Mailbag: David Cone

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Kurt asks: I was just curious about how David Cone came to the Yankees, and if you considered him underrated?

Cone is by far my most favorite analyst on YES, and he was also one of my most favorite players on the team during his 5+ seasons in pinstripes. He won the Cy Young Award with the Royals in 1994 (16-5, 2.94), but they traded him to the Blue Jays shortly after the strike ended for Chris Stynes and two minor leagues. After 17 very good starts for Toronto (9-6, 3.38), the fifth place Jays sent him to the Yankees just before the 1995 trade deadline for Marty Janzen and a pair of minor leaguers (Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon). Intra-division trades weren’t as frowned upon back then.

Cone stepped right into a Yankees’ rotation that included Jack McDowell, Sterling Hitchock, Andy Pettitte, and Scott Kamieniecki. Shoulder problems sent Opening Day starter Jimmy Key to the DL after just five starts, so that’s essentially who Cone replaced. The fill-in starter whose job he took after the trade? Some skinny kid from Panama named Mariano Rivera, who had a 5.40 ERA in 40 IP across eight starts before giving way to Cone.

The Yankees were 41-42 and in third place on the day of the trade, but Cone helped them to a 38-23 finish by going 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA in his 13 starts. Cone, 32 at the time, pitched okay against the Mariners in the ALDS (eight runs in 15.2 IP), though he infamously walked Doug Strange with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth of Game Five to force in the tying run. That game/series was the first time I ever felt true heartbreak as a baseball fan. It was brutal.

Cone became a free agent after the season, but the Yankees eventually re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $18M, the going rate for ace-caliber pitchers back then. He spent most of the 1996 season on the DL due to an aneurysm in his arm, but he threw seven no-hit innings in his first game back. Cone finished the season at 7-2, 2.88 in just eleven starts, then got rocked in the ALDS (6 IP, 6 R) by the Rangers before pitching well in the ALCS (6 IP, 2 R) against the Orioles and in the World Series (6 IP, 1 R) against the Braves. Everyone remembers the Andy Pettitte-John Smoltz matchup in Game Five, but Cone outdueled Tom Glavine in Game Three to keep his team from falling behind in the series three games to none.

During the final two years of his deal, Cone went a combined 32-13 with a 3.20 ERA, helping the Yankees to another World Series title with a 20-win season in 1998. The Yankees re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $20M or so after the 1998 season, and although he pitched well in 1999 (12-9, 3.44 ERA), throwing a perfect game against the Expos in July, he turned in one of the worst pitched seasons in Yankees’ history in 2000 (4-14, 6.91 ERA). During his 5+ years in the Bronx, Cone went 64-40 with a 3.90 ERA, though it was 60-26 with a 3.31 ERA before that ugly 2000 season. He helped them to six playoff appearances and three World Championships, twice going to the All-Star Game (1997 and 1999) and thrice finishing in the top six of the AL Cy Young voting (1995, 1998, and 1999).

I don’t think Cone was underrated during his time with the Yankees, but I think he was easy to underappreciate because he always seemed to pitch well and deep into games. Does that make sense? His high-end production was easy to take for granted after a while, which is sorta like what’s happening with CC Sabathia. Cone was a key part of the most recent Yankees dynasty, and those guys tend to live forever in our memories.

Mailbag: Nunez, Wilson, Trading Picks

Just a short mailbag this week because a) I’m still full of turkey, and b) I want to enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your future questions.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jason asks: So the word is out that Atlanta likes Eduardo Nunez. I certainly would not want Jair Jurrjens in a deal for the reasons mentioned on this site. My question is whether you think it is realistic to think a deal could be had for one of the other young pitchers in Atlanta, such as Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, or Julio Teheran?

I don’t think so. The Braves moved Derek Lowe and are trying to move Jurrjens so they can open spots for those young guys. I really like Beachy, but Nunez alone isn’t nearly enough to get him. The Yankees would have to expand a trade for him, or any of those other three guys you mentioned, rather significantly. Teheran and Delgado are their Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, so don’t expect them to move either guy for anything less than a proven, above-average big league regular.

Just for the record, I would jump all over a Nunez-for-Jurrjens trade. It’s a utility guy for a potential above-average starting pitcher, that’s a no-brainer. The problem is that it’s not realistic at all, the Yankees would have to give up a lot more. I have no interest in giving up multiple pieces for a guy that struggles to stay healthy.

Preston asks: If we were to trade Eduardo Nunez to the Braves, should the Yankees look into bringing in Jack Wilson as the utility infielder?

Even at 34 years old (35 next month), Wilson is still a wizard with the glove. He’s well-above-average at short and started to see time at second and third bases last year. The problem is he just can’t hit, at all. The last time he topped a .293 wOBA was 2007, and his OBP hasn’t been above .292 since 2008. He also doesn’t have any power (six homers since 2007, and five of those came in 2008) and hasn’t stolen more than five bases in a season since 2005. Wilson just doesn’t offer anything beyond his defense, and at his age that could start to slip. He’s basically a veteran version of Ramiro Pena. I’d rather see them go for someone you can bring a little more to the table.

Anonymous asks: I know everyone’s talking about the NEW CBA, and added wild card, HGH, but I was hoping to hear something where teams would be allowed to trade draft picks. No players or cash, just picks? Say, the Yanks wanted to trade the 30th pick, for an extra third or fourth round, just like all the other sports.

The six lottery picks given to the low-revenue clubs after the first and second rounds can be traded, but that’s it. Those picks will be in the 35-40 and 75-80 range (or thereabouts), and I’m curious to see how teams will value them in trades. The expected value of draft picks in baseball drop off big time after the first five or six selections, then they really bottom out after the 50th pick or so. Getting say, the 77th overall pick in a trade isn’t all that different than getting the 200th overall pick.

The new spending limits should, in theory, result in players being drafted in order of their talent rather than how affordable they are, and that will further depress the trade value of picks. I don’t think a team with a pick in the 35-40 range could expect to receive a top prospect in trade. A top prospect in Double-A is worth substantially more than a draft pick, even a top ten pick. Would the Yankees trade Banuelos for a number one overall pick next year? Not a chance, Manny’s already doing well in Double-A and that pick offers zero guarantees. Trading picks sounds like fun, but I don’t think we’d see many teams trading down for an extra fourth rounder. This isn’t the NFL, the value just isn’t there when you have 49 other picks to use.

Thanksgiving Day Open Thread

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year. I loved Christmas as a kid because of all the gifts, but now that I’m old I love Turkey Day a lot more. You just can’t beat the best meal of the year. I hope you have a great holiday and are spending it with lots of family and friends, and not here in this silly open thread. For those of you that do stop by today, there’s a video of some Don Mattingly highlights to enjoy.

Guest Post: Yankees’ Draft Spending

The following is a guest post from long-time reader Jake Hopkins, who you’ve probably seen in the comments as Jake H. He took a look back at how much money the Yankees have spent in the draft in recent years, something that will now be limited thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In one of his regular Friday chats, someone asked Mike if the Yankees should increase how much they spend on the draft and/or international free agents. This has been something that Yankees fans have been complaining about since last year’s draft, the Yankees not spending enough. Wanting to find out if this was true, I looked at the last five drafts, but with a twist.

What I wanted to do was take out the first round money in the draft. I did this because the Yankees never have a chance to draft a guy like Eric Hosmer or Stephen Strasburg. By taking these large bonuses out we can see the teams that spend throughout the entire draft and not just on their first round pick. The Giants are a good example; in the last five years they’ve spent $31.921 million on the draft and $16.356 million on first round bonuses (52.1%).

This point is more evident when looking at the total number of first round and supplemental first round picks since 2007. The Yankees have had a total of just five draft picks in those rounds during that time. That’s tied for the lowest amount of draft picks along with the Orioles and Marlins. The Blue Jays and the Rays are tied with the most at fifteen picks during that five-year span.

What I did was take the first round’s salary out of the equation and added back in a dollar. I then took that amount and divided it by the number of total picks that signed for the five-year period. The Yankees spent an average of $182,790 per pick, which was the fourth highest total. The Red Sox were number one followed by the Pirates and then the Jays. The Yankees also had the least amount spent on the first round picks until the 15th spot which was the Phillies, and they aren’t known for spending on the draft.

So we now know what the Yankees spent on average on each non-first round draft pick over that five-year period. Here is a year-by-year break down…

  • 2007: $145,313 average draft pick spending, fifth most.
  • 2008: $150,000 average draft pick spending, tenth most. (Remember no Gerrit Cole or Scott Bittle)
  • 2009: $207,692 average draft pick spending, fourth most.
  • 2010: $205,214 average draft pick spending, seventh most.
  • 2011: $227,957 average draft pick spending, sixth most.

As the numbers show, the Yankees have increased their average spending on the draft over the last five years, with 2011 representing their highest average draft pick price. While the Yankees’ spending has increased, I’m sure people are saying that the MLB average has gone up. Yes it has, but not as much as you may have thought…

  • 2007: $95,985 average for all teams.
  • 2008: $131,825 average for all teams.
  • 2009: $132,878 average for all teams.
  • 2010: $143,813 average for all teams.
  • 2011: $136,268 average for all teams.

So there was a large jump in draft spending from 2007 to 2008, then the average spending stayed close to those numbers with 2010 being the highest. Now keep in mind that this takes all teams into account, even those teams that don’t spend much at all. As the data shows, the Yankees have been consistently spending more per draft pick then the majority of the league. While people can complain that they didn’t draft such and such or sign who we want, we can’t say that they aren’t spending money.

Yankees offer Freddy Garcia arbitration

The Yankees have offered Type-B free agent Freddy Garcia arbitration. If he signs elsewhere, they will receive a supplemental first round draft pick as compensation. You can see all of the Type-A and B free agents (and their arbitration statuses) on our 2012 Draft Order page.

Garcia has until December 7th to accept the offer. He’s in line for a ~$6-7M salary if he does accept, but the two sides have been discussing a reunion in recent weeks. I have a feeling Freddy might have agreed to decline arbitration before the offer was made, similar to Javy Vazquez last season.

Yankees sign Jayson Nix

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees have signed utility infielder Jayson Nix to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they’ll have to pay him a $100k bonus if he’s not added to the 40-man roster or released just before Opening Day.

Nix, 29, spent last season with the Blue Jays. He’s a terrible hitter, owning a .207/.280/.368 batting line (.286 wOBA) in 869 career plate appearances. He did manage to hit 26 homers in 653 plate appearances from 2009-2010 though, so there is some pop in his bat. Nix has played second, short, and third extensively in recent years, and he’s also filled in at both corner outfield spots. His defensive stats aren’t anything special though. It’s just a depth move, I doubt he has much of a shot of making the team.

Open Thread: Aaron Small

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Does anyone represent the Yankees’ success with scrap heap pickups any better than Aaron Small? He was brought him in for minor league depth not long before Spring Training in 2005, but injuries and ineffectiveness at the big league level had him up as an emergency starter in late-July despite a 4.96 ERA in ten Triple-A starts. He won that first game but it wasn’t pretty; he allowed three runs and four walks in 5.1 IP against the Rangers, but a win is a win. Small made another start eight days later and held the Mariners to three runs in seven innings. The team needed pitching, so he kept getting the ball.

What was supposed to be a short-term, emergency starter thing turned into a regular rotation spot. Small famously finished the season with a 10-0 record, but he only made nine starts. He picked up one win out of bullpen in extra innings, and another in three innings of long relief. Small allowed two runs in 2.2 IP in his only ALDS outing against the Angels, a relief appearance in Game Three. The 10-0 record and 3.20 ERA looked great, the performance was entirely unsustainable. He wasn’t missing any bats (4.4 K/9) and wasn’t getting a ton of ground balls (43.9%), so something had to give.

Nevertheless, the Yankees signed Small to a one-year deal worth $1.2M as an arbitration-eligible player after the season. He started the 2006 season in the bullpen as the long-man, but he was just awful. In three starts and eight relief appearances, he allowed 29 runs and put 55 runners on base in just 27.2 IP. The fairytale story came to an end in late-June, when the Yankees designated Small for assignment. He finished the season in Triple-A and was out of baseball after the season.

After his career was over, Small returned home to Tennessee where he an his wife are active in their church. He survived a bout with encephalitis in 2008, which is an acute inflammation of the brain. He was in a medically induced coma for eight days, then six weeks later he was on the field for the final Old Timers’ Day at the Old Yankee Stadium. Today is Small’s 40th birthday, the big four-oh. It’s somewhat fitting since the story of his playing career is ten-and-oh.

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Here is your Thanksgiving Eve open thread. All three local hockey teams are in action, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. You folks know how these things work, so have at it. The thread is all yours.