The Star Ledger is reporting that the Yankees have expressed their interest in right-handed reliever David Riske. Considering the state of the bullpen, I’m not surprised.

I’ve long thought that Riske would be a worthwhile pursuit. While relievers have a tendency for volatility, he’s been somewhat consistent since 2003, never having his ERA cross the 4.00 mark. Since his 2004 season with Cleveland, his WHIP has never crossed the 1.30 mark, either, so we could be looking at a decent reliever for a couple of years.

The problem: Scott Linebrink. He just signed a four-year deal worth $19 million, and the two match up well. If Riske is simply looking for the most money and doesn’t care about what team he plays for (which I would assume is true), his agent would have to be considered a complete failure if he doesn’t get something in that ballpark.

But, as we know, the Yankees are made of money. Do you make that kind of commitment for a relatively consistent reliever in Riske?

Late Edit: Riske is a Type B, so no draft picks are involved on the Yanks end.

Hat tip to My Baseball Bias.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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This has been a frequent topic of conversation among Mike, Ben, and me: Would you sign Mark Prior if he isn’t tendered by the Cubs? Well, that question might change to: Who would you trade for Mark Prior? According to Buster Olney, the Cubs are considering trade proposals for the 27-year-old righty, who is seeking a multi-year deal from the Cubbies, rather than having to face another year of arbitration.

Now, we know Prior has never been the same since 2003, a year in which he absolutely dominated: 245 strikeouts to 50 walks in 211.1 innings, plus a decently impressive postseason that year (though he walked far too many batters in that short span). Many attribute this to Dusty Baker’s gross misuse of Prior. Or it could be that he’s especially fragile.

Earlier this year, Prior had surgery on his ailing shoulder. According to Andrews, he “performed a debridement of Prior’s rotator cuff and repaired labral and capsular injuries in the shoulder.” Not sure exactly what that means, but from what I’ve gathered the surgery entailed fixing a lot of small, nagging things that could have been affecting Prior’s performance as long ago as 2004. That’s not to say that he’s been injured since then, but it’s a possibility.

So this leaves us with two questions. First, what’s the highest you’d bid for Prior? I’d be reluctant to go as high as Alan Horne, since we have no clue as to Prior’s current abilities. But I’d still be willing to enter negotiations in a prospective trade. You just can’t ignore the talent Prior possesses.

The other question is, what role would Prior fill? He’s still looking to be a starter, and he’d probably be most valuable in that role. However, there have to be concerns about his endurance, after having pitched just 210 innings over the past three years. He could be valuable as a swingman, taking starts from injured and/or ineffective players (Mussina), or giving the young guys some extra rest.

As always, the issue comes down to price. What would the Yankees be willing to give up, and what are the Cubs looking for in return? There are probably 15 to 20 teams at least marginally interested in Prior, and although I don’t envision a bidding war erupting, it’s possible that another team comes in with a slightly better offer and the other teams aren’t given a chance to modify theirs. So it could amount to a crapshoot.

I think he’s worth the risk. What about you?

Categories : Hot Stove League
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  • Prospect love reaches new heights

    Is Phil Hughes still a prospect or did his stellar September and inspiring October cure him of that tag? No matter; his name has popped up in many of the trade rumors this month, and Yankee fans are none too thrilled about that. One dedicated devotee to the House of Hughes has started a site aimed at keeping the youngster in the Bronx. So check out Save Phil Hughes. It is a worthy cause indeed. · (6) ·

As Kat O’Brien writes and long-time RAB supporter Mike R. noted yesterday, the A’s are willing to shop Dan Haren, and the asking price for Haren is in line with – that is, identical to – the Twins’ initial demands for Johan Santana.

So who would you rather? I think I know my answer.

The righthanded Haren just turned 27 and has emerged as one of the top American League pitchers. Last season, he was sixth in the AL with a 56.4 VORP. Comparatively, Santana sat at 57.7. For an offensively impotent A’s team, he went 15-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He struck out 192 batters in 222.2 innings.

Last year’s stellar season is the third year in a row of marked improvement by Haren. He dropped his ERA by 1.05 runs, saw his strike out numbers improve and topped 215 IP yet again.

And then there’s the contract. Where Johan Santana will probably cost the Yanks upwards of $20 million a year for six or seven years, Haren is under contract through 2010. He’s owed, as Buster Olney noted today about $4 million in 2008 and $5.5 million in 2009. His club holds a $6.25 million option for 2010. That’s a fantastic deal.

Despite the allure of Haren, however, I’d rather have Santana. Santana, as we all know, will be 29 next year, and Haren’s age may give him the advantage of a season or two more of potential greatness than Santana, Johan is the better pitcher. When you consider park-adjusted ERA’s, Haren’s jumps up to around 3.70, an increase of over 0.60 runs per 9 IP while Santana’s sees a much smaller increase of around 0.60 runs. There’s no need to rehash Santana’s stat line yet again, but those numbers are stellar. And Johan’s a lefty.

If the Yanks are willing to make a deal with the prospects the A’s are supposedly desiring in exchange for Haren, they would be better off trading for Santana, insane contract demands included. Santana’s track record is better; the Yanks could use a lefty in the pen; and by trading for Haren, the Yanks would be assuming the risk of taking on a player who’s been good with one spectacular season. There’s no guarantee that Haren can repeat his 2007 performance while playing for a team in the AL East. With Santana, we know what we’re getting, and what would be getting is greatness.

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Quick Mark Melancon notes

By in Minors. · Comments (11) ·

Do you know how to pronounce it? It’s not “Mellon-cone” as I’ve heard some say, it’s actually “Muh-lan-sin.” But I digress.

A couple of subscription pieces bring some very promising info about the righty as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. This Pinstripes Plus piece notes that he resumed throwing his breaking ball in Dominican Instructs and feels so good that he stayed a little longer than originally scheduled. This BA piece notes that the former University of Arizona closer has been invited to spend Spring Training with the big league club. That says tons about what the Yanks think of him.

If you’ve never seen the nastiness this guy brings, here’s a clip of him closing out Staten Island’s Championship win last year, and here’s his scouting video. Yay lack of news.

Categories : Minors
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Since no one really wants to talk about stadium construction, Hank Steinbrenner or, to a lesser extent, the Yanks’ own Action Jackson, let me pander to the commenters just go back to Johan Santana.

In a free piece at Baseball Prospectus today, Steven Goldman writes on lengthy multi-year contracts. His overall point as it relates to the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez is that 10-year contracts for position players are generally not as bad as pitchers. Of course, the scarcity of ten-year contracts makes an in-depth study of them next to impossible, and we’re really relying on the evidence from Dave Winfield as a barometer of success.

When it comes to pitchers, however, Goldman takes a look at multi-year contracts and Johan Santana. He concludes that “the odds of a pitcher surviving ten years unscathed are minuscule.”

But what about the seven years Santana is rumored to want? Let me excerpt:

Of course, many lefties have pitched well at that age [36], but the list of those who maintained their value to a degree that they would be worth the kind of length and value that Santana is apparently demanding is pretty small: Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton comprise the top tier, after which you have to start cherry-picking the odd Jamie Moyer, Warren Spahn, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells seasons. As good as Santana is, history and human physiology are against him.

That said, it’s possible that no one cares. One of the interesting things we’ve seen this offseason—particularly in the contracts for A-Rod, Jorge Posada, and perhaps also what Santana will get—is the kind of contract where no one involved really thinks that the player will deliver value commensurate with the dollars involved throughout the term of the contract. The team does what it has to maintain its ability to win now, figuring that it will deal later with the problem of having an expensive, underperforming vet around.

I like what Goldman has to say here but with a few caveats. First, he doesn’t really control for inflation when it comes to the Posada and A-Rod deals. It’s quite possible that Jorge Posada will be a good deal in a few years as the market for catchers explodes. The same holds true for A-Rod. We just won’t know if these two players become dead weight until after the fact. So assuming that teams are willing to take on contracts that extend beyond the reasonable shelf life of a player is something of a flawed conclusion considering where baseball economics are heading.

But more germane to the Santana discussion is something we’ve mentioned before. The Yanks would be giving up lots of young potential and around $150 million for a player who probably won’t be able to live up to the demands of a $20-$25 million a year contract after the fourth or fifth season. Considering that Santana’s stats put him more in the mold of Johnson or Carlton but physically, he doesn’t profile to be as durable as those lefties, his long-term outlook doesn’t look at rosy as those two pitchers. Wells and Rogers have relied more on pinpoint control and slow, slower, slowest breaking ball approaches to pitching and have managed to stay effective by honing their craft. In other words, it’s unlikely that Santana 2008 and Santana 2012 will be anywhere near the same pitcher.

For A-Rod, a deal of this magnitude makes sense, and the marketing bonuses seem to support the belief that the Yanks will recoup this investment and then some. But for Santana, a lefty hurler at his peak now at nearly 29, it’s buyer beware.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Ajax named 49th best prospect in baseball
    By starting counting down its annual list of the Top 50 Prospects in the baseball today with numbers 41-50. As the title implies, Austin Jackson was named #49, sandwiched between Dexter Fowler and Carlos Triunfel. Milb’s brass grossly under-rated Triunfel (should be top 15 in my opinion), but Fowler is rather impressive company for the former hoops standout. The Yanks should have at least three more players on the list, and I suppose there’s an outside chance Jesus Montero’s name pops up along the way, making it four more. · (9) ·