By most accounts, the Yankees could use a back-end starter who can eat innings in 2009. While they have CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Ching-Ming Wang up front, having two of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Al Aceves, Ian Kenned, Phil Coke, Chase Wright and any other youngster the Yanks trot out there fill up 70 starts while pitching the Yanks toward a playoff berth may be a tall order.

To that end, there’s a certainly a reason to bring Andy Pettitte back into the fold this year, but that soap opera has seemingly reached a stalemate. Pettitte doesn’t want to take a $6-million pay cut, and the Yanks don’t want to sign a pitcher turning 37-year-old in June and coming off his worst season of his career to a lofty contract. I don’t blame them.

In the meantime, the Yanks have alternatives. Derek Lowe remains unsigned. He, however, wants a few years and $15 million per before affixing his John Hancock to a contract. Ben Sheets is still unsigned as well, but teams have concerns about his health.

There is another pitcher out there, also 37 and coming off his worst season. As John Garica notes, Pedro Martinez could be an intriguing option for the Yanks. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

Last season was not one of Pedro’s finest. He was coming off of major arm surgery and got lit up. He threw 109 innings in the NL and gave up 127 hits, 19 of which were home runs. He walked 44 and struck out 87, his worst K/BB ratio since 1993. Over his final 40 innings of 2008, opponents hit .321/.379/.500 off of the former Cy Younger winner (while striking out 38 times). No matter how you slice or dice it, those are ugly numbers.

So Pedro is looking to rebound in 2008. Maybe he’s the guy the Yankees need in the back end. He could be their John Smoltz, a low-risk, high-reward type of signing. Considering that the only Pedro rumors this off-season were either his own desire to return to New York and some quickly quashed Marlins rumors, I would think that the Yanks could swoop in and sign Pedro for a low base salary with incentives.

It might not be the answer to the innings gap, but the Yanks don’t have much — other than money — to lose. Pedro could make some starts, and if he’s healthy, he’ll fill that 4/5 whole in the rotation. If not, the Yanks seem ready to rely on the kids anyway. And, hey, then maybe we could all go back to wearing these shirts again. Crazier things have happened.

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If you keep up with the Yanks minor league system, you’re probably up to date on the group of pitchers coming off elbow surgery. In case you’re not, Lisa Winston has an update at the official site on Andrew Brackman, Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, and J.B. Cox.

First up, Mark Newman talks up Brackman and Cox.

On Brackman:

“His velocity was between 94-97 [mph], so he had no problems and he’s ready to go for Major League camp,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations. “His stuff is outstanding, and he’s getting a feel for his delivery and throwing strikes. But first and foremost, he was healthy and, at times, dominant.”

“The benefits are the power and deception because the ball is released closer to the plate,” Newman explained. “But the downside is you have long levers to manage, and it takes time. There aren’t many of those guys in the environment to use as test cases, but most people believe that taller guys take a little longer to get their command.”

I’m stoked to watch Brackman work through the season. He hasn’t pitched a season nearly as long as that of High-A Tampa, which is where Mike thinks he’ll start out. I’m guessing he’ll throw something around 100 innings before shutting it down.

Bonus: The Yanks beat some long odds in drafting Brackman.

On Cox:

“He’s fine,” Newman said. “He’s just been out for a year and got to the point in terms of his innings where we didn’t want to overload him. We consider those guys ‘rehabs’ for a full year.”

What I find strangest about Cox is that no team took him in the Rule 5 draft. The Padres took freaking Ian Nova. He’s two years out of elbow surgery, so there aren’t any excuses this year. Here’s to a healthy 2008 for J. Brent.

Humberto Sanchez on himself:

“I feel pretty good, but honestly, I forgot what 100 percent feels like,” he joked from Arizona, where he was enjoying a few hours off watching his beloved New York Giants. “I feel as good as I can going into Spring Training, and being out here has helped a lot. Along with the conditioning and fitness work, we’ve also been doing what we call ‘prehab’ to try to prevent injuries.”

Humberto was pretty damn terrible in the AzFL. He issued 11 walks, gave up 21 hits, and allowed 16 earned runs in just 12 innings. Oh yeah, and just four strikeouts. He has plenty to prove this year. It looks like the Yanks have already moved him to the bullpen, but I think you have to give him this one last chance to head into the season as a starter.

On Melancon:

Winston provided no quotes on Mark Melancon, but she paid him a higher compliment. After rattling off his ridiculously awesome 2008 stats, she says this of the righty reliever:

But whether he starts the spring in New York or in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Melancon is probably the Yankees’ most promising heir to the throne of Mariano Rivera, both thanks to his stuff and his mound makeup.

Damn. Most promising heir to Mo. Talk about setting expectations high. Not that she’s wrong. Of all the relievers on the farm, Melancon is the most poised to make an impact. But the heir to Mo? Damn. Is that even possible to live up to?

Categories : Minors
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  • Straight from the horse’s mouth

    As the Andy Pettitte stalemate continues, checks in with a damning quote from the lefty. In a Sept. 10 Times article, Pettitte had some interesting things to say about his then-impending free agency. “Obviously anyone else would say, ‘I’ll go wherever I want to,’ because people want to try to get the most money,” Pettitte said to Tyler Kepner. “But, I mean, I’m not going anywhere, you know what I’m saying? The Yankees know me enough, it’s not like I’m going to hold out. I guess if I had spent all my money or whatever, it might be different. But it’s not about that, really, anymore.” Those words and his actions this winter speak for themselves. · (70) ·

Last week during his press conference Mark Teixeira said something that caught my attention. He said that as a switch hitter, it takes him longer to get going because he basically has two swings to find during Spring Training, and has to put twice as much work in. It makes perfect sense, but I had never really thought about it like that.

Anyway, that got to me wondering how other players on the team have hit in April compared to the rest of the season during their careers. So, without further adieu…

Jorge Posada, C
: .280-.371-.502
Rest of Season: .276-.381-.472

Mark Teixeira, 1B
: .256-.346-.442
Rest of Season: .295-.383-.558

Robinson Cano, 2B
: .237-.282-.328 (not so funny now, huh Robbie?)
Rest of Season: .311-.341-.488

Derek Jeter, SS
: .306-.386-.441
Rest of Season: .318-.383-.461

Alex Rodriguez, 3B
: .311-.391-.611
Rest of Season: .305-.388-.572

Johnny Damon, OF
: .273-.344-.410
Rest of Season: .291-.354-.439

Xavier Nady, OF
: .285-.341-.493
Rest of Season: .279-.332-.450

Nick Swisher, OF
: .253-.370-.481
Rest of Season: .242-.351-.446

Hideki Matsui, DH
: .268-.363-.416
Rest of Season: .300-.372-.491

I went with Swisher over Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera in the third outfield spot just because he has a much bigger data sample, that’s all. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from this, there’s not really much of a point to it. Just FYI, I suppose.

Oh, and use this as your open thread for tonight. The Steelers are leading the Bolts, and all local teams are off except the Devils, who are out on the west coast. The season premiere of 24 starts at 8pm, don’t miss it. Talk about whatever, just be nice to each other.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (133)
  • RAB at Newsday: Nady or Swisher?

    Newsday beat writer Kat O’Brien is headed out on vacation, getting in some R&R before the start of Spring Training. The crew at Newsday invited us to take over her blog for the next two weeks, and we’re honored to do so again. Today I took at how Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady matchup, concluding that if the Yanks do decide to deal one of their extra outfielders, Nady should be one packing his bags. Check it out. · (46) ·

  • Rickey and the Hall

    Some time tomorrow, Rickey Henderson’s phone will ring, and he will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame. In the meantime, Jack Curry takes a few minutes to honor the personality behind the man. Rickey may have been the most prolific run-scorer and base-stealer in Major League history, but he’s also one of the game’s most entertaining characters.

    A quote by Don Mattingly just about sums up Rickey’s love of the game as well. Henderson, out of the Majors since 2003, played in the independent leagues for a few years, waiting for a team to call. “As great as this guy was, he’s playing independent ball?” Mattingly said to Curry. “But then it told me how much he loved to play the game. He was going to play until they tore the uniform off. You know what I say to that? Go for it.” Indeed.
    · (4) ·

Donovan McNabb, Jake Brian Westbrook and the rest of the Iggles storm into the frigid Meadowlands today, looking to get back to the NFC Title Game for the first time in five years. The G-Men were there just last year obviously, but they’ve lost three of their last four games. The bye week should have helped, as it gave Brandon Jacobs’ knee and Justin Tuck’s leg (amongst other walking wounded) a chance to rest up and get healthy. The two teams split their regular season matchup. This should be a good one.

In other local football news, the Jets will interview Ravens’ defensive coordinator Rex Ryan for their head coaching position today. I approve.

Chat away about the game here. Enjoy.

Comments (296)
  • Report: Yanks considered Swisher for Cameron

    This one comes from old friend Tom Haudricourt, who’s still trying to find a way to squeeze another Brewer on his MVP ballot. Apparently the Yanks have “floated the idea” of making another run at centerfielder Mike Cameron after signing Mark Teixeira, this time using Nick Swisher as bait. I don’t know if this means they floated the idea internally or to the Brewers. I’d be all about the reported Melky + Igawa for Cameron deal, but not a straight up Swish for Cam deal. (h/t MLBTR) · (36) ·

As the Yankees have gone on something of a spending spree this winter, netting the team three of the top free agents around, small-market clubs bemoan the spending. The Brewers were unamused with the Yankees. The Marlins’ David Samson voiced his concerns, and the Astros have grumbled about the spending as well.

So with all of these complaints come the inevitable discussion about a salary cap. If the luxury tax, designed to penalize the Yankees, isn’t reining in the spending, should baseball adopt a spending cap? While the Players Union would never agree to a cap, a few good baseball minds feel that the smaller market teams wouldn’t be so keen to take on a cap either. The problem arises not on the upper bounds of the cap but on the lower.

Shawn Hoffman, writing at Baseball Prospectus, elaborates on this argument:

Using 2008 as an example, the thirty teams took in about $6 billion (not including MLB Advanced Media revenue), for an average of $200 million per team. Forty-five percent of that (the players’ share) is $90 million, which we’ll use as the midpoint between our floor and cap. If we want to make the floor 75 percent of the cap (a low-end figure, relative to the other leagues), we can use $77 million and $103 million, respectively.

With a $103 million cap, nine teams would have been affected last year, and a total of about $286 million would have had to be skimmed off the top. Since total salaries have to remain at existing levels, the bottom twenty-one teams would have had to take on this burden, which had previously been placed on the Yankees, Red Sox, et al. On the other end, fourteen teams would have been under the payroll floor, by a total of $251 million. Even discounting the Marlins’ $22 million payroll, the other thirteen teams would have had to spend an average of $15 million more just to meet the minimum. Some of those teams might be able to afford it; most wouldn’t.

Imagine being Frank Coonelly in this situation. Coonelly, the Pirates’ team president, has publicly supported a cap. Had our fictional cap/floor arrangement been instituted last year, the Pirates would have needed to increase their Opening Day payroll by $28 million. Not only would the team have taken a big loss, but Neal Huntington’s long-term strategy would have been sabotaged, since the team would have had to sign a number of veterans just to meet the minimum payroll.

It’s clear to imagine a situation in which teams would not be able to support a minimum payroll. Just look at the economic turmoil that has descended upon our nation and its impact on the sport.

Hoffman notes that the best system is one that redistributes revenue and creates opportunities for more teams to make the playoffs. In fact, his proposed best system is the one baseball currently employs, and he’s right. The current playoff system works.

In any situation, some teams will always emerge at the top of the spending pile. New York City is bigger and wealthier than any other city in the country, and the Mets and Yanks will have a natural advantage that they should embrace. But baseball has developed ways to spread the money around, and smart GMs can put together very competitive teams with limited resources.

In the end, a cap discussion is mostly just sour beans. Other teams are envious, and they’re not as good at putting a roster together under the Moneyball approach. Meanwhile, a salary cap makes for some nice January discussion, but it will never happen.

Categories : Rants
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