The RAB Radio Show: November 23, 2010

It feels as though the Yankees wanted to hear Mike and I talk longer, because they dumped a ton of news on us today.

First up: MVP. What Cano got, what he didn’t get, why he didn’t deserve to win, but why he also should be proud of his finish. There could be greater things in Mr. Cano’s future.

Then we move onto arbitration. We know that they will extend offers to Kerry Wood and Javy Vazquez, and that Javy has agreed to decline. From what Cashman said I presume Wood will accept. That’s good news for the 2011 bullpen, but not for the 2011 payroll.

Six years and $140 million for Cliff Lee? I thought the Yanks would get there, but there is a report that it’s already on the table. Is this just a garbled game of telephone, or are the Yankees trying to get all their affairs in order with a time-sensitive offer?

Podcast run time 43:02

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

Davidoff: Pettitte ‘leaning toward’ pitching in 2011

Andy Pettitte is “leaning toward” pitching for the Yankees in 2011, Ken Davidoff just reported via Twitter. According to his industry source, the Yanks’ lefty will re-up with the team for one more year, thus solidifying the Yanks’ starting rotation. Earlier this month, Pettitte told reporters that, if he returned for 2011, it would be his final season. With Pettitte now likely to return, the Yanks must fill only one open rotation spot instead of two. This new-found leverage, however, does not mean the club is likely to reduce its offer to Cliff Lee.

Wood, Vazquez to be offered arbitration; Javy to reject

This is certainly unexpected. ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews reports that the Yankees will offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Javier Vazquez. While the Vazquez news comes from a source of Jayson Stark’s, the decision on Wood comes right from Cashman: “I’m thinking yes on Wood. We’ll do them a favor. If we put them into an arbitration setting, then we can take them out and make a fair market value offer to them.”

Updated (2:49 p.m. by Ben): Here’s an interesting twist on this deal: Ken Rosenthal reports that Javier Vazquez has agreed to reject the Yanks’ arbitration offer. In doing so, the Yanks will earn a supplemental first-round draft pick. “Teams frequently make such gentlemen’s agreements with Type B free agents,” Rosenthal said. “No harm is done to the signing team, which does not lose a pick for signing a Type B player.” As I predicted yesterday, the Yanks are doing their best to salvage the Javier Vazquez deal.

Josh Hamilton takes home AL MVP Award

Josh Hamilton was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player today, receiving 21 of 28 first place votes. Robbie Cano placed third, not too far behind runner-up Miguel Cabrera. He did not receive any first place votes. There’s no shame in that, Robbie had a great season and just being mentioned as an MVP is a success all by itself. Jose Bautista and Paul Konerko round out the top five.

Hamilton hit .359/.411/.633 (.447) this season and was particularly harsh of right-handed pitchers, tagging them for a .401/.447/.716 batting line (.490 wOBA) in a not insignificant 352 plate appearances. His 8.0 fWAR led all of baseball even though he missed much of September with rib issues. Congrats to him, it’s well deserved.

CC Sabathia finished 13th, Alex Rodriguez 15th, and Mark Teixeira 20th in the voting.

Are the Yanks at Sabathia levels with Lee?

Sometimes a huge detail slips through the cracks. That happens often during the hot stove season. Yet, even as I’ve kept abreast of most developments, this Tim Brown column at Yahoo escaped my attention yesterday. That’s a shame, because it contained quite the interesting tidbit:

An industry source said Monday the Yankees have offered Cliff Lee(notes) nearly $140 million over six years, but Lee continues to hold out for a seventh year.

On the RAB Radio Show yesterday I predicted that Lee would eventually sign for those six years and that $140 million. But until Brown published that column all we’d heard is that the Yankees “are in the $115 – $120 million range for five years.” We hadn’t even heard they’d made that a formal offer. For them to offer six years at $140 million at this point seems a bit unbelievable.

If true, I don’t think Lee will hold out for that seventh year for much longer. No team, not even the Rangers, is likely to match six years at $140 million. Lee might be trying to coax it out of someone, but once it’s clear that no one will bite I imagine he’d sign that contract with a mile-wide grin on his face. That might not be the largest total contract for a pitcher, it would provide Lee with the highest average annual value for a pitcher in history. Considering his age, I think that’s as big a win as he can expect.

Still, something about this doesn’t make sense. Why would the Yankees make this offer right at the start? How did everyone let this tidbit slip for a full day without regurgitating it? I really don’t think the Yankees would offer a sixth year on their own volition. Rather, they’d do so in reaction to an increased bid by Texas. Again, I think the Yankees eventually get to that 6/140 spot, but I’m not sure they’d try to blow away Lee with it in the same manner they did Sabathia. But it’s possible, I guess.

As Mike and I discussed on yesterday’s show, chances are Lee won’t sign until the Winter Meetings. We’d all love a Thanksgiving present, but with Lee reportedly seeking to induce a bidding war, there’s little to no chance of that happening. His next press conference, I expect, will be at Yankee Stadium. But I wouldn’t bank on that until December.

What Went Right: Nick Swisher

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

It’s easy to forget that when the Yankees originally acquired Nick Swisher in a steal of a trade from the White Sox last offseason, he was expected to be their starting first baseman. It’s even easier to forget that after the Yanks signed Mark Teixeira, Swisher was then pushed into a rightfield platoon with Xavier Nady even though he was a switch hitter. The rest is history. Nady blew out his elbow in April, giving Swish the playing time he deserved, and he rewarded the team with the best offensive season of his career (.375 wOBA).

There were no hurdles for Swisher to clear when the 2010 season started. The starting rightfielder’s job was his outright, and he began the season with a six game hitting streak that never seemed to stop. Swish hit .298/.377/.524 (.391) with 15 homers in the first half, earning his first All Star Game berth as the Send Swish! campaign landed him the Final Man vote. He even got to take some hacks in the Homerun Derby. Swish opened the second half with a walk-off hit against the Rays (after tying the game in the eighth) in the first game after George Steinbrenner‘s passing. It was Nick’s Bobby Murcer moment, arguably the most memorable game of the season.

While Swish has always been a productive offensive player, he did some work with hitting coach Kevin Long last winter to help him better combat breaking balls. The work really started during the 2009 playoffs, but the offseason gave the two plenty of times to get things straight. The result was a setup in the batter’s box that was much quieter than in the past. Here’s a video of Swisher from April 2009, and here’s April 2010 for comparison. There’s less movement in general but especially with his hands, and his stance closed up as well.

The result was, again, the best season of Swish’s career. He hit a career high .288, trading in some base hits for walks, and his strikeout rate (24.6%) was the second lowest since his rookie season. Average offensive around the league fell eight points to a .321 wOBA in 2010, but Swisher improved two points to .377 (.288/.359/.511 with 29 homers overall). Add in basically average defense, and the total package was worth 4.1 fWAR, the best mark of his career and seventh best among AL outfielders. It’s hard to complain about Nick Swisher’s 2010 season, the guy has been nothing but productive in pinstripes since Kenny Williams gave him away.

Yankees will not offer Jeter arbitration

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees will not offer Derek Jeter arbitration before tonight’s deadline, meaning they will not be entitled to draft pick compensation in the unlikely event that the Captain signs elsewhere. Joe laid out the case for offering Derek arbitration just yesterday, but apparently the Yanks deemed it too risky. Perhaps it’s a sign of good faith?

Update: Buster Olney thinks the Yanks would “essentially would bail him out after a down year” by offering arb since he “might make $22-23 million” through the process. I’m not sure I buy that though. Jeter wants a multi-year deal.