Chavez would “deeply consider” a return to the Yankees in 2012

A few weeks ago we heard that Eric Chavez was “heavily leaning” towards retirement, but his agent Scott Leventhal told Jerry Crasnick today that no decision has been made yet, just that it will come “at some point” this winter. “He truly enjoyed playing for the Yankees,” said Leventhal. “If he decides to return next season, he would deeply consider a return to New York if there is a fit.”

Alex Rodriguez isn’t getting any younger, so the Yankees figure to add some kind of third base insurance this winter. Chavez did a fine job last season (when he wasn’t injured), and although I’m sure the Yankees would welcome him back, they can’t wait around forever for him to make up his mind. I’d like to see him back, but he’s not that important to the team’s success. Here’s the review of Chavez’s season I wrote just yesterday.

Phelps rights the ship in Arizona

Apparently Colin Curtis is going to play winter ball in Venezuela this year, or at least that’s what this tweet seems to imply. He’s not on any of the VWL rosters, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ll just have to wait and see. Curtis missed the season after needing surgery for a severe shoulder injury he suffered in Spring Training.

AzFL Phoenix (4-3 loss to Salt River)
Corban Joseph, 2B: 0 for 4
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – six walks and four strikeouts in his last eight games
David Phelps, RHP: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1-4 GB/FB – 39 of 54 pitches were strikes (72.2%) … easily his best start out here
Dan Burawa, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2-0 GB/FB – eight of 13 pitches were strikes (61.5%)
Preston Claiborne, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K – nine of his 16 pitches were strikes (56.3%)

AzFL Phoenix (7-6 win over Peoria)
Ronnie Mustelier, DH: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – four straight two-hit games and five multi-hit games in his seven contests
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 5, 1 K
Chase Whitley, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – eight of ten pitches were strikes

Open Thread: Rained Out

The Lohses. (Getty)

Game Six of the World Series has already been postponed due to some nasty weather in St. Louis, so the Cardinals will live to fight another day. The forecast is much better for Thursday and Friday, so that’s when they’ll play Game Six and Seven (if necessary). As much as I wanted to watch a game tonight, I’m glad MLB decided to call it. Remember Game Five of the 2008 World Series? That was a disaster no one wants to see again.

Here’s your open thread for the night, but there’s no local sports going on anywhere. If you’re looking for something to pass the time, I recommend Luke O’Brien’s piece on Howie Spira over at Deadspin. Spira’s the guy that George Steinbrenner used to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield back in the day, leading to The Boss’ ban from baseball in the early-90’s. It’s long, but amazing. Anyway, talk about whatever you want here.

Oppenheimer out of Angels GM mix; Eppler called for second interview

Via Jon Heyman and Mike DiGiovanna, Billy Eppler has been called by the Angels for a second interview about their GM job. Damon Oppenheimer was told that he is not longer being considered for the position, however. The Yankees gave the Halos permission to interview their two scouting directors, pro (Eppler) and amateur (Opp), earlier this month, and it seems like the Angels are starting to narrow the field down a bit. Dan Barbarisi wrote a great article about how Eppler and his department were able to unearth some hidden gems back in May.

What Went As Expected: Nick Swisher

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Yankees have had one of the league’s best offenses for many years running, but they came into the season with a surprising lack of sure things at the plate. How would Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez continue to decline? Would Curtis Granderson continue to rake after making adjustments with Kevin Long? Would Mark Teixeira‘s batting average bounce back? Can Brett Gardner do it again with the wrist injury in the rear-view mirror? How would Jorge Posada take to DHing? Is Russell Martin healthy? The only two players with any kind of certainty coming into 2011 were budding star Robinson Cano and the less hyped Nick Swisher.

Oddly enough, Swisher’s season started with a rather prolonged slump, particularly in the power department. He’d gotten off to hot starts in his previous two years as a Yankee, so this was quite the opposite. Swish didn’t hit his first homerun until the team’s 22nd game of the season, at which point he was hitting just .237/.351/.303 in 94 plate appearances. The slump continued into late-May, and the Yankees right fielder carried a weak .206/.321/.288 batting line into the May 29th game in Seattle, the Yankees’ 51st game of the season.

A second inning solo homer off Jason Vargas in that May 29th game set the stage for Swisher’s turn around. He put together a little six-game hitting streak and socked another homer three days later, then hit another one out three days after that. It’s not much, but he managed to raise his season batting line from .204/.321/.289 to .215/.342/.348 during the nine-game west coast trip, and he was the team’s best hitter during June: .326/.445/.651 with seven homers and more walks (20) than strikeouts (16). From that May 29th game through the end of the season, he hit .284/.397/.519 with 23 doubles and 21 homers in 442 plate appearances.

Swisher managed to raise his overall season line from that sub-replacement level garbage he put up through the first 51 games to a much more respectable .260/.374/.449 after 162 games, a .358 wOBA that was his worst as a Yankee but still 19th best among the 62 qualified outfielders in baseball. Swisher did struggle against righties (.335 wOBA) compared to lefties (.412), but it wasn’t enough to stop him from leading the team in OBP and posting the seventh highest walk rate (15.0%) in baseball. At 3.4 bWAR and 3.8 fWAR, he was either the 19th or 25th best outfielder in the game, depending on your statistical preference.

The sluggish start and dreadful postseason showing (4-for-19 with a walk) sort of puts a damper on yet another fine season for Swisher, who at this point has to be considered one of the best pickups of the Brian Cashman era when considering cost. He’s gotten on base and hit for power every season he’s been in New York, and he hasn’t spent a day on the disabled list. The Yankees are very likely to pick up Swisher’s $10.25M option for 2012, bringing him back to Bronx for at least one more season, a season that will almost certainly be productive.

Learning From The Rangers

Nap-o-li. Mon-ter-o. (Doug Pensinger/AP)

A couple hours from now, the Texas Rangers will make the first attempt in franchise history to win the World Series. They’re one win away from title, one year after beating the Yankees in the ALCS to send the team to their first ever Fall Classic. With young players all over the roster and a smart, progressive front office, the Rangers are quickly emerging as one of baseball’s powerhouses. The Yankees have been one of those powerhouses for more than a decade now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take a look at the Texas squad and learn a few things. Here are four ways the Yankees can mimic the Rangers, each with the possibility of having a big impact.

Don’t Take The Catching Depth For Granted

Yesterday we heard that the Pirates are prioritizing a catcher this offseason, leading to speculation about the Yankees being a possible trade match. With Russell Martin entrenched behind the plate for at least another year and Frankie Cervelli, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine all that Triple-A or above, the Yankees have the luxury of depth at a position where most teams have none.

Three seasons ago, the Rangers were the team with that catching depth. They had Gerald Laird at the big league level, plus Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez all on the cusp of the show. Laird was traded that offseason for no one in particular (Guillermo Moscoso and a Single-A pitcher that still hasn’t made it out of Single-A) as Texas dealt from what they felt was a position of strength, but less than two years later, that depth was gone. Ramirez couldn’t catch, Salty couldn’t stay healthy, and Teagarden couldn’t hit. They ended up trading for Bengie Molina at least year’s deadline before signing Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year deal this past winter.

Catchers, probably more than any other position, can experience growing pains early in their career. It’s not just hitting and standing in the right spot or throwing to the right base, it’s learning a pitching staff and dealing with nagging injuries. Matt Wieters has all the talent in the world and he’s struggled with it. Catching depth has a way of disappearing quickly, so the Yankees shouldn’t take what they have in Martin, Montero, Cervelli, and Romine for granted. That’s not to say they can’t or shouldn’t trade any of them, but they can’t just trade one of them for the sake of making a trade. A deal would have to bring real improvement to the MLB roster, not prospects.

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Prospect Profile: Tyler Austin

(Kevin Pataky/

Tyler Austin | 1B, 3B

A Georgia kid, Christopher Tyler Austin attended Heritage High School in Conyers, about a half-hour outside Atlanta. He was a fixture at showcase events and in various travel leagues, and was a high-end recruit for Kennesaw State. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the state prior to the 2010 draft, but noted that he could come off the board as early as the fourth round. The Yankees were patient and able to nab Austin with their 13th round pick, the 415th overall selection. He signed for $130k close to the signing deadline, over-slot but actually a bit of a bargain.

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