Cashman was ‘this close’ to signing Hall

For some reason or another, Bill Hall has been one of those players constantly linked to the Yanks in recent years. During the Winter Meetings in December 2008, Mike wondered why Hall was being connected to the Yanks, and in November of 2010, we heard some low-level rumblings about a connection between Hall and the Bombers. Ultimately, though, the 31-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Astros for $3 million, and the two sides hold a mutual option for $4 million.

For a guy who’s going to give you 0.5-1 wins above replacement, that’s not an awful deal, and today, we learn it could’ve been the Yanks’ checks Hall might have cashed this year. Jack Curry, via Twitter, relates an exchange from today’s game. Brian Cashman says to Hall, “I almost had you. It was this close.” Hall, says Curry, sheepishly says, “Sorry.”

The Yanks won’t miss Bill Hall’s production or lack thereof, and they should be able to replicate it with the much cheaper cast of characters they have in camp right now. It’s always entertaining though to ponder the deals that weren’t. I wonder how many other close calls the Yanks have had over the years.

Open Thread: March 2nd Camp Notes

Too lazy to throw overhand. (AP Photo/Margaret Bowles)

Today’s round-up…

  • The Yankees beat the Astros 6-5 this afternoon after Russell Martin coaxed a walk-off walk out of former Yankees farmhand Lance Pendleton. A.J. Burnett showed off some new mechanics with two scoreless innings, but David Phelps fell victim to some poor defense in a four (unearned) run inning. Derek Jeter actually hit two balls in the air, hard too, one into Michael Bourn’s glove and another into the grass for a single. The Yankees scored four in the ninth to tie (Melky Mesa had the game-tying two-run single) and a fifth to win. Here’s the box score.
  • CC Sabathia, Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, Dellin Betances, and Pedro Feliciano all threw side sessions this morning as scheduled. Romulo Sanchez and Warner Madrigal threw simulated games with Austin Krum and Doug Bernier standing in as batters. (Chad Jennings)
  • Martin is wearing a brace around his surgically repaired knee, but he’ll again serve as the designated hitter tomorrow and then catch in Friday’s game. (Dan Barbarisi & Marc Carig)
  • Old buddy Chad Gaudin will be starting for the Nationals against the Yanks on Saturday. Jamie Shields and Clay Buchholz will the opposing starters on Thursday and Friday, respectively. (Carig)

This is your open thread for the night. Today’s game is being replayed on YES starting at 7pm ET, and MLB Network is replaying this afternoon’s Royals-Dodgers game starting at 9pm ET. The Devils, Islanders, and Knicks will all be playing regular season games that actually mean something. Anything goes, so have at it.

Link Dump: Org. Rankings, Int’l Money, Sanchez

Earlier today we pointed you in the direction of John Sickels’ interview with Mark Newman, but here’s a few more minor league links to pass along…

Goldstein’s Organizational Rankings

A few days after releasing his top 101 prospects list, Kevin Goldstein released his farm system rankings today, placing the Yankees fourth overall behind the Royals, Rays, and Braves. You don’t need a subscription to view the whole thing. Instead of posting a generic paragraph on each system, KG added a haiku, and I give him points for originality. His Yankees’ offering: “Slugger with no glove. The B’s need to prove themselves. Yankees or trade bait?” Pretty much everything you need to know right there.

International Free Agent Clearing House

Baseball America posted a trio of great charts regarding international free agency today, one looking at the top 30 signing bonuses from 2010, another with each team’s spending in 2010, and the last with the top 20 bonuses of all-time. None of them require a subscription. The Yankees gave Wilmer Romero and Christopher Tamarez $656,500 and $650,000, respectively, the 19th and 20th largest bonuses of the year. Rafael DePaula got just $500,000 (26th), and some kid named Eduardo Rivera got $475,000 (30th). The $5.27M they spent overall was the second most by any team, so everyone complaining that the team wasn’t spending enough internationally, just stop.

As for the all-time records, Gary Sanchez‘s $3M is the third largest ever, behind Michael Ynoa and Miguel Sano. Wily Mo Pena ($2.44MM) is the ninth largest of all time, and for a while was a record. I still can’t believe the Yankees gave Wify Mo a big league contract as a teenager.

KLaw on Sanchez

Jesus Montero is the cream of the Yankees’ position player prospect crop and rightfully so, but further down the later resides Sanchez, who has to potential to be every bit as good as Hey-Zeus. Keith Law looked at six prospects yesterday (Insider req’d), six guys with the potential to jump into the top ten prospects in all of baseball next year, and Sanchez was among them. “Sanchez can hit, and looks like he’ll hit for power,” said KLaw. “A full year behind the plate and another year of physical development will go a long way toward answering the question of his defensive future, but there aren’t many questions about his offensive potential.”

Law says he believes Sanchez can catch long-term, and at the very least he has a better chance to do so than Montero. It’s unfair to compare Sanchez to Montero but it’ll inevitably happen. If he’s 75% of Jesus, that would be amazing.

Yankees sign Nick Ebert

The Yankees have signed former South Carolina first baseman Nick Ebert as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. The 23-year-old hit .302/.448/.638 with 30 homers in 440 plate appearances with the Game Cocks over the last two years, before which he was at a junior college. Baseball America ranked Ebert as the 36th best prospect in the state before last year’s draft, just saying that he was a solid college senior with some power. The right-handed hitter is probably nothing more than minor league depth, a guy that can mash Single-A pitching and help keep the pressure off the youngsters.

MRI inconclusive after Cervelli injures foot

Frankie Cervelli fouled a ball off the top of his left foot early in today’s game and was then lifted an inning later. He was noticeably limping after drawing a walk to finish the at-bat. Joe Girardi said during an in-game interview that they didn’t want to risk further injury and pulled him, but a post-game CT scan and MRI came back negative and inconclusive, respectively, according to Marc Carig. Doctors will evaluate the results again, presumably soon, and until then we’re kind of in the dark about Frankie’s status.

Girardi said after the game that he didn’t know if a prolonged absence would result in some time behind the plate for Jorge Posada, though I would imagine that Jesus Montero‘s chances of making the club would increase tremendously.

John Sickels’ interviews Mark Newman

John Sickels of Minor League Ball recently sat down with Yankees president of baseball operations Mark Newman to chat about the team’s farm system. They of course hit on all the usual suspects – Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, etc. – but also spoke about the next wave of prospects, so to speak. Newman discussed Slade Heathcott‘s strikeouts, Mason Williams‘ potential, Gary Sanchez‘s everything, plus a ton more. He also compares a certain infield prospect to a young Robbie Cano, but you’ll have to check it out to find out who.

The RAB Radio Show: March 2, 2011

A.J. Burnett made his first appearance of the spring today. Mike and I talk about how he looked and what he has to do this season. It does appear that he has made some changes, but as with Jeter, don’t expect results to come immediately.

We also run down some other spring training stuff, including plenty from today’s game.

Podcast run time 21:09

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Intro music: “Smile” by Farmer’s Boulevard used under a Creative Commons license

The Top Storylines of 2011

Every season has storylines, some happier than others. Last year we got to watch Robbie Cano take his game to another level and become an MVP candidate while Phil Hughes came into his own as a starter. That all happened while the Javy Vazquez redux was a spectacular flop and Derek Jeter suddenly looked mortal. The upcoming season will be no different, so let’s look at a few of the bigger storylines…

Jesus is coming. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Jesus Montero‘s Inevitable Arrival

At some point this season, whether it be Opening Day or May 15th or August 1st, arguably the best offensive prospect in the minors will join the Yankees. In what capacity? I don’t know, could be anything from backup catcher to part-time DH to starting catcher to righty bat off the bench, but I do know he’ll be in the Bronx before long. Montero’s bat is ready for the show right now, but the Yankees have some depth behind the plate and no real reason to take him north if they don’t think he’s ready. His arrival will be highly anticipated, and that’s putting it lightly.

Hughes’ Continued Development

Last year, in his first full season as a starter in the AL East, Hughes put up solid totals of a 4.19 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 7.45 K/9 in 176.1 IP. He did stumble down the stretch and in two of his three playoffs starts, but at age 24 there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Free from innings limitations and aware of his changeup problem, Hughes is poised to continue his ascent. The Yankees are counting on the right-hander to be one of their top three starters in 2011 as opposed to the interesting fifth starter he was at this time last year, so the pressure’s on.

Uh, David. Whatever you do, do not turn around. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Mother of All Bullpens

There seems to be a wide range of opinions on the Rafael Soriano signing, but everyone agrees that he improves the team’s late-game pitching situation significantly. He also pushes Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson into traditional middle relief/fireman roles, which isn’t all that bad when all three guys have one of the 22 best strikeout rates in the game over the last three seasons. Pedro Feliciano adds a veteran, workhorse lefty specialist to join the hard-throwing Boone Logan. And then you have Mariano Rivera to cap it all off. Joe Girardi has a ton of relief options this year, most of them high strikeout players that can get out of jams without the help of their defense.

Cano’s MVP Push, Part Deux

The Yankees second baseman went from complementary player to centerpiece in 2010, hitting .319/.381/.534 (.389 wOBA) and finishing sixth in the league with 6.4 fWAR. Still just 28 years old, Cano is in the prime of his career and capable of making another run at the MVP crown, which would go a long way towards helping the Yankees secure a playoff berth and maybe even the AL East crown.

Jeter’s Pursuit of 3,000

In the long and glorious history of the New York Yankees, no player has ever recorded 3,000 career hits. Lou Gehrig was the franchise hit leader for the better part of a century with 2,721 knocks, but Jeter surpassed him in 2009 and is within shouting distance of the hallowed milestone. The Cap’n will start the season just 74 hits away from 3,000, so he’ll get there in 2011 barring a major injury. Jeter picked up his 74th hit last year on June 6th, the team’s 57th game of the season, so the first few months of the season will feature some pretty awesome history.

* * *

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what Hughes has in store for an encore, even more than I’m looking forward to Montero’s arrival. Jeter’s chase will probably be a million times more hyped than his pursuit of Gehrig’s record, and that’s fine by me, it was definitely a lot of fun (lame Michael Kay calls aside). And, of course, who doesn’t like watching Cano do his thing or a bullpen full of hard-throwing strikeout fiends?