Okajima fails physical, will not be in camp with Yankees

Via David Waldstein, left-hander Hideki Okajima has failed his physical and will not be in camp with the Yankees. His minor league deal technically won’t be voided just because it never became official. It was pending the physical, so the agreement is off. If the Yankees want to carry a second lefty in the bullpen this year, the Spring Training competition is down to Mike O’Connor and Rule 5 Draft pick Cesar Cabral (the team’s #29 prospect).

Burnett headed to Pirates in salary dump trade

So long, A.J. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

After three years, A.J. Burnett‘s time in pinstripes is coming to an end. The Yankees have agreed to trade the right-hander to the Pirates for prospects Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. Pittsburgh will pay $13M of the $31.9M left on his contract, broken down into $5M in 2012 and $8M in 2013. The deal is pending physicals and MLB’s approval because of the amount of money changing hands. Ken Rosenthal, Joel Sherman, Dejan Kovacevic, Buster Olney, and Jonathan Mayo all had a hand in breaking the news.

Burnett made 98 starts in three years for the Yankees, pitching to a 4.79 ERA and a 4.63 FIP. Kinda hard to believe that his greatest attribute was his durability when that was the biggest question at the time of his signing. Burnett helped the club to the 2009 World Championship but was a total dud in the two following years. At age 35, he is unlikely to improve in a meaningful way going forward. Moving out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East and into pitcher friendly PNC Park and the NL Central should certainly help his performance.

Moreno, 25, is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever. Pirates Prospects says he routinely runs his fastball up to 97 with a mid-80s slider. He struck out 45 (9.1 K/9 and 23.4 K%) and walked 18 (3.6 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%) in 44.2 relief innings split between High-A and Double-A last season. No team took a shot on him in December’s Rule 5 Draft. The Pirates suspended Moreno in 2010 after he got caught kissing a fan in the bullpen, believe it or not.

Cayones, 20, hit .228/.333/.325 in 135 plate appearances split between the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League and Short Season NY-Penn League last season. Pirates Prospects says he has an advanced approach to hitting (career 9.5 BB%) but apparently not much power (.108 ISO), which is a problem because he’s a left fielder. His best tool is his name, which is a straight 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Neither Cayones or Moreno were among Pittsburgh’s top 30 prospects in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, and neither would have cracked my Top 30 Prospects List.

The Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda acquisitions crowded the pitching staff, leaving Burnett to fight for the fifth starter’s spot with Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. The Yankees obviously decided that getting some salary relief was the best way to go. Rumor has it they’ll soon sign Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez to fill out their bench and DH spots, respectively. Burnett was incredibly frustrating to watch, especially the last two years, but he came across as a stand-up guys in interviews and was generally regarded as a positive force in the clubhouse. I’ll miss A.J. the person, but not the pitcher.

The RAB Radio Show: February 17th, 2012

Everyone can guess what we talk about primarily on the show. While Burnett to the Pirates seemed inevitable for at least week, the “official” word broke while we recorded the show. So there’s plenty of that.

  • Mike and I share our favorite Burnett memories, which cover the standard ones plus a few ones of a personal nature.
  • How the Yanks can spend the money. There are a few gambles left on the free agent market, and chances are they won’t get major league deals. The Yanks could snatch up a few of them in the coming days.
  • We spend just a little time talking about who they should sign as a lefty DH option.
  • And plenty more AJ-mania.

Podcast run time 44:57

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow021712.mp3]

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

2012 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The SI Yanks won their fourth title in seven years in 2011. (Photo via The Staten Island Sun)

It was going to be next to impossible for the 2011 minor league season to feel like anything but a disappointment after all the success of 2010. Last year was more normal than anything else though, with a typical number of breakouts, steps back, and injuries. The Yankees still boast several high-end prospects and an absurd amount of depth, particularly on the mound. Not everyone is bound for stardom, but the Yankees have a plethora of useful players on the way to fill their roster and/or use in trades.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that ranking prospects is not a black-and-white exercise, there’s no right or wrong. It’s an inexact science, and everyone has their own personal philosophy. Some prefer pure upside while some place more value on probability, and everyone’s balancing act is different. I lean slightly towards probability, but I think you’re going to see clubs place a much greater emphasis on ceiling given the draft and international spending restrictions put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Premium talent will be harder to come buy, especially for a perennial contender like the Yankees.

I won’t argue (much) if you think two prospects ranked consecutively should be flip-flopped, in most cases we’d just be splitting hairs. The gap between the number one and number four prospect this year is pretty small, as is the gap between number five and number 15 prospect or so. All the guys after that are pretty interchangeable. Once again, it all comes down to preference. Like everyone else, I use rookie status to determine prospect eligibility. That means anyone with more than 130 at-bats or 50 IP in the big leagues is not eligible for the list, though I ignore the service time cutoff because that stuff is too difficult to track. Two top 30 guys from last year — Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez — graduated to the big leagues in 2011 while three others — Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, and Hector Noesi — have since moved on to other clubs.

My past preseason lists can be found here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Can’t believe this is the sixth list at RAB already. Anyway, the ages listed are as of April 1st. Enjoy.

[Read more…]

More RAB fantasy leagues available

It seemed that interest died down for a couple of days, but last night and this morning I received a few emails with details for new leagues. So let’s get back down to this.

RAB Robertson with the Save; ID: 59737; pw: heirapparent

RAB [Name unknown]; ID: 58314; pw: hiphipjorge

Go here to sign up for these leagues.

If you have a league and emailed it to me, and I haven’t posted it, re-send. I’m a disorganized fellow and I’m sure I’ve lost a few of the emails.

Remember, if the leagues full up and you want to create a new one, just follow these steps:

1) Go here to create your league. We’re doing head-to-head leagues with 12 teams. The stats we prefer to use are in the original post.

2) Email me — josephp (at) riveraveblues (dot) com — and give me the league info, including the ID and password, so I can add it to this post.
3) Email me again when the league fills up.

That about covers it. Questions can go through email, through the tip box, or, if you don’t need an immediate response, in the comments.

Mailbag: Burnett, Kennedy, New CBA

So here it is, the final mailbag of the offseason. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in any links, questions, comments, etc.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Andrew and many others ask: If the Yankees do trade A.J. Burnett and eat $23m of the contract, does that $23m still get attached to the Yankees’ luxury tax figures over the next two years?

We’ve been getting this question a few times a day, but I have absolutely no idea how this stuff works. I have to think we’ll get a definitive answer if and when a trade does go down.

Let’s just say they do eat that $23M split evenly over the next two years, does his luxury tax hit become $11.5M ($23M divided by two)? Or does it become $14.5M ($23M + $16.5M annually for the first three years of his contract divided by five)? It would have to be the first way, right? Otherwise they’re paying luxury tax on money they’re not paying Burnett.

Ryan asks: Does the possible A.J. Burnett trade make the possibility of signing a big time free agent like Cole Hamels more likely now, with the subtraction of his salary on the payroll?

I suppose it does, but they’re not going to save a ton of money by trading Burnett. If they’re going to drop huge money on one player next year, it’ll be because they’ve replaced Nick Swisher on the cheap. His salary ($10.25M) plus Hiroki Kuroda‘s salary ($10M) is where your $20M a year player is coming from. Either that, or they Yankees will have to raise payroll further. Freeing up some money by trading Burnett will help, but it won’t be the only reason they go after Hamels or someone like that.

Jon asks: Any chance the Yankees take a Jon Lieber-esqe flier on either Scott Kazmir or Brandon Webb?

Well, the Lieber contract was two guaranteed years knowing that he’d miss the first year after Tommy John surgery. There’s no way in hell you can guarantee Kazmir or Webb anything, it’s been far too long since they were effective big league pitchers. Plus those guys both had serious shoulder problems, not just an elbow. Minor league contracts? Fine. Nothing more though, otherwise you’re just wasting time, roster spots, and money.

(REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Joseph asks: IMO, while I can’t doubt his NL West success, I don’t believe [Ian Kennedy] would be anywhere near the pitcher he was last season if he was on the Yankees in the AL East. He doesn’t have blow-me-away stuff and in my opinion, a lot came together last year for him. So, what’s your take? I don’t dive too heavily into advance stats, so my analysis is lacking.

We don’t even have to bring up his stuff or his command or anything like that. This applies to every pitcher ever: moving from the NL West to the AL East will cause your performance to suffer. It doesn’t matter if you’re Ian Kennedy, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, or Pedro Martinez in his prime. It’s unavoidable. The lineups in the AL East are far better, there’s a DH instead of a pitcher batting, and the ballparks are much less forgiving. In terms of pitching environments, the AL East and NL West couldn’t be any more different.

Kennedy is no exception like I said, and in fact his numbers would probably take a bigger hit than most because he’s on the best team in the division and doesn’t have to face his own lineup. Since moving to Arizona, 145.2 of his 416 innings (35.0%) have come against the punchless Giants, Dodgers, and Padres. Replace those teams with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays, and he’d do worst. It’s just the way it is. IPK is a really, really good pitcher, but his performance would absolutely suffer if he was still in pinstripes.

Will asks: I feel as though big market/high payroll teams are being put in an disadvantaged spot by the draft process/new CBA. Now that there is a cap on the draft/international market I feel like it is unfair to winning teams. How else are those teams going to acquire talent besides free agency? Picking so late in the draft is already a disadvantage, now the new CBA and possible worldwide draft would really hurt teams like the Yanks. What do you think?

The spending restrictions put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement hurt everyone, but they hurt good teams the most. The more you win, the less you have to spend on top amateur talent without hurting themselves in the future (by forfeiting picks or future spending money per the new rules). Instead of being rewarded for winning, you’re punished. Good teams like the Yankees will be stuck signing free agents to improve their roster long-term, unless they just completely out-scout and out-player develop everyone else. It sucks, but at least the Yankees have more money to use on free agents than any other team.