It’s Friday, and you know how I know that? Because my Twitter feed has been filled with references to some lady named Rebecca Black, like they have for the last few Fridays. I don’t know what that’s all about, nor do I care. Anyway, go out and have fun, otherwise use this thread as you see fit.
Via Chad Jennings, it’s sounding more and more likely that Gustavo Molina will be Russell Martin‘s backup come Opening Day. “[Molina]’s a guy we’re looking at,” said the skipper. “With Cervi going down, and you have young kids that you really consider as everyday players, prospects. You want them to play everyday … The determination is, do you want to take them out of that for a month, a month and a half and retard their development a little bit?”
I’m on the record as saying I want to see Jesus Montero start the season as the backup, but I can certainly see both sides of the argument and honestly don’t have a problem either way. Just so you know, the 29-year-old Molina is a .122/.159/.146 (.142 wOBA) career hitter in 45 career big league plate appearances. That means he’s really awesome defensively. And no, he’s not related to the other Molinas.
The Yankees have been active during the last 24 hours, adding some pitching and outfield depth. That leaves us with plenty to talk about. We bring on Jay, whom you might know better as @jaydestro, to talk through the series of moves.
We also hit on some other topics, including our favorite surprises of the spring.
Podcast run time 40:33
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.
Via Danny Knobler, scouts are “stunned” by Phil Hughes‘ lack of velocity this spring, noting that he’s sat 87-89 with more 87’s than 89’s. Joel Sherman backs up the report, but says the Yankees and Hughes himself aren’t concerned because his velocity was down last spring as well. We seem to get a story on Hughes’ velocity at least once a year, though this year it’s a bit more of a concern considering his 80.1 IP jump from 2009 to 2010. The conspiracy theorists among us will probably think the Kevin Millwood signing indicates that the team is worried about their young right-hander, but I’m not sure I buy that.
Bottom line, if the Yankees were worried about Hughes at all, he wouldn’t be pitching this spring. His 22 Grapefruit League innings lead the team, and it’s not like he’s getting hit around either. If he’s still throwing 87-89 in May, then I’ll worry.
Do general managers react to contract years in the same way as players? While the effect doesn’t apply to every player — see Andruw Jones‘s contract year in 2007 — Dayn Perry, writing in Baseball Between the Numbers, found that there is a small, but statistically significant, uptick in player performance when a free agent contract is on the line. Maybe that’s why the Yankees have a policy of not negotiating new contracts until the old ones expires. That policy applies to players, coaches, and executives alike. As such, Brian Cashman is headed into a contract season.
If we’re to believe Cashman’s peers and bosses atop the Yankees organization, this will not be an issue. They love Cashman and want him back. Cashman, by most indications, enjoys his position. In that way, I’m not sure that his impending free agency means much. The Yankees have been down this road before, and despite a poor 2008 season the team eagerly re-upped with Cashman. Now, three years and a World Series title later, I expect much of the same. The situation might change if the Yankees miss the playoffs, but given recent history I’m not sure about that.
It is fitting, though, that Cashman’s toughest season will come in a contract year. The Yankees have made some depth moves to help shore up the rotation, but at some point they’re going to need someone better than Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, or perhaps even Ivan Nova, pitching in the rotation. That’s how competitive the AL East has become. It’s not enough to have just a solid rotation. The Yankees need to go above and beyond. They tried this winter, but were snubbed despite having made the best offer. Now Cashman has to get creative in order to upgrade. Money alone won’t get it done this time.
Maybe the Yankees’ brass is just making overtures to feign a sense of stability. Maybe Cashman really does pine to run a franchise where his moves aren’t downplayed because of his deep pockets. If one is true, the Yankees will be searching for a new GM this fall. But given most indications, the Yankees like Cashman. They did, after all, re-sign him after the team failed to make the playoffs in 2008. From Cashman’s angle, he hasn’t worked for another company his entire adult life. His family is settled in the area, and he wields more power than other GMs. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s still a pretty good bet that Cashman’s back for 2012 and beyond.
Update (11:41am): The Yankees have received OF Chris Dickerson from the Brewers. He has one option remaining and is a legitimate center fielder (+15.7 UZR/150 but in a limited sample), so think of him as Curtis Granderson insurance should the oblique thing drag on. The soon-to-be 28-year-old was awful last season (.206/.250/.268, .242 wOBA in 106 PA), but he missed close to four months after having wrist surgery.
Dickerson hit .283/.383/.440 with 16 steals while with the Reds from 2008-2009 (421 PA), and is a .282/.382/.471 career hitter at the Triple-A level. So yeah, he has some on-base skills, plus he hits righties well (career .347 wOBA). Considering Mitre’s limited value and the fact that they were probably going to release him before Monday’s 45-day termination pay deadline, the Yankees actually made out really well in this swap.
Original Post (11:03am): That’s the word from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Mitre was one of four pitchers competing for three roster spots, so this trade makes the situation clear. Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia will all break camp with the team, though we’re not quite sure about the roles yet. Nova will be in the rotation, but it’s still unclear which of Colon and Garcia fills the fifth spot and which goes to the bullpen.
This also puts the Kevin Millwood signing into better perspective. He’s now essentially insurance in case something goes wrong with Colon or Garcia early in the season, when the young arms might not quite be ready.