Cashman Conference Call Notes: Burnett, Yu, Montero, Martin, Cervelli, Posada, More

(AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)

Brian Cashman held a conference call with reporters this afternoon following the announcement of his new three-year contract, and he downplayed the significance of running a New York team. “It’s an easier situation for me because I haven’t really been anywhere else,” said the Yankees-lifer. “This is all I know.”

The biggest piece of news to come out of the conference call was Andrew Brackman’s release. You win some and you lose some a lot in the draft, and in Brackman’s case, the Yankees spent nearly $11M (according to Pete Caldera) to have him face 13 big league hitters. Ouch. Cashman also confirmed that the starting rotation will continue to be the team’s priority this offseason (duh), though they could still add a second left-handed reliever as well. Here’s a list of the free agent lefty relievers, in case you’re wondering who might fill Damaso Marte‘s DL spot next season. Here are the rest of the notes from the press conference…

Pitching

  • “We’re in a position now to take our time and explore and digest as well as pursue, but at our own pace, not in an emotional or reactive state,” said Cashman when asked about pursuing pitching. “It allows us to survey the landscape in a more conservative way. [Re-signing CC Sabathia] provides us a lot of security.” (Mark Feinsand, Chad Jennings & Marc Carig)
  • “He’s had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance,”said Cashman when asked about A.J. Burnett. “He still was able to step up in October.” Cashman did laud Burnett’s ability to take the ball every five days and be accountable after his starts. Unless something unexpected happens, A.J will be in the rotation next season. (Kim Jones)
  • As for Yu Darvish, Cashman simply said: “I think like with anything else you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past.” I take that to mean the Yankees did more research on Darvish than they did with Kei Igawa, but that’s a quote open to (mis)interpretation. (Jon Lane)
  • Cashman confirmed that Rafael Soriano did not exercise his opt-out clause before last night’s deadline and will be with the team in 2012. (Anthony McCarron)

Offense

  • When asked about soon-to-be free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Cashman said: “I don’t anticipate a bat being a need at all. Offense is not a problem with this club despite what happened in the Detroit series.” (Bryan Hoch & Feinsand)
  • Picking up Nick Swisher‘s option was “an easy call,” and the GM isn’t concerned too much about his right fielder’s third straight poor postseason showing. (Feinsand)
  • As for Jesus Montero‘s role with the team next season, Cashman said: “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks.” (Jones)

Miscellaneous

  • As for the trade market, Cashman said he’s open “to anybody’s ideas” and is willing to discuss a deal involving Burnett or pretty much anyone else on the roster. “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Burnett has a partial no-trade clause, but as yesterday’s Derek Lowe trade showed, A.J. has minimal trade value. (Jones, Hoch & Dan Barbarisi)
  • Cashman said that a long-term deal for Russell Martin is possible, but he likes the flexibility that their upper level catching depth provides. “He’s under our control [as an arbitration-eligible player]. He was fantastic, he didn’t disappoint … I’m a big fan.” (Kim Jones)
  • Cashman on Jorge Posada‘s future: “That’s something we’ll have to discuss here on the short term … it’s not something I’m prepared to talk about today.” (Barbarisi)
  • “[Frankie Cervelli] is fine,” said Cashman. “He’s full-bore, ready to go as a catcher.” That’s good news. Frankie suffered his third concussion in four years in early-September. (Jones)
  • Cashman also confirmed that no one big league roster needs any kind of offseason surgery. (Jennings)

Yankees release Andrew Brackman

On a conference call with reporters, Brian Cashman confirmed that the team did not exercise Andrew Brackman‘s option for 2012 and the right-hander is now a free agent. Had the Yankees picked up the option, they would have paid him a $1M salary in the big leagues and a $500k salary in the minors according to Keith Law.

Brackman should still be under team control as a pre-arbitration-eligible player since he has less than three years of service time, but a clause in his contract stipulated that the team must release him if they declined the option. Presumably, the Yankees could still re-sign their 2007 first round pick to a minor league deal or something. The 40-man roster now sits at 34, but Colin Curtis must still be activated off the 60-day DL.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Paul Maholm

The offseason is officially underway, so the Yankees search for starting pitching can begin in earnest. Getting CC Sabathia back under contract was just the very first order of business; we know the search doesn’t end there. Everyone knows about C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, but they aren’t the only names out there this winter.

The Pirates officially declined Paul Maholm’s 2012 option yesterday, paying him a $750k buyout rather than keep him at $9.75M salary next season. The 29-year-old left-hander hits the market (as an unranked free agent) after posting career bests in ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.78) this past season, but the NL Central is a much different animal than the AL East. Let’s take a deeper look to see if he has anything to offer the Yankees, starting with the cons…

The Cons

  • Maholm simply doesn’t miss bats, never has and probably never will. His best strikeout season came back in 2008, when he whiffed 6.02 per nine while getting a swing-and-miss 8.4% of the time. His whiff rate has declined every year since then, bottoming out at 5.7% in 2011. Over the last three seasons his strikeout rate is an underwhelming 5.28 K/9 (5.38 in 2011).
  • Although he’s thrown 175+ IP in five of the last six years, his innings total has gone down every year since peaking at 206.1 IP in 2008. Maholm has only been on the DL once in his career, this past season when a shoulder strain ended his season in late-August. Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage, and the southpaw recently announced on Twitter that he’s been cleared for workouts.
  • It didn’t show up too much this year, but Maholm has always had a rather prominent platoon split. Over the last three years, he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA with a 3.2 K/BB ratio and 53.1% grounders while righties have tagged him for a .345 wOBA with a 1.6 K/BB and 50.7% grounders.
  • Maholm’s performance away from the basically neutral PNC Park has been pretty bad through his career, and he’s gotten smacked around by AL lineups during interleague play.

The Pros

  • He lacks the whiffs, but Maholm does make up for it with control and ground balls. His unintentional walk rate has held at a steady 2.82 uIBB/9 throughout his career (2.66 last three years, 2.44 in 2011), and his 52.3% ground ball rate has been consistent as well (51.1% last three years, 49.9% in 2011). Because he allows so many balls in play, Maholm will always be at the mercy of his defense.
  • The ground ball rate has helped Maholm keep the ball in the park (0.66 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB over the last three years), but it’s interesting that his HR/FB rate went from 12%+ in 2006-2008 to 7.5% from 2009-2011. The improvement coincides with the increased use of his low-80’s slider (from ~4% to ~13%) and high-80’s two-seamer (~4% to ~35%). I suspect that’s more than just a coincidence.
  • Maholm also throws a high-80’s four-seamer, a low-80’s changeup, and a low-70’s curveball. He’s a true five-pitch guy, using each offering at least 10% of the time in recent years. He also has a solid pickoff move, allowing just 30 steals against nine pickoffs in the last three seasons.

Pittsburgh’s decision to decline the option tells you that even a pitching starved team doesn’t value Maholm’s expected 2012 performance at a net price of $9M (they were paying him $750k one way or the other). The Yankees shouldn’t expect him to be anything more than a depth starter, the number five guy or maybe even a pen arm. There’s no reason for Maholm to accept a reduced role like that, someone in this league will guarantee him a rotation spot and that’s where he should go. He’s interesting because he’s reasonably young and left-handed, but it’s hard to envision Maholm having much of an impact on a contending AL team.

It’s official: Three more years of Cashman

The Yankees announced today that they have re-signed Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman to a new three-year contract. It’s his fourth straight three-year deal, and unlike the last two, this one went down drama-free. Cashman is baseball’s third longest tenured GM (behind Brian Sabean and Billy Beane) and has been at the Yankees helm since taking over for Bob Watson on February 3rd, 1998. No word on the money yet, but it’s likely in the $8-9M range.

Cashman, a long-time Yankee loyalist, joined the organization when he was 19 as an intern in the Minor League and Scouting Department. During his tenure, the team has reached the postseason in 13 out of 14 seasons, has won 11 Division titles, six AL Championships and four World Series titles. He is the longest-tenured Yankees GM since Ed Barrow served in that capacity from 1920-1945, and the team’s .605 winning percentage under his watch is the highest of any GM with at least five seasons in that role since 1950. All in all, that’s not a bad resume for the 44-year-old.

What Went Right (and Wrong): Nunez, Cervelli, and Logan

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

As we get close to wrapping up our season review, we’re inevitably left a few players that don’t fit into our rather vague What Went Right/What Went Wrong categories. Unsurprisingly, these guys are bit pieces, essentially spare parts on the roster.

Eduardo Nunez

After a brief cameo in September 2010, the Yankees handed Nunez their utility infielder’s job out of Spring Training in 2011. The off-day and rain-out heavy April kept Nunez glued to the bench during the season’s first month (just six plate appearances), but he started to get more and playing time as the weather warmed up in May. He had five hits (including two doubles) in his first three starts of the season, but he carried a weak .214/.254/.339 batting line into mid-June, though that covered just 61 plate appearances.

Nunez became a pretty important piece of the Yankees’ puzzle in mid-June, after a calf injury shelved Derek Jeter for more than three weeks. The backup infielder had two hits in each of his first two games as the starting shortstop, and he ended up hitting a robust .339/.381/.525 in 65 plate appearances as the Cap’n’s replacement. When Alex Rodriguez hit the shelf with a knee injury before the All-Star break, Nunez was again pressed into everyday duty, this time at third base. He hit .252/.310/.336 in 117 plate appearances while filling in for A-Rod.

All told, Nunez hit .265/.313/.385 in 338 plate appearances, swatting five homers and stealing 22 bases in 28 tries (78.6% success rate). That’s pretty much what you expect from a utility infielder. His defense was atrocious however, specifically his long-time problem with making the throw to first base (from short or third). He committed 20 errors (almost all throwing) in 789.2 defensive innings, which projects to about 37 errors over a full 162-game season. Nunez had his moments, and I figure he was the Yankees’ best backup infielder in quite some time.

(Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Frankie Cervelli

Reportedly, the Yankees were holding an open competition for the backup catcher’s job in Spring Training, though it stood to reason that Cervelli had a leg up over Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Gus Molina just because he was the incumbent. A broken foot (suffered on a foul ball) delayed the start of his season by a month, but he came back with a bang. In his third game of the season (May 8th), Cervelli swatted a grand slam to dead center off Cody Eppley to turn a 6-5 game into a 10-5 game, helping put an end to an ugly four-losses-in-five-games stretch.

Cervelli played pretty regularly as CC Sabathia‘s personal catcher throughout the summer, and carried a .274/.333/.340 batting line into a late-August series against the Red Sox. After hitting just two homeruns in the first 541 plate appearances of his big league career, Frankie went on a tear and clubbed three homers in the span of eight days as August turned into September. I also remember one ball that looked like a no-doubter off the bat, but was caught at the wall after being knocked down by the rain and wind in that ugly, rainy 11pm ET start game against the Orioles. No idea where it came from, but Frankie was showing some serious pop late in the summer.

Unfortunately, a concussion ended Cervelli’s season in early-September. He was involved in two collisions at the plate on September 8th, giving him his third concussion in the last four seasons. That forced Romine into backup catcher duty, and makes Cervelli a bit of a question mark going into next season. Concussions are nothing to sneeze at, especially several of them in a relatively short period of time. The late power surge raised Frankie’s season batting line to .266/.324/.395 with four homers in 137 plate appearances.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Boone Logan

The Pedro Feliciano signing managed to turn into a disaster before Opening Day, which meant Logan was the team’s sole left-handed reliever for the majority in the season. He struggled early in the year, carrying a 5.40 ERA into mid-May. Even worse, lefties were hitting .364/.440/.591 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in their first 26 plate appearances against him. Logan received some advice from A-Rod during an interleague series in mid-June, at which point same-side batters were still hitting .300/.391/.425 off him.

The pep talk marked a bit of a turn around for Boone, who held lefties to a .234/.286/.484 batting line the rest of the way. He did a much better job of getting them out, but he was giving up far too many extra-base hits. After surrendering just one extra-base hit (a triple) to lefties in 2010, he gave up 12 in 2011 (seven doubles, one triple, four homers). That’s the same number of extra-base hits they had off Sabathia, who faced more than twice as many left-handed batters. All told, Logan finished the season with a solid 3.46 ERA (9.9 K and 2.2 BB/9), but lefty specialists don’t get judged by overall numbers. Left-handers hit .260/.328/.462 in 118 plate appearances against Boone this season, and that’s simply not good enough for the primary lefty on a contending team.

CC Sabathia and the opt-out that wasn’t

In business when negotiating a salary, having leverage is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Leverage allows the person in demand to set the pace. The price, the years, the responsibilities — everything can be dictated by the side with leverage to the side without. For the Yankees and their fans who didn’t want to see the Big Man depart from the Bronx after three stellar years, the lesson in leverage was quick and expensive.

CC Sabathia had leverage, and everyone knew it. To entice him to come to New York in the winter of 2008, the Yankees gave him an opt-out clause for peace of mind. If he hated it in the Big Apple, if his family hated it, if other teams came a-knockin’, CC could have departed the Bronx for less intense pastures. The Yankees, on the other hand, had no leverage. Their current crop of home-grown pitchers haven’t matured into the starters we had hoped, and their next class is a year or two away. Fronted by C.J. Wilson and perhaps the tantalizing enigma of Yu Darvish, the free agent pitching market is thin this year, and Sabathia had to return.

And so without exercising the opt-out or filing for free agency, Sabathia, who always said he wanted to stay in New York and never planned on opting out, did just that. He now has five guaranteed years and $122 million left on his contract with an option for a sixth year, which vests as long as he isn’t injured, for another $20 million. As a businessman, he did what anyone in his shoes would have done: He took his leverage and turned it into better job security and more money. That’s the way to do it.

Following the evening announcement of a contract extension, both Sabathia and Yanks GM Brian Cashman said all the right things. “CC is the ace of our pitching staff, a leader in our clubhouse and a driving force for the Yankees in our community,” Cashman, who will soon sign his own contract extension, said. “He is exactly the type player and person that Yankees fans and this organization can be proud of. We are excited that he will be wearing the pinstripes for many years to come.”

The left-hander too was effusive with his praise. “My son loves it here. All my kids love it here. My wife loves it here, obviously, and I do, too. I love pitching for the Yankee fans and everything, so it was the easy choice,” Sabathia said. “I just want to end my career here. I want to make sure I end my career as a Yankee and, hopefully, I’ve done that.”

As this drama unfolded following the Cardinals’ World Series win on Friday, I found myself pondering my reaction to it all. Had CC opted out to explore the market as Jon Heyman over the weekend said he would, I would have been unsurprised but disappointed. After all, CC has long expressed his love of New York and his desire to stay here. When the announcement came down today, I was elated. We don’t have to worry about life without the Big Man, and we’ll continue to watch him pitch every five days from now until the effective end of A-Rod‘s contract. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Finally, then, there is the matter of the contract itself. Effectively, CC never left. He didn’t opt out and didn’t take the PR hit from doing so. In fact, the Yanks’ press release never even says the phrase “opt-out.” CC’s Yankee tenure will take place over the course of two contracts. Yet, I still view his tenure as two deals. During the first, he pitched for three years and $69 million, won 59 games, had a 3.18 ERA and struck out eight per nine innings pitched. It’s one of the better free agent contracts in recent Yankee history.

The next deal will cover Sabathia’s ages 31-36 seasons, and as high-priced contract extensions go, that’s not a bad deal. We’ll see Sabathia continue with his peak-age pitching and perhaps he will decline. But as long as he stays healthy — and he has yet again vowed to lose some weight — the Yankees should be fine. The number of elite pitchers who excel throughout their 30s should make us accepting of the deal. You have your Curt Schillings and Randy Johnsons, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. A contract covering Andy Pettitte‘s age 31-36 seasons would have seen him go 87-57 with a 3.83 ERA in 1147.1 innings. By no means is this a comprehensive study of Sabathia’s peers, but the years and the dollars aren’t nearly as insane as they could have been.

So all’s well that ends well for the Yankees. We’ve wrapped up just three days of the Hot Stove League, and the Yankees already have knocked off the number one item on their agenda. Maybe they’ll dip their toes in again to find another pitcher or some bullpen help. Perhaps a trade is in order. For now, though, we’ll face the long, cold wait until Opening Day comfortable in the knowledge that the Yanks landed their guy before October even ended.

Teixeira, Cano, and Gardner among AL Gold Glove nominees

Via ESPN, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Brett Gardner are among the AL Gold Glove nominees at their respectively positions. Yeah, I didn’t know they had nominees for these things either. Tex is against Adrian Gonzalez and Casey Kotchman at first base, Cano against Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler at second, and Gardner against Alex Gordon and Sam Fuld in left. I wonder if that means they’ll actually give out a Gold Glove for each of the individual outfield spots. That’d be neat.

Anyway, the Gold Glove winners will be announced tomorrow night during the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show on ESPN2 at 10pm ET. I sure hope they get leaked before then, I have no interest in watching. The rest of the awards schedule can be found right here.