Archive for Guest Columns
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?
On twitter recently Stephen R. from TYU threw out a question about what you would give up for Colby Rasmus. It wasn’t considering team needs, salary, etc. but he wanted to know how Yankee fans valued their prospects vs. Rasmus. There were interesting responses, and one of the often repeated arguments was that Yankee fans would rather trade Gardner than Granderson. This brings me to my question: Who does more for the Yankees in 2011?
I’ll start by saying I am a big proponent of Granderson. I think going forward for 2011 and 2012 (at least) Granderson will outproduce Gardner. Looking at their 2010 seasons this assertion seems a little off the wall, but I think we have seen the worst of Granderson and the best of Gardner. Granderson has been a valuable player this year, Gardner has played at an All-Star level. I get that. My concern is going forward. Aren’t we seeing the absolute peak of Gardner’s abilities this year?
If the 2010 Granderson is the player he is going forward, he still provides value as an average offensive player with above average defense in CF. Working with Kevin Long has helped Granderson recently, though there is no way we can directly correlate that Long’s help “fixed” Curtis. Whether it was Long’s help or not, Granderson’s bat has picked up in the past month. Long will likely be around next year and Granderson is a willing listener and learner. Either way, Granderson definitely has room for improvement. Will he ever be the beast he was in 2007 and 2008? Probably not, though at just 30 years old on Opening Day 2011, he’s still in his expected prime and is definitely capable on improving his 2010 season. Granderson’s 2010 BABIP is .283 vs. a career BABIP of .316. I can’t ignore that his 2009 BABIP was .275 so I don’t want to say he has been unlucky for two straight years, but his batted ball data hasn’t seen any major shift in 2009-2010 from the rest of his career. His career LD% is 20.7 which he is matching this year and was at 21.2% in 2009. With his speed and line drive rate, I have to think his BABIP is due for a rise next year. Even if it doesn’t, he’s still valuable.
If the 2010 Gardner is the player he is going forward, he provides a ton of value. I’m just not convinced Brett will keep this up going forward, this is likely his peak. What can he realistically do better than he is doing this year? He’s not going to hit for power. I doubt he’ll become a .420 OBP guy. Are more of his balls in play likely to fall in for hits? Doubtful. His defense is great and isn’t something that he’ll necessarily improve going forward. Gardner to me is the epitome of a sell high piece right now. We don’t know that Gardner can repeat this next year. If he does, that’s great. If he doesn’t, then you’ve just lost a very valuable trade chip and might have a 4th OF on your hands. Noted Yankee hater* Keith Law is still not sold on Gardner. He doesn’t believe Gardner’s skill set will allow him to continue producing at this level. Whether it turns out to be true or not, that’s a fair assessment. I don’t advocate trading Gardner for a middle reliever, but if there are teams out there that are sold on Gardner’s 2010 as his true level, you have to investigate. Considering the financial cost, I believe Gardner, at least to some teams, would be more valuable on the trade market than Granderson anyway.
In 2011 Gardner could certainly be a more valuable player than Granderson, but Granderson is far more of a sure thing. Granderson’s potential peak is higher, but more importantly Gardner’s potential floor is lower. Maybe the Yankees are 100% sold on Gardner and like his cheap production, but if these guys come up in trade talks during the offseason, I’d much rather Gardner be the one packing his bags.
Since it’s the start of the NFL season I wanted to intertwine football and the Yankees. Let’s take a look at some professional athletes with ties to the Yankees and the NFL. Which ones made the right choice?
Pat White- As has been discussed here, White was recently cut from the Miami Dolphins after being a 2nd round pick just last year. His football prospects are not looking great right now (there are rumors he received zero phone calls once cut), so it would be interesting to see if he has considered heading back to the diamond and soon after writing that White signed a deal with the Royals to return to baseball, though he may not be completely done on the gridiron. As we know, the Yankees drafted him in the 48th round of the 2009 draft, but he was also drafted three other times, in the 49th round in 2008 by the Reds, in the 27th round in 2007 by the Angels and in the 4th round in 2004 by the Angels (passing up 6 figures). He got a college education and $2.4 million guaranteed so despite his recent axing, he likely made the right choice.
John Elway- It’s pretty easy to say John Elway made the right choice, but he was a good baseball player as well. Two years before he was drafted in the NFL, the Yankees spent their 1981 2nd round pick on Elway. In 1982 he played 42 games for Oneonta and put up an impressive .318/.432/.464 line. If the Baltimore Colts didn’t cede to his trade demand, maybe he would have actually stuck with baseball. Who knows if he ever would have made it to Yankee Stadium.
Drew Henson- Drew Henson turned out to be the anti-Elway. He did stick with baseball but wasn’t quite good enough and went back to football. That didn’t work out so well either as he has appeared in just 9 NFL games with one start. Had he stuck to one sport or the other coming out of High School he definitely would have had a better chance, but we’ll never know if stepping away from the football field would have allowed him to learn how to hit a curveball.
Daunte Culpepper- Culpepper’s struggles with academics almost led him down the baseball path. While he was recruited by big schools like The U and Florida out of high school, he didn’t have the test scores to get in (seriously the couldn’t sneak him into The U?). He did find a home at the University of Central Florida where he committed to playing quarterback. Had he never found a college to call home, he just may have joined the Yankees, who drafted him in the 26th round in 1995. Culpepper must have been a pretty menacing dude on the mound at 6’4 and 250+ pounds with a great arm. There is no doubt Culpepper made the right call as he has earned a ton of money in the NFL.
Deion Sanders- Deion primarily went the football route where he became a Hall of Famer and one of the best cornerbacks of all time. He did stick around baseball long enough to play in 641 games and put up a .263/.319/.392 line, that’s not too shabby considering his two sport status. Deion was terrible as a Yankee with a 55 OPS+, and his most famous Yankee moment is probably pissing off Carlton Fisk which almost led to a brawl.
Bo Jackson- Deion and Bo were undoubtedly the biggest two sport athletes in the past 25+ years. Bo, who went on to have very successful, but injury shortened careers in both MLB and the NFL was originally drafted out of high school by the Yankees in the 2nd round in 1982 (a year after taking Elway in the 2nd round). Jackson went unsigned and chose to go to Auburn to play both football and baseball. Jackson had Hall of Fame talent in both sports, and had he stuck to one sport and avoided injury he likely would have made it. He’ll have to settle for being in the Tecmo Bowl Hall of Fame.
Dave Winfield- Mr. May definitely made the right choice in sticking to baseball and spent 9+ years with the Yankees. Along with being a first round pick in baseball (as a pitcher, no less) he was drafted in the 17th round of the NFL draft despite never playing college football. Winfield was also drafted in the both the NBA and ABA drafts. While football was probably never a serious choice he likely could have made it in pro basketball, but not with the success he enjoyed in baseball. Despite being drafted in several sports, in the recent Baseball Analysts draft, Winfield waited by the phone but never got the call. (that last sentence might not be entirely true).
Others of note: Brandon Jones of the Seattle Seahawks was drafted by the Yankees in 2001. World Cup goalie Tony Meola (ok, that’s futbol not football but he did try out for the Jets) was drafted by the Yankees.
Felix Hernandez recently became the 3rd youngest player since 1950 to reach 1000 career strikeouts. While the offseason extension he signed may have put a damper on the King Felix to NY dreams, he still will hit free agency at the age of 29. Next time around don’t expect much of a team friendly deal though, and the Yankees will certainly be in the mix barring a disaster for Felix on the way.
What are the odds of this disaster? As a young guy with a ton of pitches already on his arm, is he more predisposed to injury or burning out too soon? I decided to take a look at other pitchers who reached 1000 strikeouts before their age 26 season. Since 1950, 11 pitchers have done this. Let’s take a look at who they are and how they performed until they were 25 and how they performed from 29 (when Felix will likely become a FA) to 35.
Future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven is 1st on the list. While he was still a very good pitcher, he saw decreases in his K/9 rate (to 6.7) and K/BB rate (to 2.79). Also, his ERA+ dropped from a stellar 132 to a decent 118. His best years certainly came before hitting 29 but he was very productive into his mid 30’s.
Everyone is aware of Dwight Gooden’s problems and his career certainly peaked early, but if his early workload was a factor(likely), it was only one of many. Doc certainly battled his demons throughout the years. Ages 29-35 were not pretty for Doc, with a 6.1 K/9, 1.44 K/BB and a 96 ERA+. He was done at the age of 35.
Sam McDowell’s last good year as a major league pitcher came at the age of 28 (after a league leading 305 innings at 27). He was done at 32. From 29-32 he was bad, with a 6.9 K/9, 1.23 K/BB and 87 ERA+. After a very solid start to his career, McDowell was out of the game at an age where Randy Johnson had just 104 wins.
Fernandomania is next. Even though he came along later than most of the guys on this group, Valenzuela still came up in an era where pitch counts were mostly ignored. While he also battled some conditioning issues, I think the workload certainly caught up to Fernando. After a stunning start to his career, Fernando’s last good season came at 25 and was less than mediocre after the age of 29. From 29-35 Fernando had a 4.8 K/9 ratio, 1.38 K/BB ratio and 91 ERA+. He retired at 36.
While Don Drysdale is in the Hall of Fame, his late career was not great and he retired at 32. From 29-32 his K/9 ratio was 5.8 with a strong 3.17 BB/9 ratio and about a league average ERA+ of 105. Leading the league in starts for 4 straight years from 25-28 (eclipsing 300 innings every year) certainly couldn’t have helped him in his twilight. He basically did nothing after the age of 28 that bolstered his Hall of Fame chances other than compile a few more wins.
Frank Tanana was a great young left handed fireballer (I’ve heard Jon Lester as a good comp.) who was one of the best pitchers in baseball before he hurt his arm. He came back and reinvented himself as a soft tosser. While he was pretty successful afterwards, he never again approached his early career success. From 29-35 he had ratios of 5.9 K/9, 2.12 K/BB and a 107 ERA+.
Denny McLain had some Gooden like off the field issues, but was out of baseball at 28 primarily due to serious arm problems. At ages 24 and 25 he threw 661 innings combined and threw just 384.1 the rest of his career. He appeared to be on his way to the Hall of Fame (114-57 thru 25) but clearly never came close. He never even reached his age 29 season, but from 26-28 he struck out just 4.3 batters per 9 with a 1.46 K/BB ratio and a 73 ERA+. The workload certainly got to McLain soon after he was old enough to rent a car.
Larry Dierker’s career got started at 17 (and think of how impressive what Jesus Montero is doing in AAA at the age of 20). Shockingly enough (or not shocking at all), Dierker was done at 30. At 29 and 30 Dierker had a 4.7 K/9, 1.34 K/BB and an 87 ERA+. Good thing he threw those 305 innings at the age of 22 though.
Former A and Yankee Catfish Hunter is up next, and while he stuck around long enough to be enshrined in Cooperstown (his worthiness is another discussion) Catfish’s career also ended early and his career as a great pitcher ended as soon as he hit 30. He actually wasn’t a great pitcher from 19-25 but racked up a ton of innings getting him plenty of strikeouts. His best years came from 25-29 but was about average after that. From 29-33 he struck out 4.5 batters per 9, had a 1.84 K/BB ratio and a 103 ERA+ that includes his 144 ERA+ at 29.
Last on the list is Joe Coleman who was done at 32 and threw just 378 innings after 29. He had a 4.9 K/9 and a 1.25 K/BB to go along with a 101 ERA+. At 18 he threw 93 innings between the minors and majors. At 19 it was 208. Too bad Tom Verducci wasn’t around to save the day.
I didn’t know what I was going to encounter when I started this post, but maybe Nolan Ryan should take a look. A lot of these guys burned out early and it would be interesting to see what they could have accomplished with today’s workloads and pitching programs. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of these guys were out of the game so early, and none of them could match their early successes. While I don’t think too much can be culled from these comparisons I think it’s interesting nonetheless. Clearly Felix has been groomed differently as a big money bonus baby whose every move and pitch has been tracked since he signed. Still, there is no guarantee he will be healthy down the road, and some believe you only have so many bullets in an arm before its shot. I hope Felix is sitting there as a big free agent at 29 because that will mean continued health and success for him. If he ends up on the Yankees down the road, lets just hope he breaks the mold of the list of guys above.
The following is a guest post that comes from regular RAB commenter tommiesmithjohncarlos, and recaps all of the Yankees’ wins without Alex Rodriguez in the lineup. There have been a bunch of them, and regardless of what some may thing, the team is not better off without him.
We’ve already heard a few times how the Yankees were 12-0 (ZOMG!!!) in the games Alex Rodriguez has missed this year from various corners of the MSM and blogosphere. While we’re all smart enough to know that the team isn’t really better without Alex, I was curious to see how we were able to do so well without him nonetheless. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
The (now 15) games ARod hasn’t played in so far:
#24, May 2: A 12-3 hometown beatdown of Mark Buerhle/Tony Peña and the White Sox.
Gardner had a second inning RBI single and a 4th inning solo homer; Cano hit a three-run shot in the 5th to break it open (5-0) and chase Buerhle. Swish hit a two-run shot an inning later to make it 7-0, then starting with Sado the team went double-groundout-walk-ROE-walk-double-double to plate five more runs. Hughes left after 7 frames with a 12-0 lead.
#48, May 28: An 8-2 hometown beatdown of Fausto Carmona/Tony Sipp and the Indians.
Swisher hit a two-run blast in the second and Miranda/Gardner chipped in with a bases-loaded walk and sac fly in the 6th, but it was still just 4-2 Yankees when we finally got Carmona out after 6 innings. Tony Sipp promptly loaded the bases (walking Tex, sounds familiar) to face Robbie, who hit a predictable grand slam. Game over, Hughes wins again.
#61, June 11: Andy beats Brett Myers and the Astros in an interleague tilt at YS3, 4-3.
We jump on Myers in the bottom of the first with a groundout-double-walk-single-bases loaded walk-strikeout-single to plate three. Swish had the RBI BB and Cervelli hit a patented BABIP single to plate the second and third runs. In the fifth, Kevin Russo singles, steals second and scores on a Tex single to add a needed insurance run.
#62, June 12: A 9-3 hometown beatdown of the ‘Stros, this time Wandy Rodriguez who gives up 8 runs.
Jeter and Hunter Pence trade leadoff solo shots in the 1st and 2nd, and it’s 2-2 in the third when Wandy gives up an RBI single to Swisher and then walks Tex and gives up a single to Cano to load the bases for Posada. I think you can guess what happens. Three innings later he issues leadoff walks to Cervelli and Granderson, chasing him from the game and summoning Jeff Fulchino, who gives up a three-run shot to Jeter for the 7th/8th/9th runs of the game.
#63, June 13: We finish the home sweep of the lowly ex-Colt .45s with a 9-5 romp over Brian Moehler and Gustavo Chacin.
Hughes gives up a first inning sac fly, but Robbie ties the game in the 4th with a solo shot. A strikeout and three walks later, Ramiro Peña knocks in a run on a sac-fly (but I thought we never hit those?!?!), but Huffman ends the rally getting thrown out stretching at third. The reprieve is brief, however; after retiring Jeter to open the fifth, Moehler walks Granderson and gets Jorge to pop-up for out #2. Chacin comes in for the lefty-lefty matchup and pulls a Phil Coke, walking both Cano and Swisher to load the bases. Casey Daigle comes in to put out the electrical fire, but Jorge Posada pees all over it instead and the 3-1 lead becomes a 7-1 lead with one swing (Ed. Note: You probably remember this as the worst single pitch in baseball history. Total meatball). Hughes improves to 9-1 on the year in another slugfest.
#64, June 15: The Sabathia-Halladay duel of aces at YS3 turns out to be a cakewalk 8-3 victory.
Swish-Sado-Gardner kick it off in the second with a single-walk-GritTriple™ to plate two runs. Granderson hits a solo shot to open the next inning; after Tex flies out, Cano doubles and Swish knocks him in with a homer of his own and it’s 5-0. CC gives three back with a string of singles the very next inning, but a Tex solo shot in the fifth pushes it back to 6-3. Two innings later, Halladay is lifted for Antonio Bastardo who gets Cano and Swisher to ground out and fly out… which would have been more impressive if those two outs weren’t sandwiched between two HBPs (Tex and Sado) and a walk to Gardner to load the bases. Bastardo is replaced by David Herndon, who is no match for Frankie Cervelli’s BABIP magic single that plates two more runs.
#109, August 7: CC hiccups, but recovers to shut down the now-dead Boston Red Sox in a 5-2 home win.
Victor Martinez homers to open the 2nd, and Beltre-Lowell hit consecutive doubles to put CC in an 0-2 hole early. That’s all they’d get, though: the big fella retires 20 of the next 24 Red Sox to step to the plate, giving up only a single in the third, and ROE in the 5th ,a single in the 6th and a walk in the seventh (erased on a GIDP). In the bottom of the second, the Yankees erase Boston’s lead when Lance Berkman walks and then scores on Granderson’s triple, who scores himself on a Peña groundout. Lackey then gives up four straight singles (Swish-Tex-Cano-Posada) to score two more in the 5th; in the 6th, Granderson hits a leadoff single, steals second and advances to third on the airmailed throw, and Peña’s gets him home from third again (on a single this time). Mo works a perfect ninth (as usual).
#119, August 17: CC outduels another ace – this time Justin Verlander – in a 6-2 home victory.
The Austin Jackson leadoff solo shot is probably fresh in your memory. As is Verlander giving up a single-walk-flyout-walk-single-walk to the first six batters he faced to give that lead right back, then giving up a solo shot to Granderson in the bottom of the second. It stayed at 3-1 until Daniel Schlereth gave up a double-single combo to Gardner and Jeter (sandwiched around 3 Ks) to add a tack-on run in the 6th, then served up a leadoff homer to Cano in the 7th. And guess what, another Ramiro Peña sac fly for the 6th run a few batters later, imagine that. Somebody knows how to play smallball… CC goes 7 full, striking out 9, and the Yanks control the game start-to-finish.
#120, August 18: Moseley is kinda meh, but Bonderman is utterly bleh in a 9-5 Yankees home win.
Gardner opens the game with a HBP; a Jeter K later, Tex and Cano kick off the scoring with back to back bombs. Miggy the great hits two solo bombs of his own in the 2nd and 4th innings to narrow it to 3-2, but Kearns-Peña-Gardner go walk-triple-double (yes, a Ramiro triple, he’s an offensive juggernaut) to plate two insurance runs and Gardner scores the 6th run on a pair of errors by Cabrera and Ramon Santiago. Granderson adds a solo shot in the 5th, and after Tex-Swish-Cano load the bases with a single-GR double-IBB (with a Cano flyout and a Granderson K mixed in), Kearns knocks in two more with the second ground rule double of the inning to make it 9-4. Joba/Logan/Wood/Gaudin/Robertson/Rivera all come in to relieve Moseley to close out the win. Four holds, son, FOUR HOLDS!!!
#121, August 19: At YS3, Hughes bests Porcello in the First Round Phenom Matchup™, 11-5.
A Cabrera two-run shot in the first puts the Yanks in an early hole, but Tex and Cano start the party in the 4th with a single-single-single-flyout-single-flyout run; Swish and Granderson get the RBIs. That 2-2 tie becomes 11-2 in the 6th, as Porcello, Schlereth, Robbie Weinhardt and Eddie Bonine combine to do the following: walk to Tex, double by Cano, walk to Swisher, double by Posada – new pitcher – walk to Granderson – new pitcher – double by Kearns, groundout by Peña, passed ball walk by Gardner (followed by a stolen base), triple by Jeter – new pitcher – groundout by Tex, 2-run homer by Cano, single by Swisher, and finally a groundout by Jorge to end the frame. BOOM. Back up the truck.
#123, August 21: The team bounces back from King Felix’s gem to pound Seattle 9-5 at YS3.
Javy Vazquez only made it 3 innings, giving up four runs (three via solo homer to Russell Branyan and Ichiro… twice). But the Yankees matched those 4 runs in the second inning, with Jeter and Tex hitting a single and a double, getting knocked in on Robbie’s single; one batter later, Posada dumped one over the wall to bring himself and Cano home. Jason Vargas kept it at 4-4 until the seventh, when Kearns-Granderson-Nuñez-Jeter-Swisher-Teixeira hit four straight singles followed by a walk and a sac fly to plate three more runs and knock the starter out. The next inning, Posada, Gardner and Granderson reached on a walk-single ROE, scoring a run, and then Ramiro “Mr. Sac Fly” Peña did his thing again to knock in Gardner from third and make it 9-4. Win, baby.
#124, August 22: CC dominates and the intentional walk haunts the M’s again in a 10-0 home romp.
Austin Kearns’s solo homer in the 4th was a nice appetizer. An inning later, after a walk and a single to Jeter and Swish, Tex got IBB’d to load the bases for the cleanup hitter (again) and Cano smacked a granny (again). Seriously, we have been coming to this same party for the last twelve years, and in no way is that depressing. That 5-0 lead would have been more than enough for The Big Stoppa, but in the 6th Jeter chipped in with a sac fly and two walks later Cano knocked in two more with a single, then the next inning Posada hit a solo shot and an inning after that “Big Game” Ramiro Peña singled and scored on a Marcus Thames baseknock. 10 runs for the Yanks versus only 9 total baserunners (only two of whom even reached third base safely) allowed by CC, Wood, and Joba. That’s a beatdown.
#125, August 23: The Ivanova/Jose Bitchtista Game. I think we remember that. 2-3 L in Canadia.
#126, August 24: Tuesday. Fun Fact: We scored as many runs as “Rzepczynski” has in his last name. 11-5 W up north.
#127, August 25: Yesterday
Summary: We went 12-0 in the first 12 games ARod missed, all of which were at home, BTW. We then lost the Bitchtista game, rebounded the next day, and then lost last night. We scored a ton of runs in almost every game, because ARod or no ARod, we’re good at scoring a ton of runs.
The lesson here is this team is so packed with awesome goodness that we can afford to miss ARod for a few games and always put a studly lineup out there and back it up with top-shelf pitching. (Oh, and it helps to have the bench scrubs kick in a few timely BABIP singles or sac flies and make the void ARod vacated remain productive.)
The league should fear us. Deep and thick, baby.
Brian Cashman had a tough offseason coming into 2010. While many of his moves made sense at the time, several of Cashman’s offseason trades and signings have not worked out. Nick Johnson is likely out for the season after less than 100 plate appearances. Javy Vazquez has at least provided innings, but otherwise has been much worse than expected. Curtis Granderson, so far, has not rebounded from his poor 2009 and will need to hope Kevin Long can get him straightened out with an overhaul of his swing. Chan Ho Park and Randy Winn, again signings that made sense, were disasters. All of this brings me to one move that Cashman nailed in the offseason: Marcus Thames.
Thames was brought in to mash left handed pitching. Cash likely had some visions of Thames playing the OF, but the injury to Johnson has for the most part left Thames in the DH role. That’s a good thing. Thames is a butcher in the outfield, but we knew this before he was signed. Keep him out of the outfield at all costs. Despite doing everything asked of him and more, Thames has seemed to get no love this year which is unfortunate.
It started for Thames in spring training when he could not buy a hit. He went 7 for 52 putting up a stunning .135/.182/.269 line. Just 33 at-bats into spring training people already wanted Thames cut (Ed. Note: Like this idiot). Small sample size be damned, people were killing the Thames signing and instead wanted the Yankees to keep Jamie Hoffmann, or explore the Jermaine Dye, Gary Sheffield market. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and Thames made the cut.
Thames shining moment of the season, when he was finally appreciated by the majority of fans quickly disappeared. On Monday May 17th Thames did the thing that Yankees fans might enjoy most for a regular season game. Hit a walkoff against Jonathan Papelbon. It doesn’t get much better than that, and remember, Paps is a right handed pitcher, so it wasn’t what Thames was brought in for. If Thames had struck out there I would not have been surprised nor pissed at him, it’s not his primary role. 24 hours later of course it all came crashing down as Thames dropped a ball in the outfield that led to a Yankees loss, again against the Sox. Thames was nearly in tears after the game; probably as much for the reception he would get from fans as he was for blowing the game. Again though, Thames was outside of his element, he had no business being in the field in the 9th inning of a close game.
Getting back to Thames’ actual role he could not be doing a better job. He is hitting .343/.416/.448 off left handed pitchers. More shockingly Thames is even destroying right handed pitchers this year to the tune of a .283/.386/.500 line. For a guy who was only brought in to hit lefties, could he have possibly brought more to the table than he has?
Despite already having the best record in baseball and a budget (albeit flexible) at its limit, the Yankees owned the trade deadline in a way that would make George Steinbrenner proud. They got big names in Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood because they were willing to take on salary and not let money get in the way of improving the team. They also did this without sacrificing any major pieces for their future. There was no trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, just signing the checks that other franchises were unwilling to write.
In fact, the Red Sox were in on Wood as well, but wouldn’t take on as much salary. The Sox wouldn’t take on the $1.5 million the Yankees were willing to pay to get Wood (Beware, that link is for John Tomase who’s not the most credible of writers). So the Red Sox, who by inquiring on Wood think they are still in the race (and they are) let a few hundred thousand dollars get in the way of obtaining him. Much like the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira pursuits, the Red Sox had their chance and came up short when it came time to open the wallet (I guess they should have sold a few more memberships to Red Sox Nation). Can you imagine how thrilled George would be to know this?
While the Astros did pick up a significant portion of Berkman’s salary, the Yankees still needed to commit to paying Berkman, having a down year, $3.1 million for 2 months of regular season work plus hopefully the playoffs. Considering they have already committed $5.5 million to the DH position in Nick Johnson and we’re in a recession, this was not a tiny pill to swallow. While upgrading the DH position in a big way was more of a want than a need, they saw an opportunity to strike with the biggest cost being money. Again they went for it, and again, the Boss would be proud.
There were concerns after Steinbrenner’s passing that Hal would run the team more as a business and less as a fan leading the Yankees to cut back on spending going forward. So far so good however, as the decision makers decided the increased payroll was worth the increased chances of winning it all. Did the Yankees, as constructed on July 29th, have a chance to win the World Series? Of course they did. Do the Yankees, on August 1st have a better chance of winning the World Series? Of course they do. Not only did the Yankees step up to the plate and take their shot, but for the most part their main competitors didn’t as the Red Sox and Rays didn’t wow anyone with their deadline moves. Give credit to the guys signing the checks this year and know that what they pulled off the past few days would make the old man proud.
By now you’ve been inundated with rumor after rumor and discussion after discussion on how much value the Yankees would give up to receive D-Backs pitcher Dan Haren. The Yankees have said that they’re not willing to give up Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Z-Mac, Banuelos and eating salary. No, I have no new news to report. With other teams balking and Arizona hemorrhaging cash, it makes sense for the Yankees to wait it out and see the asking price drop. So what would you give up to get Haren? Remember, we’re talking the most you’d put toward the center of the table.
There are very good reasons to pursue Haren –he’s a borderline ace/great #2 with a very attractive below-market contract, which would give the team a great second starter, keep Hughes’ inning limit in check, and really hedge their other rotation concerns. No need to rush Andy, and it also limits some lingering concerns about AJ Burnett.
On the other side, Haren really isn’t a need, that’s still around $30 million they’d be adding to payroll, at present it would be a heavy prospect loss, and the addition may adversely impact the pursuit of Cliff Lee.
Before I get to my own personal high offer, let’s first knock down a few points.
People continue to say the Yankees would be “selling low” on Joba to trade him off when he’s pitching so poorly. Yet, I don’t see it that way. Clearly, his value is high for the Diamondbacks. Their bullpen is remarkably inept. Maybe they overvalue the impact of closers. Whatever the case, if his value now is high enough to be the main piece that gets a top 20 pitcher in baseball (while giving up what appear to be 2 back-end rotation guys, a promising mature lefty in Banuelos), isn’t that enough for Yankee fans? What could Joba get you if you ‘sold high’ on him? He’s going to hit arbitration soon, and for this team he’s been a very mixed bag. Dan Haren is probably the ceiling on what Joba could get you if his value is much higher. And Dan Haren on a team-friendly deal is not a bad thing at all.
Beyond that, as Artisteve at TYU points out, it doesn’t appear the Yankees have much faith in Joba as a starter going forward. From their perspective that’s not unreasonable (though I think they’ve botched the handling along the way, though Joba certainly should be as responsible for his performances; hard to gauge). If you think Dan Haren would be overall more valuable for the team over the next three years than Nova, Joba, Z-Mac, and Banuelos would be, you certainly pull the trigger.
However, there is more to that. I saw a great comment yesterday, one that Moshe Mandel of TYU pointed out. steve (different one) notes that contrary to the belief of some, it’s not that one player holds up the deal, but rather, adding that one additional piece that tips the scales in the wrong direction. Maybe losing Joba isn’t a big deal. Maybe even adding the salary of Haren and giving up Nova is something they’d be willing to do. But an additional piece, an asset they clearly value, like Banuelos or Z-Mac is just too much for them. That asset would be there to offset some kind of other loss, and thus, would be too steep a price for what the team may consider just a luxury. At the same token, you can’t just offer up Nova, Z-Mac and Ramiro Pena and expect them to jump. That porridge is too cold.
The Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all
On the financial side, it preliminarily looks like it could work. Financially, the team should have close to $80 million coming off payroll next year. Of course, with Jeter and Mariano, you’re probably looking at $30 million next season in contracts. So we’re down to $50. And even with Haren, you’d still be looking at another pitcher at over $11 million, so we’re down to $24-25 million. (Drop even further if that pitcher next year is Cliff Lee.)
With the bullpen needing some improvement and the DH situation looking cloudy, in addition to arbitration to Hughes, salary jumps to Teix, Granderson, and Swisher, we’re probably down to around $18 million. Of course, this is all highly dependent on a myriad of factors, but let’s be clear — there is a very good chance that Haren and Lee for around $32 million is a realistic possibility next year. It’s basically Andy, Javy and Kei Igawa being replaced by those two.
But I want it now!
On a personal level, I’d be a bit disappointed if the Yankees didn’t get Haren, even if it’s Joba, Nova, Z-Mac and (gulp) Banuelos. That’s right, push comes to shove, it’s five minutes before the trade deadline, I include Banuelos, Nova, Z-Mac and Joba, while taking on Chris Snyder (I’ll explain in a bit) and the salary of Haren (which is a completely reasonable salary considering his performance). Of course, there’s no reason to bet against oneself, so I suspect the price tag will drop, but I could live with that offer.
Banuelos, to me, is the hardest part of that. While there’s certainly value in back-end starters like Nova and Z-Mac, I don’t have a terrible amount of faith in them, and they have far more value as trade pieces to the Yankees than they do as actual players. Joba, if not given the opportunity and right amount of leash to be a top-flight starter, holds below-average value to the Yankees. I like Joba as a talent, but he may not suit the needs and philosophy of the organization, at least not this year, probably not next year either. Banuelos is a tantilizing talent. A lefty with great poise and very good stuff, he could be a star some day. But he might not be. He’s under 20-years-old and in A-ball. It would be a damn shame to lose him, but there are still a few levels for him to jump and he’s still a “prospect”. Tough to swallow, but if that’s what helps get an established #1.5 starter, I’m willing.
Chris Snyder is an overpaid pseudo-backup catcher, but a fairly good player. He has 15 HR pop, good on-base skills, and is defensively a pretty good catcher. The team could legitimately pair him with Jorge Posada for the rest of the season, who’s missed quite a bit of time to a host of nagging injuries over the past few years. Boom, there’s your DH, even if Jorge does whine about it. If nothing else, limiting the playing time of Francisco Cervelli is a big benefit to the lineup. (Sorry, Blue Eyes.)
With Snyder being under contract only through 2011 (albeit with a moderate-sized buyout in 2012), Montero could work as a rotating DH with Jorge. Montero, under this scenario, would be splitting time at catcher with Snyder. Snyder’s gone in 2012, where it seems a good bet Romine would be ready, at least in some capacity. Either way, Snyder (for $5.5 million) may be a little expensive, but a short contract that fills a need and allows a good deal of lineup versatility. Considering the other catchers are either some-glove, no-bat or all-bat, no-glove, I think that’s reasonable, though if they could pay half of that cost, it would be gravy. Hell, trade them Cervelli if they eat some of Snyder’s salary.
Dan Haren would of course slot behind CC and Hughes would return to the bullpen for the remainder of the season. I’ve been extremely pleased with Phil’s performance on a whole this year, but he’s near his innings limit and has had some trouble finishing off batters over the course of the season. With Joba gone, the latter part of the bullpen would appear in much better shape.
Moving to next year, it’s not unreasonable to think a 1-5 of CC, Lee, Haren, Hughes, AJ is possible. Haren may or may not knock Lee’s price down this off-season, and if nothing else, provides some sort of contingency plan if CC decides to opt-out and takes the Yankees on an expensive joyride. Don’t underestimate the closing of the Yankees’ window. Jeter, Mariano, Posada, A-Rod may not have many more very good seasons left. Adding two of the top pitchers for the next few years could do a tremendous amount to strike while they still can.
So having rambled for 1200 words, I ask what, if anything, your max offer for Dan Haren would be? Remember, it needs to be a bit painful. (Unless it’s Betemit and Jeff Marquez for Swisher, of course.)
For more of my incessant chatter, check out Mystique and Aura (though I’ve been busy at work lately and you won’t find much current information to check out. But whatevs, if you’re there, look at Steve’s stuff. He’s a less-neglectful parent).
A few weeks back I had the chance to meet Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster. I’ll start off by saying he was an extremely nice, down to earth guy, and from now on I’m a fan of his. While I only had a few minutes to talk to him, my first question was what he thought the Yankees should do with Joba Chamberlain. As a pitcher who has had success in both the rotation and then pen, I was intrigued on what he had to say on the subject.
Dempster first said they need to just make up their minds one way or another, which I completely agree with. The bouncing around Joba has been through isn’t helping anyone and they need to make a decision and stick with it. It’s pretty interesting to note, that while Dempster has pitched in both roles, in his 12 full seasons, he had a defined role and wasn’t switched back and forth. The closest he had to being bounced around was in 2005 where his first 6 appearances were starts and he spent the rest of the season in the bullpen. That is clearly the easy way to transition, from the rotation to the pen not the other way around. There’s no building up of innings or stamina, and once he was moved to the pen, he stuck.
Dempster believes, primarily because of pitching in the AL East, that Joba should probably remain in the bullpen. He mentioned the way lineups wear you down and how the pitch counts can grow pretty quickly, especially for a guy like Joba who racks up a lot of strikeouts. While I do disagree with him in that I am fully in the Joba as a starter camp, it is interesting to think about what Joba’s career path might have been like coming up in another division, or even in the NL as a starter. Obviously there’s no way the Yankees can ease their starters into the big leagues against weaker competition than the AL East, but the bullpen might be the way to go, as long as there is a set path to get a good young pitcher back to the rotation. While both Joba and Hughes have somewhat followed this path, it wasn’t by design, instead it was by necessity.
After talking with Dempster I decided to take a look at his career arc and found that after his time in the bullpen he became a much better starter. Phil Hughes may have gotten a boost in confidence last year in the pen, but Dempster had a full 3 seasons of relieving, and came out of it significantly improved in the rotation. In his 3 years as a starter before going to the pen Dempster had a 4.6 BB/9 ratio and a 6.9 K/9 ratio. In the three years since he’s been back in the rotation he’s at 3.2 BB/9 and 8.1 K/9, all coming in the NL. While there are likely a ton of reasons why Dempster improved, I wouldn’t be shocked if spending time in the pen was one of the main factors. As much as I want Joba in the rotation (and wanted him there for 2010), I really hope he can take advantage of his time in the bullpen to help him as a starter down the road.
My few minutes with Dempster certainly made me think about what’s going to happen with Joba’s future and how the (hopefully) temporary banishment to the bullpen (and yes, it was a demotion) makes him better down the road As much as I want Joba in the rotation (and wanted him there for 2010), I really hope he can take advantage of his time in the bullpen to help him as a starter down the road (even if with the Diamondbacks).