Two Quick Thoughts: Kuroda & Handedness

Two things crossed my mind earlier on Thursday, and since they kinda go together I’m going to mash them up into one post…

(Photo Credit: Flickr user aaron haedt via Creative Commons license)

The Price For Kuroda

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Hiroki Kuroda and whether or not he’d be a worthy add at the deadline, but we haven’t really tried to figure out what it would take to acquire him. The Dodgers say they want a young player, preferably a starting pitcher, but what they want and what they’ll ultimately get are not necessarily the same thing. It’s tough for us to figure out a far price from where we sit, which is why I try to look at what comparable players returned when they were dealt. As luck would have it, a comparable player was traded yesterday, when Edwin Jackson went from the White Sox to the Blue Jays.

Although Jackson is younger and cheaper, both he and Kuroda will be free agents at season’s end and have performed at a similar level since the start of last season. Just check out the table on the right for that info. In order to acquire Jackson, Toronto had to take on Mark Teahen’s terrible contract (another ~$2M this year plus $5.5M next year) and give up a serviceable middle reliever (Jason Frasor) plus their sixth best prospect coming into the year, non-top 100 guy Zach Stewart. Frasor can become a free agent after this season and projects to be a Type-B, so that’s a draft pick we should consider.

A Kuroda trade doesn’t have to follow that exact blueprint, but a serviceable, spare part big leaguer and a good but not great prospect appear to be the bare minimum asking price. Frankie Cervelli plus one of the Triple-A arms? Brandon Laird instead of Cervelli? Chris Dickerson? Greg Golson? The bad contract part (the Teahen equivalent) might not be a factor because Kuroda still has a lot of money on his deal ($6.8M) and will apparently require some compensation to waive his no-trade clause. The Jackson trade isn’t a perfect match for Kuroda, but it’s in the ballpark.

Left-Handed vs. Right-Handed

The Yankees really aren’t in a position to be all that picky when it comes to starting pitching help, but in a perfect world they’d prefer a left-hander to a right-hander. Yankee Stadium is pretty close to neutral for right-handed batters according to StatCorner’s park factors, but it obviously boosts the performance by lefties quite a bit. That’s pretty much the only reason the Yankees should favor a lefty over a righty, but even then we have to be talking about choosing between two similar pitchers. How often does that happen?

The idea of adding a lefty to matchup against the Red Sox sounds great in theory, but Boston actually hits left-handed pitchers (slightly) better than they do right-handers. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis annihilate southpaws, enough to counteract the drop in production that Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury experience against same-side batters (David Ortiz actually has a reverse split this year). The Yankees could very well run into the Rangers again in the postseason, and aside from Josh Hamilton, that lineup is significantly right-handed. Even if the Angels manage to make a run and sneak into the postseason, they’re very right-handed.

Given what’s available on the market, the Yankees don’t really have the option to add a lefty to their rotation. There’s Erik Bedard, but he’s the only one of note. The important thing is for them to get a quality pitcher first and foremost, handedness is secondary. It would be nice to add a southpaw, but only because of Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox have next to nothing to do with it.

Betances struggles in Trenton loss

Update: The High-A Tampa game is finally over and has been added to the post.

Keith Law gave some big time love to Mason Williams in his chat this afternoon

I think Williams has a chance to be … actually, the player I think Colby Rasmus will be. Hits for average, runs well, plays good D in CF, hits maybe 20-25 HR.

I didn’t think he had that kind of power potential, but obvious he’s talking about a best case scenario. That kind of player is a star. Law also mentioned that a scout he spoke to raved about Angelo Gumbs’ bat speed but was generally down on Cito Culver.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 win to Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, LF: 0 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – threw a runner out at second
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 4, 1 BB – .000/.111/.000 in his last nine plate appearances … bust!
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K – third homer in four games
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B – I see the lack of at-bats in the big leagues didn’t bother him
Jordan Parraz, RF: 2 for 3, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 HBP – 12 for his last 31 (.387) with four doubles, a triple, and a homer
Mike Lamb, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 K, 1 HBP
Luis Nunez, 2B: 3 for 4, 2 2B, 2 RBI
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Greg Smith, LHP: 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5-2 GB/FB – 53 of 79 pitches were strikes (67.1%) … picked a runner off first, which isn’t surprising since he has a great move
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-3 GB/FB – 13 of 20 pitches were strikes
Randy Flores, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – nine of 12 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Derek Jeter 3K

The HBO special DEREK JETER 3K premieres tonight, and that above is the extended trailer. The feature will chronicle Jeter’s entire career and his pursuit of 3,000 career hits, and will feature interviews with teammates, the Steinbrenners, Minka Kelly, Billy Crystal, and plenty of others. You can read more about it here. It will air at 9pm ET tonight on HBO, so set your DVR.

Until that comes on, use this as tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing a game tonight, but the teams will depend on where you live. If you’re in or around New York, you’ll likely get to see Carlos Beltran‘s first game as a Giant in Philadelphia. Talk about that or whatever else your heart desires. Have at it.

Trade Rumor Roundup: Ubaldo, Bedard, Kuroda

Still no trades, but lots of rumors. Here’s the latest concerning the Yankees…

  • There still has not been any significant movement regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, meaning that no team (including the Yankees) has shown a willingness to meet the Rockies asking price of three top prospects. (Joel Sherman)
  • The Yankees will have a scout on hand to watch Erik Bedard make his return from the disabled list tomorrow night, and the Mariners will have a scout watching Double-A Trenton tonight. Bedard has been out since late-June with a knee strain and will be facing the Rays in Seattle. We looked at him as a trade candidate last month. (Jon Paul Morosi & Josh Norris)
  • The Dodgers want any Hiroki Kuroda trade to be a “true baseball deal” and not just a salary dump. They want a young player in return for the right-hander, preferably a starting pitcher. Contrary to some reports, Kuroda will bring draft pick compensation (projects to be a Type-B free agent) if offered arbitration after the season. He will be treated like a player with six-plus years of service time, a courtesy MLB extends to Japanese vets. (Jayson Stark & Morosi)
  • “I’m going to be hard-pressed to find anything better than getting Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes off the disabled list,” said Brian Cashman to Dan Martin today. “I can’t imagine I’m going to run into anything but you’ve still got to go through the motions … We’re prepared for chaos if it comes before Sunday’s deadline. But I like the team we have.” That’s just GM speak, Cashman’s not going to come out and say he’s desperate for anything because it’ll only work against him.

Hideki Irabu, 42, found dead in Los Angeles home

(Photo Credit: NY Daily News)

Via The Kyoto News, former Yankee Hideki Irabu was found dead at his Los Angeles home today. He was 42. TMZ reports that he committed suicide by hanging himself. Irabu lived in LA with his wife and two children, where he had investments in various Japanese restaurants.

The Yankees originally acquired Irabu from Padres in April of 1997, after San Diego purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Mariners. Irabu said he would only play for New York, forcing the trade. Ruben Rivera, Homer Bush, Rafael Medina, and $3M went to the Padres in the transaction. Irabu pitched for the Yankees from 1997-1999, posting a 4.80 ERA in 64 starts and ten relief appearances. His best season was 1998, when he pitched to a 4.08 ERA in 173 IP. The Yankees traded Irabu to the Expos for Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, and Christian Parker before the 2000 season. He is perhaps most remembered for being called a “fat pussy toad” (as in “full of pus”) by George Steinbrenner after failing to cover first base in Spring Training one year.

After two seasons in Montreal and one as the Rangers’ closer, Irabu was out of Major League Baseball at age 33. He returned to Japan and pitched another year with the Hanshin Tigers, and made a comeback with the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2009. He spoke of attempting another comeback in Japan after that. Irabu ran into some trouble with the law after retirement, getting arrested for assaulting a bar manager in 2008 and for DUI in 2010.

Mailbag: Former Yankee Edition

Here’s a special Thursday edition of the RAB Mailbag, with three questions about former Yankees that may or may not be useful to the 2011 team. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in any questions.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Sam asks: Would you have any interest in trading for the Giambino to take over for Posada as a DH?

The Rockies just placed Jason Giambi on the disabled list with a quad strain, so he won’t be traded before the deadline. This question was sent in before then, obviously. Giambi is a prime candidate for an August waiver trade though, assuming the quad isn’t that serious and he can get back on the field within two weeks or so.

Unlike the subject of the next question, Giambi has hit all year and really hasn’t stopped hitting for any length of time in recent years. He’s got a .253/.378/.486 batting line in just about two seasons with the Rockies, and this year he’s rocking a .418 wOBA in 112 plate appearances. Giambi has been a part-time player though, mostly pinch-hitting and starting at first once or twice a week. Because he’s outperforming Jorge Posada both this year and last year (especially against RHP), he’d be a fine upgrade, though I doubt he maintains that level of performance playing every day. He might fall off to what, maybe a .360 wOBA? .375? .340? Either way, it’s an upgrade, but one they would have to wait to acquire if they wanted to at all.

Chris asks: What would it take to get Matsui? I’d rather him than a guy like Beltran. 1. Matsui is a proven clutch player unlike Beltran who was left holding the bag in 06-08 during the worst collapses ever. 2. Matsui knows and hits Red Sox pitching unlike Beltran and 3. He costs less (in terms of money and probably prospects).

This was sent in before the Carlos Beltran trade, and I’m not going to spend any time disproving the three points made. Beltran’s a better player than Hideki Matsui and always has been (as for the clutch stuff, look their numbers with RISP, Beltran destroys Matsui), and there’s very little to argue otherwise. But Beltran’s not an option now and probably never really was, so let’s move on.

Anyway, signs point to Matsui being pretty much done. He had a great game against the Yankees on Sunday (5-for-5 with two doubles) and has been on a tear over the last week or so (.500/.528/.882 in eighth games), but that doesn’t make the rest of the season moot. Before this current hot streak, Godzilla was hitting just .212/.294/.328 overall with sub-.300 wOBA’s both at home and on the road. It wasn’t just an Oakland Coliseum thing. Posada’s days as a productive player are over, but he’s still outhitting Matsui against right-handed pitchers, .339 wOBA vs. .290. Andruw Jones is also outhitting Matsui against lefties, .374 wOBA vs. .367, so I’m not sure where the upgrade is.

If the Athletics were to trade Matsui, the return would have to be minimal. He’s got no defensive value and is in clear decline, one hot week doesn’t change that.

(AP)

Matt asks: Any chance the Yankees will make a play for Melky Cabrera? He’s having a good season in KC and he’s a switch hitter.

Melky’s having a great year, he’s hitting .297/.333/.453 (.347 wOBA) and has been worth 3.2 fWAR, more than the first five-plus years of his career combined (2.6). Where does he play though? Is the plan for him to replace Andruw? Jones is outhitting Melky against left-handed pitchers (.374 wOBA vs. .332), though he’s a definite upgrade over Chris Dickerson. What would happen when Alex Rodriguez comes back though? Dickerson’s the one going down for him. I’m also unconvinced that Melky could play like he has in a part-time role, it’s not an accident that he’s having his best season when he knows he’ll be playing everyday (or when he’s in his age 26 season, but that’s besides the point).

The Royals appear uninterested in dealing Cabrera because they will be able to retain him as an arbitration-eligible player next year, and it would take quite a bit to acquire him now. I don’t think the upgrade is big enough to warrant a move, not when he’d only be a bench player.

* * *

I don’t really see any of these three guys as a fit for the Yankees. They have a big bat waiting in Triple-A if they want to replace their designated hitter, and the cost associated with acquiring Melky to replace Jones makes it a lateral move at best. Reunions are always fun, but there’s no match here. Nostalgia won’t win them anything this year, not unless they bring back early-2000’s Andy Pettitte or Mike Mussina.

Two quality starters available, but the Yanks must choose one

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Yankees will make a big move in the next four days. Earlier in the month it might have appeared that the trade market was relatively bare and that there was no clear upgrade for the Yankees. Yet, as happens every year, the story has changed as we have approached the non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees have a definite need in the rotation, and there are a couple of starters on the market who could help fill that.

Ubaldo Jimenez and Hiroki Kuroda could not be more different. One’s old, one’s young; one throws a mid-90s fastball, the other in the low 90s; one relies on ground balls, while the other is more the strikeout type; one is 36 and a free agent at year’s end, while the other is 27 and has two more years before reaching free agency; one will cost a bounty in prospects, while the other might not even agree to a trade. Yet both of them can help the Yankees rotation by slotting into the upper portion. In the coming days we could see one of them in pinstripes. Which one makes more sense?

Performance: Jimenez

If you look at only ERA, you might wonder how in the world Jimenez has out-performed Kuroda. Jimenez owns a 4.20 ERA, while Kuroda is at 3.11. Of course, that would suggest that ERA is completely under the pitcher’s control, which it is not. Jimenez has both a lower FIP and xFIP than Kuroda. He also has performed much better since struggling earlier in the year, producing a 3.03 ERA in his last 11 starts. Again, ERA isn’t everything, but he’s also struck out a batter per inning in that span, while walking just 17 (2.14 per nine).

Considering Jimenez got a late start in the spring, and missed two weeks in April, it’s understandable that he needed most of May to round back into form. But now he’s in that form, and he’s looking like an ace again. This isn’t a knock on Kuroda, whose performances have been very good since coming to the States in 2008. But in that span Jimenez ranks 10th in all of baseball with 18.8 WAR. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all relatively in line with Kuroda, but he has pitched 130 more innings.

Cost: Kuroda

It’s hard to make an argument that the Dodgers would get even one of the Yankees’ top five prospects in exchange for Kuroda. He’s a free agent after the season, and if he doesn’t retire he’ll either re-sign with the Dodgers or move back to Japan. In fact, it’s not even a sure thing that he’ll waive his no-trade clause: “My honest feeling is that I can’t fathom wearing another uniform than the Dodgers uniform right now,” he said yesterday. The point might be moot.

Jimenez, on the other hand, is said to cost three of the Yankees’ top prospects. If that seems like a steep price, well, it is. But remember, the payoff is a top-15 pitcher since 2008, so he’s not only good, but he has a track record. Is that worth eighteen years of total team control on three top prospects? It’s impossible to get a strong consensus on that, because of the polarizing prospect bias. Some think you always trade prospects for vets, while others would rather hang onto every prospect.

Yet here’s an interesting twist. CBS Sports’s Danny Knobler mentioned that the Rockies want three or four players from this list: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, or Phil Hughes. If they can get Hughes into that deal, maybe that changes things. Hughes, Betances, and Romine is a much easier pill to swallow than Nova, Betances, and Montero. Though when we hold this up to the reality test, and we see Hughes’s performances lately, it’s tough to imagine that the Rockies are interested.

Overall Help: Jimenez

Jimenez not only slots into the Yankees rotation right behind Sabathia this year, but he could remain there for at least the next two. That takes the pressure off the Yanks to make a splash in the free agent markets to come, which don’t appear particularly strong. Remember, many teams are locking up their young aces, and so we won’t see many of them reach free agency. That’s where the Yankees are strongest. They might have to make a sacrifice now in order to maintain a strong rotation.

If the Yankees get Kuroda, they might be tempted to spend $90 million on C.J. Wilson this winter. While that wouldn’t be the worst investment — I fully believe he’ll perform better than A.J. Burnett, though that’s not setting the bar particularly high — it’s another big contract for a player around age 30. It might cost some pieces from their farm system, but getting Jimenez in pinstripes means they can forget about the free agent class this winter and focus on developing from within. They’ll have three surefire bets for the rotation next year in Sabathia, Jimenez, and Burnett, with a few guys from the farm who could step into those final two spots.

Jimenez’s contract, too makes matters a bit easier. He’ll be a No. 2 getting paid like someone of lesser ability, and so can free up payroll for the Yankees to make other acquisitions. While the Yankees do play a different game than everyone else, I’m sure they’d like to play the value game every once in a while. After all, they need cost-controlled players so that they can continue spending $180 million on guys like Teixeira and $160 million on guys like Sabathia.

There is nothing wrong with the Yankees’ pursuit of Hiroki Kuroda, and if they ended up with him by Sunday I’d honestly be thrilled. He’ll provide an upgrade over their current fifth starter, Phil Hughes, and will stabilize the rotation heading into the playoffs. Jimenez, on the other hand, will be their No. 2 for years to come. He’ll cost considerably more, but he brings more benefits, both in the short and long term. It hurts to give up prospects, but in this case, considering the alternatives — and the alternative of doing nothing — Jimenez makes the most sense.