Last week, Justin Sablich, writing on The Times Bats blog, wondered aloud if the Yanks would be better off with Joba in the pen instead of in the rotation. His argument focuses around the idea that no one else could get the job done in the pen last year. While we can debate the rest of the Yankee bullpen and its potential makeup for hours on end, I think the answer to this question is simple. Joba throwing 150-160 as a starter is much more valuable to the Yankees than the 60-70 innings he would pitch in the bullpen. Feel free to debate this point as it relates to a shaky bullpen, but I’m sticking with my position here. Joba the Starter lives!

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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  • Hanks speaks on the Yankee Way

    If you have the patience for a long and slightly scattered interview with Hank Steinbrenner, the man who has emerged to assume the public role of Boss of the Yankees this off-season, then take a read through Steve Serby’s lengty interview. Some interesting stuff, some mundane stuff and some thoughts on Hank’s favorite actress, Jennifer Love Hewitt. · (4) ·

The Santana Watch never stops.

According to Buster Olney, his ESPN colleague Peter Gammons has found out that the Twins want a package from the Yanks that includes Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson. Olney:

Given that the Yankees will probably be asked to pay Santana a deal of at least six years and $150 million to convince him to stay, I’d be shocked if they seriously considered that trade. Because part of the equation for the Yankees or any other team, as they make decisions about a possible Santana deal, is this: Even beyond the question of swapping promising young players like Hughes and Cabrera and Jackson, how much money does it save them to have cheap players on their roster. How much will it cost them to replace a Cabrera or Jackson? Without Cabrera or Jackson, the Yankees might have to sign a veteran center fielder in their place in a year or two.

And it’s possible that within three or four years, as Santana gets older and Hughes progresses, that Hughes might become something close to what Santana will be then.

Three things of note here that I think require some explication.

First, as the Yankees have shown this off-season and in many off-seasons prior, money is no obstacle to this team. They have the highest attendance in the Majors and their own very lucrative sports entertainment network on TV. They enjoy millions of dollars in merchandise sales and have owners willing to pony up big bucks to put a marquee team on the field.

It is awfully sweet of Olney to worry about the Yanks’ financial plans. But the reality is that the Yanks can afford to make a deal like this, and in a few years, with the Scott Linebrink’s of this world making insane amounts of money, a contract for Santana could be a steal.

Second is the center field issue. Some commenters are already wondering if it’s a good idea to trade two center fielders, and I’d have to agree with that line of thinking. While Jackson basically has had just his breakout half-season at high A, his ceiling is, right now, much higher than Melky’s. But with regards to the center fielders, the Yanks are in a position of power.

The Twins just lost Torii Hunter and need a replacement. If the Yanks are willing to part with Melky, I think they could bargain the Twins down off that A-Jax perch. Remember, this is just the initial set of demands from the Twins. There could be a whole set of negotiations.

Finally, the pitching. Phil Hughes is a big price to pay. We don’t really know the answer to this, but how much more valuable are five years of cost-controlled Phil Hughes than six years of very expensive Johan Santana? By the end of the deal, we’re certainly looking at a position where Hughes is the better pitcher. I’m very reluctant to part with Hughes.

I still would not be too quick to pull the trigger on this deal. We know that Johan Santana wants to come to the Yanks; we know that he has a full no-trade clause. So if he were that dedicated to the Yanks, he could just tell the Twins that he’s not waiving his no-trade provisions. Then, he can just sign a deal with the Yanks after 2008. That part really just depends on what Santana wants now, but I like that scenario — as implausible as it may turn out to be — the best.

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Because it’s been five whole days since we last heard from Alex Rodriguez, let’s check in on how everyone’s favorite third baseman is doing. Courtesy of The New York Times and Murray Chass comes the news that the Yanks and A-Rod have cleared that last hurdle: The two sides have figured out the home run incentive clauses of A-Rod’s new contract.

Chass details how A-Rod could earn up to $30 million more if he tops various home run milestones:

Rodriguez will make $275 million over 10 years in his Yankees contract, which becomes the biggest baseball contract ever. Terms of the contract are expected to be confirmed early this week.

The nonguaranteed part of the contract will be the marketing agreement, which the commissioner’s office and the players union have approved. The Yankees and Rodriguez had to keep changing the nature of the agreement to gain approval because players cannot receive bonuses for achievements like home run totals.

In the approved agreement, Rodriguez will share in revenue the Yankees generate by marketing his home run milestones…Under the agreement, Rodriguez will receive $6 million when he reaches each of five milestones: the career home run totals of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), and when he breaks the record…

He will get the marketing money in exchange for making certain appearances linked to his home run milestones over and above what players are required by their contracts to do.

Those are some pretty lofty numbers both in terms of home run and salary, and of course, we won’t know how much of this non-guaranteed $30 million A-Rod will see until he actually reaches — or fails to reach — those home run plateaus.

With these new performance/marketing bonuses in place, A-Rod is sacrificing certain other incentive clauses. Gone are the monetary rewards for All Star Game appearances and MVP awards. For $27.5 million, A-Rod better be making the All Star team.

So in the end, A-Rod gets his deal potentially worth over $30 million. If all of these bonuses kick in, he’ll earn $305 million over 10 years. It’s what the Yanks were willing to give him in October before he opted out, and it is seemingly what he and Boras thought he would be getting anyway. But, as we’ve said before, the Yanks turned this deal on their terms. Hank Steinbrenner, the new face behind the game’s most powerful franchise, faced down the game’s most powerful agent and player and won. We get A-Rod; the Yanks get their win. Sounds good to me.

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Hot on the heels of of the White Sox’s signing of Scott Linebrink for four years and $19 million comes the obvious story: The new market for relievers — set by the Yankees and Mariano Rivera — will impact the Yanks’ bullpen plans. The real (terrible) news however is that the Yanks are interested in Ron Mahay, David Riske and Trever Miller. Considering that these mediocre relievers, a speciality of the Yanks lately, are going to want multi-million-dollar, multi-year contracts, the Yanks are simply better off with their internal options. Maybe Riske is worth the risk, but Miller shouldn’t even be under consideration. I hope Brian Cashman realizes that.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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Ken Rosenthal reports on what the Twins expect will be the opening bids for Johan Santana. According to Rosenthal, the Twins want one bona fide Major League star and multiple prospects while Santana will expect a seven-year, $140 million contract.

Wow. That’s a fairly demanding package.

Basically, Rosenthal reports, the Twins want the equivalent of a Robinson Cano or Jose Reyes as a starting point. After that, a package of top prospects should seal the deal with the Twins. At that point, the Twins will grant their trading partner a few days to negotiate a lucrative and ludicrous contract with Santana.

Considering the demands, Santana’s age and his recent trends, I would pass if I were the Yankees. It’s hard to believe that Santana would be more valuable to the team than Robinson Cano along with the prospects the Twins will demand. If the Mets or Red Sox want to saddle themselves with this seven-year deal while literally giving up the farm for Santana, let them. I’ll take my chances with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and the rest of the Yankee arms who have yet to the reach the Majors.

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  • Joe Kennedy, 28, passes away

    Blue Jays pitcher Joe Kennedy died earlier this morning at his home in Florida. Ken Rosenthal speculates that the young lefty died from a sudden heart attack or brain aneurysm. This tragic death gives us just one more reason to be thankful that Shelley Duncan, after suffering a blood clot in his arm, is okay and will be healthy enough for spring training. Our thoughts go out to Kennedy and his family. · (6) ·

As we all know too well, one of the glaring holes the Yanks have to fill this season is the bullpen. The revolving door circus of the pen has had a tough time reaching Rivera of late. Sadly, it just got more expensive for the Yanks to sign Major League relievers with any semblance of past success because the White Sox are going to give mediocre reliever Scott Linebrink a four-year, $19-million contract. At this point, the Yanks are better off with their internal options — Ohlendorf, Sanchez, Ramirez, etc. — than with any of these Farnsworth-lite contracts sub-par relievers are now going to get this winter.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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A look at the Rule V draft

By in Minors. · Comments (34) ·

The Rule V draft is one of baseball’s bastard children; the lesbian sister of the Rule IV draft (more commonly known as June’s first-year player draft). Even though it’s an avenue not many teams choose to travel, several big time players have been Rule V draftees. You probably know by now that Johan Santana and Dan Uggla were Rule V selections, but did you know that Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Christy Mathewson were Rule V’ers as well? One-time great Yankee John Wetteland is another Rule V alumni.

For the most part the rules are simple: if a player is signed at the age of 19 or older, spends four or more years in the minors and isn’t on the 40-man roster, he’s eligible for the Rule V draft. The same is true for players signed at age 18 or younger, except that they get to spend five years in the minors before having to be added to the 40-man. For years the criteria was three and four years, respectively, but the latest CBA stretched that out a bit, allowing teams to keep their best young prospects off the 40-man a little longer, thus sapping the Rule V talent pool. For all intents and purposes, high school draftees from 2003 and college draftees from 2004 are up for this year’s Rule V draft if they’re not on the 40-man.

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Let’s enter the Neighborhood of Make-Believe for a minute, and play a game.

You are a General Manager of a baseball club. It’s your job to field a competitive team within the limits of a budget set by the team’s owner. Using a combination of internally developed players and free agents, you have to build a team each year knowing that, as the seasons tick by, the players that came up through your system will be one step closer to free agency. If you run a mid-market team and happen to land a superstar player through an international signing or a draft pick, you know this player will cash with one of the major market teams when free agency arrives.

So as this player — whether it’s a Johan Santana, a Miguel Cabrera or an Albert Pujols type — gets closer to the end of his contract, you have three choices. You can let him play out the contract and gain a draft pick when this Type A free agent signs somewhere else. You can offer him a contract extension and hope he takes a reasonable offer to stay with his team like Albert Pujols has seemingly done. Or you can try to trade him for the appropriate package as free agency nears.

Now just about every Major League general manager would rather not trade a player that he would probably consider to be the face of a franchise. Why would the Twins want to trade Johan Santana when his mere presence gives the team and their fans hope for a good year and puts fans in the seats?

The answer to that question opens the door to discussions of trade proposals. A General Manager would opt to trade a player like Johan Santana if he can get back star young players who will be under contract to that team for the foreseeable future and will perform well above league average.

Over the last few days, as we’ve discussed Johan Santana and the trade possibilities, I’ve read a lot of proposals. They range from deals including star pitching prospects with decent Major League talent to deals where the Yanks or Red Sox would throw in a lot of spare parts and some younger players who may be good but haven’t been lately. As we move ahead this winter, the former proposals are realistic; the latter are simply wishful thinking on the part of fans looking for a steal of a deal that won’t happen.

If you’re a GM, imagine how you would justify trading Johan Santana for a slew of sub-par prospects. Four B-rated prospects don’t equal that sure-fire ace. While some Boston fans are offering up Coco Crisp and Julian Tavares, and Yankee fans are throwing in Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit as starting points, those are unrealistic propsoals.

To get a Johan Santana, an interested team would have to give up a lot. Trade proposals should start with names like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buccholz, Jon Lester, Phil Hughes, and yes, Robinson Cano. The only way to get the Twins — the team in the real position of power because they hold Santana’s contract — to the table is by offering up something they want and need. Enthusiasm aside, no one really needs or wants Shelley Duncan in exchange for Johan Santana.

So as trade rumors heat up and cool down, think about Make-Believe. Put yourself in the shoes of the other team’s General Manager and ask yourself this: If you were in charge of Johan Santana, would you be able to justify to your team’s fans why you made the trade you’re proposing? We want a steal, but the 30 GMs won’t be taken for a ride all that often. That’s just not the way Major League wheelin’ and dealin’ works.

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