Archive for Irresponsible Rumormongering

Dec
16

Taking down a non-rumor

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(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

It was inevitable. The Yankees lost out of Cliff Lee, and now the potential pitching trade targets are coming out of the woodwork. We’ve heard about Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Joe Blanton, Kevin freaking Slowey, and plenty of others that are not worth listing. Yesterday another name popped up, one that shouldn’t surprise any of you: Carlos Zambrano. His name has frequented the trade rumor circuit for years, for no other reason than because he’s an ace, or at least the perception is that he’s an ace.

Before we dive into explaining why Zambrano is a bad fit for the Yankees, we have to understand that there is no rumor in the first place. It all started with this little nugget from Bill Madden yesterday…

In the meantime, look for Cashman to spend his saved money on shoring up the bullpen, with re-signing Kerry Wood a new priority. And in addition to re-signing Pettitte, he’ll still be exploring the trade market with the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano, who experienced a turnaround both in temperament and results under the tutelage of new Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild the last six weeks of last season, a likely target.

Emphasis mine. There’s zero reporting there. That’s Bill Madden saying that he considers Big Z a likely target without any concrete information. He didn’t even bother with anonymous scouts or persons close to the situation, he just threw a name out there and qualified it with “likely.” The part about Rothschild is irrelevant; he’d been the Cubs pitching coach since 2002 and now all of a sudden those last six weeks of the season are different? Doesn’t pass the sniff test, but of course everyone ran with it because all they saw was this…

In the meantime, look for Cashman to spend his saved money on shoring up the bullpen, with re-signing Kerry Wood a new priority. And in addition to re-signing Pettitte, he’ll still be exploring the trade market with the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano … OMG CARLOS ZAMBRANO!!!!

It’s nonsense, made up to fill out some lines in the newspaper. There is no rumor, just Bill Madden’s speculation. Now that that’s out of way, let’s move on to how bad of a move acquiring Zambrano would be if the Yankees did magically trade for him at some point.

He’s Not As Good As You Think

Once upon a time, Carlos Zambrano was a bonafide star in the marking. He pitched to a 3.58 FIP from ages 21 through 24, racking up 14.0 fWAR from 2003 through 2005 with no less than 4.5 fWAR or 209.2 IP per season. The problem is that his FIP and fWAR declined in each of those years, and since that ’05 season Zambrano’s been no better than pretty good.

After a 4.14 FIP, 3.9 fWAR campaign in 2006, Big Z has pitched to a 4.09 FIP with 11.8 fWAR total. He’s eclipsed the three-win plateau just once in the last four seasons, and his performance over that time is right on par with Joe Blanton’s (11.7 fWAR) and slightly worse than Scott Baker’s 12.4 fWAR). A.J. Burnett has even been able to outproduce Zambrano during that time (12.9 fWAR), and he spent 59 days on the disabled list in 2007.

Zambrano is a high strikeout (8.10 K/9 over the last two years), high walk (4.24 BB/9 after taking out intentional walks) pitcher that gets a fair share of ground balls (44.2%), and he’s done a better job of getting his case of homeritis under control in the last few seasons (0.51 HR/9). His swinging strike rate has been below league average for three years now (8.0%), and all of those innings (839.1 IP with the Cubs before he turned 25) seem to be slowly eating away at his velocity.

This isn’t to say that Zambrano is a bad pitcher, just that he’s not the ace he’s made out to be. There’s no denying that he’s a legit innings eater, assuming he isn’t being suspended by his own team like in 2010. His 50th percentile projection is probably something like 2.8-3.2 fWAR going forward, which would absolutely help the Yankees right now, but this isn’t a vacuum. There are other factors to consider besides performance.

He’s Really Overpaid

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Four pitchers in all of baseball make more money on an annual basis than Zambrano, and for all intents and purposes it’s the four best pitchers on the planet: Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, and Roy Halladay. That’s it. He’ll make $17.875M in 2011 and then $18M in 2012 before a $19.25M vesting option for 2013 comes into play. The option vests based on Cy Young Award voting, so I wouldn’t expect it to kick in, but we’re still talking $35.875M over the next two years. According to the data at FanGraphs, Zambrano was worth $50.8M in production over the last four seasons while being paid $63.025M. He hasn’t been worth his salary since 2006.

For the Cubs to make this even worth the Yankees’ consideration, they’d have to eat something like $15M left on Zambrano’s deal, and even then they’re not getting anything worthwhile in return.

He’s Insane

It amazes me that people are so quick to write off Zack Greinke as unable to handle New York because Social Anxiety Disorder sounds scary, yet think that Zambrano is fine. The dude is crazy. He’s gotten in teammate’s faces for not making defensive plays behind him, gotten into fights in the dugout (twice in the same game!), beaten the crap out of inanimate objects, and plenty of other stuff that you’ll find if you google “Carlos Zambrano crazy.”

We have absolutely no idea how Greinke would handle the pressure cooker of New York, we just think we do. We know how Zambrano acts when things don’t go his way though, and it involves going off the deep end more times than not. What happens when he has the inevitable four or five start slump (it happens to every pitcher) and has 50,000 people booing the crap out of him every five days? And just think about it for a second, half of the Cubbie faithful wants this guy gone. That tells you right away that there’s a problem, a problem the Yankees don’t need.

* * *

The entire idea of Carlos Zambrano in Yankee pinstripes is little more than a figment of Bill Madden’s imagination right now, and that’s a good thing. The negatives outweigh the positives, but you know the Cubs will value him as an ace-caliber pitcher on the trade market anyway because once upon a time he was that guy. He’s not now, hasn’t been for a few seasons. There is a ton of risk in Zambrano given his well-documented temper, risk that can be far more damaging than some free agent signing blowing out his arm. Just say no to Big Z.

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(Kathy Willens/AP)

While the re-signing of Mariano Rivera was relatively uneventful, there was an interesting twist. When news of the signing broke we learned that Rivera had other offers, and we later learned that one came from the Red Sox. The idea of a three-year, $51 million offer was shot down, but later word was that the Red Sox had offered two years and $30 million. Futhermore, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox were prepared to non-tender Jonathan Papelbon in the event that they landed Rivera. That left the Sox a little mess to clean.

A recent report from WEEI’s Rob Bradford attempts to walk back most of the story. It starts with the revelation that Mariano’s agent, Fernando Cuza, initiated contact with the Red Sox. When we first learned of the Red Sox offer it was assumed that they were the ones who contacted Rivera. Bradford’s scenario does make a bit of sense, though. What better way to attract the Yankees’ interest than by contacting the Red Sox?

The report also attempts to walk back the other part of the situation, i.e. Papelbon’s imminent non-tender. Bradford cites “separate sources,” and goes on to list the reasons why the Red Sox would never let Papelbon walk for nothing. If they offer him arbitration after the 2011 season, when he becomes a free agent, they can collect two compensatory draft picks if he signs elsewhere. Of course, that overlooks the possibility that Papelbon really is declining and that not only will he not be worth his salary in 2011, but that he won’t be worth the risk of an arbitration offer, thereby netting the Sox nothing if he leaves.

Still, it would represent a poor distribution of resources for the Red Sox to carry both Rivera at $15 million and Papelbon at $12 million. That’s more than the Rays will pay their entire pitching staff in 2011. The Red Sox can afford it, I suppose, but I doubt they’d do it. Plus, since the market for closers isn’t very strong, they’d have a hard time finding a taker for Papelbon at that salary. In the unthinkable event that Mo signed with Boston, I have to think that Boston would have cut ties with Papelbon. They can say, then, that they never intended to non-tender Papelbon, because they never really stood a chance to sign Mo.

There figured to be little drama in the Mariano negotiations, and as it concerned the Yankees there was not. Wanting to minimize risk, they wanted to sign him for only one year. He, wanting another two years before retirement, sought two years. His being Mariano Rivera, I’m sure the Yankees were prepared to go two years all along. It just took the Red Sox offer to prod them along. Might Rivera have contacted the Red Sox to get the process moving? Sure. Might the Red Sox have been willing to carry both Papelbon and Rivera? Maybe. But neither seems all that realistic. After the mess that Edes’s report created, I’m not surprised to see a contradictory one a few weeks later.

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The Yankees, says Buster Olney via Twitter, are going hard after Russell Martin. The club is “now taking an aggressive approach” in conversations with the recently non-tendered former Dodger backstop. Olney says the fight for Martin is between the Yankees and the Red Sox with others lurking on the periphery.

According to previous reports, the Yanks view Martin as a potential starting catcher which speaks volumes of the club’s assessment of Jesus Montero‘s defensive capabilities. Last Friday, the Bombers nearly traded Francisco Cervelli to the Dodgers for Martin, but the deal fell through at the last minute. While his would be a small signing, Martin could play a decent role on the 2011 Yanks if he makes it to New York.

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Here’s one from Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan that’s just designed to send Yankee fans into a tizzy: A source close to Zack Greinke says the mercurial ace would consider pitching in New York. “I wouldn’t put it past him to go to New York,” Passan’s source said. “I don’t think he’d rule out anybody. He says he likes New York. Especially because they’re winners. He wants to go to a team that wins. He’s got a list, but in the process, a lot of people have lists.”

This development essentially flies in the face of everything we’ve heard about Greinke so far. The right-hander, who has struggled with social anxiety disorder and depression, has reportedly been adverse to joining the Yankees, and his no-trade clause requires him to consent to a deal to the Bronx. Still, Passan reports that the Yanks and Royals have discussed Greinke and that the no-trade clause ” isn’t the impediment it’s been made out to be.” If Cliff Lee slips through their fingers or Andy Pettitte retires, the Yanks could very well begin to explore packaging some young talent for Greinke.

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Sometimes a huge detail slips through the cracks. That happens often during the hot stove season. Yet, even as I’ve kept abreast of most developments, this Tim Brown column at Yahoo escaped my attention yesterday. That’s a shame, because it contained quite the interesting tidbit:

An industry source said Monday the Yankees have offered Cliff Lee(notes) nearly $140 million over six years, but Lee continues to hold out for a seventh year.

On the RAB Radio Show yesterday I predicted that Lee would eventually sign for those six years and that $140 million. But until Brown published that column all we’d heard is that the Yankees “are in the $115 – $120 million range for five years.” We hadn’t even heard they’d made that a formal offer. For them to offer six years at $140 million at this point seems a bit unbelievable.

If true, I don’t think Lee will hold out for that seventh year for much longer. No team, not even the Rangers, is likely to match six years at $140 million. Lee might be trying to coax it out of someone, but once it’s clear that no one will bite I imagine he’d sign that contract with a mile-wide grin on his face. That might not be the largest total contract for a pitcher, it would provide Lee with the highest average annual value for a pitcher in history. Considering his age, I think that’s as big a win as he can expect.

Still, something about this doesn’t make sense. Why would the Yankees make this offer right at the start? How did everyone let this tidbit slip for a full day without regurgitating it? I really don’t think the Yankees would offer a sixth year on their own volition. Rather, they’d do so in reaction to an increased bid by Texas. Again, I think the Yankees eventually get to that 6/140 spot, but I’m not sure they’d try to blow away Lee with it in the same manner they did Sabathia. But it’s possible, I guess.

As Mike and I discussed on yesterday’s show, chances are Lee won’t sign until the Winter Meetings. We’d all love a Thanksgiving present, but with Lee reportedly seeking to induce a bidding war, there’s little to no chance of that happening. His next press conference, I expect, will be at Yankee Stadium. But I wouldn’t bank on that until December.

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Nov
13

Yankees interested in John Buck?

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Via Buster Olney (Insider req’d), the Yankees have some interest in free agent catcher John Buck, but they’re unlikely to offer him more than a one-year deal given the young catching they have coming up through the system. With Jorge Posada expected to take over as the full-time designated hitter, having a veteran catcher around to provide insurance behind Jesus Montero and Frankie Cervelli would be a wonderful thing. That said, Buck is going to try to cash in on the best year of his career (2.9 fWAR) as he should, so there’s a next-to-zero chance that he’ll settle for one year.

If anything, I expect the Yanks to sign some veteran to a minor league deal to stash in Triple-A, similar to Chad Moeller last year. There’s also a very real possibility that they’re trying to drive up the price for the Red Sox, who have legit interest in Buck.

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The Hot Stove League can be a funny, funny thing. Signings and trades tend to happen at isolated moments around the Winter Meetings, before Christmas and in early-to-mid January, and the weeks in between are filled with rumors and whispers, speculation and distortion. While Cliff Lee remains the free agent prize this year, the Yankees and their fans will be focusing on the homegrown hero and team captain. Today, we saw how discussion and speculation about Jeter can blow up into something it is not.

What grew into a furor by the afternoon started innocently enough with a pair of radio interviews with Hal Steinbrenner. While talking first with Michael Kay and then with Mike Francesa yesterday, Hal began to talk about Derek Jeter‘s negotiations, and as he mentioned that the Yanks were a business, he also mentioned the team’s interest in signing Jeter. But, he warned, he wanted a deal that was good for both sides. “There’s always the possibility that things could get messy,” he said.

Uh, oh! Things might be messy. It’s amazing how quickly a possibility of things getting messy turns into “Yanks warn of messy talks with Jeter,” as the headline on The Post said. ESPN had a similar take.

Today, the Internet exploded all over again when Jon Heyman, the King of Speculation, let loose what can only be termed his opinion as couched in an anonymous source. A few hours ago, he tweeted that “industry sources suggest” that Jeter could ask for six years (and be signed through age 42 as A-Rod is). The Yanks want him for fewer years. He elaborated in a season preview column:

There are early indications the talks with Jeter may take awhile. Some industry sources still say they wouldn’t be surprised if he initially sought to obtain a six-year deal to match the expiration age of Alex Rodriguez‘s contract, which would put Jeter at 42. The Yankees haven’t opened talks yet with his agent, Casey Close, and while it’s unconfirmed, there are a few early hints that the team may be thinking about a deal of about half that length, perhaps three guaranteed years.

So now we have “some industry sources” who “wouldn’t be surprised” if Jeter “initially sought” a six-year deal. It’s also “unconfirmed” but there are “a few early hints” that the Yankees would counter with a three-year deal. It’s somewhat shocking this paragraph made it past a Sports Illustrated editor considering the 2000 pounds of salt with which we must take it.

Right now, we don’t know what Jeter wants, what the Yanks are willing to pay or how long it’s going to take. But if this is the best rumor we’ve got, it isn’t worth listening to Heyman when he says, “Jeter could take awhile [sic],” and the only thing getting messy so far are the journalistic standards in place for reporting unfounded rumors.

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Via Jon Heyman, “people close to” Royals’ ace Zack Greinke say there’s no chance the righty would accept a trade to New York. Greinke has some sort of convoluted no-trade clause, and it’s only natural that he’d be connected to the Yankees after Kansas City put him out on the market.

The anti-Greinke camp was pretty strong given the concerns about his bout with social anxiety disorder and the MSM-made pressure cooker of New York, so this should make them happy. Sure, there has to be some concern when you’re dealing with something like that, but Greinke is a special case; a supremely talented 27-year-old with three straight years of no worse than 4.9 fWAR. Usually you move mountains to acquire a player like that, and who knows, they still might.

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Via NPB Tracker, agent Don Nomura called the Yankees a “dark horse” in the bidding for Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a classic case of an agent trying to drive up the price by looping the Yanks into the mix. I posted about Iwakuma yesterday, and we have zero indication that they actually have interest in acquiring him, at least until this report from his agent. The posting process started today, so we should found out a results in the next week or so.

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You may have seen this report yesterday, indicating that former pitching coach Dave Eiland felt his opinions were “de-emphasized” after his return from a month-long personal leave of absence this past June. Well, Mark Feinsand spoke to Eiland himself, who said the report was “absolutely ridiculous and simply not true.” Glad he cleared that up. He also declined to speak about the circumstances of his dismissal, which should come as no surprise.

Even if the the relationship between Girardi and Eiland did deteriorate after the leave of absence, it’s still pretty much a non-story. When established big leaguers like A.J. Burnett and Javy Vazquez pitch as poorly as they did down the stretch, they’re to blame. Not the coaching staff.

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