Fan Confidence Poll: December 20th, 2010

Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card, lost in ALCS

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.


Mailbag: Russell Martin, Utility Player?

Jeterian. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Tom asks: I know Russell Martin was said to be looking for a catching job, as opposed to a bench/utility gig. With that in mind though, if they end up with him and Montero splitting time at catcher, could Martin see some action at third? Depending on circumstances it could be a better option than using the utility man (Pena?) every time A-Rod needs a day, as well as allow him to get more playing time, for example if he and Montero are both playing well.

Like Jorge Posada, Martin was drafted as a second baseman out of a junior college late in the draft (17th round for Martin, 24th for Jorge). He stayed on the infield for one year in the minors before being converted to catcher, again just like Posada. Martin has played third base sparingly since then (that was 2003), just one more game in the minors and a dozen total in the big leagues. I think his ability to be a utility player, even just a guy that fills in at third once in a while, has been overstated a bit this winter. He’s not much more of an emergency option at that spot these days, not a guy that could play there on a semi-regular basis.

I do like your idea of using Martin at third and Jesus Montero behind the plate whenever Alex Rodriguez needs a day off, but I think we’re being a little unrealistic and perhaps unfair with our expectations. It sounds like a great idea and looks good on paper, but we have to remember that Martin is going to need days off (complete days off) after the absurd workloads he’s experienced over the last few seasons. We also have to remember that his experience at the hot corner (especially at the big league level) is very limited, and it could be hazardous (literally) to put him out there. He could misread a hop or not react to a line drive in time, all sorts of stuff, and nobody wants that.

Now that the Yankees have a little extra cash to throw around, I fully expect them to bring in a more qualified bench player at some point this offseason. We’ve already seen them connected to Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jeff Keppinger just this past week alone, and both of those guys would be a considerable upgrade over Eduamiro Penunez and would allow the Yankees to avoid using Martin on the infield. I’m sure he could do it if the team asked him too, I’m just not convinced it’s a wise thing to do on a regular basis.

Like I said, I like the idea in a vacuum, but I’d rather not screw around with Martin and make his life any more difficult than it already is right now. He already has an entirely new pitching staff to learn, not to mention change leagues and cities. Expecting him to play third base even just  once every two or three weeks is probably piling on. I’d much rather see the Yankees just bring in a more qualified utility infielder and let Martin focus on his job behind the dish.

Report: Yanks ink Luis Vizcaino to a minor league deal

Around an hour ago, we heard some rumblings out of the Dominican Republic that the Yanks had signed Luis Vizcaino to a one-year, $1.8 million deal. That rumor didn’t make sense, as Vizcaino, 36, had missed all of the 2010 season. But the Viz will be returning to the Yanks at least for Spring Training. As Marc Carig confirmed, the Yanks signed Vizcaino to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite. If he makes the team, he’ll earn $750,000.

Vizcaino, an 11-year veteran, spent the 2007 season on the Yanks. He went 8-2 with a 4.30 ERA in 75.1 innings and made a whopping 77 appearances en route to being Torre’d. He took the ball just 43 times in 2008 and only 15 times in 2009 before finding himself unemployed for 2010. A recent report on said that he had “re-kindled new interest with his effectiveness in the Dominican Winter League.” During the DWL, he has thrown 11.2 innings, giving up one run on six hits and three walks while striking out 11. He’s allowed just one hit in his last nine appearances, and with Tony Peña as his manager, he has a close connection to the Yanks. This is a low-risk, medium-reward move, but I’m not going to expect too much from Vizcaino.

Open Thread: El Duque

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Has there been a more entertaining pitcher in baseball, nevermind just on the Yankees, in the last 20 years than Orlando Hernandez? I don’t think so. The trademark leg kick was every bit for show as it was for throwing the baseball, and he was the kind of guy that was completely unpredictable on the mound. He’d throw eephus pitches, go sidearm, all sorts of stuff. I’ll never forget the time a batted ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove and he just threw the glove over to Tino Martinez at first. Instant classic. I’ll also never forget his first career playoff start, when he fired seven shutout innings in Cleveland with the Yankees down two games to one in the 1998 ALCS. El Duque’s playoff record during his first stint with the Yankees was impeccable, we’re talking 12 team wins in 16 games with a 2.51 ERA in 97 innings pitched. There’s almost zero chance that El Duque was whatever age he claimed to be, but who cares. The guy was an absolute joy to watch on the baseball field, reminding us all that this is just part of the entertainment business.

Once you’re done reminiscing about El Duque, use this as your open thread. The late NFL game has the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers at the Patriots, which should be fun. Unless you have Rodgers on your fantasy team and are in the playoffs, like me. Talk about whatever you want here, just don’t be cool.

Arias raises hell in the Dominican Republic

Yankee farmhand Wilkins Arias was at the center of a little controversy this week. He was suspended for playing in a Dominican Winter League game while not being on the active roster, and then three DWL games had to be suspended because the players refused to take the field in support of Arias. He hasn’t pitched all week, and I honestly have no idea how the rest of this situation played out. Pretty crazy though, tight-knit group down there apparently.

Here’s an update on how everyone is doing in the various winter leagues around the globe…

Australian Baseball League
Nathan Aron: 9 G, 6 for 19, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 K, 2 HBP (.316/.364/.579)
Kyle Perkins: 2 G, 0 for 2, 2 K

Dominican Winter League
Colin Curtis: 14 G, 12 for 50, 9 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 9 K (.240/.356/.300)
Eduardo Nunez: 7 G, 8 for 23, 4 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS (.348/.333/.391) – hasn’t played since fouling a ball of his face earlier this week
Francisco Santana: 10 G, 4 for 14, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 K (.286/.286/.286)
Wilkins Arias: 16 G, 13.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 16 K (2.03 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 46 G, 38 for 128, 27 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 10 BB, 33 K, 5 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.297/.348/.375)
Ramiro Pena: 27 G, 23 for 100, 11 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 10 BB, 20 K, 1 CS (.230/.297/.320)
Jorge Vazquez: 32 G, 39 for 118, 21 R, 9 2B, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 12 BB, 39 K, 1 CS (.331/.389/.636) – rakin’
Francisco Gil: 4 G, 6 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP (10.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP)
Andy Sisco: 13 G, 13 GS, 67.2 IP, 59 H, 35 R, 31 ER, 37 BB, 72 K, 6 WP (4.12 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) – I can’t help but wonder if they’ll use him as a starter in Triple-A next season, they should have a spot for him if they stick Kei Igawa in the bullpen
Eric Wordekemper: 21 G, 19.1 IP, 21 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 11 BB, 19 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (6.05 ERA, 1.66 WHIP)

Venezuelan Winter League
Gustavo Molina: 25 G, 12 for 72, 7 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 2 HBP (.167/.211/.389) – nice ISO
Luis Nunez: 8 G, 3 for 13, 1 R, 1 BB (.231/.286/.231) – hasn’t played in a while
Jordan Parraz: 20 G, 17 for 53, 9 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 15 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.321/.403/.434) – the newest Yankee
Jose Pirela: 22 G, 23 for 75, 13 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 HR, 6 BB, 5 K, 1 CS (.307/.358/.427)
Romulo Sanchez: 16 G, 13.2 IP, 15 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 9 BB, 13 K, 1 WP (6.59 ERA, 1.79 WHIP)
Amary Sanit: 3 G, 3 GS, 13.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 8 K, 1 WP (5.40 ERA, 1.73 WHIP)

Mailbag: The Triple-A Scranton Roster

Kevin Russo will find himself back in Triple-A in 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

I know the roster isn’t being close to set right now, but if the season started today, what would the AAA rotation and starting position players look like?

Let’s start out with the obvious qualifier: a lot can change between now and the start of the season, so don’t take this to heart. Players can get traded, hurt, unexpectedly win a spot on the big league roster, all sorts of stuff. We still have a general idea of who will be there, so this isn’t an entirely useless exercise. Let’s break it down into four categories…

Mortal Locks
A big chunk of the pitching staff falls into this group. Andrew Brackman is the headliner after a fine (and just about full) season in Double-A, and he’ll be joined by Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell, all of whom got a brief taste of the Scranton life last year. We also can’t forget about the winningest pitcher in franchise history, Kei Igawa, who figures to do the swingman thing again. Minor league free agent signings Mark Prior, Andy Sisco, and Neal Cotts will get bullpen gigs. Remember though, Cotts is rehabbing from hip surgery and might not be ready to start the season.

The offense will be highlighted once again by Jesus Montero, who will return to Triple-A to start the season after the Russell Martin signing. He’ll be backed up by minor league free agent signing Gustavo Molina. Colin Curtis and waiver pickup Jordan Parraz will hold down the two corner outfield spots while Brandon Laird and Jorge Vazquez get the corner infield spots. Unless he gets released to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Reegie Corona will be with Scranton in some capacity, ditto Kevin Russo, who has nothing more than an outside chance to win a bench job with the big league team. Minor league free agent signing and 2009 Scranton Yankee Doug Bernier will come off the bench.

Eduardo Nunez and Greg Golson have halfway decent chances to start the season in the Bronx in reserve roles, but if not they’ll play everyday in Scranton. Ryan Pope is in the same situation, just out of the bullpen. If he’s with Triple-A, he’s the odds on favorite to replace the departed Jon Albaladejo as closer. Kevin Whelan, the last remaining piece of the Gary Sheffield trade, has a leg up on one of the few remaining bullpen spots. Amaury Sanit’s biggest threat for a roster spot is being released.

On The Fence
The non-prospect bullpen filler resides here. That means J.B. Cox, Grant Duff, Josh Schmidt, and Eric Wordekemper. Those guys will only end up in Triple-A if warm bodies are needed. Justin Snyder did his thing as a bench player for Double-A Trenton the last two years and could move up, especially if Nunez makes the big league roster.

Unlike those last few guys, Adam Warren is an actual prospect but one with limited Double-A experience. He’s likely to start back with Trenton after making just ten starts there last season, but we could always be surprised. Dan Brewer had a fine season in Double-A in 2010 (.345 wOBA), but he could get squeezed out of the Triple-A mix in a numbers crunch, especially if Laird will continue working in left field. Buddy Carlyle is a candidate to be released in Spring Training (might even have an escape clause in his contract), and Brian Anderson could start back in Extended Spring Training since he’s so new to pitching (converted just this year).

Long Shots
David Adams destroyed the Double-A level this past year (.403 wOBA), but an ankle injury ended his season after just 173 plate appearances. He’ll be back there in April. Damon Sublett is in a similar situation after injury, and Austin Romine should start with Trenton after his poor second half. Plus Montero squeezes him out. Romulo Sanchez is out of options and will need to clear waivers to go back to the minors, but he’s also been outrighted before (by the Pirates) and can elect free agency. I expect him to be a goner one way or the other.

Both Manny Banuelos (15.1 IP) and Dellin Betances (14.1 IP) got limited experience at Double-A in 2010, and it would be extremely aggressive to move them up already, maybe even downright reckless (with regards to their development). It took Pat Venditte a really long time to get out of High-A Tampa (109.1 IP over two seasons), so don’t expect him to get moved to Triple-A so quickly. Cory Arbiso is going to end up back in Trenton just because of sheer numbers. Austin Krum spent all of 2010 in Double-A but didn’t do enough (.298 wOBA) to get promoted.

So after all that, here’s my stupid early projection for the Triple-A roster. Remember that Triple-A rosters are only 24 players deep, not 25. Let me know what you think and whether or not I missed someone obvious (possible if not likely) in the comments.

C: Montero
1B: Vazquez
2B: Corona
SS: Nunez
3B: Russo
LF: Laird
CF: Golson
RF: Parraz/Curtis/
DH: Parraz/Curtis/rotating spot

Bench: Molina (C), Bernier (IF), Snyder (UTIL), last spot goes to a utility guy on a minor league deal

Rotation: Brackman, Noesi, Mitchell, Phelps, Igawa/Sisco

Bullpen: Pope, Prior, Wordekemper, Schmidt, Whelan, Igawa/Sisco

DL/Rehab: Cotts

Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

(Update, 10:31am): Turns out the Royals are getting a player to be named later, not Jeffress. The bigger news is that the Royals had a trade worked out with the Nationals, but Greinke told them he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go there, presumably because they aren’t a contender. Jon Heyman says Greinke also told the KC braintrust that he wouldn’t mind coming to New York, but it was his family members that had reservations. A deal was never close with the Yankees anyway.

(Original Post, 9:02am): Is this a crazy offseason or what? Late last night a blog by the name of Bernie’s Crew reported that the Royals and Brewers had agreed to a trade involving former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but everyone was understandably skeptical. When I woke up this morning, Buster Olney had already confirmed it, so Greinke is in fact joining the Brewers. Kansas City will receive SS Alcides Escober, CF Lorenzo Cain, and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Milwaukee will reportedly receive Yuniesky Betancourt and $2M as well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the trade, I want to congratulate Jim Breen at Bernie’s Crew for getting the scoop. Independent bloggers get written off all the time because some schmucks out there throw out bad information as an attention grab, and it reflects poorly on all of us. Breen’s scoop gives him some big time credibility, and I’m genuinely happy for him. This blogging stuff ain’t easy if you want to be taken even remotely seriously.

As for the actual move, it really puts the Brewers right in the mix of NL Central contention. They picked up Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays earlier this year and just added a bonafide number one guy that they run out there every five days. Yovani Gallardo drops back into the number two spot, a job he’s overqualified for, and Randy Wolf becomes one of the better fourth starters in the game. They’ll have that rotation for the next two years (before Greinke hits free agency), but I suspect they’ll make some moves to really go all-in this season before Prince Fielder becomes a free agent next offseason.

Kansas City gets a young everyday shortstop and centerfield with five years of team control left each, plus one huge power arm in Jeffress (legitimately can touch 100, especially in relief) and one of the game’s better pitching prospects in Odorizzi. Their farm system was the best in the game before the trade, but it was lacking when it came to up-the-middle players close to the big leagues. Escobar and Cain help correct that, and dumping the Yuni-Bomber is a net positive as well.

The Yankees were never really a serious contender for Greinke’s services, even after Cliff Lee headed to the Phillies. They were concerned about his ability to handle New York, and while I don’t necessarily buy those concerns, the team had them and acted appropriately. I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched that package anyway since they don’t have a big league ready shortstop to send to the Royals (sorry, Eduardo Nunez fans). If the Yanks weren’t going to get Greinke, the next best thing would be for him go to the National League, and that’s what happened.

I was really hoping that Greinke would get traded to a big market just so he could put this “can’t handle the pressure” stuff to bed, so now I’ll hope for the Brewers to make it to the postseason and for Greinke to wreck the Phillies. Twice.