DotF: Ramon Flores hits for the cycle to open 2015

Okay, now the 2015 season has really begun. The minor league season opened today, so I suppose I have to announce OF Aaron Judge won this year’s Prospect Watch poll rather convincingly. He received almost exactly half of the 2,900+ votes that were cast. Here are the full results. I’ll get the Prospect Watch up either later tonight or tomorrow. Now let’s get to some season-opening notes:

  • LHP Daniel Camarena either already has or will soon make a trip to New York to have his elbow looked at. Apparently Tommy John surgery is likely. RHP Jared Burton (lat), LHP Jose DePaula (shoulder), and C Juan Graterol (arm) are all starting the season on the Triple-A DL. UTIL Ali Castillo (hand) and RHP Zach Nuding are also hurt. [Josh Norris, Donnie Collins, Matt Kardos]
  • RHP Felix Santiago, C Roybell Herrera, C Bismar Nunez, C Daniel Vavrusa, 3B Juan Lorenzo, SS Melvin Aquino, SS Allison Reyes, OF Hector Asencio, and OF Adolfo Morillo have all been released. Morillo ($50k) and Nunez ($10k) signed as international amateurs last July. Vavrusa was signed out of the Czech Republic back in 2011. Also, IF John Murphy and RHP Chris Smith were released, the two announced on Twitter. [Matt Eddy]
  • Judge (No. 5) and 1B Greg Bird (No. 10) were ranked as two of the ten best power prospects in the game by Chris Crawford (subs. req’d). Judge “should be hitting 20-plus homers a year in Yankee Stadium as soon as 2016,” wrote Crawford, who said Bird “has the potential to hit 30 homers in his prime, with 20-plus more likely.”
  • And finally, Double-A Trenton was named the eighth most talented team in the minors by Norris. “Starting the year with two Top 100 Prospects is excellent in its own right, but Trenton will have even more sock in its lineup with the additions of Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez and Eric Jagielo to complement Judge,” wrote Norris.

Now for the game recaps. Since it’s the first game of the year, here are the full lineups and results.

Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Syracuse)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K — hopefully his strong spring carries over into the season (and hopefully he stays healthy)
  • LF Ramon Flores: 4-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB — Opening Day cycle? awesome
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 3-5, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 3 RBI
  • DH Jonathan Galvez: 0-5, 3 K – only guy who didn’t get invited to the party
  • 3B Cole Figueroa: 1-4, 1 R
  • SS Nick Noonan: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B
  • C Eddy Rodriguez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K – Austin Romine just cleared waivers yesterday, so he’s probably not with the team yet … he has something like 72 hours to report I believe
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 48 of 83 pitches were strikes (58%) … Bad Mitchell showed up on Opening Day
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 13 of 23 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — only 13 of 27 pitches were strikes (48%)
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1/0 GB/FB – three pitches, two strikes … it’ll be interesting to see how they use him since most relief prospects work on a set schedule, but if he throws with no apparent schedule, they’ll prepping him for a call-up and use in any situation
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, seven strikes

[Read more…]

Bad second inning sinks Sabathia, Yankees; Blue Jays take rubber game 6-3

New season, same ol’ story. The Yankees have lost their first series of the season for the fourth consecutive year thanks to Thursday night’s 6-3 rubber game loss to the Blue Jays. Good starts are overrated anyways. Or at least I think they are. Can’t remember many of ‘em. The Yankees have had the lead for a total of one half-inning in their three games so far this season.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Sabathia
Gosh, what an uneven start for CC Sabathia. Outside of the second inning, he allowed three singles and one unearned run in 4.2 innings, striking out seven and getting five other outs on the ground. Sabathia was sharp from the third through fifth inning, striking out six and allowing just a single. I can’t remember seeing a stretch like that last year before he got hurt.

Unfortunately, the second inning happened, and in that second inning the Blue Jays scored four runs on five singles and two run-scoring ground outs. Four of the five hits were ground balls through the infield (one was an infield single) but the underlying problem was Sabathia’s inability to put hitters away while pitching from the stretch. He was ahead in the count to four of the batters who either singled or drove in a run with a ground out. Sabathia was striking dudes out left and right from the windup. But from the stretch, the swing-and-miss ability wasn’t there for whatever reason. Maybe it was just one of those things on one of those nights.

The Blue Jays scored a fifth run with Sabathia on the mound in the sixth inning that was sorta dopey. Josh Donaldson reached on an infield single then scored all the way from first on a Danny Valencia ground ball single and some defensive hilarity. Carlos Beltran‘s throw from right hit Donaldson as he slid into third and the ball got by Chase Headley, and Sabathia wasn’t in position backing up third base, so Donaldson trotted in to score. That run doesn’t count against CC’s ERA (error charged to Beltran) but it was his fault for not backing up.

All told, Sabathia allowed the five runs on eight hits (all singles) and no walks in 5.2 innings. He struck out eight and threw 68 of 95 pitches for strikes, including 15 swings and misses. That’s pretty good! But the inability to limit the damage in the second inning was a killer. There was no put-away pitch that inning and balls kept finding holes. Maybe they’ll find fielders next time.

Turn Back The Clock
For one brief, five-minute window in the sixth inning, we got a look back at an era when the Yankees could hit. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira both went deep off Daniel Norris, cutting what was then a four-run deficit in half. It was the first homer of the season for both guys and the 655th of A-Rod‘s career. He’s five away from tying Willie Mays and triggering that first $6M bonus. Dingers. Remember when the Yankees hit too many of those?

The Yankees didn’t stop there though. Chris Young was awarded first base after being grazed by a pitch, and John Ryan Murphy dunked his second double of the game into the left field corner. Joe Girardi wisely pinch-hit for Gregorio Petit — aside: platoons have gone too far when you’re giving Petit at-bats — but chose Stephen Drew over three superior options in Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, and Garrett Jones.

I can kinda sorta understand why Girardi wouldn’t pinch-hit one of those guys — they’d burn three players (Petit, the pinch-hitter, then Drew to play second) in one move — but I don’t like it. The tying run was in scoring position and runs for this team are at a premium. I’m willing to give Drew time to show he’s better than last year, but choosing to use him off the bench in that spot over those other guys? Nah. I’d have hit Gardner. In the sixth inning with a rookie pitcher on the mound? That was too good a chance to go with someone other than your best available hitter.

Chances, But No Runs
Before the two homers, the Yankees scored a run in the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius singled — his first hit as a Yankee and it was off a lefty! — in Murphy, who doubled into the left field corner. The serial killer killed it in his first start of the year. Of course, these are the 2015 Yankees, so Gregorius got caught making too big a turn at first base and was thrown out on the single. Three games, two bad base-running blunders for the new shortstop. Growing pains, yo.

The Yankees had other opportunities to score though. They had the leadoff man on base in the fourth (A-Rod walk) and seventh (Gregorius walk) innings but did not score. The fourth inning was particularly gross — Beltran doubled to left following A-Rod’s walk to put runners at second and third with no outs, yet the Yankees still failed to score. Teixeira hit a tough luck liner right at Donaldson, Headley turned a 3-0 count into a backwards K, and Young popped up. A ground out and two strikeouts followed Didi’s walk in the seventh.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Leftovers
I usually write these things bit by bit during the game, and no joke, I was about to write something saying Esmil Rogers did a nice job keeping the Yankees close after Sabathia exited when he hung that slider Edwin Encarnacion hit off the back wall of the visitor’s bullpen for a solo homer. One run in 2.1 innings is okay, right? Okay fine, no. (David Carpenter retired all three batters he faced in the ninth.)

Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except for Petit, who got two-at bats before being lifted for Drew. A-Rod (tater, walk), Gregorius (single, walk), Murphy (double double), and Young (walk, hit-by-pitch) reached base twice. The Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and just one of the last ten men they sent to the plate reached base. That non-Gardner at-bat was killer. It proved to be their last real chance to get back in it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the updated standings. It’s way too early to be scoreboard watching though. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page and our brand new Announcer Standings pages. The Bullpen Workload page is useful. The other one … not so much. But it’s fun, so why not. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are finished with the Blue Jays for now and will welcome the Red Sox to the Bronx for a three-game weekend series starting Friday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Wade Miley will both be making their first starts for their new teams. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of the games live.

Game Three: The Return of CC Sabathia

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time since May 10th of last season, CC Sabathia will be on the mound in a regular season game for the Yankees tonight. He missed most of last year due to knee surgery and had an ugly spring in which he emphasized health over results. For a veteran guy who’s been doing this as long as Sabathia, that makes sense.

This is the regular season though, and results matter. The Yankees and Blue Jays have split the first two games of this three-game series, and New York is trying to win their first season-opening series since 2011. Yeah, it’s been a while. How about a strong start from Sabathia and some offensive rallies that involve more than one ball being hit out of the infield? Modest goals for tonight. Here is the starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. DH Alex Rodriguez
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. LF Chris Young
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. 2B Gregorio Petit
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

Joe Girardi said the regulars who aren’t starting (Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew) are all healthy, they’re just sitting against the lefty Daniel Norris. Here is Toronto’s starting lineup.

The weather is the same as last night, basically. Cold with some very slight rain, though it isn’t as windy. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and will be broadcast on YES. Enjoy the game.

RAB on CBS: Nathan Eovaldi’s secretly elite skill

When the Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi this past offseason, they acquired a 25-year-old with a big arm and some things to iron out. Eovaldi’s strikeout rate doesn’t match his stuff and he led the NL in hits allowed last season. He’s not a finished product.

In Eovaldi, the Yankees also acquired the best right-handed pitcher in baseball at shutting down the running game. Eovaldi has allowed only two stolen bases and six stolen base attempts over the last two seasons, which is roughly one steal attempt every 51 innings. Adam Wainwright is a distant second among righties at 33 innings between steal attempts, and Wainwright has the advantage of throwing to Yadier Molina.

Thanks to the magic of BBWAA membership, I spoke to Eovaldi about his ability to shut down the opposing team’s running game yesterday, and he made it clear it was no fluke. He takes pride in keeping runners close to first base and has worked hard to learn how to keep runners on their heels, specifically with a quick slide step and by varying his times to the plate.

You can read about Eovaldi’s slide step skills at CBS’s Eye on Baseball. He’ll make his first start of the season on Friday night, against a Red Sox team without many stolen base threats.

Yanks have 18th best farm system in Baseball America’s organizational rankings

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Early last week, Baseball America released their annual farm system rankings, which are predictably topped by the Kris Bryant-led Cubs. The Red Sox and Dodgers round out the top three while the Angels, Orioles, and Tigers claim the bottom three spots. The farm rankings and write-ups are free. You don’t need a subscription.

The Yankees are ranked 18th overall, which, believe it or not, is actually down from 13th last year, when the Yankees had that miserable 2013 season. That’s because Baseball America considered Masahiro Tanaka a prospect last year — he was fourth on their 2014 top 100 prospects list — and he’s graduated to the big leagues. I guess the massive international spending spree doesn’t make up to Tanaka’s graduation. Anyway, here’s the blurb on New York’s farm system:

How They Got Here: The Yankees got breakout seasons from Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, who are opposites physically. However, the Yankees have failed to develop in-house young replacements for an aging roster that has missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. New York’s unprecedented July 2 international spending ($17.3 million) brought in impressive depth, obviously with risk that is ameliorated by the depth.

High-Ceiling Sleeper: The system is full of them, but a spring candidate who was emerging was 21-year-old Domingo Acevedo, a big-bodied Dominican signee who is starting to coordinate the long levers in his 6-foot-7, (listed) 190-pound frame. His fastball was sitting in the 94-96 mph range during the spring and reaching higher, and it was still just March. He’s headed for his full-season debut.

2015 Rookies: A concussion this spring interrupted 2B Jose Pirela’s chase for a utility role or to compete with Rob Refsnyder for the second-base job. LHP Chasen Shreve and RHP Bryan Mitchell competed for staff roles in spring training, with Mitchell headed back to the minors to start the year in a rotation role.

Acevedo continues to get a lot of love this spring. A strong year with Low-A Charleston should shoot him up prospects lists. Also, I’m surprised Jacob Lindgren was not mentioned as a top 2015 rookie in the write-up, but whatever. We know he’ll be up at some point and that’s all that matters.

Baseball America is the high man on the Yankees’ farm system this spring, though not really. Keith Law had them 20th and Baseball Prospectus had them 21st, and there’s not really much of a difference between 18th and 21st. It’s a matter of personal preference at that level, not quality or quantity of talent. As I’ve been saying all winter, the farm system figures to take a big step forward this summer thanks to the international talent haul. That’s a lot of talent added at once.

Flashback: 2005 Opening Day

(NY Times)
(NY Times)

If you have been a Yankee fan since the early-2000’s, there wasn’t any offseason longer than the winter of 2004. Because, well, you know why. The fans didn’t spend the offseason in bitterness and shame though – the Boss made sure to try to upgrade the rotation and boy, it was some circus. The Yankees signed Carl Pavano to a 4-year, $40-million deal and Jaret Wright to a 3-year, $21-million deal. I’ve always remembered that Red Sox actually made aggressive push to acquire Pavano, a New England native, involving Curt Schilling in the process. To this day, I still wonder how the recent Yankee history might have been different if the injury prone righty donned a Red Sox jersey rather than pinstripes.

But more importantly, the front office flipped Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. If you somehow forgot, the Big Unit destroyed the National League in 2004 – recording a 2.60 ERA with 2.30 FIP in 245.2 IP, good for a Trout-esque 9.5 fWAR. His perfect game was just the icing on cake. Basically, the Yankees were getting the best pitcher on planet for a solid starter that had a questionable season in the Bronx, a young lefty with limited ceiling and a 20-year old catcher that hit for a .723 OPS in Double-A. It made a lot of people happy. The only major question for the Big Unit then was the age.

As the Yankee rotation shaped to be Johnson – Pavano – Mike Mussina – Wright – Kevin Brown, people started to speculate about a Randy Johnson – Curt Schilling matchup for the 2005 Opening Night game. Four seasons after sharing the World Series MVP award with Arizona, the two aces were going to go face-to-face pitching in the midst of the biggest rivalry in baseball. One side had just shown the biggest comeback in playoff baseball, and another was biding their time for revenge and waiting for another season started. There’s a picture of Johnson and Schilling lifting the 2001 World Series trophy together and looking at each other and I remember various publications running it to death in dire anticipation.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

But problems arose. In Spring Training, Schilling hit a bump in the road coming back from the ankle procedure in November. According to this Chicago Tribune article, they speculated Schilling would miss the “first two weeks.” That somehow became a “few months” and the righty would not pitch in the majors until mid-July – as a reliever, nonetheless. So much for the dream matchup the media was cooking up. Instead, there was another narrative in the works thanks to a Red Sox offseason signing.

Earlier in the offseason, former Yankee David Wells had just gotten out of his contract with the Padres. Wells, a well-documented Yankee homer, called Brian Cashman about wearing the pinstripes again but was flat-out rejected. “Brian told me: ‘We’d like to have you, but the boss is looking in another direction. We’re going to go with youth this year.’ And then they turned around and signed Randy.”” Ouch. The Red Sox, in need of rotation help with Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe signing big contracts elsewhere, signed the hefty lefty. Business is business.

As it became apparent that Schilling’s ankle would keep the righty out of action for awhile, manager Terry Francona turned to David Wells – once a beloved yet controversial Yankee who loved the team so much – to represent the Red Sox on Opening Day. The team that had just given the biggest burn in the history of baseball to New York. How about that?

The Yankees, by the way, was not just dealing with structuring the roster – they were also looking at Jason Giambi being connected to BALCO as the entire baseball world shook from the steroids scandal. Giambi, who suffered a 2004 season marred by injury and slumps, did come out and apologize but he did not make it clear what he was sorry for.

There was another off-field drama involving, surprise surprise, the Red Sox. Trot Nixon spoke out against Alex Rodriguez on “not being genuine like a true Yankee.” The New York Time article then described Rodriguez’s career to have “pristine veneer,” which is funny to think about in 2015. This is the pre-Madonna, pre-steroids, pre-Biogenesis, etc. A-Rod we’re talking about here. Also, of course, there was media having a lot of fun with narrative building off of 2004 ALCS. The baseball season just could not start early enough and, by the time Boston named Wells the Opening Day starter, fans didn’t have to wait for too long. But it was still a long wait.

The 2005 Major League Baseball season began on April 3, 2005. It’s still weird to think that it has been ten years. I remember simulating the hell out of the 2005 season with a brand new copy of MVP Baseball 2005 and ignoring all the outcomes that had the Red Sox over Yankees to win the AL East division title. Like many other 14-year old baseball fans/homers, I was maybe too stoked for the season to start. I predicted a 50-homer season for Hideki Matsui and a Cy Young Award for Randy Johnson. There may have been more I’m sure, but it was ten years ago so my memory is a bit hazy.

On the Opening Day, against the Red Sox, the Yankees had Ruben Sierra hitting cleanup. How about that. The reason? Sierra scorched Boomer throughout his career – prior to that day, he hit for .371 average with two homers in 62 at-bats versus the lefty. But still, in a team that has A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui… Ruben Sierra. I wasn’t really into the Yankees web community back then but I’d imagine that got a lot of flack.

Anyways, Randy Johnson, in his new uniform, new home field, pitching against the new rivals, prevailed, pitching six solid innings with only a run allowed while recording six strikeouts. After Brown-Vazquez combo totally unraveled in the Game 7 of 2004 ALCS, watching a clean start by the Big Unit was very, very refreshing.

His line might not have looked pretty without a help from the starting left fielder, Matsui. In the second inning, with a runner on base, Red Sox 1B Kevin Millar hit a big fly ball towards the left that appeared to be a home run … and Matsui leapt and took it away from the fans. Matsui, a man not known for his glove prowess and cost the team 22.0 runs per FanGraphs metric, made a huge play that denied a 2-0 Red Sox lead. Boston did end up scoring in the inning, but a big catch like that always helps, doesn’t it? Jeter remarked after the game “They don’t play much basketball in Japan. I didn’t know he could jump that high.”

Matsui also came up big with the bat as well. In the next half-inning, he hit a single off Boomer and scored the first Yankee run of the season with a Bernie Williams sac fly. An inning later, he drove in Gary Sheffield with a single to give Yanks a 2-1 lead. Fast forward to the eighth inning, he drove one out of the park against Matt Mantei. What a day. He was the most valuable positional player by far that game with a 0.183 WPA. That was probably the most memorable Matsui performance after the Game 6 of 2009 World Series. I miss him so much.

David Wells? He had a very rough night. Allowing 10 hits in 4.1 IP and being booed off the mound was bad enough. But in the third inning, with Matsui on third base, Wells appeared to start his delivery, stopped mid-motion, and just turned around. It was an obvious balk, no question about it. It just seemed so clear that the lefty was affected by so many different factors that night and … it just wasn’t a signature Wells night, let’s call it that. I still like Boomer a lot – his autobiography “Perfect I’m Not” is one of my favorite baseball reads and I’m glad that he shows up to the Old Timers’ Day at the Yankee Stadium. But on April 3, 2005, he was a pariah to many Yankee fans’ eyes.

More notes from the game? Remember Tanyon Sturtze, the middle reliever? He threw two innings after Johnson. He shut down the potent Sox lineup with two perfect innings and three strikeouts. He actually had a nice season going on up to June 8 with a 2.31 ERA (with 18 strikeouts and only TWO walks in 31.0 IP. How about that). But boy, did Torre love bringing him in that year. Sturtze clearly lost some effectiveness after being overused out of the bullpen and his ERA ballooned up to 4.73 by the end of the season. For shame. On a brighter note, the 2005 Opening Day also marked the Tino Martinez comeback for the Yankees – he subbed in for Giambi on the first base and walked in the sole plate appearance. Everyone in the starting lineup besides Bernie recorded at least a hit. Williams did draw two walks so there’s that.

I remember feeling very ecstatic and hopeful for the 2005 New York Yankees after the game. That Opening Day game, at least for me, meant a start of the redemption after a debilitating playoff loss. I kept watching the game highlight videos from MLB.com and fantasized an MVP season from Matsui and Cy Young one from the Big Unit. While neither really happened, the Yankees did end up putting together a nice season – a 95-67 record and an AL Division title.

That season had a lot of narratives – the Giambi resurgence in July, Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon, the downfall of Kevin Brown, A-Rod’s MVP season, the horrible 11-19 start, etc. – and I could write more and more about it – it was a very fun (and sorta tumultuous) season to watch the Yankees despite their shortcoming in the playoffs as they lost to the Angels in five in ALDS. I wish I could say that the 2015 Yankees has a chance to be as fun as the 2005 one did but who knows? My inner 14-year-old-kid is still very hopeful for this current team to pull off a year to remember.

A trip through the MLBTR archives: April 2008

He can hit! (Jeff Gross/Getty)
He can hit! (Jeff Gross/Getty)

I’m getting better at this! The MLBTR archive posts slipped my mind until the very end of the month the last two or three months, but this month I managed to write it during the first full week of April. Progress! What more do you want? Development takes time.

Anyway, by now you’ve caught the gist of these posts. We’re just looking back at some old trade and free agent rumors with the benefit of hindsight. After all, rumors are no good if you only look at them once then forget about ‘em. Also, this series is not intended to mock Tim and everyone else at MLBTR. They’re great.

This month we will be going back to April 2008, seven years ago. April isn’t the best month for hard rumors, so most of the stuff aggregated by MLBTR was speculation. Off we go.

APRIL 11th:

The Yankees: Minors to Majors looks at the pending free agents for the Yankees and concludes that there is plenty of compensation picks to be had giving the Yankees plenty of flexibility to sign a high-end free agent like C.C. Sabathia…Of course, that is assuming the Yankees would let something like draft pick compensation stand in the way of signing a free agent. Not likely.

Ah yes, those were the good old days with Elias rankings and Type-A and Type-B free agents. It was so much easier to get extra picks back then. During the 2007-08 offseason, guys like Luis Vizcaino, Trever Miller, Pedro Feliz, Livan Hernandez, Doug Brocail, and Ron Mahay were attached to draft pick compensation. Imagine getting a draft pick for letting your 30-something lefty specialist walk. What a world.

Nowadays teams hold onto their draft picks for dear life, partly because extra picks are harder to come by and partly because prospects seem to be overrated in general. (Overrated, but you still need them.) And when teams do give draft picks up, they tend to give them up in bulk, like the Red Sox this offseason (Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval) or the Yankees last offseason (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann). Once you give up that first rounder, might as will give up your second and third rounder too.

Guys like CC Sabathia are much different though. Sabathia was only 28 years old when he hit free agency. He was a bonafide elite starter right smack in the prime of his career. I don’t think there’s a team on the planet that would have balked at giving up their first rounder to acquire Sabathia circa 2008. The Yankees didn’t gain any extra picks via free agent compensation during the 2008-09 offseason and they went after CC anyway. Forfeiting a pick for a player of that caliber is a non-issue.

APRIL 14th:

Buster Olney wonders whether Jorge Posada will have to spend most of the season DHing, and at the same time his backup Jose Molina may be DL-boundSure, the Yankees could just make do with internal options until Molina returns in a few weeks.  But it’s also possible that Brian Cashman will look for outside help.

Trade possibilities include Bengie Molina, Ramon Hernandez, Humberto Quintero, Brayan Pena, and Gerald Laird.  Laird may be off the table, as the Rangers wait to see if his offensive resurgence lasts and give Jarrod Saltalamacchia more time.  Molina and Hernandez carry commitments through ’09, while Pena and Quintero are backups and could be easily acquired.

Durability was one of Posada’s greatest and most underappreciated traits. He averaged 142.5 games per year from 2000-07, including 127.4 starts behind the plate. That’s a tremendous workload by catcher standards. Posada suffered his first major injury in 2008, as shoulder surgery limited him to only 51 games. He missed all of May and was done for the year in early-July.

Jose Molina was thrust into full-time duty, and while we would later learn his pitch-framing was a valuable skill, he was hardly starting catcher material. Chad Moeller was his backup during Posada’s injury until the trade deadline, when the Yankees flipped Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge was pretty close to washed up by then — he had a 92 OPS+ from 2005-07 and put up a 51 OPS+ in pinstripes — and Detroit was riding out the end of his contract.

That said, Rodriguez was probably the best possible outcome that year. Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez were equally unproductive and both were signed through 2009. Humberto Quintero, Brayan Pena, and Gerald Laird were blah. So the Yankees got Pudge without giving up anything they’d miss, and they were able to walk away after the season. It was an okay idea that didn’t work out. Considering the state of the team that year, it was a totally inconsequential move.

APRIL 15th:

Some mild drama over whether Curt Schilling would consider pitching for the Yankees next year.  He reiterated that he won’t.  It takes two to tango, anyway.

I had to look up Schillings exact quote in the linked article. Check it out:

“Me wearing pinstripes, regardless of what point of the season or my career it would have been, is not an option … I can’t … think back to having that conversation specifically … it’s not an option. Never has been an option.”

That’s so perfectly Schilling. He was unwilling to grace the Yankees with his employ. Nevermind that he was 41 years old at the time and had a shoulder injury that eventually required season-ending surgery. Schilling threw literally zero pitches in 2008 and there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in him after the season. But dang it, the Yankees couldn’t have signed him even if they wanted. Curt really pulled the rug out from under the Yankees with those comments.

APRIL 21st:

Apparently the Yanks pushed hard to get Micah Owings in the Randy Johnson deal a few years ago.  Ross Ohlendorf still looks interesting, at least.

Micah Owings falls into the realm of players who get overrated because of something that has nothing to do with primary job on the field. I’ve always felt Melky Cabrera got overrated early in his career because he had a cool name, for example. Owings got overrated because he was a pitcher who could hit (career .283/.310/.502, 106 OPS+!). I have little doubt about that.

Unfortunately, when the best thing you can say about a pitcher is “he can hit,” it’s not good. Owings was 24 years old at the time of the Johnson trade (January 2007) and he was coming off a season in which he had a 3.33 ERA (~3.33 FIP) in 162 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. Baseball America ranked him as the D’Backs’ sixth best prospect prior to the 2007 season.

Ohlendorf was the team’s tenth best prospect that year and he had a 3.29 ERA (3.12 FIP) in 177.2 innings at Double-A in 2006. They were both quick moving college guys with good numbers, though neither went on to do anything all that notable in the big leagues. So this is sort of a lose-lose proposition. But, if Owings had come to New York, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hit regularly, and I think that would have changed how a lot of casual fans thought about him.

APRIL 23rd:

Jon Heyman notes that Pat Burrell only wanted to go to the Yankees or Red Sox when the Phillies tried to trade him a few years ago.  They’re not great fits, but perhaps Burrell will have those two clubs at the top of his list when he hits free agency.

I don’t remember when the Phillies were trying to trade Burrell and I’m not sure what the Yankees would have done with him anyway. He was basically a DH who faked left field in the NL. With Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui in the corner outfield spots and Jason Giambi needing as much DH time as possible, there was no room for Burrell in the Bronx and I guess that’s why the Yankees passed.

That said, Burrell was a pretty good hitter back in the day. Better than he gets credit for. This rumor was in April 2008, and from 2005-07 he hit .266/.392/.503 (126 OPS+) with 91 homers. Burrell went to the Rays in 2009 to serve as their regular DH and he was atrocious, hitting .218/.311/.361 (80 OPS+) in 146 games before being designated for assignment. Then he went to the Giants in 2010 and hit .266/.364/.509 (126 OPS+) with 18 homers in 96 games. Some guys just really don’t like to DH.

APRIL 24th:

Meanwhile Hank Steinbrenner says the Yankees have “never even talked about” signing Thomas.  He’s not a good fit for their team.  The Yanks still owe Jason Giambi more than $23MM this year. 

The Thomas in this case is Frank Thomas, who had just been released by the Blue Jays. He hit .274/.379/.511 (132 OPS+) with 65 homers from 2006-07, though he was 40 years old in 2008 and looking pretty cooked. I loved Thomas, he was one of my favorite players to watch, but again, the Yankees had no room for another DH. Good thing Hank cleared that up for that though.

APRIL 30th:

Good point from Ken Davidoff – the Phil Hughes/Johan Santana question can’t be answered yet.

On the date of that post, Hughes had a 9.00 ERA (5.04 FIP) in 22 innings and was about to be demoted to Triple-A. Johan had a 3.12 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 40.1 innings. The Yankees made a huge mistake! At least that’s what everyone was saying at the time. I remember it vividly. It was easy to second guess the non-trade at the time.

Now we can answer the question though! The non-trade worked out pretty well for the Yankees. It hurt the team in 2008 but it allowed them sign Sabathia, who stayed healthy and a top of the rotation guy several years beyond when Santana started to break down. Hughes was a disappointment overall but useful, especially in 2009 as a reliever and 2010 as a starter. One month into the first season after the trade, it looked like a bad decision. Seven years later, we know it was the smart move.