Report: Yankees place Gaudin on waivers

The battle for the fifth starter’s spot appeared to lose a candidate overnight, as Ed Price reports that the Yankees have placed righty Chad Gaudin on waivers. Several things can happen now…

  1. Someone claims him. The waivers are irrevocable, so whoever claims Gaudin will get him and his entire $2.95M salary, no questions asked.
  2. He clears, and the Yanks send him to the minors. They’d still owe him his full salary.
  3. He clears, and the Yanks choose to flat out release him. They’d still owe him 45 days termination pay, which would be $737,500 according to Ken Rosenthal.

Considering that he’s bounced around so much (six teams in seven seasons), I’m willing to bet Gaudin’s been outrighted off someone’s 40-man roster before, which is essentially what the Yankees are doing. Under that assumption, Gaudin has the right to refuse a minor league assignment and elect to become a free agent, however he would forfeit his entire salary by doing so. Given the current economic climate, I can’t imagine he’ll find more than $2.95M on the open market, so it seems unlikely that he’ll go this route. If he does, his agent will have given him some bad advice.

For the second straight year, Gaudin had a tough going in Spring Training. Last year the Cubs decided to cut him loose too close to Opening Day, so they had to pay him his full $2M salary. The Padres signed him for the league minimum, then flipped him to the Yanks in August. He’s allowed 16 hits and ten runs with a 5-5 K/BB ratio in 9.1 innings this spring, covering four total outings (two starts), which is obviously pretty bad. However, did the Yankees fall for the trap of Spring Training stats by waiving Gaudin instead of Sergio Mitre?

Sure, Mitre’s had an impressive spring (14 IP, 3.21 ERA, 14-3 K/BB), and with an $850,000 salary it’s less likely that he would have cleared waivers. Maybe the Yanks felt this was the best way to keep both players in the organization, since Gaudin’s hefty salary makes him less attractive than most of the other back-end types floating out there. I hope that’s the case, because there’s nothing in either player’s track record to suggest that Mitre is better option going forward than Gaudin.

In over 460 career innings in the American League, Gaudin has been the definition of league average. His 4.25 ERA equals a 101 ERA+, his .271 batting average against isn’t much worse than the .265-ish league average (basically one extra hit every 142 at-bats), and his 6.5 K/9 is right around the 6.8-ish average as well (one fewer strikeout every 30 IP). His walk rate (4.2 BB/9) is definitely high (~3.4 league average), but he mitigates it somewhat with a strong groundball rate (43.7%). There’s nothing sexy about league average, but it’s very valuable in the role he’s expected to fill.

Mitre, on the other hand, has never been league average at much of anything, even before having Tommy John surgery. Even in his best season (2007), he put up a 4.65 ERA (93 ERA+) and a 4.8 K/9, both below average by any measure. And that came in the NL, in a pitcher’s park. His groundball rate (59.7% career) is spectacular, but missing bats and avoiding contact is the name of the game in the AL East. Oh, and Gaudin’s more than two full years younger.

The move to waive Gaudin all but assures that Mitre will open the season as the long man in the bullpen, yet there’s not much to suggest he’s the right man for the job beyond Spring Training stats. Thankfully, we’re talking about two guys that amount to spare parts, though for all intents and purposes they represent the Yanks’ sixth and seventh starters. Hopefully Gaudin clears and they’re able to stash him away in Triple-A for the time being. It would be a shame to lose him for what amounts to salary relief.

Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP

Past Trade Review: Cashman’s Top 3 Heists

When two or more general managers consummate a trade, they believe that their team will benefit. Why else would they agree to it? As we’ve learned throughout baseball history, though, trades don’t always work out for both sides. GMs who end up on the losing end of a few deals find themselves looking for new jobs soon enough. Those who come out on the winning end extend their tenures. It seems, however, that few, if any, GMs can consistently come out ahead. There are just too many variables involved. Every so often, a trade is going to smack you in the face.

We’ll soon enough get to Brian Cashman‘s biggest blunders. Today, though, we’ll focus on his heists. That is, his best deals during the 12-plus-year reign as Yankees’ GM. This will not only include the players received, but the players sent. I’ll look at this using the WAR of the players acquired, for the length of his contract when traded, and the value of the players sent, either by the same measure, or, in the case of prospects, for the six years of team control.

3. Nick Swisher

After the 2008 season the Yankees had plenty of remodeling to do. A number of starters, including Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, were slated to hit free agency and the team showed no desire to retain either one. Considering the numbers both produced in 2008, it wasn’t an easy task to replace them. Xavier Nady was in the fold, though, presumably ready to man right. In a buy-low move to fill first base, Brian Cashman traded Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez for Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira. He later acquired Mark Teixeira to play first base, rendering Swisher’s role unknown. After Nady tore his UCL, though, Swisher slid right into Abreu’s spot.

Swisher relished his new job, posting a .375 wOBA, the highest mark of his career. Always a patient hitter, he actually increased his walk rate in 2009 to 16 percent, also the highest of his career. Power came in abundance, too, as his .249 ISO was, again, the best mark of his career. This, combined with league average defense, produced 3.6 WAR, which is 4.2 higher than the sum of Betemit, Marquez, and Nunez (Betemit produced -0.6 WAR before his release). Marquez notably fumbled the season. It’s hard to imagine him pitching worse than the 9.85 ERA he produced in 2009.

There’s still time for the White Sox to see more from this trade, but it’s doubtful that they ever make up the 4.2 WAR difference from the first season, let alone keep up with Swisher’s pace. Marquez was never projected as a top of the rotation starter. If he’s lucky he’ll spend a few years in a major league team’s bullpen. Nunez could get another shot with the Sox, but again, it would take an enormous breakout for him to get within a few wins of Swisher’s eventual WAR total with the Yanks.

2. Bobby Abreu

The 2006 season was not an easy one for Yankees’ outfielders. On April 29 Gary Sheffield collided with Shea Hillenbrand at first base. He picked up two RBI on the play, but also had to leave the game. The issue was with his forearm, but after he tried to return in early May it was clear he’d need at least a long rehab period, and possibly surgery, to correct the problem. Then, just two weeks later, Hideki Matsui broke his wrist while sliding to make a catch in the outfield. There was a chance both would miss the rest of the season.

The injuries forced the Yankees to call up Melky Cabrera, who looked lost during his cup of coffee in July 2005. He started off the season hot as can be in Columbus, hitting .385/.430/.566 through his first 135 PA. With the injuries and few bodies to fill the outfield — the Johnny Damon signing loomed large here — Melky was the obvious choice. He and Bernie Williams would have to bear the load. They did it pretty well, but the Yanks still could have used some help. Thankfully, Brian Cashman was on the case.

For some reason, the folks in Philadelphia just did not like Bobby Abreu. Even though he’d played in at least 152 games in each of his first seven seasons with the club, and even though he’d posted a .415 OBP and .522 SLG in that span, they still did not warm to him. He had an expensive contract and the Phillies just weren’t contending that year. Heading into July they were 36-43, 11 games back of the first-place Mets. Rumors swirled all month that they desired to trade Abreu, and the Yankees, with two outfielders on the DL, were often connected. Those rumors, though, involved the Phillies demanding Phil Hughes in return.

The team’s tune changed later in the month, and eventually they traded Abreu to the Yankees for three prospects – including their 2005 No. 1 draft pick – and a lefty reliever. The trade, obviously, was all Yankees. The No. 1 pick and the lefty reliever, C.J. Henry and Matt Smith, are no longer playing for any system. One prospect, Carlos Monasterios, continues to dawdle in the low minors. The only promise the Phillies have from that trade is Jesus Sanchez, who converted to the mound last season. He performed well, and with some improvement he might be a salvageable prospect.

Still, the Yanks clearly won here, with Abreu producing 5.8 WAR over his 2.5 seasons in pinstripes. Corey Lidle takes that number down a bit, as he was worth -0.2 WAR during his half season. Matt Smith, the only player to appear in the majors for the Phillies, produced 0.3 WAR in 2006, followed by -0.3 in 2007. If Sanchez can come up and produce that might change the outlook on this trade. As it stands, though, Cashman pulled nearly six wins out of thin air.

1. Alex Rodriguez

When I first came up with the idea for this post, I thought Abreu would be the one. After looking through Cashman’s trade history, it appears that many of his best trades were for the short-term — David Justice stands out. The Abreu trade, to my mind, seemed the most one-sided. But then I saw the A-Rod trade and thought that it was worth examining. As it turns out, it was the most lopsided deal he ever made.

We all know the story. In the winter of 2004, after he had sent the Yankees to the World Series with an 11th inning walk-off home run off Tim Wakefiled, Aaron Boone tore his ACL playing basketball. Since his contract expressly prohibited that type of activity, the Yankees voided the deal. That left an opening at third base. The Yankees traded a minor leaguer to Texas for Mike Lamb, who had spent most of his time in 2003 demolishing AAA after hitting at about league average over the previous two seasons. The Yankees, though, probably wanted a bit more certainty from the position.

Then, about 10 days after acquiring Lamb, the Yankees worked a deal with Texas to acquire Alex Rodriguez. Most of us have stories of where we were and who we were with when we heard the news. It was a pretty big event in recent Yankees history, not only for who the Yankees acquired, but whom they traded. In exchange for the best player in baseball, the Yankees sent Alfonso Soriano to Texas. This might have made the deal seem a bit less palatable. It was not, though.

At the time of the trade Soriano had three years left of team control. He had produced tremendously for the Yankees in 2003, a 4.8 WAR. Yet the Yankees added nearly two wins over 2003 with A-Rod’s acquisition, as he produced 6.7 WAR in 2004. Soriano dropped precipitously, though, producing just 1.8 WAR that season. Over the next two he added another 7.5 WAR before hitting free agency, bringing his total to 9.3. A-Rod’s contract technically ran through 2010, but had the opt-out clause after 2007. For the period the Yankees controlled him, he produced 30.1 WAR. The difference, 20.8 WAR, represents an enormously lopsided deal.

On all three of these deals the Yankees came out tremendously ahead. In the first two the other teams had little or nothing to speak of. In the last, the player received vastly outproduced the player sent. It’s kind of crazy that A-Rod’s deal was the most lopsided, considering the Yankees sent a productive player in exchange for him. But, as his 30.1 WAR indicates, he’s just that good.

Photo credits: Swisher — Steve Nesius/AP, Abreu and Rodriguez — Gene J. Puskar/AP

Report: A-Rod to meet with feds on Friday

As federal officials continue their investigation into Anthony Galea, a Canadian doctor suspected to furnishing PEDs to American baseball players, Alex Rodriguez will meet with the feds on Friday in Buffalo to talk about his connection to the doctor, according to Michael S. Schmidt of The Times. A-Rod and his lawyers will journey to upstate New York to cooperate in the investigation, and it is anticipated the feds will question the Yanks’ third baseman as to whether or not Galea has been sending various drugs into the States. Both Major League Baseball and the Yankees will be awaiting detail of A-Rod’s questioning.

For the Yankees, this story has put them into an awkward position with A-Rod. The slugger told the team this winter that he had no dealings with Galea, but stories this spring have cast that assertion into doubt. For numerous reasons, I hope nothing comes of this investigation except this questioning, but as is often the case with Alex Rodriguez, I’m not holding my breath.

Four more headed to minor league camp

Via Bryan Hoch, the Yankees sent Eduardo Nunez, Reegie Corona, Jorge Vazquez, and Brandon Laird across the street to minor league camp earlier today. The send downs of Nunez and Corona are significant, because it leaves only Kevin Russo as competition for Ramiro Pena and the utility infielder’s spot. Russo is pounded the ball in camp, but he can’t match Pena’s defensive wizardry, and there’s something to be said for being the incumbent. I’ll be surprised if someone besides Ramiro heads north as the backup infielder, barring injury.

Open Thread: Busted

That up there is the bracket of the person leading our RAB Bracket Busters pool thanks to 36 correct picks and 48 total points (somewhat ironically, it belongs to a person who called themselves “Bra(cket) Busters”). It’s only been one weekend, but I encourage them to gloat in the comments. You can see my disastrous bracket here; I’m tied for 13th with 33 correct picks and 43 total points. I guess that’s not too bad, considering, there’s 149 total brackets in our pool.

What are yours looking like? Feel free to tell us all in this, tonight’s open thread. The Nets are the only local team in action, but there’s also a new episode of 24 on. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

The RAB Fantasy Baseball League (Part Seven)

I think you know the routine by now. The settings are the same as all the other leagues (click here to see them), except that the max number of moves per week is capped at eight. If you haven’t joined one of the other leagues and want in this one, go to Yahoo! and sign up with this info…

League ID: 500175
Password: riveraveblues

Also, someone dropped out of the fifth league, so if someone wants to sign up for that one, the ID is 442039, and the password is riveraveblues.

The proper evaluation of Joba Chamberlain

This one is a few weeks old, but highly appropriate to our current discourse. (With thanks to Jamal for the pointer.) At Full Count Pitch, Gary Armida discusses the over-analysis of Joba Chamberlain. Everyone’s guilty of it, from the mainstream media right down to the lowest-trafficked blog. Yes, this includes RAB. The whole article is a good read, but this is the big takeaway:

If he continues to show the Yankees signs of being a good starter, he should be given the opportunity to continue in that role. If he shows he can’t, he should be sent to the bullpen. But, a proper evaluation is all about patience and seeing the big picture.

A proper evaluation involves more than one season, especially when that season wasn’t exactly a full one. Joba did go wire-to-wire, but 1) he faced innings restrictions which changed his schedule in August and September, and 2) his worst performances came when he cross his previous innings threshold. Considering his performances from April through July, and the age at which he performed, he should certainly get another look.

Only 161 pitchers since 1980 managed even 140 innings in their age-23 season. Only 98 of those posted an ERA+ over 100. Joba’s struggles in this early stage of his career are not surprising. He deserves more than just one restricted year to prove his value to the Yankees.

This isn’t to say that he should win the fifth starter battle or that he should never go to the bullpen. Circumstances dictate the situation, and right now the Yankees have two promising young starters vying for one open rotation spot. To relegate Joba to the bullpen permanently, at this stage of his career, would be a mistake. There’s plenty more time for a more thorough evaluation.

Oh, and in case you didn’t see, Joba’s line from today’s intrasquad game: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1K. The best part was that of his 74 pitches, 48 were strikes.