Game 103: Welcome the O’s

This comfy little ten-game homestand continues with four games in three days against the Orioles. It’s always fun playing Baltimore, mostly because the Yankees end up winning most of the time. Here’s the starting nine…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C

A.J. Burnett, SP

The game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Update: The tarp is being put on the field right now (6:33pm ET), so expect a delay. In the meantime, you can watch former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang make his triumphant return to the Major Leagues. He’s starting against the Mets tonight (7pm ET in Washington), so you can see the game on SNY if you’re in the New York area. Go Wanger.

Heee’s back! Soriano activated off DL

As expected, the Yankees have activated Rafael Soriano off the disabled list today. Steve Garrison was sent back to Double-A Trenton to clear a 25-man roster spot, but I have no idea what the corresponding 40-man move was. They did have an open spot earlier in the week, but Eric Chavez took that. Anyway, Joe Girardi said they plan to ease Soriano back into things, but who knows what that means.

Update: The official site says that Sergio Mitre has been placed on the 60-day DL, so he’s the 40-man move. He was sent for an MRI on his injured shoulder earlier today.

Trade Rumors: Ubaldo, Betances, Brown, Kuroda

The latest from the trade rumor circuit…

  • Talks between the Yankees and Rockies about Ubaldo have not gone well, mostly because Colorado is marketing him as an ace while the Yankees see him as more of a number two. There’s also some suspicion that’s something’s wrong since he’s on the market in the first place. (Joel Sherman)
  • The Yankees are willing to move Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances in the same package for a sure thing, but they don’t feel Ubaldo fits the bill. (Sherman)
  • There’s some speculation that the Yankees could get involved in the Hunter Pence-to-Philadelphia deal by being a third team. They would trade Betances for Domonic Brown, the left-handed impact bat they lack. I’d make that deal too, in a heartbeat. Philadelphia had a scout in Trenton last night to watch Betances. Remember, that scenario is just speculation. (Sherman, Sherman)
  • One note on Hiroki Kuroda: because of his no-trade clause, there’s a league mandated 24-hour period before a deal can be finalized. That means the deadline to trade him is tomorrow, not Sunday. There still hasn’t been an indication that he’s on the move.
  • One rival executive said the Yankees have been “suspiciously quiet” so far, or as I like to say, ninja-like. (Marc Carig)

Update: Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees have made multiple calls to the Dodgers about Kuroda today, but none to the Rockies about Jimenez.

The RAB Radio Show: July 29th, 2011

We’re talking plenty of deadline stuff, so let’s get to the bullets.

  • Of course we’re talking about Ubaldo Jimenez, both in terms of benefits and costs. How bad do the Yankees want him? If they really want him, you can expect a deal before 4 p.m. on Sunday. If they’re waiting for him to come down to a lower price tier, it’ll be a last-minute thing.
  • There are other starters, too, and we spend the bulk of the show talking about them. Wandy Rodriguez could be a last-minute addition at a cheap price. Hiroki Kuroda might be available, and it looks like the Yanks are as good a bet as any for his services. And don’t forget John Danks.
  • There are other positions where the Yanks could add a player. Mike’s big on a lefty reliever. There’s DH, too, but that solution might come internally.

Podcast run time 53:03

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

Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Four games in 48 hours must suck for the players, but it’s pretty awesome as a fan. The Yankees and Orioles will be making up an April rain out as part of a doubleheader this Saturday, New York’s second doubleheader of the season. The first six games these two teams played all ended up in the win column for the Yankees, who outscored Baltimore 51-18 in the process.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

Shockingly, Buck Showalter’s magic doesn’t work when he doesn’t have much talent on roster. The Orioles have won just five of 13 games since the All-Star break and have been outscored 75 -55. They’ve scored more than three runs just twice in their last seven games. Overall, Baltimore is buried in the AL East cellar with a 41-60 record the league’s worst run differential (-111).

Orioles On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Orioles can hit a little, with a team .320 wOBA that is sixth best in the AL. They’re basically league average, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Their best hitter all season has been J.J. Hardy, who sports a .365 wOBA. Adam Jones is right behind him at .357 wOBA, and Mark Reynolds is pretty close to him at .350 wOBA. Those three have combined for 57 of the team’s 119 homeruns (47.9%). They’re Baltimore’s three best hitters, but they’re so spread out in the lineup that it takes away from the overall offense. Hardy leads off, Jones bats third, and Reynolds typically bats seventh. Hard to sustain rallies when your three best hitters are spread out like they; they should really be batting 2-3-4.

Nick Markakis is still a slightly above-average hitter (.324 wOBA), but not the star he looked like he was on his way to becoming a few years ago. Vladimir Guerrero (.309 wOBA) and Derrek Lee (.306) are basically reanimated corpses these days, impacting the game maybe once a week. They’re batting 4-5 solely because of reputation. Luke Scott (.309 wOBA) and Brian Roberts (.275) are out with injuries (Scott for the year) and have been replaced by Nolan Reimold (.344 wOBA in 36 games) and a combination of Robert Andino (.300 wOBA) and Blake Davis (.300). Matt Wieters is having a very nice year for a backstop (.318), but his platoon split is massive (.398 wOBA vs. LHP, .287 vs. RHP). Bench pieces Craig Tatum, Josh Bell, and Felix Pie are negligible, though Bell can run into one on occasion. Jones and Markakis (eight each) are the only players on the roster that can be considered stole base threats.

Orioles On The Mound

Friday, RHP Jeremy Guthrie (vs. A.J. Burnett): I’m setting the over/under on hit batsmen in this game at 2.5, whatcha got? Guthrie’s been plunking Yankees basically since the day he got to Baltimore, and it’s not confirmation bias; ten of his 44 batters he’s hit in his career have worn pinstripes. No other team has been plunked more than six times. Guthrie is having a typical Jeremy Guthrie season, with 5.57 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9 and a 4.36 FIP in 137.1 IP. His ground ball rate (36.7%) is way down as is his strand rate (69.8%), which is why his ERA is at 4.33 and not in the 3.00’s. Guthrie’s repertoire remains unchanged, low-90’s fastballs (four and two-seamers), low-80’s slider, low-80’s changeup, and a low-70’s curve. The Yankees have seen him a zillion times before, so there’s no surprises here.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Saturday Game One, LHP Zach Britton (vs. Bartolo Colon/Ivan Nova): I’m not quote sure who is starting what game for the Yankees on Saturday, but Colon and Nova will be the two guys pitching. Britton is coming back up from the minors for the spot start, three weeks after an eight run, two outs recorded disaster against the Red Sox. He shut the Yankees down the only other time he faced them, holding them to one unearned run over seven innings. That was the 15-inning, Hector Noesi MLB debut game. Britton is a true-sinkerballer, generating a plethora of ground balls (55.1%) with his low-90’s two-seamer. He’ll also break out a mid-80’s changeup and a low-80’s slider, but he throws the sinker almost 75% of the time. Hopefully that Yankees take what they learned from that game in May and knock Britton out well before the seventh this time.

Saturday Game Two, TBA (vs. Colon/Nova): The Orioles haven’t announced their starter yet for this game, but all signs point to it being either Chris Tillman or Alfredo Simon, with the former the most likely bet. Tillman is the poster boy for Baltimore’s pitching trouble, all their prospects go backwards once they get to the show, losing velocity and command. It’s worse than what happened to Phil Hughes, because at least he had a physical issue to explain things. All of Baltimore’s guys are healthy. Tillman used to be a mid-90’s fastball, high-70’s curve guy, but now he mostly lives in the 87-89 range with a mid-70’s bender. He’s been in Triple-A since the end of May, and the Yankees have hit him very, very hard in the past (including earlier this year).

Simon has nice peripherals (3.39 FIP in 44.2 IP) and lively stuff (mid-90’s heat, high-80’s splitter, mid-80’s slider), but he just threw five innings and 103 pitches on Wednesday. He’d be on three days rest tomorrow, which is why Tillman will likely get the call. I should also probably mention that I don’t know what order Britton and Tillman/Simon are pitching, it could be Britton in the night cap.

Sunday, RHP Jake Arrieta (vs. Freddy Garcia): It has not been a good season for young Mr. Arrieta, who has already faced the Yankees twice and lost both games. His strikeout rate (7.01 K/9) is good but not great and his walk rate (4.17) is pushing the limits of acceptable, but giving up 1.65 homeruns for every nine innings pitched is as bad as it gets. Only Bronson Arroyo (2.12), Colby Lewis (1.73), and Brett Myers (1.66) have been more homer prone this year (min. 80 IP). The surprising thing is that Arrieta’s 45.2% ground ball rate is pretty good, he’s just got a knack for falling behind in the count and making mistakes. He’s a five-pitch guy, throwing low-90’s four and two-seamers to set up his mid-80’s slider, mid-80’s changeup, and high-70’s curve. The two breaking balls are his go-to secondary offerings.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Bullpen: The Orioles have two dynamite setup guys in their bullpen, but there’s a chance one of them will be traded before Sunday’s deadline. That’s Koji Uehara, who’s rumored to be on the block and of interest to several contenders. He’s got gaudy peripherals (11.74 K/9 and 1.57 BB/9) and an ERA (1.76) to match. The other guy is Jim Johnson, who’s a low-strikeout (5.85 K/9) ground ball specialist (62%). Mike Gonzalez is fine when used as a lefty specialist (same-side hitters have a .229/.280/.357 line against him this year), but the rest of the bullpen is pretty awful.

Closer Kevin Gregg has struck out almost exactly eight and walked exactly six batters for every nine innings pitched this year (4.86 FIP). Jason Berken is super duper homerun prone (1.82 HR/9), as is Chris Jakubauskas (1.77). Mark Hendrickson has walked five and struck out five in nine innings since being recalled. Lefty Troy Patton has nice numbers (12.60 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9) … but he’s thrown just five innings since being recalled. Uehara and Johnson are very good, but the rest of this cast is as sketchy as it gets.

Recommended Orioles Reading: Camden Crazies. If you want to go to any of the games this weekend, RAB Tickets can get you into the Stadium dirt cheap. Here’s some pricing info…

Mailbag: Hughes, Parraz, Kershaw, Banuelos

I cut back on the trade deadline stuff this morning, we’ve spent enough time discussing it already this week so I tried to mix things up a bit. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Anthony asks: Would you hesitate to trade Phil Hughes? He’s been on the Yankees since 2007 and hasn’t really been the starting pitcher that was hyped to be the next Roger Clemens.

Wasn’t it Jorge Posada that called him the next Clemens? Maybe it was Jason Giambi. Whoever it was, it wasn’t me. Just kinda reaffirms my stance that players generally have no clue what the hell they’re talking about, they’re terrible when it comes to analysis.

Anyway, no I wouldn’t hesitate trade Hughes but I wouldn’t just give him away. He’s struggling and just doesn’t look right physically, but I wouldn’t cut bait entirely out of frustration. That’s how you wind up with a bunch of middle relievers and two months of Edwin Jackson. The problem is that Hughes’ value is down, way down, so you’d be selling low on him. He’s not cheap ($2.7M salary this year) and he’s only under team control for two more years, so all that stuff that made him so desirable two or three years ago doesn’t really apply anymore. I’d trade anyone, but I’m generally opposed to selling low on young players.

Matt asks: What’s the deal with Jordan Parraz? Is he a legitimate prospect? He seems to be having a good year. What puts him behind Dickerson and Golson?

Parraz is a legitimate prospect, though he’s not any kind of future star. He’s the kind of guy you’ll find just outside a typical top 30 list. When Baseball America ranked him as the Royals’ 19th best prospect before last season, they said he was a “gap-to-gap hitter with below-average usable power, even though he shows above-average power in batting practice.” They lauded his defense, citing his 70 arm and ability to play center fielder. He’s having a very nice year with Triple-A Scranton, a .367 wOBA with 8.6% walks and a .146 ISO, showing that he can more than hold his own against upper level pitching.

Chris Dickerson and Greg Golson are ahead of him on the depth chart right now only because they’re on the 40-man roster. Both of those guys (as well as Justin Maxwell) will be out-of-options next year and likely gone, so I figure Parraz will step in as the up-and-down outfielder. He’s fringy, but he’s on par with Dan Brewer and a useful piece in moderation.

Anonymous asks: How legit of a prospect is Mark Montgomery, the “K” machine?

The Yankees’ 11th round pick this year, Montgomery is a righty reliever from Longwood University in Virginia. He struck out 48 in 30.1 IP for the Lancers this spring, and so far as a pro he has 28 strikeouts in 14.1 IP. Although he’s just 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs., Montgomery misses bats with two power pitches: a 91-92 mph fastball that has touched 94 in the past, and a low-to-mid-80’s slider that’s allergic to bats. That’s the pitch he uses to rack up all those whiffs.

The best case scenario, I mean if you really squint your eyes and dream, Montgomery does have some David Robertson in him as a short power reliever, though his slider is unlikely to be as effective against lefties as Robertson’s curve. Relievers with power stuff that have a history of missing bats are prospects, for sure, but we’re not going to know much about him until he gets to Double-A. Single-A hitters have no chance against a college reliever with that kind of stuff.

Louis asks: Given the fact that Clayton Kershaw is younger than Felix Hernandez and a lefty, would he theoretically be worth more in a trade? His peripherals this year are insane and even in the past have been pretty comparable to King Felix.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

Yeah, I think Kershaw has more trade value than Felix right now. He’s considerably cheaper at the moment since he has yet to hit his arbitration-eligible years, and he’s under team control through 2014 compared to 2015 for Hernandez. The lower cost (Felix gets $18M+ starting next year) pretty much offsets the one fewer year of team control.

A case can be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now, especially since he’s chopped his walk rate from 4.79 BB/9 in 2009 to just 2.36 this year. He’s just 23 years old and strikes out more than ten men per nine innings with two elite pitches (mid-90’s fastball and power curve) and two other very good offerings (slider and changeup). If I’m building my rotation from scratch right now, he’d be the guy I’d build it around. And no, the Dodgers aren’t going to trade him. Even with their uncertain ownership and financial situation, Kershaw is still so cheap that’ll be able to afford him for at least another year or two.

Reggie asks: Jon Heyman played mouth piece for Boras again Tuesday morning by reporting that Carlos Pena will almost assuredly get traded.  Do you think the NYY are a fit for a clear salary dump? Posada hasn’t hit for power or contact, and though Pena has contact issues, he does hit for power.  Pena could hit 10-12 homers down the stretch. But that Montero guy…

Pena had a brutal start to the season, missed some time with a hand injury, and since May 3rd he’s hit .236/.346/.516 with 20 homers. That’s pretty much the guy we’ve seen over the last few years, a dead pull hitter that will draw a lot walks and hit the ball out of the park while failing to hit for average. He’s legitimately a platoon guy, with a .371 wOBA against righties this year but just .247 against lefties. That split is pretty typical of his entire career.

I’m certain the Cubs would love to unload him and whatever money is left on his $10M salary, and he’s definitely an upgrade over Jorge Posada. I highly doubt anything will happen though, and as you alluded too, the Yankees do have a big bat waiting in Triple-A if they want a change at DH. Jesus Montero isn’t a lefty like Pena, but he might as well be with the way he drives the ball to right field. The Yankees need to focus on pitching, the offense will score plenty of runs.

Robbie asks: With Manny Banuelos struggling with his command this year, is it reasonable to assume that he won’t be in the starting rotation in 2012? I remember reading a while back that you had hoped him to come into the ML rotation next year.

Assuming he finishes out the year the way he’s been pitching all season, I still think we’ll see him at some point in 2012. Without having the slightest idea of what the starting rotation will look like eight months from now, I assume Banuelos (and Dellin Betances) will get long looks in Spring Training like Chien-Ming Wang did in 2005. They’ll probably head to Triple-A to start the year, but like Wang back then, they’ll be first in line for a call-up whenever a starter is needed. That’s assuming neither one is traded between now and then.

Banuelos hasn’t had a great year but his situation is like Montero’s, he’s basically a victim of his own talent. He was so good last year and the year before that when he didn’t perform to that level this year, it was considered a disappointment. Remember, Banuelos is still just 20 years old, and he’s striking out a batter an inning in Double-A. If he had been born in the U.S. and had gone to college, he’d be a sophomore and draft-eligible next summer. He’s way ahead of the development curve, and the “down” year doesn’t change much as far as expectations going forward. Maybe it just slows the fast track slightly, but that’s it.