Jarrod WashburnBefore we get into this post, let’s make something very clear: The Yankees are not moving Phil Hughes back into the rotation this year. It’s just not happening, no matter how much we want it to. They’ve expressed zero desire to take him out of the bullpen thus far, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. I don’t like it and you probably don’t like it either, but it’s just the way it is. And because of this, the Yankees are in need of another starting pitcher.

Oh sure, Sergio Mitre might do a splendid job filling in for the injured Chien-Ming Wang, and I sure hope he does. The problem is that at some point Joba Chamberlain is going to hit his innings limit (he’s at 95.2 IP right now), and of course there’s always the threat of an injury or two. The Yanks pitching depth is as stretched as stretched can be now that Ian Kennedy is recovering from an aneurysm while Hughes and Al Aceves have become bullpen staples. The team needs another arm to help take the load off the other guys, just because it’s better to be safe than sorry (plus we all hate Sidney Ponson). It doesn’t have to be a Roy Halladay-type (though it would be nice); someone like Jarrod Washburn would be just fine.

The Yanks were reportedly close to completing a deal for Washburn before last year’s deadline, but Seattle got greedy and overplayed their hand. Then-GM Bill Bavasi was fired over the winter and his replacement – former Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik – appears to have his head screwed on straight. The Mariners are just four games back in the division and five back for the Wild Card with the league’s third most favorable schedule ahead of them, so there’s a chance Washburn might not even be available at all. However if they tank between now and the deadline, expect the former Angels hurler to be shopped around a bit. A waiver wire deal could also be pulled off after July 31st should the M’s stay in contention passed next Friday.

As for Washburn, the deal makes more sense now than it did last season because he’s actually pitching, you know, effectively. Through his first 18 games last year he had a 4.83 ERA, a 4.37 FIP and a .817 OPS against, but those numbers have dropped to 2.87, 3.77 and .632 in ’09. And while that improvement is nice, it’s even nicer that there’s actual tangible evidence to support it, rather than the usual “maybe he just figured it out” shtick. Washburn’s added about a mile an hour to his heater and two miles an hour to his changeup this year, but the biggest adjustment is the incorporation of a two-seamer into his arsenal.

While he has done a swell job against southpaws in his career, righthanders have hit Washburn up for a .265-.323-.758 batting line. Those problems against righties were exacerbated last year when they pounded him to the tune of .299-.361-.504. The two-seamer has allowed Washburn to neutralize righties better than he has in some time (.252-.307-.382 this year), and he’s been death to lefties (.175-.211-.278). It’s a new pitch hitters haven’t seen before, and they’ve yet to adjust to it. His strikeout rate is up a tick, his walk rate is down nearly a full walk per nine innings, and his BABIP is touch low but not outrageous. The big difference between Washburn’s ERA and FIP can be explained by Seattle’s insanely good defense, particularly in the outfield since he’s a flyball pitcher.

Washburn will be a free agent in the offseason and is making $10.35M this year, so if Zduriencik decides to move him at the deadline he stands to save about $3.5M. Given how the Yanks had the Pirates pay half of Eric Hinke’s measly salary when they picked him up late last month, I don’t think it’s safe to assume the Bombers will just absorb that money. Regardless, I can’t imagine the M’s would expect a significant return since we’re still talking about a soon-to-be 35-yr old pitcher who hasn’t been above league average in four years. Think two low-level minor leaguers, neither of them significant prospects, and salary relief. Something along those lines. Probably the biggest obstacle in any deal for Washburn is his full no-trade clause. That’s just something you worry about when the time comes, but if he wants an extension, then forget it. Obviously.

What do you guys think? Should the Yanks make a move for Washburn to shore up the rotation, or hold off and go with what they have? Any other starters out there you’d like to see them kick the tires on (non-Halladay and Cliff Lee division)?

Photo Credit: Flickr user Saltimbanco

Categories : Pitching
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During my wanderings around Baseball Reference Wednesday afternoon, I found myself on the page for the 2003 Yankees. As I read over the team roster, I was surprised at the number of moves the team made in June. To gear up for their epic postseason series against the Red Sox, Brian Cashman was a trading fiend.

The party really started in early June when the Yankees traded March Thames to the Rangers for Ruben Sierra. A few weeks later, they added Karim Garcia and Dan Miceli. Armando Benitez made his way from Queens to the Bronx in mid-July, and Jesse Orosco joined him six days later.

As the deadline neared, the pace picked up. Dan Miceli was out on July 29 and so was Raul Mondesi. In were Dave Dellucci and Bret Prinz. On the 31st, Brian Cashman landed himself Aaron Boone, Bubba Crosby, Scott Proctor and Gabe White. He wasn’t yet done though.

As the waiver deadline didn’t arrive until the end of August, Cashman kept working. Benitez, thankfully, was gone by August 6, and the Yanks netted themselves Jeff Nelson in return. On August 25, the Yanks received Felix Heredia off of waivers from the Reds, and they traded Jesse Orosco six days later. And then, Cashman was spent.

Six years later, we find ourselves once again on the brink of the trade deadline, and while the rumors are swirling, the Yankees have added, well, just Eric Hinske. All is quiet on the Yankee front. While the Red Sox were adding Adam LaRoche and Chris Duncan — good luck with them — the Yankees warrant nary a word in Ken Rosenthal’s latest.

This below-the-radar turn for the Yanks is rare. Generally, the Yankees are in on everyone and make a deadline splash. This year, though, the holes are less obvious. They could use a starter — we’ll tackle that question in the morning — and they could use a bullpen arm. If the right outfielder were available for the right price, the Yanks would probably be mentioned there too. They have, for what it’s worth, been scouting Oakland, but they’re also about to begin a four-game set against Matt Holliday and the A’s. I wouldn’t read too much into that.

A few days ago, Brian Cashman, while staying a bit coy, expressed his pleasure with the state of the Yankees. “I’m very comfortable with the decision we made back with the Santana situation,” he said to Tyler Kepner. “Right now, we’ve got Sabathia where the Santana money is, I’ve got a center fielder in Melky, I’ve got Phil Hughes performing for us, and I’ve got Swisher in right, which Jeffrey Marquez was in the deal to help me get.”

In other words, Cashman isn’t about to sell the farm and pay out of the ear for another pitcher. Roy Halladay won’t be arriving in New York.

Cashman also noted that the July 31st deadline is largely a pointless one. “The waiver stuff is not going to prevent deals in August,” the Yanks’ GM said to Kepner. “Guys are going to get through because people will be afraid to claim and get stuck with the money they can’t afford. The July 31 deadline is more of a fictitious one now, anyway. It’s not like it was when Steve Phillips and I were going haywire, taking everybody off the wire. Those days are dead and buried, because no one can live with a mistake like they used to. The economy’s changed, and it’s affected everybody.”

There will be no more Jose Canseco waiver grabs, but there could be some moves. So for now, the Yankees remain on the sidelines and silent, enjoying their two-game lead over Boston. But the deadline is still eight days away, and there’s much dealing to be done. It won’t stay this quiet forever.

Categories : Musings
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Jews for Jesus (Montero)

That gem of a sign comes from reader Dave Soberman, who was raising hell with his buddies at Saturday’s Double-A Trenton game. Here’s the email he sent us, which tells the story. Here’s a few more pics: Dave with the sign, the sign at field level, the sign with Bolt, Montero signing said sign, and Dave heckling poor Jorge Jimenez. How awesome is that?

Meanwhile, Baseball America’s John Manuel called Montero an untouchable prospect.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out, and Chad Jennings says they’re not going to even going to bother to make it up.

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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For the Yankees, life is good. They’ve gotten contributions from all ends in the six games since the break, and have taken all six contests. The latest came earlier this afternoon in the series finale against the Orioles. The Yankees sent out A.J. Burnett, hoping he’d replicate the success he’d had leading up to the break. They were not disappointed.

Burnett scattered six hits and three walks over seven innings of work, tossing 104 pitches and getting 68 over for strikes. That’s a bit more than we’re used to seeing from Burnett. He ran into trouble a couple of times, both on out of the ordinary plays. In the third Nick Swisher dropped a fly ball led to a first and third, none out situation, and then a second and third, one out situation. Swisher got his redemption, though, running down a line drive by Ty Wiggington to end the frame.

The jam in the seventh didn’t end so painlessly. Robert Andino, the Orioles No. 9 hitter, bounced one sky high in front of the plate. By the time it came down neither Posada nor Burnett had a chance to make a play. Adam Jones later doubled, and Nick Markakis knocked in the Os first run with a sac fly. The Yanks were out of the inning when Aubrey Huff hacked at strike three in the dirt, but it bounced away from Posada and Jones scored. That’s quite a painful way to surrender two runs.

The action picked up again in the ninth. Phil Hughes had pitched the eighth, but the Yankees tacked on a run in the bottom, so Brian Bruney came in to close things out. It was his first appearance since July 10, and we’re all familiar with his struggles of late. Things looked good, as he struck out Andino, on three pitches, and Roberts, on a two-two count.

Then Adam Jones homered on the first pitch he saw. Okay. Forgivable. Adam Jones is good, and that was probably a poorly placed pitch. But when Nick Markakis followed two pitches later, that was enough. Girardi made the slow walk to the mound, summoning Rivera for the one-out save. Rivera completed striking out the side, and the Yanks picked up another victory.

We often hear about the Yankees struggling against rookie pitchers they’ve yet to see — in fact, I think it’s brought up in some capacity every time, win or lose. Today they not only got to Jason Berken, but they got to him early. It helped that Brian Roberts bobbled a Robinson Cano bouncer with the bases loaded, but when the frame was over the Yanks had jumped out to a 4-0 lead. That would be enough for Burnett to cruise through the rest of the game.

It’s tough coming up with new things to say after all these wins. The Yankees played well. They hit with runners in scoring position: 7 for 15. They got some timely pitching and made some good defensive plays (even if they were making up for previous blunders). It was an all-around great effort, as it has been since the break (and before). Teams that play like this will win ball games. That’s what they tell me.

It’s back to work tomorrow. A’s are in town for a four-game set. CC Sabathia gets to open things up. Until then, treat this as your open thread. But treat it gently.

Categories : Game Stories
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  • Kennedy, on the mend, eyes winter ball
    By

    When Ian Kennedy went down with an aneurysm in late April, he had put together a very fine string of four AAA starts. Over 22.2 innings, he had a 1.59 ERA and had allowed just 18 hits and seven walks while striking out 25. Considering the state of the Yanks’ fifth starter, odds are good Kennedy would have gotten another shot at the Bronx. Today, Ken Davidoff checks in on Kennedy, and the right-hander is progressing nicely. He is already throwing on flat ground and seems to be ahead of schedule. While Brian Cashman does not expect Kennedy to be ready to pitch in New York this year, he told Davidoff: “It’s possible he’ll see minor league action though, and he’s a definite winter-ball candidate.” · (50) ·

To while away the afternoon now that the Yanks and Orioles have wrapped up their series, let’s check in on some ex-Yankees in the news these days. We start with the disgruntleds:

Brett Tomko
To make room for Sergio Mitre yesterday, the Yankees designated Brett Tomko for assignment. They have ten days to trade him or they can release him or ship him down to the minors. Tomko is not a happy camper about his tenure on the Yankees. “I don’t think I got a fair shot,” he said to reporters as he packed up his locker. “I pitched great in spring training and didn’t make the team. I pitched great in the minors, got called up and didn’t get much of a chance. I understand other guys are pitching great. But it could have been different. I can’t see the point in coming back.”

This is a clear example of the Yankees’ expectations not lining up with Tomko’s. At 36, Brett Tomko is a journeyman with a career ERA+ of 92. He isn’t the future of anything, and he’s not getting better. During his time on the Yanks, he allowed runs in seven of his 15 appearances and just wasn’t a trustworthy or impressive reliever.

“It’s hard when you throw once every 10 days. Your stuff can’t be the same,” he added later. “I never felt like I got a chance to show them anything. I wasn’t pitching much. As much as I want to be here and be with a winning team, I want to pitch. It would be great if they traded me in the next 10 days to help me out. But if not, I’m sure something will come up. Plenty of teams need pitching.”

Tomko won’t accept a Minor League assignment once the ten days are up, and the Yanks probably won’t find a team that needs a mediocre, ineffective and touchy pitcher. So much for him.

Carl Pavano
Try as we might, we just can’t ignore Carl Pavano. Today’s Pavano story though is something of an oddity. In what can only be described as an attempt by a reporter to create the news, Ken Rosenthal asked a Yankee official if the team would be interested in reacquiring Carl Pavano from the Indians.

The reply? A resounding no. “We’ve seen that movie,” Rosenthal’s source said. “Our players would go crazy if we did that.”

Pavano, for what it’s worth, isn’t having a terrible season. He’s 8-7 with a 5.13 ERA, but he’s managed to make 18 starts — one more than his single-season high with the Yanks. He also hasn’t been walking many batters. Yet, the Yankees hate him. The players hate him. The Front Office hates him. The fans hate him. He won’t — and shouldn’t — be back.

Aaron Small
Aaron Small was an odd addition to the Old Timer’s Day roster this year. While he went 10-0 for the Yanks in 2005, he was out of baseball a few months later after going 0-3 with an 8.46 ERA in 2006. Now, we learn that Small made his way to Yankee Stadium just six weeks after a bad bout of encephalitis. Small was in a medically-induced coma for eight days as doctors combated the virus that led to a life-threatening swelling of the former pitcher’s brain.

Small recovered from this ordeal and is slowly rebuilding his strength. This scary story makes his appearance at the stadium this past weekend all the more meaningful.

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I can has Bruney?

Categories : Game Threads
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The Yankees go for their second straight sweep following the All-Star Break today as they face off against the Orioles. The first two games of this series have been enjoyable, with the Yankees walking off with a 2-1 victory on a Hideki Matsui home run on Monday, and taking a sizable lead on Tuesday en route to a 6-4 win.

Hopefully today’s game is one of those stress-free blowouts. Not only because it’d be nice to go into the evening with a win to guarantee remaining in first place, but because there are a few guys in the pen who haven’t had much work lately. That’s partly a product of the starting pitching, but also a product of Joe Girardi‘s lack of faith in them in high-leverage spots. It’d be nice to get Mark Melancon, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney some mop-up innings when the Yanks are up big.

A.J. Burnett takes the bump for the Yanks this afternoon. After a shaky start Burnett has rolled lately, though he had some trouble in his first start after the break, pitching on eight days’ rest. Even without his A game, he held the Tigers to three runs over six innings. The five walks didn’t help, but A.J. didn’t let them hurt too much. We’re looking for more of the June 14 through July 8 A.J., the one with the sub 2.00 ERA and gaudy strikeout numbers.

On the other side is Jason Berken, the second rookie the Yankees will face in three days. He’s had a rough go in his first 10 starts, picking up a win his debut but failing to do so in his next nine. He hasn’t reached six innings or 100 pitches since June 18 against the Mets, and even then he allowed four runs.

A sixth round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, Berken got through the O’s system a level a year, though this year was his AAA year (he also started the year in AA but was moved up quickly). He impressed there, allowing just three runs in 25.2 innings over five starts. He’s not really a strikeout guy, but manages to keep his walks and homers low.

He’s a fastball-change-slider-curve guy, who mixes his pitches. He throws his fastball 60 percent of the time and gives just about equal time to the other three. The fastball averages around 92, so it’s not bad, and the change takes off about 9 mph. It doesn’t look like any of them is an out pitch, but he mixes things up enough to keep guys off balance.

Yanks get a small break after this, as the next game is 7 p.m. tomorrow. It was supposed to be an off-day, but instead they’ll make up an April rain-out against the A’s, and then play them in a regular three-game set.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Nick Swisher, RF
9. Brett Gardner, CF

And on the mound number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.

Categories : Game Threads
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Save for the limited action he saw in the 2007 season, Justin Duchscherer has posted a good if not excellent ERA in each season he’s pitched with the Oakland A’s from 2003 through 2008. Yet fans outside the Bay Area aren’t necessarily aware of Duchscherer. He’s an under-the-radar type guy who quietly goes about his business, and goes about it well. Given his and the A’s current circumstances, he’s a prime candidate for a trade. There’s just one complication.

Duchscherer is a cut fastball (high 80s, low 90s), overhand curve, slider type pitcher. He strikes out a decent number of guys, around 8 per nine as a reliever and was at 6 per nine as a starter in 2008. He also doesn’t walk many people, 1.5 per nine as a reliever in 2006 and 2.2 per nine as a starter in 08. Even better, he keeps the ball in the park, allowing less than a homer per nine over most of his career. This profiles him as a solid option at both starter and reliever.

Why would Billy Beane want to trade this seemingly good pitcher? Easy answers: The A’s are out of contention, and Duchscherer is a free agent after this season. He also makes $3.9 million this year, so Beane could save over a million by shipping him elsewhere. He might as well. What’s worth more to the A’s right now, a million bucks and change, or having Justin Duchscherer on the team? Plus, a team might be willing to give up some kind of talent, probably in the form of a player to be named later.

Wait — why would the A’s only get a player to be named later? Duchscherer is currently hurt, and hasn’t pitched all season because of elbow troubles. In fact, he hasn’t pitched since mid-August last year. He just began a rehab program, and should get into a minor league game over the next few days. Yet, the trade deadline is fast approaching. If the Yanks wanted Duke, they’d have to trade for him as an injured player. That might not be bad — I’m sure the Yanks would like him rehabbing at their own facilities. It does mean an added level of risk.

If the Yankees want to explore this option, they need to get it done before the deadline. Why? Because once the calendar flips to August, players need to clear waivers in order to be traded — or they need to be claimed by a team willing to trade for them. The Yankees, hopefully still atop the AL East in August, probably wouldn’t get a chance to put in a claim. Another team that could use some pitching, the Boston Red Sox, would likely put in a claim, blocking the Yankees and opening themselves up for a trade.

There are other teams too, of course, and for that reason Beane might hold on until August. There’s risk in that, too, in that he could face a team just looking to block a potential trade. Beane could then foist Duke and his remaining salary on said team, but then he’d get nothing in return — in other words, he would have been better off having accepted a PTBNL at the deadline.

The injury makes it a complicated situation, as does the hip injury which kept Duchscherer out of action for most of the 2007 season. Still, it’s a decent gamble. No, Duke is nowhere near Roy Halladay (even though Buster Olney tries to pump up Duke by making the comp in numbers), but he’s a solid option for both the pen and the rotation. In fact, he might be better suited as a starter. Just check out this tidbit:

Duchscherer’s call to the rotation is actually a very interesting story. The A’s had kept Justin in the ‘pen, thinking that his arthritic hip wouldn’t be able to stay healthy over a 150- 200-inning season. But Justin, who apparently has a slightly nervous/anxious personality, found that the uncertainty of a late-inning role aggravated his IBS–Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an extremely common disease of the gastro-intestinal system; it causes bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhoea. It’s a twentieth-century problem, brought on by stress. And you can imagine that pitching the eighth inning for an MLB team would be kinda stressful. During the middle innings, Justin, sensing that he would have to take the mound, protect a lead, and not embarrass himself in front of a national audience, would have to leave the bench and run to the washroom.

So the A’s made him a starter, thinking that the certainty of knowing exactly when and where he was going to pitch would calm him down and ease his GI problems.

So the dude has a lot of problems — elbow, hips, IBS — but when he’s on he’s a quietly solid pitcher. Any team could use one of those players. The Yanks should certainly explore this option.

Categories : Pitching
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Jul
22

Whither Melky, again

By in Offense. Tags: · Comments (119) ·

While the Yankees downed the Orioles last night to move into sole possession of first place, Melky Cabrera did not have a night to remember. He went 0 for 4 and saw his triple slash numbers decline to .274/.333/.418. For the first time all season, Melky’s OPS+ has dipped below 100. He is now a below-average hitter for the Yanks.

Earlier in the year, things were looking up for the Melk Man. He was hitting .327/.400/.571 through the end of April and followed that up with a .321/.348/.429. The power drop was precipitous, and the decline in his IsoD, the difference between his batting average and on-base percentage, was notable. Yet, through the end of May, he was still hitting .323/.368/.481, and we all would have taken it.

Last night’s 0-fer caps what has been a miserable two months for Melky. Since the start of June, he is just 29 for 130, good for a .223 batting average, and has a .297 on-base percentage. He is slugging just .353 in that stretch, and his OPS has declined to .751, a drop of over .200 points since the end of April.

We can’t really be surprised by Melky’s post-spring slump. In 2008, he had a stellar April, hitting .299/.370/.494 and then put up a triple slash line of .235/.281/.300 through the end of the season. It’s little consolation that his 2009 swoon is a slight improvement over his 2008 nose dive. He’s still producing at a level that should get him benched.

At this point, I don’t know what to do with Melky Cabrera. We’ve long been accused of being Melky haters, and to a certain extent, we are. But we don’t hate Melky due to any sort of personal grudge. We hate him because Joe Girardi insists on playing him in spite of the numbers.

Melky Cabrera has over 1900 plate appearances at the Big League level and has never managed to be an above-average hitter for more than two months at a time. While his fielding is good, it can’t overcome his inability to get on base or hit for average. He is basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.

The Yankees probably won’t look to improve upon center field at the trade deadline. They would end up spending far too many prospects on a player who just won’t be that good. But at the same time, they can’t keep sending Melky Cabrera out there day in and day out. It’s time for Brett Gardner to be the de facto center fielder. When or if he shows he can’t handle it, the Yanks can begin to think about ways to fill that hole, but the reign of Melky and his .297 on-base percentage since June 1 needs to end.

Categories : Offense
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