Yankees designate Aaron Laffey for assignment

Remember yesterday, when the Yankees optioned Aaron Laffey to make room for Alex Rodriguez on the 25-man roster? It turns out that they didn’t option him. Instead, reports The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig, they designated him for assignment. The idea, I’m guessing, is that since he made it all the way to the Yankees on waivers the first time through that he could clear waivers and head to AAA for the Yanks. We’ll see if any NL team puts in a claim this time around, or whether the Yanks were the only team really interested last time around.

This does open a spot on the 40-man roster, so speculate as you will.

Past Trade Review: Jose Tabata

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There was a time, during RAB’s halcyon days, when Jose Tabata invited encouraging comparisons. The name Manny Ramirez appeared frequently, which left Yankees fans salivating. Even better, when Baseball America rated him the Yankees’ No. 2 and the No. 27 overall prospect in 2007, they said that he “has the talent to reach New York by the end of 2008.”

By the end of 2008 not only was Tabata not in the majors, but he wasn’t even in the Yankees system. On July 25th, 2008, when they sat three games back of first and were starting a series against Boston, they pulled off a major trade in which Tabata was the centerpiece. They sent him, along with Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pirates in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. In Marte they got a lefty reliever — one whom they once traded for Enrique Wilson — and a right-handed outfielder in the midst of a career year. The Yankees certainly needed the help that Marte and Nady could provide, but losing Tabata still stung a little.

While Tabata possessed plenty of upside, his attitude and antics certainly soured the Yankees. After all, the same Baseball America scouting report that glowed about his “innate ability to get the fat part of the bat to the ball quickly, consistently, and with power,” also said that the “tends to cost and turn his talent on and off.” He stormed out of one game and considered quitting. That doesn’t even touch on his decades-older wife, who was accused of kidnapping a baby. In 2008 all that appeared to catch up to him, and he sported a mere .248/.320/.310 line in AA prior to the trade. The Yankees’ patience, apparently, wore thin.

Even with the reinforcements the Yankees couldn’t overcome their depleting pitching staff. At that point Chien-Ming Wang was already done for the year, and Joba Chamberlain had just a few starts remaining before he, too, would go on the DL. Marte pitched well at first, but after a long outing in Texas (I believe on the same day Joba got hurt) he was apparently gassed. Nady stumbled in his new digs. It amounted to a 32-28 record post-trade, which was actually worse than their pre-trade record. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The only bright side was that they had Nady and Marte for at least one more season each.

With Nady, they ended up with essentially nothing. The Yankees named him the starting right fielder in 2009, despite Nick Swisher‘s presence on the roster, but he suffered an elbow injury a few games into the season and didn’t play another one until 2010 with the Cubs. His time with the Yankees amounted to 0.6 WAR. Instead of exercising Marte’s $6 million option for 2009, the Yankees signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract. He’s spent most of it on the DL, though he did come through in the 2009 World Series. The only way the Yankees won this deal was with the old saying, flags fly forever. (Though I suppose that assumes that the Yankees would not have won the series without Marte, which is debatable, to say the least.)

Karstens, McCutchen, and Ohlendorf were mere afterthoughts in the trade. Ohlendorf broke camp with the 2008 team as a reliever, though his role was never clear. Whether that made him seem worse I’m not sure, but it’s impossible to define his stint with the big league club as successful. He might have helped in the future, but the Yankees had plenty of other mid-range pitching prospects. The same goes for Karstens and McCutchen. Both had their bright spots, but both were fungible assets. There was little to argue about when trading them, and even using hindsight, with Karstens experiencing some success this year, it’s hard to find fault with trading these guys. It was actually a Yankees fan’s dream: trading middling non-prospects for actual major leaguers.

Tabata, on the other hand, represented someone the Yankees could actually use. The system has lacked power corner OF bats since RAB started in 2007, and Tabata was the one guy who could have grown into that type of player. But given all his issues both on and off the field, they apparently thought he wasn’t the best fit. And despite all the hype, he has never hit for power — not in any stop in the minors in which he had more than 100 AB, and not in the majors.

The lack of power brings up an important question when evaluating the Tabata trade: where would he have played? Even if the Yankees were a bit aggressive with him, as the Pirates were last year, where would he have fit? Last year Brett Gardner was working on a breakout year, and the Yankees had Nick Swisher manning right field. From 2010 to 2011 Nick Swisher has produced a .367 wOBA and Gardner has produced .351 (9th and 20th among qualified MLB OFers). Tabata, meanwhile, has produced a .332 wOBA, and that’s pretty evenly divided between his two seasons. (It would rank 40th if he were qualified.)

It was impossible to know at the time, of course, that the Yankees would acquire Swisher and develop Gardner into a borderline elite player, so all of that represents hindsight evaluation in one way. But in another it represents a legitimate viewpoint, since Tabata wouldn’t have been ready for the majors until the Yankees started to see what they had in those two players. Even if he miraculously broke out in 2009 the Yanks wouldn’t have had room for him.

This weekend Tabata was rewarded for his 3.5 career WAR, and his potential for more, with a five-year extension worth a guaranteed $14.25 million that could end up a eight-year, $36.75 million deal. With the Yankees he never would have gotten that opportunity. With Gardner and Swisher taking over the outfield corners in the past two years, he would have remained blocked. That could have worked out if he turned things around in the Yanks system; they could have traded him this past winter, perhaps for a starting pitcher. But if he continued to falter they would have gotten even less. The Yanks apparently saw that risk ahead of time and dealt him while at least one team still valued him.

The hardest part of reconciling these past trades is figuring out how the Yankees would have fared had they not made the trade. It’s especially tough in this situation, when they got so little value for the return, but also wouldn’t have had room for the centerpiece. While it was a clear loss for the Yankees — they gave up something of value to another team and got little value back — the real-world effect isn’t that great. It would have taken a big turnaround from the disappointing Tabata in order for the Yankees to realize any value from him in the future.

Taking a hit from the objective pipe

“If you smoke the objective pipe, I think the coverage on him would be a little smoother, more accurate.” – Brian Cashman on how the media and fans portray A.J. Burnett.

It’s pretty clear that all anyone wants to talk about is A.J. Burnett. In the recap of last night’s game, commenters decided to jump on Burnett rather than discuss the actual game the Yankees played — in which Ivan Nova pitched particularly well. And so, to give everyone the necessary Burnett fix for the afternoon, here is a big lungful of the objective pipe. All numbers are real and up-to-date.

Burnett himself

26 GS, 156 IP, 151 H, 92 R, 70 BB, 132 K

7.62 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, 1.33 HR/9, 47.6% GB, 14.6% HR/FB, .284 BABIP, 1.42 WHIP

8 quality starts in 26 attempts

6 IP per start, 100 pitches per start, 3.81 P/PA, 61% strikes

4.9 runs of support per game

4.96 ERA (85 ERA+), 4.71 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 3.98 SIERA, 5.08 tERA, 4.4 VORP, 1.1 WAR

Opponents batting against: .255/.336/.444
Quality of opponent hitters: .266/.328/.417

vs. LHB: 7.87 K/9, 4.26 BB/9, 1.09 HR/9, .297 BABIP, 4.37 FIP, 3.79 xFIP
vs. RHB: 7.33 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 1.59 HR/9, .271 BABIP, 5.10 FIP, 4.27 xFIP

Home: 7.73 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, 1.30 HR/9, .256 BABIP, 4.48 FIP, 3.86 xFIP
Away: 7.43 K/9, 4.85 BB/9, 1.37 HR/9, .328 BABIP, 5.10 FIP, 4.27 xFIP

Low Leverage: 9.05 K/9, 3.71 BB/9, 1.78 HR/9, .335 BABIP, 4.85 FIP, 3.62 xFIP
Med Leverage: 7.18 K/9, 4.39 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, .247 BABIP, 4.45 FIP, 4.18 xFIP
High Leverage: 3.18 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 1.59 HR/9, .278 BABIP, 5.92 FIP, 4.91 xFIP

Bases Empty: 7.73 K/9, 4.13 BB/9, 1.16 HR/9, .288 BABIP, 4.46 FIP, 4.04 xFIP
Men in Scoring: 8.00 K/9, 4.20 BB/9, 1.40 HR/9, .258 BABIP, 4.85 FIP, 3.88 xFIP

Burnett compared to the league

ERA: 99th out of 105 qualified starters
FIP: 96/105
xFIP: 75/105
SIERA: 68/105
tERA: 97/105
WAR: 84/105
VORP: 95/104

K/9: 31/105
BB/9: 5/105
HR/9: 10/105

Quality start %: 133/137
IP/GS: t-82/137
P/PA: 89/137
Strike%: 125/137
Run Support: t-26/137

2011 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The draft signing deadline has come and gone, and depending on your point of view, the Yankees either landed some promising talent or had another underwhelming draft. I’m somewhere in the middle, loving the arms but a little iffy on the bats. It would have been nice if they had signed second rounder Sam Stafford, since power lefties are always in demand. Anyway, these guys are new members of the Yankees family, and now we have to figure out exactly where they fit in.

Unsurprisingly, not all that much has changed since my pre-draft list. There just hasn’t been enough time for anyone to change their stock all that much, one way or another. As you’ll see, the majority of the players that moved around did so due to injury. Let’s dive in, with the most familiar of prospect names up top…

  1. Jesus Montero, C, AAA – strong April (~.365 wOBA), subpar May and June (~.315), big July and August (~.375 wOBA) … stuck in Triple-A because the Yankees are unwilling to put the best team on the field
  2. Manny Banuelos, LHSP, AAA – uncharacteristically mediocre control this year, but he’s still a 20-year-old kid in the highest level of the minors
  3. Dellin Betances, RHSP, AAA – having a typical Betances year, but the key is that he’s been completely healthy aside from a little blister in April
  4. Austin Romine, C, AA – he needs to be in Triple-A and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman admitted it … the lack of a Montero promotion has a trickle down effect
  5. Gary Sanchez, C, LoAattitude issues in the first half, then a broken finger derailed what had been a big second half (~.375 wOBA and a dozen homers in 38 games)
  6. Mason Williams, CF, SS – not just having a great year for SI, but apparently he has way more power potential than I realized
  7. J.R. Murphy, C, HiA – has been out with some kind of leg/foot injury for a month now, but impressed with improved defense and a measly strikeout rate (12.8%) in the first half
  8. Hector Noesi, RHRP, MLB – technically still a prospect, but that 50 IP cutoff isn’t far away (he’s at 42.2 IP) … I really wish he was starting in AAA
  9. Adam Warren, RHSP, AAA – has pitched his way into being the next guy in line should the Yankees need a starter
  10. David Phelps, RHSP, AAA – had a little shoulder scare, but he rejoined the AAA rotation last week
  11. Brett Marshall, RHSP, HiA – stuff came back after Tommy John surgery and he’s getting a ton of grounders … hopefully the whiffs will follow
  12. Slade Heathcott, CF, HiA – another year, another shoulder injury … that’s his third since his senior year of high school, including one surgery
  13. Bryan Mitchell, RHSP, SS – huge stuff but really raw … going to be a long-term project, but there’s significant upside here
  14. Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, AA – the neck strain from hell cost him a little more than two months, and he’s still just working his way back to full effectiveness
  15. Corban Joseph, 2B, AA – can definitely hit, but I have to wonder where he’ll wind up defensively because he isn’t unseating Robinson Cano … trade bait
  16. Ramon Flores, LF, LoA – showing off top notch plate discipline and gap power, which will hopefully develop into over the fence power as he grows into his 5-foot-10 frame
  17. Brandon Laird, 3B, AAA – not having a great year in Triple-A, but got his first taste of the bigs and serves a purpose
  18. Cito Culver, SS, SS – solid year with SI, not great but not terrible … going to have to keep proving the doubters wrong
  19. Rob Segedin, 3B, HiA – made quick work of the Sally League and has held his own in the Florida State League, though an injury cost him some time
  20. Greg Bird, C – we’ll see if he can catch, but either way it’s up to the lefty power bat to carry him
  21. George Kontos, RHRP, AAA – proving himself to be strikeout reliever at the minors’ highest level, he’s on the cusp right now
  22. D.J. Mitchell, RHSP, AAA – servicable arm still has some issues with lefties, but he’s as big league ready as it gets
  23. Chase Whitley, RHRP, AA – hasn’t missed a ton of bats in his first full year as a pro, but the Yankees are trying to teach him a slider in lieu of the his usual changeup
  24. Andrew Brackman, RHRP, AAA – it’s been an ugly year and time is starting to run out … has just one more minor league option for next year
  25. Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, Rk – what we do know: he can crush GCL pitching … what we don’t know: where’s he going to play down the road?
  26. David Adams, 2B, HiA – made it back for a few weeks before hitting the DL again, but he can definitely hit … can he ever manage to stay on the field?
  27. Ravel Santana, CF, Rkbrutal ankle injury ended what was exciting U.S. debut, with lots of power (.273 ISO) and lots of speed (10-for-13 in SB attempts)
  28. Jordan Cote, RHSP – big (6-foot-5, 205 lbs.), raw, and projectable, so he’s right up my alley
  29. Jose Ramirez, RHSP, LoA – just hasn’t progressed much since the start of last year (if at all), but the fastball-changeup combo is still very good
  30. Melky Mesa, CF, AA – still has an all-world tools package, but hasn’t been able to build on the progress he made last year

Number 31 was Tyler Austin, who was very tough to leave off the list. He’s too good to be a sleeper, but I like some other guys just a little more. Stafford would have certainly cracked the top 30, likely between Mitchell and Whitley without putting a ton of thought into it. Four players dropped off the pre-draft list entirely: Ryan Pope, Eduardo Sosa, Zach Nuding, and Tim Norton. All four missed time with injury and had barely made the cut in the first place, so some healthy new draftees took their spots. I’ll be perfectly honest, I did not expect all three of Montero, Banuelos, and Betances to still be around after the trade deadline, but I’m happy to have them and I’m sure the team is too.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 22nd, 2011

Record Last Week: 5-2 (43 RS, 30 RA)
Season Record:
77-48 (675 RS, 487 RA, 82-43 pythag. record), 0.5 games up in AL East, 8.0 up for wildcard
Opponents This Week:
Mon. OFF, vs. Athletics (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Orioles (four games, Fri. to Sun., two on Sat.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Powered by homers, Nova blanks Twins

Curtis Granderson awaits the pitch he would turn into his 35th home run of the season. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Jim Thome had just singled when a fly ball floated into the gap between center and right at Target Field. As Curtis Granderson rushed over to make the catch, he waved off Nick Swisher, but Swisher, who wasn’t expecting Granderson to be there, didn’t hear the outfield captain making the call. The two pulled up short, and the ball fall into the space between for a double for Danny Valencia. The lumbering Thome ended up at third, and the Twins had a threat.

After the game, Swisher and Granderson owned up to their miscommunication. Granderson said he wasn’t aggressive enough in waving off Swisher, and Swisher pulled up when he could. Still, after a win, the Yankee outfielders were in good spirits. “Guys were busting Curtis and I a little, and I said, ‘What are you taking about? You should thank us.’ After that, Nova got filthy,” Swisher said.

That filthiness is of course what everyone was talking about, and just a day after A.J. Burnett‘s 1.2-inning blowup against the Twins, the rookie Ivan Nova led the Yanks to a 3-0 victory. After that Valencia double, he struck out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and induced a ground ball to Mark Teixeira off the bat of Drew Butera to end the Twins’ threat. Four innings later, the Yanks could close the books on a series win in Minneapolis and a 5-2 road trip. First place, you’d be so nice to come home to.

Before Ivan emerged, the story of the day seemed to be another episode of RISP Fail. The Yanks left Jeter on third in the first, and Nick Blackburn walked the bases loaded in the second. With one out, he departed with an injury, and Anthony Swarzak struck out Eduardo Nuñez while Derek Jeter flew out to end the inning. Then in the fifth against Phil Dumatrait, the Yanks again loaded the bases before Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game back from knee surgery, popped out to Joe Mauer at first. Eight base runners, seven left on, one erased by a double play.

The team broke free in the sixth as Robinson Cano doubled, moved to third on a Swisher fly ball and scored on a Russell Martin sac fly. The fireworks, though, began in the 7th. Curtis Granderson hit a rocket to right center than bounded off the giant scoreboard. He motored around second, and Target Field saw Rob Thompson waving him home. A headfirst dive gave Granderson his 35th home run of the season, and it was an inside-the-parker to boot. “It was good until everyone wanted to talk,” Granderson said later. “As we’re coming in, everyone was asking about it, and I couldn’t really talk too much.”

Mark Teixeira followed with a laser shot down the left field line. The Yankees had their three runs, and Nova, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera would not need more. While Robertson walked a tight-rope in the eighth, Mariano barely broke a sweat.

The accolades though belong to Nova. He threw seven innings, gave up five hits and walked one while picking up five strike outs. He’s 13-4 with a 3.97, and while he was sent down to AAA just a few weeks ago, it’s nearly inconceivable that the Yanks would jettison him from the starting rotation after the Baltimore series. As the Yanks pack up from Minneapolis and return home for a set against the Oakland A’s, I’m left wondering how the odd man out can be anyone but A.J. Today, Nova made the 2011 Twins look like the 2011 Twins, and the Yanks’ flight home was, I’m sure, a happy one.

Austin’s huge day leads SI to even huge-er win

Bullet points, once again…

  • Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended after two innings and change. Here’s the box score, if you care to peruse.
  • Double-A Trenton is still playing a game that’s been delayed by rain numerous times. They might suspend it before long. Here’s the box score.
  • High-A Tampa (win). Abe Almonte and Walt Ibarra each had two hits, but they were all singled. Rob Segedin had a pair of knocks and one was a homer. Jose Quintana threw six scoreless innings, striking out five and walking just one.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss). Shane Brown and Jeff Farnham, a pair of non-prospects, each had two hits. Brett Gerritse was the only interesting player on the mound, allowing one run in two innings of relief.
  • Short Season Staten Island (HUGE win). Tyler Austin may have had the greatest offensive day in DotF history: 6-for-6, four runs scored, three doubles, a homer, and four runs driven in. That’s nuts. Zach Wilson had three hits and was a single shy of the cycle, and Bobby Rinard had three hits. Two left the yard. Cito Culver and Mason Williams had a single each. Nothing interesting on the mound, but the box score is worth checking out for the offense.

The Rookie Level GCL Yankees had their regularly scheduled Sunday off day.