New faces in winter ball

Just two or three more weeks left in the winter leagues, which means Spring Training is inching closer…

Dominican Winter League
Abe Almonte: 18 G, 4 for 15 (.267), 7 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 SB
Jamie Hoffmann: 21 G, 16 for 68 (.235), 8 R, 5 2B, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K, 3 SB – new kid on the block
Juan Miranda: 11 G, 17 for 40 (.425), 8 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 SB – he’s been shut down for the winter, minor elbow issue
Eduardo Nunez: 2 G, 1 for 4 (.250), 1 R, 1 BB
Wilkins Arias: 23 G, 15.2 IP, 17 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 18 K
Noel Castillo: 1 G, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K – about time he showed up
Ivan Nova: 5 G, 4 GS, 25.2 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 17 K
Jon Ortiz: 6 G, 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Edwar Ramirez: 1 G, 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 28 G, 16 for 54 (.296), 10 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 SB
Ramiro Pena: 16 G, 17 for 56 (.304), 7 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB - solid
Jorge Vazquez: 24 G, 24 for 90 (.267), 13 R, 4 2B, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 19 K – mashin’

Puerto Rican League
Amaury Sanit: 6 IP, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – didn’t pitch at all last week

Venezuelan Winter League
Frankie Cervelli: 6 G, 3 for 14 (.214), 3 R, 1 2B, 3 BB, 4 K – hasn’t played in over two weeks
Reegie Corona: 37 G, 39 for 113 (.345), 29 R, 16 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 3 SB, 1 CS
Jesus Montero: 9 G, 3 for 26 (.115), 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K
Luis Nunez: 14 H, 13 for 44 (.295), 2 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K
Juan Marcano: 1 G, 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – he was in the Dominican Summer League last season
Romulo Sanchez: 22 G, 26.2 IP, 19 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 36 K – almost guaranteed to see him at some point next year … Fat Sanchezes unite!
Josh Schmidt: 13 G, 10 GS, 55.1 IP, 48 H, 30 R, 23 ER, 23 BB, 51 K – he’s up to 139 IP on the year … his previous career high was 68 IP back in 2006
Pat Venditte: 7 G, 9.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K – didn’t pitch last week
Eric Wordekemper: 5 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP, 12 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5BB, 3 K

Wang rejects Yanks’ split contract offer

If Chien-Ming Wang recovers from the shoulder injury he suffered last July, it will probably be with with another team. According to Bill Madden of the Daily News, the Yankees offered Wang a split contract which would guarantee him a spot on the active roster once his shoulder was ready. Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, rejected the offer, informing the Yankees that “Wang would be moving on.” This is not an unexpected development.

A free agent for the first time in his career, Wang surely wants to explore all of his options. Teams other than the Yankees will be interested, and perhaps one of them will offer the guaranteed money upon which Nero insists. There’s no harm in looking, and if no other offers top the Yankees’, chances are the two parties can work out a deal in the future.

The question of Wang’s potential return might hinge on the perceived rift between him and the Yankees. How much of this is true we don’t know, but there have been a few incidents, starting with the Yankees taking him to arbitration in 2008 over $600,000. A source tells Mark Feinsand that Wang is “still bothered” about the incident. Then there is the issue of Wang’s rehab from the lisfranc injury he suffered in 2008.

One story that sticks out in my mind is when Nero approached the Yankees about a possible contract extension. The Yankees said, “Make us an offer,” and talks ended there. That was before the arbitration incident.

For now, it appears Wang has his sights set elsewhere. There are reportedly six teams interested in him. The main questions here, I think, are of how Wang really feels about how the Yankees treated him, and of whether the Yankees are willing to top an offer from another team. The split minor/major league contract was already a good offer. We’ll see if Wang can get a similar one elsewhere.

Glove slap to iYankees for the Madden link.

Football open thread

The Kellen Clemens led Jets are in Tampa at 1pm ET, but the Giants don’t play until a little later tonight. Use this thread for all your gridiron talk.

Capping off an already strong bullpen

The Mad CapperWith Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain slated to start the 2010 season as members of the starting rotation, many fans are wondering how the Yanks will deal with the late inning bullpen void that those two have filled over the last few seasons. Some want to see them bring in Rafael Soriano Mike Gonzalez, others are content with letting David Robertson and Damaso Marte hold down the fort, while some are bringing up out of the box solutions. The Pirates, however, may have just gift-wrapped the Yanks a setup man by non-tendering their closer Matt Capps last night. Hey, it is the holiday season.

Capps (obligatory video) had a down year in 2009, posting an ugly 5.80 ERA in 51.1 IP despite converting 27 of 32 save opportunities. He also missed some time mid-season with elbow discomfort, though no structural damage was found. I wouldn’t bother writing this post if I didn’t think there was bounceback potential, and it’s pretty clear Capps has some.

First off, the enormous spike in his hit rate (12.1 H/9 in ’09 after 7.5 from ’07-’08) was fueled by an ungodly .370 BABIP, well off his career .279 mark coming into the season. Capps also experience a crazy spike in his homerun rate (1.7 HR/9 in ’09 after 0.7 in ’07-’08) despite a 40.7% fly ball percentage, his lowest in three years. Nearly 14% of the flyballs he gave up went over the fence, basically double his previous career average of around 7%. Regression to the mean in the BABIP and HR/FB% departments probably knock two runs off his ERA. The spikes are that ridiculous.

There’s basically two things you want your late game relievers to do (any pitcher, really), and that’s miss bats and throw strikes. Lord knows there’s nothing more frustrating than watching a reliever walk batters late in games. Thankfully, Capps doesn’t beat himself with free passes at all. He’s issued just 32 (!!!) unintentional walks in 271.2 career innings, even including his down year. That’s a 1.06 BB/9. Ridiculous. As for missing bats, Capps has a 6.9 career K/9 (7.6 last year), and batters have made contact on 82.2% of the swings they’ve taken against him, which isn’t great. Close to 70% of the pitches he’s thrown in his career have been strikes, including a whopping 67.7% on the first pitch, so he might be one of the rare guys who throws too many strikes. You have to admire his dedication to pounding the zone, but there’s nothing wrong with working an inch or three off the plate from time to time.

Despite the elbow issue, plus a shoulder related disabled list trip in 2008, Capps’ velocity was fine last year (92-94, mostly). He throws his fastball a little more than two-thirds of the time, using a slider to battle righties and a changeup against lefties. Prior to his subpar season in 2009, he showed a very small platoon split (.237-.262-.374 vs. RHB and .252-.294-.391 vs. LHB) thanks to that pair of offspeed pitches, so it’s not like you have to lift him against non-superstar lefthanders. Plus, at 6′-2″, 245 lbs, he fills the all-important bullpen fat guy role that’s been vacant since Chris Britton’s untimely departure.

At just 26-years-old (birthday is in September, so he’ll spend basically the entire 2010 at that age), there’s still plenty of room for improvement. It’s not like we’re talking about a 30-something journeyman here. Capps has legit end-game potential and is approaching what should be the prime of his career, and the best part is that the Yanks don’t necessarily need to count on him to be that guy. He can start the year as just one of the guys in the bullpen, eventually working his way into higher leverage innings.

Would Capps be down for that? Who knows. Saves equal bucks, and Capps has one more year of arbitration left after 2010, so middle relief would cut into his earning potential. Perhaps that could be solved with a two-year contract. He earned $2.3M last season, and was looking at $3M or so had he been tendered a contract. I’m not going to pretend to know what the price will be, but if it’s reasonable, I hope the Yanks would make a move.

Given the lack of attractive (and affordable) late game bullpen options on the market, I suspect Capps will draw significant interest. We’ve already seen four free agent relievers take home a combined $32.7M this offseason, and you could make a convincing case that Capps is better than all of ‘em. There’s usually one or two true non-tender gems a year, and this offseason there’s actually a fit for the Yanks. Hopefully they take advantage.

Photo Credit: Icon Sports Media

It’s official: Chien-Ming Wang non-tendered

Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have decided to not tender a contract to Chien-Ming Wang. Sergio Mitre, Melky Cabrera, and Chad Gaudin were all offered deals. “There’s no doubt that we had to make a tough decision,” said GM Brian Cashman. “We are still hopeful that our relationship can continue, but those decisions are yet to be made.” Hopefully something can be worked to out to bring the sinkerballer back for depth, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Good luck, Wanger.

Update: Since this is probably your last chance, make sure you bring your best CMW double entendres in the comments.

Eric Duncan lands with the Braves

Via Baseball America’s minor league transactions, former Yankee first round pick and New Jersey’s own Eric Duncan has signed a minor league deal with the Braves. E-Dunc hit .242-.320-.400 in six-plus years since being selected 27th overall in 2003, and was easily New York’s best prospect in the mid-aughts. I wish him nothing but the best.

Open Thread: The night of tenders

By midnight tonight, every player still pre-free agency will either have been tendered a contract or let go. We are pretty confident that the Yanks are going to non-tender Chien-Ming Wang, and although the team has yet to announce it, they probably will tender Melky Cabrera, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre contracts for next year.

Around baseball, non-tender fever is spreading. The A’s announced earlier this evening that Jack Cust, a potential DH/bench candidate for the Bronx, was non-tendered. The Nationals dumped Mike MacDougal and will probably hand their closer role to — gulp — Brian Bruney. Anyway, Mike is keeping track of all of the non-tenders right here at MLBTR. We’ll update the site when news of the Yanks’ decisions come down.

In the meantime, feel free to use this as your open thread. You know the drill: Anything goes; just play nice. The Rangers, Islanders and Devils all are in action tonight, and “Lost” Again features two great episodes after midnight tonight on ABC. So we have that going for us.