• Make sure you VOTE today

    We avoid politics like the plague here at the River Ave., but the three of us would be remiss if we didn’t urge you to take five measly minutes out of your life today to go and cast your vote for the next ruler of the free world. Countless Americans have given their life defending this right, so the least you can do to thank them is head to the polls. If you live in one of the boroughs and don’t know where your polling place is, you can find it here.

    I don’t care who you vote for, just go and do it. (Comments are closed, I don’t want this thread to turn into Mo knows what.)
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All about the arms

By in Pitching. · Comments (69) ·

Baseball fans love pitching cliches. Good pitching beats good hitting. You can never have enough pitching. Pitching wins championships. Yet in the Bronx over the past few years, we haven’t seen a top-flight pitching staff. We’ve seen a number of good pitchers for sure: Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson if you consider a guy with a 5.00 ERA a good pitcher. When looked at as a staff, though, none of the recent teams has been too impressive. Gone are the days of Cone, Clemens, Pettitte, El Duque, Wells, and other top arms pitching together.

It appears the top priority of the Cashman administration is to remedy this issue. Over the past few years the Yankees have restocked their farm system with arms from the draft, to many of whom they paid over slot money to lure away from college. We’re just starting to see the beginning with Kennedy and Hughes. There are plenty more to come, and while most of them will not pan out, the Yanks are betting that a few will. A few just might be enough.

The team is also looking to take advantage of a free agent market with a few top arms in its ranks. CC Sabathia obviously tops the list, followed by other talented arms such as Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, and even Jake Peavy (whose agent said would approve a trade to the Yankees, though that could very well be just a marketing ploy). Using their financial advantage they could sign two of these pitchers, who would then combine with Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain to form the bulk of the team’s rotation. That would be in the team’s best interest for 2009.

Going forward, though, I hope the Yankees are looking to more than just adding free agent arms and drafting high-celing pitchers. There’s certainly a process involved in developing pitchers, and it might be just as important as selecting the right arms. The Yankees have Nardi Contreras on staff as their pitching guru. While he’s highly regarded by most critics, I don’t have the base of knowledge to evaluate or compare him to peers. We can only hope he is, in fact, the right man for the job.

Just ask the Texas Rangers about process. They brought in Nolan Ryan, who has vowed to change the team’s approach to their minor league pitchers. They even went so far as to sign Mike Maddux to an enormous deal to be their pitching coach. For the team that finished last in the AL in ERA this year, such a move might be considered a necessity.

The Yankees weren’t nearly as bad as the Rangers in terms of pitching, but they certainly have a ways to go. WIth pitching-heavy teams like the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Twins, and Angels in the AL, the Yanks could have some even tougher competition ahead. While I certainly agree that we should pursue top starting pitching when it is available, I also think the Yanks need to make sure they’re properly developing their own arms.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (69)

This ought to tide everyone over until the overnight…

PeteAbe has a few tidbits from Brian Cashman at the GM meetings. The relevant parts:

1. He does not consider center field a priority. With Brett Gardner, Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera around and Austin Jackson on the way, the Yankees are deep there.

2. The Yankees are out to acquire two starters. “We won’t be one and done,” Cashman said. You can interpret that in a few ways. It could be one new player and Andy Pettitte, two new players or maybe two new players and Pettitte. Cashman said that right, Wang and Joba are the only starters he has.

3. Joba will start the 2009 season as a starter and they’ll come up with a plan to protect him as best they can.

4. Ian Kennedy will pitch winter ball in Puerto Rico. He is Tampa throwing now and is scheduled to start his first game on Friday.

Pete also believes that Bobby Abreu will be elsewhere next season, and I agree.

I have a few random notes about these rumors before I open the floor. If the Yanks are set on acquiring two starters, they should make sure one of them is Sabathia. They don’t need A.J. Burnett and Ryan Dempster or Derek Lowe. They need Sabathia and either Burnett or Ben Sheets. There’s no reason to overpay for someone who won’t be that good.

Center field will be whatever it is next season. But keep in mind that, three years ago, the Yankees said they were content with Bubba Crosby in center field before landing Johnny Damon in December. Cashman is not about to overplay his center field hand if he has sights set on some trade targets. The Yankees would clearly lose their negotiating position that way.

Finally, Ian Kennedy in Puerto Rico will either be an effort to reign in his control after a disappointing 2008 or an effort to showcase him. As he was last year, Ian Kennedy remains the pitcher I’d least object to seeing included in a trade, and if the Yankees can fill one of their holes via a Kennedy trade, I am less inclined to oppose it. Remember: The Santana deal didn’t happen because the Yanks weren’t keen on trading Kennedy; the Santana deal — if it wasn’t ever on the table — didn’t happen because the Twins wanted way more than just Kennedy. For better or worse, Kennedy remains the pitching prospect most likely to be on a different team come Spring Training.

OK, readers. The floor is yours.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (264)
  • A special memory

    As part of his lasting Yankee Stadium Memories, Alex Belth presented today a great piece by Ed Alstrom. Alstrom is the weekend and holiday organist for the Yankees, and as such, he was the last person to play anything on the historic organ at Yankee Stadium. Check it out. · (0) ·

It looks like Brian Cashman is wheeling and dealing in the early goings of the GM meetings. First we heard that he was chatting up Reds GM Walter Jocketty, which likely means nothing, but surely could mean something. Aaron Harang, anyone? Or maybe Jocketty is looking to cash in his Homer Bailey chip a bit late. That’s all just idle speculation, though. Chances are the two GMs were doing what they’re supposed to, which is gauging the market for available players.

However, the Yanks did sign a player today. Bryan Hoch informs us that former Marlin Sergio Mitre has signed a minor league deal. The 27-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery back in July, and likely won’t be ready until July or August of next year. This sounds like another scenario similar to Octavio Dotel. Hopefully the Yankees have learned from that experience in how they handle Mitre. You also would have liked to see them get some sort of option for 2010, as a reward for their signing him and paying for his rehab. Alas, that’s tough to do when you get a guy on a minor league deal.

After three disappointing seasons in Chicago, wherein he alternated between the rotation and bullpen, the Cubs dished him to Florida in the Juan Pierre trade*. He didn’t have much success in Miami either, though he did toss 150 innings for them in 2007. He has plenty of upside, though, as he fared very well in the minors as a youngster. This is a total upside move by the Yankees. If he pans out, great. If he continues to falter in his rehab, they will have wasted neither a lot of money nor a roster spot.

* Talk about a poor trade. Mitre, Rickey Nolasco, and Renyel Pinto for Pierre. Mitre and Pinto might be marginal players, but Nolasco had promise then, and had a break-out year at age 25 this season. Why do teams continually overvalue Pierre?

While the results didn’t bear it out, Mitre has fared decently as a reliever, in that his strikeout rates are far higher than as a starter. Considering the surgery and his lack of success as a starter, the Yanks should think about bringing him back solely as a reliever. Maybe then they can get some production out of him. Otherwise, this is just another in a line of low-risk pitching moves (Milton, Zambrano).

Update: Joe Frisaro, filling in for Hoch on the official Yanks site, notes that this is a $1.25 million deal, with a team option for 2010. The Hoch piece did not mention the option, or the dollar amount.

Categories : Transactions
Comments (72)
  • Kay, YES finalize extension

    Updated 3:35 p.m.: Michael Kay and the YES Network have finalized the three-year contract in September. According to a release published by the TV network. Kay will continue to be the lead play-by-play guy on the Yankee broadcasts and the overall voice of the YES Network. The network heads issued rather hyperbolic praise for Kay.

    “We are pleased that Michael will continue to be the voice of the Yankees on YES while also hosting our signature CenterStage interview show,” John Filippelli, YES’ president of production and programming. “New Yorkers have long identified him with the Yankees and as a sports authority in general, and he is considered one of the best play-by-play men in baseball. His knowledge of the game and his ability to articulate in a clear, accurate and succinct manner make him an invaluable member of the YES team.”
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In advance of this week’s GM Meetings, John Perrotto at Baseball Prospectus offered up some off-season preview capsules for all 30 teams. On the Yanks, Perrotto writes:

Despite Hank Steinbrenner’s yearning for Ramirez and an interest in Teixeira, they need starting pitching desperately, particularly with Mike Mussina leaning toward retirement. They’ll make big plays on the free-agent market for Sabathia, and also for right-hander A.J. Burnett if he fails to work out a deal to stay with the Blue Jays. There is some sentiment to acquire a center fielder, though many in the organization believe rookie Brett Gardner can ably fill that position. Right-hander Ian Kennedy is their top trade bait, and they are also more than willing to deal veteran outfielders Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Perrotto is on the right track; the Yanks certainly will need some starting pitching help next year. They probably won’t have Mike Mussina and shouldn’t count on Andy Pettitte to deliver too much. But his either/or construct is a bit faulty.

The Yankees, as they sit right now, days after the World Series and months before Opening Day, need both pitching and hitting, and they need both equally. On the season, the Yanks scored just 789 runs, good for seventh in the AL and just seven runs more than the listless Orioles. All playoff teams but one — Tampa — far outscored the Yanks, and the Yanks themselves scored nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last.

On the one hand, we can easily point to a few key injuries — Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui — as well as the struggles of Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera as the root causes of this offensive slump. But on the other hand, this team isn’t getting younger. Bobby Abreu declined; Derek Jeter declined; A-Rod had a great season, but it didn’t measure up to his MVP campaign in 2007. For next year, Xavier Nady is an offensive enigma. His career .280/.335/.458 isn’t encouraging. So yes, the Yankees need offense, and Hank has that one right.

But the Yankees do need pitching too. Hopefully, they’ll have Joba and Chien-Ming Wang healthy and effective for a full year. Hopefully, Phil Hughes can put it all together. But that still leaves two or three holes in the rotation with or without Pettitte. The Yanks’ pitching was rather middle-of-the-pack last year, but that’s because their bullpen was one of the tops in the game. Their starters were only slightly better than the 75-87 Royals. Next year, we won’t sit through Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner, but someone has to take their places.

In the end, the Yankees clearly need both hitting and pitching, and it’s going to be a tough off-season. We all want them to sign everyone, and while some people think the team will do just that, it’s rather unlikely. The ride kicks off with the GM meetings today, and it should be a wild one.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (107)
  • Brewers exercise Cameron’s option

    Via Tim Dierkes, we find out that the Brewers have exercised the 2009 option for Mike Cameron. He’ll make $10 million for the season. Cameron would have been an intriguing option as a one-year stopgap in center field while the Yankees figure out the situation. The likelihood of Melky or Gardner starting the season in center field just got greater. Jim Edmonds remains an option as a one-year stopgap, though I’m not sure how seriously the Yanks are considering him, if at all. · (94) ·

We’ve talked about this a bit before, but with it becoming official that Ivan Rodriguez will be a Type B free agent, we should revisit it. Should the Yankees offer him arbitration in order to gain a supplemental round pick when he signs with a different team? There are a couple of factors to consider in this decision, and I’m sure it’s something the Yankees mulled at their organizational meetings.

If the Yankees do offer Pudge arbitration, there is always the risk he accepts. As we learned when I read through the relevant sections of the CBA, this means he is counted as a player for next season and is added to the 40-man roster. The Yankees will then either have to hammer out a deal with him, or go to an arbitration hearing. Neither of these seems ideal, as the Yankees surely don’t want him back. They can cut him prior to Spring Training and only be liable for a portion of his salary, but they’ll then 1) not get the supplemental pick when he signs elsewhere and 2) be short a 40-man roster spot, which can be used to protect J.B. Cox, Alan Horne, Chris Garcia, etc. from the Rule 5 draft.

However, it doesn’t seem that large a risk. Pudge knows that the Yankees plan to start Jorge Posada behind the dish. Surely he does not want to be relegated to backup status, which he would be if Jorge proves healthy in Spring Training. Plus, he could probably get a two-year deal elsewhere, which would be far more attractive to him at this stage in his career. Chances are that he’d decline an arbitration offer, though it’s certainly no sure thing.

Because he is a Type B free agent, there is no disincentive for a team to sign him. Had he been a Type A, as was the projection at Tiger Thoughts, Pudge would have been more likely to accept arbitration. Teams would have probably stayed clear, not wanting to sacrifice a first rounder for a 37-year-old catcher who was putrid in the second half. Without the draft pick at stake, Pudge becomes more attractive for a team in need of a catcher (helloooo Mets).

In this instance, I think the risk of offering Pudge arbitration is worth the potential reward of a supplemental pick. It helps in the mission to rebuild the farm system, and gives us some form of compensation for Pudge, who was an utter disappointment in pinstripes.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (50)