Just a heads up, we’ve done some behind-the-scenes reshuffling, and we now have a new “Resources” pull-down menu in the nav bar above. It’s directly under the “Ave Blues” in the street sign in the banner. This is where you’ll now find neat stuff like the 2012 Draft Order page, the Depth Chart, the Blogroll, and Joe’s ongoing Guide To Stats project. I plan on added some more stuff to it in the future as well, but I’ll let you know when that happens.
A lot of things went wrong for the Yankees in 2006, specifically the injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield and the collapses of 2005 saviors Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon. One of the outfield holes was plugged when Brian Cashman stole Bobby Abreu (and Cory Lidle) from the Phillies at the trade deadline, and he also shored up another hole by trading Chacon to the Pirates for Craig Wilson.
Melky Cabrera was doing a fine job as a rookie (.360 OBP), but Andy Phillips wasn’t getting it done as the regular first baseman. Wilson replaced him after the trade, and his versatility was also supposed to be a plus. He was exactly the kind of guy everyone loves to suggest for a bench job these days; he’d hit 29 homers two years prior to the trade and was capable of playing four positions (catcher, first, and both corner outfield spots). Wilson had a dozen hits in his first ten games with New York, but he just stopped hitting after that. A 10-for-64 finish to the season dropped his Yankees’ batting line to .212/.248/.365 in 109 plate appearances.
The Yankees let Wilson walk as a free agent after the season, and he didn’t have much baseball left in him. He hasn’t seen the big leagues since 2007, and hasn’t even played in the minors since 2008. Wilson turns 35 years old today, so he’s younger than I realized. Baseball-Reference says he managed to bank over $10M during his seven-year career, which is a pretty good head start on life after baseball.
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Here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local sports team in action tonight, so you’re pretty much on your own as far as entertainment goes. You folks now what to do by now, so have at it.
The BBWAA announced the 2012 Hall of Fame Ballot today, with former Yankees star Bernie Williams headlining the group of 13 newcomers. Fellow former Yankees Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack (ha!), and Terry Mulholland are also on the ballot for the first time, joining holdover Don Mattingly. This will be Donnie’s 12th year on the ballot, though he received just 13.9% of the vote last time around. It would take a campaign that would make Jim Rice blush to get Mattingly in the Hall before his 15 years on the ballot are up.
As for Bernie, I don’t expect him to ever get voted into Cooperstown, but I do hope he gets a decent sized vote and maybe spends a few years on the ballot. He was a personal fave, I hope he does well.
The slower the off-season moves, the more restless we get. Baseball has already been gone for a month, and Yankee baseball gone almost two. With little significant activity on the trade and free agent markets, our idle thoughts can turn us mad. With these mad thoughts we can come up with some pretty silly ideas.
This is precisely what happened today when I thought of a post for this slot. Both ideas were pretty terrible, but with little to no action they seemed better than nothing. And so I present to you, a pair of damn terrible ideas to move along the off-season.
Trading for Jeremy Affeldt
Earlier today Ken Rosenthal reported that the Giants are looking to trade Jeremy Affeldt or Ramon Ramirez. The reason: their bullpen is just too expensive. It seems silly for them to cry poor after signing Javier Lopez to a two-year, $8.5 million contract earlier this off-season, but that’s apparently the situation. Since the Yankees are in the market for a lefty reliever, there’s a natural inclination to connect him with the Yanks. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty bad idea.
Affedlt is due $5 million in 2012, which is quite a sum for any reliever, let alone a LOOGY. Yet even as a LOOGY he’s not a guaranteed performer. His numbers from the past few years might look good on the whole, but here’s how he has performed against lefties.
The walk rates are far worse than Boone Logan has ever done. Sure, he can strike out a lefty if need be, but the walks remove some of that luster. Remember, too, that his low home run rates from the last two years came when he pitched in a pitcher-friendly park. He might come cheaply, since he’s a salary dump, but that’s a lot of salary for such a mediocre pitcher. The Yanks are better off sticking with Logan and spending that money elsewhere.
Adding a bad contract to get Garza
If the Cubs can dish Carlos Zambrano in any way, they just might do it. He’s owed $18 million this year, and the Cubs would do well to save even a fraction of that. They also have Alfonso Soriano, due $54 million in the next three years. Another recent Rosenthal report states: “The Cubs, to facilitate a deal, are willing to pay a significant portion of…Soriano’s contract.” At the same time, they’re said to be shopping Matt Garza.
That might set off a lightbulb. Could the Yankees try to take on one of these players in order to make a Garza deal more palatable? The answer, very plainly, is no. Even if it were a possibility, it wouldn’t be a very good idea. It would mean the Yankees would actually have to use those players in some capacity.
If the Cubs do intend to deal Garza, they likely want the greatest return in terms of prospects they can get. They might want to get rid of Soriano, and they might want to get rid of Zambrano. But they don’t necessarily want to get rid of Garza. They want to do that to get a return. Getting rid of the other guys is just a bonus. That is to say: why would they take less than possible on Garza just to shed dollars? That question gets amplified when we consider that teams wouldn’t be taking on all of Soriano’s or Zambrano’s contracts.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Cubs are in dire financial straits and would take a lesser package of players for Garza if it meant trading Soriano or Zambrano. Why would the Yankees want either of them? Sure, they’d come far cheaper than their current contracts, but they won’t come for free. Zambrano is crazy, he walks too many guys, and his strikeout rate fell considerably last season. Soriano is under contract for his ages 36 through 38 seasons, and he’s had a rough go of it lately. His OBP hasn’t been over .330 since 2008, and last year it was below .300. And, despite a .375 wOBA in April, he still finished with a .325 wOBA.
At this point in the off-season, with a desolate, baseball-less winter ahead, our brains stir at any peep of baseball news. If it involves something the Yanks might do, we can stir even more. Yet the grim reality is that few of the currently available options make sense. That won’t stop us from discussing them, of course. But that doesn’t make the ideas any better.
Late last night we learned that the Yankees aren’t having any “hi-level” trade talks about a starting pitcher at the moment, a vague little term that could mean lots of things. Are they not having serious discussions about any pitchers, or are they not having discussions about a high-end pitcher? Could be either depending on how you interpret the report.
Anyway, we all know the Yankees are indeed in the market for a starting pitcher and perhaps a lefty reliever as well, so let’s take a look at a player that could potentially fill either role: Tom Gorzelanny of the Nationals. Washington has surprising rotation depth, with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman fronting a group that also includes Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock, and Tom Milone. They’re also dipping their toe in the C.J. Wilson/Mark Buehrle end of the free agent pool, which would further push Gorzelanny out of the picture. Let’s break down the 29-year-old southpaw’s credentials…
- A four-pitch lefty, both of Gorzelanny’s fastballs (two- and four-seamer) sat right around 88-89 mph as a starter before jumping to 91-93 out of the bullpen in the second half. He also uses a changeup and slider — both in the low-80’s — pretty regularly.
- Gorzelanny was pretty dynamite after moving to relief this summer, striking out one-third of the 27 left-handed batters he faced while surrendering just three singles and two walks. In a small sample (190 plate appearances), he’s held batters to a .283 wOBA with 20.5% strikeouts and 10.5% walks while coming out of the bullpen.
- He’s done some fine work against same-side hitters throughout his career, holding them to a .294 wOBA with 24.6% strikeouts (9.11 K/9) and 7.9% walks (2.93 BB/9). This past season, Gorzelanny set career bests in strikeout rate (8.14 K/9 and 21.3% of batters faced) and walk rate (2.83 BB/9 and 7.4% of batters faced).
- During his time with the Cubs (mid-2009 through 2010), Gorzelanny managed to provide 2.7 fWAR and 1.6 bWAR of value in 174.2 IP, the best stretch of his career since a strong 2007 campaign. His pitching coach in Chicago was current Yankees’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild, so there’s some familiarity there.
- Gorzelanny has been on the DL twice in his career, both times for elbow inflammation (26 days in 2011 and 31 days in 2006). He does have a knack for the fluke injury though; he’s dealt with six different hand/arm injuries as a result of being hit by batted balls since 2006. Six times! None required a DL trip, but sheesh, the guy is a magnet for comebackers.
- He’s solid against lefties and as a reliever, but the numbers against right-handed batters and as a starter are not all that impressive. Opposite-hand batters have tagged him for a .354 wOBA with a 15.6% strikeout rate and a 10.4% walk rate during his career, and as a starter those numbers are .346, 17.1%, and 9.9%, respectively.
- Gorzelanny is a pretty extreme fly ball pitcher, getting a ground ball just 36.2% of the time this past season and 41.1% of the time in his career. That number against lefties isn’t any better (43.9%), and he’s been rather homer prone as a big leaguer (exactly 1.0 HR/9).
Gorzelanny is a candidate to be non-tendered next month (deadline is December 12th), and MLBTR’s projections peg him for a $2.8M salary in 2012, his third time through arbitration before becoming a free agent after the season. He cleared waivers last August, indicating that no team (including the Yankees) thought he was worth the pro-rated portion of his $2.1M salary. Acquiring a player in the offseason is different than acquiring the player during the season though, only because there’s a bit more flexibility about how the available payroll space is distributed. Just because no team claimed Gorzelanny off waivers in August doesn’t mean a team wouldn’t be willing to trade for him now.
These non-tender/trade guys typically don’t bring much back in a trade; their teams are just trying to get anything back rather than nothing. Both Andrew Miller and Zach Duke were traded for fringy Triple-A relievers before being non-tendered last offseason, two fringy Triple-A relievers that have already been let go by the Marlins and Pirates, respectively. Gorzelanny is better than either Miller or Duke, so maybe the Triple-A reliever will have to be slightly less fringy, but I think you get the point. We’re not talking about a multiple prospect package here.
Ultimately, we’re likely looking at a lefty reliever, because I’m not sure Gorzelanny can make it work as a starter in the AL East. This situation is somewhat similar to what I wrote about Chris Volstad in the mailbag two weeks ago; Gorzelanny does make some sense for the Yankees as a lefty reliever/emergency starter, but the Yankees don’t make sense for Gorzelanny. If they don’t trade for him and he hits the free agent market as a non-tender, then chances are he’ll be able to find a starting job somewhere, or at least find a better opportunity to win a starting rotation spot. It’s a question of whether or not the Yankees will want to give up something to get him in a trade, then pay him close to $3M to work out of the bullpen exclusively for the first time in his life.
Mark Montgomery | RHP
A standout player at Bruton High School in Williamsburg, Virginia, Montgomery set a school record by striking out 107 batters in 60 IP as a senior. He was named to the All-District Team his final three years with the Panthers, and was also named to the All-State and All-Region Teams as a senior. Team MVP and Player of the Year honors from the Virginia Gazette and All-Daily Press followed his final year. He also ran track. Montgomery wasn’t much of a pro prospect at the time though, so he went undrafted in 2009 and headed to Longwood University.
As noted by pretty much everyone, the 2011-2012 Hot Stove Season has been a slow one for the Yankees. Thus far the primary transactions relating to the Major League club have been extending CC Sabathia, picking up Robinson Cano‘s and Nick Swisher‘s no-brainer options, and re-signing Freddy Garcia to a reasonable one-year deal. While these have all been important moves — none moreso than keeping Sabathia in the fold — Yankee fans have grown accustomed to fitting the annual free agent du jour for pinstripes, and the general lack of not only news, but even pot-stirring interest has made for one of the most boring offseasons I can ever remember.
Ever since I discovered the wonderful world of Yankee blogging in early 2004, there’s almost always been a plethora of eagerly anticipated potential signings and/or cause célèbres each winter.
That 2003-2004 offseason saw the Yankees undergo some pretty radical changes, starting with the acquisition of Javier Vazquez for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. Prior to executing that deal, the Yankees were also discussing the possibility of trading for Curt Schilling (and later on, Randy Johnson, who they eventually acquired a year later), but owner Jerry Colangelo’s hatred of George Steinbrenner meant nothing short of asking for the sun, the moon and the stars for his ace. Colangelo stuck it to the Yankees even further by subsequently trading Schilling to the Red Sox for a bag of balls.
This incredibly busy offseason — as you’ll recall, the Yankees wound up losing three-fifths of their 2003 AL pennant-winning rotation in Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells — also saw the Yanks swap problems with the Dodgers in the Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal; had Brian Cashman get overruled on what would have been an incredible signing in Vladimir Guerrero and undercut as Steinbrenner himself worked a three-year deal out with Gary Sheffield; sign key bullpen cogs (and eventual bullpen pinatas) Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon; extend Vazquez’s contract by four years before he threw even one pitch for the team; and, oh yeah, trade Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.
The 2004-2005 offseason found the team looking to atone for its historical exit against the Red Sox in the ’04 ALCS, and pitching was yet again at the top of the wish list. This time the Yankees patched their holes with Carl Pavano, who signed a four-year deal that at the time made a lot of sense but went on to become one of the most reviled contracts in sports history, and Jaret Wright. A few weeks later Steinbrenner finally got the long-coveted Big Unit, trading Vazquez away after a rather unfortunate first season in pinstripes, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro.
The 2005-2006 offseason was rife with speculation about the Yankees pursuing Johnny Damon, which they ultimately did, signing him to a four-year deal two days before Christmas. They also re-upped with Hideki Matsui for four years the previous month, but outside of securing two-thirds of their outfield it was a fairly quiet winter.
The ’06-’07 offseason was initially dominated by Daisuke Matsuzaka speculation until the Red Sox blew everyone out of the water with their insane bid, which prompted the Yankees to make their own ill-advised Japanese signing that winter in Kei Igawa. However, the most important move of that offseason was the bringing of Andy Pettitte back into the fold in the first of what wound up being four straight one-year deals.
The ’07-’08 offseason was perhaps the most intense I’ve ever experienced as a Yankee fan, as rabid talk of the Yankees acquiring Johan Santana for a package centered around Phil Hughes drove me to the point of kickstarting my Yankee blogging career. RAB of course also launched its heralded “Save the Big Three” campaign, and after all of the hoopla the Big Three did indeed make it through that offseason as Yankees. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy subsequently rewarded the Yankees with some abysmal pitching performances that season, but you know what they say about baseball, Suzyn. For the second straight winter the Yankees didn’t make any major external personnel moves, with the primary signings coming in the form of re-inking Jorge Posada to a four-year deal, and A-Rod to the dumbest contract of all time.
The 2008-2009 offseason was the most expensive in franchise history, but also yielded immediate fruit. Sabathia dominated the headlines and eventually agreed to his historic pact after a few weeks of silence, and the team followed that up by adding A.J. Burnett to the fold. At that point, it seemed as though the team was finished shopping, and while I’d been banging the Mark Teixeira drum all winter long, all signs were pointing to Tex signing with Boston. Which is why I’ll never forget finding out that Tex had indeed agreed to a deal on December 23, as that was pretty much the best holiday surprise ever.
Fresh off their 27th World Series trophy, the Yankees weren’t content to rest on their laurels, and made several big moves to heat the Hot Stove up during the ’09-’10 offseason, trading for Curtis Granderson and re-acquiring Home Run Javy Vazquez. They even brought what wound up being my personal biggest cause célèbre back into the fold in re-signing my favorite and yours, OBP Jesus himself, Nick “The Stick” Johnson. Of course, seeing as how Nick Johnson’s gotta Nick Johnson, he obviously got injured and wound up being near-useless, but I still have fond memories of how loudly I was beating the Johnson drum and how exciting it was to find that the Yanks were indeed signing him.
And of course, last offseason was all about Cliff Lee, until it wasn’t anymore, forcing Yankee bloggers to write post after post about every potential scrapheap option available to the Yankees, until they actually did sign what appeared to be two of the scrappiest of the entire heap in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
Which brings us to today. To be fair, this offseason hasn’t been entirely devoid of rumors and speculation. We know the Yankees have been linked to C.J. Wilson, but internally view him as more of a #3/#4 starter and will only acquire him if they can pay him like one. We also know the Yankees like Yu Darvish, and while most if not all of us at RAB wholeheartedly endorse a Darvish pursuit, it seems less and less likely that he’ll be posted with each passing day. And the team will continue to be mentioned in any and all trade rumors regarding young starting pitchers that may or may not be available, as these are the kinds of rumors that make the Hot Stove burn bright during cold winter nights, although as Cashman has been fond of saying for a good while now, he doesn’t seem terribly inclined to move any of his own players at current asking prices.
Unfortunately all of this inertia has made life a bit difficult for those of us trying to find a fresh angle to write about the team on a daily basis. However, in the aftermath of the Cliff Lee non-signing, standing relatively pat for the remainder of last offseason (with the exception of Pedro Feliciano; I’m pretty sure I could get a deal with the Yankees if I threw with my left hand) and continuing to stand his ground at the trade deadline back at the end of July, Brian Cashman’s strategy of waiting things out — and perhaps not even making a significant move at all — may not be such a bad thing. Especially if Kenny Williams finally comes calling bearing gifts of John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd.