GM Meetings Notes: Jeter, Mo, Hall, Marte

"Then Derek said 'I want a G6,' and I was like 'lol whatevs'." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The first official day of the GM Meetings has come to a close, at least in theory. Like I said on Monday, the hot stove is a 24/7 business, so who knows what could happen overnight. Obviously, the big news from Tuesday involved Dan Uggla, who was dealt to the Braves for the low, low price of (All Star) Omar Infante and former Yankee prospect Mike Dunn. I know they’re just getting one year of Uggla before free agency, but damn. You mean someone else wouldn’t top that?

Anyway, let’s round up today’s miscellaneous items, with the source in parenthesis again…

  • “Things are going well right now,” said Hal Steinbrenner (Chad Jennings). He acknowledged talking to Derek Jeter‘s agent “a couple of times” since last week’s meeting in Tampa, but otherwise there’s not much going on.
  • Meanwhile, Jon Heyman hears that the Yankees will bid at least three years to keep Jeter. Three years? Fine. At least three years? I don’t like where that’s going.
  • The Yankees still have no idea if Mariano Rivera is looking for a one or two-year deal, but they’re expecting it to be the latter (Buster Olney).
  • Bill Hall is on the list of free agents the team is interested in, and they have a bit of a connection: Hall works out with Yanks’ hitting coach Kevin Long during the offseason (Ken Rosenthal). I’m not much of a Hall fan, mostly because the idea of multi-million dollar utility players with multi-year contracts strikes me as utter lunacy.
  • The Yankees did in fact contact the Diamondbacks about trading for Justin Upton, but it was nothing more than due diligence (Marc Carig).
  • “I’ve got a small player move that I’m working on that might get done at some point this week,” said Cashman (LoHud). “But it’s small.” Let the speculation begin. I hope it’s Randy Choate.
  • They won’t consider releasing Damaso Marte to free up a 40-man roster spot even though they expect him to miss the entire 2011 season. Cashman doesn’t believe the team has a roster crunch when it comes to protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft.
  • Cash on the pitching coach situation (Marc Carig): “This is a scenario where there isn’t an obvious, without a doubt, in-house candidate.”
  • In somewhat surprising news, Brian Cashman said that Al Aceves might have been healthy enough to pitch in the World Series if they’d gotten there (LoHud). The Mexican Gangster last pitched on May 8th and suffered a setback as recently as early-September. Cash said he’s “hopeful” going forward, presumably talking about Ace’s ability to stay healthy. That’s basically all you can do, back issues are tricky.

And finally, former Yankee GM Bob Watson announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season. Watson is currently MLB’s VP of Rules & On-Field Operations, meaning he disciplines players and what not, but he ran the Yankees’ ship from in 1996 and 1997, bridging the gap between Gene Michael and Cashman. He was a helluva player before that, hitting .295/.364/.447 with 184 homers in a career that spanned from 1966 to 1984. Watson played mostly for the Astros, but he also had stints with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves. Congrats on the retirement, Bob.

House of Representatives honors Bob Sheppard

The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution today saluting the late Bob Sheppard for his service as a public address announcer and a speech professor. Sponsored by New York’s Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, the measure resembles those frequently passed by the House to honor prominent Americans who have recently passed away. The short bill, which I’ve embedded below, commends how “Bob Sheppard’s clear, distinctive voice has set the standard of sports announcing, and has become ingrained in the fans and players as a widely recognized and revered Yankees tradition.” Sheppard’s moniker — the Voice of God — has now been forever memorialized in the Congressional record.

Sheppard House Resolution

Open Thread: On Upton … and Corpas

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Yes, the Yankees spoke to the Diamondbacks about The Justin Upton today, as did the Red Sox and I’m sure a host of other teams. When you put a guy that talented on the market, you should expect 29 phone calls, if not more. I’ll have a post on Upton up tomorrow morning, I promise, but for now I’ll leave you with Dave Cameron’s take on the matter.

One player I do want to quickly talk about reliever Manny Corpas, who the Rockies released today. He had Tommy John surgery late in the year and will miss basically all of 2011, but signing him would be a move geared towards 2012 and beyond. Assume he agrees to a minor league contract and rehabs next season, pretty much unavoidable at this point, he’ll still be under team control in both 2012 and 2013. Corpas isn’t the high strikeout guy the Yankees like to have on their staff (6.48 K/9 career), but he’s a ground ball beast, at least until year when his grounder rate dipped to a career low 42.5%. He’s generally at or above 50%, so perhaps the decline is injury related. Even though he has a ton of late game and closing (and World series!) experience (3.82 FIP career), I’m thinking about Corpas as just another middle innings guy to add to the inventory. They could go the Jon Lieber/Octavio Dotel route and let him rehab for a year before giving him his real chance.

Anyway, that’s my hot stove musing of the day. Here’s the open thread. The only local team in action are the Knicks, who are way out in Denver and don’t start for another few hours. I have no idea how to entertain myself tonight. Hopefully you have better luck, and if you do, spill the beans here. Have at it.

Yanks interested in lefty reliever Feliciano

Guys who throw like this and don't crack 90 typically have a tough time with righties (Tony Dejak/AP)

At the GM meetings this week, Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd said something that made me think of a situation the Yankees currently face. “But we’re not looking for the best player; we’re looking for the right player.” That might sound odd at first — isn’t the best player most often the right player? When it comes to team building, that’s not always the case. Every team has constraints. The Rockies probably can’t afford to sign a big-ticket free agent. While the Yankees can do that, they can’t afford to do other things. Among them is giving up all of their draft picks.

The point about draft picks came up in the Scott Downs post. He is easily the best left-handed reliever on the free agent market, but he’s not the best for the Yankees. Whether or not the Yankees sign Cliff Lee, or another Type A free agent, the cost of sacrificing another draft pick for Downs just isn’t worth the benefits he brings. The Yankees always pick low, and they haven’t had a supplemental pick in years now. To push their first pick into the triple digits just doesn’t sound like a good idea.

This morning Newsday’s Ken Davidoff mentioned that the Yankees are interested in Pedro Feliciano. That sounds interesting enough. Most of us are familiar with Feliciano because of his long tenure with the Mets; other than a stint in Japan during the 2005 season he has spent his entire career in Queens. He’s regarded as a quality lefty who can take the ball every day — his 92 appearances was the most in the league by seven. This might make him appear to be a viable option for the 2011 bullpen, but there is plenty that works against Feliciano.

What first jumps out is his walks. In three of the last four years he has walked 4.3 per nine, which is something you absolutely do not want out of any pitcher, never mind a lefty specialist. As Mike noted on today’s podcast, a good number of those are intentional. He issued intentional passes to six hitters in 2010, which would bring his walk rate down to 3.45 per nine. This trend continues back throughout his career. It does, in some way, mitigate the high walk rate. On the other hand, it speaks to another deficiency.

Feliciano is simply no good against right handers. All of those intentional walks in years past were issued to righties. This is unsurprising. We often see lefty relievers walk a righty in between two lefties. That’s the strategy some managers play. The intentional walks do indicate that Feliciano’s control isn’t as bad as his walk rate would have you believe. But it means, at the same time, that he’s putting more men on base. He certainly has the ability to strand those intentionally walked batters, as he is death on lefties. In 2010 he had a 9.55 K/10 and 2.73 BB/9 against lefties while not allowing a home run. That would be even better if he didn’t face more righty batters than lefties.

If the Yankees were to use Feliciano solely against left-handed hitters, maybe he’d work out. His career numbers against them are tremendous. He’s also a Type B free agent and so would not cost the team a draft pick. What he will cost is money. He will be 34 next season, so this is his chance to secure his future with a long-term contract. I suspect he’ll seek something along the lines of Damaso Marte‘s three-year, $12 million deal. I also suspect some team will acquiesce to that demand. I just hope it’s not the Yankees. If they’re looking for a lefty reliever who is terrible against lefties there are other options — Randy Choate, for one. At least he’ll be cheap and come on a short-term deal. Feliciano might be better, but he likely won’t be worth the years and money. The Yanks can find their lefty elsewhere.

The RAB Radio Show: November 16, 2010

We’re moving through awards week. This time it doesn’t have anything to do with the Yanks — well, other than a Yankee killer winning it. Roy Halladay took home the Cy in unanimous fashion. The more interesting points were further down the ballot.

Then we move back to the pitching coach question because of two items from yesterday. First, the Brewers let go pitching coach Rick Peterson. He is only of the better known pitching coaches out there. The same goes for Leo Mazzone, but Brian Cashman said that the Yankees will not interview him. Mike and I talk about the two, including their respective Big Threes.

Whoever the new pitching coach is, he might have a second lefty in the pen with whom to work. The latest rumor deals with Pedro Feliciano. Mike and I run down his pros and cons.

Podcast run time: 27:31

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

Halladay takes home NL Cy Young Award

Boy am I happy this guy is in the other league now. Roy Halladay took home his second career Cy Young Award today, finishing ahead of Adam Wainwright by a solid (102 point) margin since he received all 32 first place votes. Doc is the fifth player to win the award in both leagues, joining Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez.

In his first season with the Phillies, Halladay led the league with wins (21), innings pitched (250.1), complete games (nine), shutouts (four), walk rate (1.1 BB/9), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.3), xFIP (2.92), and fWAR (6.6). In 33 starts, Halladay walked just 29 men unintentionally. He’s the first player to strike out more than 200 batters and walk fewer than 30 since, fittingly enough, Cy Young back in 1905. Congrats to Doc, he was a worthy foe with the Jays. Have fun, National League.

What Went Right: The Farm System

As we get closer to the end of our annual What Went Right/What Went Wrong season review, let’s shift our focus away from the big league team for just a bit.

The life blood of just about any team, in any sport really, is its ability to develop players from within. Homegrown players are substantially cheaper and in almost all cases are younger and closer to their primes than free agents, but the Yankees got away from that for a while. From about 2002 through 2007 the team started to rely on big name free agents to fill holes on the major league roster, sacrificing present depth by trading away prospects and future depth by forfeiting draft picks as free agent compensation. As a result, the Yankees were often left scrambling to find stop gap solutions for the inevitable injury or poor performance.

Brian Cashman started to change that way of thinking once he signing his new contract and got autonomy before the 2008 system, focusing more on the team’s farm system and their ability to produce quality players all by themselves. That didn’t mean they were going to stop signing free agents, but they weren’t going to rely on them as much. He and the team took a hit in 2008, missing the postseason for the first time in more than a decade, but the reward was a World Championship the very next season. Now three years into Cashman’s build from within plan, the farm system is starting to bear some seriously good fruit.

Jesus is coming. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

For much of the year it appeared as though top prospect Jesus Montero had finally met his match in Triple-A. Older pitchers refused to challenge him with fastballs until he proved he could hit offspeed stuff, and as a result he started off very slowly, with a modest .312 wOBA through the season’s first three month. He was even benched for failing to run out a ground ball in May. There were legitimate reasons to be concerned about the 20-year-old”s development, but Montero answered those questions and then some in the second half.

Nearly traded to Seattle in a potential Cliff Lee deal, Montero put up a monster .433 wOBA from July 1st on, hitting 15 homers in just 223 plate appearances. That nearly matched his 2009 total of 17 homers, which took 379 plate appearances. Despite the slow start, the still just 20-year-old catcher set career highs in triples (three), homers (21), and unintentional walks (44), though he did set a new career high in strikeouts as well. As disappointing as the first half was, in the end it’s a good thing. Montero had never faced any kind of adversity in his career, and this season he showed that he could deal with the struggles, make adjustments, and thrive. That’s exactly what you want to see out of your top prospects, the overall numbers are just gravy.

On the pitching side of things, two of the organization’s most promising arms returned from injury and didn’t miss a beat, dominating really in a way that even they hadn’t yet. Left-hander Manny Banuelos had an appendectomy in Spring Training and didn’t debut until June 21st, but he finished the season with Double-A Trenton as a 19-year-old, pitching to a 2.38 FIP in 64.2 regular season innings before going to the Arizona Fall League and drawing rave reviews. Righty Dellin Betances returned from elbow surgery on June 10th and pitched to a 2.19 FIP the rest of the way. His 85.1 innings were the second most of his career, and they featured a stout 108-22 K/BB ratio.

(Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore)

Andrew Brackman, the third member of The Killer B’s, followed up his disastrous 2009 campaign with a breakout 2010. The 2007 first rounder finally found his control two years out from Tommy John surgery and reached Double-A, pitching to a 3.23 FIP in a career high 140.2 innings. His walk rate dropped from one every 6.6 batters faces to one every 15.5 batters faced while his strikeout rate remained an impressive 8.1 per nine innings. Brackman’s put himself in position for a 2011 call up to the big leagues.

On the offensive side of the ball, third baseman Brandon Laird led the way in terms of breakouts. He took home Double-A Eastern League MVP honors with a .371 wOBA, then moved up to Triple-A late in the year as a reward. Second baseman David Adams was right behind Laird in the breakout department, though his season ended prematurely due to a broke ankle. He was wOBA’ing .392 through 173 plate appearances before suffering the injury trying to break up a double play. Gary Sanchez made his pro debut and put up a .364 wOBA as a 17-year-old, leading the rookie level Gulf Coast League in basically every significant offensive category despite being promoted with three weeks left in the season. Austin Romine wore down during his first full season as an everyday catcher, but he still set career highs with 31 doubles and 36 unintentional walks.

While those are the headliners, what shouldn’t be forgotten is the amount of depth the Yanks have accumulated, especially on the mound. Adam Warren reached Double-A a year after being drafted and put up a 2.66 FIP in 135.1 total innings. David Phelps had a 2.65 FIP in 158.2 IP and reached Triple-A. Ivan Nova put together a 3.54 FIP in Triple-A before coming to the big leagues. Lance Pendleton (3.93 FIP), Shaeffer Hall (2.96), and Graham Stoneburner (2.73) all deserve to be mentioned as well.  Oh yeah, and then there’s Hector Noesi, who climbed from High-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton, posting a 2.80 FIP in a system leading 160.1 IP. All he did was represent the organization at the Future’s Game.

Generally unsung players like righty Craig Heyer (2.27 FIP in 92 IP), first/third baseman Rob Lyerly (.351 wOBA), and jack-of-all-trades Kevin Mahoney (.402 wOBA at four different levels) put themselves on the map with big years. Toolsy outfielder Melky Mesa finally started to turn those tools into production, winning High-A Florida State League MVP honors thanks to a .378 wOBA. That performance earned him a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. Bradley Suttle recovered from a year-long hiatus due to a pair of shoulder surgeries to post a .348 wOBA. Slade Heathcott (.331 wOBA) and J.R. Murphy (.320 wOBA) held their own as teenagers making their full season debut. It’s easy to forget about Corban Joseph (.367 wOBA in the FSL before moving up to Double-A at age 21) and Brett Marshall (2.70 FIP in 84 IP after coming back from Tommy John surgery), two of the system’s highest upside players.

Heathcott during Spring Training. (Photo Credit: Andy in Sunny Daytona)

A few of the players that did stumble a bit were quickly moved in trades before their stock fell any further. Mark Melancon‘s usually strong control had deserted him, and he was sporting a 4.11 FIP in Triple-A (after years of being in the 2.00’s) when he was sent to Houston in the Lance Berkman trade. Zach McAllister‘s inability to miss bats (5.98 K/9)and sudden case of homeritis (1.29 HR/9) earned him a trip to Cleveland as the player to be named in the Austin Kearns deal. His FIP at the time of the trade sat at 4.73, and his previous career worst was 3.26, set two seasons ago. Jeremy Bleich was awful (4.82 FIP) before undergoing season ending shoulder surgery and Chris Garcia’s season lasted one start before he needed a second Tommy John surgery. That’s pretty much the extent of the major negatives from the 2010 season.

I hope everyone understands just how much of a success this year was for the Yankees’ farm system. The number of players that stepped up and improved far exceeded the number of those that took a step back or got hurt. It’s the closest thing to a best case scenario that I can remember, and as a result the Yanks now legitimately have a top ten farm system after being ranked in the 20’s last offseason. There’s depth in all forms; impact players both on the mound and in the field, useful role players and relievers, and plenty of trade fodder. It was a great year on the farm, one that will unquestionably help the Yanks going forward, one way or another.