Coke a starter in Detroit? Not likely

The Curtis Granderson trade hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It still feels like Ajax the Great is still the team’s No. 2 prospect. It feel like we’ll still be wondering if IPK can break camp in the bullpen. But most of all, it feels like Phil Coke will still play a part in relief. It’s part of the odd nature of the off-season. We grow so used to these players over seven months and over 170 games, and in a matter of 20 hours everything changes.

Coke’s inclusion in the Granderson trade seemed like a token gesture. A “yeah we’re clearly getting the better player, so here’s a major league bullpen arm to make you feel better about yourself” throw-in. He’ll help them out, for sure, especially with a weak bullpen that will lose its top two pitchers. But will he really add more than a half win above replacement? Judging from his 2008, I doubt it. But the Tigers will want to get the greatest possible value from him.

Might that be in the rotation? Coke hasn’t pitched in that role since July 25, 2008, but it appears the Tigers might see if he can stick in that role. “There is a chance, by all means,” said GM Dave Dombrowski of Coke’s chances to be a starter. “I’d not be surprised if he had that opportunity.” Chris from iYankees thinks that it could add immense value to Detroit in the trade. “If Coke becomes a decent left-handed starter for the Tigers behind current ace Justin Verlander and future ace Max Scherzer, then the trade package they received earlier this week will be viewed as an even more valuable haul.” Problem is, it almost certainly won’t happen.

During the Winter Meetings I talked to Chad Jennings about Coke. He loved what he saw in relief in late 2008, but recalled an instance earlier in the year where Coke failed horribly as a starter. That was on June 3, when he allowed eight hits over three innings. Clearly, no one should judge a starter based on one start, but it’s just another bit of evidence in a long string suggest that Coke’s optimal place is in the bullpen.

Never one of the Yankees big-time prospects, Coke ambled around the minors, finally finding success in A+ ball in 2006, and continuing it the next year. By age 25, with Trenton, he definitely hit a groove, and maybe that was a product of his maturing a bit late. But, by most accounts, he just doesn’t have the stuff to be a major league starter. Even out of the bullpen in 2009, we saw his weaknesses exposed. His slider is his secondary pitch, and I hate to think what major league hitters would do to a third pitch.

I personally liked Phil Coke and thought that he was a good option out of the pen at certain points in the season. There were stretches of games where he’d throw 75, 80 percent strikes and retire everyone he faced. But there were also stretches where he hung his slider and allowed a ton of homers. I can’t imagine him improving on that situation in the rotation. Starters are more valuable than relievers, and teams should explore rotation options for their best pitchers. I just don’t think it’s a realistic possibility for Coke.

Davidoff: Yanks will not tender Wang

Wang

The deadline for teams to offer contracts to players under their control is midnight tonight, and Ken Davidoff reports that the Yankees will not tender Chien-Ming Wang a contract. Davidoff initially reported this development six days ago via Twitter and confirms it tonight.

Says the brief subscribers’ only article on Newsday’s website:

The Yankees’ top priority this offseason remains improving their starting rotation. On Saturday, however, they’ll bid farewell to the pitcher who has won the most games since Brian Cashman became a bona fide general manager. Chien-Ming Wang, still rehabilitating after right shoulder surgery, will not be tendered a contract by the Yankees Saturday. He might very well top the list of non-tenders throughout the industry…

Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, has said the righthander could be ready by Opening Day, but Cashman said this past week that he thinks Wang will be back sometime between April and June. The Yankees simply don’t think Wang will be able to contribute in any significant fashion in 2010.”

Wang, who turns 30 in March, was signed by the Yanks as an international free agent in 2000. He made his Major League debut in 2005 and turned in three very strong seasons for the Yanks at a time when the team couldn’t find pitching. In mid-2008, though, disaster struck when Wang suffered a freak Lisfranc injury while running the bases during an Interleague Play game in Houston.

After sitting out the second half of 2008 while rehabbing his foot, the sinker ball specialist attempted a comeback in 2009. He suffered through a bout of horrendous ineffectiveness early on. In his first three appearances of the year, he lasted just 6 innings and allowed 23 earned runs on 23 hits and six walks. After spending a month on the disabled list to build up his lower body strength, he came back in late May and was better. Over his final nine games for the Yanks, he went 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA in 36 innings. Encouraging for Wang were the 27 strike outs, but he left his July 4th start with shoulder pains. A few weeks later, after three different opinions, he opted for labrum surgery, the second major arm procedure of his career.

At this point, the Yankees are moving forward without Wang in their plans. He says that a Bronx return remains his first choice, and as a non-tendered free agent, he could come back to the Yanks on a low base salary with some incentives. The Dodgers, however, will be very keen to bid for his services.

Still, even before his injury, the Yanks were wary of Wang’s long-term ability to get outs. They want to arbitration with him after the 2007 season over a matter of $600,000 and then saw his sinker ball lose its effectiveness during the first half of 2008. Had the Yanks tendered Wang, they would have owed him at least $4 million in 2010, and that was a financial risk the team was simply unwilling to take.

Wang was a shining star on the Yanks when the team had no pitching. He was always calm and collected on the hill, and he was a true superstar in his native Taiwan. If this is the end of the Yanks’ relationship with Wang, I’ll tip my hat to Number 40 and wish him well wherever he lands. A promising career cut short by a freak accident is a sad even to witness indeed.

After the jump, a photo from the Yanks’ rookie hazing efforts in 2005. Hard to believe how far Wang, grinning happily in that photo, and the Yanks have come since then. [Read more…]

Open Thread: Looking at the Granderson Trade

Someone asked about using the Trade Value Calculator to analyze the Curtis Granderson deal in our Lice Chat earlier today (it’s part of our public awareness campaign, lice is a serious issue among children age 4-15), so I figured it would make for a good open thread topic. I’ve used the Trade Value Calculator before, once for King Felix and once for Josh Johnson, but it’s not a serious analysis tool. It’s just something fun to look at, really.

Here’s what the Yanks gained and lost in the deal. Make sure you click to get a larger view.

Granderson Trade Value Calc1

Here’s my assumptions:

  1. All WAR data, basically best case progression for each player.
  2. Salary for the remainder of Kennedy and Coke’s pre-arbitration years.
  3. Granderson being a Type-A free agent when his contract is up, Kennedy a Type-B, and Coke a Type-nothing.

Based on Victor Wang’s research, Austin Jackson is worth $23.4M in a trade (top 26-50 hitting prospect), so that makes the total value of the three players the Yankees gave up $62.6M. Granderson, as you can see, is worth either $39.9M or $48.2M depending on whether or not his option picked up. On the surface, the Yankees lost the trade. If you’re curious to see the entire three team trade, click here. As you can see, Detroit wins big.

I have no idea how to (or even if you can) post an editable spreadsheet, so if you want to play around with the Trade Value Calculator, you can download it here. Remember, this is not a serious analysis, so don’t get too upset that the Yanks “lost” the deal.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all in action. Have at it.

Interview with Simon On Sports

Just a heads up, I did an interview about the Yanks’ offseason at Simon On Sports. We talked about Curtis Granderson, Jesus Montero, the Stadium, plus lots more, so make sure you check it out.

Oh, Jay from Fack Youk did one as well, so hit that up too.

Closing the Damon gap

Earlier today, Mike mentioned briefly that the Yankees and Johnny Damon are still very far apart in their contract negotiations. Both parties would prefer to see Damon in the Bronx, but each side wants a deal on its own terms. I too want to see Damon back simply because he makes the team better than an outfield with Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner, and he gives the Yanks some lineup flexibility. So then how can the Yankees get Damon back in the fold?

A short while ago, Jon Heyman filled in the gaps in Buster Olney’s report. According to Boras buddy Heyman, the Yanks and Damon are two years and $34 million away from an agreement. The Yanks have offered two years at $18 million while Damon and Boras are asking for a new four-year, $52 million deal.

There is, of course, some hyperbole involved here. The Yankees are probably willing to move their deal into the $22-$24 million range over two years, and Boras can’t really expect to get four years or $13 million a year for the 36-year-old Damon. Even in a good market, no team would be willing to give Damon that much money. Whether Damon and Boras are willing to compromise on the years is another issue.

But then what do the Yankees do with Damon? As we’ve seen, his defense isn’t very good any more. His arm was never a plus, and his range numbers are all trending downward. His speed gives him some value on the bases, and he still has some pop in the bat. Thus, Joel Sherman suggests a left field/DH platoon for Damon.

Basically, Damon would DH for half the year and play left field for the other half. The Yanks could then use their glut of outfielders — Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Jamie Hoffmann — to fill in for Damon while he DHs. When Damon plays the field, the Yanks can use the DH as a rotation spot with Posada getting a good amount of DH starts. He’s penciled for those ABs anyway next year. The Yanks could also use Swisher as a DH for some games with Cabrera or Gardner in right.

All in all, Sherman’s idea is one we’ve long endorsed. Johnny Damon shouldn’t be counted on as an everyday outfielder any longer. His return to the Bronx will depend entirely upon whether or not Boras is willing to compromise, what the Yanks want to do with their roster and how they feel about Hideki Matsui. If Boras doesn’t budget, Damon will wind up the Bobby Abreu of 2009/2010, signing a one-year deal at a cut-rate price. Even then, the Yanks could still benefit.

RAB Lice Chat

Yanks, Damon still worlds apart in negotiations

In his blog today, Buster Olney writes that the Yankees and free agent Johnny Damon are still very far apart in negotiations, mostly because Scott Boras is sticking to the idea of a four year deal. Olney points out that only one free agent (Chone Figgins) has gotten a deal that long this offseason, and I’ll point out that Boras was looking for seven years the last time Damon was free agent. The pickup of Curtis Granderson allows the Yanks to put some pressure on Damon, however it doesn’t look like there will be an agreement made anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Mark Feinsand mentions that Hideki Matsui is willing to accept a one year deal. I love Godzilla, but I’m happy he’s accepted that that’s the best offer he’s going to get at this point in his career. The Yanks may only have about $14M left to spend this offseason, so there might not be room for both of Damon and Matsui.