Yanks gamble on two in Rule 5 Draft

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The Yankees selected two players in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, taking lefty reliever Robert Fish from the Angels and righty reliever Daniel Turpen (above) from the Red Sox. Neither player cracked their former teams’ top 30 prospects list in the 2010 edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, but that’s par for the course in the Rule 5. The Sox originally acquired Turpen from the Giants at this year’s trade deadline in exchange for former Yankee farmhand Ramon Ramirez, and his name also popped up in the Adrian Gonzalez talks, which is not terribly interesting or relevant.

Turpen is the more polished and lower ceilinged prospect of the two. The 24-year-old Oregon State product was an eighth round pick in 2010 after a three-year career as a swingman, squeezed out of the rotation by some of the higher upside arms the perennial College World Series contenders boasted. Turpen’s strikeout rate jumped in the pros, from 5.3 per nine in school to 7.5 as a paid player, somewhat surprising for a generic sinker-slider guy. The 6-foot-4, 230 pounder sits 92-94 from a low arm slot according to BA’s Jim Callis, making him a ground ball pitcher that’s tough against righties but suspect against lefties. Over the last two seasons, Turpen’s posted a 2.77 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 136.2 relief innings over the last two seasons.

Fish, 23 in January, is the more intriguing of the two. He was a sixth round pick out of a California high school back in 2006 and spent the next two-and-a-half years as a nondescript starter (4.76 ERA, 4.34 FIP in 300.2 IP). The Angels shifted him to the bullpen at the start of the 2010 season, and although his ERA (8.93) is ugly, the peripherals at the Double-A level were fine (10.2 K/9, 3.8 BB/9). Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Fish (listed at 6-foot-3, 225 lbs.) is a lefty that hits 95 and can miss bats, evidenced by his 9.1 K/9 in the minors. Back in May, Halos Heaven (ugh) noted that BA graded both his curveball and changeup as average pitches, though scouting reports change over time, so don’t take that to heart. Here’s some video from this past April…

The Yankees tried to trade up in the draft so they could take righty Elvin Rodriguez from the Mets, but they were unable to get it done and he landed with the Nationals. Both Fish and Turpen will compete for bullpen jobs in Spring Training, but it’s unlikely either will stick. They almost never do. Fish will battle minor league free agent pickups Andy Sisco and Neal Cotts for the second lefty job, but his chances of making the team go right out the window if the Yankees sign someone like Pedro Feliciano, Scott Downs, or (please please please) Randy Choate. Turpen will have to outperform players like Ryan Pope and Romulo Sanchez, who are long shots as it is.

I wouldn’t expect much out of the two newest Yankees, but there’s no harm in rolling the dice on some interesting arms and seeing what sticks. With teams paying close to $5M per WAR this offseason, the Yanks would need to get just one one-hundredth of a win out of each player to justify the $50,000 selection cost, and that’s basically one scoreless inning at the big league level. The rate of return is extremely high if a Rule 5 guy sticks, even if he’s nothing more than a specialist reliever like Fish and Turpen.

Yanks offer Lee variety of deals

It appears that the Yankees have gotten creative in their pursuit of Cliff Lee. Jon Heyman reported this morning that the Yankees offered Lee a seventh year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Joel Sherman has the full breakdown of what the Yankees are offering their No. 1 off-season target:

The Yankee offers work on a scale in which the shorter the term offered the higher the annual average value. It is believed the bids work something like this: five years for $125 million, six years for $144 million and seven years for $161 million or $25 million a year, $24 million a year and $23 million a year.

Sherman goes on to say that these aren’t final offers, but rather starting points for negotiations. He brings up the possibility of Lee choosing the 5/125 deal, but working out one or two player options. Whatever the case, it appears that the Yankees are being as flexible as possible in order to accommodate Lee.

The Rangers are currently heading to Arkansas to make their final stand for Lee. I’m not sure they’ll match any of these offers, though. There’s a chance Lee could choose the comfortability of Texas over New York, but it’s tough to count on that. The Yankees have made it clear that they will do what it takes. It’s hard to not feel optimistic about landing Lee at this point.

Yanks inquire on Francisco Liriano

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Think there’s no Plan B in the case the Yankees don’t land Cliff Lee? That does not appear to be the case. In his media session yesterday Joe Girardi said that they had a list of five players that they’d consider in that scenario, and according to Joel Sherman one of those players is Francisco Liriano:

Several teams have called Minnesota to inquire about the availability of ace Francisco Liriano , including the Yankees, who are making sure of what is available in case they don’t land Cliff Lee . But a Twins official said the team is focused on upgrading the front of the rotation and could not imagine how they would let Liriano go unless it were a trade that led to obtaining another high-end starter.

This does strike me as a bit odd, for the same reasons mentioned in the final sentence. Why would the Twins trade their best starter when they’ll be right in the AL Central hunt? It’s nice to hear that the Yanks are calling around for viable alternatives, but as I found when I sought the mystery pitcher, there just isn’t much that figures to be available.

Sherman goes on to mention the White Sox, who are right up against their budget limit after re-signing Paul Konerko, as a possible trade partner. While they almost certainly won’t trade John Danks, they do have Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd. The rotation situation is tough for them, since Jake Peavy will miss the start of the season and his recovery is not guaranteed, but if they want to save some cash they could trade a starter and hope that Chris Sale makes an impact in the rotation. Again, considering the moves the White Sox made this winter, I think they’re more focused on fielding the best possible team than freeing up payroll.

(Unless, of course, they have a move in mind that would improve the team and require a bit more payroll.)

With a seventh year tacked onto the Cliff Lee offer, the Yanks have to be the favorites right now. But they’re not resting comfortably. It’s good to see them looking around the league and inquiring on top-end pitchers. They do have a few nice trade chips, including Jesus Montero, so they have room to maneuver. What will be even more interesting is if they land Lee and continue shopping for a top-end pitcher. But we’ll worry about that after the weekend, when Lee will supposedly make his decision.

A bidding war for a backstop

Russell Martin in his younger and more valuable days. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

As the arms race between New York and Boston has been kicked up a notch over the last 12 hours, the two rivals are reportedly engaged in a bidding war. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown, both the Yanks and Red Sox are “going very hard on Russell Martin.” The recently non-tendered 27-year-old is an appealing target for two teams who are soft at the catching position, and a Martin deal could be a key low-cost signing for 2011.

For both teams, Martin is a very obvious target. Right now, the Red Sox’s starting catcher is Jarrod Saltalamacchia who played just 12 games in 2010. Saltalamacchia, 25, was a heralded prospect with the Braves, but he’s never caught more than 83 games in a season and has a career OPS+ of 82. A 38-year-old Jason Varitek is the back-up.

The Yanks are in a similar boat. They’re apparently entrusting the starting job to Jesus Montero, questionable defense and all, and the team has clearly soured on Francisco Cervelli as a back-up. Jorge Posada will be the primary DH as his body can’t withstand the impact of catching. If anything, the constant rumors connecting the Yanks to Martin suggest that the team isn’t sold on Montero’s defense right now.

So Martin has emerged as a pawn. He’ll turn 28 before Opening Day, and he’s coming off of two bad injury-plagued years. During his ages 23-25 season, he hit .285/.373/.433 but turned in a Cervellian .249/.350/.330 slash line during his past two seasons. For the right price and with the right expectations, Martin would be a fine addition both for depth and for potential behind the plate.

2010 Rule 5 Draft Liveblog

The Rule 5 Draft is one of my favorite events of the year even though it’s one of the game’s most uneventful. Rarely does a selected player have any kind of impact at the big league level, nevermind sustained impact. Just three of the 17 players selected in last year’s Rule 5 stuck in the big leagues, the best of which was former Yankee prospect Carlos Monasterios. In 88.1 innings for the Dodgers, he put up a 4.38 ERA but 5.37 FIP and -0.6 fWAR. That gives you an idea of what happens here.

The Yankees reportedly have a list of five players they’re interested in, though they aren’t very optimistic that any of them will still be available when they pick. I’m not sure which teams have full 40-man rosters (you need to have at least one open spot to make a pick), though the Yankees can pick no later than 28th overall. I looked at some potential targets a week or two ago, and I also broke down which Yankee players were available last month.

The draft itself is scheduled to begin at 9am ET, and I’m going to liveblog this sucker pick-by-pick. Forgive the spelling, this thing usually moves pretty quickly.