Remember the glory days of the Winter of 2007/2008 when some people thought missing out on Johan Santana was the end of the world? Well, it turns out it was just part of the master plan to sign every free agent in baseball this year.
But beyond the Santana talk last year, the Great Joba Debate was par for the course. Barely a day went by without some fight about Joba’s pitching out of the pen as opposed to the rotation. Nowadays, while we sometimes get a random “Joba to the pen” comment, mostly silence greets news about Chamberlain.
Nothing was more indicative of that silence than the reception a massive if unoriginal article from Saturday’s Daily News received. That reception was a big nothing. The article, relying mostly on Joba’s mom, talks about addiction in the Native American community and Joba’s confronting success on the big stage. It is, in other words, exactly what you would expect and nothing very compelling.
As I was reading over the Yankee news last night, I came across a Joba-centric post on Bleacher Report. There, Sean Serritella writes that Joba may, in a way, be the biggest beneficiary of the Yanks’ off-season spending. “I feel it’s good that Joba won’t be the center of attention,” he writes. “There will be less pressure on him and a lot of pressure on the two big-named free agents that just signed. Joba can now go out and pitch his game whether it’s in the bullpen or the starting rotation.”
That game, to deal with the final sentence, will be out of the starting rotation. The Yankees are very unequivocal about that. But that note aside, Serritella makes a good point. The spotlight won’t be on Joba Chamberlain as the season starts. It will very squarely be on A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. At this stage in his career, that is a very good development for a pitcher that has earned himself some weighty labels and expectations with just over 124 innings under his belt.
Via PeteAbe, Bernie Williams suffered what was described as a serious quad injury while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. Bernie was trying to win a spot on a Puerto Rican WBC team, but it looks like this injury ends the comeback attempt. I was rooting for Bernie to make the team just to see him play one more time, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Bernie had been 1 for 7 with two strikeouts before the injury. · (22) ·
If this had happened, it would have been scary: According to Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci of SI.com, the Red Sox made a play for Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez last week after losing out on Mark Teixeira. If you remember, and I’m sure most of you do, the Red Sox traded Ramirez — along with Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia — to the Marlins in the winter of 2005 for Josh Beckett and what was thought to be Mike Lowell’s salary. Both teams got what they wanted out of the deal, but now it appears Boston wants to trade Florida more players it can trade back for in three years.
I know some of you are thinking it, and I’m sure someone has said it in the comments section at MLBTR, but it’s not what you think. This is not Boston retaliating. Signing Carl Pavano and trading for Randy Johnson? Retaliation for 2004. Bidding 27 freaking million dollars on Kei Igawa? Retaliation for Daisuke Matsuzaka (or at least one could make the argument). Attempting a trade for Hanley Ramirez? Not retaliation for the Yankees nabbing Teixeira.
By making a play for Teixeira, Boston attempted to upgrade their offense. They saw a number of question marks with players like David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, and whomever is going to catch, so they sought a reliable bat to go along with Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, and Kevin Youkilis. Unfortunately for them, the Yankees also saw question marks: Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher. They sought a reliable bat to go along with Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. They paid the premium and solidified the lineup. That doesn’t change Boston’s plans, though.
Maybe, just maybe there’s a hint of retaliation in this, in that the Red Sox realize that not only do they have the same number of question marks as before, but that the Yankees have one fewer. The pressure is then greater, I suppose, to add that reliable bat and keep pace. I’m sure that the Red Sox don’t think like that, though. They wanted a bat before, and they still want a bat. After missing out on the top free agent on the market, they turned to the best player on a team that’s always willing to listen. Apparently they didn’t get far, but considering the player that’s to be expected. Not only is Hanley the best offensive shortstop in the majors, but the Marlins just signed him to a long-term deal this past May. He doesn’t get expensive until 2012 — perhaps 2011 if you’re the Marlins, which they indeed are.
As Heyman and Verducci noted, it would have taken an overwhelming offer to get the Marlins to budge. Specifically mentioned were Jacoby Elsbury and Clay Buchholz, plus others. I’m guessing Lars Anderson’s name came up. And why wouldn’t it? The Marlins have this guy for $5.5 million in 2009 and $7 million 2010. Considering Ryan Howard’s first-year arbitration salary, it could have been a lot worse. So why not hold onto him while he’s cheap and trade him away when he makes $11 million in 2011? He’ll only be 27 at that point. And then maybe he’ll become someone who toils in relevancy for a 90-win team.
This shows that the Red Sox aren’t going to quit their pursuit of run production just because they missed out on Teixeira. They have a strong farm system that could fetch them a number of capable major league players. The question is, how much are they willing to give up?
Earlier today we got word that Team Torre had contacted Adam Dunn’s agent over the holidays expressing interest in signing the offensive monster, and now we find out that they’re also interested in ex-Astros’ prospect Bobby Abreu. There’s also rumblings that the Dodgers are in talks to unload Andruw Jones on the Mets (ha!), which would free up some money even if they ate some of the … gulp … $22.1M left on Jones’ deal. So what does this all mean?
Manny & Boras better get their act together. That’s what.
The Angels have said they’re not going to bid on Manny, the Yanks don’t need him now that they have Tex, Boston sure as hell won’t go after him, and now the Dodgers appear to be moving on. What’s market is left for him? Would he really go to the Nationals? Can the Braves fit another $20M+ a year in their budget? Maybe the Giants get involved, but team ownership is still hungover from the Bonds’ saga. None of that is likely.
Having already turned down $45M over two years and the $25M he likely would have received in arbitration, Manny’s painted himself into a corner and has two options: go crawling back to Coletti, or retire. I’m very interested in seeing how this one plays out.
Use this as your open thread tonight. There’s no Monday Night Football, but Valero Alamo Bowl (Missouri vs Northwestern) is on the four-letter at 8pm. The hapless Rangers are taking on the Isles at home as well, and if you’re interested you should check out Blueseat Blogs. I’m filling in for Dave while he’s on vacation this week, and I have to say it’s way harder to blog about hockey than it is baseball. Talk about whatever you like here, just be nice.
As the Yanks have spent money they have to spend at a time when other teams are conserving resources, they’ve been subject to numerous articles expounding on how they should be vilified for “buying a championship.” Plus, these columnists claim, it doesn’t work. Luckily, Yankee fans are a little more level-headed than, well, everyone else.
In a post on Bronx Banter over the weekend, Alex Belth deftly dismissed this charges. While the Yanks may be buying a championship, this approach has actually worked. Writes Belth:
Sure, it doesn’t always work, we know that (and thank goodness, because it keeps things interesting). But facts are facts: since the start of free agency in 1977, no team has spent more money on players than the Yankees have; no team has won more pennants or more championships. So while no team can ever fool themselves that they can pre-arrange success (as George Steinbrenner was accused of believing in the Eighties), the Yankees aggresiveness in the free agency market hasn’t always back fired either.
I’d like to take this argument one step further. Spending money and making the playoffs often does indeed guarantee success. While the team that spends the most doesn’t always win the World Series, the richer teams seem to win. Since the 2001 Diamondbacks upset the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, the team with the higher payroll has won the World Series four out of seven times. The three exceptions were the 2003 Marlins who simply out-pitched and out-managed the Yankees, the 2002 Angels who pretty much came out of nowhere and the 2005 White Sox whose payroll was a measly $1.6 million less than that of the Astros.
Heading back into the 1990s reveals the same trend. Every year the Yankees won the World Series, they did so with a payroll higher than that of their opponent. Between 1995 and 2000, only the 1997 Marlins emerged victorious with a lower payroll than their opponent.
So it works. Spending money pretty much works. It’s not a guarantee. As Belth writes, the games keep things interesting. But once October rolls around, the richer teams invariably win. Just ask the Red Sox. Just because they spend the second- or third-most in baseball doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to buy a championship either, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Joe Girardi‘s bullpen was the team’s strength last year, as unheralded arms like Brian Bruney, Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez stepped up and exceeded expectations. Kyle Farnsworth was surprisingly effective before being jettisoned off to Detroit, while Damaso Marte finished strong after coming over in a trade of his own. Mo, of course, was Mo.
However, given the natural volatility of relief pitchers, it’s not a given that the Yanks’ pen will repeat it’s 2008 performance in ’09. Mo is a given, and Marte’s track record is long enough that you have a good enough idea of what he’ll give you, but the rest of the guys are all wildcards. Bruney’s command could desert him again, the league could adjust to Edwar’s change, and/or Jose Veras could just suck. It’s the nature of the beast.
When the Yanks signed Mark Teixeira, I proclaimed Manny as the biggest loser of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes. The Yanks would have signed him had the Red Sox landed Teixeira, but with the Yanks out of the pitcher, the market for Manny is practically non-existent. Ramirez turned down a guaranteed two years and $40 million when he forced his trade from Boston, and Buster Olney says that Manny has only himself to blame.
I know some Yankee fans harbor a pipe dream that would see Manny land in New York for one year at some obscene dollar value, and I know others who would never root for Manny in pinstripes. I don’t think Manny will be Bronx-bound. Ironically, as Olney notes, the Red Sox are the only team left with the money and clear need for Manny, but the future Hall of Famer is learning the hard way that baseball karma is a bitch. · (67) ·
Now that the Yanks have invested millions of dollars in their pitching staff over the next few years, the biggest issues surrounding the rotation concern the health of their pitchers. CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are coming off career high innings pitched. Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang and the two leading candidates for the final rotation spot — Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes — are coming off of injuries.
Given the unprecedented career workload that Sabathia and Burnett faced in 2008, the Yankees intend to ease their prized new starters into form when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13.
“We’re going to be careful with them and make sure they peak April 6, not March 20,” Eiland said, referring to opening day. “We’ve already got a plan in place.”
Eiland has already spoken to Sabathia and Eiland about the gradual approach. “We’re not going to jump right in the fire of spring training,” Eiland said. “We’re not going to push them too early.”
But with Chien-Ming Wang, the idea is to get him in front of hitters as soon as possible.
In a rather telling quote, Eiland also noted the role Wang will play on the Yanks in 2009. “Wang’s as good a No. 3 as you’ll find as well,” he said to Caldera.
I’d be more inclined to see Wang as the Yanks’ number two. He has a better track record of success than Burnett and has certainly earned the designation for his work over the last few years. It is, however, mostly a matter of semantics.
In the end, the Yanks’ success will come down to pitching and health. As we’ve learned for too often over the last few years, a healthy pitching staff is something of a Holy Grail in baseball. But for now, the Yanks’ coaches are saying the right thing. Whether that can translate to on-field success is something we’ll find out in a few months.
A RAB hat tip to our own Mike Pop for sending in this article.
In a rather lengthy piece focusing on the lack of job offers for Jason Varitek or Ivan Rodriguez, Nick Cafardo notes that the Dodgers and Rangers are interested in Andy Pettitte. We’ve heard these rumors before, and Pettitte has continually said that he’ll play for only the Yankees. However, if Pettitte and the Yanks don’t come to terms, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the lefty land elsewhere. This all may just be a negotiating ploy in an effort to get the Yanks to up the team’s offer though.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are close to a one-year deal with Brad Penny. The contract is reportedly for one year and with a base salary of $5 million and $3 million in incentives. When healthy, Penny, a career NLer, can be a top pitcher, but he had an injury-plagued 2008. It’s a low-risk signing for the Red Sox and may encourage Pettitte to reevaluate the Yanks’ $10 million offer. · (39) ·