With the trade of Melky Cabrera this morning, the Yanks are short a Major League outfielder. Although many assumed that Melky would be the starting left fielder with Johnny Damon‘s departure, the Yankees seemed willing to go into Spring Training with the position up for grabs. Now, though, it falls into Brett Gardner‘s lap. As some clamor for a better solution for left field, the Yanks are standing pat for now. The Yanks would reportedly prefer to spend around $5-$6 on a left fielder, and according to Mark Feinsand and Joel Sherman, the price tags on Johnny Damon, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay remain too steep for the Bombers. As Joe wrote last night, if the price is right on Mark DeRosa, he could be a good fit.
J.R. Murphy | C
Raised in Bradenton, Florida, John Ryan Murphy was a bit of a late bloomer. He missed his junior season of high school with a knee injury that required surgery, and didn’t make much of a name for himself until he starred in various showcase events the summer before his senior year. During his senior year at the prestigious IMG Academy, Murphy led the 31-1-0 Panthers in games played (31), batting average (.627), on-base percentage (.686), slugging percentage (1.235), runs scored (56), hits (64), doubles (17), homers (11), and runs batted in (66) while striking out only four times in 104 at-bats. The Panthers played in four tournaments throughout the season, and Murphy was named MVP of all four.
With Javier Vazquez back in the fold and the Yanks enjoying a glut of Major League starters, the team may look to capitalize on this depth. According to Joel Sherman (via Twitter), the Yanks will probably try to move Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre before the end of Spring Training. Either righthander would be a fine fit for a team looking for some back-end help for its starting rotation, and the Yanks see these two pitchers as seventh or eighth, respectively, on their starting pitching depth charts. It’s possible that the team would turn to Alfredo Aceves over Mitre as well.
On the basis of quality, Gaudin would command more interest and a higher return, but he will be owed nearly $4 million in 2010. Mitre should re-sign for around $1.5 million and would be a more attractive target for some cost-conscious teams. Less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Mitre struggled to find any consistency with the Yanks in 2009 while Gaudin was adequate as a long reliever and spot starter.
When Javier Vazquez makes his first start of the season for the Yanks in April, it could very well be against the last team he faced in the Bronx. If the Yankees fit him into the third slot in the rotation, he will pitch against the Red Sox in Boston on April 7. More likely than not, though, the Yankees will give the ball to Andy Pettitte for that start, and Vazquez will pitch against the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend.
For Yankee fans, just the idea of Javier Vazquez and the Red Sox is enough to give us nightmares. While not the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the ALCS, Vazquez was on the mound when Johnny Damon hit a grand slam that effectively nailed shut the coffin on the Yankees that year. A few weeks later, Vazquez was unceremoniously dumped on Arizona for an aging Randy Johnson. Unfairly or not, Vazquez took the fall for a team-wide collapse and has since been demonized in the minds of Yankee fans since then.
What we forget though is Javier Vazquez’s All Star-worthy first half of 2004. Through his first 18 starts, Vazquez went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He struck out 81 in 104.2 innings and sported a 3.12 K/BB ratio. In the second half, though, everything fell apart for the right-hander. He went 5-6 with a 5.79 ERA and found himself pitching in relief in the playoffs. He got the Game 3 win in Boston but was hardly stellar in the Yanks’ 19-8 trouncing of the Red Sox.
After that playoff series, Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and cash went west while Randy Johnson came East, and Vazquez has since flourished into what he was before the Bronx: a durable strike-out pitcher who can give a team quality innings from the middle of the rotation. He earned himself some Cy Young votes over the last few years and pitched well in the AL Central and NL East. In his 162 starts over four years, he has a 4.09 ERA and a 110 ERA+. He has struck out 1027 in 1062.2 innings while walking just 257 for a fantastic 4.00 K/BB ratio.
Vazquez won’t have an easy go of it with the fans at first in the Bronx. He’s going to have to earn his stripes again and push away the memories of a bad second half. Rumors of shoulder problems swirled around him in 2004, but those rumblings have been dispelled. He simply could not get his mechanics in line for a handful of starts during the second half of the season.
The Yanks never wanted to and probably should never have traded Vazquez, and now Javy and the Yankees get a second chance. Hopefully, it will end on a better note than Vazquez’s last pinstriped appearance. He won’t be expected to front the staff and will face far less pressure to deliver for the World Series champs. With this trade, either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes will spend at least part of the season as a reliever, and the Yanks rotation and bullpen are stronger because of it. And so as the AL arms race continues, Javier Vazquez will reenter the fray.
After an evening of rumors regarding an impending starting pitching trade, the Yankees have acquired Javier Vazquez from the Braves in exchange for Melky Cabrera. As Jon Heyman first reported the Yankees will also ship Mike Dunn and a prospect to Atlanta, and the Braves will send left-handed reliever Boone Logan to the Bronx. Joel Sherman reports that Arodys Vizcaino will be the prospect.
I first speculated last night via Twitter that Vazquez would be the Yanks’ target, and Joel Sherman’s sources told him as much this morning. Although many Yankee fans have bad memories of Vazquez’s time in New York, since being sold too low and too soon by the team, he has not made fewer than 32 starts in a season and has a K/9 IP of 8.7. Plus, this time around, he would not be expected to front the rotation.
Earlier Buster Olney reported that the Yanks had asked the Pirates about Paul Malholm, Zach Duke and Ross Ohlendorf. The Pirates though have not been too inclined to trade their young, cost-controlled arms, and Vazquez is a much better pick-up — especially at that price — than any of the Pittsburgh trifecta.
Yankee fans are already familiar with Vazquez, who spent the 2004 season in the Bronx. He made the All Star Team thanks to a 3.56 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 18 starts, however he slumped to a 6.92 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in the second half due to a tired shoulder. Joe Sherman says the Yanks are concerned about the heavy workloads CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte endured last season, and Vazquez will certainly provide protection for that: he’s made at least 32 starts and thrown at least 198 IP every season since 2000. Vazquez has been worth 21.3 wins over replacement over the last four years, which is nothing short of outstanding.
Logan, 25, is just a lefty specialist. He was actually dealt to Atlanta from the White Sox with Vazquez last offseason, and has held lefties to a .266-.333-.398 line against with his sidearm junk. Not great, but serviceable. From what I can tell, he’s out of options, and is arbitration eligible for the first time this year.
As much as it strengthens the team’s rotation, it also weakens their outfield. The leftfield situation currently looks like a Brett Gardner/Jamie Hoffmann platoon, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Whether the Yanks fill this void by going big (Matt Holliday), going medium (Johnny Damon), or going small (Eric Hinske) remains to be seen. Vazquez is owed $11.5M in 2010 (which the Yankees will pay) and will be a free agent after the season, so the Yanks’ payroll unofficially sits around $208M right now.
Photo Credit: John Bazemore, AP
Via MLBTR, the Yankees have signed catcher Mike Rivera to a minor league contract. Rivera has spent the last four years with the Brewers and is a career .244-.305-.383 hitter. It’s just a depth signing, a veteran to stash away in Triple-A to mentor Jesus Montero and have around should Jorge Posada hit the disabled list again.
Brian Cashman does not love this year’s free agent class. He apparently loves next year’s, and he certainly loved last year’s, but that does not appear to be the case this year. A few attractive names topped, and still top, the free agent market, but none of them fit into the Yankees’ plans like Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Unless he plans a super-stealth acquisition of Matt Holliday, which seems highly unlikely at this point, the Yankees are done shopping the top of the market. It’s time to start looking at the next few tiers for more complementary players.
Yesterday afternoon we linked to a story about Mark DeRosa’s desire to play for a winner, “period.” Plenty of players say that, though, and end up signing where the dollars take them. For a minute, though, let’s assume that DeRosa will sacrifice dollars for wins, and that he wants to play for his boyhood team, the Yankees. At what point does adding DeRosa to the roster make sense? Does it at all?
Mike examined DeRosa’s merits earlier this off-season when reports surfaced that his agent had talked to the Yankees. That was under the impression that DeRosa wanted three years and $27 million. No team will pay that for a soon-to-be 35-year-old, so Mike dismissed the idea out of hand. Recent reports suggest that DeRosa’s demands have come down, and are now in the $18-21 million range over three years. Even then, though, the price is too steep, especially to the Yankees, who in all likelihood view DeRosa as a luxury.
The only chance DeRosa has of playing for the Yankees is if he’s willing to sign a one-year deal in the $3 million range. Otherwise, I don’t see the Yankees biting. So does DeRosa’s statement still hold up here? Would he be willing to sacrifice that many dollars for a chance to play for the Yanks? Or will he take more dollars to play for a lesser organization? That is one of the most difficult decisions a baseball player has to make. They have a very small window to earn money at this profession, so many, if not most, of them opt for the most guaranteed dollars. I’m fairly certain there are teams that would offer DeRosa more than three million guaranteed dollars.
Even at a drastically reduced price, DeRosa comes with a red flag or two. As Mike mentioned earlier this month:
DeRosa is coming off wrist surgery, which I already mentioned a few times, and that generally saps a player’s power for a year or so. He’s also swinging at more pitches out of the zone (19.5% in 2007, 20.9% in 2008, 23.5% in 2009), and (not coincidently) he’s also making contact on a fewer percentage of the swings he takes (82.5%, 79.3%, 77.9% in those three years, respectively). Moving to the AL East, where power pitchers are plentiful, could lead to further regressing from DeRosa.
DeRosa suffered his wrist injury mid-season and played through it, though it clearly affected his numbers. Up until he “tweaked” his wrist on June 30, in just the third game of his Cardinals career, he was hitting .263/.336/.446, mostly with the Indians. From the point of injury through the end of the season he hit .235/.296/.417. His power remained, as he hit 10 home runs and 10 doubles in 254 plate appearances over that span, but all other aspects of his game fell off. The concern now is that his surgery will sap his power, his one strong point in 2009, in 2010.
If DeRosa makes a full recovery in time for the season, however, he can be useful to the Yankees. Many see him as a super-sub, but it’s unlikely he’d be the primary utility player. He played just two innings at second base in 2009, and has played 51 innings at shortstop since his 2005. Even if the Yankees were to sign DeRosa they’d still need to carry a true shortstop/second baseman. So where does that leave DeRosa?
We’ve spent many words discussing the Yankees outfield situation for 2010, and if DeRosa comes aboard his most likely role will be out there. If Curtis Granderson continues to struggle against lefties, DeRosa can spell him, taking over left field while shifting Melky Cabrera over to center. In 2008 DeRosa hit .310/.398/.397 against lefties. Even in his down 2009, he hit .278/.341/.587 against lefties, smacking 10 of his 23 home runs against them despite pacing them in just 138 of his 576 plate appearances. He holds a career .859 OPS against lefties.
The plan, however, is for Granderson to face lefties. Upon trading for him, Cashman noted that, “There’s nothing you can see that explains why he didn’t hit left handers.” DeRosa, then, would be a backup plan in case Kevin Long and the Yankees’ staff can’t turn around Granderson’s failures against lefties. Yet he’d still have a place on the team. Not only could he spell Alex Rodriguez at third base (though that won’t be as much of a need as it was in 09), he can also help out with a streaky outfield.
Both Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher are streaky hitters. They go through long stretches of futility, followed by hot streaks. All players do this, really — there’s no such thing as a robotically consistent hitter. But it seems to be more pronounced in Cabrera and Swisher. DeRosa could step in during a slump, eating up some plate appearances, hopefully providing production while either Cabrera or Swisher rests. With those three roles — part-time platoon partner for Granderson, slump caddy for Cabrera and Swisher, and occasional third baseman — maybe DeRosa can work in 350 to 400 at bats. Maybe.
When it comes time for DeRosa to decide, chances are he won’t choose a paltry offer from the Yankees, even if they were his boyhood team. Mike put it well: “I don’t see why an accomplished player like DeRosa would accept a handyman role with the Yanks when other clubs will be offering full-time gigs at a set position.” I don’t either. That is, unless it’s not all about the money for DeRosa. The only way he plays for the Yanks is if that’s the case. Otherwise he’ll likely find more money and a better situation elsewhere.