Yankees sign Millwood to minor league deal

(AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

Update by Mike (3:04pm): Marc Carig says Millwood will get $500,000 each for five, ten, 15, 20, and 25 starts, plus a million bucks if he reaches 30.

Update by Mike (12:06pm): Wally Matthews says Millwood can become a free agent if he’s not on the big league roster by May 1st. He get’s $1.5M pro-rated, so the same as Garcia.

Update by Mike (10:56am): Andrew Marchand says the terms of the contract are similar to Freddy Garcia’s. Garcia will $1.5M with the big league team plus another $3.6M in possible incentives, so it’s pretty cheap. Glad to hear Millwood is coming dirt cheap as well.

Update by Mike (8:49am): Heyman says it’s a done deal, the Yankees have signed Millwood to a minor league contract. He adds that either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia will be in the rotation to at least start the year (presumably Ivan Nova gets the other spot) since Millwood will need some time to prepare.

Original Post (3/25/2011, 12:00am): In an effort to corner the market on players who had memorable moments in 2003, the Yankees and right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood are “close” on “an incentive-laden minor-league deal,” Jon Heyman tweeted late this evening. The Yanks had long been linked to Millwood, but until recently, the pitcher had said he wouldn’t sign anything but a Major League deal.

For the two parties, this deal seems to be the culmination of a winter-long seduction. Once Andy Pettitte retired, the Yanks seemed to have a passing interest in Millwood and were, according to our coverage still considering him in early February and still interested two weeks after that. Millwood reportedly rejected a Minor League deal after Spring Training had started. Although he wanted a Major League deal, the Yankees continued to watch him throw. A meeting of the minds seemed all but inevitable.

As the Yanks prepare to head into the season with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon around, this move is basically for depth. They’ll have to jettison Sergio Mitre and will most likely do so before Monday when they will owe him only termination pay. With Millwood, they know have a seventh starter in the wings with some Major League experience. He might not be as good as he once was, but if he has to hold down the fort for a few turns through the rotation, he should be adequate.

Here’s what I said about Millwood when his name popped up a few weeks ago, and the same still holds true:

For the Yankees, Millwood would simply be another piece for the depth charts and another placeholder. If someone goes down and Millwood is still out there, he would be potentially a better and more reliable choice than an unknown AAA kid. He won’t blow the world away, and he won’t throw quality innings. He will though throw innings. Maybe there’s something to be said for that right now…

The same still holds true. Beyond Freddy Garcia, the Yanks are short on Major League starting depth. Maybe Manny Banuelos would be ready by mid-season, but the club isn’t inclined to rush him. Hector Noesi and Adam Warren aren’t high-ceiling guys, and the Yanks can stash Millwood at AAA to give them depth in case someone goes down early. It’s not impressive, but it’s another piece. Hopefully, it’s one the Yanks won’t have to use this year.

Open Thread: Oh the irony

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Once Cliff Lee joined those youngsters in Philadelphia and Andy Pettitte hung them up, we used up thousands and thousands of words trying to identify pitching targets for the Yankees. And now here we are, a week before Opening Day, and Brian Cashman told Chad Jennings that teams have been calling him about the Yanks’ excess pitching. Go figure.

“It’s been very quiet for the most part,” said Cash. “But now obviously, ’tis the season where teams are trying to fill out their rosters, make their decisions, make sure that whatever they have, that there aren’t any better opportunities available outside their camps. There are conversations now. Everybody’s just picking the phone up and checking in with each other, myself included.” The Yankees essentially have four pitchers (Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre) for three spots (two starters and long reliever), so maybe they can salvage a C-prospect or something for Mitre rather than releasing him ahead of Monday’s 45-day termination pay deadline. I’m not going to get my hopes up though.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. SNY is showing an encore of today’s Mets-Cardinals game, plus MLB Network will have the Nats-Tigers later on. Both the Islanders and Rangers are playing meaningful regular season games as well. At least the latter is, anyway. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

RAB Fantasy Baseball League(s)

Just a heads up, our master relegation plan will not be put into place this year, but from what I understand there are still a few spots open in the various leagues. If you’re a commissioner of one of those leagues and need some people, post your league info in the comments so people can sign up. Also include your draft date, just so everyone knows what’s up. Thanks.

The settings are the same as last year, so you can see them here.

The Ruben Rivera Trade Tree

On of my new favorite sites (or Tumblrs, I think that’s what they’re called) is MLB Trade Trees, which is exactly what you think it is. They’re graphics of MLB trades, like the one you see of Ruben Rivera above. Of course that one could be continued, since Robin Ventura turned into Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor, then Scott Proctor turned into Wilson Betemit, then Betemit and two throw-in prospects turned into Nick Swisher. The Gary Sheffield tree is pretty cool too, amazing how much it impacted the Brewers. Anyone, I recommend adding the site to your bookmarks or RSS feed or whatever, this kind of stuff is always fun.

(Just a reminder: Craig Robinson of Flip Flop Fly Ball did a killer Swisher trade graphic for us not too long ago)

What’s the deal with all these oblique injuries?

As you’ve probably noticed, the Yankees have been dealing with an abnormal amount of oblique injuries this year. Curtis Granderson is the latest casualty, but Joba Chamberlain, Greg Golson, and Sergio Mitre have also been hit at some point. Dan Barbarisi spoke to Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the co-chair of sports medicine at Mt. Sinai, who indicated that the rash of oblique issues could be tied to imbalanced training. “There’s been a rash of focus on core strengthening, the generic core,” said Glashow. “But it’s not so simple. If you strengthen part of the core more than another part of the core, it creates an imbalance and leads to these oblique injuries.”

Essentially, players might be working their abs and back too much during the offseason (or, more likely, their obliques not enough), creating muscles that are more developed than the connecting tissue. I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing you can think of it like a chain, meaning the core muscles are only as strong as the weakest link. Whatever’s going on, hopefully it stops soon and everyone heals up in a timely manner.

The RAB Radio Show: March 24, 2011

Time is running down in spring training, and the Yankees have a few decisions to make. With the pitching staff they’ll be taking on a few risky players, which could blow up on them early in the season. Mike and I talk about possible targets if they need a pitcher sometime early in the season.

Podcast run time 31:59

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

The one-two hitter platoon

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

We know the Yankees and Joe Girardi have been tinkering with the lineup during the last few days of Spring Training, but there’s only so much tinkering that can be done. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robbie Cano are going to going to hit in the middle of the order no matter what, and it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, and Russell Martin will follow them at some point. The only thing left to toy with is the top two spots of the order, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Brett Gardner, the team leader in on-base percentage last year, has been getting reps at leadoff over the last week or so while Derek Jeter slid down to second (in the lineup, not the position). It makes perfect sense; if Gardner’s going to get on base that often, he should do it ahead of the power hitters. But Brett is presumably going give way to Andruw Jones against lefties at least some of the time and rightfully so. He’s no world-beater against southpaws (.316 wOBA in his career, albeit in a relatively small sample) whereas Jones tore them to shreds last season (.402 wOBA). That makes for a sticky situation, because Andruw won’t be hitting leadoff against lefties (or ever), so Girardi will need to employ two lineups.

Last night’s game featured a familiar arrangement, with Jeter leading off and Nick Swisher hitting second, of course against lefty Jo-Jo Reyes. The rumblings of a platoon that features Gardner-Jeter versus righties and Jeter-Swisher versus lefties have been popular for about a week now, but is it the best setup? I think we can all agree that Jeter-Swisher is the best arrangement against lefties since the Cap’n absolutely destroyed southpaws last season (.382) and has for the last few years (.396 wOBA vs. LHP from 2007-2009 as well), but is Gardner-Jeter really better than Gardner-Swisher against righties?

The answer, as you probably suspect, is no. Jeter hit just .246/.315/.317 (.286 wOBA) against righties last year while Swisher tagged them to the tune of .285/.330/.547 (.376 wOBA). Over the last three seasons, it’s .285/.350/.383 for Jeter and .255/.337/.492 for Swish. If you want to do a 5-3-2 weighting system, where 2010 counts for 50%, 2009 counts for 30%, and 2008 counts for 20% (so the most recent season counts the most), you get .276/.340/.368 for the Cap’n and .265/.335/.513 for Swish. By pretty much any measure, the Yankees’ right fielder has the advantage because his big time edge in power output trumps the shortstop’s slight edge in on-base ability.

Of course you probably knew that already, plus the Yankees aren’t exactly in a rush to move Jeter down in the lineup anyway. He’s built up quite the bit of leeway and has plenty of rope so to speak, so it’ll take a total offensive collapse to see him moved down towards the bottom third of the order. But yeah, batting him first or second against right-handed pitchers is hurting the team to an extent, though it’s not a huge difference even over the course of a 162-game season. The Yankees faced a right-handed starter about two-thirds of the time over the last few years, which is a pretty normal percentage, so batting Jeter second against them instead of Swisher will probably cost the team something like five runs next year. It’s not ideal, but it’s hardly the end of the world.