Possible trade target: Octavio Dotel

The Yankees and Pirates have developed a bit of a big brother-little brother relationship over the last few seasons. Whenever little brother has something that big brother wants, big brother imposes his will on little brother and takes it away. In exchange, big brother will give whatever he doesn’t want to little brother. The Yanks poached Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady from Pittsburgh in 2008, then turned the same trick last year when they grabbed Eric Hinske (and money to pay half his salary!), and in the meantime they’ve been sending their scraps (Steven Jackson, Eric Hacker, Casey Erickson, etc.) to the Steel City.

With an obvious need for a late inning arm in the bullpen, the Yanks could again turn to their little brother in Western Pennsylvania, who have a productive closer and no real need for one. We’ve already looked at trade scenarios involving Jeff Keppinger, Ty Wigginton, and David DeJesus, but now let’s turn our attention to the mound and our old buddy Octavio Dotel.

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic, AP

Obviously, the Yanks already have a history with Dotel. They signed him to one year deal worth $2M with a bunch of incentives prior to the 2006 season, when the former Met was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He ultimately appeared in just 14 late seasons games for the Bombers, and predictably battled control issues (very common after elbow surgery) as he pitched to a 7.50 xFIP in ten measly innings. The two sides parted ways after the season, and Dotel has since pitched for Royals, Braves, White Sox, and now Pirates.

The now 36-year-old righty has changed a bit through the years, replacing the upper-90’s gas with a low-90’s heater while scaling back it’s usage a bit in favor of a curveball. He’s still got the wipeout slider and still racks up a ton of strikeouts, but the walks have increased and so have the fly balls. The elbow has yet to give Dotel any more trouble, but he has dealt with some oblique issues (including this spring) and had a shoulder strain back in 2007. Any pitcher can hurt his arm at any given moment, but it’s less of a concern when the guy is on a short contract.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

That short contract will pay Dotel about $1.9M the rest of the season, and there’s a $500,000 buyout for his $4.5M option for next season. He projects to be a Type-B free agent quite comfortably, so if whatever team holds his rights at the end of the season is feeling frisky, they could decline his option and offer him arbitration for a shot at a supplement first round draft pick. On the downside, he could accept and be looking at an arbitration award north of $4M (ooo saves, shiny).

While it’s clear that the Yankees could use another end game arm, I’m not 100% convinced that Dotel is the answer. His walk and homerun rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, but they’re not the kinds of characteristics you want to see in a high leverage reliever. Experience certainly counts for something (to his credit, Dotel’s been pitching in high leverage spots his entire career), but it won’t overcome 5.34 BB/9 and 54.2% fly balls in a park that’s inflated homerun totals by something like 32% since being opened (using ESPN’s park factors). The element of name recognition comes into play here, so Dotel’s trade value is going to be perceived to be higher than his actual value.

Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator pegs Dotel’s trade value at $5M in the best case scenario, which is equivalent to a Grade-B hitting prospect or two Grade-C pitching prospects under the age of 22 according to Victor Wang’s research. Think Corban Joseph or Jairo Heredia and Nik Turley, something along those lines. For a three or four month rental of an inherently volatile reliever? I think I’ll pass.

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Related Aside: Look at how many relievers have been traded on the deadline. Too many to count. How many went on to be productive for their new team? A whole lot less, that’s for sure. The position is just so unpredictable, it doesn’t matter how good a guy’s track record is when you acquire him. He might suck unexpectedly and for no reason whatsoever. That’s why I hate spending big money and giving multiple years to bullpeners.

Starting the bullpen carousel

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Sometimes your options are so poor that it really doesn’t matter what you do. That’s the situation at the back of the Yankees’ bullpen right now. Chan Ho Park, Chad Gaudin, and Boone Logan have provided so little value that, in theory, you could call up a random AAA reliever to replace them and you’d realize equal, if not better, results. That appears to be just what the Yankees will do. By all appearances, Dustin Moseley will join the team tomorrow at the Stadium.

We learned yesterday that Moseley has an out clause in his contract that allows him to elect free agency if not on the 25-man roster by July 1. Last night he was scheduled to make his final start before that date, but as Donnie Collins reported in the early evening, Moseley would not make his start. Collins went on to confirm that the move did not involve an injury, and later that Moseley was throwing in the bullpen. That sounds like we’re just an official announcement away from seeing Moseley join the team.

That means the Yankees will have to jettison one of those three underachievers. Since they have a 40-man roster spot free they could simply option Logan and let that be that. That way they could keep both Gaudin and Park on the major league roster while stowing away Logan for depth. It sounds like the most likely move from a GM who covets his depth. But at this point I’m not sure it’s the correct move.

What, exactly, do the Yankees think they’re going to get from Chad Gaudin? Pick a stat, either results- or peripheral-based, and you’ll see nothing but dreck. ERA: 6.89, FIP: 6.10, xFIP 4.57, tERA 5.96. Oh, he has a 3.84 SIERA. His numbers have improved a bit since joining the Yankees, so maybe he’s not a total waste. But that doesn’t mean the Yankees have to keep him around. They can try to do better than simply not a total waste.

Now seems like as good a time as ever to start sending the bullpen cart to Scranton and picking up random relievers for auditions. Moseley starts on Tuesday. Albaladejo figures to get a shot soon enough, probably at the expense of Park or Logan. Moseley will get a few chances, and a lack of success will lead to his release, only to be replaced by someone like Romulo Sanchez or Jason Hirsh. Better to find out what they have now, rather than try to deal for someone at the deadline when there’s an answer right under their noses.

Will Moseley, or any of these guys for that matter, prove the answer to the Yankees’ bullpen issues? Probably not. But chances are they won’t provide a necessarily worse option than Park or Logan or Gaudin. At this point there isn’t really a reason for Gaudin to be on the team. Someone will have to go, regardless, when Sergio Mitre returns from his DL stint. Why not DFA the guy who will be DFA’d at some point anyway? At least that way Girardi will get to keep his coveted double-lefty tandem.

Another big day for Sanchez, but GCL Yanks lose

Remember Rafael DePaula, the Dominican righty the Yankees were pursuing? Turns out he lied about his age and identity. I don’t know what’s next for him because he’s already been suspended for this once before, but it obviously doesn’t help his stock.

Triple-A Scranton (7-6 win over Rochester)
Justin Christian, LF & Reid Gorecki, CF: both 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 E (fielding, missed catch) – forget the homer, that’s his fifth walk in the last four games … he has 19 all season!
Jesus Montero, DH: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – 12 for his last 38 (.316)with five doubles & two homers
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 SB
Rene Rivera, C: 0 for 4, 1 K
Eric Bruntlett, 3B: 0 for 2, 1 BB
Greg Golson, RF: 0 for 3, 2 K – five for his last 32 (.156)
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 8-6 GB/FB – 43 of 83 pitches were strikes (51.9%) … in case you missed it, Dustin Moseley was scratched from this start, three days before his opt-out clause kicks in … not bad for a spot start
Zach Segovia: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 14 of his 20 pitches were strikes
Royce Ring: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 12 of his 20 pitches were strikes
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 12 of his 20 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Open Thread: A day off before the co-aces

Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP

The productive yet surprisingly stressful west coast trip is over, at least until the Yankees head back out there next week. They were able to enjoy an off day today before welcoming the Mariners into town, who are kind enough to throw Cliff Lee on Tuesday and Felix Hernandez on Wednesday. They were also nice enough to re-acquire Russell Branyan just in time for him to hit another homer off the restaurant in centerfield. Thankfully Seattle’s offense is so inept (.295 team wOBA) that it’s like having nine Yuniesky Betancourt’s (also a .295 wOBA) in the lineup, so the Yanks certainly have a chance.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. Stephen Strasburg takes on the Braves at 7pm ET (airing on ESPN2), and the Mets are playing the Marlins in Puerto Rico. The College World Series Finals (best-of-three) start tonight as well (7:30pm ET, ESPN), with Gerrit Cole and UCLA taking on Jackie Bradley Jr. and South Carolina. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

Yanks have decision to make with Dustin Moseley

Update (7:14pm): It’s not an injury problem, either.

6:17pm: Moseley has been scratched from tonight’s start, so something’s up. As the turntables … turn.

5:30pm: Via MLBTR, Triple-A Scranton righty Dustin Moseley has a clause in his contract that will allow him to become a free agent if he isn’t added to the team’s 25-man roster by July 1st, otherwise known as this Thursday. These clauses are common, because no one in their late-20’s wants to be stuck in some team’s minor league system when another club might be willing to give them a real chance at a big league job.

Moseley has pitched to an unspectacular 4.21 ERA (~3.50 FIP) in a dozen starts for SWB, generating close to 60% ground balls (59.4%, exactly). He has struck out ten in two of his last three starts, and is scheduled to take the mound tonight. Clearly, if the Yanks were to call him up, it would be as a long man out of the bullpen. Would they be willing to eat some money, cut ties with either Chad Gaudin or Chan Ho Park, and gamble on the former Angel? Hard to see it happening, but it’s always possible. They also have the option of trading him before then.

Could Super Two changes affect the Yanks?

Frankie won't be cheap forever. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP)

Once young players started to become more prominent in baseball’s post-PED, post-megacontract era, the intricacies of arbitration and free agency and service time started to become more well known to the common fan. In a nutshell, the player will earn close to the league minimum for the first three years of his career, then go to arbitration and earn a salary comparable to his peers for the next three years, and then he’ll be eligible for free agency. Of course it’s not entirely that simple, talking specifically about Super Twos.

Teams have begun to exploit the process by keeping their best prospects in the minors for a few weeks to start the season, which essentially gives them another year of control over the player. Instead of six years of production at below market rates, the team gets six and a half years, six and two-thirds, something like that. A lucky few fall into the Super Two category, which happens when they fall just short of the three years of service time needed to qualify for arbitration. Those players instead go to arbitration four times. Robbie Cano, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang were all Super Twos, but the Yankees signed Cano to a long-term deal before the arbitration process became a hassle.

Once the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2011 season, it seems all but given that the player’s union and the owners will make some changes to the arbitration process, but no one knows exactly what. Not even the two sides at this point, I assume. The Super Two provision is sure to be addressed in some manner that will either a) put more money in the player’s pockets, or b) bring them closer to free agency, I’m almost sure of that. Perhaps one solution is setting a very specific date in the season that serves as a cut off; if you call up the player before that date he gets a full year of service time and is that much closer to free agency, but if you call him up after that date he gets just a partial year of service time but goes to arbitration four times regardless. I dunno, just spit-balling ideas.

Anyway, how is all this going to affect the Yankees? The team currently boasts more young players than it has at any time in the last decade and a half, and soon enough the big paydays will come. The first two come this offseason, when Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain go through the arbitration process for the first time. Both are going to get raises into the $2-3M range, maybe a touch less, but that won’t financially kill the Yankees. Those two are the only first timers.

Down the road, the only four players currently on the 40-man roster that are in line to qualify for Super Two status are Ramiro Pena (after 2011), Frankie Cervelli (2011), Jon Albaladejo (2011), and Romulo Sanchez (2012). Brett Gardner falls about two weeks short of qualifying as a Super Two after next season, David Robertson a little more than that. The extra year of team control for Gardner is going to save the team something like $3M in the long run, which may not sound like much, but it’s actually $4.2M because of the extra 40% tacked on by the luxury tax.

Of the four players in line to become a Super Two, Cervelli is the safest bet to actually get there. Pena could go down at any moment in favor of a more experienced utility infielder (similar to what happened last year when the Yanks acquired Jerry Hairston Jr.), and both Albaladejo and Sanchez would have the spend the entire 2011 season (and 2012 in Romulo’s case) on the Yanks’ 25-man roster or Major League disabled list. That’s unlikely to happen for obvious reasons, though Albie will be out of minor league options next year, so it’s always possible. Stranger things have happened.

Cervelli has the backup catcher’s job locked up for the foreseeable future, and there’s really no reason to expect him to go back to the minors anytime soon. Jeff Mathis received $1.3M his first time through arbitration, Gerald Laird $1.6M, and frankly I can’t come up with better comparables for Cervelli. I get the Melky vibe hearing those numbers; Frankie’s a great guy to have around when he’s making six figures, but once you tack on that seventh one, suddenly the appeal isn’t so great.

The Super Two issue is more of a factor for guys who have yet to reach the big leagues. Jesus Montero, despite his subpar 2010 season, is still expected to be a long-term fixture in the Yankee lineup, and Austin Romine is right behind him with the expectation of being an every day catcher. Depending on when those two are summoned to the big leagues and how the arbitration rules are changed, it could end up costing the Yankees in both money and years of team control.With more than $73M  (over $102M with luxury tax) already tied up in just three players during the 2013 season (not counting Derek Jeter), the Yanks are going to need as much production out of cheap players in their pre-arbitration years as possible.

I don’t know how the next CBA will alter the arbitration process, but chances are it’s going to cost teams somehow. They’ll either lose some kind of control over the player or just plain old have to pay up, and as they tend to do, the Yankees will have to pay more than everyone else.

Gardner day-to-day with right forearm contusion

Monday, 3:00pm: Turns out that Gardner did up getting x-rays, though they came back negative. He is day-to-day with what is being called a right forearm contusion. With Cliff Lee scheduled start tomorrow night, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Chad Huffman in left not just for matchup purposes, but to also give Gardner that extra day of rest. As weird as it is to say, he’s a really important player for this team and they can’t afford to lose him for an extended period of time.

Sunday, 10:00pm: Gardner has a bruised right forearm and is day-to-day. No x-rays were necessary.

9:28pm: Brett Gardner left tonight’s game after being hit by a pitch in the hand/wrist during his first at-bat. Joe Girardi said during the in-between inning interview that there was some swelling, and that he’s going to be checked out by the doctors. Great.