More on Carlos Lee and the Yankees

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The Yankees only swung one move prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Casey McGehee from the Pirates for a bag of Qualls*. The Marlins tried to foist Carlos Lee on New York however, but the former Astros slugger invoked his no-trade clause to prevent a possible move to the Big Apple. Lee had previously vetoed a potential trade to the Dodgers while with Houston, mostly because he didn’t want to move far from his family. The Marlins were not included in his limited no-trade clause, so he had no choice to accept that move.

What the Yankees would have done with Lee is unclear, especially since their need was at third base and not first base or DH. Fernando Ballesteros has the answer after catching a conversation between Lee and a teammate, however. Here’s the translation**…

“Lee said that he talked with the Yankees and asked them what his role would be if (Mark Teixeira) was healthy. They told him that then he would be sent to left field and that they would alternate him in the lineup with Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Nick Swisher. Lee said that he told them an emphatic ‘no.'”

Lee, 36, has been playing first base exclusively for just about a full season now and was a disaster in the outfield before the move. I mean, legit worst defensive outfielder in baseball type of stuff. He’s also been declining steadily at the plate, even against left-handers. Jon Heyman says the Yankees agreed to buy Lee from the Marlins for $1M before he put an end to things, but even at that price the move wouldn’t have made much sense. Lee just isn’t a fit for the roster he wouldn’t have helped the offense much either. McGehee makes immeasurably more sense.

* I have no idea who came up with that for where I first saw it, but it’s brilliant.
** The translation comes courtesy of Nick Collias, who digs up rumors from Spanish language media outlets for MLBTR.

Confirmed: Season over for Mason Williams

Via Josh Norris, top prospect Mason Williams will have surgery to repair damage to his left (non-throwing) labrum today. He is done for the season and hopefully will be 100% for Spring Training. There were some hints yesterday that he was going to miss the rest of the year with a shoulder problem, but now we have confirmation. The Curse of the RAB Prospect Watch™ strikes again, eh?

8/3-8/5 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Didn’t these two teams just meet? The Yankees took two of three from the Mariners in Seattle last week, but lost Alex Rodriguez to a hand injury in the process. Felix Hernandez hit him with a pitch. Will the Bombers retaliate? I’m guessing no, it’s not worth losing someone to a suspension.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners haven’t lost a single game since the Yankees beat them last Wednesday. They took four straight from the Royals and four straight from the Blue Jays, all at home. This hot streak has moved them into … still last place. Seattle is 50-57 with a +3 run differential, well out of the AL West race.


(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Away from Safeco Field, the Mariners have been a completely different team this year. They’ve mustered a pathetic 65 wRC+ at home this season compared to a 98 mark on the road. They’re basically league average offense away from Safeco, a marked improvement over the last two or three years.

Seattle’s best hitter all season has been John Jaso (138 wRC+), who is essentially a platoon bat against righties. Michael Saunders (108 wRC+) and Kyle Seager (101 wRC+) have been solid as well, ditto Mike Carp (98 wRC+) and Casper Wells (98 wRC+) in smaller samples. Ichiro Suzuki came to the Yankees and has been replaced by the recently acquired Eric Thames (one homer in three plate appearances) and the recently recalled Trayvon Robinson (4-for-12). The rest of the roster is filled out by Dustin Ackley (79 wRC+), Brendan Ryan (67 wRC+), Chone Figgins (48 wRC+), Miguel Olivo (46 wRC+), and Munenori Kawasaki (28 wRC+).

And, naturally, we have to talk about Jesus Montero. The former Yankees wunderkind has hit .260/.305/.395 (89 wRC+) with ten homers this season, doing most of his damage against lefties (178 wRC+) and on the road (118 wRC+). He’s been abysmal against righties (47 wRC+) and at home (61 wRC+). Montero has been pretty awesome since the All-Star Break (.323/.400/.477), and he’s already homered once at Yankee Stadium this season. I highly recommend this Lookout Landing post breakdown his season.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kevin Millwood
It’s the exact same three guys the Yankees saw in Seattle last week. Millwood held the Bombers to three runs in seven innings in the series opener, and overall has pitched to a 3.90 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He’s doing it with peripherals that don’t exactly jump out at you –6.48 K/9 (16.9 K%), 3.20 BB/9 (8.3 BB%), and 44.6% grounders. Millwood sits right around 90 with the four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, backing them up with a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and a low-70s curveball.

(AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
Felix pitched pretty well when he wasn’t busy breaking A-Rod‘s hand last week, allowing two runs in 7.1 innings. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts, leading to a 2.79 ERA and a career-best 2.93 FIP. The strikeout (8.88 K/9 and 24.4 K%) and walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.5 BB%) rates are ridiculous, though the ground ball rate (46.3%) is down quite a bit from recent years. Felix is more low-90s with the fastball than mid-90s these days, but his secondary stuff — upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, low-80s curveball — is among the very best in the game. He’s nasty.

Sunday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
The Yankees scored just one run off Iwakuma last week, but they forced him out of the game after five innings due to his pitch count. The Japanese veteran will be making his sixth start since coming out of the bullpen, and overall he’s pitched to a 4.10 ERA and 5.27 FIP. The strikeout (7.58 K/9 and 20.2 K%) and ground ball (52.4%) rates are solid, but the walk rate (4.25 BB/9 and 11.5 BB%) is not. Iwakuma is a classic kitchen sink type, throwing a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s splitter, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees will be the first team to see him twice as a starter, so hopefully that experience pays off.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Both clubs are coming off scheduled off days, so the bullpens are rested. The Mariners’ relief corps looks quite a bit different than it did last week following the trades of Brandon League and Steve Delabar, but it is still anchored by closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.44 FIP) and LOOGY extraordinaire Lucas Luetge (2.14 FIP vs. LHB). Shawn Kelly (3.49 FIP) handles most of the right-handed setup work these days, though Josh Kinney (3.77 FIP) figures to see some late-inning time as well.

Two recently recalled rookies have taken the place of League and Delabar. Hard-throwing but erratic right-hander Stephen Pryor (5.33 FIP in limited action) is back off the DL and fellow righty Carter Capps is the third 2011 draftee to reach the big leagues behind Trevor Bauer and Cody Allen (a 23rd round pick by the Indians). The next appearance Capps makes will be his first as a big leaguer. The last guy in Seattle’s bullpen is Oliver Perez (1.80 FIP), who appears to have found some success in the great northwest. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, and check out U.S.S. Mariner and the aforementioned Lookout Landing for the latest and greatest on this weekend’s opponent.

Mailbag: Swisher, Ynoa, Phelps, Montgomery

Got five questions and four answers for you this week. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us any links, comments, or questions throughout the week.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Donny asks: With qualifying offers expected to be in the $13.3-13.4 million range, there seems to be a very small possibility that Nick Swisher could take that as his overall deal even though he would collect more on the open market, but I doubt his AAV would not approach that. Could you see more FA’s taking this route going forward?

Nick asks: Is it almost certain that Swisher will not be around next season? All this talk of getting a fill in third baseman for the rest of the season and then turning him into a right fielder has me thinking. A lot of the recent talk on RAB seems like he’s out of the picture come next season. As a fan favorite and clubhouse favorite it’s gonna be hard to see him go.

Might as well lump these two together. You’re going to see a ton of players decline that one-year, ~$13.5M qualifying offer in favor of a potential multi-year guarantee on the open market. It’s a similar process to arbitration but the stakes are much higher given the money, so that just means we’ll see fewer qualifying offers overall. I highly doubt you’ll see the same kind of handshake agreements we’ve seen in the past just because that’s so much cash. Fading stars will have a tough time turning that down, but otherwise guys like Swisher will pass in favor of the bigger payday. That’s what I would do at that point of my career. Get the multiple years while you can.

As for Swisher, I don’t think it’s 100% certain that he will be gone next year. It’s just that he’s going to require a pretty significant contract and it’s unclear if the Yankees will go that far for a player soon to be entering his decline years with the 2014 payroll plan looming. I’m sure the team would absolutely love to see him accept the qualifying offer, giving them a quality player on a short contract and buying them another year to find a long-term outfield solution. I just can’t imagine that happening, Swisher’s looking at a multi-year pact worth eight-figures annually given the state of the corner outfield market.

Andrew asks: I was looking over at MLBTR about Michael Ynoa the other day. I remember the Yanks had a deal with him but he went back on it; saw that the Athletics have to either add him to the 40-man or expose him to the Rule 5 in the offseason. Worth a shot to take him in the Rule 5 and stick him in the bullpen next year to see if his fastball plays up? If he’s bad send him back, if not, we hold him for a year, then send him down to stretch out as a starter in ’14 when he’ll only be 21 still.

Ynoa has battled a number of injuries through the years, facing just 37 total batters from 2008-2011. He’s healthy now and is pitching poorly in Rookie Ball, with more walks (11) than strikeouts (six) in 12.1 innings. In last week’s chat Keith Law provided an updated scouting report after the seeing the right-hander in Arizona: “89-93, touched 94 once, really loose and easy, so there’s potential there, but all the lost time means he hasn’t advanced much if at all in four years.”

The A’s haven’t gotten what they expected when they broke the bank and signed Ynoa for a then-record $4.25M bonus, and I have a really tough time thinking he can provide a big league team with any value right now. He’s more interesting than most Rule 5 Draft guys given the upside, but carrying someone on the 25-man active roster means you think he can help you win games. I’m not sure he’s capable of doing that right now. The Yankees have a number of internal options capable of being a long-man next year, forcing the issue with someone like Ynoa seems doomed to fail.

(REUTERS/Dave Kaup)

Johnny asks: With this setback for Andy Pettitte, do you think it’s time to give David Phelps a rotation spot? I really like this guy and think he can go places and be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.

Yeah I think so. Freddy Garcia has been perfectly fine and serviceable as the fifth starter since moving back into the rotation, if anything Ivan Nova has been the weak link in recent weeks. The Yankees aren’t going to take him out of the rotation though. Phelps has at least shown the ability to get big league hitters out and given the perpetual need for quality starting pitching, it makes sense to given him a little two month audition to see what he has. At the same time, I don’t think it’s some kind of huge injustice. I don’t see Phelps as some kind of ace in the making and he can be very valuable to this year’s team as a multi-inning setup man.

Travis asks: Do you think, even though he is currently at the Double-A level, that Mark Montgomery is a viable bullpen option for the start of 2013? Do you think they give him a September call-up?

I was planning to write about Montgomery yesterday, but Eric beat me to the punch. I might as well chime in with my thoughts here. Montgomery has obviously impressed in the minors and the easy comparison is David Robertson because they’re both sub-6-foot right-handers with nasty breaking balls who rack up strikeouts. There is a difference between a curveball pitcher (Robertson) and a slider pitcher (Montgomery) though, only because the latter tends to have more of a platoon split. Then again, Montgomery’s slider could be so good that it doesn’t even matter.

Barring injury or some kind of completely unexpected performance breakdown, I think it’s all but guaranteed that Montgomery will debut in the big leagues at some point next year. He has eight whole innings above Single-A to his credit so I’m not sure if a September call-up is in the cards this year, however. I suppose it could depend on the need at the big league level, if some guys get hurt or collapse Cory Wade-style, the Yankees could be forced to turn to him. As good as Robertson is, he was an up-and-down guy in 2008 and early-2009 before finally settling into a full-time role in 2010. Minor league relievers can be tricky to project because the numbers are so good, but I’d always say the odds are against someone coming up and having an immediate impact. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen though.

Imagine: These Yankees at the original Yankee Stadium

Via Scott Pitoniak

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Yanks-Sox game with a couple of first-timers. Not only had they never been to the current Yankee Stadium, but they’d never been to any Yankee Stadium. They were quite curious about the various aspects of the new park, and how it all looked at the old park. It made me nostalgic for the Stadium across the street, of course. That’s the park I grew up with. But it also got me thinking about the old Yankee Stadium.

It’s hard to imagine any park looking quite like the one in which the Yankees played before the 1970s renovations. The dimensions were, by the modern standard, incomprehensible. Imagine you’re Alex Rodriguez and you hit one right on the sweet spot. It soars out to left-center and lands 390 feet from the plate — but is in the field of play.

(Or, better yet, imagine his 500th home run. That also would have been in the field of play, thanks to a 461-foot fence in center.)

True, the Yankees typically pound their homers to right. Back in the day the Stadium still had that short porch — it was actually a little shorter down the line, though it was a bit deeper in right-center — so it would have still played to the Yankees’ primary strength. But it’s hard to imagine the Yankees hitting many of their homers anywhere near right field.

Of course, there were righties who hit for power at Yankee Stadium. Joe DiMaggio led the league in home runs in 1937 while playing more than half of his game at Yankee Stadium. He hit 27 of his 46 homers on the road, sure, but that’s still 19 at home. He also produced a near .300 ISO at home, and an overall 1.061 OPS. Apparently that cavernous right field didn’t hold him back a bit.

(I haven’t seen the stat anywhere, and I’m sure he went opposite field plenty, but I have to wonder how many of DiMaggio’s homers were inside the parkers.)

A park so oddly shaped could certainly benefit a team. We’ve already seen the Yankees amass players who can park pitches over the right field porch. Imagine a lineup that balances those players with ones that can poke the ball into that enormous right-center field gap. In-his-prime Ichiro, for example, would have been great for that kind of gap hitting.

Modern field technology would make such a park even more attractive. While I wouldn’t want to remove the monuments from center field, there wouldn’t be any career-changing sprinklers in the outfield. Basically we’d have the old-time layout with modern technology. I’d be game for that.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be room in today’s game for a park as oddly shaped as the old Yankee Stadium. Which is a shame. Sure, it might be difficult to lure pull-heavy right handed power hitters, but it’s not as though the Yankees attract, or even seek, many of them anyway. (A-Rod, for example, had superb opposite-field power). I’d love to see modern teams play in a Stadium like that.

Nunez goes deep in Triple-A loss

Based on his Twitter feed, OF Mason Williams will have surgery tomorrow. He apparently suffered some kind of dislocation of his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving after a ball last week. The minor league season ends one month from today, so there’s a good chance we won’t see him again until Spring Training.

Meanwhile, 1B/DH Saxon Butler was promoted to Low-A Charleston. He just crushed the ball in the Short Season NY-Penn League, I’m talking a .296/.370/.620 (179 wRC+) batting line.

Triple-A Empire State (13-1 loss to Indianapolis)
DH Chris Dickerson, LF Ronnie Mustelier & 3B Brandon Laird: all 0-4 — Dickerson struck out twice … Mustelier struck out twice and threw a runner out at the plate … Laird struck out once and committed a fielding error
2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 2 K
SS Eduardo Nunez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-2, 1 BB
CF Melky Mesa & RF Darnell McDonald: both 0-3 — McDonald struck out
1B Kosuke Fukudome: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 K — first pro game at first base
RHP Adam Warren: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 10/3 GB/FB — 49 of 75 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s been pitching well of late, so hopefully this is just a bump in the road
RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 19 of 24 pitches were strikes (79%)
LHP Lee Hyde: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 16 of 20 pitches were strikes
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 20 of 32 pitches were strikes (63%) … he allowed 13 ER total on the year before this game … dude’s ERA went from 2.44 to 3.49 with one outing

[Read more…]