Yanks trade Mitre to the Brewers

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Update (11:41am): The Yankees have received OF Chris Dickerson from the Brewers. He has one option remaining and is a legitimate center fielder (+15.7 UZR/150 but in a limited sample), so think of him as Curtis Granderson insurance should the oblique thing drag on. The soon-to-be 28-year-old was awful last season (.206/.250/.268, .242 wOBA in 106 PA), but he missed close to four months after having wrist surgery.

Dickerson hit .283/.383/.440 with 16 steals while with the Reds from 2008-2009 (421 PA), and is a .282/.382/.471 career hitter at the Triple-A level. So yeah, he has some on-base skills, plus he hits righties well (career .347 wOBA). Considering Mitre’s limited value and the fact that they were probably going to release him before Monday’s 45-day termination pay deadline, the Yankees actually made out really well in this swap.

Original Post (11:03am): That’s the word from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Mitre was one of four pitchers competing for three roster spots, so this trade makes the situation clear. Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia will all break camp with the team, though we’re not quite sure about the roles yet. Nova will be in the rotation, but it’s still unclear which of Colon and Garcia fills the fifth spot and which goes to the bullpen.

This also puts the Kevin Millwood signing into better perspective. He’s now essentially insurance in case something goes wrong with Colon or Garcia early in the season, when the young arms might not quite be ready.

Mailbag: Slowey, Joba, Prior, Bunting!

Mailbag time. This week we’re going to talk about Kevin Slowey, Joba Chamberlain as a long reliever, Mark Prior’s chances of making the team, and sacrifice bunting. My favorite strategy. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions in throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Brock asks: Assuming that the MLBTR post about the Twins willing to accept Slowey for relief pitchers is accurate, would you support the Yankees if they went ahead with a move like this? Who would you be willing to give up?

We’ve gotten a ton of Kevin Slowey questions this week, so Joe and I addressed it in yesterday’s podcast. I also looked at him earlier this month. Slowey’s is clearly an upgrade over the dreck the Yankees have at the back of the rotation right now, but he’s a flawed pitcher. He has the lowest ground ball rate of any pitcher in baseball since his debut (31.6%), he has trouble against lefties (.354 wOBA against), and he’s been on the disabled list with an arm-related ailment in each of the last three seasons, including wrist surgery two years ago. That said, he’s young (27 in May), cheap ($2.7M in 2011), under contractual control through 2013, and he doesn’t walk anybody (1.46 uIBB/9 career). He’ll give up some homers, but at least the lack of walks will somewhat mitigate the damage.

As you said, the Twins reportedly want a late-inning reliever in return, and people have asked about giving up Joba. The two right-handers are at the same point of their careers contractually, so they’d be trading three years of Joba for three years of Slowey, so that works out well. However, I’m pretty sure the Yankees could stick Joba in the rotation right now and get Slowey-level production out of him. I also think he’s poised for a big year, though I still acknowledge that an average starter is more valuable than a top-end reliever. Maybe I’m just Joba-hugging too much, but I wouldn’t give that up for Slowey.

Given Slowey’s obvious faults, I wouldn’t trade for him unless the Yankees could get him on the cheap. The Twins have already lowered his value by sticking him in the bullpen, so there’s no need to pay market value for him. There’s no doubt that he’s better than Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, and Sergio Mitre, but I don’t see him as an “acquire at all costs” guy.

Drew asks: Okay so my friend and I got into an argument today about Joba. He is convinced that Joba can go out and throw 3 innings and be the long reliever if necessary. He said he throws only 60 pitches max, AND that in bullpen sessions he throws 60-100 pitches so his arm would be okay. I told him he is out of his freaking mind. Please set him straight and tell him he’s crazy.

I think every middle reliever, a guy accustomed to throwing one inning at a time, could go out and thrown three innings or 40-50 pitches in an emergency. That doesn’t mean it’s ideal though. Joba could certainly be the long reliever, but they’d have to stretch him out a bit, to at least 40 pitches or so. I don’t think he could just go right into the season as is and be expected to throw three innings at a time.

That said, Joba’s too good for long relief work. More than a strikeout per inning, fewer than three walks per nine, and a ground ball rate around 45% … that guy should be pitching in some kind of leveraged role, even if it’s just medium leverage.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Ellis asks: What’s up with Mark Prior? His stats look great this spring – is he in the running for a bullpen spot?

Nah, he apparently signed his contract knowing that he needs to go to Triple-A and prove himself. Prior has looked great in camp, but it’s only been a handful of innings against (mostly) minor league competition late in games. He has to show a little more against Triple-A caliber hitters (there’s a lot of Single- and Double-A players late in Spring Training games) and prove he can pitch on back-to-back days. Prior has looked way better than I expected and he’s definitely put himself in consideration for a call-up at some point, but he’s still got some more things to work on before that happens.

Vinny asks: While I know how you guys feel about sac bunts, in certain situations, would you advocate Jeter bunting more to cut down on his double plays? Obviously it would depend on the situation during the game, but I think we can all agree that giving away one out is better than grounding into two, both from an outs and a momentum perspective.

Yeah definitely, but like you said, it depends on the situation during the game. Early in the game, absolutely not, and probably not in the middle innings either. It would have to be late, seventh or eighth or ninth inning in a one-run (either way, leading or trailing) or tied game, where scoring that one run is the sole focus.

I hate sacrifice bunting, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Late in a game where one run can improve the team’s chances of winning so greatly, that’s when it’s a sound strategy. It defeats the purpose pretty much anytime after that.

Yankees sign Millwood to minor league deal

(AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

Update by Mike (3:04pm): Marc Carig says Millwood will get $500,000 each for five, ten, 15, 20, and 25 starts, plus a million bucks if he reaches 30.

Update by Mike (12:06pm): Wally Matthews says Millwood can become a free agent if he’s not on the big league roster by May 1st. He get’s $1.5M pro-rated, so the same as Garcia.

Update by Mike (10:56am): Andrew Marchand says the terms of the contract are similar to Freddy Garcia’s. Garcia will $1.5M with the big league team plus another $3.6M in possible incentives, so it’s pretty cheap. Glad to hear Millwood is coming dirt cheap as well.

Update by Mike (8:49am): Heyman says it’s a done deal, the Yankees have signed Millwood to a minor league contract. He adds that either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia will be in the rotation to at least start the year (presumably Ivan Nova gets the other spot) since Millwood will need some time to prepare.

Original Post (3/25/2011, 12:00am): In an effort to corner the market on players who had memorable moments in 2003, the Yankees and right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood are “close” on “an incentive-laden minor-league deal,” Jon Heyman tweeted late this evening. The Yanks had long been linked to Millwood, but until recently, the pitcher had said he wouldn’t sign anything but a Major League deal.

For the two parties, this deal seems to be the culmination of a winter-long seduction. Once Andy Pettitte retired, the Yanks seemed to have a passing interest in Millwood and were, according to our coverage still considering him in early February and still interested two weeks after that. Millwood reportedly rejected a Minor League deal after Spring Training had started. Although he wanted a Major League deal, the Yankees continued to watch him throw. A meeting of the minds seemed all but inevitable.

As the Yanks prepare to head into the season with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon around, this move is basically for depth. They’ll have to jettison Sergio Mitre and will most likely do so before Monday when they will owe him only termination pay. With Millwood, they know have a seventh starter in the wings with some Major League experience. He might not be as good as he once was, but if he has to hold down the fort for a few turns through the rotation, he should be adequate.

Here’s what I said about Millwood when his name popped up a few weeks ago, and the same still holds true:

For the Yankees, Millwood would simply be another piece for the depth charts and another placeholder. If someone goes down and Millwood is still out there, he would be potentially a better and more reliable choice than an unknown AAA kid. He won’t blow the world away, and he won’t throw quality innings. He will though throw innings. Maybe there’s something to be said for that right now…

The same still holds true. Beyond Freddy Garcia, the Yanks are short on Major League starting depth. Maybe Manny Banuelos would be ready by mid-season, but the club isn’t inclined to rush him. Hector Noesi and Adam Warren aren’t high-ceiling guys, and the Yanks can stash Millwood at AAA to give them depth in case someone goes down early. It’s not impressive, but it’s another piece. Hopefully, it’s one the Yanks won’t have to use this year.

Open Thread: Oh the irony

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Once Cliff Lee joined those youngsters in Philadelphia and Andy Pettitte hung them up, we used up thousands and thousands of words trying to identify pitching targets for the Yankees. And now here we are, a week before Opening Day, and Brian Cashman told Chad Jennings that teams have been calling him about the Yanks’ excess pitching. Go figure.

“It’s been very quiet for the most part,” said Cash. “But now obviously, ’tis the season where teams are trying to fill out their rosters, make their decisions, make sure that whatever they have, that there aren’t any better opportunities available outside their camps. There are conversations now. Everybody’s just picking the phone up and checking in with each other, myself included.” The Yankees essentially have four pitchers (Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre) for three spots (two starters and long reliever), so maybe they can salvage a C-prospect or something for Mitre rather than releasing him ahead of Monday’s 45-day termination pay deadline. I’m not going to get my hopes up though.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. SNY is showing an encore of today’s Mets-Cardinals game, plus MLB Network will have the Nats-Tigers later on. Both the Islanders and Rangers are playing meaningful regular season games as well. At least the latter is, anyway. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

RAB Fantasy Baseball League(s)

Just a heads up, our master relegation plan will not be put into place this year, but from what I understand there are still a few spots open in the various leagues. If you’re a commissioner of one of those leagues and need some people, post your league info in the comments so people can sign up. Also include your draft date, just so everyone knows what’s up. Thanks.

The settings are the same as last year, so you can see them here.

The Ruben Rivera Trade Tree

On of my new favorite sites (or Tumblrs, I think that’s what they’re called) is MLB Trade Trees, which is exactly what you think it is. They’re graphics of MLB trades, like the one you see of Ruben Rivera above. Of course that one could be continued, since Robin Ventura turned into Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor, then Scott Proctor turned into Wilson Betemit, then Betemit and two throw-in prospects turned into Nick Swisher. The Gary Sheffield tree is pretty cool too, amazing how much it impacted the Brewers. Anyone, I recommend adding the site to your bookmarks or RSS feed or whatever, this kind of stuff is always fun.

(Just a reminder: Craig Robinson of Flip Flop Fly Ball did a killer Swisher trade graphic for us not too long ago)

What’s the deal with all these oblique injuries?

As you’ve probably noticed, the Yankees have been dealing with an abnormal amount of oblique injuries this year. Curtis Granderson is the latest casualty, but Joba Chamberlain, Greg Golson, and Sergio Mitre have also been hit at some point. Dan Barbarisi spoke to Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the co-chair of sports medicine at Mt. Sinai, who indicated that the rash of oblique issues could be tied to imbalanced training. “There’s been a rash of focus on core strengthening, the generic core,” said Glashow. “But it’s not so simple. If you strengthen part of the core more than another part of the core, it creates an imbalance and leads to these oblique injuries.”

Essentially, players might be working their abs and back too much during the offseason (or, more likely, their obliques not enough), creating muscles that are more developed than the connecting tissue. I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing you can think of it like a chain, meaning the core muscles are only as strong as the weakest link. Whatever’s going on, hopefully it stops soon and everyone heals up in a timely manner.