Rays sink Saturday DH as DJ3K on hold with rainout

Updated (6:18 p.m.): With rain blanketing the New York area, Mother Nature has put Derek Jeter‘s quest for 3000 hits on hold. The Yankees announced a few minutes ago that tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays has been postponed due to the weather. The game will be made up on Thursday, Sept. 22, an off-day following a two-game set against Tampa Bay.

The Yankees initially wanted to play a double header tomorrow to accommodate fans who paid a premium in the hopes of seeing Jeter’s hit, but according to Jerome Preisler of the YES Network, the Rays were prepared to wait out a lengthy rain delay tonight if the Yanks did not drop the doubleheader request.

Frankly, I’m surprised by the Rays’ resistance to the doubleheader. The Yanks would have thrown Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett, and as A-Rod and Nick Swisher, who were out of today’s lineup, are day-to-day, the Yanks’ offense might have been at a weak point. Plus, with Mariano Rivera‘s arm bothering, he would have thrown in only one game at most, and then pen should be stronger when Tampa Bay next comes to town. Furthermore, Francisco Cervelli would have played one of the two games, and Eduardo Nuñez and Ramiro Peña likely would have as well to avoid aggravating Jeter’s calf or A-Rod’s knee. Ultimately, it sounds as though Tampa Bay is simply trying to avoid giving up Jeter’s 3000th hit. Anyway, neither team has yet announced its pitching plans for the rest of the weekend, and Derek Jeter will have just two home games to knock out two hits before the All Star Break

New design added to the RAB Shop

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Head on over the RAB Shop to get your own 3K themed RAB swag, and keep in mind that there are two different versions of the design. One worst better for light colors, the other for darker. You can customize it all, from size to style, and you don’t even need to get a shirt. There’s coffee mugs, onesies (no adult onesies, sorry), license plate frames, and much more. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the design, as always.

Notes: Jeter, A-Rod, Swisher, Gordon

Lots of stuff to round up this afternoon…

  • Derek Jeter will not play in the All-Star Game next week. He wants to rest and play it safe after coming back from the calf injury.
  • Alex Rodriguez is being sent for a precautionary MRI on his right knee. The knee’s been bothering him for a while, and Alex has already withdrawn from the All-Star Game.
  • Nick Swisher is out of the lineup tonight with a sore left quad. Thank goodness the break is coming up, sounds like everyone could use a few days off.
  • So long, Brian Gordon. The right-hander is heading to Korea after a team over there purchased his contract. The Yankees reportedly received $25,000 for their troubles. Thanks for the two starts, man.

The Yankees connection to Mike Trout

It’s clear to even the greenhorn baseball fan that unless you bleed pinstripes, you pretty much loathe them. The feeling is completely understandable. The Yankees have won far more championships than any other team, which sets in a measure of jealousy. There is also the infamous Yankee Greed: their shameless pursuit of free agents no matter the cost. You can look right to a recent Hardball Talk post for a shining example. There are few instances where I can disparage someone their Yankee hatred.

Angels fans, however, should be thankful that the Yankees got greedy in the winter of 2008. That, of course, is when they made their big splash, landing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. All three were Type-A free agents, and therefore cost the Yankees their first three picks. Teixeira was the last of them to sign, and even then it came as something of a surprise. Media reports had Boston as the favorites, and there was little, if any, word that the Yankees were making a last-minute run. The Angels would be in a distinctly different position now if Boston had gotten its way.

As everyone knows by now, the Angels have called up Mike Trout, the consensus No. 2 prospect in baseball. They did so with the 25th pick of the 2009 draft, which was originally property of the Yankees. It was well known that the Yankees wouldn’t pick in that position, given their interest in multiple high-end free agents, so it’s not as though they ever had a shot at drafting Trout themselves. The situation would have changed, though, had the Red Sox signed Teixeira. Anaheim would then have received Boston’s pick, the 28th in the draft, while Milwaukee would have taken the 25th overall pick as compensation for CC Sabathia.

The situation isn’t as simple as it’s laid out, of course. The Angels also had the 24th pick in the draft, which they used on outfielder Randal Grichuk. There were reports that the Cardinals considered taking him with the 19th pick, but it was no lock that he’d go that high. (They were smart to take Shelby Miller instead.) In any case, since the Angels picked twice in a row there’s no real way of knowing which player they would have chosen if they had only the 24th pick. Maybe they just would have taken Trout then. If they hand’t, though, then Milwaukee would have had two cracks at him, at 25 and 26, and then Seattle would have had a chance before the Angels picked again. There is a decent chance, then, that Trout would have been off the board.

At the time, Trout was not in any way a world-beating prospect. If you read his draft report, you see the makings of a very good defensive outfielder who had some skills at the plate that were still raw. Also, he apparently started to switch hit around draft time, but he’s ditched that in favor of his natural righty swing. But in reading the report there’s no indication that he’d explode onto the scene and turn heads in every at-bat. Yet he dominated the Arizona League (rookie level) immediately after signing, hitting .360/.418/.506 before moving up to A ball for the final week or so of the season. That put him at No. 85 on Baseball America’s Top 100, which is quite a slot for the No. 25 pick in the most recent draft.

One year of A-ball dominance and a half-season of similar results in AA later, and he’s with the big league club. It might be only a temporary move, to let him get his feet wet while the starting center fielder, Peter Bourjos, nurses a strained hamstring. And, as Sam Miller of the Orange Country Register notes, the odds are against him producing much at the plate. But it still has to be a great feeling for Angels fans, to get a glimpse at one of the most hyped, and justified, prospects in baseball. I just hope they remember that the pick they used to take Trout was born of Yankee Greed.

The RAB Radio Show: July 8, 2011

Mike’s out this week, so I’m hosting the show solo. Don’t worry: it’s not just a 45-minute monologue. First I talk to Tommy Rancel of the Rays blog The Process Report. It’s an excellent read for anyone curious about the Yankees’ AL East rivals. We talk about the organizational philosophy and the current state of the team. Then it’s onto mailbag questions, submitted by you and read by me.

Podcast run time 42:44

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

RAB Live Chat

Scouting The Trade Market: Sean Burnett

Left-handed bullpen help has a permanent spot on the Yankees’ shopping list, and with the news that Pedro Feliciano had to be shut down with soreness in his injured left shoulder, the search only figures to intensify. Yesterday we learned that the Yankees have had some internal discussions about Sean Burnett of the Nationals, and they had a scout on hand to watch him give up a homer (to Carlos Pena) and walk two others in two-thirds of an inning last night.

No relation to A.J. Burnett, Sean has an ugly ERA (5.76) this year, but that doesn’t tell us anything useful when it comes to relief specialists. Let’s break this Burnett down, starting with the negatives…

The Cons

  • Burnett is a left-handed, but he’s not exactly a shutdown lefty. Same-side batters are hitting .240/.316/.420 with just six strikeouts (10.5%) in 57 plate appearances off him this year, which is pretty awful. From 2009-2010, he held lefties to a .230/.293/.362 batting line with 23.9% strikeouts, which is quite a bit better. Still though, the recent performance is ugly.
  • Unsurprisingly, right-handed batters give Burnett a hard time too. They’re hitting .308/.373/.431 with 11 strikeouts (14.7%) in 75 plate appearances against him this season, though from 2009-2010 he held them to a .180/.271/.259 batting line with 18.8% strikeouts. I wouldn’t count on that 2009-2010 performance coming back though.
  • His swinging strike rate has declined for the third straight year, sitting at a below league average 7.8% this season. That helps explain why Burnett is striking out just 4.85 batters per nine innings this year, about half his 2010 rate and two-thirds his 2008 and 2009 rates.

The Pros

  • Burnett is not a typical LOOGY in that he actually has three pitches, which comes from his days as a starter in the Pirates’ system. He backs up his low-90’s fastball with an upper-80’s slider and a mid-80’s changeup, but neither of the offspeed pitches is a true put-away offering.  He does get plenty of ground balls, almost 56% of the time against lefties and a touch more than 50% against righties.
  • Burnett missed the entire 2005 season with shoulder and elbow trouble (including surgery on the latter), but he’s been perfectly healthy and hasn’t visited the disabled list since. He’s only 28 and there hasn’t been a ton of mileage put on that arm in recent years (no more than 63 IP or 73 appearances in each of the last three years).
  • He’s not just a rental. Burnett is already under contract for 2012 at $2.3M, and there’s a $250,000 buyout of a $3.5M option for 2013. He will earn $1.4M this year, about $233,000 per month from here on out.

Burnett’s struggles this year might result in a buy-low opportunity, but what would the Yankees be buying low on? A reliever with limited use and limited upside? That’s not to say he’s not worth pursing, in fact he’ll probably provide more bang for the buck than a bigger name lefty specialist (coughFelicianocoughMartecough). It all comes down to cost, what do the Nationals want in return? I think it goes without saying that I wouldn’t give up much for Burnett, certainly not one of the Triple-A starters (Adam Warren, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, that group) or anyone off the big league roster (except Ramiro Pena). Kick the tires, but don’t outbid yourself. One Burnett is more than enough.