After 17 glorious seasons with the Yankees, Jorge Posada will officially announce his retirement from baseball today at 11am ET at Yankee Stadium. He spent his entire career in pinstripes and retires as a .273/.374/.474 career hitter with 275 homers and five World Series rings (though all he did in 1996 was tag along for the ride). Posada has a prominent place in Yankees history and his career 44.9 bWAR is tenth most in baseball history among players who spent at least 75% of their career games behind the plate. He’s not a lock for the Hall of Fame, but Jorge has a very good case and figures to spend several years on the ballot.
Ten days after the agreement was reported, the trade sending Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners in exchange for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos was made official yesterday. The Yankees dealt away their best position player prospect since Derek Jeter, a guy most of us thought was pretty close to untouchable over the last four years or so. That wasn’t the case though, it never is. Brian Cashman is fond of saying that “no one is untouchable, but some are more touchable than others.” That continues to be true.
For starters, the Yankees have dangled Montero in trade talks several times in the past. They weren’t going to give him away, but he was out there if someone was serious about swinging a deal. The Yankees offered him to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay during the 2009-2010 offseason, and of course there was the Cliff Lee non-trade fiasco. Other teams have asked for him over the years — the White Sox for John Danks, the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez, the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez — and that’s just the stuff we know about. As much as we maybe didn’t want to believe it, Montero was very available.
We all know about the long-term position and defensive questions Montero carried, but chances are the team had some other concerns that contributed to their willingness to trade him. Allow me to excerpt The Star-Ledger’s Jeff Bradley…
“A big-time talent,” [VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman] said of Montero. “There’s no one questioning his talent. But he hasn’t had a great year with the bat this year. We expected more, honestly.”
Newman went on to say, “The biggest deal for him is maturity. I’ve been doing this a while and I don’t know how you significantly accelerate the maturation process. You can put him around mature people, but he’s got a ways to go in figuring out how this game works and how this world works. He’s bright. I think he’ll eventually get it. The discipline and turmoil that he’s had to deal with is part of the process. You’ve got to deal with stuff. You’ve got to take the training wheels off. That’s what he’s going through.”
When asked if Montero had allowed his hopes of making the Yankees roster out of spring training last year get too high, Newman nodded. “He thought he had a chance to make the team in spring training. He thought he was the best player here at Triple-A last year. Now, he sees (Eduardo) Nunez is up there doing well. He thinks, ‘I was better than him.’ He sees Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, and he thinks, ‘I was better than all of them, and they’re up there and I’m down here.’ I had a zillion conversations with him about that. But his case is not unique. These guys are down here reading the blogs about themselves, where even a few years ago, players moved through development stages in anonymity.”
Now, just to be 100% clear, these comments are not recent. They were made back around the trade deadline according to Bradley. It’s not like Newman is throwing Montero under the bus on his way out the door Red Sox-style, he voiced these concerns when the kid was still in the organization and six months before he was traded away.
The idea that Montero was “bored” in Triple-A this past summer is nothing new, but that’s not the only incident (if you can actually call that an incident) that involved a lack of maturity on his part. Remember, the Yankees did bench him for a few games in 2010 because he didn’t run out a ground ball, and they benched him again in 2011 because his play lacked “energy.” During yesterday’s trade announcement conference call, Montero admitted that Alex Rodriguez stepped in and threatened to fine him $100 a day last September because he wasn’t spending enough time in the batting cage. There’s the whole “boys will be boys” mindset, especially when you’re talking about kids this young after they were handed a boatload of money. I have no doubt a sense of entitlement comes into play.
The Yankees know way more about Montero and his maturity level — both as a person and as a player — than we ever will, and we really can’t say that they had legitimate long-term concerns about him with any certainty. I’ve always been of the belief that talents reigns supreme, and I’ll live with the occasional bad apple or grumpy player as long as he’s productive on the field. The Yankees seem to have placed a renewed emphasis on strong work ethic and makeup, and in recent years they’ve sought out players with those traits in free agency, trades, and even the draft. Maybe they felt Montero didn’t fit the mold despite his ability to hit baseballs a long way.
Over the weekend, Joe wrote a post highlighting some of the Yanks’ more alluring road trips for the 2012 season. I’ve seen games in all but two of the stadiums Joe profiled. Safeco Field in Seattle and Nationals Park are absent from my list. While I’m not likely to make it to Seattle this season, the Yankees travel down to D.C. this June, and we will be too.
As part of what promises to be a weekend of New Yorkers and Yankee fans from all over the East Coast zipping down to D.C., we’re gathering interest in a RAB-related weekend. Joe, Mike and I all plan to take the journey for the three-game set from Friday, June 15-Sunday, June 17, and if enough readers want to join us, we’ll look into securing some ticket blocks for the games. We may do a stadium tour on Friday, and of course, we’ll find a spot for some Saturday night brews as well.
To gauge interest in the event, I’ve put together a short survey. For those of you with serious interest in joining us for the weekend, please take a minute or two to fill out the form. We’ll collect responses and email those interested once we get a sense of the numbers involved. The cost of tickets and accommodations is to be determined, but if we have enough interest, I believe we can do a stadium tour for $12 a head. A word of warning: You will have to get yourself to and from D.C. (Those of you who already live in the area should definitely join us for the games.)
Leave any questions you have in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them tonight or tomorrow morning. This excursion south promises to be a fun one, and hopefully, we’ll meet some RAB fans along the way.
Jan. 23rd: The team says that Posada will officially announce his retirement at an 11am ET press conference at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. It will be broadcast live on YES, Yankees.com, and MLB.com LIVE. Plus I’ll be here to liveblog it.
Jan. 20th: Via Mark Hale, Jorge Posada will announce his retirement at a press conference on Tuesday. We heard this was coming a few weeks ago, but now it will be made official. I don’t know the exact time or place of the press conference, but I’ll liveblog it if possible.
The now vacant DH spot had some thinking that Jorge could change his mind and come back for another year, but that won’t happen. “I’m not getting ready for another season,” said Posada to Dan Martin recently. “I tried and it wasn’t in me. I’m still fighting it, but the more I did, the more I realized I’m not gonna play.” Sadface.
I can guarantee that as soon as you read the name Mark Wohlers in the title of this post, you thought back to one thing: Jim Leyritz and Game Four of the 1996 World Series. The Yankees were down 6-3 in the game and 2-1 in the series when Leyritz’s three-run blast tied things up in the top of the eighth, and they eventually won the game in extra innings when Wade Boggs drove in the winning run with a bases loaded walk. The rest, as they say, is history.
That homer by Leyritz is hands down one of the biggest and best baseball memories I have. You can make a pretty strong argument that the homer changed the course of the franchise, because if they lose that game they probably would’ve lost the Series, and who knows what happens after that. Perhaps George Steinbrenner orders his front office to acquire the long coveted Randy Johnson at any cost, or maybe he steps in and swings the deal himself. That young singles-hitting shortstop and skinny setup man for the Big Unit? Yeah that works, take them. We could play this game all day, but if Leyritz doesn’t go deep in that spot, there’s a pretty good chance we’d be looking back at the late-90’s Yankees in very different way.
Today is Wohlers’ 42nd birthday, and it’s easy to forget that he actually ended up wearing pinstripes for a while long after Leyritz did his thing. The Yankees traded for the hard-throwing right-hander in July of 2001, but he allowed eleven runs in his first 6.1 IP with the team and Joe Torre buried him in mop-up duty. He did pitch to a 2.45 ERA in his final 29.1 IP of the season, and his only postseason appearance came in garbage time of the hideous 14-3 loss to the Mariners in Game Three of the ALCS. Wohlers was ridiculously good in 1996 — 100 strikeouts and 18 unintentional walks in 77.1 IP during the regular season — but when you look at his career from that World Series on, he was never really the same.
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Here’s your open thread for the night. The Islanders and Nets are the only local teams in action, which kinda sucks. Talk about those games and more here, it’s all fair game.
Ten days after we learned that an agreement was in place, the trade is finally official. The Yankees announced this afternoon that they’ve acquired Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from the Mariners for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi after all four players passed their physicals. During the conference call, Brian Cashman said Montero “may very well be the best player I’ve traded,” while Pineda said “I never thought I would become a New York Yankee so early into my career.” It’s pretty funny that he assumed it was an inevitability.
The Yankees now have an open spot on the 40-man roster, but that will be filled rather quickly. We’re still waiting on the Hiroki Kuroda signing to be finalized, but last we heard he was still in Japan enjoying the offseason. His physical might not happen for a while. Andruw Jones‘ new contract still isn’t official yet either. Make sure you check out our Depth Chart to see where the team’s roster stands. So long Jesus and Hector, and welcome to the Boogie Down, Michael and Jose.
The Yankees currently have a pitching problem. Most teams would benefit greatly from having one of Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett in the No. 5 rotation spot, but the Yankees have just one spot for those three. While they could go into Spring Training with all three, there’s a chance something will give before then. Since Hughes is still cheaply under team control, and since Garcia can’t be traded until June, Burnett could be the one involved in any pre-season deal.
Anonymous quotes that Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger obtained for his weekend column back up the idea of a Burnett move. “It’s a waiting game now to see if A.J. can be dealt,” said Bradley’s source, who is apparently knowledgeable about the Yankees’ off-season plans. While a Burnett deal is no certainty — Mike just made the case for Burnett as the fifth starter — it remains the most likely scenario at this point. The only question remaining is of the circumstances that would warrant a Burnett trade.
They should trade A.J. if:
1. They can get back a useful player
This seems unlikely. As Mike noted in the previous post, and as many of us have noted all off-season, Burnett has ranked among the worst pitchers in baseball for the last two years. Even if he has the potential to pitch much better, teams aren’t eager to take that gamble. That Burnett is now 35 years old makes such a gamble even riskier.
Chances are the only potentially useful players they can get back are of the same ilk as Burnett: overpaid with a productive track record but a spotty recent past. Last week Mike discussed the Burnett for Jason Bay idea, which does have a few merits. There are other big names with big contracts, such as Alfonso Soriano and Adam Dunn, but both are owed considerably more than Burnett, and both are under contract for one additional year. There is at least a chance, and perhaps a good chance, that any team can avoid Bay’s vesting option and have his contract end after the 2013 season.
Other options who fit this mold include Alex Rios ($38 million through 2014), Travis Hafner ($15.75 million through 2012), Justin Morneau ($28 million through 2013), Vernon Wells, ($62 million through 2014), and Carlos Lee ($18.5 million through 2012). None of those is particularly enticing, though neither is Burnett.
2. They can use the freed dollars to sign a useful player
This weekend the Red Sox traded Marco Scutaro to the Rockies for a pitcher who probably isn’t as valuable as Scutaro. Why would the Red Sox do this, especially after they traded their other potential starting shortstop, Jed Lowrie, earlier in the off-season? Speculation persists that the Sox made the move in order to free up payroll so that they can pursue a pitcher. The idea is that even though they’re downgrading at shortstop, the overall gain could favor them.
If the Yankees were to trade Burnett, they’d have to eat a considerable portion of his contract. But they wouldn’t have to eat all of it. The portion that they save, perhaps a third of the remaining value, could go towards signing someone to fill the only open lineup lineup spot, DH. They won’t free up enough money to sign Prince Fielder, though, and beyond him the market looks pretty bleak. It means they’d have to find a trade partner, which only complicates matters.
They shouldn’t trade A.J. if:
1. They don’t do anything with the freed-up money
The Yankees have to pay Burnett. It’s the nature of MLB contracts. They can avoid paying some of his remaining contract if they trade him, but if they don’t reinvest those dollars, there isn’t much of a point to making a trade. At that point having Burnett pitch for the team, even in a reduced role, is preferable to paying him to pitch for another team.
2. They have to eat more than two-thirds of his remaining contract
The Yankees owe Burnett $33 million through 2013, so they’d save $11 million, or $5.5 million per season, if they were to eat two-thirds of his remaining contract. Any more than that, though, and it’s probably not worth the time and effort. Again, a look at the free agent list reveals little of use in that price range. Unless the Yankees think that an additional $5.5 million in both 2012 and 2013 can help them swing a deal they otherwise couldn’t, then they should just keep Burnett and see if he can help them in whatever ways possible. (Read: bullpen.)
3. They feel he’s the best option for the rotation
Few fans believe that Burnett is the best guy to take the mound behind Sabathia, Nova, Kuroda, and Pineda, but as the saying goes, if you think like a fan you’ll soon be sitting with them. If the Yankees believe that Burnett is the man best-suited to take the fifth spot in the rotation, then they shouldn’t trade him for the sake of unclogging the logjam. They can do other things to accomplish that.
It seems unlikely that they’d think this, given Burnett’s performances in the last two years. But perhaps they see something different in Burnett now, or have figured out why he has fared so poorly from June through September, 2010 to 2011. In any case, there’s no reason to trade him if he’s the best man for the job.
As before, any Burnett trade scenario is improbable. There are too many moving parts involved, from Burnett’s contract to potential trade targets. There’s also the matter of using the available dollars to pursue an upgrade elsewhere, something else that is far from guaranteed. The gamblers among us would do well to bet on Burnett starting the season with navy blue pinstripes.