Open Thread: ‘Cuse coming to the Bronx

(AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

The Syracuse Orange (7-5 overall, 4-3 in conference play) have accepted a bid to play in this month’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium according to the team, though their opponent still hasn’t been confirmed. Based on my quick Google search, it appears that Kansas State is the favorite for the other bid. The game is scheduled for Monday, December 20th.

“We are thrilled to have Syracuse representing the Big East Conference in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl,” said Hal Steinbrenner. “We expect the historic backdrop of Yankee Stadium and the many attractions of New York City to create a one-of-a-kind bowl event for the athletes participating and … Syracuse fans that will have the opportunity to watch their team play in person.”

I know a few of our regulars are Syracuse alums, so any of you going to head out to the game? Based on what I heard, last month’s matchup between Army and Notre Dame was a rather cool experience.

Anywho, here’s tonight’s open thread. The Texans are at the Eagles and you can watch if you have the NFL Network, otherwise you’re stuck with the Rangers at the Islanders. It seems like all of the local teams have had the week off. Eh, whatever. Oh, and Lebron is going back to Cleveland tonight (8pm ET, TNT). I hear that’s kind of a big deal. Talk about whatever you want, so have at it.

Yankees make new offer to Jeter

Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have made a new offer to Derek Jeter, though the details of that new offer are still unknown. The other day we heard that the Yanks were prepared to off three years and $51M with a fourth year option that included a $6M buyout, replicating the average annual value of the captain’s last contract. Jack Curry hears that the talks aren’t “in the zone” just yet, and there’s still some more work to be done.

Barring some seriously unlikely behind-the-scenes stuff, the Yankees are bidding against themselves here. The improved offer is out of nothing but good faith given the utter lack of competition for Jeter, especially since the annual payout will exceed that of Troy Tulowitzki’s new contract. If Jeter’s camp isn’t happy with that, I don’t know what comes next. At some point they have to reciprocate.

The RAB Radio Show: December 2, 2010

Injuries are no fun. The Yanks announced news on two of them yesterday. Brett Gardner had surgery on his wrist to fix tendinitis. If that sounds odd, well, it is. Mike and I dive into that one. Then there’s Al Aceves, but this time it’s not about his back. He broke his collar bone, which means he’ll get a late start on the season. But we talk about his back injury anyway, because, well, I feel for people who have back problems and think that we shouldn’t undersell how detrimental they can be to long-term health.

And then there’s Sergio Mitre. The Yankees didn’t tender him a contact. No, they did him one better by signing him to a major league deal worth $900K. I understand why people don’t like Mitre. He’s not very good. But as Mike and I explain, the Yanks weren’t going to do much better with the 12th man in the bullpen.

Podcast run time 15:46

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Smile” by Farmer’s Boulevard used under a Creative Commons license

The Obligatory Hideki Okajima Post

This post seemed inevitable, and sure enough the emails started trickling in not long after we learned that the Red Sox will decline to tender Hideki Okajima a contract before tonight’s deadline, making Daisuke Matsuzaka’s buddy* a free agent. With the Yankees in the market for a second lefty, wondering if Okajima was worth targeting was only natural. I’m here to tell you that hell no, the Yanks should avoid the guy.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Okajima burst onto the scene in 2007 by allowing a solo homerun to the first batter he ever faced in the big leagues (John Buck) and then not allowing another run until late-May, 19 pitching appearances later. Okajima was an All Star that season and finished the year with a 2.22 ERA (3.33 FIP) and a rather studly 1.5 fWAR  in 69 innings of setup work, and of course a World Series ring. Even more impressive is that he was effective against both lefties (.302 wOBA against) and righties (.222) thanks to a split-change and funky don’t-look-at-the-target delivery.

Although he wasn’t as dominant the next year, Okajima did pitch to a 2.61 ERA (3.62 FIP) and 1.1 fWAR in 62 innings even though right-handers started to figure him out (.356 wOBA against compared to .259 vs. LHB). Things started to fall apart in 2009 (3.39 ERA, 4.20 FIP, .371 wOBA vs. RHB, .225 wOBA vs. LHB) and then the wheels came completely off in 2010 (4.50 ERA, 4.64 FIP, .381 wOBA vs. RHB, .314 wOBA vs. LHB). The league, it appears, has finally caught up to him after four seasons in the States.

Oh hai baseball. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

There’s a lot not to like about Okajima, starting with his stuff. His fastball, never great to begin with, averaged a career low 86.3 mph last season and he’s using it more often than ever, basically two out of every three pitches. As funky as his delivery is, Okajima’s not particularly good at hiding the ball since he comes right over the top (right). If batters can see a mid-80’s fastball out of a pitcher’s hand, they’ll probably hit it not matter which way the guy’s head is going, and unsurprisingly Okajima’s heater was worth 2.8 runs below average in 2010, easily the worst mark of his career. His split finger has lost three inches of vertical break over the last two years, and it’s gone from two runs above average to 4.4 below. The curveball’s more than fine (1.52 runs above average in 2010), but that’s all he’s working with these days.

Another issue with Okajima is health after he missed close to two months with a back stiffness last summer, and then there’s the homeruns (one for every 7.2 IP over the last two years). And sheesh, he’s not even that great against lefties anymore. Like I said earlier, they got him for a .314 wOBA in 2010, below (in a bad way) the .304 left-on-left league average. Okajima’s not outrageously expensive but $2.75M for a LOOGY (his 2010 salary) is less than ideal, and I assume he’ll want a similar salary next year. Also, just think about what’s going on here, a team in the process of overhauling a weak bullpen is cutting him loose because he was part of the problem, not the solution. Boston can surely afford him, this is all about performance.

I suspect that if Okajima had performed exactly the same way over the last four years for a team like the Padres or Royals instead of the Red Sox, no one would think twice about him. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with exploring possibilities, but let’s just keep moving along, nothing to see here.

* Kay’d

Yankees sign Buddy Carlyle

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees have signed right-hander Buddy Carlyle to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 33-year-old spent the 2010 season in Japan, allowing 35 hits and 11 walks against just 14 strikeouts in 27.2 innings with the Nippon Ham Fighters. Carlyle pitched with the Padres, Dodgers, and Braves at various points from 1999 through 2009, posting a forgettable 5.61 ERA (4.97 FIP) in 245.2 innings. To his credit, he did toss up a 3.59 ERA (3.58 FIP, look at that) in 62.2 innings with Atlanta in 2008.

It’s just a minor league depth move, an arm to soak up innings in Triple-A so the actual prospects don’t get overworked. Meh.

The mystery pitcher: Chris Carpenter

(Tom Gannam/AP)

You might have missed it on the podcast last week, but Mike finally got me to reveal this mystery pitcher he’d mentioned in a chat a while back. Yes, if the Yankees miss out on Cliff Lee and turn to the trade market for another starter, I think they should target St. Louis’s Chris Carpenter. He’s not a perfect option, but the Yankees aren’t going to find one of those — not even Lee himself is a perfect option. In Carpenter they will find a number of benefits.

1. He’s a free agent after next season

There is a small but smart faction of Yankees fans who don’t want Lee at all, because of the effect he’ll have on mid-decade teams. At $23 million per year, he’ll drive the Yankees commitments up to around $96 million to four players in 2014. How they plan to field the other 21 I’m not sure. That’s the point of the anti-Lee movement, I suppose: sustainability in the future. Carpenter would bring no such problem. The Yankees can let him walk after the 2011 season and start over again. At that point their prospects will be one step closer to the majors — the ones they don’t trade for Carpenter, in any case. It might lead to a better outlook for 2012.

2. He could be a burden on St. Louis’s payroll

There’s good reason the Cardinals missed the postseason in 2010. They were lacking at several positions. The only upgrade they’ve come up with is Ryan Theriot, and he’s not a great bet to outperform Brendan Ryan next year. That still leaves a hole at third — David Freese is hardly proven — and second — Skip Schumaker might not have as putrid a year with the bat, but the dude simply cannot field his position at second. The Cardinals also have the Pujols negotiation, and indications are that they want to hammer out a deal this winter. He’ll get a significant raise over his $16 million 2011 salary.

That’s not to say that the Cardinals can’t afford Carpenter. It’s just that he’d be one of their better trade chips. With the need to improve not only in 2011, but for the subsequent decade that Pujols is under contract, they might need upgrades elsewhere. They won’t get Jesus Montero, but they could find a few prospects of their liking from the Yankees’ farm system.

3. He’s, you know, a good pitcher

Carpenter might not be the same guy he was when he won the Cy Young Award in 2005, but he still has something left in the tank. He induces plenty of ground balls and he doesn’t walk many guys. His strikeout rate isn’t killer, but it’s not in the mold of some other ground ball pitchers (a la Nick Blackburn). He also threw over 200 innings last year, another plus in his column.

There are downsides, of course. There are in any potential trade. With Carpenter they are considerable:

  • He’s not the healthiest guy. While he made 28 starts in 2009 and 35 starts in 2010, he missed most of the previous two seasons.
  • He hasn’t pitched in the AL since 2002, and he wasn’t that good when with the Blue Jays. Note, though, that he’s a completely different pitcher at this point.
  • The Cardinals could end up asking for a lot, since he will help them in 2011.
  • If he does become available, a number of other teams will be in on him.

It’s not a perfect fit, but looking around the league there aren’t many others who would work much better. It’s tough to find a guy who can pitch in the middle or top of your rotation who are available in a trade.

I won’t make a trade proposal, since it will inevitably suck. But I do think that the Yankees have the pieces to entice the Cardinals if it comes to that. I hope it doesn’t — it doesn’t sound like that attractive a proposition, and I don’t see many other viable options. This is why there is such a vocal and vehement pro-Lee clan. Without him, the 2011 rotation looks shaky at best.

It’s official: Javy’s a Marlin

Two-time former Yankee Javy Vazquez passed his physical with the Marlins and the team officially announced his signing at a press conference this morning. As a result, the Yankees now have an extra draft pick, a supplemental first rounder that at this point can be no worse than 55th overall (53rd once Jorge De La Rosa’s deal with the Rockies is finalized). More than likely it’ll be in the 45-50 range, which isn’t bad at all. Remember to check out our 2011 Draft Order Tracker, I update it after every deal becomes official.