Over the weekend, a few astute readers sent us e-mails about this, and iYankees touched upon it on Saturday: ESPN’s Peter Gammons is dreaming about a bidding between the Yankees and the Red Sox for the service of Joe Mauer.

He writes:

Memo to Twins CEO Jim Pohlad: Get Joe Mauer’s contract extension completed, because he will be the next great Yankees-Red Sox war if he hits the free-agent market in November 2010.

If the Twins don’t wrap up Mauer, he’ll be the most sought-after free agent since Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. By the end of 2010, the Yanks will be able to shift Posada from behind the dish, and Mauer would be a perfect fit. Meanwhile, the Sox, who have extended something of a two-year deal to Jason Varitek. That would come due after 2010 as well.

If Mauer hits the market — and that is a huge if right now — he would stand to make a killing. It’s feasible that half of the teams in baseball could get in on Mauer. I’d love to see Mauer in New York. Who wouldn’t?

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One of the biggest question marks coming into the season for the Yankees is the health of stalwart catcher Jorge Posada. While all reports seem to indicate that Posada’s rehab from major shoulder surgery is going swimmingly, you can never be too sure when it comes to 37 year old catchers. Jose Molina and Chad Moeller played their hearts out in Posada’s place last year, but it’s clear neither player represents an every day catching option. The Yanks have already brought Kevin Cash aboard on a minor league to fill that emergency third catcher role, but they can do better than that. Specifically, we’re looking at Javier Valentin.

Not to be confused with John or Jose, Javy Valentin has spent the last five years of his career a Reds uniform, serving primarily as a backup catcher/pinch hitter. Unlike most backup backstops, however, Valentin has demonstrated that he’s not completely useless with the stick. Over the past four season he’s hit .272-.334-.442, averaging a .333 wOBP and a 97 OPS+ while providing 4.9 wins over a replacement player. For comparisons sake, that batting line is on par with what Bengie Molina did for the Giants this past year (.292-.322-.445).

As an added bonus Valentin’s a switch hitter, though he’s proven to be more dangerous from the left side of the plate. That actually works out perfectly, because in a nightmare scenario where Jorge Posada again misses significant time, Valentin can play primarily against righties (.258-.313-.424-.737) while Molina takes on the lefties (.263-.304-.400-.704). Obviously we aren’t talking about great production from that platoon, but it would represent a significant upgrade from the .230-.290-.335-.625 line Yankees’ catchers produced in 2008.

An offense first catcher, Valentin is no great shakes defensively. His best defensive attribute is his throwing arm, which has allowed him to gun down 41.9% of attempted base stealers in his career (21 of 25 in 2004!), but even that has slipped lately (25.5% over the last three seasons). There’s also some durability concerns, as Valentin has never caught more than 553.2 innings in a single season, and has averaged just 340 innings caught over the last three years. He could easily hit that “overexposed in extended playing time” wall that Jose Molina ran into last year.

Valentin’s earned $3.725M over the last three years ($1.325M last year), but in this market he’s not getting anything more than a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. He could compete with Cash in Spring Training for that third catcher role, with the winner heading to Triple-A while the loser hits the unemployment line (minor league deals aren’t guaranteed). I’d prefer to see the Yanks go this route before having to swing another midseason deal for a Pudge-type. What about you?

Categories : Hot Stove League
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This is some good news on a sunny Monday in New York City. According to SI’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees are in serious talks with Andy Pettitte. Heyman relates that “there is a lot of optimism a deal will get done.” This would be a nice way to round out the rotation. Strangely enough, Heyman also notes that Pettitte will receive less than $10 million guaranteed. Sounds like another incentive-laden deal, a popular notion this winter.

Ken Rosenthal elaborates a bit:

However, the deal will include incentives that could push Pettitte close to his 2008 salary of $16 million, the amount he was seeking on a one-year deal.

The thing with incentives is that they can’t be based on stats; they have to be based on innings or starts. So if Pettitte is ineffective, the Yankees will be forced to pull him from the rotation in order to avoid paying his escalators. That could be another tough situation down the line.

Update by Mike (12:47pm): Buster Olney says Pettitte would receive close to $6M in guaranteed money, with incentives that could push the total payout to $12M.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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In response to yesterday’s hoopla about Joe Torre’s new book, the book’s co-author, SI’s Tom Verducci, answered some questions about the controversy. He claims that it is a third-person account, and that, as the headline says, Torre doesn’t rip anyone, and that “[i]t’s not a tell-all book.” He goes on to say that the book is a third-person narrative. While it’s nice to now know the point of view the authors employed, I don’t think this fact alone gets Torre off the hook.

Meanwhile, Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times offers up a review in Sunday’s paper. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit more even-handed than the tabloid accounts we saw yesterday. It talks about the actual focus of the book, the post-2001 decline, rather than a few cherry-picked anecdotes. Again, none of this comes as a shocking revelation.

That said, third person point of view or not, it does appear Torre got in his shots:

The book does not hide Torre’s bitterness over his departure in 2007 (he was offered a one-year contract that involved a pay cut in his base salary) and takes a few swipes at the general manager, Brian Cashman, and some players — most notably, Alex Rodriguez.

The quote on A-Rod used in this review: “Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself.” There’s also a bit on Jason Giambi, whom Torre says “wasn’t part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively.” So I guess the whole book isn’t third person.

Kakutani notes one of the book’s shortcomings:

This book often fails to detail Torre’s role in the decisions made over these years. His reactions to the signing of Giambi and management’s refusal to grant Williams a guaranteed contract in 2007 are duly noted, but in other instances, it’s unclear to what degree he protested specific choices made by the front office or its lack of a long-term rebuilding strategy.

I’m sure it also doesn’t discuss Torre’s on-field decisions, which had drawn the ire of fans for the last four or five years of his tenure. Despite the point of view, the book is Torre’s take on those years, and in all likelihood he didn’t see much fault in himself. What I also find strange is that he has these unkind words about the way the teams were constructed after 2001, yet he wanted to come back and manage that same team in 2008 and beyond. That, perhaps, is why many will view this as Torre taking swipes on his way out the door.

In the end, this has turned into more a marketing scheme than anything. Now we’re all talking about the book. There have been controversial claims made in the book. The only way to give it all context is to read it.

P.S. Joshua Robinson at the Bats blog has a great line from the Torre: “One thing I’ve learned is that people are going to feel the way they’re going to feel, regardless of what happened.” That means you too, Joe. That means you too.

Categories : Front Office
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The New Yankee Stadium has quite a large video screen out in center field. It’s 58-by-103 feet, and you can bet we’ll see highlights of Alex Rodriguez home runs and Joba Chamberlain strikeouts on it all season long. Yet there’s something the high definition screen cannot show us: replays of close plays. Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press relates this sentiment in relation to the Twins’ new Target Field, but it applies just the same to Yankee Stadium.

Major League Baseball prohibits teams from showing a replay of any play that could incite either team or the fans. And despite fans’ thirst for another look at a close play at the plate or a bang-bang call on the bases, no high-def technology will change that.

I’ve always been a bit miffed when there’s a close play and we can’t get another look at it. The folks watching at home on TV see it from every conceivable angle, yet those of us at the park have only our memories to draw from. I get that MLB wants to avoid having umpires influenced by a replay unless it’s an officially sanctioned one, but don’t they allow this in other sports? Don’t they show close plays on Jumbotrons during NFL games?

This likely won’t change until baseball fully institutionalizes instant replay. That’s a shame for teams with high-def screens. What better use for them than to show replays of close plays? For the time being, we’ll just have to wait until we get home and can watch the highlights.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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  • Baseball Intellects’ Top 15 Yankees prospects
    By

    The crew over at Baseball Intellect have posted their list of the Yanks’ top 15 prospects (here’s 1-5 and 6-15), going against the grain and naming Jesus Montero the top dog. Each player comes with an in depth scouting report, so I highly suggest you check it out. (h/t Big B for the email) · (44) ·

doc-vs-cc-vs-johan

(click image for a larger view)

Win value data from Fangraphs. This BtB post was my inspiration.

Here’s your open thread. Feel free to talk about the above chart, the NHL All-Star Game, whatever you like. Just be nice.

Categories : Open Thread
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Buster Olney has an interesting blog post today regarding statistics and baseball (the relevant part is free). His thesis:

Summers belong mostly to the scouts. That is the time of year when they have their greatest influence, when they are the eyes and ears for their organization, when they see the day-to-day changes and adjustments, when they see that an arm angle has dropped or that a swing has been shortened.

But the winters, on the other hand, have become a domain of numbers. Scouting reports are valued, for sure, but in November and December and January, statistics have an even greater influence in player evaluations, because they are immovable points of reference. You can talk all you want about a kid’s leadership ability, but in a conference room in the dead of winter, what stares everybody in the face is the .312 on-base percentage. In the winter, more than at any time during the calendar year, you are what the numbers say you are.

Reflecting on that, I can see what he means. It’s not just front offices, though. It seems we as fans seem to focus more on a player’s aggregate output during the dormant winter months. This winter in particular we saw the introduction of another useful statistic, and a reminder of a more efficient way to judge pitcher strikeouts.

It makes sense. We have no games to judge in the winter. All we have is a ledger of what each player did during the season. Because those ledgers are so long, though, we tend to go with the aggregate. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. It leads us to talk about generalities, which can lead to some false conclusions, but we’re still talking about objective data.

Yet when the season rolls around we’re not so apt to talk about aggregate statistics. For instance, Jason Giambi had a bad April, but once he started to heat up in May we focused on that rather than his stat totals. We talk more about the last game, or the last week of games, than we do about the season as a whole. Hence, scouting reports — that is, what we’ve seen — become more important.

This is pretty natural. I think it’s nice that we have a period where we’re talking about the here and now, and another time when we reflect on what happened. It only adds to the enjoyment of the game.

Categories : Analysis
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In today’s Times, Harvey Araton wrote a meandering column on the fate of old Yankee Stadium. Notable in his piece is the news that the city won’t get around to completing the destruction of the old cathedral until spring 2010, and he plays off of this painfully slow timetable.

The Mayor’s Office explained the slow pace of deconstruction to Araton:

PART I “The primary reason Yankee Stadium has not started demolition is that the new stadium and its offices have just now become available for occupancy.” But if New York schoolchildren can learn in trailers when there is a shortage of building space, why couldn’t the Yankees have conducted business in a temporary shelter for a few short months to expedite the demolition process?

PART II “The demolition of Yankee Stadium, with a lot of adjacent construction, utility work and proximity to the elevated subway structure, requires a complicated public procurement process.” But if demolition is so complicated, how has Shea Stadium — not as cramped but similarly flanked by a new stadium and an elevated subway — been largely flattened, piece by piece, since October, with the job expected to be completed next month?

Hogi’s point about construction priorities is one that cannot be hammered home enough. When it is in the baseball team’s interest to demolish a stadium so there will be enough parking by opening day, the old ballpark can’t come down soon enough. When the existing stadium site has been designated for replacement park baseball fields, the community can wait — in the case of Heritage Field on the existing old Stadium site, until at least fall 2011, or three years after the last major league pitch.

As I predicted when the bond issue reached its conclusion, the parkland replacement problems are going to emerge to the forefront of stories surrounding the stadium. And it is a problem because the South Bronx — the nation’s poorest Congressional district — needs its parkland.

“That’s going take at least two years because the city’s priority is the Yankees, not the neighborhood,” Joyce Hogi, a member of the Community Board 4 parks committee, said to Araton.

There’s a lot of cynicism in Araton’s article, but there’s a lot of truth to it too. This time, though, the problem falls on the shoulders of the city. As much as the baseball traditionalist in me doesn’t want to see Yankee Stadium ever destroyed, the city must make good on its promise to replace the parks lost to the new Stadium. The Macombs Dam Park closed in Augusth 2006. It’s going to take five years to replace that space, and the South Bronx will suffer because of it.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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It seems like every year the big stories at the beginning of Spring Training are about how Player X showed up looking trimmer than last year. Player Y looks to be in great shape. We saw that plenty of that last year, and I wouldn’t expect any different this year as we head into February. Up first this year: Robinson Cano. Kat O’Brien reports that he looks “very trim,” though we know that has little to do with how well he’ll perform.

The picture to the right is of Cano at a recent WBC workout for the Dominican team. It’s just one picture so it’s tough to tell if there’s any difference. According to O’Brien, Cano finished the year at 213 and now weights 208 (though she also notes that he probably played most of the year weighing more than 213). While it’s good to know that he did work out this off-season, it really means nothing in regards to his performance on the field. He’s put himself in a better position to succeed, no doubt, but he still has to prove it with the bat. It’s going to be tough to forget his slow starts the past two years.

Thankfully, Cano knows what’s at stake:

“I’ve just been working on my new stance,” Cano said, “just getting ready mentally and physically. … I know that I have to start in April, not in May or June.”

Or March, for that matter. Cano had a monster spring in 2008, hitting .446/.471/.646 in his 65 at bats. Even if he does tear it up again this March, we’ll be looking for how he transitions to April. Adding his bat early on could help the Yankees avoid the slow starts they’ve experienced the past two years.

Categories : Spring Training
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