, peering through his legs to see what kinds of leads baserunners were taking, regular beanings and threats, an occasional eephus pitch (which would come to be known as the “Pascual Pitch” in certain circles), and of course his gleaming curly locks. As one opposing manager proclaimed, “there’s not enough mustard in the State of Georgia for Mr. Perez.” Perez’s response? “Everybody mad at me because they think I try to hit somebody, but I don’t try to hit nobody. The coaches tell me, ‘Don’t be afraid sometimes to pitch inside,’ so I do it.”
Coming into the 1983 season, the Braves saw Perez as an emerging star, and he lived up to their expectations, posting the best season of his career. He threw 215.1 innings of 3.43 ERA (90 ERA-)/3.39 FIP (87 FIP-) ball, with a 6.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, worth 4.1 fWAR. Sadly, Perez found himself jailed in the Dominican Republic in the offseason on drug charges. After his release, he returned to the Braves in May 1984 and proceeded to win 14 games the remainder of the season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that if not for his jail time, Perez would have been a 20 game winner in the ’84 season.
In 1985, everything fell apart. Perez served three stints on the disabled list with shoulder pain before earning a team suspension in July for disappearing somewhere between New York and Montreal. After finishing the year with a heinous 1-13 record, Perez, who just a year earlier was seen as an emerging ace and probably would have been unanimously elected mayor of Atlanta, was released by the Braves.
1986 is a complete mystery. There is no record of Perez throwing a single pitch in any organized baseball league, or even what he did with his time.
Fortunately, the Pascual Perez story was not over. Prior to the 1987 season, the Montreal Expos managed to track him down and signed him to a minor league contract. Visa problems kept him from entering the United States until May, but after several months of minor league ball, Perez made his return on August 22, 1987, throwing five innings of three-run ball against the Giants. He finished the year a perfect 7-0. This time, Perez appeared to have finally figured it out with Montreal, enjoying the finest three-year stretch of his career as he threw 456.2 innings of 2.80 ERA (80 ERA-)/3.05 FIP (85 FIP-) ball, upping his K/9 6.7 and walking almost no one, with a 2.1 BB/9. In 1988, he pitched a rain-shortened, five inning no-hitter.
After an uninspired 1989 season, the Yankees came calling. Coming off two straight fifth-place seasons and utterly desperate for starting pitching (their starters pitched to an MLB-worst 121 ERA- from 1988-1989), the Yankees decided to invest 3 years and $5.7 million in Perez.
The big-bucks investment didn’t exactly pay off. Prior to throwing a single pitch for the Yankees he arrived seven days late to spring training with what the Yankees described as yet more “visa problems,” prompting then-Expos manager Buck Rodgers to describe Perez as “a time bomb that the Yankees will have to monitor closely.” In his third start that season, Perez departed with an ailing arm that required rotator-cuff surgery that August. He also could have invested in a datebook or personal assistant, as Pascual showed up 10 days late to spring training in 1991, and five days late in 1992.
The thing is, when Perez actually took the mound he was effective, putting up a 2.87 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 1990 and 1991. But he only pitched a total of 87.2 innings spread out over two seasons. For whatever reason, he just couldn’t stay healthy (or present) for long stretches during his time in pinstripes. It all came crashing down in 1992 — the third and final year of Perez’s big contract – when he was suspended by MLB violating the league’s drug policy. This forced him to forfeit the remaining $1.9 million left on his contract.
Despite these myriad setbacks, the Yankees were actually interested in retaining Perez’s services. The New York Times reported that general manager Gene Michael placed about 60 calls to him over the offseason, but never heard back. Perez, who once referred to himself as “one of five twin brothers,” (one of those five, Melido, of course also pitched for the Yankees, and gave the Bombers quite a bit more than Pascual ever did, posting a 4.06 ERA/3.84 FIP over 631.1 innings from 1992-1995) had fallen deep into the Dominican Republic, far from the grasp of Major League Baseball.
Despite the Yankees’ best efforts, to this day, Pascual Perez has never been found. He may be gone, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of fans everywhere who consider him a hall-of-famer in baseball’s theater of the absurd.
The following a guest post from David Gershman, better know as The Gersh around the Twitterverse. He spent last summer covering the NY-Penn League, and today gives us a firsthand scouting report on Mason Williams, the Yankees top position player prospect now that Jesus Montero is headed to Seattle. You can follow Gersh on Twitter at @Dave_Gershman.
Of all the talent I was able to spectate in 2011, hardly anyone caught my eye to the extent of Mason Williams, Staten Island’s everyday center-fielder. The New York-Penn League technically ranks as the third lowest developmental level in baseball, ahead of the Pioneer and Appy Leagues and the Gulf Coast League. Therefore, finding talent to keep an eye on is somewhat rare. As a matter of fact, on a good year there might only be one elite-level talent worth watching in the Penn League. While I’m not claiming Williams to be an elite-level prospect, his upside and advanced skill-set are through the roof, clearly making him a must-see talent.
A scout once requested my opinion on Williams and my reasoning for touting him as much as I did last season. I replied, “After months of Extended Spring Training work, Williams began to hit the cover off of the ball right out of the gate and continued doing so even after the first week of the season. There wasn’t any point throughout the year in which he cooled off, and it was rather astonishing.” I labeled his everlasting performance as astonishing simply because inconsistency is so common amongst prospects at the short-season level. And it’s especially colloquial for those playing their first season as a professional. On to the report.
Williams is a terrific athlete with assets and upside that could make him an above-average major leaguer in the not-too-distant future. Quick hands, loads of bat speed and a smooth bat plain make him an advanced hitter, one that hits both lefties and righties without much problem for someone of his age and level. Williams is prone to making bad contact at times, given his high tendency to swing early in the count and, more importantly, at lousy pitches, but plate discipline is an aspect of his game I imagine he’ll be working to ameliorate until he reaches the majors.
While his approach needs some tuning, he has the right idea. As one professional scout noted, “a hitter constantly swinging at pitches early in the count would generally warrant some concern, but if the hitter is either making good contact with pitches in the zone or swinging at hittable pitches than there isn’t much of a problem, and Mason Williams often overdoes it, he customarily accounts for both.”
Williams has a thin and wiry frame, but contains tons of physicality and, in correspondence, some of the most physical upside the Yankees system. He isn’t expected to possess too much power down the road, but certainly enough to avoid being considered a “slap-hitter” of any sort. Remaining a center fielder isn’t a question, but the role system (at least according to two scouts), suggests that Angelo Gumbs might be a more adequate center-field option than Williams should both progress at a similar rate. Williams’ plus range and baseball instincts, at least for me, make him a more-than-viable candidate to be an every day center-fielder for the Yanks down the road. Williams seemed to have developed refined accuracy as last season progressed. Accuracy sure is expected to develop accordingly, but arm strength is slightly different. As players fill out and develop more fortitude and muscle, they improve the distance and accuracy on their throws. Being that his arm is currently below average unquestionably is a non-issue.
Williams’ current and future tool grades are to the right and up a bit. If you need an explanation as to how these grades work, you can read my primer on how professional scouting reports are compiled.
The reason I gave Williams such a low power projection is mostly due to lack of leverage and loft in his swing. Although it’s quick and stays through the zone, it’s choppy and rather flat. That doesn’t make him a bad hitter by any means; it just decreases his power projection. That said, he’s shown the ability to hit to all fields and, in doing so, drive the ball. Additionally, I upgraded his overall future potential (OFP) because his range and speed suggest such an adjustment.
All professional scouts have a specific computer program that automatically adjusts OFP based on the weight of the prospect and his positional grade requirements. Meaning, center fielders are supposed to have plus range and speed, even if they aren’t that good of hitters. However, what if a first-baseman grades out to have 30 power but 70 speed and defense? His adjusted OFP would lower significantly since first base is a power position. Thus, center field is a speed and defense position.
The Yankees have a rare commodity in Williams, a clear center-fielder with the ability to hit. He’s only 20-years of age, so the Yankees obviously won’t be rushing him at any point. That said, if he shows he can hit in Charleston I’d expect him to finish the season off in Tampa and eventually head to Trenton sometime in 2013. Unlike his time spent in Staten Island, Williams won’t be hitting .349 in Charleston this season, but you can unequivocally expect a to see improvements and maturity in Mason Williams’ game. He’s a bright player with a bright future.
The following is a guest post from Tyler Wilkinson, the madman behind all but one of the graphics available at The RAB Shop. He wrote about everyone’s favorite topic, Joba the Starter. If you’re uninterested in living through that discussion again, then just skip right over this post.
Joba Chamberlain’s ascent and decline have been well documented. He was a fire-balling 21-year-old bubble wrapped to protect him from his manager. A reliever. A starter. A reliever again. Hurt. Fat. Hurt again. And now, four and a half years after being fit for pinstripes, nearly forgotten.
We have seen the mountain top. We know what waits there. We know that in 2008, a 22-year-old Joba with all the pressures of New York on his back threw 65 innings over 12 starts for the Yankees, striking out 10 and walking 3 per game. We know that in 2009, his 31 starts didn’t go as well, with the strikeouts dropping to 7.4 and walks climbing to 4.4. He also hit 12 batters, presumably all of them Youkilis.
A pitcher who at age 23 had started 43 games with varying levels of success, striking out 9.6 batters per 9 innings. That’s more than Clemens at his age. More than Nolan Ryan, Koufax, Maddux and other arbitrary Hall of Famers that were all given more of a chance than Joba. Would Chamberlain have reached their level? Almost certainly not. Should 221.2 innings as a starting pitcher determine an inability to succeed? Almost certainly not.
As Chamberlain recovers from the Tommy John Surgery that cut his 2011 campaign short, it is easy to look back on the potential he exuded and wonder where it all went wrong. It is also easy to write his Yankees obituary. But as we embark on a 2012 season with a Yankees rotation infested by doubt and A.J. Burnett’s ghost, now is the time to exhume the corpse of Joba and give it one more try.
There’s no excuse not to. For one, Joba’s mere presence is a luxury. Relegated to the sixth inning behind David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera, Joba’s anticipated contribution to the 2012 squad is negligible. As witnessed when Joba went down last season, Joe Girardi is more than capable of filling innings with spare part relievers. Losing him to the starting rotation would have virtually no affect on the bullpen and if it becomes evident that the experiment is failing, Joba can go right back to the pen with no harm done.
The main reasons to try it are the current state of the rotation and the now omnipresent budget. Joba Chamberlain at his peak is the number 2 starter the Yankees are searching for. In an offseason where the Yankees have chosen not to throw money at big money targets like C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, or even one year deals for the likes of Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt, Chamberlain lays in the weeds as a cost-controlled option already on the books. A lottery ticket sitting in the Yankees’ wallet that doesn’t even require a trip to the store. If the 2008 version of Joba the Starter turns up, he’s an improvement over every non-Sabathia member of the current rotation. If 2009 Joba turns up, he still may be an improvement over back-end question marks like Phil Hughes, Burnett and an even older Freddy Garcia.
There is no downside. Joba will not be ready for Opening Day, so start him in AAA. He has minor league options left. Let him prepare as a starter, get reacclimated to the schedule, the pitch counts, the feeling of losing a game in which you pitched well enough to win. If he gets hurt, the Yankees are where they were in 2011; a playoff team with a shutdown bullpen and question marks in the rotation. If he pitches terrible, same deal. But, on the microscopic chance he succeeds, the Yankees have their coveted pitcher. Cheap. For the 2013 season as well, before he becomes a free agent. An answer to an offseason of questions. A cost-effective solution for the suddenly thrifty Steinbrenner boys. Joba is a lottery ticket worth scratching, now more than ever. Here’s hoping for the jackpot.
The following is a guest post from long-time reader Jake Hopkins, who you’ve probably seen in the comments as Jake H. He took a look back at how much money the Yankees have spent in the draft in recent years, something that will now be limited thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In one of his regular Friday chats, someone asked Mike if the Yankees should increase how much they spend on the draft and/or international free agents. This has been something that Yankees fans have been complaining about since last year’s draft, the Yankees not spending enough. Wanting to find out if this was true, I looked at the last five drafts, but with a twist.
What I wanted to do was take out the first round money in the draft. I did this because the Yankees never have a chance to draft a guy like Eric Hosmer or Stephen Strasburg. By taking these large bonuses out we can see the teams that spend throughout the entire draft and not just on their first round pick. The Giants are a good example; in the last five years they’ve spent $31.921 million on the draft and $16.356 million on first round bonuses (52.1%).
This point is more evident when looking at the total number of first round and supplemental first round picks since 2007. The Yankees have had a total of just five draft picks in those rounds during that time. That’s tied for the lowest amount of draft picks along with the Orioles and Marlins. The Blue Jays and the Rays are tied with the most at fifteen picks during that five-year span.
What I did was take the first round’s salary out of the equation and added back in a dollar. I then took that amount and divided it by the number of total picks that signed for the five-year period. The Yankees spent an average of $182,790 per pick, which was the fourth highest total. The Red Sox were number one followed by the Pirates and then the Jays. The Yankees also had the least amount spent on the first round picks until the 15th spot which was the Phillies, and they aren’t known for spending on the draft.
So we now know what the Yankees spent on average on each non-first round draft pick over that five-year period. Here is a year-by-year break down…
- 2007: $145,313 average draft pick spending, fifth most.
- 2008: $150,000 average draft pick spending, tenth most. (Remember no Gerrit Cole or Scott Bittle)
- 2009: $207,692 average draft pick spending, fourth most.
- 2010: $205,214 average draft pick spending, seventh most.
- 2011: $227,957 average draft pick spending, sixth most.
As the numbers show, the Yankees have increased their average spending on the draft over the last five years, with 2011 representing their highest average draft pick price. While the Yankees’ spending has increased, I’m sure people are saying that the MLB average has gone up. Yes it has, but not as much as you may have thought…
- 2007: $95,985 average for all teams.
- 2008: $131,825 average for all teams.
- 2009: $132,878 average for all teams.
- 2010: $143,813 average for all teams.
- 2011: $136,268 average for all teams.
So there was a large jump in draft spending from 2007 to 2008, then the average spending stayed close to those numbers with 2010 being the highest. Now keep in mind that this takes all teams into account, even those teams that don’t spend much at all. As the data shows, the Yankees have been consistently spending more per draft pick then the majority of the league. While people can complain that they didn’t draft such and such or sign who we want, we can’t say that they aren’t spending money.
This is a guest post from RAB Shop extraordinaire Tyler Wilkinson. So read it, then go buy something.
Baseball’s mid-summer classic, once an avenue for die-hard fans to catch a glimpse of cross-country superstars, has descended into a watered down exhibition featuring all of the players we watch every night on MLB.tv and every morning on Sportscenter. With the appeal fading, several years ago Commissioner Bud Selig took the radical step of turning this meaningless event into the deciding factor for home-field advantage in the World Series. Yes, crazy. Believe it or not, the possibility of Aaron Crow influencing home-field advantage hasn’t yielded the results Selig was looking for. With that in mind, I have an unrealistic crackpot idea to drive up interest.
for of the ages.
Problem 1, the rosters are too damn big. Peace out Aaron Crow. Royals, you want an All-Star, trade Hosmer and Moose Tacos to the Yankees for A-Rod. Picking on Aaron Crow is fun. Kidding aside, trying to include a member of every squad is diluting the talent pool and lessening the experience. Solution: 25 man rosters. Done.
Problem 2, Joe Buck & Tim McCarver. Do the right thing, Fox.
Problem 3, people aren’t tuning in to watch AL vs. NL anymore. We need a twist. How about a battle of old vs. new? Jeter vs. Cano? Lester vs. Gonzalez? Good vs. Good? Evil vs. Evil? Taking this year’s injury-riddled lineups and splitting them into the 25 youngest players I find interesting and the 25 oldest players I find interesting, let’s see how the rosters fill out.
SS: Reyes (we’ll roll with the fan vote)
SP: Hernandez (F-Her, don’t forget to spread the nickname)
CL: Robertson (shut up, it’s my list!)
BN: Martin (3 catchers to swap out in the ASG seems reasonable)
Thoughts: Relievers not named Mo probably don’t belong in the ASG, apologies to Aaron Crow. That is a ridiculous pitching staff. I hope Lester hits Youkilis in his ugly ribs.
C: Molina (I double checked. It’s not Gustavo)
1B: Gonzalez, Ad.
SP: Verlander (the youngest of the old geezers & the exact middle point)
RP: Wilson, Brian (have to break the no relievers rule)
RP: Valverde (and again, gross)
RP: Bell (and again)
RP: Wilson, CJ
CL: Rivera (forever and ever)
BN: Montero, Mig.
BN: Kendrick (someone’s gotta backup the middle infield)
BN: Youkilis (gross)
Thoughts: While the youngsters have a ridiculous pitching staff, the old folks have some big guns of their own up front with a familiar face closing it down. There’s a lot of pop in the old guys’ lineup.
While not perfect (Valverde survived the cut), I still believe the new format would increase interest. Baseball would have an avenue to market their phenomenal young stars to a national audience and the fat of the current system would be trimmed right off. Plus, the novelty of seeing a Reyes/Cano double play combo is probably more appealing than the standard AL/NL lineups that people have grown accustomed to. The one thing I think we can all agree on is that home-field advantage being decided in an exhibition game three months before the World Series is ridiculous and unnecessary. While a radical alteration like the one I proposed is unrealistic, correcting home-field advantage is a simple step that needs to be fixed yesterday. That and Joe Buck.
For the longest time, it seemed like Angels Stadium was a complete nightmare for the Yankees. They won just five of 24 games in Anaheim from 2005 through the 2009 All-Star break, which is absolutely dreadful. But for whatever reason, the Angels and their stadium are just like any other team now. I don’t think many of use dread playing the Halos anymore, likely because they’re clearly a team in decline and (of course) the 2009 ALCS. Good times, good times. Here’s your starting nine…
Ivan Nova, SP
Dan Haren Update: RAB fave Sam Miller reports that Haren will have tomorrow’s scheduled start pushed back to Tuesday because of his back issue. I assume the Angels will just bump Ervin Santana up to Saturday and Joel Pineiro up to Sunday. Thursday’s off day allows them to pitch on normal rest, so that’s not an issue.
A lot has been written and said about A.J. Burnett recently and many fans are calling for him to be traded. The obvious answer to that is that A.J. is untradeable. For the most part that is true, but clearly if the Yankees really wanted to trade him they could, it would just cost them a ton of money. Without getting too unrealistic and saying the Yankees should eat $40 million (of the $49.5 million remaining on his contract), what could they possibly get for him? Let’s take a look at some possible candidates in a Burnett trade and decide if shipping him out of town would be worth it.
Derek Lowe- The Braves had interest in Burnett when he was a free agent, reportedly offering him a 5 year/$80 million contract. When they couldn’t get him, they settled for Lowe at 4 years the $60 million. Lowe has two years and $30 million left on his deal, so the Yankees would certainly have to eat some of the cash on Burnett’s extra year. Would you trade Burnett and $10 million for Lowe, essentially paying $40 million for 2 years of Lowe, who hasn’t pitched in the AL East since 2004 and has a 4.37 ERA in the NL East the past two years? Though it would be tempting to have one less year of expensive mediocrity, A.J. has had success in the AL East much more recently than Lowe and has more upside.
Barry Zito- Zito has 3 years and $64.5 million remaining on his contract (including a buyout). I don’t think I need to go much further discussing this one do I? Despite Zito not being a total disaster the past two years (and that’s a compliment), there’s no way he’d have success in the AL East at this point in his career. As frustrating as A.J. can be, I cannot imagine watching Zito and his 85 MPH fastballs in the Bronx for the next 3 years.
Carlos Zambrano- A few months back I would consider this an absolute no. Now I think the Cubs would. Zambrano is owed just under $36 million over the next two years, so while the AAV is similar to A.J.’s, the extra year owed to Burnett is huge. Burnett has obviously been a disaster lately while Zambrano has been on a tear. Since being put back in the rotation in August Zambrano is 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA. Those numbers are a bit fluky, but there’s no doubt he’s looked much better since coming back. Zambrano of course has had several disciplinary and attitude issues with the Cubs, would they jump at the chance to get him out of their clubhouse and bring in the well-liked Burnett? I doubt it, and again, because of the extra year, the Yankees would have to chip in some cash. If the Cubs were interested in the swap, that could tell us a lot more about his relationship with the Cubs and maybe more behind the scenes issues we don’t know about it. If that’s the case, would you want the Yankees to bring him in?
Other than these three there aren’t many pitchers out there that you could even consider matching up in a trade. Dig into position players and you can find the untradeable players due to their contracts such as, Vernon Wells (4 years/$86 million), Alfonso Soriano (4 years/$72 million), Alex Rodriguez (oops). Clearly trading A.J. would not be easy, and no matter what you get back you’re not guaranteed an upgrade. Like it or not, A.J. is here to stay, so you might as well treat him like everyone’s crazy uncle. We have to deal with him, but he’s family, so just get ready to grind your teeth for the next three years while A.J. takes the mound.
While the Andrew Brackman call-up story has been all over the map, it was confirmed on Thursday that Brackman has indeed been activated. We still have no idea if Brackman will throw his first major league pitch this year (Thursday would have been an ideal time). If he does, and he’s a success, could we see Brackman on the postseason roster?
The pitching roster for the playoffs is far from set and the possibilities are being debated all over the place and I’m sure within the Yankees organization. If Brackman gets some garbage time innings in and dominates, I could see him replacing whoever is currently penciled in for the last spot on the roster. While it sounds crazy, Brackman has upside that Moseley, Vazquez, Gaudin and Mitre just don’t have. If he comes in and dominates for 5-10 innings over the next 10 days, why not?
This idea all stems from how valuable Francisco Rodriguez was for the Angels in 2002. He wasn’t called up until September and didn’t throw his first major league pitch until September 18th. He was 20 years old with 317.2 minor league innings, Brackman is 24 with 247.1 innings, so it’s not like Rodriguez had a huge advantage in experience, especially considering Brackman went to college. K-Rod established himself quickly and despite just 5.2 major league innings, there was no way the Angels could leave him off their playoff roster. They were rewarded when Rodriguez’ domination continued into the playoffs and helped the Angels to the title. I don’t think Brackman has it in him to dominate like K-Rod did, but he could also pitch 5 or 6 innings if needed in an extra inning or a bad AJ kind of game. He could truly be a wild card.
I will say that I don’t expect this to happen, but I would love for Brackman to get his feet wet in the majors and pitch well enough for him to even be in the discussion. While the last spot on a playoff bullpen may not matter much, if he pitches well enough to get real innings in, he could be extremely valuable. The value of relievers is greatly overrated in the regular season, but dominating performances out of the pen can go a long way in a tight postseason series. We’ve seen enough of Mariano Rivera over the past decade and half to know how valuable a shutdown reliever can be, but he hasn’t been alone. He’s the only one who has done it consistently, but there’s no way the Angels win in 2002 without Rodriguez, or the Sox in 2004 without Foulke, or the Cardinals in 2006 without Wainwright all dominating out of the pen. What do you think, if Brackman pitches and dominates over the next 10 days, would you want to see him on the mound in October?