The RAB Radio Show: July 29th, 2011

We’re talking plenty of deadline stuff, so let’s get to the bullets.

  • Of course we’re talking about Ubaldo Jimenez, both in terms of benefits and costs. How bad do the Yankees want him? If they really want him, you can expect a deal before 4 p.m. on Sunday. If they’re waiting for him to come down to a lower price tier, it’ll be a last-minute thing.
  • There are other starters, too, and we spend the bulk of the show talking about them. Wandy Rodriguez could be a last-minute addition at a cheap price. Hiroki Kuroda might be available, and it looks like the Yanks are as good a bet as any for his services. And don’t forget John Danks.
  • There are other positions where the Yanks could add a player. Mike’s big on a lefty reliever. There’s DH, too, but that solution might come internally.

Podcast run time 53:03

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

RAB Live Chat

Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Four games in 48 hours must suck for the players, but it’s pretty awesome as a fan. The Yankees and Orioles will be making up an April rain out as part of a doubleheader this Saturday, New York’s second doubleheader of the season. The first six games these two teams played all ended up in the win column for the Yankees, who outscored Baltimore 51-18 in the process.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

Shockingly, Buck Showalter’s magic doesn’t work when he doesn’t have much talent on roster. The Orioles have won just five of 13 games since the All-Star break and have been outscored 75 -55. They’ve scored more than three runs just twice in their last seven games. Overall, Baltimore is buried in the AL East cellar with a 41-60 record the league’s worst run differential (-111).

Orioles On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Orioles can hit a little, with a team .320 wOBA that is sixth best in the AL. They’re basically league average, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Their best hitter all season has been J.J. Hardy, who sports a .365 wOBA. Adam Jones is right behind him at .357 wOBA, and Mark Reynolds is pretty close to him at .350 wOBA. Those three have combined for 57 of the team’s 119 homeruns (47.9%). They’re Baltimore’s three best hitters, but they’re so spread out in the lineup that it takes away from the overall offense. Hardy leads off, Jones bats third, and Reynolds typically bats seventh. Hard to sustain rallies when your three best hitters are spread out like they; they should really be batting 2-3-4.

Nick Markakis is still a slightly above-average hitter (.324 wOBA), but not the star he looked like he was on his way to becoming a few years ago. Vladimir Guerrero (.309 wOBA) and Derrek Lee (.306) are basically reanimated corpses these days, impacting the game maybe once a week. They’re batting 4-5 solely because of reputation. Luke Scott (.309 wOBA) and Brian Roberts (.275) are out with injuries (Scott for the year) and have been replaced by Nolan Reimold (.344 wOBA in 36 games) and a combination of Robert Andino (.300 wOBA) and Blake Davis (.300). Matt Wieters is having a very nice year for a backstop (.318), but his platoon split is massive (.398 wOBA vs. LHP, .287 vs. RHP). Bench pieces Craig Tatum, Josh Bell, and Felix Pie are negligible, though Bell can run into one on occasion. Jones and Markakis (eight each) are the only players on the roster that can be considered stole base threats.

Orioles On The Mound

Friday, RHP Jeremy Guthrie (vs. A.J. Burnett): I’m setting the over/under on hit batsmen in this game at 2.5, whatcha got? Guthrie’s been plunking Yankees basically since the day he got to Baltimore, and it’s not confirmation bias; ten of his 44 batters he’s hit in his career have worn pinstripes. No other team has been plunked more than six times. Guthrie is having a typical Jeremy Guthrie season, with 5.57 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9 and a 4.36 FIP in 137.1 IP. His ground ball rate (36.7%) is way down as is his strand rate (69.8%), which is why his ERA is at 4.33 and not in the 3.00’s. Guthrie’s repertoire remains unchanged, low-90’s fastballs (four and two-seamers), low-80’s slider, low-80’s changeup, and a low-70’s curve. The Yankees have seen him a zillion times before, so there’s no surprises here.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Saturday Game One, LHP Zach Britton (vs. Bartolo Colon/Ivan Nova): I’m not quote sure who is starting what game for the Yankees on Saturday, but Colon and Nova will be the two guys pitching. Britton is coming back up from the minors for the spot start, three weeks after an eight run, two outs recorded disaster against the Red Sox. He shut the Yankees down the only other time he faced them, holding them to one unearned run over seven innings. That was the 15-inning, Hector Noesi MLB debut game. Britton is a true-sinkerballer, generating a plethora of ground balls (55.1%) with his low-90’s two-seamer. He’ll also break out a mid-80’s changeup and a low-80’s slider, but he throws the sinker almost 75% of the time. Hopefully that Yankees take what they learned from that game in May and knock Britton out well before the seventh this time.

Saturday Game Two, TBA (vs. Colon/Nova): The Orioles haven’t announced their starter yet for this game, but all signs point to it being either Chris Tillman or Alfredo Simon, with the former the most likely bet. Tillman is the poster boy for Baltimore’s pitching trouble, all their prospects go backwards once they get to the show, losing velocity and command. It’s worse than what happened to Phil Hughes, because at least he had a physical issue to explain things. All of Baltimore’s guys are healthy. Tillman used to be a mid-90’s fastball, high-70’s curve guy, but now he mostly lives in the 87-89 range with a mid-70’s bender. He’s been in Triple-A since the end of May, and the Yankees have hit him very, very hard in the past (including earlier this year).

Simon has nice peripherals (3.39 FIP in 44.2 IP) and lively stuff (mid-90’s heat, high-80’s splitter, mid-80’s slider), but he just threw five innings and 103 pitches on Wednesday. He’d be on three days rest tomorrow, which is why Tillman will likely get the call. I should also probably mention that I don’t know what order Britton and Tillman/Simon are pitching, it could be Britton in the night cap.

Sunday, RHP Jake Arrieta (vs. Freddy Garcia): It has not been a good season for young Mr. Arrieta, who has already faced the Yankees twice and lost both games. His strikeout rate (7.01 K/9) is good but not great and his walk rate (4.17) is pushing the limits of acceptable, but giving up 1.65 homeruns for every nine innings pitched is as bad as it gets. Only Bronson Arroyo (2.12), Colby Lewis (1.73), and Brett Myers (1.66) have been more homer prone this year (min. 80 IP). The surprising thing is that Arrieta’s 45.2% ground ball rate is pretty good, he’s just got a knack for falling behind in the count and making mistakes. He’s a five-pitch guy, throwing low-90’s four and two-seamers to set up his mid-80’s slider, mid-80’s changeup, and high-70’s curve. The two breaking balls are his go-to secondary offerings.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Bullpen: The Orioles have two dynamite setup guys in their bullpen, but there’s a chance one of them will be traded before Sunday’s deadline. That’s Koji Uehara, who’s rumored to be on the block and of interest to several contenders. He’s got gaudy peripherals (11.74 K/9 and 1.57 BB/9) and an ERA (1.76) to match. The other guy is Jim Johnson, who’s a low-strikeout (5.85 K/9) ground ball specialist (62%). Mike Gonzalez is fine when used as a lefty specialist (same-side hitters have a .229/.280/.357 line against him this year), but the rest of the bullpen is pretty awful.

Closer Kevin Gregg has struck out almost exactly eight and walked exactly six batters for every nine innings pitched this year (4.86 FIP). Jason Berken is super duper homerun prone (1.82 HR/9), as is Chris Jakubauskas (1.77). Mark Hendrickson has walked five and struck out five in nine innings since being recalled. Lefty Troy Patton has nice numbers (12.60 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9) … but he’s thrown just five innings since being recalled. Uehara and Johnson are very good, but the rest of this cast is as sketchy as it gets.

Recommended Orioles Reading: Camden Crazies. If you want to go to any of the games this weekend, RAB Tickets can get you into the Stadium dirt cheap. Here’s some pricing info…

Mailbag: Hughes, Parraz, Kershaw, Banuelos

I cut back on the trade deadline stuff this morning, we’ve spent enough time discussing it already this week so I tried to mix things up a bit. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Anthony asks: Would you hesitate to trade Phil Hughes? He’s been on the Yankees since 2007 and hasn’t really been the starting pitcher that was hyped to be the next Roger Clemens.

Wasn’t it Jorge Posada that called him the next Clemens? Maybe it was Jason Giambi. Whoever it was, it wasn’t me. Just kinda reaffirms my stance that players generally have no clue what the hell they’re talking about, they’re terrible when it comes to analysis.

Anyway, no I wouldn’t hesitate trade Hughes but I wouldn’t just give him away. He’s struggling and just doesn’t look right physically, but I wouldn’t cut bait entirely out of frustration. That’s how you wind up with a bunch of middle relievers and two months of Edwin Jackson. The problem is that Hughes’ value is down, way down, so you’d be selling low on him. He’s not cheap ($2.7M salary this year) and he’s only under team control for two more years, so all that stuff that made him so desirable two or three years ago doesn’t really apply anymore. I’d trade anyone, but I’m generally opposed to selling low on young players.

Matt asks: What’s the deal with Jordan Parraz? Is he a legitimate prospect? He seems to be having a good year. What puts him behind Dickerson and Golson?

Parraz is a legitimate prospect, though he’s not any kind of future star. He’s the kind of guy you’ll find just outside a typical top 30 list. When Baseball America ranked him as the Royals’ 19th best prospect before last season, they said he was a “gap-to-gap hitter with below-average usable power, even though he shows above-average power in batting practice.” They lauded his defense, citing his 70 arm and ability to play center fielder. He’s having a very nice year with Triple-A Scranton, a .367 wOBA with 8.6% walks and a .146 ISO, showing that he can more than hold his own against upper level pitching.

Chris Dickerson and Greg Golson are ahead of him on the depth chart right now only because they’re on the 40-man roster. Both of those guys (as well as Justin Maxwell) will be out-of-options next year and likely gone, so I figure Parraz will step in as the up-and-down outfielder. He’s fringy, but he’s on par with Dan Brewer and a useful piece in moderation.

Anonymous asks: How legit of a prospect is Mark Montgomery, the “K” machine?

The Yankees’ 11th round pick this year, Montgomery is a righty reliever from Longwood University in Virginia. He struck out 48 in 30.1 IP for the Lancers this spring, and so far as a pro he has 28 strikeouts in 14.1 IP. Although he’s just 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs., Montgomery misses bats with two power pitches: a 91-92 mph fastball that has touched 94 in the past, and a low-to-mid-80’s slider that’s allergic to bats. That’s the pitch he uses to rack up all those whiffs.

The best case scenario, I mean if you really squint your eyes and dream, Montgomery does have some David Robertson in him as a short power reliever, though his slider is unlikely to be as effective against lefties as Robertson’s curve. Relievers with power stuff that have a history of missing bats are prospects, for sure, but we’re not going to know much about him until he gets to Double-A. Single-A hitters have no chance against a college reliever with that kind of stuff.

Louis asks: Given the fact that Clayton Kershaw is younger than Felix Hernandez and a lefty, would he theoretically be worth more in a trade? His peripherals this year are insane and even in the past have been pretty comparable to King Felix.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

Yeah, I think Kershaw has more trade value than Felix right now. He’s considerably cheaper at the moment since he has yet to hit his arbitration-eligible years, and he’s under team control through 2014 compared to 2015 for Hernandez. The lower cost (Felix gets $18M+ starting next year) pretty much offsets the one fewer year of team control.

A case can be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now, especially since he’s chopped his walk rate from 4.79 BB/9 in 2009 to just 2.36 this year. He’s just 23 years old and strikes out more than ten men per nine innings with two elite pitches (mid-90’s fastball and power curve) and two other very good offerings (slider and changeup). If I’m building my rotation from scratch right now, he’d be the guy I’d build it around. And no, the Dodgers aren’t going to trade him. Even with their uncertain ownership and financial situation, Kershaw is still so cheap that’ll be able to afford him for at least another year or two.

Reggie asks: Jon Heyman played mouth piece for Boras again Tuesday morning by reporting that Carlos Pena will almost assuredly get traded.  Do you think the NYY are a fit for a clear salary dump? Posada hasn’t hit for power or contact, and though Pena has contact issues, he does hit for power.  Pena could hit 10-12 homers down the stretch. But that Montero guy…

Pena had a brutal start to the season, missed some time with a hand injury, and since May 3rd he’s hit .236/.346/.516 with 20 homers. That’s pretty much the guy we’ve seen over the last few years, a dead pull hitter that will draw a lot walks and hit the ball out of the park while failing to hit for average. He’s legitimately a platoon guy, with a .371 wOBA against righties this year but just .247 against lefties. That split is pretty typical of his entire career.

I’m certain the Cubs would love to unload him and whatever money is left on his $10M salary, and he’s definitely an upgrade over Jorge Posada. I highly doubt anything will happen though, and as you alluded too, the Yankees do have a big bat waiting in Triple-A if they want a change at DH. Jesus Montero isn’t a lefty like Pena, but he might as well be with the way he drives the ball to right field. The Yankees need to focus on pitching, the offense will score plenty of runs.

Robbie asks: With Manny Banuelos struggling with his command this year, is it reasonable to assume that he won’t be in the starting rotation in 2012? I remember reading a while back that you had hoped him to come into the ML rotation next year.

Assuming he finishes out the year the way he’s been pitching all season, I still think we’ll see him at some point in 2012. Without having the slightest idea of what the starting rotation will look like eight months from now, I assume Banuelos (and Dellin Betances) will get long looks in Spring Training like Chien-Ming Wang did in 2005. They’ll probably head to Triple-A to start the year, but like Wang back then, they’ll be first in line for a call-up whenever a starter is needed. That’s assuming neither one is traded between now and then.

Banuelos hasn’t had a great year but his situation is like Montero’s, he’s basically a victim of his own talent. He was so good last year and the year before that when he didn’t perform to that level this year, it was considered a disappointment. Remember, Banuelos is still just 20 years old, and he’s striking out a batter an inning in Double-A. If he had been born in the U.S. and had gone to college, he’d be a sophomore and draft-eligible next summer. He’s way ahead of the development curve, and the “down” year doesn’t change much as far as expectations going forward. Maybe it just slows the fast track slightly, but that’s it.

Scouting the Market: Rich Harden

There was a time when I’d have been greatly excited at the thought of Rich Harden in pinstripes. He absolutely dazzled earlier in his career, though injuries held him back considerably. He’s been a bit more healthful in the last two years, though he did miss significant time this year with a lat muscle injury. So far he’s thrown five starts with middling results, and the Yankees were in attendance for the latest one. It was an OK start, as he went six innings and allowed two runs, striking out seven and walking just two, against the Rays. They were also in attendance for his last start, when he held the Yankees themselves to two runs in 5.1 innings.

Pros

  • It’s impossible to hear the name Rich Harden and not salivate over his ability to strike out batters. Even as he’s scrapped the devastating splitter in favor of a changeup, he’s still fanned his share of batters. This year he’s struck out more than a batter per inning in his five starts.
  • Unadjusted Pitch f/x has him returning to the splitter this year. That’s a little scary from an injury perspective, but tantalizing from a stuff perspective. Baseball Info Solutions is still classifying it as a changeup, though, so I’m not sure what to make of it.
  • SIERA, FanGraphs’ new ERA estimator, has liked him quite well in the past few years. The exception was last year, when he was apparently pitching hurt. That’s always a risk with Harden, but when he’s healthy he has the potential.
  • He’s gotten a good amount of swings and misses this year. Not to the level he previously attained, but it’s still over 9 percent. The Yanks could definitely use another swing and miss arm.
  • Remember the second half of 2008. That’s the year he got healthy with Oakland and then got traded to Chicago for the second half. In 12 starts there he absolutely obliterated the competition, striking out 89 in 71 innings and posting a 1.77 ERA.

Cons

  • The Yanks couldn’t make any real plans with Harden, because of the injury risk. He might be healthy now, but who knows how long that will last?
  • He’s had something of a home run problem this year, allowing six already in 29.1 innings. He also hasn’t gone a single start without allowing at least one homer. At least his only multi-homer game came on the road; allowing homers at the Coliseum is not a good sign.
  • He’s always had a propensity to walk guys, which does not mesh well at all if he’s going to surrender long balls.
  • Swinging a trade might be risky, in that it’d be tough to give up a pitcher near the majors. Rich Harden is not a guy you can sacrifice depth to acquire. They can’t really trade Adam Warren or Ivan Nova (not that they’d necessarily want to), because a Harden injury might mean the Yanks need those guys.

Until the day he retires, Rich Harden will remain a tantalizing name who frequently disappoints. He can go on an absolute tear, as we’ve seen on occasion in the past few years. But to give up anything of actual value for him is a folly, since he’s always one pitch away from a DL stint. Without receiving anything of value, Oakland has little motivation to deal him. I don’t see anything getting done. But if it’s 3:55 on Sunday and the Yanks haven’t done anything, and Beane is willing to take a B- prospect, well, even then that’s a stretch. But it’s about the only way I can see Harden in pinstripes this year.