Yankees have expressed interest in Grady Sizemore

Via Jerry Crasnick (Insider req’d), the Yankees are one of at least eight teams to express interest in Grady Sizemore and may have requested his medical reports. The medical stuff is pretty standard, so I wouldn’t ready much into it at all.

The 29-year-old Sizemore is reportedly looking for a one-year contract to rebuild his value, sorta like Adrian Beltre did with the Red Sox. He’s had five surgeries since 2009 (one on each knee, one on his left elbow, and two for sports hernias), which is why he’s only played 210 games over the last three seasons after playing in at least 157 games every year from 2005-2008. Sizemore has hit just .234/.314/.413 when healthy over the last three years, and frankly I’m not sure what the Yankees would do with him. He’s obviously looking to play everyday if he wants to rebuild his value on a one-year deal. I don’t really see the fit, but there’s no harm in kicking the tires.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: George Sherrill

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As always, one of the Yankees’ goals for the offseason is to secure a reliable left-handed reliever to partner with Boone Logan. Whether or not they actually need a second lefty for the bullpen is up for debate, but they’ve made it pretty clear that finding a second southpaw is important to them.

Other than the fact that he’s left-handed and a free agent, there’s really nothing that makes George Sherrill stand out from the crowd. Yeah, he does have a bit of an interesting back story, playing for four different independent league teams before making his big league debut as a 26-year-old for the Mariners in 2003. He was also part of the five-player package the Orioles received in exchange for Erik Bedard, and has since moved on to the Dodgers and Braves. He is left-handed and breathing, so let’s break down his qualifications…

The Pros

  • Simply put, Sherrill annihilates left-handed batters. He held them to a .256/.275/.333 batting line with 32 strikeouts and just one walk in 81 plate appearances in 2011, and over the last three seasons it’s a .192/.246/.258 line with 80 strikeouts and 17 walks in 252 plate appearances. He just crushes same-side hitters.
  • He has a fairly generic two-pitch repertoire, throwing a mid-to-high-80’s fastball and a low-to-mid–70’s slider. You really don’t have to worry about his losing his stuff or anything like that, there’s not much to lose. Left-handed batters have swung-and-missed at the slider nearly 20% of the time since the start of 2009 (17.6%, to be exact).
  • Sherrill is no stranger to the AL East, having spent a year-and-a-half closing for the Orioles in 2008 and 2009. He won’t require any kind of draft pick compensation to sign, and after completing a one-year deal worth $1.2M with the Braves, he’s unlikely to get a multi-year contract or anything more than a modest raise this offseason.

The Cons

  • In typical lefty specialist fashion, Sherrill is close to unusable against right-handed batters. He held them to a .236/.358/.364 batting line in 68 plate appearances in 2011, but that includes just six strikeouts and ten unintentional walks. Over the last three years, righties have hit .288/.373/.474 against him with 44 strikeouts and 43 walks (nine intentional) in 359 plate appearances.
  • Sherrill is a fly ball pitcher, even against lefties. His career ground ball rate is just 36.1%, and it’s just north of 40% against left-handed batters over the last three seasons. It’s not a surprise that he’s given up one homer for every 12 innings pitched as a big leaguer (0.75 HR/9).
  • Sherrill has been on the disabled list in three of the last five years. He missed basically all of September with elbow inflammation this year, lost two weeks due to back tightness last year, and was sidelined for a month with shoulder inflammation in 2008.
  • He wears his hat with a flat brim, and it looks pretty stupid. Nicknames include “The Brim Reaper” and “Flat Breezy” according to Wikipedia.

I loathe the concept of lefty specialists, but the Yankees obviously place a pretty high value on them judging by all the money they’ve spent on Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte in recent years. Dominant lefty specialists can absolutely be valuable pieces of a bullpen, but it’s the guys that are no better than average that really defeat the point and drive me nuts. Those guys are on the roster only because of the hand they throw with, not because they have a chance to be successful. I hate that.

Anyway, Sherrill is one of those lefty specialists with a track record of shutting down lefties, something he’s been doing basically since he broke into the league with the Mariners. That doesn’t guarantee future success though, something the Yankees have learned the hard way the last few seasons. Relievers really are a roll of the dice, especially specialists who live their lives one small sample size to the next. I don’t necessarily endorse a Sherrill signing, but I’d much rather see the Yankees take a shot with him on a one-year deal than someone else on a multiple year pact.

Matt Kemp’s Contract And The Yankees

(US Presswire)

The Dodgers’ ownership situation is a total mess at the moment, but that didn’t stop the club from locking up Matt Kemp for the better part of a decade. The center fielder and likely NL MVP agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $160M yesterday, securing the kind of deal that only comes along when 27-year-old center fielders have MVP-caliber seasons. Funny how that worked out.

Many Yankees fans, myself included, were already fitting Kemp for pinstripes since he was due to become a free agent after next season. Nick Swisher‘s contract also expires then, so naturally the Yankees would just sign one of the very best players in the world to fill the right field void, he’d crush opposite field bombs like this, and we’d all live happily ever after. I had a feelingĀ  the Dodgers would find a way to keep Kemp long-term (it’s only a matter of time before they sign Clayton Kershaw long-term as well), but now that dream scenario of signing him after next season is officially the table.

The Yankees still have to figure out what’s going on in right field though, because there isn’t anyone in the farm system coming up to fill the void and the idea of moving Jesus Montero or Derek Jeter out there is just a pipe dream. The free agent market without Kemp still boasts some star caliber names, but none are as young or offensively dominant as the Dodgers’ cornerstone. Josh Hamilton is a great story, but he’ll be 32 shortly after Opening Day 2013 and has had major problems staying healthy in recent years. It’s fair to wonder how his past substance abuse will hinder his ability to stay on the field down the road. Andre Ethier can’t hit lefties (.270 wOBA vs. LHP last three years) and is arguably the worst defensive outfielder in the game. Unless you happen to have a strong affinity for Carlos Quentin or Shane Victorino, there’s not much else to see here.

Without Kemp on the market, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ best long-term option in right field is the guy they have out there right now. Swisher certainly isn’t without his faults, but he’s extremely durable, hits for power from both sides of the plate, and catches everything he’s supposed to in the outfield. The Yankees know him (and his medical history) better than anyone else, and he offers a level of certainty that I really don’t see in the other candidates. Hamilton is the high upside play, but he could easily turn into the position player version of Carl Pavano. If a reasonable agreement – say three years or so – can be worked out between the Yankees and Swisher, then that is probably the team’s best bet with Kemp now a non-option.

Thankfully, the right field question isn’t one that needs an answer right now. The Yankees have an above-average player set to man the position in 2012 and twelve months for the market to develop. Trade options could emerge, internal options could emerge, all sorts of stuff can happen. Unfortunately Matt Kemp won’t be the answer, but that’s okay. That’ll give the Yankees more money to spend on pitching anyway.

Yankees have spoken to Andruw Jones about returning

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have spoken to Scott Boras about possibly bringing Andruw Jones back in 2012. Boras also confirmed that his client had left knee surgery after the season, which was expected after he played with a small tear all year.

Jones, 34 in April, started off slowly this past season but hit the snot out of the ball in the second half, finishing the year with a .371 wOBA overall and a .400 wOBA against left-handed pitchers. It didn’t come out of nowhere either; he had a .364 wOBA overall and a .402 wOBA against lefties in 2010. Jones is almost the perfect guy for the job because he works deep counts, hits for huge power, is capable on defense, and is a veteran guy who’s seen it all before, but I do have to think he’d jump at the chance to be a full-time player if another club offered him the opportunity.

Open Thread: Planet Earth

The Yankees haven’t made many transactions on November 14th throughout team history, unless you count signing some guys named Corey Lee and Marc Ronan in 2002 and 1996, respectively. Instead, I’ll leave you with that collection of time-lapse sequences from the International Space Station, which I found on Gawker over the weekend. The neatest part(s) is seeing the flashes of lightning in the clouds, that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Monday Night Football game is the Vikings at the Packers (8:30pm ET on ESPN), and that’s pretty much it in the world of sports. You folks know how this works for now, so have at it. Anything goes.

Discussion Topic: Is Phil Hughes‘ future in the rotation or bullpen?

Hughes working out at Athletics Performance Institute this winter

By now we all know that Phil Hughes showed up to Spring Training out of shape last year, something Brian Cashman acknowledged this weekend. “He came him into spring training a little bit out of shape,” said Cashman to Andrew Marchand. “Not grossly, not overly, but he wasn’t in optimal position when Spring Training opened. That is not going to happen in 2012.”

To make sure that doesn’t happen again next season, Hughes is working out at the Athletes’ Performances Institute near his home this winter. “He is determined,” said Cashman. “He is going to Athletes’ Performance out there in California, which is something he did two years ago to be in optimal shape.” Based on his Twitter feed, Hughes has been working out with Blue Jays’ ace Ricky Romero almost daily. Next season is going to be pretty important for Phil, who is running out of time to prove himself as a viable starter for the Yankees. Glad to see that he’s taking the offseason work a little more seriously this time around.

The 2012 Bench Wishlist: A righty who can hit righties

(Photos: Johnson via Jonathan Daniel/Getty, Reimold via AP)

While many have given Andruw Jones his proper due for a terrific 2011 season off the bench, a closer review of his numbers made me wonder just how good his year was in a historical context. Granted, the bar for past Yankee bench players’ performances is a low one, but a look at every player who has played for the Yankees since 2002 shows that Jones — with a .371 wOBA and 1.4 fWAR — was probably the best non-full-time player on a Yankee roster of the past decade.

Jones of course was brought in to fill the Marcus Thames lefty-masher role, and rather thoroughly obliterated expectations. Unlike Thames, he unfortunately didn’t also have a surprisingly strong campaign against same-side pitchers (only a .316 wOBA vs. righties), but he of course torched lefties (.400 wOBA) while — again, unlike Thames — actually contributing on defense.

Indications are that Brian Cashman is interested in a return engagement with Jones, and while on the surface that seems like a strong move for the 2012 bench, it’s also probably a bit of a reach to expect that Jones has another .371 wOBA year in his bat going into his age 35 season.

Given the team’s relative struggles against northpaws this past season, it may might make some sense for the Yankees to buck orthodoxy and look into signing a right-handed hitting reserve who can actually hit right-handed pitching. I realize that no team in MLB is likely to actually specifically target a bench player with a reverse platoon split given everyone’s obsessions with matchups, but I don’t see why we have to limit ourselves to right-handers who can only hit lefties. The Yankees already destroy left-handed pitching as it is.

Reviewing the list of potentially available righties who fared well against RHP in 2011 yields two interesting names: Reed Johnson (.359 wOBA vs. RHP in 157 PAs), and Nolan Reimold (.360 wOBA vs. RHP in 207 PAs). Personal favorite Josh Willingham also fits the bill, though it seems incredibly unlikely that he won’t get a starting gig somewhere.

If it seems like the Yanks have been looking at Johnson forever, it’s because they pretty much have — back in the 2009-2010 offseason, there was a fair amount of speculation about the Yankees possibly looking at Johnson as the right-handed component of a left field platoon. Remember, this was before Brett Gardner established himself as a capable everyday player. Johnson wound up signing a one-year, $800,000 contract ($250k in incentives) with the Dodgers and had a terrible year, putting up a .287 wOBA over 215 PAs. He was abysmal against righties (.235 wOBA) and serviceable against lefties (.342). Johnson then signed a one-year, $900,000 minor-league contract with the Cubs last offseason, and wound up turning in a .354 wOBA in 266 PAs, with the aforementioned .359 wOBA vs. righties and .347 against lefties.

However, a deeper look into the numbers shows that the .359 wOBA was quite fluky, as Johnson’s a career .312 wOBA hitter against righties in over 2,000 PAs. Signing Johnson in the hope that he’ll be an asset against RHP is likely wishful thinking unless he all of a sudden figured out how to hit righties at age 35. That said, if the Yankees don’t bring Jones back, Johnson could probably fill the designated lefty-masher role, as he is the owner of a career .363 wOBA against LHP.

The 27-year-old Reimold’s a bit more of an interesting case. He burst onto the scene in 2009, and raked to a .365 wOBA over 411 MLB PAs after beginning the year utterly annihilating AAA (.530 wOBA in 130 PAs). Reimold took a huge step backwards in his sophomore season, breaking camp with the team but slumping horribly out of the gate, and bottomed out at .205/.302/.337 on May 11 before being demoted to AAA. Reimold hit OK after his demotion, though didn’t exactly light the world on fire (.341 wOBA in 401 PAs) and was recalled in September more due to rosters expanding than really deserving it. Reimold finished the year even worse than he began it, posting a woeful .212/.229/.303 line over the season’s final month.

Reimold began the 2011 season back in AAA, and didn’t really do anything to distinguish himself (.332 wOBA) but got called up anyway in mid-May and stuck in the bigs for the remainder of the season, ultimately posting a .341 wOBA across 305 PAs (including finishing the year out strongly with a .426 September wOBA). As previously noted, that full-season wOBA consisted of a .360 mark against same-sided pitchers (though strangely only a .295 mark against lefties), and Reimold has been a slightly reverse-platoon hitter throughout his brief MLB career, with a .345 mark against righties compared to .332 against lefties.

Now, I’m not saying Reimold is the answer to the team’s bench prayers — nor would he be particularly easy to acquire, given how loath Peter Angelos is to trade with the Yankees — but given that he’s spent the last two seasons still trying to reacquire his 2009 mojo, perhaps a change of venue would be beneficial. As to what Reimold would cost, I have no idea, but value-wise he’s probably not worth more than perhaps a B-level pitching prospect.

Again, the likelihood of the Yankees and Orioles actually consummating a deal is slim to none, but if new Oriole GM Dan Duquette was willing to talk and the price was right, the Yanks could do worse than considering Reimold (10.3% career BB%) for a seat on the bench.