Mailbag: How about Mike Aviles?

Today’s weekend mailbag question pertains to a potential replacement for Eric Chavez if he doesn’t rejoin the Yankees in 2012. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

J-Bone asks: Mike Aviles is listed as a non-tender candidate on MLBTR. In the event that Eric Chavez retires or signs elsewhere, what do you think of Aviles as a replacement?

Good question, J-Bone. Let’s take a look.

As a point of comparison, in 2011, an effective (albeit fragile) Eric Chavez provided the Yankees with some solid bench depth. When he was able to keep himself on the field, he routinely flashed slick defensive ability. The veteran third basemen also produced decent production with the bat (especially early on in the season). Over 175 total plate appearances, he batted .263/.320/.356 (.294 wOBA). His efforts were valued at a 0.6 fWAR, all for the reasonable cost of $1.5M.

In 2011, Mike Aviles had a productive season as well as he spent time with both the Royals and the Red Sox. In 309 total plate appearances, Aviles’ provided a respectable .255/.289/.409 triple slash (.307 wOBA) with seven homeruns. Although Aviles did manage a handful of long balls last season, he’s definitely not known for showing consistent power (career .151 ISO). To Aviles’ credit though, he made decent contact (14 K%) although he rarely drew the walk (4.2 BB%).

Aviles has only been in the league since 2008 so he still has several more years of arbitration eligibility; his $0.64M earned last season would also be a mere drop in the bucket for the Yankees.

Personally, I’m fairly impartial on this one. Bench players generally have noticeable flaws in their game and Aviles is no different; he is what he is. He’ll occasionally get wood on the ball and he’ll provide serviceable defense at third. With too much exposure, he’ll likely be a detriment to the team overall. Is he better than a guy like Pena? Probably. Is he better than some of the other potential depth options on the market? Meh.

Basically, if the Yankees decide to roll the dice on Aviles, I’d be fine with it given his price and skill set. That said, if they passed him over for another option, I wouldn’t lose sleep either. In any event, I’m guessing the Yankees 2012 campaign probably won’t hinge on a backup infielder one way or another.

Noesi goes six strong in latest winter ball start

The Yankees re-signed Jose Gil after he became a six-year minor league free agent. He figures to do the majority of the catching at Double-A Trenton next season since no one of note is coming up from High-A Tampa.

AzFL Phoenix (7-5 loss to Peoria in 11 innings) Thursday’s game
Corban Joseph, 2B: 0 for 5, 2 K – ouch
Ronnie Mustelier, 3B: 3 for 5, 1 R – that’s five straight multi-hit games
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – second homer in his last three games
Dan Burawa, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – eight of 15 pitches were strikes (53.3%)

AzFL Phoenix (11-5 win over Surprise) Friday’s game
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 2 K
Corban Joseph, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS – that’s more like it
Preston Claiborne, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 11 of 13 pitches were strikes (84.6%)
Chase Whitley, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of his 13 pitches were strikes (92.3%)

No Yankees farmhands played in Saturday’s AzFL Phoenix game.

DWL Licey (4-1 win over Gigantes) Saturday’s game
Hector Noesi, RHP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 8-1 GB/FB – now that’s much more like it … hopefully the rust is off and he can run off a few good starts and head into the offseason feeling good about how his season went

Dominican Winter League
Abe Almonte, OF: 7 G, 1 for 4, 1 R (.250/.250/.250)
Zoilo Almonte, OF: 3 G, 2 for 7, 3 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K (.286/.444/.286)
Melky Mesa, OF: 3 G, 0 for 0, 1 R, 1 SB – didn’t play at all last week

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra, IF: 4 G, 0 for 15, 1 R, 5 K – that’s rough, wow
Jorge Vazquez, 1B/3B: 16 G, 21 for 62, 11 R, 2 2B, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 8 BB, 16 K (.339/.414/.661)
Pat Venditte, SwP: 10 G, 0 GS, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 2 HR (1.74 ERA, 0.58 WHIP)

Venezuelan Winter League
Jose Gil, C/1B: 10 G, 8 for 33, 7 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K (.242/.324/.303)
Luis Nunez, IF: 14 G, 16 for 49, 10 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 6 BB, 8 K, 5 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.327/.404/.531)
Jose Pirela, IF: 15 G, 23 for 60, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 CS, 2 HBP (.383/.413/.433)
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 3 G, 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 18 K, 1 HR, 1 WP (1.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)

Rosters for the Puerto Rican League still have no been posted, but they will be soon. The season starts on November 4th.

Eight Yankees file for free agency as offseason begins

The 2011-2012 free agency period officially started at 12:01am ET this morning, and eight Yankees have filed for free agency: Luis Ayala, Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones, Damaso Marte, Sergio Mitre, and Jorge Posada. Free agents can talk to other teams right now, but they can not receive any offers until 12:01am ET this coming Thursday. Adam Rubin has the full and official list of free agents as supplied by the players’ union.

The 40-man roster is now at 35, but Colin Curtis still needs to be activated off the 60-day DL.

Snowy Saturday Night Open Thread

Snow in New York usually isn’t anything to write home about, but damn, it’s still October! There’s not much accumulation on the ground here in NYC, but it’s still snow on the ground in October. The baseball season really does disappear earlier and earlier each year.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. There’s college football on all over the place, plus the Devils and Islanders are playing. You can talk about anything you want here, but in an effort to make these a little more interesting, here’s a discussion topic: what has been Brian Cashman‘s biggest failure as GM of the Yankees?

Mailbag: The Post-Collapse Red Sox

Scu-Scu-Scutaro. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Eli asks: The collapse of the Red Sox this year was absolutely fantastic to watch but I think people forget that they had the best record in baseball for most of the season and they have a talented roster that is largely going to remain the same. Everybody’s acting like they’re a train wreck of a team but aren’t you at least a little worried they’re going to come out next season hungry, angry and with something to prove?

I agree. This sort of stuff tends to happen after dramatic events, which is why you see a lot of “this team is build to last” or “they have dynasty potential” talk after a team (in just about any sport) wins a championship. We also hear about how a team needs to be rebuilt after every playoff series loss like clockwork. It’s an emotional over-reaction, but it’s just human nature. We feel great during the good times and awful during the bad ones.

The Red Sox collapsed this year because just about their entire pitching staff fell flat on its face during the last month of the season. They also happen to play in an extremely tough division, and a collapse like this takes two to tango. If the Rays don’t get hot down the stretch, Boston is in the playoffs and who knows what happens. I’m willing to bet both Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are still with the team. As Joel Sherman pointed out this morning, the Red Sox won 90 games and were baseball’s biggest disappointment this year. The Cardinals also won 90 games, but they were the game’s best story. It’s all about perception and expectations.

Getting to the actual question … yeah, I expect the Red Sox to again be a really good team in 2012. Hell, they’ve already improved just by getting John Lackey out of the rotation (via Tommy John surgery). It’s harsh, but it’s true. They have a ton of dead money coming off the books in J.D. Drew, though much of it will go towards arbitration and contractual raises. Clay Buchholz figures to get healthy over the winter, as does Bobby Jenks and Kevin Youkilis. Even if they don’t, they’re still right back where they started at 90 wins or so.

I’m sure that team will come out with a chip on its shoulder and all that, but it only lasts so long. The 162-game season can be a humbling experience. I kinda rambled here, but the point I want to make is don’t sleep on the Red Sox next year. They have some very real problems to address (as do the Yankees), but also a boatload of talent and the means to right the ship quickly. I expect Boston to be not just a good team in 2012, but a great team.

The Overused and Abused MRI

For most of us, an MRI is just some test players go through when they’re hurt. It tells us everything we need to know, no questions asked. Phil Hughes lost some velocity? Send him to the MRI tube. However, as Gina Kolata of The Times writes, MRI’s are often overused and misleading. “An M.R.I. is unlike any other imaging tool we use,” said Dr. Bruce Sangeorzan to Kolata. “It is a very sensitive tool, but it is not very specific. That’s the problem.”

The old refrain is that you can find something wrong with any pitcher if you give them an MRI, but many injuries can be diagnosed through a physical exam and patient history. “I see 300 or 400 new patients a year,” said Dr. Sigvard Hansen. “Out of them, there might be one that has something confusing and might need a scan.” It’s a relatively short but really interesting article, give it a read.