Heyman: Yanks made ‘big proposal’ on Soria

In a piece that incorrectly labels the July trade market as one for the buyers, Jon Heyman leads with some Yankee dirt. He says the team is looking to be in on some big names this week and writes that the team has made “a big proposal” to the Royals for Joakim Soria. The Yanks want to upgrade their bullpen this week, but Soria won’t come cheap. He’s emerged as one of the game’s best relievers, non-Mariano division, and is under contract through 2011 with three club options with innings pitched escalators that total $22.75 million. Heyman also notes that the Bombers “have been in touch” with Washington over Adam Dunn but have so far found the price to be “prohibitive.”

Aceves to join team on upcoming road trip

According to Joe Girardi‘s pregame press conference, the sorely missed Al Aceves will join the Yankees on their upcoming seven game road trip. His back is getting better, and he’s expected to throw several bullpen sessions during the trip. This doesn’t mean Aceves is close to returning, however. He’d still need to throw full mound sessions with no pain before going on a minor league rehab assignment, so Ace is still several weeks away from rejoining the team. Still, this is better news than what we’ve been getting.

Game 97: Is today the day?

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Yankees head out on the road for the seven game road trip after today’s game, so if Alex Rodriguez wants to hit his 600th career homer in front of some friendly fans, he better get it today. Personally, I’d just like to see him get a curtain call and cheered and a video montage and all that jazz when he hits it, so I’m pulling for him to hit it today. I don’t want to see A-Rod get this milestone homer in front of 16,000 people in Cleveland, half of whom have no idea what just happened.

Today’s pitching matchup is a rematch of Tuesday’s, before Sean O’Sullivan was traded from the Angels to the Royals. According to Kim Jones on the pregame, he’s the first pitcher to ever start against the Yankees twice on the same homestand for two different teams. Remember guys, he’s probably throwing a changeup. Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, DH
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF
Pena, 3B

And on the bump, it’s Phil Hughes, who could really use a dominating start.

First pitch is set for 1:05pm ET, and YES will carry it. Apparently there might be a rain shower in the mid-afternoon. Enjoy the game.

Dan Haren and the three bears

Dan Haren. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By now you’ve been inundated with rumor after rumor and discussion after discussion on how much value the Yankees would give up to receive D-Backs pitcher Dan Haren. The Yankees have said that they’re not willing to give up Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Z-Mac, Banuelos and eating salary. No, I have no new news to report. With other teams balking and Arizona hemorrhaging cash, it makes sense for the Yankees to wait it out and see the asking price drop. So what would you give up to get Haren? Remember, we’re talking the most you’d put toward the center of the table.

There are very good reasons to pursue Haren –he’s a borderline ace/great #2 with a very attractive below-market contract, which would give the team a great second starter, keep Hughes’ inning limit in check, and really hedge their other rotation concerns. No need to rush Andy, and it also limits some lingering concerns about AJ Burnett.

On the other side, Haren really isn’t a need, that’s still around $30 million they’d be adding to payroll, at present it would be a heavy prospect loss, and the addition may adversely impact the pursuit of Cliff Lee.

Before I get to my own personal high offer, let’s first knock down a few points.

Selling Low?

People continue to say the Yankees would be “selling low” on Joba to trade him off when he’s pitching so poorly. Yet, I don’t see it that way. Clearly, his value is high for the Diamondbacks. Their bullpen is remarkably inept. Maybe they overvalue the impact of closers. Whatever the case, if his value now is high enough to be the main piece that gets a top 20 pitcher in baseball (while giving up what appear to be 2 back-end rotation guys, a promising mature lefty in Banuelos), isn’t that enough for Yankee fans? What could Joba get you if you ‘sold high’ on him? He’s going to hit arbitration soon, and for this team he’s been a very mixed bag. Dan Haren is probably the ceiling on what Joba could get you if his value is much higher. And Dan Haren on a team-friendly deal is not a bad thing at all.

Beyond that, as Artisteve at TYU points out, it doesn’t appear the Yankees have much faith in Joba as a starter going forward. From their perspective that’s not unreasonable (though I think they’ve botched the handling along the way, though Joba certainly should be as responsible for his performances; hard to gauge). If you think Dan Haren would be overall more valuable for the team over the next three years than Nova, Joba, Z-Mac, and Banuelos would be, you certainly pull the trigger.

However, there is more to that. I saw a great comment yesterday, one that Moshe Mandel of TYU pointed out. steve (different one) notes that contrary to the belief of some, it’s not that one player holds up the deal, but rather, adding that one additional piece that tips the scales in the wrong direction. Maybe losing Joba isn’t a big deal. Maybe even adding the salary of Haren and giving up Nova is something they’d be willing to do. But an additional piece, an asset they clearly value, like Banuelos or Z-Mac is just too much for them. That asset would be there to offset some kind of other loss, and thus, would be too steep a price for what the team may consider just a luxury. At the same token, you can’t just offer up Nova, Z-Mac and Ramiro Pena and expect them to jump. That porridge is too cold.

The Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all

On the financial side, it preliminarily looks like it could work. Financially, the team should have close to $80 million coming off payroll next year. Of course, with Jeter and Mariano, you’re probably looking at $30 million next season in contracts. So we’re down to $50. And even with Haren, you’d still be looking at another pitcher at over $11 million, so we’re down to $24-25 million. (Drop even further if that pitcher next year is Cliff Lee.)

Heard this: It could be Andy's last year. Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

With the bullpen needing some improvement and the DH situation looking cloudy, in addition to arbitration to Hughes, salary jumps to Teix, Granderson, and Swisher, we’re probably down to around $18 million. Of course, this is all highly dependent on a myriad of factors, but let’s be clear — there is a very good chance that Haren and Lee for around $32 million is a realistic possibility next year. It’s basically Andy, Javy and Kei Igawa being replaced by those two.

But I want it now!

On a personal level, I’d be a bit disappointed if the Yankees didn’t get Haren, even if it’s Joba, Nova, Z-Mac and (gulp) Banuelos. That’s right, push comes to shove, it’s five minutes before the trade deadline, I include Banuelos, Nova, Z-Mac and Joba, while taking on Chris Snyder (I’ll explain in a bit) and the salary of Haren (which is a completely reasonable salary considering his performance). Of course, there’s no reason to bet against oneself, so I suspect the price tag will drop, but I could live with that offer.

Banuelos, to me, is the hardest part of that. While there’s certainly value in back-end starters like Nova and Z-Mac, I don’t have a terrible amount of faith in them, and they have far more value as trade pieces to the Yankees than they do as actual players. Joba, if not given the opportunity and right amount of leash to be a top-flight starter, holds below-average value to the Yankees. I like Joba as a talent, but he may not suit the needs and philosophy of the organization, at least not this year, probably not next year either. Banuelos is a tantilizing talent. A lefty with great poise and very good stuff, he could be a star some day. But he might not be. He’s under 20-years-old and in A-ball. It would be a damn shame to lose him, but there are still a few levels for him to jump and he’s still a “prospect”. Tough to swallow, but if that’s what helps get an established #1.5 starter, I’m willing.

Chris Snyder is an overpaid pseudo-backup catcher, but a fairly good player. He has 15 HR pop, good on-base skills, and is defensively a pretty good catcher. The team could legitimately pair him with Jorge Posada for the rest of the season, who’s missed quite a bit of time to a host of nagging injuries over the past few years. Boom, there’s your DH, even if Jorge does whine about it. If nothing else, limiting the playing time of Francisco Cervelli is a big benefit to the lineup. (Sorry, Blue Eyes.)

D-backs catcher Chris Snyder. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

With Snyder being under contract only through 2011 (albeit with a moderate-sized buyout in 2012), Montero could work as a rotating DH with Jorge. Montero, under this scenario, would be splitting time at catcher with Snyder. Snyder’s gone in 2012, where it seems a good bet Romine would be ready, at least in some capacity. Either way, Snyder (for $5.5 million) may be a little expensive, but a short contract that fills a need and allows a good deal of lineup versatility. Considering the other catchers are either some-glove, no-bat or all-bat, no-glove, I think that’s reasonable, though if they could pay half of that cost, it would be gravy. Hell, trade them Cervelli if they eat some of Snyder’s salary.

Dan Haren would of course slot behind CC and Hughes would return to the bullpen for the remainder of the season. I’ve been extremely pleased with Phil’s performance on a whole this year, but he’s near his innings limit and has had some trouble finishing off batters over the course of the season. With Joba gone, the latter part of the bullpen would appear in much better shape.

Moving to next year, it’s not unreasonable to think a 1-5 of CC, Lee, Haren, Hughes, AJ is possible. Haren may or may not knock Lee’s price down this off-season, and if nothing else, provides some sort of contingency plan if CC decides to opt-out and takes the Yankees on an expensive joyride. Don’t underestimate the closing of the Yankees’ window. Jeter, Mariano, Posada, A-Rod may not have many more very good seasons left. Adding two of the top pitchers for the next few years could do a tremendous amount to strike while they still can.

So having rambled for 1200 words, I ask what, if anything, your max offer for Dan Haren would be? Remember, it needs to be a bit painful. (Unless it’s Betemit and Jeff Marquez for Swisher, of course.)

For more of my incessant chatter, check out Mystique and Aura (though I’ve been busy at work lately and you won’t find much current information to check out. But whatevs, if you’re there, look at Steve’s stuff. He’s a less-neglectful parent).

Royals slap around Mitre to top Yanks

Pitching in place of the injured Andy Pettitte, Sergio Mitre was anything but effective Saturday afternoon. Down 2-0 to the Royals after the first inning, Mitre made it through just 4.1 innings before getting the hook. He allowed seven runs on seven hits, and although the Yanks loaded the bases with two outs in the 9th, they couldn’t top Kansas City. The Royals won 7-4 as A-Rod failed to launch his 600th home run.

Turning Point #1: A first-inning error

From the start Mitre didn’t have his best stuff. He couldn’t command his pitches, and his sinker wasn’t sinking. Scott Podsednik led off the game with a single to center, and then Mitre hit Jason Kendall on the elbow pad with a 3-2 pitch. With Billy Butler up, Podsednik and Kendall put on the double steal, and the Royals were set up. They had two runners in scoring position with the heart of their order up.

The Yankees, though, caught a break. Billy Butler hit a hard ground ball to Alex Rodriguez. Although the speedy Podsednik broke for home, A-Rod had to just check Kendall back to the bag and make an easy throw across the diamond to nab the slow Bulter. Instead, though, A-Rod fired home. Although his throw actually beat Podsednik to the plate, it was up the first base side of the dish. As Posada swiped across to tag the runner, he failed to secure the ball with his throwing hand, and it popped out. Podsednik was safe, and Kendall moved to third on Jorge’s error.

The next batter — Jose Guillen — drove in the second run with a sac fly, and although Mitre got out of the inning with an Alex Gordon double play, the Royals had a 2-0 lead they would never surrender. While Posada got the error, the play was a bad one by A-Rod as well. Facing the Royals’ pitching and with no outs in the top of the first, the Yanks should have just given up that run to get the out. Had the inning unfolded as it did, the Royals would have walked away with just one run there, and the Yanks would have been a swing away from a tie game.

Turning Point #2: A-Rod doesn’t advance

As the game and the 110-degree heat wore on, Mitre fell further behind. By the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees were on the wrong end of a 6-0 score and hadn’t done much of anything against Kyle Davies. But a Mark Teixeira home run seemed to awaken the Yanks, and after A-Rod tapped out an infield single, Robinson Cano looked to keep the rally going. Cano hit a scorching ground ball ticketed for center field, but somehow, Yunieksy Betancourt made a diving play on the ball. He flipped to Chris Getz at second, and Cano was out at first by mile. The next batter, Jorge Posada, blasted a home run to make it 6-2, but it coulda, woulda, shoulda been 6-4.

Betancourt’s dive was the talk of the game, but the key part of the at-bat came a few pitchers earlier. One of the tosses from Kyle Davies wound up in the dirt, and Jason Kendall couldn’t find it. Cano tried to wave on A-Rod, but the Yanks’ third baseman seemed ill-prepared to attempt to advance. So he stayed at second.

With a full nod toward the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, had A-Rod advanced on that potential wild pitch and Cano hit the same ball up the middle, it would have gone through. Betancourt wouldn’t have been playing at double play depth, and he wouldn’t have made the dive. I’m not faulting Alex for it; after all, the ball didn’t get too far away from Kendall. But it’s just one of those little things that are easy to overlook and can cost the team a shot at narrowing a sizable gap.

Sergio Mitre did not have his best stuff this afternoon. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Turning Point #3: A blown call on the final out

Obviously, the final out is a turning point in the game because the losing team has no more chances, but today’s was especially galling. After All Star closer Joakim Soria retired the first two Yankees, Derek Jeter doubled and Curtis Granderson walked. If Mark Teixeira were to reach base, the Yankees would have the winning run at the plate in the persona of Alex Rodriguez. Thoughts of a game-winning, walk-off grand slam as A-Rod’s 600th home run were dancing through our collective minds.

But, thanks to a bad play, it was not meant to be. On a 2-2 pitch, Teixeira hit a slow roller up the middle. Betancourt fielded the ball and fired to first. On the bang-bang play, Chad Fairchild called Teixeira out, and the Yanks’ first baseman looked incredulous. The replay, via YES’ super slow-motion camera, showed that Teixeira’s foot was on the base before the ball was in Billy Butler’s glove, and the Yankees were unfairly denied a shot at winning or extending the game.

I hate to harp on the umps in a game that found the Yanks losing by three with one out left, but the reality is that it took YES all of 30 seconds to show the replay. It wouldn’t have ruined the pace of the game had the umps conferred to get the call right, and it would have given the Yanks another batter. The argument against instant replay remains weak as always.

Odds and Ends

Despite the score, Dustin Moseley gets a tip of the cap for his effort today. In brutal heat, he threw 4.2 very effective innings, giving up no runs on just one hit. He struck out only one, but he also walked only one. As Joe Girardi isn’t sure that Mitre will make the start on Thursday, Moseley is probably under consideration as well.

Derek Jeter, after starting the game 0 for 3, went 2 for 5 with a double. He was visibly frustrated when he tapped out to the pitcher but hit the ball with authority later in the game. Hopefully, he’s coming around.

Nick Swisher entered the game to pinch hit in the 8th and laced what should have been a double into left-center field. Rick Ankiel made a spectacular diving catch to save the out. Swisher and Brett Gardner should be good to go tomorrow.

A Sad WPA Graph

This one went in the wrong direction. (Fangraphs box, ESPN box)

Up Next

The Yankees end their homestand with the series finale against the Royals at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Phil Hughes will look to make a strong start after scuffling last week. He’ll face Sean O’Sullivan, who is making his second consecutive start against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. I wonder if one pitcher has ever made two starts in a week at the same stadium against the same club but while pitching for a different team.

Montero exits game with apparent wrist injury

The big story of the night is Jesus Montero, and for all the wrong reasons. The Yanks’ best prospect was hit by a pitch in the left wrist during his first at-bat tonight, and had to be taken out of the game. I don’t know how serious the injury is or anything really, so let’s just hope he was removed as a precaution. Montero’s season ending injury last year was a finger on his left hand, so this isn’t the same spot or anything like that.

Update: Montero was seen in the dugout with his wrist taped. That’s good news because it means he wasn’t in the hospital.

Update Part Deux: It’s a bruised forearm and Montero’s day-to-day. Good news.

Here’s a quick round up of tonight’s minor league action, it is Saturday night after all…

  • Triple-A Scranton is still playing because of some rain delays. Nothing worth mentioning has happened beyond the Montero news above. Click the link to go to the box score if you so choose. Jason Hirsh was the starter.
  • Double-A Trenton won. Austin Romine picked up a pair of hits (including a double), as did Brandon Laird. Lance Pendleton was strong like bull, giving up just two hits, two walks, and zero runs in seven innings of work while striking out a batter per inning.
  • High-A Tampa lost. Corban Joseph singled and drew a walk, his seventh in the last ten games (just two strikeouts). Bradley Suttle singled and drove in two. Graham Stoneburner struck out six in five innings of work, allowing just a pair of hits, a pair of walks, and one run.
  • Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott picked up a pair of singles while Neil Medchill and Rob Lyerly each went deep. Lyerly picked up a hit in all for at-bats. Michael Solbach allowed six runs in just under five innings of work.
  • Short Season Staten Island won. Eduardo Sosa walked and singled, Kevin Mahoney had two hits (including a homer) and two walks in four plate appearances, and Jose Mojica doubled twice. Nothing exciting on the mound at all.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks lost. Cito Culver singled and stole a base. Matt Richardson struck out six in just three innings, but he also allowed six runs in the process. All of those runs were unearned. I’m convinced that this team has the worst collection of pitching and defense in professional baseball. You don’t expect much out of the kids at this level, but sheesh, they seem to be extraordinarily bad this year.

Dan Haren Rumors: Asking price vs. selling price

As Saturday evening arrives, Dan Haren remains a member of the Diamondbacks, but Arizona’s asking price and the Yanks’ thinking are coming into view. As Frankie Piliere reported earlier today, the D-backs want Joba and “perhaps a guy like [Manny] Banueloes” while the Yankees would prefer to deal Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova or Zach McAllister. Piliere says he can “see this going down to the wire.” The wire is, of course, 4 p.m. next Saturday.

While Sergio Mitre‘s start underscored the Yanks’ need for some pitching depth, the Yanks are under no pressure to make this trade earlier in the week than necessary. The two sides are clearly negotiated, and each knows what the other wants. Now, it’s up to the general managers to make the best trade possible without giving up too much. The rest of us will just have to play the waiting game.