Open Thread: Brian Bruney

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There is more than one way to build a bullpen, and the Yankees employ basically all of them. They have high-priced imports (Rafael Soriano), homegrown pieces (Mariano Rivera and David Robertson), trade pickups (Boone Logan), and scrap heap signings (Cory Wade). A few seasons ago they went the scrap heap route and signed Brian Bruney to a minor league contract about six weeks after the Diamondbacks released him in the middle of the 2006 season.

Bruney, then just 24, saved a dozen games for Arizona in 2005, though he pitched to a 7.43 ERA and 5.11 FIP while doing so. Bruney was young, threw very hard, and had a track record of racking up huge strikeout totals, so the Yankees took a flier on him. He struck out 22 in 14.1 IP for Triple-A Columbus before being called up in mid-August. Bruney was dominant the rest of the season, striking out 25 and allowing just a pair of runs in 20.2 IP. That earned him a spot on the roster next season.

Over the next three seasons, Bruney was dominant, terrible, hurt, and everything in between. A Lisfranc sprain derailed an otherwise strong season in 2008 (1.83 ERA and 3.45 FIP), then elbow trouble cost him the eighth inning job in early-2009. He went on the DL, rushed himself back, then re-injured it. During his 3+ seasons in pinstripes, Bruney had pitched to a 3.25 ERA (4.66 FIP)  with 8.18 K/9 and 5.70 BB/9 in 144 IP. That amounted to 0.5 fWAR and 2.5 bWAR. It seemed like he came to camp 10-20 lbs. lighter every year, but it never helped him harness his admittedly nasty stuff.

The Yankees traded Bruney to the Nationals two years ago today, receiving a player to be named later in return. That player was Jamie Hoffmann, who the Yanks instructed Washington to take with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft the next day. Hoffmann didn’t make it through Spring Training, but the Yankees were likely to non-tender Bruney later than month because he was due to make close to $2M in 2010. Bruney has pitched to a 7.23 ERA with 32 walks and 32 strikeouts in 37.1 big league innings since then, bouncing from the Nats to the Brewers to the Mets to the White Sox. He’s currently a free agent and struggling to hang on, so the Yankees likely received the best stretch of his career after rolling the dice.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. There’s college basketball on all over the place, plus the Rangers and Islanders are both playing tonight. Talk about whatever you like here, just don’t be a jerk.

Nakajima speaks about Yankees winning negotiating rights

It was a bit surprising when we found out the Yankees had won the negotiating rights to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima last week, and recent reports indicate that he might not sign and instead return to Japan for another year before becoming a free agent next winter. Chad Jennings passed along an article from Nikkan Sports with some quotes from Nakajima, but online translations are a disaster. That’s why I enlisted the help of Patrick Newman, who runs the indispensable NPB Tracker.

“I thought ‘whoa!’. I got a bid from a great team,'” said Nakajima, courtesy of Newman. “I still don’t know how it is going to turn out.” The article goes onto say that Nakajima is “highly motivated” to play in MLB (he asked to be posted last year, but his team said no), so the chances he won’t sign are low. He’s leaving the negotiations up to his agent, obviously. I think this whole situation is very interesting, just because it’s not your typical free agent negotiation and Nakajima probably expected to go to a team that would let him play everyday. The two sides have less than a month to bang out a contract.

Big thanks to Patrick for translating the article and quotes.

Mailbag: Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

J.R. asks: Looking at what the A’s got in return for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow, could you speculate what the Yankees would had to have given to match the package?

In case you missed it yesterday, the Athletics traded Cahill and Breslow to the Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook. None of you Gio Gonzalez fans need to worry, Ken Rosenthal says he’s still on the trade block even after Oakland dealt one of their starters. I will miss the regular poundings the Yankees gave Cahill, he was good for two or three wins a year.

Anyway, the real prize for the Athletics is the 24-year-old Parker, the ninth overall pick in 2007. He missed the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, but made his big league debut this September and threw 5.2 shutout innings in his only start. The right-hander has been on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list in each of the last four years, ranking between 29th and 36th the last three years. Kevin Goldstein told Joe last night that Parker is a better prospect than Dellin Betances because he has a better chance to remain a starter long-term.

Cowgill also made his big league debut this year, hitting .239/.300/.304 with one homer and four steals in exactly 100 plate appearances. Baseball America considered him Arizona’s 18th best prospect before the season, saying he profiles best as a fourth outfielder because he “probably won’t have enough bat for an outfield corner or enough speed to play center field every day.” They mention that the 25-year-old gets the occasional comparison to Cody Ross.

Cook is another guy that debuted in 2011, throwing 7.2 disaster innings (11 hits, eight walks, seven strikeouts, six runs). The 24-year-old righty didn’t appear in Arizona’s top 30 prospects list this year, and he didn’t even make the team’s depth chart in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. In his trade write-up (Insider req’d), Keith Law says he’s “90-95 with a hard-diving slider in the low 80s, but doesn’t command either pitch and has a wicked hook in his delivery as well as a lot of effort; he could peak as a setup guy, could be a middle guy, could spend years bouncing up and down.”

Matching that trade package player-for-player is a little tough for the Yankees, just because of Cowgill. Manny Banuelos steps in for Parker and someone like George Kontos, Ryan Pope, or Craig Heyer is your Cook replacement. The Yankees don’t have an outfielder like Cowgill though, he’s better than the Colin Curtis/Chris Dickerson/Justin Maxwell trio. He’s similar to Brandon Laird offensively, but Laird is an infielder that can fake left field on occasion while Cowgill can handle all three outfield spots if needed. Austin Romine is too much, plus he doesn’t do anything to help Oakland’s outfield situation.

So if we’re speculating that it would have been Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow, would you do it? I say no, mostly because I’m pretty high on Banuelos and not the biggest Cahill fan in the world. He could turn into top flight starter, he has that ability, but boy he sure does leave a lot of sinkers up for a ground ball guy. Maybe my opinion of him is clouded by how the Yankees have crushed him over the last few years. He’d definitely help their rotation both now and for the next four years (signed through 2015 with two club options after that), there’s no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t give up three MLB ready (or very close to MLB ready) pieces to get him. What about you?

Would you have traded a package of Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow?
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Yankees bring back Oppenheimer, Newman, and Eppler for 2012

Via George King (subs. req’d), the Yankees have re-signed pro scouting director Billy Eppler, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman for 2012. Eppler and Oppenheimer were both candidates for the Angels GM job earlier this offseason, with Eppler finishing as the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Oppenheimer was also up for the Orioles GM job. It’s only a matter of time before the Yankees lose those two to other clubs, but they’ll remain in the Bronx for at least one more year.

Friday Night Open Thread

"Will anyone ever offer me a contract Yadi?" "Si." (Christian Petersen/Getty)

I have a feeling the entire baseball world is still recovering from the winter meetings. Friday was pretty slow compared to the rest of the week, though that’s not really surprising. Things will start to pick back up once the Yu Darvish posting period ends next Wednesday, which should kick-start the Edwin Jackson market. Prince Fielder will get serious about signing one of these days now that Albert Pujols is off the market as well.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. There’s nothing going on as far as local sports guy, but after a week of rumors and trades and free agent signings, I suggest going out and living a little.

The RAB Radio Show: December 9, 2011

Mike’s back from the Winter Meetings, and there was plenty of activity. It might not all be directly Yankee related, but it is in some way or another.

  • Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in Anaheim. Mike and I talk about the implications, especially as it concerns the Wild Card.
  • That brings us to Yu Darvish, who was just posted. The Yanks are downplaying their interest, but is that just a smokescreen?
  • The rest of the market looks a bit barren. Hiroki Kuroda is still out there, as is Edwin Jackson. But will the Yanks seriously consider them?
  • There were a number of minor deals this week. Mike and I wrap up some new names that will be in camp — and some that might not.

Podcast run time 45:46

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

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