Report: Yankees have called Mets about Jon Niese

Via Andy Martino, the Yankees have called the Mets about Jon Niese after seeing that the left-hander has been made available in a trade. Talks are nothing more than preliminary at the moment though. Joel Sherman says the Amazin’s want “a place holder starter” and a “main prospect piece” in return, which sounds reasonable.

I might do a longer breakdown of Niese’s game if talks intensify, but I am a fan. He’s a 25-year-old left-baller that doesn’t walk many and gets ground balls with a better-than-average strikeout rate. Like the more-hyped Gio Gonzalez, Niese is under team control through 2015, though he still has one year at the league minimum left before arbitration. The only problem is that he’s thrown more than 170 IP in a season just once in his career thanks to hamstring and oblique problems. Cross-town trades don’t happen often, but I think this is one worth pursuing.

Cashman: Yankees only had “early conversations” with Buehrle

The Miami Marlins continued ruining baseball today by signing free agent lefty Mark Buehrle to a four-year contract worth $58M. Brian Cashman told reporters (including Mark Feinsand and Joel Sherman) that he had nothing more than “early conversations” with Buehrle’s camp, and they didn’t want to go more than two years on the veteran southpaw. I have to say I can’t blame them, the guy’s already teetering on the edge stuff-wise and has allowed an average of 4.22 runs per nine innings over the last three years in a division with some wimpy offenses. Nothing about that screams four years.

Open Thread: Winter Meetings Day Three

Oh great, he can bunt too. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Three days into the Winter Meetings, we finally have some actual news. First we learned that the club was willing to eat a bunch of money to trade A.J. Burnett, then we found out that they’d won the bidding for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The latter certainly came as a surprise, and I’m not sure the Yankees were confident they’d win with a $2M bid. Here’s a little more on the 29-year-old, courtesy of Baseball America (subs. req’d)…

According to one Pacific Rim observer, Nakajima does not have any standout carrying tools but possesses a well-rounded package. He has the range to stick at shortstop but his fringy arm will most likely force a shift to the other side of the bag. “To me, he’s a second basemen over here. He gets on base, grinds out at-bats, and plays solid defense but there will not a be a lot of home runs or stolen bases … I don’t think he is a high impact guy.”

The whole “grinding out at-bats” thing is Yankees 101, so that right there is part of the reason they liked him enough to bid. The fact that no other club topped $2M also gives you a pretty good idea that everyone expects him to be a bench guy, and Brian Cashman said today they view him as a backup only. We’ll see what happens now, the two sides have 30 days to hammer out a contract. I suspect that in two weeks we’ll hear they haven’t had any talks whatsoever, then two weeks after that they’ll get serious. That’s how these things tend to go.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. None of the local hockey clubs are in action, so you folks are pretty much on your own. Talk about anything you like (four years for Mark Buehrle!), it’s all good.

Girardi Notes: Rotation, Hughes, Nakajima, Burnett, Montero, A-Rod, Darvish

All 30 managers meet with the media at some point during the Winter Meetings, and Joe Girardi just wrapped up his little press conference not too long ago. As expected, he was asked quite a bit about the Yankees rotation and whether or not he expects the team to acquire a starter.

“You always look to improve your club, but sometimes the asking price is too much,” said Girardi, “and if that’s the case, I do feel good about our rotation. [An acquisition] has to make sense for us. We’re not just looking for a one-year deal, we’re looking long-term as well.”

By long-term, he didn’t just mean signing a free agent for the next five years or whatever. “We feel we have some pretty good prospects in the minor leagues that are going to be able to help us this year,” he added, indicating that the club does want to have an opening for some of their prospect at some point relatively soon. Girardi didn’t mention them today, but he has brought up Hector Noesi, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances as guys that could help the rotation next season earlier this winter.

Girardi went on to speak about the different look Freddy Garcia gives opposing batters compared to everyone else on the staff as well as A.J. Burnett‘s ability to occasionally dominate a game. “Part of it is Phil Hughes, how does he bounce back? Is he going to be able to be the guy we had in 2010? And if he is, to me that’s almost like going out and making another move,” said Girardi. “He can be really important to us. I do consider him a big part of our rotation.”

The skipper went on to dance around a question about concerns surrounding the conditioning of some of his pitchers, specifically Hughes and CC Sabathia. He likened Sabathia to David Wells, who used to joke that his conditioning was only a problem when he wasn’t getting outs. “I thought [Hughes] got behind the 8-ball because he got hurt, and he never really caught up last year.”

The audio file is way too big to upload at the moment, but I’ll get it up on here eventually. Update: Audio! Apologies for the sound quality, there were a ton of people there and some the questions came from far away.

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/Girardi2011WM.mp3]

Here’s the rest of the stuff Girardi spoke about, the important stuff anyway…

  • “This is about acquiring talented players to put them on our club,” said Girardi when asked about the recently kinda sorta acquired Hiroyuki Nakajima. “He’ll be asked to do a number of things, obviously, we will look at him. This is about acquiring talent, and we feel that we have a chance to sign a talented player.” He added that there’s room for both Nakajima and Eduardo Nunez on the roster, especially since they would like Nunez to become a bit more versatile.
  • As far as the report of Burnett being on the trading block, “Is there necessarily truth to the report about A.J.? I can’t tell you,” said Girardi. “As I said, we’ll always try to improve, no matter where it is, whether it’s the bullpen, a spot in the field, or in the rotation. We’ll look at every avenue.” Frankly, I’m stunned he didn’t come out and say they were trying to dump him. Stunned I tell you.
  • It’s possible the team could carry three catchers next year, namely Jesus Montero, Russell Martin, and Frankie Cervelli. Girardi made it clear that Martin is the everyday catcher, but they expect Montero to earn his spot in Spring Training and then get regular at-bats at DH. “We expect him to perform at a level where he helps us next year. We expect that.” Interestingly enough, Girardi said he’s brought up the idea of having Montero play first base, but developing him as a catcher remains the team’s goal. Brian Cashman later ruled out right field completely, so enough talking about that.
  • Robinson Cano finished the season as the regular three-hole hitter against right-handed batters, though the batting order is something they’ll continue to evaluate going forward. That includes every spot, from leadoff right down to the number nine guy.
  • “I don’t know about 150,” replied Girardi when asked about how many games he expects Alex Rodriguez to play. He did point out that Alex was playing well before the knee injury (.301/.377/.509 on July 1st), but they have to manage his DH days.
  • Girardi hasn’t seen Yu Darvish in person, but he’s heard all about him. If the Yankees need to call up a young pitcher at some point next season, they’ll have no problem doing so if they feel they’re ready.
  • As I reported earlier, the entire coaching staff will be back next season.

The Spending Spree, Three Years Later

Bumping this back up top because it quickly got buried by the Hiroyuki Nakajima news this morning.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

This is RAB’s fourth year at the Winter Meetings and my third year, personally. The first time we were here was the 2008-2009 offseason, which is easily the most memorable winter in recent Yankees memory. Brian Cashman famously left Las Vegas and headed to Northern California to put the finishing touches on CC Sabathia‘s contract, and a few days later they added A.J. Burnett to the mix as well. Nick Swisher had joined the team a few weeks earlier, and Mark Teixeira was still a few weeks away from spurning the Red Sox at the last minute.

That was a franchise-altering week, one that contributed to the 2009 World Championship and still affects the Yankees’ moves today. They’re reportedly willing to eat money to move Burnett and the two years left on the contract he signed during that week in Vegas, and the opt-out clause Cashman gave Sabathia in NorCal resulted in a new extension a few weeks ago. The Yankees are flirting with a $195M payroll at the moment, thanks in large part due to the 2008-2009 offseason.

“We had a lot of money coming off of our payroll in ’08,” said Cashman to reporters yesterday. “So the decisions we made in the winter of ‘09, that was kind of like our 2010 and 2011 Winter Meetings combined. We’re still living off a lot of those decisions that we made that winter, and it’s benefited us. We’ve improved our club or tried to in various ways since then, but that obviously was a big, defining winter for us, no different than what Miami seems to be trying to do right now for them.”

Cashman stuck with the company line yesterday, reiterating that he is not optimistic about making any kind of significant deal this week. The team appears unwilling to open its wallets for anything less than a pitcher they consider a frontline guy in the AL East, but maybe that would be different if they didn’t already have so much money on the books. That’s the downside of selling out for big name free agents three years ago, though the upside was oh so good.