Felix takes home AL Cy Young Award

Felix Hernandez was named the AL Cy Young Award winner today, receiving 21 of a possible 28 first place votes. CC Sabathia received three first place votes and finished third in the overall voting behind Felix and David Price. Hernandez was either first or second in the league in baseball everything, including ERA (2.27) and innings (249.2). He bested Sabathia in FIP (3.04 to 3.54), strikeout rate (8.36 to 7.46), and walk rate (2.52 to 2.80), but not wins (13 to 21). That’s what happens when you play in front of the worst offensive team of the DH era. Congrats to Felix, it’s well deserved.

Yankees trade Juan Miranda to D’Backs for not Justin Upton

The Yankees have traded first baseman/designated hitter Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for right-handed pitching prospect Scottie Allen. The moves frees up a 40-man roster spot as well. Allen was Arizona’s 11th round pick in 2009, and this year he posted a 2.97 FIP (9.12 K/9, 2.54 BB/9) in 16 starts (78 IP) with their Low-A affiliate. I can’t find anything on the kid, no scouting report, nothing. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 lbs., so there’s that. Oh, and he doesn’t turn 20 until next July, so he’s just a pup. Obviously the Kevin Towers factor comes into play here, and chances are this is the “small player moveBrian Cashman teased earlier in the week.

Miranda was a man without a home with the Yankees, getting buried behind Mark Teixeira and even Nick Swisher on the first base depth chart. He crushed Triple-A pitching (.377 wOBA) in his three years down there, but he never got much of an opportunity with the big league team. In 94 plate appearances with New York, he put up a more than respectable .343 wOBA. Miranda was out of options, so if he didn’t break camp with the Yanks next year he would have had to clear waivers to go back to minors. He’ll get a better shot in Arizona, so good luck to him.

Joel Sherman has a mini-scouting report on Allen. Says he’s 88-93 with a chance for an above average curveball. They like his arm action and his control, evidenced by his walk-rate this season. Interesting arm, they weren’t going to get much for Miranda since he was out of options. A prospect of Allen’s caliber is about the best they could have hoped for.

What Went Right: Phil Hughes

Other than winning the World Series, there’s perhaps nothing more enjoyable in baseball than watching a young player come into his own. At least for me, anyway. The Yankees and their fans witnessed just that in 2010, when Phil Hughes made the jump from being a prospect to a bonafide big leaguer.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It all started back in 2009 really, when the team shifted Hughes to the bullpen because at the time they had six starters for five rotation spots. It was either the minors or the bullpen, and unsurprisingly Phil chose the bullpen. He dominated the rest of the season and emerged as Mariano Rivera‘s primary setup man, showing confidence in his stuff and attacking hitters, a welcome change for the young kid that got himself into trouble by nibbling in years past. That confidence and mindset carried over as a starter, and Hughes was given the fifth starter’s job out of Spring Training this year, winning a competition that was for all intents and purposes rigged. It was Phil’s job to lose.

Because of the early season schedule, the Yankees didn’t need Hughes until the ninth games of the season, a home game against the Angels. It was a somewhat rocky start to the season, as he walked five and allowed a pair of runs in five innings, but it only got better from there. Hughes took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Athletics next time out, striking out ten and walking just two. Oakland scored one run, and it came when Joba Chamberlain let the inherited runner score. From there, the then 23-year-old Hughes held the Orioles to one run in 5.2 innings, then came seven scoreless against the White Sox, then seven innings and two runs against the Red Sox in Fenway, then seven more scoreless against the Tigers. Through his first six starts, Phil was sporting a 1.38 ERA and a .214 wOBA against.

Unsurprisingly, there was a regression to normalcy. Sustaining that kind of pace in AL East is near impossible. Hughes started to give up more homeruns, especially at home, and batters started to lock in on his fastball and foul off more pitches than before. As Joe explained yesterday, Phil’s season can be broken down into three distinct periods…

Thankfully for him, the home run problem is a new development. It might not even be a big concern going forward. For starters, seven of his 25 homers came against the Blue Jays, and six of those came in just two games. Furthermore, 12 of those 25 game during an eight game stretch during which Hughes struggled mightily. It’s the kind of stretch that many pitchers his age experience.

Before: 11 GS, 69.2 IP, 56 H, 21 R, 21 ER, 20 BB, 68 K, 4 HR

During: 8 GS, 47.2 IP, 53 H, 33 R, 32 ER, 14 BB, 34 K, 12 HR

After: 10 GS, 59 IP, 53 H, 29 R, 29 ER, 24 BB, 44 K, 9 HR

Hughes tossed up a gem in his ALDS start against the Twins (video), limiting them to four hits and one walk in seven shutout innings. He stunk in the ALCS like everyone else on the team, but the overall 2010 result for Phil Hughes was an overwhelming positive. First and foremost he stayed healthy, something that had been a bit of problem in the past. He soared past his previous career high of 146 innings (set in 2006) and threw 192 innings this year, playoffs included. The Yankees had him skip a few starts throughout the season to keep the workload down, and by and large it worked.

As for performance, Hughes’ ERA (4.19), FIP (4.25), xFIP (4.33), and tRA (4.25) all lined up, so there was little-to-no luck involved. He struck out 7.45 batters and unintentionally walked 2.91 for every nine innings pitched. Batters mustered just a .307 wOBA off Hughes (basically what Austin Kearns did as a Yankee), and his overall value was 2.4 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR. That puts his performance on par with guys like Tim Hudson (2.7 fWAR), Ted Lilly (2.3 fWAR), Zack Greinke (2.4 bWAR), and Tommy Hanson (2.5 bWAR), who are certainly among the league’s better hurlers.

Hughes is far from a finished product, and there’s a lot he has to work on both this offseason and going forward to take that next step towards being an elite starter. He needs to be more efficient and put batters away earlier, although going 0-2 on everyone and struggling to get the out is better than falling behind everyone 2-0 like he had been in the past. Hughes also needs to improve his changeup to better combat left-handed batters, who tagged him for a .320 wOBA this year (.292 vs. RHB). There’s more work to be done for sure, but the emergence of Phil Hughes as a legitimate big league starter was undeniably one of the best developments for the Yankees this year, and also one of the most enjoyable to watch as a fan.

Report: Yankees to sign Rafael DePaula

Via Melissa Segura, the Yankees are expected to sign Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula later today. The bonus is said to be around $700,000. DePaula was suspended from signing for a year after lying about his age and identity, but he was cleared by MLB’s verification process earlier this year. The soon-to-be 20-year-old (in March) was considered one of the best available this year, standing 6-foot-3 with a fastball that has touched 97 in workouts. Here’s video.

The Mariners, another Latin American powerhouse, made DePaula an offer as well.

Sherman: Yanks first offer to Jeter coming soon

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees are planning to make Derek Jeter a three-year contract offer very soon, perhaps before the end of the week. The Yanks were hoping that Jeter’s camp would make the first offer, but apparently that’s not going to happen. Although there’s no indication as far as the amount of money they plan to offer, Sherman says it’ll likely come in around $45M, leaving wiggle room to go up to $60M. Ben went through the machinations of who wants what last night, and it doesn’t look like either side is ready to budge.

Sherman adds that the Yanks aren’t as close to making an offer to Cliff Lee, who is still in “fact finding” mode. Apparently Rangers’ team officials have told other others that if the bidding climbs to five or more years at $23M per, they’ll have trouble signing him. Good news for the Yanks.

Plan B: Gavin Floyd

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Everyone knows the Yankees are looking to add a quality starting pitcher to their rotation this offseason, and everyone also knows the team wants Cliff Lee to be that guy. He’s proven to be an elite pitcher at the top of his game, and the Yankees have both the need and financial wherewithal to bring him aboard. The Rangers, the team that last employed Lee, also want to keep their ace and are fully expected to make a competitive offer to retain him. This won’t be a CC Sabathia situation, where the Yanks’ offer far exceeded everyone else’s. Given that heightened level of competition, the Yankees no doubt need to have a backup plan and a backup to that backup plan to shore up their rotation.

We know the Yanks have already expressed some interest in Jorge De La Rosa, but another interesting name hit the market yesterday: Gavin Floyd of the White Sox. The ChiSox have multiple needs this offseason, including adding a hitter or two and strengthening the pitching staff. GM Kenny Williams has obliterated the team’s minor league depth over the last two years, parting with a total off eleven prospects (eight pitchers) for Mark Teahan, Edwin Jackson, Juan Pierre, Tony Pena (the reliever), and Jake Peavy since the start of the 2009 season. Although we don’t know what kind of return KW is seeking for Floyd, there’s a good chance that he’s looking to fill multiple holes with one deal similar to what he did when he sent Javy Vazquez to Atlanta.

Floyd is still just 27 years old (28 in January) even though it feels like he’s been around forever. Philadelphia made him the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft out of a Maryland high school (Mark Teixeira went fifth overall), and three years later he was in the big leagues. The right-hander made 19 starts (and five relief appearances) for the Phightin’s from 2004 through 2006, pitching to a 6.96 ERA that matched his ugly peripherals (6.17 FIP). Frustrated by the ups-and-downs that come with a young pitcher, Philadelphia traded him (and Gio Gonzalez) to the White Sox for Freddy Garcia before the 2007 season.

The South Siders exercised a little more patience than the Phillies did, having Floyd make 17 starts in Triple-A (3.65 FIP) before calling him up to start the second game of a doubleheader in early-June. To say Floyd struggled initially would be an understatement. He allowed ten (!!!) home runs and 25 runs in his first 24.1 innings in Chicago, so the team shifted him to relief for a month or so before giving him another crack at the rotation. The move paid off, as Floyd finished the season with a 3.41 ERA (4.20 FIP) in five starts. Chicago gave him a rotation spot out of Spring Training the next year, and the rest is history.

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Since the start of the 2008 season, Floyd has pitched to a 3.99 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 94 starts, throwing at least 187 innings in each season. It’s been nearly a decade since he was drafted, and Floyd has developed into a rock solid middle-of-the-rotation workhorse for Kenny Williams’ team, eclipsing the 4.0 fWAR mark in each of the last two seasons. That performance earned the righty a four-year contract extension worth $15.5M. That deal will pay Floyd just $5M in 2011 and $7M in 2012 before his 2013 option comes into play ($9.5M with no buyout). Even if he doesn’t improve one bit and remains the same guy going forward, that contract is a steal.

So then why, if Floyd is so young and so productive and signed so (relatively) cheaply, is he on the market? I’m guessing part of it has to do with a lack of other trade pieces. John Danks is off-limits as one of the game’s best young lefties, Mark Buehrle and Peavy are untradeable given their contracts (and in Peavy’s case, his injury), and Edwin Jackson is decidedly mediocre. Like Danks, Gordon Beckham should be off limits. That leaves Floyd as pretty much the only piece on the team’s roster that has legitimate trade value, meaning he’s not overpaid or under-producing or straight up old. Presumably, that’s why he’s available, because the ChiSox really don’t have anyone else to trade.

Floyd’s skill set is pretty simple. He misses a fair number of bats (9.5% swings-and-misses over the last two years, league avg is about 8.5%) and puts up solid strikeout rates (7.4 K/9 since 2009) thanks to a true four-pitch repertoire. Floyd’s fastball has settled into the low-90’s and he throws both a big breaking curveball and a slider. A changeup serves as his fourth pitch, but he only throws it about six percent of the time. The two breaking balls allow Floyd to handle both lefties (.337 wOBA against) and righties (.322) fairly well. His ground ball rate is trending upwards, going from 41.2% in 2008 to 44.3% in 2009 to 49.9% this year, and sure enough his homerun rate is trending downwards as a result: 1.31 HR/9 in 2008, 0.98 in 2009, and 0.67 in 2010. Remember, US Cellular Field is a homerun park, so those homer rates are a bit inflated. The only real concern is that Floyd missed the last two weeks of the season with tightness in his throwing shoulder, but he didn’t need surgery and the ChiSox shut him down as more of a precaution than anything.

The problem I see is that the two teams don’t really line up for a trade. Williams asked the Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart in return and the Yanks simply don’t have that kind of bat to give up. The ChiSox already have a speedy singles hitter in Pierre so Brett Gardner doesn’t do much of anything, and you know they won’t want Nick Swisher back. That leaves Curtis Granderson, but I can’t imagine the Yanks will cut bait on him so soon after all the progress he made late in the season. Based on the present construction of their team, the White Sox are trying to win now, so a bunch of prospects probably won’t cut it. I just don’t see how this would work from where I sit, but KW likes to do crazy stuff, so maybe he figures out a three team trade or something. I’m not sure if the timing will work out either, meaning the ChiSox might want to act and make a trade before Lee is ready to sign, but that’s the nature of the beast.

We know the White Sox are at least willing to listen to offers for their young right-hander, and we also know the Yankees need to pick up at least one starting pitcher this offseason. The fit might not be there in terms of trade pieces, but Floyd makes a ton of sense for the Yankees and he’s a great Plan B should they be unable to land Cliff Lee for whatever reason.

Between the Yanks and Jeter, a hard line emerges

Derek Jeter makes a play on Denard Span during Game 1 of the ALDS. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

What’s the difference between a three-year deal and a five- or six-year deal? For the Yankees, it is the difference between a 39-year-old short and a 41- or 42-year-old short stop. For the Yankees, it is the difference between what they want to offer Derek Jeter and what Derek Jeter wants to offer them. So as the Hot Stove League enters its 17th day, the Yankees and their captain might just be settling in for a long, cold winter.

The tale of a tense negotiation has emerged over the last few weeks as Derek Jeter’s disappointing 2010 came to a close. We know he’s looking for what seems to be one final big payday, and we know the Yankees are rightfully wary about signing a 36-year-old short stop with a slowing bat and who isn’t a great defensive player to a long-term deal. Gone are the days of unnecessarily rewarding A-Rod with a ten-year contract, but here are the days of negotiating with the one player who will bear a grudge against that misguided ten-year deal.

The day of Derek drama began with a Joel Sherman column. Sherman explained how the team is trying to offer Jeter what they view as a fair baseball contract. They’re willing to “add some dollars beyond what they see as strictly Jeter’s on-field value to honor his status as an icon,” but they are toeing the line on the years. Right now, their offer is for three more years.

Sherman, who later noted how Jeter has little leverage, explained the good cop-bad cop routine Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman are playing with the captain. “Confidants of Cashman,” The Post scribe wrote, “said the GM is determined not to have the team get so lost in the past that it destroys the future by giving Jeter a contract that either lasts way beyond his effectiveness and/or overpays him to such a degree that hurts financial flexibility elsewhere.”

Later in the day, ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews added to Sherman’s report. According to his own sources, Jeter is looking for a long deal with a big payday. He writes, “The source says the Yankees are willing to give Jeter more money than his play currently warrants, but fewer years than Jeter currently wants. Jeter, the source said, wants more. Four years, minimum, and preferably five or even six. Right now, it is a standoff, a dirty dance, a game of chicken in which one side or the other must eventually blink.”

While some unnamed baseball officials believe the Yanks should offer a take-it-or-leave-it deal for three years and with an average annual salary of $15 million, the Yankees, Matthews said, are “fearful of taking that sort of a stance with their most beloved player since Mickey Mantle, fearful of a fan backlash and a public relations nightmare even though history says this team, better than any other, can survive parting ways with even the most beloved player in the bitterest fashion.”

At the end of the day, after the anonymous reporting, Randy Levine went on the record with his comments on the process. “Derek Jeter is a great Yankee and he’s a great player. With that said and done, now is a different negotiation than 10 years ago,” Levine said. “He’s a baseball player, and this is a player negotiation. Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal, he’s a baseball player. With that said, you can’t take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization. And we bring a lot to him.”

Levine’s comments echo those of Hal Steinbrenner’s. Last week, on two radio appearance he stressed how the Yankees are “running a business” and how these negotiations would be business-like. It’s no surprise then that the Yanks are trying to get as good a deal as they can in the early going.

It’s easy to be worked up and outraged over this from either side. How could the Yankees not re-sign Jeter quickly? How could Jeter let his pride get in the way of reality and demand a six-year contract? Yet, the World Series ended on November 1, and pitchers and catchers aren’t due in Tampa until mid-February. At some point, the Yanks and Jeter will have a press conference and begin to lick their wounds. Hopefully, the middle ground they reach won’t hamstring the team for too many years or too many dollars. After all, the Yanks are indeed running a business, and they’re in the business of winning.