Open Thread: Taiwan

(Ben Platt/MLB.com)

Hard to believe that’s it’s already November, but the good news is that we get some baseball back. The 2011 MLB All-Star Series in Taiwan started today, and the game will be broadcast tonight on MLB Network at 9pm ET. It’s not live, the game has already been played, so I won’t spoil it here. If you’re interesting in knowing who won and what happened though, just click here for the recap. All I will tell you is that both Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano (the headliners) did play in the game, and Jeremy Guthrie was the starter. Former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang is schedule to start the finale of the five-game series on Sunday. He’s pitching for the Chinese Taipei team, of course.

Anyway, here is your open thread for this wonderful yet chilly evening. None of the local hockey teams are in action, so it looks like the MLB-Chinese Taipei game is your only sports for the night. You can talk about that and pretty much anything else you want here. Have at it.

Discussion Topic: Do you think CC Sabathia left money on the table by taking the extension from the Yankees?

Yankees, Garcia have mutual interest in 2012 reunion

Via Mark Hale and George King, the Yankees have interest in bringing Freddy Garcia back in 2012. “There’s definitely interest on their part and there’s interest on Freddy’s part in coming back,” said Garcia’s agent Peter Greenberg. The NY Post duo also reports that the Yankees are likely to offer Garcia arbitration, a Type-B free agent.

It’s very unlikely that Sweaty Freddy will repeat his 3.62 ERA, but his 4.12 FIP was almost exactly league average this past summer. Starters that can give a team 150 league average innings have definite value at the back of the rotation (Garcia threw 146.2 IP in 2011), which I assume is where the Yankees hope to use him next season. Now, if they’re counting on him to be their number three starter…

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.