Scouting The Trade Market: Heath Bell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

Although Rafael Soriano is expected back from his elbow injury reasonably soon (he’s eligible to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break), Joba Chamberlain‘s injury leaves a rather sizable hole in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen. David Robertson has stepped up and performed better than expected, but there’s no such thing as too many quality bullpen arms.

One quality bullpen arm that will almost certainly be available this summer is Heath Bell of the Padres, a team that is eleven games back in the loss column of the top spot in the NL West and ten games back of the wildcard. They’ve won four of their last five games but lost six in a row and nine of ten immediately prior to that. San Diego also sports one of the very worst offenses in baseball (.291 wOBA) and they don’t exactly have the wherewithal (or motivation, given their deficit) to go out at the deadline and add the bat or three they need to contend. Let’s break down the good and the bad…

The Pros

  • With no significant platoon split and a four-plus year track record of excellence (2.59 FIP from 2007-2010), Bell is about as safe as relievers come. He misses bats with a 92-95 mph fastball, low-80’s curveball combination, and has been very consistent when it comes to his walk rate (between 3.10 and 3.60 BB/9 from 2007-2010) and ground ball rate (44% to 48% over those four years) since getting to San Diego.
  • He’s not just a product of spacious Petco Park, for those wondering. Since the start of the 2009 season, Bell has held opponents to a .220/.301/.289 batting line at home and .211/.273/.268 on the road. Of the four homers he’s given up in that time, three have actually come in Petco.
  • Bell is very durable, having never visited the disabled list in his big league career and throwing no fewer than 69.2 IP in any season since getting to San Diego. His fastball velocity is holding up fine as well. I guess 6-foot-3, 260 lb. right-handers are built for innings.
  • He’s done it all for the Padres. Bell started out as a low leverage middle relief guy before working his way into Trevor Hoffman’s top setup man, then he took over for the likely Hall of Famer three years ago. I’m not sure the whole “he needs to get used to not having the adrenaline rush of the ninth inning” argument would hold water here.
  • Bell is just a rental and won’t eat up 2012 payroll. He projects to be a Type-A free agent (rather comfortably) at the moment, so he could bring two draft picks after the season.

The Cons

  • Bell’s strikeouts are down considerably this year. After whiffing 11.06 batters per nine innings last year (10.21 K/9 in 2010), he’s dropped down to just 6.97 K/9 this year. His swing-and-miss rate is still above average at 9.1%, but that is down from double digits in the last few years.
  • He doesn’t have any traditional playoff experience, the closest thing is 2.2 IP in Game 163 against the Rockies back in 2007. Bell did pitch in each of the Padres’ last four games last season (and in six of their final ten), which were essentially playoff games as they tried to hold off the Giants. I don’t put much stock into this stuff, but some October experience is better than none.
  • Bell is not cheap, at least not on the reliever pay scale. His $7.5M salary this year is broken down into $1.25M per month, give or take a few hundred thousand.

The Yankees could use one more late game reliever and Bell is as good as they come, but I can’t help feel like the cost will greatly outweigh the production. Some similar (and recent) trades that come to mind include Eric Gagne (Rangers to Red Sox), Matt Capps, and Brandon League, though none of them are perfect comparisons. Gagne was the only other rental, plus Bell was straight up better than all three of those guys. Regardless, they all required at least one premium piece going the other way, and I can’t see why the Padres would expect something less for what amounts to the best reliever in the National League over the last four or so seasons.

Ken Davidoff reported yesterday that the Yankees have called the Padres to discuss Bell’s availability, but they haven’t been as aggressive as some other clubs. That sounds like due diligence more than anything. Another bullpen arm would certainly be a welcome addition, especially one of Bell’s caliber, but the Yankees have bigger fish to fry at the trade deadline, namely a starter that can legitimately pass for a number two. Bell’s just a luxury at the moment.

The above-average Jorge Posada

(From Flickr user Malingering via a Creative Commons license.)

Earlier this month Nick Swisher started his surge. Using the West Coast trip as a springboard he brought his numbers back up to league average and then kept on going. Since hopping on the plane to Seattle he’s hit .312/.437/.613 in 119 PA, raising his season line to .245/.366/.412. That’s still not up to the standard he set in 2009 and 2010, but it is right in line with the MLB average right fielder. Swisher has come a long way, and the offense has benefitted from his turnaround.

The next player on the list of Yankees to turn around his season is Jorge Posada. At around the same time that Swisher began his comeback, I complained that Jorge’s lack of production was killing the Yanks. Indeed, they had the worst production in the league at DH, and by no small margin. While they still reside in the bottom half of the AL, they’ve climbed the ranks a bit and now rank 11th in DH production with a .689 OPS. If Posada continues his improvement they should reach the middle of the league in short order.

While Jorge’s numbers look good since the incident against Boston — .325/.400/.494 in 95 PA — the real turnaround started on the same West Coast trip that spurred Swisher’s season. Since the start of the LA series he has gone 22 for 56, which adds up to a .393/.435/.589 line. It has brought his season line up to .234/.327/.411, which amounts to a 99 OPS+. That makes him just about average, but slightly on the below side. But, since I greatly prefer wRC+ to OPS+, since it more fairly values each type of on-field event, we can look to that. He’s at 101 wRC+ (.324 wOBA), or just slightly above league average.

Jorge doesn’t even have very far to go before he reaches league average DH status. The AL average DH hits .263/.343/.412. If he somehow goes 0 for 0 with 5 walks in his next game, he’ll be right there. Even with a more normal batting line, one that includes some outs, he should be about a week away from reaching the AL average DH level. That’s quite remarkable given the way his season started, and how for a few months it didn’t seem to get any better.

When I think of how Jorge has turned it around after an unimaginably slow start, I immediately turn to David Ortiz’s 2009 season. On June 5 he hit a low point, hitting .188/.281/.288 through 221 PA (as many as Jorge has currently). From that point on he hit .266/.360/.557 in 406 PA. It’s easy to see Jorge pull something similar, especially given the way he’s hit lately. Earlier in the season it was more difficult to envision an Ortiz-like turnaround, because almost nothing was going right for Jorge. But that’s entirely the point. When a player is going as poorly as Ortiz in 2009 and Jorge this year, it looks like they have absolutely nothing left. Only a measure of faith from management can keep that player afloat.

While things looked bleak early in the season, the outlook for Jorge Posada’s season has turned around. He’s put up big numbers in June and has regained some faith along the way. If he can continue some semblance of this performance for the rest of the season it will help the Yankees not only in the runs column, but also on the trade deadline to-do list. It’s one potential need crossed off the list. His turnaround also has the benefit of shutting up people like me, who count him out when he’s at his worst.

The 60-Day DL Chopping Block

Bartolo's coming back for his roster spot. Also: strike three, you're out.

At the moment, the Yankees have eight players on the 60-day disabled list, which is the most I can ever remember them having at one time. Two of the 60-day DL guys are definitely done for the season (Joba Chamberlain, Colin Curtis), and one other almost certainly is (Damaso Marte). Given Brian Cashman‘s recent comments about Pedro Feliciano (“we don’t expect him back this year,” paraphrasing), the lefty makes it four players that are likely to stay on the 60-day DL all season. That leaves four players expected to come back during the season that will require a 40-man roster spot opening.

The first one is easy, since Reegie Corona (fractured arm) could just be removed from the 40-man roster when his time on the 60-day DL is up. He’s been on the 40-man bubble for over a year now. That leaves Phil Hughes, Rafael Soriano, and Eric Chavez, all of whom will probably be back right around the All-Star break, if not sooner. Something’s got to give and relatively soon, so let’s dig around the 40-man roster and rank some of the spare parts by how likely they are to be cut from the roster. Let’s go with a scale of one through five, with five being very likely to get the axe.

Buddy Carlyle, RHP
Friday’s game was basically a microcosm of the Carlyle experience. He was staked to a seven run lead to start the ninth, and he allowed the first three men he faced to reach base, two on walks. That’s just not going to cut it. Carlyle’s an older guy (33) with unspectacular stuff and extreme fly ball tendencies (35.1% grounders in his career), which doesn’t exactly scream “keeper.” No offense to Buddy, but guys like him literally grow on trees down in Florida, somewhere along I-4 between Tampa and Orlando. DFAbility: Five

Useful in moderation.

Chris Dickerson, OF
Dickerson is in the big leagues only because Chavez got hurt, and he’s been the quintessential defensive replacement/pinch-runner. Over the last 31 days, he has just four plate appearances (one double, three strikeouts) and zero starts, and he doesn’t figure to see much playing time anytime soon with Nick Swisher turning things around. We could lump Greg Golson in with Dickerson, since they essentially serve the same purpose and are both in their final option year. Dickerson is a lefty batter and has some more veteran presents, so maybe that gives him a little bit more of an advantage. Either way, he’s a guy that you can see serving a purpose down the stretch, especially when rosters expand in September. DFAbility: Two

Steve Garrison, LHP
A groin injury robbed Garrison of a month-and-a-half of the season, and he’s just now rejoining the Double-A Trenton rotation. He’s the only significant left-handed pitching prospect the Yankees have at the upper levels (aside from 20-year-old Manny Banuelos), so that alone is likely to save his job. Garrison also has a minor league option remaining for next year, and that works in his favor as well. I think he’s safe. DFAbility: One

Brian Gordon, RHP
Signed because the team needed a little pitching depth, Gordon has been nothing more than serviceable in his two starts and the Yankees even decided to use today’s off day to skip his turn in the rotation. I still think he’s a middle reliever at best, and frankly he falls into the Carlyle category of older fly ball guys with unspectacular stuff growing on trees in Florida. The only thing Gordon has on Carlyle is stamina; he’s stretched out and can throw 100 pitches if need be. That’s slightly more useful as the seventh guy/mop-up man in the bullpen. DFAbility: Three

Gus Molina, C
The Yankees only have three catchers on their 40-man, four if you want to count Jorge Posada as the emergency guy. Teams will usually keep that third catcher on the roster just in case, but the Yankees have Jesus Montero just a phone call away if they need a long-term fill-in. Gus is more of an up-and-down, short term guy. He’s not completely safe, but he’s also not the first guy on the chopping block. DFAbility: Three

"Now pitching for the Yankees, number forty-two, Lance Pandleton, number forty-two."

Lance Pendleton, RHP
As far as I’m concerned, Pants Lendleton and Gordon are interchangeable, at least in terms of expected results. Pendleton is a little younger and has more minor league options remaining, but they’re basically the same guy when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. DFAbility: Three

Kanekoa Texeira, RHP
Mini-Tex is currently on the disabled list in the minors for an unknown reason, but that doesn’t really stand in the way of being removed from the 40-man roster. He was horrific in his short time with Triple-A Scranton (19 baserunners, 13 runs in 4.1 IP) but that could have been related to the injury for all we know. That said, the emergence of Hector Noesi and the somewhat surprising usefulness of Cory Wade make Texeira expendable. DFAbility: Four

* * *

It’s also worth noting that Justin Maxwell will miss the rest of the season after tearing his labrum robbing a homerun in Triple-A, so I suppose the Yankees could always activate him off the minor league disabled list, promote him to the big leagues, then immediately stick him on the 60-day DL to clear a spot. Maxwell, his agent, and the union will love that because he’ll get to collect a big league salary and service time when he otherwise wouldn’t. I just can’t ever remember a team, nevermind the Yankees, doing that. It’s worth a mention though. Jeff Marquez’s shoulder issue is another wildcard; if the injury is serious enough to require a 60-day DL trip, well there’s another spot. I suppose they could also release him, Amary Sanit-style. Until then, Carlyle and Texeira should be looking over their shoulders.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 27th, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-2 (27 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 45-31 (399 RS, 302 RA, 48-28 pythag. record), one up in loss column
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Brewers (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

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Yankees come back for win on Old Timers’ Day

The afternoon started with some greatest players in Yankees history coming together on Old Timers’ Day, and it ended with a current Yankees great striking out the side in the ninth to close out the win. In between we got to see Tino Martinez go deep off David Cone (video!), Gene Monahan be honored (and receive a Price Is Right showcase), and a whole lot more.

So light on his feet, this Posada fella.

Too Many Homers (A Comeback Story)

The scouting report on Rockies’ starter Juan Nicasio says that he throws a ton of fastballs, enough that John Flaherty could say he was proud of it (repeatedly). Nicasio used that great fastball, which around 94 and topped out at 97, to retire the first 13 batters he faced. Five of those first 13 batters saw a three-ball count and only five saw a non-fastball (six total offspeed pitches in that time), and as Alexi Ogando can attest, that approach won’t work against the Yankees multiple times through the order.

Robinson Cano ripped a solid single to left with one out in the fifth for New York’s first baserunner, and apparently pitching from the stretch didn’t agree with Mr. Nicasio. He fell behind Nick Swisher 3-0 before getting away with a fastball over the plate (fouled off), but Swish didn’t miss the next one. The 3-1 heater caught too much of the plate before landing in the right field seats for a two run homer, Swisher’s sixth homer of the month and ninth of the season. That brought the Yankees to within one, but Jorge Posada fixed that with a solo homer into the bullpen to complete the back-to-back jacks. That was another fastball (1-2 count) in a bad spot, and it was Jorge’s second homer in the last five games. After four-plus innings of nothing for the Yankees, the two teams were right back to where they started.

He's almost got Robbie's backswing down. Almost.

Nova Gives It Back

Well, the tie didn’t last long, because Ivan Nova served up Ty Wigginton’s second homer of the day in the top of the sixth. The most annoying thing about the homer (besides the fact that it was Ty freaking Wigginton) was that this one came in a two strike count. Nova’s full count fastball was just in a bad spot, and Wigginton did was he was supposed to. His first homer was a solo shot in the second off another poorly located heater.

The final line for Nova is not good (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K), but that’s not surprising since he couldn’t seem to locate much of anything. I think it’s just the normal ups and downs of pitching more than anything else, sometimes it’s all working (like it did for Nova against the Reds), sometimes it’s not working on all. This game was kind of in between. Nova gave up three homers in the game, all solo shots, which is not really what you expect from a ground ball guy. He had allowed six homers total in his first 14 starts, then this.


Deficit Erased, Lead Taken

The Yankees were not down long after Wigginton took back the lead for Colorado. Brett Gardner started the sixth with his second bunt single in as many games, this one a drag job down towards first base. He then stole second ahead of a Curtis Granderson walk, ending Nicasio’s day. Alex Rodriguez, who had six hits in his previous six at-bats with runners in scoring position, came up after Mark Teixeira grounding into a fielder’s choice to set up a first and third, one out situation. Matt Belisle started Alex off with a fastball before a ball before going with a slider, a pitch the Yankees third baseman clunked through the 5.5 hole to score Gardner and tie the game. It wasn’t picture perfect, certainly a ground ball with eyes, but it was all they needed at the time. Tie the game, then worry about everything else.

An inning later Belisle found himself with men on first and second with one out following a Troy Tulowitzki error on what looked like a douple play ball off the bat of Russell Martin. Chris Dickerson was sent in to pinch-run for Posada at second, which turned out to be rather important. Belisle went with two sliders against Eduardo Nunez, who did exactly what A-Rod did in the previous inning and grounded it through the 5.5 hole for a single. Dickerson raced around third and slid into home (Slip ‘n Slide style) well before the throw. The Yankees had the lead for the first time all game, and this one they didn’t give back.

No LOLpen This Time

After Nova’s six serviceable innings, the bullpen went to work. Luis Ayala was brought in to face the righty Chris Iannetta, who worked a seven pitch at-bat before singling to left. Boone Logan came in to face some lefties, and he promptly struck out Carlos Gonzalez (the guy that doubled off him Friday) on four pitches before getting the switch-hitting Jonathan Herrera to fly out harmlessly to center. David Robertson was up in the bullpen, but Logan was going to get a chance to face the left-handed Todd Helton. He started him off with a slider for a strike, but Iannetta stole second and went to third on what was dubbed a throwing error by Martin (I think it was a ball Nunez had to at least knock down though). The margin for error was gone, but Logan stuck to the plan and fed Helton slider after slider. Five pitches and four sliders into the at-bat, Helton rolled over on a ball and grounded it to second weakly to end the inning.

Robertson started the eight and had quite a battle with Tulowitzki, who fouled off seven pitches in a ten pitch at-bat before whiffing on a fastball at his eyes. Jason Giambi grounded out on the first pitch, and Seth Smith swung through a fastball for strike three and the third out. Mariano Rivera struck out all three guys he faced in the ninth, and that was that. Five of the last six Colorado batters didn’t even put the ball in play, and none of the last seven hit it out of the infield.

So good.


Tex gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth with a solo homer off Matt Reynolds, and it wasn’t even a bad pitch. It was a slider down below the knees that he just golfed out. It was his 23rd of the season, tied with Jose Bautista for the league lead.

Every Yankees starter had exactly one hit except for Grandy (who walked) and Martin (who reached on Tulo’s error in the seventh). With the homer and a walk, Posada was the only Yankee to reach base safely twice in the game. The homers by Tex, Jorge, and Swisher were their only extra base hits. Colorado pitchers threw 137 pitches in the game, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot when you mix in nine baserunners and six runs allowed.

Nunez let a routine double play ball go right through his legs in the first inning, making Nova have to work that much more to escape the inning unscathed. I’m not the world’s biggest Nunez fan, but even his biggest backers have to admit that’s a play he absolutely has to make. Period, end of story.

Michael Kay was talking to Tino in the booth during the game and mistakenly said “All Timers’ Day” instead of “Old Timers’ Day.” It sounded dangerously close to “Alzheimer’s Day.” I dunno, I figured that was noteworthy.

WPA Graph & Box Score

That’s it. has a box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has everything else.

Up Next

For the third time in the last week, the Yankees will have the day off on Monday. They’re going to take that opportunity to skip Brian Gordon’s next start and instead roll with Freddy Garcia against the Brewers on Tuesday. He’ll be opposed by Zack Greinke, who should lose because he can’t handle New York, or something like that.

Brackman’s latest disaster comes in blowout loss

Josh Romanski has been promoted to Double-A Trenton, so says his Twitter account.

Triple-A Scranton (11-3 loss to Durham)
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Mike Lamb, DH: 1 for 5, 1 2B – got picked off second
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K – on base ten times in his last six games
Terry Tiffee, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – second straight day with a homer … he’s 7-for-18 (.389) since signing
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
Jordan Parraz, RF & Greg Golson, CF: both 2 for 4 – Golson whiffed
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa, LHP: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 7-3 GB/FB – 52 of 94 pitches were strikes (55.3%) … this was his 74th career start for SWB, a new franchise record, so maybe he was too overwhelmed by the honor and couldn’t throw strikes
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 1 HB – just nine of his 28 pitches were strikes (32.1%) … apparently he was sitting at just 87 and threw past the bullpen catcher several times in warm-ups … something is obviously very wrong here, it’s probably time for a stint on the DL to figure things out … what it is, they can’t keep running him out there like this, it’s not helping whatsoever
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1-1 GB/FB – 22 of 36 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he allowed all three of Brackman’s inherited runners to score

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Jeter’s Birthday

(Photo Credit: Flickr user dbfoto™ via Creative Commons license)

It got lost in the fun of Old Timers’ Day, but today is Derek Jeter‘s 37th birthday. I was kinda surprised he didn’t make the short trip up from Tampa for the event, but who knows what’s up with his rehab schedule. Obviously his priority is getting back on the field. It’s hard to believe the Cap’n is 37 though, isn’t it? It sucks watching his play decline but it happens to everyone. He’s the first homegrown megastar whose career I was able to watch from start to finish, and there’s something both happy and sad about that. Happy birthday, Derek.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night game is in San Francisco for the Indians and Giants (Carmona vs. Bumgarner), so that should be fun. You all know what to do here, so have at it.