Mailbag: Gardner and the Nationals

Aaron asks: There’s been some talk in Bill Ladson’s latest mailbag that the Nationals could make a run at trying to acquire Brett Gardner. I don’t see the Yankees being interested in dealing him, but if they were, who could they look to acquire from Washington?

The Nationals have been looking for a long-term solution in the leadoff spot and in center field pretty much all season, which is why they were connected to guys like Denard Span and B.J. Upton at the trade deadline. Gardner fits both criteria and on paper he’s a perfect fit for Washington, but the question is do they have the pitching to get the Yankees interested?

Just to get this out of the way, we can forget all about Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. That’s not going to happen unless the Yankees really sweeten the pot. It would be a backwards move if the Yankees traded a starting center fielder with three years of team control left for a reliever or two, so forget about that as well. Their bullpen isn’t exactly a problem. Looking at Washington’s 40-man roster, there’s only two names that make any kind of sense for New York: John Lannan and Ross Detwiler.

Although both are reasonably the same age (Lannan just turned 27, Detwiler turns 26 in March) and are left-handed, the two are pretty different. Lannan is a classic ground ball/finesse southpaw, sitting right around 89 with his two- and four-seamers while mixing in a curve, a changeup, and a slider. His ground ball rates have consistently been above 51% (54.1% this year) and his strikeout rates have been consistently below 6.0 K/9 (5.2 this year) in his career. He’s good but not great at limiting walks (3.7 BB/9 this year, 3.4 career), and right-handers hit him hard both this year and last, though his career split is even.

Detwiler, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, is much more interesting. His big league exposure is limited (172.1 IP across four seasons), in part because he underwent hip labrum surgery last year. Detwiler’s a tall and lanky drink of water (listed at 6-foot-5 and 185 lbs.), and he lives and dies with a two-seam fastball that averaged 92 mph this past season. He also throws a changeup and a curveball. His peripheral stats (career 5.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, and 43.3% grounders) are very similar to Lannan’s with the exception of the ground ball rate, but I think there’s a little more upside here because he throws harder and is getting further away from surgery. Maybe I’m just blinded by the high draft pick thing, though.

Lannan is a Super Two and is arbitration-eligible for the second time this year, so his team controls his rights for another three years like Gardner. Detwiler is still in his pre-arbitration years and is under team control for another four years by my unofficial count. Both guys are back-end starters in the NL right now, so I can’t imagine them being any better in the AL East. Larry Rothschild has a reputation of improving his pitchers’ strikeout abilities, but you can’t count on that. The Yankees need pitching, but I can’t imagine they’re desperate enough to trade Gardner, a valuable but still flawed player, for one of Lannan or Detwiler. A 2-for-1 deal would be a bit more interesting, but I still wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Checking in on Brandon Weeden

Anyone out there remember Brandon Weeden? The Yankees made him their top draft pick in 2002, a second round pick they received from the Cardinals as compensation for the loss of Tino Martinez. His career in the Yankees organization lasted 60.2 IP and a little more than a year; he was traded to Dodgers as part of the package for Kevin Brown after the 2003 season. Injuries and ineffectiveness set in, and Weeden’s baseball career was over after 2006. That’s when he went back to college, and walked on at Oklahoma State and is now the Cowboys starting quarterback.

Tom Spousta of The NY Times checked in with the former Yankees farmhand, who is in the running for the Heisman Trophy this year, at age 28. “The opportunity was too good, and baseball was always my thing,” said Weeden, who said he grew up a Yankees fan in Oklahoma. “The day I signed the contract, I remember thinking, if this doesn’t work out, then I’ve always got college football. My goal was to make it to the big leagues the entire time, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.”

Saturday Night Open Thread

CC gonna do the other arm up once he inks his new deal?

It’s a little chilly out, but it’s an otherwise glorious evening here in New York. Hopefully you’re outside enjoying it, but if not, use this open thread to talk about anything your heart desires. The Rangers have a chance to clinch their second consecutive AL pennant with a win over the Tigers starting at 8pm ET on FOX (Holland vs. Scherzer). The Rangers are playing the Islanders, and the Devils are also in action. Anything goes, so have at it.

Phelps hit around again in Arizona

In case you missed it, Hector Noesi is starting in the Dominican Winter League in order to build up some innings. Abe Almonte is also playing in the DR this winter. Here’s some other winter ball assignments.

AzFL Phoenix Desert Dogs (6-2 loss to Surprise) Thursday’s game
Corban Joseph, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 K
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 4, 1, R, 2 K, 1 HBP
David Phelps, RHP: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 39 of 60 pitches were strikes (65%) … nearly identical lines each time out, it’s probably just rust and the hitter friendly league, I wouldn’t worry too much after two starts

AzFL Phoenix Desert Dogs (7-5 loss to Salt River) Friday’s game
Rob Segedin, LF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – threw runners out at second and home … he’s been hitting since he got here
Corban Joseph, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 CS – got picked off first … slow start, but he’s beginning to come around
Dan Burawa, RHP: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 17 of 27 pitches were strikes (63%)

CC’s Agent: “I’ve got nothing new to report.”

It’s only a matter of time (about two weeks) before CC Sabathia exercises his opt-out clause in search of greener pastures. There’s been some speculation that the Yankees would approach their ace about a new deal before he uses the opt-out, but agent Brian Peters told Buster Olney (Insider req’d) that no such talks have taken place between the two sides yet…

For now, Sabathia’s focus is entirely on remaining with the Yankees, according to his agent, Brian Peters. “CC has been clear about how he feels about New York and the Yankees,” Peters said on Saturday morning, “and we will exhaust all of our efforts to reach a new agreement (with the Yankees).”

Asked if the negotiations had started, Peters said, “As of today, I’ve got nothing new to report.”

Olney also mentioned that some in the organization are concerned about how/if Sabathia’s weight affected him towards the end of the season, which is completely reasonable. You also have to worry about his weight with regards to his right knee, which required surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus last offseason as well as five years ago.

The other day we heard that the Rangers are going to throw a boatload of cash at Sabathia, and chances are they won’t be the only team willing to spend on one of the game’s few legitimate left-handed aces. Every big market club will be connected to CC at some point this offseason, even if their only intention is to drive up the price for everyone else. Peters indicated that the two sides have yet to discuss a new deal, but once Brian Cashman‘s situation is wrapped up, I think it would be rather prudent of the Yankees to start talks as soon as possible.

Cashman, Hal to meet next week

Via Joel Sherman, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are scheduled to meet sometime next week to hammer out the GMs new contract. Last week we heard that talks were going well, but it looks like they’re getting ready to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. The World Series will end exactly two weeks from today, assuming it goes the full seven games, and CC Sabathia will be able to opt out of his contract three days after that. That’s when the offseason really starts for Cashman and the Yanks.