Mailbag: Betances as Burnett

(Photos: Betances via J. Meric/Getty; Burnett via Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Arad asks: If Dellin Betances has a career similiar to A.J. Burnett would that be a positive? Would you take that right now? I think I would.

Oh hell yes, I’d take that in heartbeat. Burnett has been awful these last two seasons, there’s no denying that, but the first eleven seasons of his career were pretty damn good. For starters, he was almost exactly one year younger than Betances is right now when he got to the big leagues, and about two months younger than Betances is right now when he stuck in the big leagues for good. There was a broken foot and an elbow injury (caused by a batted ball) mixed in, but here is what Burnett did during his pre-arbitration years (1999-2002)….

Age 22-25: 78 G 501.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 7.55 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 7.4 fWAR, 6.3 bWAR

Not great, but definitely a serviceable young arm for the rotation. Burnett made four starts in 2003 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery, so his arbitration years (2003-2005) were impacted a great deal by injury…

Age 26-28: 56 G, 352 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.49 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 8.0 fWAR, 4.9 bWAR

A.J. had 55 million reasons to leave the Marlins for the Blue Jays after the 2005 season, so for his six team controlled years, Florida got 853.2 IP of 15.4 fWAR and 11.2 bWAR pitching out of the right-hander. For comparison’s sake, Edwin Jackson has produced 14.0 fWAR and 10.7 bWAR during those same six years of his career, but in 225.1 more innings. Those first six years are the ones you have to focus on when talking about prospects, because they aren’t guaranteed to remain with the team beyond that point. For the sake of completeness, here is what Burnett did from 2006-2009, before his last two disaster years…

Age 29-32: 114 G, 729.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 8.88 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 14.9 fWAR, 10.4 bWAR

Betances and Burnett are similar in that they are hard throwing but erratic, and also possess a knockout curveball. Dellin’s changeup is reportedly better than anything A.J. has ever shown, though. Burnett skipped right over Triple-A (just four career Triple-A starts, and three were rehab starts from 2004-2007), which Betances obviously won’t do. They even have the injury bug in common, though A.J. didn’t start having health problems until he got to the show.

If the Yankees get six years out of Betances like the six Florida got out of Burnett, they should be thrilled. If he manages to stick around for another four years after that and gives them what Burnett gave Toronto for three years and New York for one, then it will have been a minor miracle. Yeah, he will have fallen short of his ceiling in that case (most do), but he would have developed into an above-average starter for ten years. That’s better than most. Anyway, a question like this is begging for a poll, so…

If Betances had Burnett's career, would you take it right now?
View Results

Edwin Jackson’s Changing Market

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As the Yankees have continued their (extremely passive) pursuit of pitching this winter, we’ve wasted far too much bandwidth sorting through all different kinds of options. Joe recapped pretty much all of them yesterday, though John Danks came off the board last night by signing an extension with the maybe rebuilding, maybe going for it White Sox. Unfortunately, that contract affects one of the other pitchers the Yankees may or may not be targeting.

As some have pointed out this winter, Danks and Edwin Jackson are basically the same pitcher, or at least they’re the same pitcher in terms of performance over the last three years. Danks is 18 months younger and a fastball-cutter-changeup command lefty while Jackson is a fastball-slider power righty, which certainly changes how you’d project them going forward, at least somewhat. Point being, they’re comparable pitchers in terms of expected value, which is why the deal Danks agreed to last night will impact what Jackson gets this winter.

For one, Danks wasn’t a free agent. He was still under Chicago’s control as an arbitration-eligible player, meaning he couldn’t peddle his services to the highest bidder. Despite that, he still got a fat contract. Jackson is a true free agent with a comparable performance to Danks, so he should be able to find more on the open market as the last available pitcher with some peak years remaining. The kicker here is that both guys are represented by Scott Boras, who does absolutely everything for a reason. If we fans know that Danks and Jackson are comparable, you can be sure Boras does.

Now I know hearing five years and $65M+ for Jackson is a little wacky, just because he just come off as the type of pitcher deserving of that kind of commitment. It also doesn’t seem like there’s a team out there that would give him that much, but I refuse to bet against Boras. This is the same guy that got a team that didn’t need a seventh, eighth, or ninth inning reliever to give Rafael Soriano three years and $35M. Michael Young plays third base, is making $80M across five years, and is the face of the Rangers’ franchise? No big deal, he got them to displace Young (again) and sign Adrian Beltre for that same five year, $80M contract. Boras is the best in the business for a reason.

The Yankees appear to be in no rush to upgrade their rotation, which probably is the best way to do things. Rushing into decisions is usually bad news, as the Phillies learned when they unnecessarily gave up their first round pick to sign Jonathan Papelbon before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement had been announced. Signing Jackson for five years and too many million isn’t a smart move just because he’s the last pitcher on the market with a smidgen of upside, but that’s the road someone will end up traveling. I’d prefer to see the Yankees go short-term with Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt and let the pitching market develop as the season progresses.

Yankees, Jones haven’t made much progress on new deal

Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees and Andruw Jones haven’t made much progress towards a new contract for 2012 yet, though both sides are interested in a reunion and have stayed in touch. Some other clubs have expresses interest in the outfielder, possibly even those darned Red Sox.

Brian Cashman said during the Winter Meetings that pitching was the priority and the bench would have to wait, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jones was looking to sign relatively soon. He was beastly off the bench last season, especially against lefties, and it was basically a repeat of his 2010 season. I’m not at all concerned that it was a fluke. Considering that the backup option is someone like Justin Maxwell, it would behoove the Yankees to get Andruw back on board as soon as possible.

Cross another name off the list: White Sox extend John Danks

Via Jon Heyman, the White Sox and John Danks have agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $65M. Danks, 26, was one of many pitchers we’d identified as possible trade targets for the Yankees, though apparently Kenny Williams was asking for two of Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. That’s simply too much for a very good but not great pitcher with only one year of control left before free agency. We never did hear anything about how interested the Yankees actually were in the left-hander, but feel free to speculate.

Open Thread: WPIX and the 1987 Yankees

Ah yes, the pre-YES Network days. Remember when WPIX Channel 11 and MSG broadcast Yankees games? That seems like a lifetime ago now. That’s back when Tim McCarver was actually a pretty good announcer, though he was doing Mets games back then. With all due respect to the guys calling the games now, it’s going to be tough to top the days of Jim Kaat, Bobby Murcer, and Phil Rizzuto in the booth.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. As far as local sports go, all you’ve got is the Nets at the Knicks in each teams’ first preseason game (7:30pm ET on MSG). Talk about anything you like here, go bananas.

(h/t @flipflopflying)

The remaining pitching market

If the Yankees don’t make a move for a pitcher this off-season, it won’t be for lack of options. To this point we’ve seen two free agent signings, an NPB posting, and two trades involving pitchers who would represent an upgrade to the Yankees. Perhaps they think that the prices to acquire these pitchers does not match the upgrade they’d receive, but the opportunities are there nonetheless. Brian Cashman figures to have a few more chances to upgrade later this winter, as there are a number of actually or reportedly available pitchers.

Hiroki Kuroda

In terms of pure results, he’s the best available arm. His 3.31 ERA since 2009 ranks 23rd among all qualified starters. Even better, he’s reportedly seeking a one-year contract at a reasonable $12 or $13 million. The Yankees have been frequently connected to Kuroda, and it stands to reason that they’ll remain involved until he does sign somewhere.

While he does have the top results, there are some downsides to Kuroda. For instance, the hitters on the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are better than those on the Padres, Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks. The AL East also features more hitter-friendly parks than the NL West. Then there’s Kuroda’s age, 37. A one-year deal helps limit some of that risk, but if he shows decline in 2012 he might not present much of an upgrade.

Wandy Rodriguez

Not far behind Kuroda in terms of results is Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros shopped him at last year’s trade deadline, but the Yankees weren’t interested unless Houston paid a significant portion of his remaining salary. He’s owed $36 million for the next three years, because his 2014 option becomes a player option if traded. That makes him much less attractive, meaning Houston will have to kick in some cash if they want to trade him. While they showed reluctance earlier in the off-season, they now appear willing to make that trade-off.

Not only does the NL Central have a number of top-flight hitters, but none of them actually play for the Astros. That is, Rodriguez has the burden of facing all of these elite hitters. The closest they ever had was Hunter Pence, but he wasn’t even a top-five hitter in the division. That does make him look a bit more attractive. He also has fewer pitchers’ parks in the division. Yet the Yankees appear not at all interested. That’s probably because of the commitment length. Were Rodriguez signed only through 2013 they might be more on board. But three years to a pitcher you’re not totally sold on? While Rodriguez might help, it’s understandable why the Yankees are shying away.

Roy Oswalt

In the last three years, despite multiple bouts with lower back injuries, Oswalt has accumulated a 3.46 ERA in 531 innings. All told that’s a pretty solid accomplishment. Since we just discussed Oswalt yesterday there’s no need to elaborate further. He remains a tantalizing yet risky option.

Gio Gonzalez

There has been no shortage of Gio Gonzalez news this winter. The A’s seem pretty intent on trading him, and judging by how slowly they’re moving they’re also trying to extract every last drop of value from another team. This makes complete sense. Gonzalez ranks 39th in ERA among all starters from 2009-2011, despite his horrible 2009 showing. He’s been among the best in terms of results the last two seasons. Even when you look at only his away stats, he still fares pretty well: 3.96 ERA in 238.2 innings since 2009. That takes away some of the concern that he’s the product of a large ballpark.

The Nationals were rumored to be pushing hard for Gonzalez, offering up a four-for-one trade that will involve prospects Brad Peacock and Derek Norris, among others. Still, four-for-one deals can get complicated, since they typically lack top-end quality. Today on, Jim Bowden suggested a few trades for Gonzalez (subscription required). For the Yankees he suggests Dellin Betances, David Phelps, and Austin Romine. Since Gonzalez has four years remaining of team control, this could work out for the Yankees. The only catch: Oakland might find a better package, and one that fits their needs better, elsewhere.

Matt Garza

Garza represents an interesting option, if only because he’s experienced success in the AL East. But the Cubs are apparently asking for a lot. Would the Yankees be willing to trade Banuelos and at least one other top-five prospect (Gary Sanchez or Mason Williams), plus other pieces, to get the last two years of Garza’s pre-free agency years? It seems unlikely. While he’s been good, he might be a bit more expensive than other pitchers. If he costs more than Gonzalez, he certainly isn’t worth it.

John Danks

You can check out our large and growing John Danks archive for various takes on the 27-year-old left-hander. He’s an enticing option for a few reasons. He’s been solid for the last four years, he has AL experience and in a hitters’ park no less, and he is conceivably someone the Yanks could sign long-term after the 2012 season. The issue, as with Garza, is that the White Sox are asking the moon for him. It’s simply not worth a top-five prospect for a player who will reach free agency after this season. At a price more commensurate with his overall value, Danks could be the best target on the board.

Edwin Jackson

A free agent, Jackson requires just one resource to acquire: money. The Yankees have that in abundance, though they’re seemingly not throwing it around this off-season. They might also be reluctant to sign Jackson for four years. As with Oswalt, we covered Edwin Jackson recently, so there’s no need to dive any deeper into his case. He’s there for the taking and could represent an upgrade in the Yanks rotation.

That brings us to a dozen candidates who could have upgraded, or still might upgrade, the Yanks rotation in 2012. All of the candidates, save for Darvish, have sported ERAs under 4.00 since 2009. They’ve all thrown a good number of innings, and everyone on the list, save for Oswalt and maybe Latos, has been relatively healthy. If the Yankees are serious about upgrading their rotation, they’ll connect on one of these 12 options, even though there are just seven remaining.

Baseball America’s Top Ten Yankees Prospects

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It’s prospect season, and Baseball America is continuing to pump out their team top ten lists pretty much every other day. All of the NL lists have been published, and today the crazy stacked Rays top ten hit their site. If the name Mikie Mahtook sounds familiar, it’s because he’s Tampa’s tenth best prospect and the guy they took with the draft pick the Yankees gave them for signing Rafael Soriano. They say the LSU product “possesses the power/speed combination to make an impact in the majors” and “he’s an advanced hitter who could move quickly.” So hooray for that.

Anyway, the Yankees top ten list will be released online two weeks from today, January 4th, but if you have a Baseball America subscription with access to the digital version of their magazine, you can see the list today. Friend of the site and cat lover Leonora has said access and shared the top ten list on Twitter earlier today…

  1. Jesus Montero
  2. Manny Banuelos
  3. Dellin Betances
  4. Gary Sanchez
  5. Mason Williams
  6. Dante Bichette Jr.
  7. Ravel Santana
  8. Austin Romine
  9. J.R. Murphy
  10. Slade Heathcott

John Manuel, who’s been writing up the Yankees top tens for eight years now, very clearly went heavy on tools this time around. The top three was the easy part, though some might argue Betances over Banuelos. Bottom line, those three guys should be the top three names in any Yankees prospect list you see this winter. Hard to take it seriously otherwise.

Sanchez at four isn’t terribly surprising, though chances are I’ll have him behind Williams whenever I get around to doing my annual Top 30 List. The 19-year-old had a very busy season in 2011, though not necessarily in a good way. He was just so-so in first half with Low-A Charleston before being sent back to Extended Spring Training for disciplinary reasons, then he demolished the ball in the second half before a broken finger ended his season prematurely. Baseball America still loves his bat and plate discipline, but they also note that he struggles with breaking balls, both hitting them and catching them. According to Manual, some scouts even said he stopped calling for breaking balls behind the plate, which is a problem.

Bichette and Santana making the top ten over essentially big league ready arms like David Phelps and Adam Warren (Hector Noesi isn’t eligible) is a bit surprising to me, but it’s not crazy. They topped the Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects List back in September, and really the only questions are long-term position (Bichette) and health (Santana). Ravel is reportedly doing well following his brutal and season-ending ankle injury, though he still has a ways to go with his rehab. He is expected to be ready in time for camp though, which is great news. Heathcott was another interesting top ten guy given his continued shoulder problems, but like I said, the tools won out this year.

I’ve had a tendency to lean towards probability in recent years, valuing big league readiness a little more than long-term potential. That’s a personal preference though, there’s nothing wrong with placing an emphasis on upside and potential stardom. Many times it’s too hard to ignore (Sanchez, Williams), but anything less than a potential star gives me pause when compared to his brethren at the higher levels. The Yankees farm system is down from where it was a year ago, but it’s still a top ten system with star power up top and near-MLB ready depth below that. Baseball America’s top ten list reflects the upside this winter.