Mike’s off to an event at Yankee Stadium, so that means two things. First, it means I’ll be doing the chat today. It’ll start at — Update: Running behind, so we’ll start at 2:30 — instead of the normal 1:30. This also means, unfortunately, that we’ll have no podcast this week. Perhaps we’ll do one on Monday following the Subway Series.
I’ve got five questions for you this week and I was able to keep the answers to four of them reasonably short. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up mailbag questions or anything else.
Daniel asks: Is Josh Willingham a possible trade target at the trade deadline? He’s having a good year, signed to a reasonable mid-term deal, and the Twins are awful. Any idea what sort of return he would command?
Willingham is having an insane year with the Twins — 173 wRC+ and eleven homers — after signing a three-year, $27M deal this offseason. Given Minnesota’s terribleness — 22-34 with a -70 run differential — and the fact that his value is at its apex at age 33, it would make sense for them to shop him around before he comes back to Earth. Kinda like what the Pirates did with Xavier Nady in 2008. Because he signed as a free agent this winter, the Twinkies can not trade him without his consent until one week from today. In other words, it’s no big deal.
Anyway, the Yankees don’t really have anywhere to play Willingham this season unless Brett Gardner’s elbow injury lingers. He’s supposed to play in his first minor league rehab game tonight, so we’ll find out how well he’s recovering soon enough. The Yankees will presumably need a corner outfielder to replace Nick Swisher after the season however, and Willingham is affordable enough. His defense is terrible though and his best position is DH. Still, right-handed power is in short supply.
I usually try to think of comparable players when thinking up trade scenarios, but I can’t come up with anyone like Willingham. Older guy who’s still productive with two full seasons left on his market rate free agent contract? Does Miguel Tejada to the Astros work? Scott Rolen to the Reds? Those two got traded for quantity over quality packages. I’m sure the Yankees could cull something together in that case, but this isn’t a vacuum. Willingham would help any team but he really doesn’t fit New York’s roster.
A different Daniel asks: If Rafael Soriano can put together an above average statistical season, what would you say the odds are that he hits the road after this season?
Zero percent. Soriano is owed $14M next season and there’s no chance he’ll match that on the open market. No one wanted to sign him two offseasons ago coming off the best season of his life and I doubt the sentiment has changed this time around. Heck, Ryan Madson is flat out better than Soriano and there was no market for him last winter. I’m sure every club will have Heath Bell in the back of their mind whenever they think about signing a free agent reliever going forward, and that won’t help his case. Considering that he’s a health risk and is very good but not dominant, I can’t imagine any number of saves will have Soriano thinking about opting out of his current deal.
Jacob asks: Do you think Dellin Betances needs a mechanical change to help with his walks? Maybe more of a sidearm or 3/4 delivery (Randy Johnson-esque) could possibly allow him to harness his abilities?
Dellin needs something to help with the walks and a mechanical change seems like an obvious solution. I’m not pitching coach or anything, so I have no idea if changing his arm slot or something like that will have a positive impact. I’ve always gotten the impression that it’s difficult to throw strikes with anything below a three-quarters slot, especially if there’s anything more an average velocity involved. Johnson was just a freak of nature and an extreme outlier, I wouldn’t use that guy as blueprint for anything.
At some point the Yankees need to do something about Betances, I can’t imagine an 8.1 BB/9 (19.0 BB%) is good for his confidence. I don’t know if it’s a move to the bullpen or a change in mechanics or a stern talking to, but this can’t go on forever.
Andrew asks: Why is nobody giving more attention to Corban Joseph? I know Single-A is the future, but he seems to have real pinstripes potential if he switches to the left side of the infield.
That’s the problem, he can’t switch to the left side of the infield. Joseph’s defense basically meets the minimum standards at second base and isn’t nearly good enough for short. He hasn’t even played one inning at shortstop in the minors and that’s not an accident. If he had a chance to play the position, they would have tried him there at some point. Joseph can handle third but not well, plus he’s unlikely to provide enough to play the position for a meaningful amount of time.
I don’t really know what Joseph is long-term. He makes good contact from the left side and draws some walks, so he has offensive value. Do they pigeon-hole him into a bench role and hope to hide his defense? Do they try him in an outfield corner and hope he can play second base as well as left and maybe right? I don’t really know. Joseph is on the 40-man though, so the Yankees see something they like in him.
J.R. asks: Mike, with all of the pre-draft deals that apparently took place this year, do you expect MLB to try and crack down on these next year?
They can try, but I’m not quite sure what they can do about it. I doubt the teams are getting these agreements in writing, so they’d basically have to look over the shoulder of every area scout to make sure he isn’t taking money with a player before the draft. I’m sure MLB would love to crack down on pre-draft arrangements, but it just might not be possible. Teams will always find a workaround.
Two out of three against the division rival isn’t bad, but I think all of us wanted the Yankees to get a little greedy and finish off the sweep of the Rays with CC Sabathia on the mound Thursday night. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Let’s recap…
- On The Ropes: The Yankees had David Price right where they wanted him in the fifth inning. The bases were loaded with one out, the middle of the order was due up, and his pitch count was approaching the century mark. Alex Rodriguez saw seven curveballs as part of an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out, then Robinson Cano grounded out to end the threat. Pretty much every time the Yankees lose, you can point to a hideous RISPFAIL situation like this. Then again, you can say that about any team losing just about any game ever.
- Not Good Enough: Sabathia allowed five runs (three earned) in his seven innings of work, with the big blow being a two-run Drew Sutton double on a pretty good slider down in the zone. He hooked it into the left field corner and some bobbles by Jayson Nix and the relay man allowed the second run to score. It didn’t help that A-Rod threw a ball into the stands to start a rally in the third either. Sabathia did strike out a season-high 12 though, walking just one. Just wasn’t good enough.
- Leftovers: Ugly night for Curtis Granderson, who struck out four times and grounded out to the pitcher in his five trips to the plate … Russell Martin’s garbage time opposite field homer was their only extra-base hit, plus he’s now hitting .324/.432/.595 since the start of the Royals series before the West Coast trip … Cory Wade allowed a pair of extra-base hits and has been struggling of late, though he hasn’t worked all that much either … Clay Rapada walked Matt Joyce in the ninth and now has more walks (seven) than strikeouts (six) against left-handed batters … the defense was quite ugly in this one, the Yankees did themselves zero favors in the field … 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position brought them to 5-for-26 in the series, and this RISPFAIL nonsense is getting old fast.
I don’t think there’s much more you can say about this one. The Yankees have been playing well of late but it just wasn’t happening. Get back on the horse tomorrow. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Subway Series starts on Friday night with Hiroki Kuroda giving it a go against Johan Santana, who is coming off his no-hitter. If you want to catch the game, check out RAB Tickets for some deals.
Make sure you check out this OF Mason Williams interview with Next Level Ballplayer. He talks about adjusting to life in pro ball, the improvements he’s made to his swing and approach, and lots more. Well worth your time.
Also, RHP Kevin Whelan has been placed on the DL for an unknown reason, hopefully it’s nothing serious. The Yankees signed OF Billy Hart and immediately placed him on the DL. I’m assuming this is him, though that’s not the most uncommon name in the world.
Triple-A Empire State (6-2 win over Durham)
CF Chris Dickerson: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K —
LF Kevin Russo & 2B Corban Joseph: both 1-5 — Russo doubled, scored twice, and struck out twice
DH Jack Cust: 1-3,1 RBI, 1 K
1B Russell Branyan: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — five hits in his last ten at-bats, including three dingers
3B Brandon Laird & C Gus Molina: both 1-4, 1 R — Laird struck out … Molina drove in a run and struck out three times
RF Colin Curtis: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI
SS Doug Bernier: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
RHP Nelson Figueroa: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 5/4 GB/FB — 57 of 91 pitches were strikes (62.6%) … he started five days ago and came out of the bullpen two days ago, which I’m sure contributed to the 86 mph heater he was working with
LHP Justin Thomas: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (63.6%)
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (57.7%)
LHP Mike O’Connor: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 12 of 19 pitches were strikes (63.2%)
Just a heads up, I created a new 2012 Draft Pool Tracker page that we’ll use to keep tabs of the Yankees’ draft spending in the coming weeks. It’s a work in progress, but all the draft spending rules and penalties are there, ditto the team’s draft picks in the top ten rounds. I’ll add post-tenth round picks as they impact the draft pool. The page is available via the Resources tab (under the street sign in the banner) at all times.
It’s hard to think the first two games of this three-game set against the Rays could have gone any better. The pitching staff has held Tampa to one run in 18 innings and tonight they’re going to be running CC Sabathia out there for the sweep. David Price is no slouch himself, but right now everything seems to be breaking New York’s way. Here’s the lineup…
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
DH Andruw Jones
LF Jayson Nix
C Chris Stewart
LHP CC Sabathia
Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Update: We’re officially in a rain delay. They expect the game to begin at 7:30pm ET, not too bad.
Update Part II: The game has begun, right on time at 7:30pm ET.
Via Ben Badler, the Yankees have agreed to sign 22-year-old Dominican right-hander Manolo Reyes for $600k. He originally signed the Braves in 2009 before being released and suspended for a year due to issues with his paperwork. Badler says his fastball climbed into the mid-90s and has even touched 99 during the time off.
The new deal between Reyes and the Yankees is still pending MLB’s approval and a visa, which we know can take a while following the Rafael DePaula fiasco. Make sure you click the link to read about Reyes’ back story, which is far too complicated for me to try to explain here. Assuming Reyes gets the required clearance and the contract becomes official, the signing bonus will not count against this year’s $2.9M international spending limit implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.