Via Jayson Stark, the Yankees are trying to unload the disappointing Chan Ho Park on some unsuspecting team desperate for relief help. CHoP has been on the chopping block (pun intended) for basically the entire season, but I suppose it’s possible that GM Brian Cashman has been getting a few trade inquiries, buying Park some time before what seems like an inevitable DFA. The Yankees aren’t going to get much in return, obviously, but a fringe prospect plus some salary relief is better than nothing.
The Rockies, owners of one of the league’s deepest rosters, have dropped their last six games to fall to eight back in the NL West and four-and-a-half back of NL Wild Card, and now they’re considering selling before the deadline. Just take a quick glance at their roster, and you’ll see plenty of players that appear to fit what the Yankees need.
Despite valiant efforts to land Cliff Lee and Dan Haren, the Yanks biggest needs at the trade deadline are help for the bullpen and help for the bench. A full-time designated hitter is another possibility, but I’m curious to see what a Juan Miranda–Marcus Thames platoon could do given regular at-bats. Besides, DH types are abundant during the August waiver trade period, so it’s not a high priority.
Starting on the bench, the Rockies could and probably will shop former Oriole Melvin Mora if they are serious about turning over some of their roster. Mora is owed about $472,000 the rest of the way, and he’ll become a non-compensation free agent after the season. We’re all familiar with Mora from his days with Baltimore, so this part is just review. He’s very versatile, having played first, second, third, and left this season, and his bat is basically league average if not a bit below. His .321 wOBA is actually not a product of Coors Field (.291 wOBA at home, .344 on the road), but his defensive shortcomings have him at perfectly replacement level this year, 0.0 WAR. Is that better than Ramiro Pena (-0.4 WAR)? It sure is.
As for the bullpen, there are plenty of options, but the most attractive is probably Rafael Betancourt. His peripheral stats are off the charts this season (10.75 K/9, 1.25 BB/9), but his ERA sits at 4.50 because of some bad luck on balls in play (.374 BABIP). The big drawback is that Betancourt is an extreme fly ball pitcher (71% of the balls put in play off him during his career have been liners or fly balls), something that might not jive with the New Stadium. The contract situation isn’t great either. Betancourt is owed a touch less than $1.4M for the rest of the season, then is under contract for $3.775M next year. That’s not exactly a bargain basement price for a middle reliever.
The Rockies also have southpaw Joe Beimel to offer, but he’s got unimpressive peripherals (4.50 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 vs. LHB this year) and about $315,000 left on his contract. Plus the Yanks don’t really need another lefty reliever. Manny Corpas has always been a personal fave, and he’s established himself as a ~6.4 K/9, ~2.4 BB/9, ~48% ground ball pitcher over the last several seasons. The Rockies locked him up long-term a few years ago, so he’s owed $1.02M the rest of this year, $3.5M next year, and then there’s a pair of club options for 2012 ($6M or $250,000 buyout) and 2013 ($8M or $500,000 buyout). If Corpas’ 2012 option is declined, he’s still under team control as an arbitration eligible player. They might not want to move him given the cost certainty. Matt Belisle has found a niche in Colorado’s bullpen over the last two years (9.10 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, .3% grounders), but his limited track record of success makes him a risky proposition. He’s owed the same $315,000 as Beimel the rest of the way, and still has another year of arbitration eligibility ahead of him.
Since we’re here, we might as well talk about Brad Hawpe as a DH option, and make no mistake about it, he’s strictly a DH. Over the last three seasons the guy has a -60.4 UZR in the outfield, the worst of any player at any position. The second worst defensive player during that time is Jermaine Dye, who had a -40.5 UZR, so it’s not like it’s close either. Thankfully he can really hit, though he hasn’t produced as expected this year. Coming off four consecutive seasons of at least a .376 wOBA, Hawpe is all the way down to .327 this year, losing close to 50 points off his isolated power. His batted ball profile is basically unchanged, but for whatever reason just 8.1% of his fly balls are leaving the yard (compared to ~17.6% over the last three years). Comparing Hawpe’s spray chart from this year to the past few years, it looks like his isn’t pulling the ball as much as he used to. Maybe his bat has slowed as he entered his 30’s (he turned 31 last month).
Regardless of what the problem is, someone’s still going to have to pay Hawpe the $2.78M left on his deal this season, plus the $500,000 buyout of his $10M option for 2011. Even though he projects to be a Type-A free agent, an arbitration offer isn’t guaranteed, and despite his offensive production over the last four years, Hawpe is still just a platoon guy. He’s got a .380 wOBA vs. RHP in his career, but just .323 vs. LHP. It’s not Curtis Granderson bad, but bad enough that Thames will still see plenty of at-bats.
I ran Mora, Hawpe, Corpas, and Betancourt through Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator (here’s the breakdown), and frankly none of them have much value. Using what I think are optimistic (and admittedly, somewhat arbitrary) WAR projections, Mora comes in at $1.3M, Hawpe at -$0.2M (assuming his option is declined and arbitration is not offered), Betancourt at $2.8M, and Corpas at $4.5M (assuming his 2012 option is picked up, but the 2013 option is declined). Hawpe has negative value because his production is down and he’s owed so much money. Based on Victor Wang’s research, none of the four is worth even a Grade-B position player prospect. Mora could fetch an older (23+) Grade-C pitching prospect (Wilkin DeLaRosa?), the two relievers someone like Dan Brewer or Bradley Suttle. If that’s the case, I imagine the Rockies would just keep Corpas and Betancourt.
Whether or not the Rockies decide to go ahead and sell remains to be seen. They do have some players that could help the Yankees down the stretch and shouldn’t cost an arm and leg. Mora is certainly familiar with the AL East, ditto Betancourt and the AL in general. I prefer Corpas to Betancourt, but I’m not the one calling the shots.
Once upon a time, the Yankees had to make a trade to get a player they coveted. Due to the vagaries of the Japanese league’s posting system and the international player market at the time, in April of 1997, the Yankees had to ship a package of players to the San Diego Padres for the rights to Hideki Irabu. The heralded right-hander — Japan’s Roger Clemens — had landed with the Padres in January but refused to play for anyone but the Yankees. So the Bombers sent Ruben Rivera, Rafael Medina — two amateur free agents the club had signed — and $3 million to San Diego. Today, they have Nick Swisher, and it’s all because of that trade from 1997.
Trade histories often run deep as multiple prospects and established veterans are shipped off for a variety of parts. Over time, those players acquired become key cogs in a system moving ever forward. Some contribute to championship clubs while others are repurposed in future trades while still others never make their mark on the game. The path from Ruben Rivera and Rafael Medina, a pitcher who threw 90.2 forgettable innings for the Marlins in the late 1990s, to Nick Swisher unveils the tale of the Yankees over the last 13 seasons.
In 1997, the Yankees were fresh off of their first World Series title in 18 years, but the club knew it had to both improve and look for ways to expand its market into the emerging international scene. With Jimmy Key pushing 35 and Dwight Gooden no sure thing, the Yanks turned their eyes to Irabu, a famous name in Japan, and landed him at the cost of Ruben Rivera, then one of the team’s top prospects. The Padres earned nothing much from the Yanks in that deal, but the Yanks didn’t get much from Irabu either.
Despite the hype, Irabu had a tenuous tenure with the Yanks. He incurred the wrath of George Steinbrenner when he failed to cover first base. The tabloids had a field day with him, and “fat pussy toad” still evokes images of Hideki Ira-boo-boo. Still, despite a 29-20 record with a 4.80 ERA (95 ERA+), Irabu pitched on part of two championship clubs even if he never earned himself a World Series invite. The Yankees eventually shipped him to the Expos for Jake Westbrook, Ted Lilly and Christian Parker, not a bad haul in the long run.
Westbrook, the sinker baller who lost to Javier Vazquez and the Yankees last night, was not long for the pinstriped world. Considered a top pitching prospect prior to the 2000 season, the right-hander appeared in three games for the Yanks. He went 0-2 and got shellacked to the tune of 15 hits and 10 earned runs in 6.2 innings. But the Yanks realized Westbrook’s true value in a late-June trade that still stands as one of Brian Cashman‘s bests.
With the Yanks’ offense struggling, Cashman packaged Zach Day, Ricky Ledee and Westbrook to the Indians for David Justice, and the lefty with the sweet, sweet swing was an instant sensation. Over 78 games with the Yankees that year, he hit .305/.391/.585 with 20 home runs and seemed to carry the Bombers when they need a pick-me-up. In the ALCS against the Mariners, his towering three-run home run in the 7th inning against Arthur Rhodes set the stadium shaking, and it gave the Yanks a lead they would not relinquish. It also won him the series MVP award.
After a poor 2001 season, Justice’s time in the Bronx would be up as the club tried to get younger while filling roster holes. Although Justice would end up in Oakland in 2002, he spent one week in December with the Mets, an in return, the Yankees landed themselves Robin Ventura. The long-time White Sox stalwart had an unmemorable time in the Bronx. He hit 27 homers in 2002, but in the middle of 2003, he was mired in an offensive malaise. The Yanks shipped him and his .251/.344/.392 line to the Dodgers for Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor.
As the Yankee Dynasty declined, Proctor came to stand for everything wrong with Joe Torre’s managerial approach. After two cups of coffee in 2004 and 2005 where he flashed plus stuff with little command, Proctor stuck in 2006 and earned a spot in the Circle of Trust. He made 83 appearances and threw 102.1 innings of decent relief work. In 2007, after Proctor had made 52 appearances in the club’s first 103 games, Brian Cashman took away Torre’s favorite toy and traded him to the Dodgers for — drumroll, please — Wilson Betemit. (Proctor, of course, met his demise when Torre took over the Dodgers in 2008 and used him again in half of the club’s games until his elbow gave out. He has yet to pitch in the Majors since.)
We all know the rest of this story. Betemit was an underperforming backup infielder who had some power but couldn’t field a lick. With Swisher’s bad 2008 fresh in his memory, Chicago White Sox General Manager Ken Williams traded Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira to the Yanks for Wilson Betemit, Jhonny Nunez and Jeff Marquez. It too stands out as one of Brian Cashman’s all-time heists.
Inevitably, this week, the Yankees will move some players and acquire others. They want bullpen help; they need bench help; and they appear to be lurking on the wings of some starting pitching rumors, waiting to pounce. In 13 years’ time, who knows which trade will take on a journey through recent Yankee history? This tale — one that, for now, ends with a home run last night and an All Star Game appearance — started with an overhyped Japanese pitcher, a top outfield prospect and a team hellbent on getting its man. Somehow, that Irabu deal turned out OK so many years later.
I’ll be making another appearance today on the Pulse Network’s Sports Buzz show. Today’s hit comes at 11 a.m., and I’m calling in to chat trade deadline. I’ll talk about which players the Yankees are interested in, the areas in which the club needs the most improvement and which deals are most likely to get done before Saturday’s trade deadline. You can watch it live right here.
Last time through the rotation Javy Vazquez blew through the Angels’ order, using just 37 pitches to record the first 12 outs. This time it took him 45 pitches to record those first 12 outs, but the difference was that he kept cruising after that. He completed the seventh and even came out for the eighth, using 102 pitches (64 strikes) to keep his team within striking distance. It seems like he’s doing that in almost every game now. That’s quite a change from the beginning of the season.
At this point we can draw a few conclusions about Javy’s season. For instance, he’s clearly lost a bit on his fastball. In good starts and in bad he’s averaging around 89 mph, after averaging around 91 mph for most of his career. That has led to a number of changes in his numbers, including an decreased strikeout rate, increased walk rate, and increased home run rate. Of course, some of that is attributable to his ugly first five starts, which he has put behind him. It warrants a bit closer look to see what has changed since the beginning.
Home runs stand out the most, because they do the most damage. Javy has surrendered 18 of them this year, which has led to a career-high rate of 1.51 per nine. Eight of those came in his first five starts, meaning he has surrendered just 10 in his latest 13 starts, a much more palatable number (1.07 per nine). Opponents are putting the ball in the air frequently, 47.4 percent, a number that, if anything, has gone up as he’s gotten better.
The added fly balls do have a side benefit. While ground balls suppress extra base hits, fly balls suppress base hits in general. The AL is hitting .231 on groundballs, but is hitting .222 on fly balls (.142 BABIP because of the sac flies). This helps explain Javy’s .255 BABIP. It might seem unsustainably low, and I do suspect that we’ll see something of an uptick in it. I’m not sure when that will happen — after all, he does have a .221 BABIP in his last 13 starts.
His walk rate, 3.45 per nine, is quite high for him, but again comes mostly from the beginning of the season, when he displayed no command of his fastball. In his last 13 starts he has walked 2.79 per nine, still a bit above his normal numbers but understandable given his change of scenery and diminished fastball. Those facts also have affected his strikeout rate, which is at just 7.23 per nine. There’s little chance he recovers those lost strikeouts, but it seems he’s made some other adjustments.
In terms of pitches, it seems he has all but ditched the slider. While it rated at 3.0 runs above average last season, it was the worst of his four pitches. This year it rates at 0.2 runs above average, better than his curve and change, which rank in the negatives. Yet this could be more indicative of how pitch type values measures runs above average. In his first five starts he threw his slider 16.1 percent of the time, mixing it well with his curve and change. He threw it for strikes, 62.7 percent, and got batters to swing and miss on 12 percent of them. Yet something just wasn’t working with it.
In his last 13 starts he has cut down on the slider usage greatly, throwing it 10.6 percent, less frequently than all of his other pitches. He has gone more to the change and the curveball. The change has become his weapon of choice, as he’s deployed it 19.8 percent of the time and has seen a 14.8 percent whiff rate. As for the slider, he’s seeing fewer swings and misses, 9.5 percent, as he throws it less often, but he’s also seeing fewer of them, 14.6 percent, put in play. Back when he was throwing it more often opponents put it in play 21.3 percent of the time.
This is not, in other words, the Javier Vazquez who contended for the Cy Young last year. He’s not the guy who will strike out more than a batter per inning and refuse to issue the free pass. He’s not the guy with four lights out pitches who will go to any one in any situation. Instead he’s a veteran who’s learning to survive with diminished stuff. It caught him off-guard earlier in the season, and it took him five starts to finally realize his limitations. He’s made those adjustments, though, and it shows in the results. Javy might not be a top of the rotation starter, but he provides stability to these Yankees.
Sunday’s game lasted a little longer than the Yankees would have liked because of a two-plus hour rain delay, and they presumably arrived in Cleveland a little later than they would have liked this morning. That could have explained their slumping bats early in Monday’s game, but then again the team also seems to have no interest in scoring runs for Javy Vazquez. Curtis Granderson‘s third homer in the last two games put the Yankees on top late, and a surprise 8th inning setup tandem handed the ball off to Mariano Rivera, who preserved the 3-2 win. Matt Garza no-hit the Tigers, so the Yanks’ lead in the AL East remains at three.
Wait, Why Aren’t They Pinch Running For Posa … Nevermind
Former Yankee Jake Westbrook was on his game Monday night, holding the Yankees to just two hits through the first eight innings. One of those hits was a Nick Swisher solo shot, accounting for the Yanks’ lone run up to that point. Westbrook’s pitch count sat at 99 entering that 8th inning, though it was a stress-free 99 pitches and there was every reason to believe he had enough left in the tank for another three outs.
Jorge Posada, the designated hitter following the long game and late travel, starting the inning off by taking two sinkers for strikes, but he managed to work the count full before knocking a ball through the 5.5 hole for a leadoff single. Down by one with a lifeless offense, it stood to reason that Joe Girardi would send out a pinch-runner, especially since he had Marcus Thames and Juan Miranda on the bench to bat as the DH if needed later in the game. Instead, Girardi left Posada out there to run for himself, and it turned out all he would need to do was jog.
Curtis Granderson, just 5-for-23 (.217) off Westbrook prior to Monday night, took the righty’s first pitch changeup in the dirt for a ball. Westbrook’s next pitch was his worst of the night, a 91 mph fastball belt-high and out over the plate, and Granderson didn’t miss it. Posada knew it was gone, Grandy knew it was gone, Westbrook know it was gone, we all knew it was gone. The ball landed several row back in the rightfield stands, giving the Yankees a one run lead they’d never give up.
The homer was worth .402 WPA, which I’m going to guess is the second highest WPA for a non-walk-off hit by a Yankee this year behind Alex Rodriguez‘s game tying homer off Jonathan Papelbon back in the Thames walk-off game.
Give The Guy Some Run Support
In what has become a common occurrence since mid-May, Vazquez took the ball deep into the game and was rather stellar, only to be saddled with minimal run support. Travis Hafner touched him up for a solo homer in the 2nd, and the Indians scored what was then the go-ahead run in 6th on a double, fielder’s choice, and another double. In between the homer and the first double, Javy retired ten of 11 and threw no more than 16 pitches in an inning until the 7th.
All told, Vazquez gave the Yanks seven strong innings, giving up five hits (scarily enough, four doubles and a homer) and two walks while striking out five. The offense backed him up with three runs or fewer for the fourth time in his last five starts, and for the tenth time overall in his 19 starts. Big ups to Javy though, he was pretty damn good.
During his pre-game press conference, Joe Girardi indicated that he would “lean toward” using Joba Chamberlain should a situation arise where the Yanks had a slim lead in the 8th. That exact situation came up tonight, but there was Joba on the bench in the bullpen, watching as David Robertson warmed up while Javy started the inning. After Vazquez walked Michael Brantley to start the frame, Girardi called for Robertson, who ran out of the bullpen like the place was on fire.
With a man on first and none out, Robertson’s jumped ahead of Asdrubal Cabrera 1-2, though the Indians shortstop spoiled a good put-away curveball. D-Rob’s last pitch of the night was a fastball that Cabrera beat into the ground for a rally killing 6-4-3 double play. It decreased Cleveland’s chances of a win by more than 20%. It was the third time this year that Robertson has faced just one batter while recording two outs, which is kind cool.
Girardi turned to Boone Logan to face Shin-Soo Choo (and his enormous platoon split) with two outs in the 8th, and six pitches later everyone was walking back to the dugout after strike three. It was the cleanest 8th inning pitched by Yankee relievers in who knows how long.
The Best Of The Rest
Granderson’s homer wasn’t his only well struck ball of the night. He clobbered a ball off the top of the rightfield wall in the 5th, but got thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. Choo played it perfectly off the wall and made a great throw, but the replay showed Grandy’s foot got in there before the tag. Such is life.
Speaking of Choo, Kenny Singleton was mispronouncing his name all night. He was saying “Shin-So”, not “Shin-Sue”. I’ll be paying attention tomorrow to see if he keeps doing it, but I suspect someone on the staff will straighten him out.
Mark Teixeira drew a walk, extending his streak of reaching base safely to 42 consecutive games. It’s the longest streak of his career by several games, and is the second longest such streak in the big leagues this year.
Robbie Cano was intentionally walked for a league leading 11th time. He had been intentionally walked 14 times total in the first five years of his career. That’s awesome. Robbie also reminded us all that he has the meanest double play pivot in the game in that 8th inning.
You know what isn’t awesome? Jhonny Peralta. He saw six total pitches in his four at-bats tonight. Turrrible. Good thing he’s on the Indians.
Mariano was understandably rusty tonight, it was his first action since last Wednesday. Nevertheless, scoreless 9th inning for Mo.
I have to say, I’ve been very impressed with Javy’s fielding this year. He handled that comebacker in the 6th to nab the lead runner between second and third, and it was just one of many times this year that he’s made nice plays on balls hit back at him. Very cool and collected in those spots, makes good decisions too. Fielding the position is not a crucial part of a pitcher’s game, but it’s certainly a nice bonus.
We’re all still waiting on Alex Rodriguez’s 600th career homer. He went hitless in four at-bats tonight, and is 6-for-17 (.353) with two doubles since hitting No. 599. It’ll come soon enough, don’t worry. Part of me hopes it doesn’t come until the Yanks return home next week.
WPA Graph & Box Score
Same two teams as the same time tomorrow. Former Indian CC Sabathia gets the ball against rookie righthander Josh Tomlin, who will be making his big league debut. You know what that means … they’re doooooooooomed!
Austin Romine is getting a little extra rest per the organization’s mandate. Remember, this is his first full season as an every day catcher and he has started to slow down of late, likely due to fatigue. No biggie, it’s always good to let the kids sit back and recharge the batteries every once in a while.
Triple-A Scranton (3-0 win over Rochester)
Kevin Russo, LF & Greg Golson, CF: both 0 for 4, 1 K
Reid Gorecki, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 K – five for eight over his last two games
Eric Bruntlett, SS & Jorge Vazquez, 1B: both 1 for 4, 1 2B – Bruntlett scored a run … JoVa drove in two & K’ed
Chad Tracy, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Chad Huffman, DH: 1 for 4, 1 K
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 K
Chad Moeller, C: 1 for 4, 1 K – four for eight while filling for Jesus Montero and his bruised forearm
Tim Redding: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 6-10 GB/FB – 75 of 104 pitches were strikes (72.1%) … check this guy out
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – ten of his 17 pitches were strikes (58.8%)