Identifying potential (ideally left-handed-hitting) DH trade targets

As we all know by now, the Yankees are telling people they are hoping to fill their vacancy at DH via trade (which would presumably include dealing either A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes) first, and should that fail, scour the remaining free-agent market as a fallback option.

The following is a short-list of potential designated hitter candidates (ideally of the left-handed hitting variety, to create a platoon with Andruw Jones) that could make some sense as trade targets for the Yankees. It should be noted that none of these players are likely on the trading block — three of four are penciled in as starters — but what better to stoke the Hot Stove fires with than irresponsible rumormongerng?

Garrett Jones, Pirates. Prior to embarking on research for this post I’d never even heard of Jones, but he hit righties fairly well last season, posting a .351 wOBA/122 wRC+ in 406 PAs, including an 11.3 BB%. Combined with Jones ideally putting together something reasonably comparable to the .400 wOBA/151 wRC+ he compiled against LHP from last season, and that’d not only make for one of the more productive DHs in the league, but also perhaps the first-ever all-Jones platoon in baseball history. Garrett also carries a career .360 wOBA against RHP along with a 125 wRC+ and 11.3 BB% in more than 1,000 PAs — the man knows how to hit right-handed pitching.

At 30, he’s also no spring chicken, and I can’t envision the cost in players being all that considerable, although as Joe noted to me, “He’s one of their only decent bats, so I’m not sure they’d let him go cheaply. Considering his age and must-platoon status, I’m not sure there’s a good match there.” A late bloomer, Jones is also under team control for three more years, so that would likely impede a hypothetical deal further. Still, Brian Cashman and Neal Huntington do seem to like each other as trading partners, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cash figure something creative out given the team’s current glut of pitching.

Nolan Reimold, Orioles. Despite the fact that the Yankees and Orioles have hooked up for just one player-for-player trade in the 19 years since Peter Angelos bought the Orioles franchise, Ken Rosenthal yesterday posited that the birds could be a logical trade partner for Burnett. While a deal involving anyone seems highly unlikely, earlier this offseason I wrote about Reimold potentially being a useful bench piece. Unfortunately he doesn’t meet the left-handed-hitting component of our criteria, but he actually can hit righties, tagging them with a .360 wOBA/124 wRC+ (10.1 BB%) in 201 PAs last season, and he’s evinced a slight reverse platoon split during his career, with a .345 mark against righties compared to .332 against lefties. He’s also not currently projected to start for Baltimore, perhaps making him a bit more expendable. Still, file this under not bloody likely.

Lucas Duda, Mets. This is even less likely than a deal with the O’s, as the Mets would presumably have to be blown away to trade a player that is arguably their second-best hitter and one who also happens to be cost-controlled. After all, the CitiField faithful are going to need something to get excited about given the bleak outlook of the next few years. Still, with the Yankees’ excess of arms, perhaps a deal involving Phil Hughes and one of the fourth-starter types at AAA (who would probably fare quite a bit better both in the NL and at the cavernous ballpark in Queens than in the Bronx) or some sort of package of minor leaguers would be compelling enough to evoke a rare crosstown trade for the left-handed Duda, who obliterated righties to the tune of a .380 wOBA/145 wRC+. Though Duda projects to be the Mets’ starting right fielder, the 26-year-old hasn’t shown much of an ability to hit portsiders to this point (in an admittedly small sample of 86 PAs, Duda has a .282 wOBA), so perhaps the cost wouldn’t be excessive given the need to platoon. (h/t to YankeeSource for inspiring this idea following his musing on Daniel Murphy).

David DeJesus, Cubs. The long-linked-to-the-Yankees local product DeJesus is a no-go at the present moment, having signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubbies at the end of November. However; should Chicago fall out of contention come July — and at the present moment, it’s not clear that they’re better than roughly a 3rd-place team on paper — DeJesus will likely be an attractive trade candidate. Though he had a tough year in Oakland last season, he still hit righties well (.347 wOBA/120 wRC+), and owns a career .356 wOBA/116 wRC+ against northpaws.

Again, with Jones and Duda projected to hit 5th for their respective teams, the Pirates and Mets would likely look for more than the Yankees would feel comfortable dishing, despite both franchises having basically already been eliminated from 2012 playoff contention. The unfortunate O’s are also a lock for last in the AL East yet again, though that still won’t be enough for Angelos to attempt to improve his team via dealing with the Yankees. If the Yankees do decide to go into the season addressing their DH needs in-house, DeJesus will likely be a name that will once again come up frequently should the Cubs falter, and would seem to be the most probable to be dealt out of this quartet.

Remembering the days of Jose Canseco

(Photo via AP)

As he is wont to do every now and then, Jose Canseco took to Twitter earlier this week to beg some Major League GMs for a job. The poster boy for the steroid age is a sprightly 47, but he still thinks both that he could handle Major League pitching and that he has been unfairly railroaded from the game for “exposing” baseball’s PED-filled underbelly.

Every time Canseco’s name comes up, I always flash back to the 2000 baseball season when Jose somehow ended up on the Yankees for two months. He got 137 plate appearances over 37 games and hit .243/.365/.432, good for a 103 OPS+ in an era of off-the-charts offense. He struck out in his one post-season at-bat during the World Series against the Mets, but he got a ring out of it. Needless to say, he did not return to the Bronx in 2001.

So how exactly did Canseco end up on the Yankees? It was, in fact, a calculated risk that turned into something of a mistake. We’ll get to that though. First, the club reaction. When the Yankees landed Canseco on a waiver claim from the Devil Rays in August of 2000, no one knew what to do with him. “I’m a little stunned,” Joe Torre said at the time. “I’m a little surprised. I don’t have an opinion one way or another.”

George Steinbrenner was less diplomatic. “I think they got caught up in something they didn’t think about,” he said, vaguely referring to his third-year GM, “but I’m behind my people. I’m totally supportive of what they did. I’m happy the man is coming here, and I’m hoping he does the job for me.”

The Boss later backed down and sided with his baseball people when Torre continued to question the move. “I want it made very clear that I support the decision of Brian Cashman 100 percent, and I’m very surprised by anyone who would be surprised by his aggressiveness,” he said. “Jose Canseco has been a very big contributor.”

As the story behind the claim played out, those watching the Yankees were skeptical. Jack Curry critiqued the deal as only Jack can. Canseco himself called his three months with the Yanks as “the worst time of my life.”

During the summer of 2000, we learned exactly what happened. The Yanks were concerned that the Blue Jays, just a few games behind them in the AL race, would pounce on Canseco via a trade, and they put a waiver claim in to attempt to claim him. No one else bit, and the Yanks ended up with Canseco. Brian Cashman refused to work out a deal with Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar, and LaMar simply let Canseco and the remaining $1 million on his deal go to New York.

The next year, as Canseco grumbled, Cashman defended his move. “There is no question he was a member of this team and he did contribute. We only won this division by two games, and while he may have played a small part, he definitely played a part and he contributed,” he said. Thus ended a strange, strange chapter in Yankee lore.

Open Thread: Hip Hip

As I said earlier, Joe Posada’s retirement press conference was nothing but first class today. The Yankees really did a wonderful job. The video above if Jorge’s statement on his retirement, but that was just a small part of the day. You can see basically the entire event — albeit broken up into small clips — at the YES Network’s site. Here’s the video archive.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are all playing tonight, but Time Warner customers like myself are still without MSG. Anyway, talk about whatever you want here. Except politics, that always gets messy.

Yankees avoid arbitration with Russell Martin

6:52pm: Via David Waldstein, Martin got $7.5M with another $100k in performance bonuses. Just under the midpoint, in terms of guaranteed money. Sweeny Murti said the two sides talked about a two-year deal, which would be ideal, really.

6:05pm: The Yankees announced that they’ve avoided arbitration with Russell Martin by agreeing to a one-year contract. No word on the terms yet, but Russ filed for $8.2M while the team countered with $7M last week. Splitting the difference and calling it $7.6M seems fair enough. Martin is eligible for free agency after this coming season, and there’s been some speculation that the Yankees could look to sign him to a multi-year contract. That can still happen at any time, this deal doesn’t change that at all. The team’s only remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player is Boone Logan.

What else to do with Freddy?

If the Yankees don’t use Freddy Garcia as the fifth starter, what exactly can they do with him? As Mike mentioned in his earlier post, he’s quite inflexible. He doesn’t have significant bullpen experience, which rules out the most obvious alternative. Since the Yankees signed Garcia after the free agency filing period ended, they cannot assign his contract — i.e., trade him — until June 15th without his written permission. That leaves the Yanks in a bit of a bind.

The strongest point in favor of Garcia manning the fifth spot is his lack of baggage. He’s under contract, he’s capable, and there’s nothing to prove. While both Hughes and Burnett are under contract, their capability is ripe for debate, and it’s undeniable that both have plenty to prove. Garcia, then, is the simplest, most straight forward option for the rotation. At the same time, that works against him.

The Yankees probably want to see if they can squeeze a little more value out of the $82.5 million they’ll pay Burnett. At the same time, they probably want to see if they can actually get prolonged productivity over a pitcher who was once the No. 4 prospect in the game. Brian Cashman‘s words do make it appear as though they wish to trade either Burnett or Hughes, which could ease the situation a bit. But even if they do, that leaves Garcia in competition with the non-traded pitcher. The point about flexibility remains.

Whatever the case with the other two pitchers, the Yankees will likely stand pat with Garcia throughout spring training. Injuries happen, so Garcia acts as a bit of insurance for the Yanks. If they reach the end of spring training healthy and decided that they’d prefer Hughes or Burnett in the fifth spot, it is conceivable at that point that Garcia would consent to a trade. He might have enjoyed his experience with the Yankees, but he might also prefer a chance to start with another team, rather than play the role of long man in the Yankees’ bullpen.

The biggest problem with the above scenarios is that Garcia’s greatest value for the Yankees comes in the rotation. He clearly won’t be as valuable out of the bullpen, even if he pitches moderately well there. He probably won’t fetch much in a trade, unless a team suffers multiple injuries in their starting rotation and becomes hopelessly desperate for a living, breathing pitcher. If the Yankees don’t use him as the fifth starter, the $4 million they used to sign him will have basically become garbage. That’s not ideal for a team that has used the word “budget” frequently this off-season.

Since Garcia is not involved in trade talks, and since he’d provide quality innings pitching in the fifth rotation spot, it’s easy to envision him there to start the season. The Yankees don’t have many other realistic options. They could try to trade him, but probably wouldn’t get equal value. They could move him to the bullpen, but he’s never really pitched there. It will probably take them moving one of Hughes or Burnett to make it work, but it does appear that the best solution for Garcia is to have him pitch every five days.