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.

The key to the winning streak

Like a boss. (Photo Credit: Amanda Rykoff)

At long last, the Yankees have finally put together their first four game winning streak of 2011. Yesterday’s game was the first non-blowout of the stretch, a 4-2 game after the Yankees outscored the Athletics and Mariners 22-4 in the first three games. They hit homers, strung together extended rallies with base hits and walks, capitalized on errors, stole home, you name it and the Yankees did it offensively during these last four games. There has been one constant in those four games though, and that’s been the starting pitching.

It all started Sunday afternoon with the guy that’s supposed to get things started for this team. CC Sabathia took the ball in the series finale against Seattle, fresh off a disappointing extra innings loss on Saturday. While his offense went to work against Jason Vargas, Sabathia gave his team 118 stress-free pitches and eight effective innings. Eighteen of his 24 outs were recorded either on the ground or via strike three, and it was exactly the kind of effort a team needs from their ace when they’re reeling from two come-from-behind losses.

Bartolo Colon followed that up with the best pitched game of the winning streak, throwing his first complete game shutout in half-a-decade against the A’s on Monday afternoon. It was glorious, he went at the hitters with fastball after fastball, surrendering just four hits (and no walks) against six strikeouts in those nine innings. Freddy Garcia chipped in seven innings of three run ball on Tuesday, innings that were hardly spectacular but obviously effective. A.J. Burnett made it four in row yesterday with seven innings of two run ball, allowing just one hit following a first inning two run homer.

All told, Yankees’ starters combined to pitch 31 of 36 possible innings during the winning streak, holding opponents to just 21 hits and eight walks. It was exactly the kind of stretch we almost didn’t expect to see out of the rotation this season given how the staff looked (on paper) back in January and February and March. Through 54 games, exactly one-third of the season, Yankees’ starters own a 3.83 ERA (6th in the AL), a 4.04 FIP (9th), and a 3.85 xFIP (4th). By no means great, but I think it’s better than we expected.

The Yankees have only used six different starting pitchers this year, which is pretty good at this point of the season. Ivan Nova‘s spot is a little bit in question right now, but the Yankees appear to be sticking with him for the time being. They’re still going to have to go out and get someone before the trade deadline, if no other reason than to add depth (remember the “they have enough pitching” talk during the Cliff Lee rumors last July? yeah, right), but through the first third of the season, I think we can safely say that the starting staff (the scrap heap guys in particular) have exceeded even our most optimistic of expectations.

The RAB Radio Show: June 2, 2011

The Yanks head into their off-day winners of four straight, and it could have been better. Mike and I run down the A’s series and look ahead to the Angels. If you thought that the Yankees struggled with RISP, then you’ll feel real bad when you watch the opposition this weekend.

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2011 Draft: Brandon Martin

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.

(Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise)

Brandon Martin | SS

Martin’s stock has risen quite a bit this spring after he bulked up over the winter and added some muscle to his frame. He attends Santiago High School in Corona, California and is committed to baseball powerhouse Oregon State.

Scouting Report
If there’s one thing this draft class lacks, it’s depth at the up-the-middle positions. Martin has flashed all five tools at shortstop, and projects to stay there long-term. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 lbs., but he’s a fast twitch athlete that runs well and offers plenty of range in the field. Martin’s defensive skills need work, but he’s capable of highlight reel plays and has the tools to be an above-average defender at short, including a strong and accurate arm. Swinging from the right side, Martin has quick and compact swing geared for contact with the potential for average power down the road. He’s aggressive, so the approach will need some refinement.

The Yankees were reported to be “heavily in” on Martin a few weeks ago, so there’s some level of interest here. He’s a bit of a long-term project as a high school shortstop, but the potential is there for him to be better than average on both sides of the ball, though not necessarily a star. Given the state of the shortstop position around the game today, better than average is basically star caliber. Keith Law and Baseball America ranked him as the 54th and 65th best prospect in their latest rankings, indicating that he’s more of a supplemental first/second round player.

MLBTR’s list of potentially available starters

Yesterday at MLBTR, Tim Dierkes posted a list of starting pitchers that could potentially become available in a trade this summer. It’s all based on speculation, but few outsiders know the market like Tim. It’s your generic collection of impending free agents, salary dumps, and firesale types, but it’s a disappointing list overall. The most attractive name (by far) is John Danks, though I have soft spots for Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe. The competition for starters like these figures to pick up now that the Red Sox have to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tommy John surgery), so this should be a fun trade season.