Nakajima speaks about Yankees winning negotiating rights

It was a bit surprising when we found out the Yankees had won the negotiating rights to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima last week, and recent reports indicate that he might not sign and instead return to Japan for another year before becoming a free agent next winter. Chad Jennings passed along an article from Nikkan Sports with some quotes from Nakajima, but online translations are a disaster. That’s why I enlisted the help of Patrick Newman, who runs the indispensable NPB Tracker.

“I thought ‘whoa!’. I got a bid from a great team,'” said Nakajima, courtesy of Newman. “I still don’t know how it is going to turn out.” The article goes onto say that Nakajima is “highly motivated” to play in MLB (he asked to be posted last year, but his team said no), so the chances he won’t sign are low. He’s leaving the negotiations up to his agent, obviously. I think this whole situation is very interesting, just because it’s not your typical free agent negotiation and Nakajima probably expected to go to a team that would let him play everyday. The two sides have less than a month to bang out a contract.

Big thanks to Patrick for translating the article and quotes.

Mailbag: Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

J.R. asks: Looking at what the A’s got in return for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow, could you speculate what the Yankees would had to have given to match the package?

In case you missed it yesterday, the Athletics traded Cahill and Breslow to the Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook. None of you Gio Gonzalez fans need to worry, Ken Rosenthal says he’s still on the trade block even after Oakland dealt one of their starters. I will miss the regular poundings the Yankees gave Cahill, he was good for two or three wins a year.

Anyway, the real prize for the Athletics is the 24-year-old Parker, the ninth overall pick in 2007. He missed the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, but made his big league debut this September and threw 5.2 shutout innings in his only start. The right-hander has been on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list in each of the last four years, ranking between 29th and 36th the last three years. Kevin Goldstein told Joe last night that Parker is a better prospect than Dellin Betances because he has a better chance to remain a starter long-term.

Cowgill also made his big league debut this year, hitting .239/.300/.304 with one homer and four steals in exactly 100 plate appearances. Baseball America considered him Arizona’s 18th best prospect before the season, saying he profiles best as a fourth outfielder because he “probably won’t have enough bat for an outfield corner or enough speed to play center field every day.” They mention that the 25-year-old gets the occasional comparison to Cody Ross.

Cook is another guy that debuted in 2011, throwing 7.2 disaster innings (11 hits, eight walks, seven strikeouts, six runs). The 24-year-old righty didn’t appear in Arizona’s top 30 prospects list this year, and he didn’t even make the team’s depth chart in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. In his trade write-up (Insider req’d), Keith Law says he’s “90-95 with a hard-diving slider in the low 80s, but doesn’t command either pitch and has a wicked hook in his delivery as well as a lot of effort; he could peak as a setup guy, could be a middle guy, could spend years bouncing up and down.”

Matching that trade package player-for-player is a little tough for the Yankees, just because of Cowgill. Manny Banuelos steps in for Parker and someone like George Kontos, Ryan Pope, or Craig Heyer is your Cook replacement. The Yankees don’t have an outfielder like Cowgill though, he’s better than the Colin Curtis/Chris Dickerson/Justin Maxwell trio. He’s similar to Brandon Laird offensively, but Laird is an infielder that can fake left field on occasion while Cowgill can handle all three outfield spots if needed. Austin Romine is too much, plus he doesn’t do anything to help Oakland’s outfield situation.

So if we’re speculating that it would have been Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow, would you do it? I say no, mostly because I’m pretty high on Banuelos and not the biggest Cahill fan in the world. He could turn into top flight starter, he has that ability, but boy he sure does leave a lot of sinkers up for a ground ball guy. Maybe my opinion of him is clouded by how the Yankees have crushed him over the last few years. He’d definitely help their rotation both now and for the next four years (signed through 2015 with two club options after that), there’s no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t give up three MLB ready (or very close to MLB ready) pieces to get him. What about you?

Would you have traded a package of Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow?
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Yankees bring back Oppenheimer, Newman, and Eppler for 2012

Via George King (subs. req’d), the Yankees have re-signed pro scouting director Billy Eppler, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman for 2012. Eppler and Oppenheimer were both candidates for the Angels GM job earlier this offseason, with Eppler finishing as the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Oppenheimer was also up for the Orioles GM job. It’s only a matter of time before the Yankees lose those two to other clubs, but they’ll remain in the Bronx for at least one more year.

Friday Night Open Thread

"Will anyone ever offer me a contract Yadi?" "Si." (Christian Petersen/Getty)

I have a feeling the entire baseball world is still recovering from the winter meetings. Friday was pretty slow compared to the rest of the week, though that’s not really surprising. Things will start to pick back up once the Yu Darvish posting period ends next Wednesday, which should kick-start the Edwin Jackson market. Prince Fielder will get serious about signing one of these days now that Albert Pujols is off the market as well.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. There’s nothing going on as far as local sports guy, but after a week of rumors and trades and free agent signings, I suggest going out and living a little.

The RAB Radio Show: December 9, 2011

Mike’s back from the Winter Meetings, and there was plenty of activity. It might not all be directly Yankee related, but it is in some way or another.

  • Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in Anaheim. Mike and I talk about the implications, especially as it concerns the Wild Card.
  • That brings us to Yu Darvish, who was just posted. The Yanks are downplaying their interest, but is that just a smokescreen?
  • The rest of the market looks a bit barren. Hiroki Kuroda is still out there, as is Edwin Jackson. But will the Yanks seriously consider them?
  • There were a number of minor deals this week. Mike and I wrap up some new names that will be in camp — and some that might not.

Podcast run time 45:46

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.
[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow120911.mp3]

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

RAB Live Chat

The 2012 CAIRO Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

Thus far this offseason we’ve taken a look at Dan Szymborksi’s 2012 ZiPS projections for the Yankees, which projects a Yankee starting lineup averaging 5.3 runs per game, and last month we reviewed the 2012 Bill James projections, which, as usual, were a bit more bullish, giving us a Yankee starting nine projected to pump out 5.7 runs per game.

Today we’re looking at SG’s 2012 CAIRO projections, version 0.2. The usual caveats apply, best summed up by SG himself: “Projections are inherently limited, so remember to take these for what they are. They are rough estimates of a player’s current talent level. They are not predictions for what a player is going to do in 2012, and they are not playing time predictions either.”

The other important reminder in reviewing these numbers is that SG doesn’t include baserunning in his wOBA calculation for CAIRO. (Edited, Monday, 12/12/11 at 8:45 a.m.): I was curious as to how exactly one might quantify the impact of stolen bases on an elite baserunner’s wOBA, and so according to an e-mail exchange I had with SG, “For 2011, Gardner’s 49 SB and 13 CS would add about .012 to his wOBA, so figure a range of .010 to .015. League average is probably more in the .000-.005 range depending on percentage. If you want to add SB/CS into my wOBA calculation, just use this formula:

.72 x BB + .75 x HBP + .9 x 1B + 1.24 x 2B + 1.56 x 3B + 1.95 x HR + .253 x SB – .437 x CS, divided by PA.”

So if one would like to, one could probably upwardly adjust CAIRO’s .324 wOBA projection for Brett Gardner to around .335, which, while still a bit lower than one would ideally like from Gardner, seems a bit more line with expectations.

Lineup

Derek Jeter

2011 CAIRO projection: .290/.360/.406, .342 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .297/.355/.388, .332 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .286/.345/.384, .325 wOBA

CAIRO really liked a bounceback for Derek last year, though he didn’t quite hit his projected line, even with his lightning-hot second half. And now in spite of said second half, CAIRO forecasts a return back to something approximating the 2010 version of Jeter.

Curtis Granderson

2011 CAIRO projection: .252/.335/.462, .346 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .262/.364/.552, .394 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .263/.351/.502, .366 wOBA

CAIRO, like everyone else, underprojected Granderson last year, and also, like everyone else thus far this offseason, acknowledges Curtis’ big year but doesn’t see him coming close to hitting that well again. It’s important to keep in mind that CAIRO only has 19 players in all of MLB exceeding a .500 SLG (the only other Yankee being Robinson Cano), whereas 29 accomplished the feat in 2011. Knowing that, I would be surprised if Curtis only managed a .502 SLG.

Robinson Cano

2011 CAIRO projection: .306/.355/.511, .372 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .302/.349/.533, .375 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .303/.352/.504, .368 wOBA

CAIRO basically expects Cano to keep right on doing what he’s doing, which is of course great news for Yankee fans.

Alex Rodriguez

2011 CAIRO projection: .281/.372/.526, .384 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .276/.362/.461, .361 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .273/.363/.474, .365 wOBA

After dual .384 wOBA projections from CAIRO in 2011 — the two highest marks on the team — A-Rod‘s and Tex’s down 2011 seasons have resulted in considerably lower 2012 projections, though CAIRO thinks both can improve on their 2011 campaigns. Alec’s CAIRO projection is ostensibly what he did in 2011 with a little more power, which would of course be most welcome.  For what it’s worth, ZiPS has him at only .264/.350/.474, which a healthy Alex should have no problem besting.

Mark Teixeira

2011 CAIRO projection: .276/.377/.515, .384 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .248/.341/.494, .361 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .263/.359/.493, .368 wOBA

The good news is that CAIRO sees a significant spike in Tex’s OBP over 2011, although the bad news is that that .359 projection is still well below his .374 career mark. Tex is perhaps both the biggest question mark as well as the key to how well the Yankee offense will fare in 2012.

Nick Swisher

2011 CAIRO projection: .260/.354/.470, .357 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .260/.374/.449, .358 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .259/.356/.455, .354 wOBA

CAIRO, like Bill James, sees a drop in OBP for Swish in 2012, but slightly more power. I see Swish getting back to the .370 wOBA level.

Jesus Montero

2011 CAIRO projection: .261/.326/.446, .337 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .328/.406/.590, .421 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .267/.322/.470, .341 wOBA

With all of 69 career PAs to his name, Montero will likely be the Yankee with the widest range of projections. Bill James thinks Montero can hit for a .371 wOBA; CAIRO sees a lower but still more-than-respectable-for-a-21-year-old .341 mark.

Russell Martin

2011 CAIRO projection: .263/.362/.380, .336 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .237/.324/.408, .325 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .253/.347/.383, .329 wOBA

CAIRO thinks Martin will gain some OBP but lose some power, ostensibly replicating his 2011 season. I think we’d all be fine with it, although it’d be great to see Martin check in closer to a .355/.430 OBP/SLG if possible.

Brett Gardner

2011 CAIRO projection: .270/.358/.372, .329 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .259/.345/.369, .330 wOBA
2012 CAIRO projection: .262/.347/.371, .324 wOBA

CAIRO sees more of the same for Gardy, which is good and bad. The current iteration of Brett Gardner is obviously very valuable, but he could be downright deadly and a legitimate leadoff option if he can get his OBP back up to his 2010 level.

If you plug the starting nine’s 2012 CAIRO-projected numbers into Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis, we get a starting lineup that projects to score 5.6 runs per game. The 2011 team as a whole averaged 5.35 runs per game. Obviously the R/PG figure on the 2011 season is comprised of more than just nine players, but this provides something of a general vicinity for what one could reasonably expect out of the 2012 Yankee offense, if everything goes right. The “best” iteration of the lineup scores 5.708 runs per game and features Mark Teixeira at leadoff.

Starting Pitching

And here’s the pitching staff.

CC Sabathia

2011 CAIRO projection: 219.0 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 237.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 227.0 IP, 3.25 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9

No commentary required.

Ivan Nova

2011 CAIRO projection: 116.0 IP, 5.24 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 1.6 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 165.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 5.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 168.0 IP, 4.48 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 5.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9

CAIRO thought little of Nova last year; his strong first full season has resulted in a considerably improved 2012 projection, though not one that Yankee fans can get terribly excited about. CAIRO sees regression for Nova across the board, although CAIRO also doesn’t know about Nova’s improved slider, which is probably the key to whether he can perform at a #2/#3-starter-type level going forward.

Phil Hughes

2011 CAIRO projection: 172.0 IP, 4.22 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 74.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 5.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 95.0 IP, 4.72 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9

No one knows what to expect out of Hughes in 2012, though they won’t stop us from endlessly speculating about him. For the record, I feel bizarrely optimistic about Hughes in 2012, but it could also be the fanboy in me just refusing to die. The 2012 CAIRO projection seems eminently reasonable in the aftermath of what Hughes did in 2011, although a 4.72 ERA would still be massively disappointing.

A.J. Burnett

2011 CAIRO projection: 187.0 IP, 4.66 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 7.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 190.1 IP, 5.15 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 190.0 IP, 4.88 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9

Burnett is of course the other massive question mark in the Yankee rotation. Similar to the way I feel about Hughes, I am also cautiously optimistic on Burnett, although after the last two seasons it’s tough to expect much of anything out of A.J. One thing that may have escaped notice is that, despite his second straight awful year, A.J. still provided value (1.5 fWAR) due primarily to the fact that he still gave 190 innings and outpitched his ERA. While a 4.88 ERA would still suck, 190 innings of a 4.52 FIP would probably make Burnett close to a 2.0 fWAR pitcher, which, while not great, is better than nothing.

Freddy Garcia

2011 CAIRO projection: 31.0 IP, 4.86 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 146.2 IP, 3.62 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 102.0 IP, 4.28 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 5.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9

Freddy’s strong 2011 led to a significantly upgraded 2012 CAIRO projection, and one that is also probably a bit more realistic than Freddy’s actual 2011 results. Assuming Garcia is the 5th starter, there’s little to quibble with in his CAIRO projection.

Hector Noesi

2011 CAIRO projection: 80.0 IP, 5.08 ERA, 4.91 FIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 56.1 IP, 4.47 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
2012 CAIRO projection: 79.0 IP, 5.44 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9

Despite putting up solid numbers in relief in 2o11, CAIRO doesn’t think much of Noesi, and his projection has barely changed from a year ago before he had any experience at the MLB level. While it’s safe to say no one really knows what Noesi could do if he ends up getting a chance to start as a Yankee in 2012, I’m pretty sure he’ll be better than a 5.44 ERA/4.80 FIP pitcher, especially if he really is throwing 98mph.