Open Thread: 2/20 Camp Notes

A.J. showed up to work in a different part of Florida today.

Pitchers and catchers had their first official workout of 2012 today, a day after reporting to camp and taking physicals. We’ve already recapped Joe Girardi’s press conference, but here’s some other news and notes from Tampa…

  • Chad Jennings has the full list of bullpen and hitting groups. All six members of the five-man rotation threw today, though the only non-catchers to hit were David Adams and Justin Maxwell. Both are coming off injuries.
  • Speaking of injuries, Russell Martin said he wants to be smarter about trying to play through them this year. Anecdotally, he seemed to hit better when getting regular rest last year, so Frankie Cervelli is pretty important in 2012. [Buster Olney]
  • Michael Pineda threw a few sliders today, which surprised Girardi since it’s still so early in camp. Martin liked what he saw though, specifically that slider. He also said Pineda’s command was much better than expected. [Jack Curry & Mark Feinsand]
  • Phil Hughes is ahead of schedule, throwing 40 pitches today when most other guys are throwing 20-25. Reliable velocity readings won’t come until the games start, however. [Andrew Marchand]
  • Mariano Rivera‘s delayed arrival to Spring Training lasted all of one day. The closer was in camp today, and he told reporters that he knows what he’s going to do after the season as far as retirement or another contract. “I know now, but I don’t have to tell you,” he joked. Sadface. [Feinsand & Olney]
  • The group of guest instructors this year includes Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Tino Martinez, David Wells, Lee Mazzilli, and Lou Piniella. [Pete Caldera]
  • As you see above, A.J. Burnett was in Pirates camp today. He spoke to Kevin Kernan yesterday, and said pretty much exactly what you’d expect him to say. He’s turning the page, he’ll remember his time with the Yankees fondly, yadda yadda yadda.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Knicks and Nets are playing each other, and that’s pretty much all you’ve got in terms of local sports. You folks know what to do though, so have at it.

[Photo via the Pirates]

Yanks, Martin talked about a three-year deal this offseason

Via Dan Barbarisi, the Yankees and Russell Martin discussed a three-year contract this offseason before avoiding arbitration with a one-year, $7.5M pact. Talks about a multi-year deal never got passed the preliminary stages though. There is definitely some merit to signing Martin for the next few years (especially after the Jesus Montero trade), though anything longer than three years would really be pushing it just because of catcher aging and his past workload. Something like three years and $25-30M would have been reasonable.

Loose, winding thoughts about the A.J. Burnett trade

It’s easy to know what you feel about the A.J. Burnett trade. In the last three years we’ve all developed our unique opinions about him, both as a player and as a person, even though none of us is qualified to judge the latter. Those opinions will dictate how we feel about him no longer being on the roster.

What we think of the trade that will send him to Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Oftentimes our thoughts about matters like this go unexplored. It is, after all, just baseball — entertainment at its core, and fans experience it through emotions. Thinking beyond our emotions often incites ridicule. Since we know our emotions are true, anything that contradicts them must be false. QED.

On RAB we try to relate what we think about Yankees-related things, but because we’re fans we bleed into the emotional. A regular RAB post on the Burnett deal, then, would reflect how the author felt about Burnett. That includes not only Burnett’s performances, but also any other impressions he made on us in the last three years. And, of course, further away events will hold less weight. How we felt about the signing at the time might factor into how we feel, but it will be to a lesser degree than our feelings about his performances, say, this past August.

To avoid these emotional shackles, I will reduce the situation to its barest essentials. That is, facts — or at least items we can loosely term facts. Their relevancy to the matter is up for debate.

  • Burnett will have still earned his $82.5 million by the end of the 2013 season, as per the original agreement between him and the Yankees. But the Yankees will have paid $69.5 million of that, and for only three seasons. Despite the way it affects official payroll numbers, the Yankees will have paid Burnett an average of $23.167 million for each season he pitched for them.
  • An average annual value of $23.167 million is the 9th highest in baseball history.
  • CC Sabathia averaged $23 million per season under his original contract. He averages $24 million under his new contract.
  • Even though he will not throw a pitch for them in the next two seasons, the Yankees will still pay Burnett an average of $10 million in each of them.
  • To obtain Burnett on what amounts to a two-year, $13 million contract, the Pirates surrendered a 25-year-old relief pitcher who has 14 appearances above A-ball and a 20-year-old center fielder who has one home run in 558 career plate appearances.
  • There may be other facts about these players that are more relevant than the ones I listed.
  • But the fact remains that Exicardo is an exquisite name.
  • Both Jake Westbrook and Carl Pavano signed two-year, $16.5 million contracts last off-season.
  • Last season Burnett produced 1.1 rWAR. Pavano produced 2.0, and Westbrook 0.
  • I like rWAR (or bWAR, whatever you want to call it) for pitchers, since it uses runs against, rather than FIP.
  • With the $5 million they will save from this season’s payroll, the Yankees signed Raul Ibanez.
  • While Ibanez’s contract is only $1.1 million, reports have surfaced that the Yankees can’t afford much more. This suggests that they signed Hiroki Kuroda knowing they had options to deal Burnett, and were intent on doing so since mid-January.
  • Still, it doesn’t seem like they’d need to stretch the budget to sign Eric Chavez.
  • The Yankees currently have four starting pitchers returning from last season, one recent free agent signee, and a 23-year-old who pitched well in his rookie season.
  • The above fact is to imply that someone had to go. To be discussed below.

Based on feeling, I like the trade. The Yankees had three pitchers vying for one rotation spot. Phil Hughes is at the nadir of his value after pitching poorly and getting hurt in 2011. Freddy Garcia can’t be traded without his permission, and even then the Yankees save more money this year by trading Burnett, not to mention next year’s savings. Garcia has also out-pitched Burnett in the last two seasons by pretty much every measure. Burnett had moments of success in 2010 and 2011, but in no way forced the issue to stay on the team.

Based on the facts, it’s easier to dislike the trade. The Yankees essentially gave away Burnett, and with him any chance to recoup further value on his contract. Before the trade, the Yankees had paid Burnett $49.5 million for 3.4 rWAR, which is hardly a good return: $14.6 million per win on a linear basis. If they kept him around the next two seasons, they at least had a chance to increase that per-win value. Whether he was capable of performing to that level, of course, is another question. But now it’s not even a possibility. They’ll have paid him more than $20 million per win, on a linear basis (which, again, is not perfect, but it gets the point across).

(And then again, dumping him might help them avoid further dollars-per-win deficits.)

The idea behind the trade still comes down to having three pitchers competing for one rotation spot. One of them had to go, and under the current circumstances Burnett makes the most sense. It’s a shame that he didn’t come close to living up to his contract, and it’s a shame that he won’t get the final two years of the deal to redeem himself. But at this point a bounceback had to be considered a long shot. The Yankees acted as they had to, eating a lot of money while admitting a mistake. It does appear that the 2012 team will be a bit easier to manage as a result.

Girardi Speaks: CC, Rotation, Lineup, A-Rod

New year, same buzzcut.

Travel problems delayed Joe Girardi‘s arrival to Spring Training, but he made it to Tampa safe and sound prior to today’s workout session, the first of the 2012 season. Girardi spoke to the media about the state of his team afterward, so here’s a recap…

Pitching

  • CC Sabathia will get his seventh consecutive Opening Day nod, but after that? “You go [in] with an open mind,” said the skipper. [Marc Carig]
  • Girardi said it’s important that Sabathia maintains his weight, and “stays there or close to it.” It’s most important that he “stays strong,” obviously. [Jack Curry]
  • Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia will battle it out for the fifth starter’s spot, though Girardi said he still envisions the former as a starter. [Curry]
  • “I’m always amazed at how big players are today,” said Girardi about new pickup Michael Pineda. “They’re large humans.” [Mark Feinsand]
  • David Robertson will remain the Eighth Inning Guy™ while Rafael Soriano gets stuck in the seventh inning. I’d like to see Robertson in more a fireman role rather than be married to one inning, but whatever. [Feinsand]

Position Players

  • Girardi is leaning towards a 3-4-5 of Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, but he qualified it by saying: “I’m not married to that.” Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson figure to remain atop the lineup. [Feinsand & Carig]
  • Girardi doesn’t have a clearly defined plan for A-Rod regarding his rest and time at DH, and he’ll probably play it by ear. He does expect Alex to have a big year, though not necessarily 45 homers big. [Carig & Curry]
  • “I anticipate it will be [Frankie Cervelli],” said the skipper when asked about the backup catcher. Others like Austin Romine will get a shot to take the job in camp though. [Erik Boland & Carig]

Miscellany

  • “If not for [A.J. Burnett], we may not win that World Series,” said Girardi about his departed right-hander. “I felt A.J. did everything we asked him to.” [Marc Carig]
  • “I thought our guys came in good shape,” Girardi said. “I thought they were all ready to go.” [Chad Jennings]

[Photo via Bryan Hoch]

The Yankees’ 2012 Draft Pool: $4,192,200

Via Jim Callis, the Yankees will have just $4,192,200 to spend on the first ten rounds of the draft (eleven picks) this year thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That number will go down ever so slightly if Derrek Lee manages to sign a big league contract. The Twins lead the way with a $12,368,200 draft pool while the Angels only have $1,645,700. Ouch.

Teams that exceed their draft pool by no more than 5% are taxed at 75%, and after the 5% they start forfeiting future picks in addition to the tax. Picks from the 11th-40th rounds each have a $100k soft cap, and any money exceeding $100k for those late picks counts against the draft pool. If a team fails to sign a player in the first ten rounds, they lose that spot’s pool money. They don’t get to reallocate it elsewhere. The Yankees have spent between $6.1M and $8.0M on the draft in each of the last five years, and last year they spent $4,202,500 on the first ten rounds (ten picks).

Fan Confidence Poll: February 20th, 2012

2011 Record: 97-65 (855 RS, 657 RA, 102-60 pythag. record), won AL East, lost to Tigers in ALDS

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