Yanks, Red Sox postponed due to rain

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

It rained all day in the Tri-State Area on Friday, and it did the same all night up in the Boston. After a three-and-a-half hour or so rain delay, the Yankees-Red Sox game was postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday. The first game will be played as scheduled at 4pm ET (FOX broadcast), the second will start (ugh) five hours later at 9pm. Andy Pettitte will start the afternoon game with A.J. Burnett being pushed back to the night cap. A doubleheader on the second-to-last day of the season is less than ideal, but what can you do.

In other news, the Yanks took a half-game lead in the AL East when the Rays lost to Royals on Friday night. Bruce Chen, yes that Bruce Chen, tossed a complete game two-hit shutout, striking out seven. It’s the first complete game shutout of his career. The Bombers now control their own destiny; if they sweep the Sox this weekend they’ll win the division outright regardless of what Tampa does. If the Rays split their last two, the Yanks need to win just two of three, and if Tampa drops their last two games, the Yanks only need to win one of three. Suddenly, taking home the AL East crown doesn’t seem all that impossible.

Game 160: Just a tune-up

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Yankees are technically still alive in the AL East race, very much alive in fact, because both they and the Rays sport 94-65 records. Since Tampa won the season series and holds the tiebreaker, the Yanks need to win one more game than them this weekend, a tie is as good a a loss. Since the Rays are playing the frickin’ Royals, that’s not likely.

Either way, this weekend’s series against the Red Sox is really nothing more than a tune-up before the playoffs. The pitchers have to get some work in, the batters make sure they stay sharp at the plate, and most importantly everyone needs to stay healthy. It’s been raining all day in Boston, so the game is likely to be delayed a bit, but please, for the love of Mo, no one slip on the wet grass. Especially Andy.

Here’s the lineup, which makes me smile…

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

And on the bump, it’s Andy Pettitte.

Like I said, it’s been raining all day and the game probably won’t get underway until 8-8:30pm ET or so. Whenever it does, you’ll be able to watch on YES My9 locally or MLB Network nationally. If you’re looking for something to kill the time, the Mets are running out the clock on the Omar Minaya/Jerry Manuel era against the Nats, and there’s also some preseason hockey going on (Rangers-Senators). Enjoy.

Mailbag: Crawford, MVP, Jeter, World Series, Darvish, Infante

Last mailbag of the day. If you asked a really good question and didn’t see an answer, it’s either because 1) we didn’t know the answer, or 2) it would require a more in-depth post.

Is Carl Crawford THAT much of an upgrade over Brett Gardner that he warrants a commitment of 19 million dollars more than Gardy?

I’d say no. Crawford is certainly a special player, and under different circumstances he might fit the Yanks’ plans. But right now the Yankees have the only outfield in the league whose three members have each produced 4 or more WAR. They’re all set to return for next season, and they will combine to makes less than $18 million. Given the effectiveness of this group, I don’t see a need to change it. They can afford to spend their money on areas of need, rather than areas of want.

Since the season is coming to a close, who do you feel was the Yankees’ MVP this year?

Either CC Sabathia or Robinson Cano. With all the turmoil in the rotation this year, Sabathia provided stability every fifth game. And while the offense went through dips and dives, Cano performed at a high level for the first five months. He really took to his prime lineup spot and produced.

I’ve been wondering lately, with all this talk about Jeter retiring soon and what not and how old he is for a shortstop, who do you think could be a potential replacement?

I’m not hearing the same talk of Jeter’s retirement as you are, but the question is certainly valid. He’ll certainly be the team’s shortstop in 2011, and I’d even bank on it in 2012. After that I’m guessing he’ll be on the team but in a different role. Unfortunately, superstar shortstops don’t come around very often. When they do they’re often age 30 or older, making them a dicier proposition. Troy Tulowitzki, for example, will be 30 when his contract expires after 2014 (presuming the Rockies exercise his 2014 option). Hanley Ramirez might become available via trade once he gets expensive, but there are doubts about his ability to stick at shortstop long-term.

Chances are the Yanks are going to hit a rough patch at shortstop for a few years, where they go with a defensive-minded guy. Remember, Jeter is .001 wOBA behind the top shortstop in the AL. They’re becoming fewer.

OK, so we’re in the playoffs. Let’s say we make it to the World Series. Which opponent would give us the best shot at a great series (not who would be easiest to beat)?

I say a rematch from the 1976 World Series would make me happiest. The Reds embarrassed the Yanks that year — everyone knows the story of Billy Martin crying after the game. It’s time to take revenge on players who weren’t even born when it happened.

Given how Dice-K has performed since he came to the big leagues and knowing his posting fee and injury history, how much would you post for Yu Darvish? And although you had answered my question before about phantom bids with my example being the Rays placing a bid to block the Yankees. Do you think MLB could prove that the Yankees put in a phantom bid to prevent him from going to anyone else.

I didn’t mention Darvish in this morning’s Cliff Lee mailbag because I don’t think the Yankees will seriously go after him. He was all the rage a few years ago, but since then we’ve read some less than flattering scouting reports. Teams, I think, will see that his hype is similar to that of Matsuzaka, and we saw how that turned out. The contract isn’t killing the Red Sox, but it might seriously hamper a team with less money. I wouldn’t bid more than $15 million, and even that’s stretching it.

As for the phantom bid, that’s a non-issue. If MLB feels a bid is made in poor faith, then they can throw it out and award it to the next highest team. So if the Rays came in with a $50 million bid, the commissioner’s office would invalidate it and move on.

How about the Yanks going after Omar Infante this offseason? His versatility could allow them to be comfortable resting guys like A-rod and Jeter more often while still keeping a proven bat in the lineup, and his versatility would also be a plus if they decide to bring up Montero and use three roster spots on the C/DH situation, as well as allow him to be in the lineup often if he goes on a hot streak. What do you think?

I like the idea in a way. Infante is still young and he has had quite the offensive year. There’s little chance he’ll repeat, but he is certainly a better option than Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez. He does get a bad rap, I think, because of his fluctuating numbers when he was in his early 20s with the Tigers. He’s been an excellent utility guy for the Braves.

That said, there’s no chance he becomes a free agent. The Braves have a $2.5 million option on him for 2011 that they’re certain to exercise. Maybe in 2012.

Mailbag: Joba’s and Wood’s futures

It’s time for a little digression into everyone’s favorite topic.

Nick writes: Let’s say the Yankees win the World Series, and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte both retire because they are completely satisfied with their respective careers. What do the Yankees do, does Joba become a starter if Cliff Lee is a no-go (or any other free agent), or does he take over for Mo? Can he be trusted in either spot right now? Who would you like to see fill either spot?

Armin asks: Any chance the Yankees move Joba back into the rotation where a guy with at least three above-average pitches belongs? I mean, the Yankees are paying AJ Burnett 16.5 million for below-average pitching (81 ERA+). I’m pretty sure Joba could give them better pitching for less money and maybe he would get his act together like Phil Hughes did this year. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?

Will asks: What are the chances of Joba going back in the rotation and what can we expect out of him?

Since August 2007, nobody, it seems, has inspired more debate and controversy than Joba Chamberlain. From the bullpen to the starting rotation and back, the Yankees have handled Joba with the most delicate of kids gloves, and his future is constantly in doubt. Earlier this year, as he struggled to find his form in the bullpen, I believed the Yanks should just cut their losses and trade Joba, but since the end of July, he’s been very dominant in 27.1 innings.

Yet, the future remains clouded for Joba Chamberlain. Before Spring Training, the Yankees said they still consider Chamberlain a starter, but ostensibly for his health, they opted to keep him exclusively in the bullpen this year. When the opportunity arose for Chamberlain to move into the rotation in place of Andy Pettitte, the Yanks went instead to Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley and later Ivan Nova. Perhaps they wanted to guard his shoulder; perhaps that’s Joba’s future.

But for 2011, the rotation could beckon. Andy Pettitte’s return is no sure thing, and Cliff Lee, while likely to end up in pinstripes, could remain in Texas. If A.J. Burnett were to continue to struggle, Joba would be a very appealing and viable option. We know what he can do in the rotation. Through 20 starts last year, he was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 97 strike outs in 110.2 innings. In 2008, he sported a 2.76 ERA with 74 strike outs in 65.1 innings as a starter. He can start.

The Yankees though like his approach in the bullpen. They like his velocity, and they like his mentality. They allowed themselves to be dazzled by it in 2007 and still believe that Joba can be a key cog in the bullpen. Were Mariano Rivera to retire, Joba would be up there on the list of replacements.

Still, Joba should start. If the Yankees can coax 175 innings out of him next year as they did out of Phil Hughes this year, Chamberlain, still only 25, would be a valuable member of the Yankee rotation. His ability to start — and to get outs — would certain lessen the impact of losing Pettitte, losing out on Lee or watching A.J. Burnett struggle through whatever ails him. We certainly could expect him to be as good or better than he was in the rotation during those first 175 innings, and the Yankees should give it a shot.

Famouspj asks: What’s Kerry Wood’s situation for next year? His stock has to be pretty high after his half-year in pinstripes. Any chance he’s back in the Bronx in 2011?

The Kerry Wood Conundrum can serve as a companion piece to the Joba Chamberlain question because it’s part of a longer narrative about Mariano Rivera. If Mo were to retire, would one of these two be his likely successor? Undoubtably the answer is yes.

For the Yankees, Kerry Wood — on the team because Cashman was willing to take more salary than Theo Epstein could in Boston — has been great. In 25 innings, he has struck out 29 allowed one earned run on a home run while surrendering 14 hits and 15 walks. His ERA isn’t going to stay at 0.36 forever, but he hasn’t been fazed by high-pressure late-inning situations in the Bronx and has taken to the Yanks’ pen quite nicely.

Wood’s contract contains an $11 million club option, and unless Rivera is definitely hanging it up, the Yanks will allow the option to lapse. They could re-sign him to a lesser deal for more years, but Wood both wants to close and is an injury concern. Plus, after the Damaso Marte deal backfired while the Yanks’ young arms have done an admirably job getting outs on the cheap, Brian Cashman may be wary of re-upping with Wood for a prohibitive amount. So today, I say that the only way he’s back in the Bronx in 2011 is if Mariano is not, and that’s a future I don’t want to contemplate.

Mailbag: Mark Reynolds?

Think of Mailbag Day as a celebration of the readers. You guys control the content today…

Kevin asks: What do you think of the Yankees acquiring Mark Reynolds? Obviously his strikeouts are ridiculous, but maybe Kevin Long can pull another rabbit out of his hat and his power as a super sub would be very valuable.

Look at that, even managed to work a Yankee into a picture of Reynolds. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Just to address the obvious first, yes, Reynolds strikes out a ton. He’s now spent three seasons as a full-time big leaguer (2008-2010), and those represent the three largest single season strikeout totals in baseball history. Even more amazing is that his strikeout rate is going up, not down. He struck out 37.8% of the time in ’08, 38.6% of the time in ’09, and a whopping 42.0% of the time this season. As you’d expect (hope), the strikeouts do come with the trade off of mammoth power (.236 ISO, which would trail only Alex Rodriguez on the Yanks) and lots of walks (10.4% in ’08, 11.5% in ’09, 14.0% this year). Reynolds is the epitome of a three true outcomes player, with 1,145 of his 2,281 career plate appearances (50.2%) ending with strike three, ball four, or a leisurely trot around the bases.

Although he’s primarily been a (poor) third baseman (-7.1 UZR/150 career) in the desert, Reynolds does offer a smidgen of versatility. He played more shortstop than third in the minors and has dabbled at second base as well, so if nothing else he could at least handle those spots in an emergency. A corner outfield spot is more realistic, where he has three innings of experience in the big leagues and 23 games worth in the minors. I can’t imagine he would be worse than Marcus Thames out there. Reynolds has also played his fair share of first base, so he can definitely spot start there if needed. In a perfect world he’s the righthanded half of a designated hitter platoon (.385 career wOBA vs. LHP, .337 vs. RHP), so basically just a better and younger version of Thames.

There is one significant drawback here, and it’s not the strikeouts or his .198 batting average (.257 career hitter coming into the season). Reynolds is under contract for two more seasons at $5M and $7.5M respectively, plus there’s a $500,000 buyout of his $11M option for 2013. It’s not huge money, but it ties up a roster spot for two years with a glorified designated hitter, something the Yanks already have a few of. He would also represent another roadblock for Jesus Montero, unless the Yanks are comfortable with playing the kid behind the plate full-time in the near future.

The Yanks and Diamondbacks have an obvious connection now with Kevin Towers taking over as GM in Arizona, and he knows New York’s farm system as well as anyone outside of the organization. Towers has already expressed an interest in getting his team to cut down on strikeouts (the D-Backs lead MLB with 1,495 strikeouts, and it’s not particularly close) while improving his pitching staff, so dealing Reynolds for a young arm or two is a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Kevin Long has done some amazing things in his time as hitting coach, and I’m sure he could help Reynolds some, but if he managed to get him to decrease the strikeouts while making more consistent contact, well then that’s his Mona Lisa. Just give the man a lifetime contract, he’s earned it.

So to answer the question, I’m going to say no. I definitely think Reynolds is undervalued right now and a fantastic buy low candidate if you’re willing to live with his warts (I can live with 100+ strikeouts, but damn, 200+?), but he doesn’t exactly fit what the Yankees need with Montero coming up and Jorge Posada inevitably needing time at DH next year. If he was on a one year deal it would make a ton more sense since he could serve as Montero insurance, but two guaranteed years makes me hesitant.

RAB Live Chat

Mailbag: 2011 Catchers

This time we’ll take two mailbag questions and answer them together.

What will the Yankees do about the DH situation next year? Montero/Posada/Veterans only? Or a FA signing?

Are there any catchers available this off-season that can help bridge the gap to montero and allow Posada to be a full time dh? surely cervelli isn’t the best option?

There is, I think, an ideal scenario that involves Montero, Posada, and Cervelli behind the plate in 2011. It might not come to fruition, so the Yankees should have a backup plan, but with those three on the roster I think they can manage both the catcher and DH spots.

Posada and Montero could simply alternate between DH and catcher. That would allow Montero time to develop behind the plate at the major league level without becoming overexposed. Using him as DH in half of his games will also help keep him fresh throughout the season. The same goes for Posada. He’ll turn 40 next August, and while he’s been generally durable we have seen him wear down a bit, especially early in the season, during the last two years. Alternating them, but keeping their bats in the lineup, seems like the best situation for the club, at least on offense, in 2011.

Since one of the catchers will be DHing most days, Cervelli also plays into this equation. His role would be reduced, in that he’d be a true backup catcher who plays about once a week. If the team feels that he’s better off catching A.J., then he can catch every fifth day. That would give either Montero or Posada a full day of rest once every 10 or so days, which will also keep them fresh. Jorge probably has a bit more to gain from this setup. The Yankees could also maximize Cervelli’s value by having him play third base an the corner OF positions in winter ball. He wouldn’t be there a lot, but he seems capable of playing at least third. That would mean more roster flexibility, which is important if the team is going to carry three catchers.*

*Though it’s not really three catchers. It’s more like two catchers and a DH, except two of the catchers happen to rotate between DH and catcher, rather than having one set at each position.

At many points this season we’ve ragged on Cervelli, though it wasn’t totally fair. At this point in his career he’s a backup catcher, and given his lack of pop at the plate it’s difficult to see him developing into a true starter for a first-division team. We should instead direct the criticism towards the Yankees. With Posada unable to catch every day they needed a better backup catcher than Cervelli. With this plan they will have just that, and they’ll continue to challenge their best prospect at the same time.

If the Yanks would develop Montero’s defense by having him play full-time in the minors, a veteran backup might be the best path. I doubt they’d take it, though. Chances are they’d just go with Posada and Cervelli with designs on calling up Montero mid-season. Still, you could make a case that someone like Ramon Hernandez, John Buck, or even Miguel Olivo would be better in the expanded role the Yankees will require. It’s not likely, but if they don’t think Cervelli will get any better they might decide to go with one of these free agents instead.