As I had to bed after our most trafficked day ever on RAB, let me leave you with some ruminations on Johan Santana, courtesy of Newday’s Kat O’Brien. Ms. O’Brien has a piece in Wednesday’s paper about the pieces the Yankees may need to move to get Santana. Take a look:

If the Yankees believe Santana could mean the difference between making the playoffs and making or winning the World Series, they may have to give up a little more than they’d like. That could mean surrendering righthander Phil Hughes along with centerfielder Melky Cabrera and another prospect (possibly pitcher Alan Horne or outfielders Jose Tabata or Austin Jackson).

Yankees officials have not said exactly what the Twins want for Santana. However, it’s been made clear that the Twins place more value upon Joba Chamberlain and Hughes than on Ian Kennedy, and that a centerfielder most likely must be part of any deal because they lost Torii Hunter to free agency. The Yankees won’t easily give up Chamberlain and Robinson Cano.

This news, of course, is not really new. I noted these exact demands on Sunday, but this whole trade business is feeling more definite. I don’t like it.

I don’t see how shipping off Phil Hughes, a bona fide pitcher and not just a prospect, for Johan Santana makes the Yankees better in the long run. I don’t see how giving up Melky and another top rated prospect in the deal makes the Yankees better.

Now, I understand that prospects are just that because we don’t know how they are going to turn out, and I understand that fans tend to overvalue their own team’s prospects. I still don’t like this trade. Any trade with Phil Hughes is simply unacceptable at this point. This one is no exception.

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Ah, the what if’s of baseball. Those are the part, right? What if Torre hadn’t pulled the infield in the bottom of the 9th of game 7 of the 2001 World Series? What if Tony Clark’s ground-rule double over that pathetic short fence in Boston’s right field somehow stayed in play? What if Ichiro had forsaken the Mariners for the Yankees last year?

That’s right. You read that last one correctly. Last year, before re-signing with the Mariners, Ichiro considering leaving Seattle for the Yankees, a reporter in Japan reported today. That would have been some decision for the Yanks to make.

Ichiro eventually re-signed with the Mariners for $20 million, but could he have been on the Yankees? It’s a tough call. Heading into the spring, they had Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera all in need of outfield time. By the end of the year, of course, Matsui was DHing, Damon was in left and Melky had assumed the role of the starting centerfielder.

So a year ago, the Yanks probably would have passed on Ichiro. They just didn’t have had space for Ichiro and seemed to be entering what ended up being a one-year period of conservative-for-the-Yankees spending. Too bad.

Of course, if the Yanks had Ichiro right now, trading Melky would be even more of a no-brainer than we seem to think it is. But that’s always the joy of playing baseball’s What If game.

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The Star Ledger is reporting that the Yankees have expressed their interest in right-handed reliever David Riske. Considering the state of the bullpen, I’m not surprised.

I’ve long thought that Riske would be a worthwhile pursuit. While relievers have a tendency for volatility, he’s been somewhat consistent since 2003, never having his ERA cross the 4.00 mark. Since his 2004 season with Cleveland, his WHIP has never crossed the 1.30 mark, either, so we could be looking at a decent reliever for a couple of years.

The problem: Scott Linebrink. He just signed a four-year deal worth $19 million, and the two match up well. If Riske is simply looking for the most money and doesn’t care about what team he plays for (which I would assume is true), his agent would have to be considered a complete failure if he doesn’t get something in that ballpark.

But, as we know, the Yankees are made of money. Do you make that kind of commitment for a relatively consistent reliever in Riske?

Late Edit: Riske is a Type B, so no draft picks are involved on the Yanks end.

Hat tip to My Baseball Bias.

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This has been a frequent topic of conversation among Mike, Ben, and me: Would you sign Mark Prior if he isn’t tendered by the Cubs? Well, that question might change to: Who would you trade for Mark Prior? According to Buster Olney, the Cubs are considering trade proposals for the 27-year-old righty, who is seeking a multi-year deal from the Cubbies, rather than having to face another year of arbitration.

Now, we know Prior has never been the same since 2003, a year in which he absolutely dominated: 245 strikeouts to 50 walks in 211.1 innings, plus a decently impressive postseason that year (though he walked far too many batters in that short span). Many attribute this to Dusty Baker’s gross misuse of Prior. Or it could be that he’s especially fragile.

Earlier this year, Prior had surgery on his ailing shoulder. According to Andrews, he “performed a debridement of Prior’s rotator cuff and repaired labral and capsular injuries in the shoulder.” Not sure exactly what that means, but from what I’ve gathered the surgery entailed fixing a lot of small, nagging things that could have been affecting Prior’s performance as long ago as 2004. That’s not to say that he’s been injured since then, but it’s a possibility.

So this leaves us with two questions. First, what’s the highest you’d bid for Prior? I’d be reluctant to go as high as Alan Horne, since we have no clue as to Prior’s current abilities. But I’d still be willing to enter negotiations in a prospective trade. You just can’t ignore the talent Prior possesses.

The other question is, what role would Prior fill? He’s still looking to be a starter, and he’d probably be most valuable in that role. However, there have to be concerns about his endurance, after having pitched just 210 innings over the past three years. He could be valuable as a swingman, taking starts from injured and/or ineffective players (Mussina), or giving the young guys some extra rest.

As always, the issue comes down to price. What would the Yankees be willing to give up, and what are the Cubs looking for in return? There are probably 15 to 20 teams at least marginally interested in Prior, and although I don’t envision a bidding war erupting, it’s possible that another team comes in with a slightly better offer and the other teams aren’t given a chance to modify theirs. So it could amount to a crapshoot.

I think he’s worth the risk. What about you?

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  • Prospect love reaches new heights

    Is Phil Hughes still a prospect or did his stellar September and inspiring October cure him of that tag? No matter; his name has popped up in many of the trade rumors this month, and Yankee fans are none too thrilled about that. One dedicated devotee to the House of Hughes has started a site aimed at keeping the youngster in the Bronx. So check out Save Phil Hughes. It is a worthy cause indeed. · (6) ·

As Kat O’Brien writes and long-time RAB supporter Mike R. noted yesterday, the A’s are willing to shop Dan Haren, and the asking price for Haren is in line with – that is, identical to – the Twins’ initial demands for Johan Santana.

So who would you rather? I think I know my answer.

The righthanded Haren just turned 27 and has emerged as one of the top American League pitchers. Last season, he was sixth in the AL with a 56.4 VORP. Comparatively, Santana sat at 57.7. For an offensively impotent A’s team, he went 15-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He struck out 192 batters in 222.2 innings.

Last year’s stellar season is the third year in a row of marked improvement by Haren. He dropped his ERA by 1.05 runs, saw his strike out numbers improve and topped 215 IP yet again.

And then there’s the contract. Where Johan Santana will probably cost the Yanks upwards of $20 million a year for six or seven years, Haren is under contract through 2010. He’s owed, as Buster Olney noted today about $4 million in 2008 and $5.5 million in 2009. His club holds a $6.25 million option for 2010. That’s a fantastic deal.

Despite the allure of Haren, however, I’d rather have Santana. Santana, as we all know, will be 29 next year, and Haren’s age may give him the advantage of a season or two more of potential greatness than Santana, Johan is the better pitcher. When you consider park-adjusted ERA’s, Haren’s jumps up to around 3.70, an increase of over 0.60 runs per 9 IP while Santana’s sees a much smaller increase of around 0.60 runs. There’s no need to rehash Santana’s stat line yet again, but those numbers are stellar. And Johan’s a lefty.

If the Yanks are willing to make a deal with the prospects the A’s are supposedly desiring in exchange for Haren, they would be better off trading for Santana, insane contract demands included. Santana’s track record is better; the Yanks could use a lefty in the pen; and by trading for Haren, the Yanks would be assuming the risk of taking on a player who’s been good with one spectacular season. There’s no guarantee that Haren can repeat his 2007 performance while playing for a team in the AL East. With Santana, we know what we’re getting, and what would be getting is greatness.

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Quick Mark Melancon notes

By in Minors. · Comments (11) ·

Do you know how to pronounce it? It’s not “Mellon-cone” as I’ve heard some say, it’s actually “Muh-lan-sin.” But I digress.

A couple of subscription pieces bring some very promising info about the righty as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. This Pinstripes Plus piece notes that he resumed throwing his breaking ball in Dominican Instructs and feels so good that he stayed a little longer than originally scheduled. This BA piece notes that the former University of Arizona closer has been invited to spend Spring Training with the big league club. That says tons about what the Yanks think of him.

If you’ve never seen the nastiness this guy brings, here’s a clip of him closing out Staten Island’s Championship win last year, and here’s his scouting video. Yay lack of news.

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