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.
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.
free piece at Baseball Prospectus today, Steven Goldman writes on lengthy multi-year contracts. His overall point as it relates to the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez is that 10-year contracts for position players are generally not as bad as pitchers. Of course, the scarcity of ten-year contracts makes an in-depth study of them next to impossible, and we’re really relying on the evidence from Dave Winfield as a barometer of success.
When it comes to pitchers, however, Goldman takes a look at multi-year contracts and Johan Santana. He concludes that “the odds of a pitcher surviving ten years unscathed are minuscule.”
But what about the seven years Santana is rumored to want? Let me excerpt:
Of course, many lefties have pitched well at that age , but the list of those who maintained their value to a degree that they would be worth the kind of length and value that Santana is apparently demanding is pretty small: Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton comprise the top tier, after which you have to start cherry-picking the odd Jamie Moyer, Warren Spahn, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells seasons. As good as Santana is, history and human physiology are against him.
That said, it’s possible that no one cares. One of the interesting things we’ve seen this offseason—particularly in the contracts for A-Rod, Jorge Posada, and perhaps also what Santana will get—is the kind of contract where no one involved really thinks that the player will deliver value commensurate with the dollars involved throughout the term of the contract. The team does what it has to maintain its ability to win now, figuring that it will deal later with the problem of having an expensive, underperforming vet around.
I like what Goldman has to say here but with a few caveats. First, he doesn’t really control for inflation when it comes to the Posada and A-Rod deals. It’s quite possible that Jorge Posada will be a good deal in a few years as the market for catchers explodes. The same holds true for A-Rod. We just won’t know if these two players become dead weight until after the fact. So assuming that teams are willing to take on contracts that extend beyond the reasonable shelf life of a player is something of a flawed conclusion considering where baseball economics are heading.
But more germane to the Santana discussion is something we’ve mentioned before. The Yanks would be giving up lots of young potential and around $150 million for a player who probably won’t be able to live up to the demands of a $20-$25 million a year contract after the fourth or fifth season. Considering that Santana’s stats put him more in the mold of Johnson or Carlton but physically, he doesn’t profile to be as durable as those lefties, his long-term outlook doesn’t look at rosy as those two pitchers. Wells and Rogers have relied more on pinpoint control and slow, slower, slowest breaking ball approaches to pitching and have managed to stay effective by honing their craft. In other words, it’s unlikely that Santana 2008 and Santana 2012 will be anywhere near the same pitcher.
For A-Rod, a deal of this magnitude makes sense, and the marketing bonuses seem to support the belief that the Yanks will recoup this investment and then some. But for Santana, a lefty hurler at his peak now at nearly 29, it’s buyer beware.
Milb.com starting counting down its annual list of the Top 50 Prospects in the baseball today with numbers 41-50. As the title implies, Austin Jackson was named #49, sandwiched between Dexter Fowler and Carlos Triunfel. Milb’s brass grossly under-rated Triunfel (should be top 15 in my opinion), but Fowler is rather impressive company for the former hoops standout. The Yanks should have at least three more players on the list, and I suppose there’s an outside chance Jesus Montero’s name pops up along the way, making it four more. · (9) ·
The old and the new face off against each other across 161st St. (Photo by flickr user Etep)
At some point this off-season, I’m going to grab my camera and head up to the Bronx to snap some shots of Yankee Stadium under construction. It’s been a while since we’ve seen much from the new Stadium, and the most recent photo gallery on Yankees.com is this one from the summer.
But while images are scarce, news is not. The Stadium is supposedly still on pace for an Opening Day 2009 premiere, but I’m growing skeptical. The Yankees recently awarded a new contract to a Canadian firm for $2 million. The contract calls for MQM Enterprises to construct the steel underpinnings that will hold up the stands.
MQM has already completed this work on the Mets’ Citi Field, and I have to wonder if this late date for a new contract means the Yankees are going to have to rush to complete their new stadium. As long as accidents don’t drag down the process as they are with the Mets, I’m sure the Yanks will do anything humanly possible to ready this stadium for Opening Day 2009.
Last week, Justin Sablich, writing on The Times Bats blog, wondered aloud if the Yanks would be better off with Joba in the pen instead of in the rotation. His argument focuses around the idea that no one else could get the job done in the pen last year. While we can debate the rest of the Yankee bullpen and its potential makeup for hours on end, I think the answer to this question is simple. Joba throwing 150-160 as a starter is much more valuable to the Yankees than the 60-70 innings he would pitch in the bullpen. Feel free to debate this point as it relates to a shaky bullpen, but I’m sticking with my position here. Joba the Starter lives!
If you have the patience for a long and slightly scattered interview with Hank Steinbrenner, the man who has emerged to assume the public role of Boss of the Yankees this off-season, then take a read through Steve Serby’s lengty interview. Some interesting stuff, some mundane stuff and some thoughts on Hank’s favorite actress, Jennifer Love Hewitt. · (4) ·