Yanks have had internal talks about Manny Ramirez

Via Jack Curry, the Yankees have had some internal discussions about Manny Ramirez, who would fit a need as a right-handed hitting outfielder. Outfielder being a relatively loose term, in this case. Curry adds that the team was just doing its due diligence more than anything, and a deal with Manny is less likely than a reunion with Johnny Damon.

I took a look at Manny a few weeks ago and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a fit. He can still hit, but not nearly as well as he did in his prime. Plus he’s never been a part-time player in his career, and that will take some adjusting to on his part. I just think the Yankees can land someone a little more flexible, and probably cheaper as well (coughScottHairstoncough).

Open Thread: Aaron Guiel

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

You all remember Aaron Guiel, don’t you? The Yankees claimed him off waivers in July of 2006, when they had a short outfield because of injuries suffered by Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. His time in New York was short (he bolted for Japan after the season), but he definitely had some impact. He reached base three times in his first game for the Yankees, then hit a tie-breaking homer off Jose Contreras in the sixth inning of a game a little more than a week later. Four days after that he had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning against the Mariners, driving in a run that turned a two-run deficient into a one run deficit in a game the Yankees eventually won in extra innings. Exactly one week after that he hit a three-run homer against the Rangers in a one-run game. Overall, Guiel hit .256/.337/.439 (.339 wOBA) in 92 plate appearances for the Yanks while playing right field and some first base.

After that trip down memory lane, let’s use this sucker as an open thread. The Panthers and Steelers are on the NFL Network, and all three local hockey teams are in action. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

The $62,125 World Series tickets

Outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson must pay a fine of $62,125 for accepting five complimentary World Series tickets in 2009, the New York State Commission on Public Integrity announced earlier this week. Paterson, the commission found, knew he had violated state law and then refused to admit it under oath. “The moral and ethical tone of any organization is set at the top. Unfortunately the Governor set a totally inappropriate tone by his dishonest and unethical conduct. Such conduct cannot be tolerated by any New York State employee, particularly our Governor,” Michael Cherkasky, chair of the commission, said.

Since the Yankees are an entity that has “myriad and continuing business and financial interests that relate to New York State government,” Paterson would have had to perform a public function at the game to escape ethics scrutiny. He admittedly did not and later tried to both pay for the tickets and claim that he didn’t actually want those tickets. “By his own admission, the Governor did not speak at the opening ceremonies of Game One and was not even recognized by name during the public address announcement recognizing the public officials who were present,” the Commission said in its findings.

Paterson’s lawyers of course refuted the claim, but it’s unclear if the governor will try to fight the charges. “The commission has wildly misrepresented the facts, exceeded its legal authority and generally confirmed what has long been obvious: that these proceedings were always about a political witch hunt and never about the truth,” lawyer Ted Wells said in statement. Based on the evidence compiled by the commission, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the beleaguered state pol, and Paterson may still be facing a state probe over perjury concerns.

Visualizing the path to Swisher with FFFB

As the trade deadline approached this past July, I traced the long and winding road from Hideki Irabu to Nick Swisher. The pieces the Yanks used to acquire Swisher traced their Bronx lineage back to international free agent signings the team had made in 1990, and the resulting flow chart show how Swisher was the ultimate reward from a very complex series of transactions that stretched across two decades and four World Series championships.

I approached Craig Robinson of Flip Flop Fly Ball fame to produce a visualisation of the trade lineage, and today, it’s ready to go. The segment above is just a small piece of Robinson’s final work. You can view it in full in a new window by clicking the thumbnail at the bottom of this post.

Here’s a guide to the chart: The players on the righthand side were those drafted by the Yankees. Follow their lines to see when they were traded, to which teams and for which players. Those at the bottom of the arrows are the guys the Yanks sent packing. On the left side are the trades. For instance, in December 2001, the Yanks acquired Robin Ventura for David Justice. They eventually sent Ventura to the Dodgers for Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor. Following Proctor’s arrow lands you at Wilson Betemit and from there, to Nick Swisher. What a complicated web a baseball trade can spin.

Mailbag: Joe Blanton

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Angelo asks: I live in Philadelphia, and there’s been some talk on sports radio of the Phillies dealing Joe Blanton to the Yankees. I don’t personally care for him, but he’d be cheap considering the Phillies desperately want salary relief. I don’t recall seeing any mention of him on RAB as of yet – if you’ve already discussed him, my apologies.

We haven’t discussed him yet, and that’s partially by design. As soon as the Phillies signed Lee everyone and their mother knew they’d have to trade Blanton just to keep the payroll in check. They signed the big right-hander to a three-year contract extension before last season, and there’s still two years at $8.5M annually left on the deal. Their payroll is already approaching $160M according to Cot’s and that’s only because Lee’s deal is so back-loaded. They still owe Ben Francisco and Kyle Kendrick arbitration raises as well.

Anyway, back to Blanton. He’s a pretty generic righty in that nothing stands out about him. His fastball is mostly in the upper-80’s and occasionally the low-90’s, and neither his slider, changeup, or curveball is a legit put-away pitch. Blanton’s strikeout rate unsurprisingly jumped once he got the National League, but it’s been decidedly below average over his entire career (just 5.82 K/9). He atones for that slightly by limiting walks, issuing just 2.33 unintentional free passes for every nine innings pitched in his career, and that number has been pretty steady over the last two or three seasons. The groundball rate has dropped off since his days with the Athletics, sitting around 41% now after being at ~44% for most of his career.

Blanton’s best quality is his ability to eat a boatload of innings. The 175.2 innings he threw in 2010 was the lowest full season total of his career, and that’s because he missed all of April with an oblique strain. That is the only disabled list stint of his career, and otherwise he’s thrown no fewer than 194.1 innings in any of his other five seasons as a big leaguer. I mean, that’s really it, there’s not much more to know about Blanton. He’s a decidedly average pitcher, with no more than 2.1 fWAR and no less than 1.9 fWAR in each of the last three seasons. Dead, solid, average.

Is Blanton better than Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre? Certainly. He could be a fine innings guy in the fourth or fifth starter’s spot, giving the team someone they can run into the ground to spare the bullpen every so often. The AL East will probably knock him down the peg into the 1.5 fWAR range, but that’s nothing more than my speculation. Don’t expect greatness, because you won’t get it.

As always, cost is the most important thing. Everyone knows the Phillies have to move Blanton because of their payroll situation, so their hands are tied. No one will give up anything of value, especially if they have to eat the contract. Philadelphia would preferably pay at least part of the $17M that Blanton is owed over the next two years, but even if they eat $5M or so, they’re still not going to get anything great back. I’m not a big fan, but he makes sense for the back of the rotation to a certain degree. The Yankees just have to make sure they get him almost for free. Ruben Amaro’s hands are tied, so take him to the cleaners. Anything more is an overpay.

A quick look at Chad Durbin

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

With the Yankees still mired in a never-ending search for quality bullpen help, one name on the free agent list caught my eye the other day and I’m just now getting around to writing about him: Chad Durbin. He and the Phillies tried to work out a deal earlier in the offseason but they just couldn’t get it done, and eventually the team declined to offer him arbitration as a Type-B free agent who earned $2.125M in 2010.

The right-hander ran three-fifths of the AL Central circuit earlier in his career, bouncing from the Royals to the Indians to the Twins with a brief stop in Arizona mixed in along the way. It wasn’t until he signed with a Phillies before the 2008 season as a non-tendered player that Durbin actually started to experience some sustained success. They put an end to his days as a starter, using him exclusively in relief for the first time in his career.

Durbin’s first season as a reliever went very well. He struck out just 6.47 batters per nine innings but made up for by limiting walks (2.87 uIBB/9) and getting some ground balls (45.6%). His FIP was a rock solid 3.77 in 87.2 innings, third most thrown among big league relievers, and Charlie Manuel certainly went to Durbin in big spots: his 1.47 leverage index when entering the game was one of the highest in baseball among non-closers. And, of course, the Phillies won the World Series that year, which I’m sure is one of his career highlights.

Unfortunately Durbin took a pretty significant step back in 2009, unintentionally walking 5.81 batters per nine innings and getting a grounder just 39.5% of the time. He did up his strikeout rate to 8.01 per nine, but his 5.14 FIP in 69.2 innings was below replacement level. Durbin did miss more than two weeks with a strained lat, so maybe that’s to blame. The good news is that he bounced back rather well in 2010, striking out 8.26 per nine, walking 3.28 per nine unintentionally, and generating 42.4% ground balls. His 3.97 FIP was the second best of his career, though the 68.2 innings he threw were even less than he contributed in 2009. Blame that on a strained hamstring that required a three-week stint on the disabled list.

So going forward, who is the real Durbin, the 2008, 2009, or 2010 version? It’s probably a combination of all three, really. The horrible walk rate in ’09 is clearly an outlier compared to the rest of his career, so I feel confident in saying that won’t be an issue going forward. His strikeout rate has steadily improved throughout his career, so his 7.49 K/9 over the last three seasons is likely his true talent level, ditto the 42.8% ground balls. Homeruns haven’t been much of a problem (0.80 HR/9 since 2008 with half his games coming in Citizens Bank Park) and even though he’s been hurt the last two years, he’s still provided a healthy amount of innings. Among pure relievers, only Carlos Marmol has thrown more over the last three seasons.

At 33 years old, Durbin is what he is, and that’s a pretty solid middle relief option. He’s not the sexy name setup man, but he’s a viable big league reliever that can absolutely make the Yankees’ bullpen deeper and more effective. And for what it’s worth, he’s spent the last three years playing in pressure games, going to World Series twice, so he knows what that kind of atmosphere is all about. If nothing else, it’s a little comforting.

The problem is probably cost, however. Look at the deals given to guys like Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Pedro Feliciano, and Randy Choate this offseason, all of whom are at that 3.75ish FIP level over the last three years, if not worse. There’s really no reason to believe that Durbin will take anything less than a two-year contract. That’s a going rate for decent relief help this year, and at 33 years old this is probably his one and only chance at a significant free agent pay day. I’d be all for signing Durbin to beef up the relief corps, but the price has to be right.