Scouting the Trade Market: Francisco Rodriguez

As the revolving door of the Yankee bullpen swung open on Friday night, it was hard to believe the rogue’s gallery of relievers who came out to stop the Mariners had been among the best in the game this year. Hector Noesi, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala — seventh best in the AL only when sorted by last name — all made their appearances and kept the Mariners scoreless. Only Mariano, the future Hall of Famer, faltered, and he along with Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson are the arms in which we trust.

So somehow, after 54 games and with $17.75 million worth of relievers on the disabled list, the Yankees have a great bullpen. The pen’s 2.88 ERA is tops in the AL, and their strike out and walk rates are both among the top four in the league. On the flip side, their relievers have thrown 159.1, and as Mike explored, their troika of top relievers is racking up the pitches thrown. The club will have to bolster its bullpen either within or without.

Enter Francisco Rodriguez: Yankee fans have never taken to K-Rod. He came out of nowhere to help down the Bombers in the 2002 ALDS, and he served as foil in the 2005 playoffs as well. As the Mets’ closer, he has had a tumultuous time in New York. He was, of course, on the mound celebrating as Luis Castillo dropped that pop-up, and he was arrested for assault last year in an altercation that caused a season-ending injury. He also one of the Mets’ prime trade chips.

This year, very quietly, K-Rod is putting together a stellar season. With his save in the Mets’ comeback on Thursday, he has now appeared in 27 games — and finished 21 of them — while posting a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings. He has allowed a hit per inning and 13 walks but has yet to surrender a home run and has alluringly struck out 27.

Now, the Mets are in a predicament with Rodriguez. He is making $11.5 million this year and holds a performance-based option for 2012 that’s worth a whopping $17.5 million. If he closes out 55 games this year and his two-year total of games finished tops 100, the option vests automatically. If not, then he is owed only $3.5 million, and that’s why trading him must be part of the Mets’ plan. They can’t afford to pay and shouldn’t be paying a closer $17.5 million, but he’s on pace for well over 60 games finished this year.

So how about the Yankees? At some point, you might say, the Yankees have to stop acquiring overpaid, one-inning relievers. It hasn’t worked out for them since the days of Steve Karsay, and yet, the Yankees are still doling out contracts to guys left and right only to see them wind up on the disabled list. Rodriguez, though, would be just a rental, and if the Yankees are willing to take on most of his remaining salary along with the $3.5 million buy out they will owe him when, as a non-closer, he doesn’t get to his games finished milestone, the price tag should be relatively cheap. Pick a second-tier prospect and adjust accordingly for cash contributions.

Of course, as we’ve noted over the last few weeks, the Yankees and Mets do not trade with each other too frequently. They last sent Mike Stanton to Queens for Felix Heredia in 2004 and before that, tried to plug Armando Benitez into the Bronx for a handful of disastrous games. For the Mets, trading their closer to the Yankees would be one of many potential white flags, and if they get no return outside of financial relief while the Yanks add K-Rod as a third set-up option, the Shea Faithful won’t be too pleased.

For the Yankees, though, K-Rod is another potential target. He just might be the most available reliever out there, and unless the club truly expects Soriano, Marte or Feliciano to return at full strength any time this season, he should be a potential trade target.

Ugly night on the mound at all levels

Now that we’re into June, it’s worth mentioning that the Short Season Staten Island and Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees start their seasons on June 17th and 20th, respectively. Extended Spring Training ends next week, then everyone heads to their new affiliate if they’re not released. There will also be a ton of 2011 draftees on both the SI and GCL rosters as well.

Oh, and it turns out that Carlos Silva does not have an opt-out clause on his contract (confirmed by Brian Cashman). That’s surprising and pretty good news, though Ivan Nova should still be looking over his shoulder.

Triple-A Scranton (13-2 loss to Indianapolis)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 K – 14 for his last 37 (.378)
Ramiro Pena, SS, Dan Brewer, LF & Luis Nunez, 2B: all 0 for 4 – Pena drew a walk and scored … Brewer and Nunez each whiffed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Jorge Vazquez, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K – 16 K in his last 32 at-bats
Brandon Laird, 1B & Austin Krum, CF: both 2 for 4 – Laird drove in a run … Krum stole a bag
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 4, 1 K
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 1-1 GB/FB – just 17 of 39 pitches were strikes (43.6%) … sigh
Ryan Pope, RHP: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1-4 GB/FB – 31 of 56 pitches were strikes (55.4%) … did Brackman no favors by allowing all three inherited runners to score
George Kontos, RHP: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 0-1 GB/FB – 31 of 48 pitches were strikes (64.6%)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2-1 GB/FB – eight of 11 pitches were strikes (72.7%) … 8 K in 23 IP (3.13 K/9)
Kanekoa Texeira, RHP: 1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 24 of 42 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … ten hits and eight runs in 2.1 IP back

[Read more…]

Pinstriped Links: 6/2/11

We’re trying out a new feature around these parts today. Every day — or every few days — I’m going to bullet point a few stories related to baseball and the Yankees that are floating around the Internet. These are stories we either didn’t have time to write up for a full post or thought were worth a mention but not the full treatment. We’re happy to take submissions via the box at right, e-mail or through our Twitter account, and props to anyone who comes up with a catchier title than “Pinstriped Links.” On with the stories:

  • MLB sources said they were investigating after Yuri Sucart, A-Rod‘s infamous cousin, was spotted hanging around the Yankees… [Daily News]
  • …but the Commissioner’s Office absolved the Yanks’ third baseman of any wrong-doing. [ESPN NY]
  • If Curtis Granderson is voted onto the 2011 All Star team, his 2013 option will increase from $13 million to $14 million. [Cot’s via @ClintHolzner]
  • Nearly 23 months since last throwing a pitch in the Major Leagues, Chien Ming Wang is almost ready for a rehab assignment. [Nats Insider]
  • Ralph Gardner Jr. offers up some high praise for John Sterling and Suzy Waldman. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Joba, meanwhile, has confided in his stuffed animals that he wants to be a starting pitcher.

Open Thread: Even Stomper loves RAB

Even the Oakland A’s mascot loves us. That’s a picture of RAB’s own Hannah Ehrlich (left) and friend of the blog Amanda Rykoff (right) with Stomper, the A’s mascot. Notice that Hannah is wearing our sweet Evolution design, available on shirts and a bunch of other stuff at the RAB Shop. I just thought it was pretty cool that someone actually bought something from us, that’s all. Make sure you check out the rest of Amanda’s photos from the three game series on her Flickr page, some of which you’ve seen here over the last few days.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. Light schedule for baseball, but MLB Network will carry a game. The teams depend on where you live. Game Two of the NBA Finals will be on at 9pm ET (ABC), and that’s pretty much it. You know what to do, so have at it.

What to do with Posada?

Did you know that the Yankees are getting less from the DH spot than any other team in the AL — and that it’s not particularly close? It’s one area where the Yankees stand to significantly upgrade at the deadline. Posada still has some time to turn it around, but it appears less and less likely with each 0-for. Today at FanGraphs I looked at the problem and possible solutions. There are practical issues in the way, of course, so we might not see a speedy resolution. But when the Yankees are ready to take action, they can take their greatest offensive liability and perhaps turn it into an asset.

2011 Draft: Derek Fisher

The draft is just four days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

Derek Fisher | OF

Background
Stuck in the baseball wasteland known as Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Fisher did not get much exposure with Cedar Crest High School this spring because the weather did not cooperate. He is committed to Virginia.

Scouting Report
Fisher’s calling card is his huge power from the left side, which stems from a lightning quick bat and good leverage. It’s the kind of power that you just don’t find anymore, the kind that can put the ball out of any part of every park. Fisher is also extremely patient at the plate, perhaps to a fault as he often lets hittable pitches go by early in the count. There’s a difference between patient and passive, and he’s passive. Fisher has a problem with breaking balls and is prone to chasing such pitches out of the zone, an obvious obstacle that he will have to overcome. He’s a left fielder long-term because he’s not a great runner and will only slow down as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 205 lb. frame, plus his arm is no weapon. Fisher won’t be a statue on defense, he’s just not fast enough for center and doesn’t have the arm for right.

Miscellany
Figuring out how to hit breaking balls is always a tough adjustment, maybe the toughest part of a hitter’s development, but Fisher’s upside is crazy high given his immense power. It’s from the left side too, which plays right to Yankee Stadium‘s strengths. That said, Fisher is obviously very risky and will be a slow mover, but the sudden decrease in power around the game makes his oh so desirable. Both Keith Law and Baseball America listed Fisher as the 66th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, and KLaw said he was floating a $2M+ price tag in today’s chat.

Scouting The Trade Market: Jose Reyes

(Photo Credit: Flickr user MissChatter via Creative Commons license)

It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees had to worry about finding a shortstop. Derek Jeter played the position brilliantly for a decade and a half, but his offense continues to decline as he approaches his 37th birthday (less than four weeks away) and his defense has never been highly regarded. They just signed him to a three-year contract that is essentially a four-year contract because of the player option, so finding a new shortstop less than four months into the contract is less than ideal. Then again, it’s not completely impossible.

The Mets are not in contention and several of their players figure to be up for grabs at the trade deadline. We’ve already looked at Carlos Beltran as a possible trade target, but now lets turn our attention to Jose Reyes. They may not have the money to sign him long-term, and cashing him in as a trade chip could be preferable to the two draft picks they’d receive if he left as a free agent. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the Mets’ shortstop…

The Pros

  • Still just 27, Reyes is in the prime of his career. He’s in the middle of the best season of his career, hitting .335/.382/.493 at a time when the average MLB shortstop is hitting .261/.318/.372, and his 19 steals are the second most in baseball. Reyes is a switch hitter with little to no platoon split both this year and for his career.
  • Both UZR and John Dewan’s +/- system rate Reyes as just about league average defensively over the last three-plus seasons. Above-average offense and average defense at short is a tremendously valuable player. In fact, he leads all big league shortstops in fWAR (2.9) and is seventh in bWAR (1.7).
  • Reyes is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, which should limit the return. Position players in their walk years usually don’t require huge packages in midseason trades, just look at the recent Mark Teixeira (Braves to Angels) and Matt Holliday (A’s to Cardinals) deals.
  • There have been indications from Reyes that he would like to stay in New York long-term, particularly because his kids are in school where he lives out on Long Island, and because the flights to the Dominican Republic are easy. That could make it easier to sign him to a contract extension this winter (the Yankees don’t negotiate new deals in season).

The Cons

  • Reyes has a bit of injury history, spending time on the disabled list for a thyroid imbalance (16 days) in 2010, a knee strain (137 days) in 2009, a stress fracture in his left leg (43 days) in 2004, a a thigh strain (77 days) also in 2004, and an ankle sprain (28 days) in 2003. Non-DL ailments include an oblique issue (2010) and tendinitis in his left leg (2009). The leg issues are the most concerning since his game is built on speed.
  • Derek Jeter. The Yankees will have to deal with the fallout of moving Jeter off shortstop and almost certainly out of the leadoff spot. Given the recent Jorge Posada spat, it figures to get hella ugly. If the Cap’n becomes a full-time designated hitter, what happens to Posada? There’s not an easy answer.
  • As I mentioned in the Beltran post, the Yankees and Mets simply don’t get together and make trades very often, especially not when it involves players of this caliber. Then again, Sandy Alderson is pretty ruthless and probably won’t care about the negative PR if the deal helps his team.

There’s a lot to like about the possibility of Jose Reyes in a Yankees’ uniform, even if it only ends up being a rental (they’d get draft picks if he signs elsewhere). On paper, it’s an easy to displace Jeter from shortstop and the leadoff spot, but you know it won’t be that way in real life. This is one of those situations where the team would have to approach him beforehand to explain what they were doing rather than just drop it on him after the media is made aware of it and what not. I think a Reyes trade is extremely unlikely, at least one that brings him to the Bronx, but it never hurts to explore the possibility to see if the pieces fits. It’s quite obvious they do, and the Yankees have the prospects to get it done for a Holliday-esque package.