Fan Confidence Poll: January 3rd, 2011

Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card, lost in ALCS

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Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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The Obligatory Grady Sizemore Post

It’s amazing how much can change in two years. Grady Sizemore was a legitimate MVP candidate as recently as 2008, just as he was in 2007 and 2006, but now the Indians would “love to trade” him according to Nick Cafardo. That’s what injuries can do to a player’s value.

Blame that grand slam on Jorge, amirite? (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Sizemore, still just 28 these days, was hampered by synovitis in his left (throwing) elbow all season long back in 2009, and was eventually shut down so he could have surgery to repair the condition in early September. The elbow gave him no trouble in 2010, but his left knee did. Sizemore originally injured the joint sliding into a base in April, and he then re-injured it on another slide against the Orioles on May 16th. He wouldn’t play again the rest of the season. Sizemore had microfracture surgery in early June, and the six-to-nine month recovery period has him in line to start Spring Training on time.

Over those last two injury plagued seasons, Sizemore hit just .239/.328/.410 (.324 wOBA) with a -6.0 UZR/150 (SSS), a far cry from his 2006 through 2008 peak. During those three years he hit .279/.380/.499 (.382 wOBA) with a total of 85 homers and 93 steals, adding on a studly +7.5 UZR/150 in center. Sizemore’s 20.1 fWAR during those years was the fourth most in baseball, behind only Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and David Wright. He was a bonafide superstar, one of the game’s absolute best, and he was still in his mid-20’s.

For the sake of completeness, we have to acknowledge Sizemore’s warts as well. He’s just a career .311 wOBA hitter against lefties (.386 vs. RHP), and even during that absurd three-year peak he only had a .333 wOBA vs. southpaws. The need for a right-handed hitting reserve outfielder would only increase. Sizemore can also strikeout with the best of them, going down on strike three in 22.4% of his career at-bats. Again, looking at just the three year peak, he still had a 22.8% strikeout rate. And then there’s all those recent injuries, of course.

Two hands, Sizemore. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

So, if Sizemore was that good when he was healthy, why would the Tribe want to move him? First thing that jumped to my mind was cost, but Sizemore isn’t that expensive. He’s their second highest paid player (behind Travis Hafner, yikes), but is still owed just $7.5M in 2011 before a $9M club option ($500,000 buyout) for 2012 comes into play. For a rebuilding team, that might be too much. Another possibility is that they aren’t confident in his health going forward, and want to move him before his value drops even more. A third possibility could simply be that he’s one of their most tradeable commodities, and they feel an infusion of young players would be better going forward than even a healthy Sizemore.

The Yankees come into play for no other reason than pure speculation, nothing has connected them to Sizemore this offseason at all. In fact, they passed on pursuing Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth because they’re comfortable with their outfield alignment. Hard to blame them, really. A trade for Sizemore would be similar to the Nick Swisher trade in that the Yanks would be buying low, but the major difference is why they’d be buying low. Swish was healthy with the White Sox, he was just unlucky when it came to balls in play. Sizemore’s stock is down because he’s hurt, it’s not like we’re just waiting for a BABIP rebound here. That’s quite a problem, because it’s a lot tougher to predict performance going forward when a guy has 140 plate appearances in the last 15 months.

The Indians are apparently searching for pitching, pitching, and more pitching these days, something the Yankees can spare at the minor league level. Cleveland’s outfield is pretty full (nine outfielders on their 40-man roster, including Grady), so I’m not sure if they’d even want Gardner in a potential trade. They do need a third baseman, I know that much, so maybe Brandon Laird has some value to them. They’re not going to give Sizemore away just because, he’s far too young and talent to write-off. New-ish GM Chris Antonetti will market Grady as the guy he was from ’06-’08, not the injured mess he’s been since. Whether or not a deal can be struck is not for me to worry about, that’s up to the guys making the big bucks.

Without being privy to his medical information, I’m inclined to say “pass” on Sizemore, which is tough to say because I love the guy as a player. He’s the very definition of a five-tool talent when healthy, a lefty power bat that would fit right in with Yankee Stadium and be an upgrade over all three regular outfielders. The Yanks have been preaching patience all offseason, and this is where they should exercise it. Let Sizemore prove he’s healthy and productive on Cleveland’s dime, then act accordingly if there’s a fit. The potential for zero or minimal return is just too high for me right now, especially when you consider how much it’ll probably take to acquire him. I suspect we’ll see the Indians hold on to their once franchise player through the offseason, hope he stays healthy and performs like he’s capable of in the first few months of 2011, then look to trade him at the deadline when his stock is higher. That’s when the Yankee should kick the tires, no sense in assuming the risk now.

Open Thread: Twentyeleven

Get it? 20 and 11? Eh, eh? (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(Update, 1/2/11): Time to recycle this thread once more. In a grand demonstration of the NFL’s parity, the 7-8 Rams face the 6-9 Seahawks tonight, with the winner qualifying for the postseason as the four seed. The loser is out all together. Parity doesn’t mean more good teams, it’s just means a lot of mediocre teams. Enjoy that mess.

(Update, 1/1/11): Let’s bump this sucker back up top for the first night of the new year. The Rangers and Devils are in action, plus the Winter Classic (Pens-Caps) is on as well following a weather delay. You’ve also got the Nets and some college football. Enjoy.

(Original Post, 12/31/10): Sheesh, I can’t believe 2010 is over already. Where did the time go? Anyway, thanks to everyone for another great calendar year at RAB, we’re all looking forward to 2011.

And with that, here’s your open thread for what will probably be most of the weekend. RAB will return to normal on Monday, with some actual non-mailbag posts and the radio show and the whole nine. Until then, use this sucker as you see fit. Happy New Year’s, everyone.

NY Giants open thread

It’s the final day of the NFL season, and the Giants need a little help to sneak into the playoffs. They need to beat the Redskins (4:15pm ET, FOX) and they need the Packers to lose to the Bears, nothing else will do. Chat about the game here if you like.

Ten questions for the 2011 season

Looking for some light reading on the first day of the new year? Then check out Brian Hoch’s ten questions for Yankees going into 2011, headlined of course by the pitching staff. The other obvious questions involve age, and how it will impact Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera, among others. Sounds a lot like every other year, now that I think about it.

The River Ave. Blues Top Ten of 2010

As 2010 draws to an end, we’re closing the books on the Yanks’ season. The club came within two wins of reaching the World Series, but injuries and an offensive malaise against the Texas Rangers did in the defending World Champions. As we do every year, let’s run down the top ten most popular non-game thread posts from the year that was. Thanks for stopping by in 2010, and here’s to a run at 28 in 2011.

1. The A.J. Burnett Black Eye Theory Thread
Of course, our most popular post from 2010 was about A.J. Burnett‘s black eye. As RAB readers theorized about it, we never did find out which member of the Yanks grew so disgusted with Burnett’s pitching that they socked him im the face.

2. Steinbrenners in talks to sell Yanks to Dolans
File this one under “April Fools jokes gone horribly, horribly wrong or horribly, horribly right.”

3. Rumor: Lee deal ‘just about done’
Cliff Lee, always almost a Yankee, always never a Yankee.

4. The Yankees top five trade chips
On the eve of the trade deadline, Mike ran down the team’s top five trade chips. Of course, none of those players were traded in July, and all of them are still with the team as 2011 dawns. One — or more of them — could still be traded as the Yanks look to fill some holes, but I bet they’re all still with the franchise come Opening Day.

5. Prospect Profile: Jesus Montero
Few Yankee prospects of the past 20 years have had the buzz about them that Montero does. He’ll make his debut in 2011, and it’s no stretch to say that the Yanks’ offensive future is, in part, riding on his bat. Questions remain about his defense, but the kid sure can hit.

6. 2010 Preseason Top 30 Prospects
As Spring Training began, Mike ran down the organization’s top 30 prospects. See how this compares with Mike’s post-draft top 30 list and marvel at Dellin Betances‘ 2010 campaign. A sign of things to come? I sure hope so.

7. Yankees agree to deal with Feliciano
So far the Yanks’ biggest off-season move outside of signing the team’s own free agents, the club agreed to a two-year deal with Pedro Feliciano a few weeks ago. They haven’t made this one official yet, but that’s probably just because of the holidays. Feliciano will complement Boone Logan as the two lefties of the Yanks’ pen in 2011.

8. Freddy Schuman, long-time stadium stalwart, passes away
Freddy Schuman, known to Yankee fans as Freddy Sez, passed away in October at the age of 85. Banging his pan brought joy to countless Yankee fans over the years.

9. Heyman: Yanks made ‘big proposal’ on Soria
We’ve recently heard from sources close to the reliever that Joakim Soria would love to come pitch in the Bronx. He’s been a lifelong Yankee fan and would love to become Mariano Rivera‘s heir apparent. In July, the Yanks were rumored to have made a big offer to the Royals, and Soria’s name keeps popping up in rumors connecting him with the Bombers.

10. The idea of re-acquiring Johnny Damon
While it’s a move unlikely to happen, rumors of a reunion with Johnny Damon resurfaced last week. Joe analyzed a potential return to the Bronx for the one-time Yankee.

Honorable Mention: While not one of our ten most popular posts, we’d be remiss to end the year without mentioning the Boss. On July 13, 2010, just a few days after his 80th birthday, Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III passed away at a hospital in Tampa, Florida. It was a tough year for the Yankee family.

Mailbag: Trading draft picks

What would have been the trade value of the top pick in the 2009 Draft? (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Bills asks: It seems that minor-league coverage has exploded into the main stream with blogs, streaming video, and MLB’s coverage of the draft. People, like you guys, follow minor league progression intensely and there seems to be a big market there. Will we see in the next few years draft pick trading, restricted to lets say first to third round with restrictions on trading compensation picks for failure to sign draftees to keep teams honest? The NBA and NFL both permit such trades and it adds a level of excitement to the event.

I think we’re going to see quite a few changes to the draft in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is due after the 2011 season. There has already been some talk about a worldwide draft, but as an outsider that seems like a logistical nightmare and not something that could be hashed out within a year. If it does get worked out and a global draft is in place for 2012 and beyond, the Yankees would be screwed. The core of their team and farm system over the last two decades has been the international free agent market, which would obviously vanish.

There has also been talk about instituting some kind of salary cap or hard slotting for rookies. Draft picks aren’t union members, so the player’s association can’t do much to stop the owners from putting this kind of system in place. In fact, the union might be for it since a hard slotting system would theoretically put more money in the big league players’ pockets. The Elias ranking and compensation draft pick system needs an overhaul as well, and we might see it go away all together. Anyway, the question is about trading picks, so let’s get to that.

I think that the ability to trade picks is something that will be discussed, and it could be tied to the compensation system. If adding picks through free agency is eliminated, they could allow teams to add picks through trades. It would have be regulated somehow, maybe by restricting it to the first three rounds like you suggested. If they didn’t regulate it, why wouldn’t a GM try to get a pick added in to any trade? Doesn’t even have to be a high pick either, just give me a 30th rounder or something. A smart team willing to spend money on the draft could turn that 30th rounder into something useful, and at worst they could use it to take a prospect to keep him away from another team.

I’m curious to see how draft picks will be valued in trades, because my feeling is that they wouldn’t be worth much in the grand scheme of things, not even the top overall pick. This isn’t the NFL or NBA or even NHL, where you get an immediate impact guy. As great as Stephen Strasburg is, it was still twelve months from the date of the draft to his major league debut. I can’t imagine a team would give up quality prospects for a draft pick, and if you’re trading the top pick that’s what you need to get back. Otherwise there’s no point in making the move. Maybe we’d see a lot of contenders moving picks at the deadline for missing pieces, say a third rounder for an extra bullpen arm or bench player. That gives a rebuilding team an extra pick, and the contender what it needs to go over the top (in theory). I’m guessing that deals involving top ten picks will be few and far between.

I’d be all for trading picks for selfish reasons, it would be fun to write about. And yeah, it would give non-contenders another way to rebuild while giving contenders more currency to trade. Could you imagine if the Yankees had been able to trade picks from say, 2000 through 2006? That would have been a disaster, the farm system would have been in even worse shape than it actual was. Anyway, I think that teams will be able to trade picks in the future, though it might not happen in the next CBA.