AzFL Championship Game on MLB Network

Got a craving for some live baseball? Then check out the Arizona Fall League Championship Game between the Peoria Javelinas and the Phoenix Desert Dogs on MLB Network this afternoon. The broadcast starts at 2:30pm ET, with the game set to start a little after that. Stephen Strasburg was supposed to start for Phoenix, but he’s out with a knee injury.

There aren’t any Yanks’ prospects on either team, but who cares, it’s baseball. Chat about the game here, if you want.

A Bronx return remains Wang’s first choice

Upon his arrival in Taiwan, Chien-Ming Wang demonstrated exercises for reporters. (Via the AP)

In my mind, Chien-Ming Wang is the late ’00s version of the lost Yankee. Through his first 97 starts in the Big Leagues, he had won 54 of them and had sported an ERA of 3.79. He didn’t strike too many guys out, but he went deep into games and used a devastating sinker to keep opponents from elevating the ball.

And then disaster struck in Houston on June 15, 2008. Wang, already showing signs of inconsistency in 2008, injured his foot in a freak baserunning accident, and has never been the same pitcher. He was flat-out awful in 2009 and eventually underwent another shoulder surgery. Now, the Yanks might simply say good bye to the right-hander by non-tendering him. Wang will be 30 come Opening Day and hasn’t been regularly since 2007. The organization wasn’t fooled by his 54 wins and 3.79 ERAs, and with replacements on hand in the Bronx, the Wang era may be over.

Yesterday, Joe explored how Chien-Ming Wang would be open to the idea of pitching for the Dodgers. Wang, after all, knows Joe Torre quite well from their years together in the Bronx, and the National League makes every good pitcher better. But I thought the story odd. Even though Wang hasn’t yet re-upped for 2010 with the Yanks, he’s still under team control (at least for the next few weeks), and other teams can’t talk to him.

So what did Wang actually say? Well, the remarks were given at a press conference upon his arrival back in Taiwan. Wang is a national celebrity in his home country, and the press hinge on his every word. Although the rumors focused on the Dodgers, Wang’s focus is on the Yanks. “I will try my best to secure a return to Major League Baseball, and my first choice would be the Yankees though it would be okay for me to pitch for any other MLB team,” he said. Once another reporter asked about the Dodgers due to the Joe Torre connection, Wang said he would be open to the idea.

The right-hander will begin throwing on December 1, and the Yankees will be able to judge his process before making a decision on his contract status. Joe wrote here yesterday about an arbitration offer, but I dissent. I think $6 million is too great a commitment to a pitcher who is coming off his second shoulder injury and hasn’t thrown more than 95 innings since 2007. I would welcome Wang back to the Bronx, but if he signs elsewhere, I would be okay with it too. For sinkerballers who lose that touch, the end is rather unpleasant to watch.

The last Yankee days of Shelley Duncan

shelleyduncan

In 2007, a 27-year-old rookie named Shelley Duncan arrived in the Bronx. Drafted by the Yanks in the second round of the 2001 draft, Shelley, son of Dave, brother of Chris, had a Major League pedigree, and a body to match. He is 6’5″ and 215 pounds, and when he hits, he puts all of those pounds behind his swing.

Through his first 16 games, Duncan reminded Yankee fans of Shane Spencer, another old rookie who came up and smashed. After just 46 big league at-bats, Duncan was hitting .317/.391/.756 with six home runs and 13 RBIs. He played with enthusiasm, smashing forearms with his teammates after each home run and seemed destined for a spot on the Yanks’ bench as a pinch hitter extraordinaire.

But soon thereafter, the holes emerged. Duncan would play in just 18 more games in 2007, earning himself 37 plate appearances. He hit a meager .182/.250/.303 and struck out nine times. In fact, overall, since his hot start, Duncan has been given 117 plate appearances with little successful. He has hit .181/.250/.276 with 27 strike outs and just two home runs. He loves himself some fastballs, but against the breaking balls, Duncan comes up empty.

Yesterday, for the second time during his career, the Yankees outrighted Duncan to AAA, and for all intents and purposes, Duncan’s Yankee career is all but over. When a player is outrighted for a second time, he can refuse the assignment to AAA and become a free agent. Chad Jennings spoke with the 30-year-old this evening, and Duncan said he would do that. “I’ll wait and see,” Duncan said. “I might clear on Monday or something, and if do, then I’ll become a free agent.”

Jennings also sums up the Yanks’ view on Shelley. “The Yankees were clearly never sold on Duncan,” he writes. “He toiled in Tampa and Trenton too long, and his chances of being an impact player in this organization were slim. Duncan, though, has done all he can to prove himself and earn a chance at some big league at-bats.”

The Lo Hud scribe goes on to compare Shelley Duncan to Garrett Jones on the list of those who never made it with their original organization. Jones was a Twins farmhand who broke out this year for the Pirates, but Jones was never the Minor League hitter Duncan was nor was he given the same chance with the Twins Duncan was given with the Yankees. New York brought Duncan with them out of Spring Training in 2008, but after two months of nothing, he was shipped back to AAA.

In the end, Duncan is a consummate Quadruple-A guy. He crushes Minor League pitching but can’t take that next step to become at least a serviceable hitter. Without his oversized personality, he would never be remembered in the Bronx. This year, he’ll get a World Series ring. He did, after all, play in a handful of games in October, but he is also going to have to find himself a new baseball home for the first time in his career. And so it goes with the feeling demands of baseball success.

Free agent rankings hurt middle relievers

After looking at the free agent class of setup men, last weekend, I thought that “the ideal solution is for the guys already on the roster…to step up and take the late innings.” I based that conclusion mainly on the strength of the middle relievers on the market. The only attractive name is Rafael Betancourt, who will command a multi-year contract. Signing this type of pitcher just doesn’t seem to be the Yankees M.O. While I still stand by the guys already in the system, there is one aspect of the argument I left out, and which should solidify the Yankees position as non-buyers of free agent relievers: draft pick compensation.

To acquire Betancourt, the Yankees would not only have to offer a multi-year contract, but they’d have to forfeit their first round draft pick to the Rockies. That pick, No. 30, certainly has value to the Yankees. There’s an outside chance they can recover a first round pick if they offer arbitration to Johnny Damon and he signs elsewhere, but an arbitration offer in this case is no guarantee. Even if the Yankees did offer him arbitration and he declined, the market for his services would be depressed, because a team signing him would then have to forfeit their first round pick to the Yankees.

Of course, if Betancourt is worth more to the Yankees than the value of that first round pick, they’d consider signing him. But what is the value of that pick? It’s very difficult to say, because at this point we haven’t a clue who will fall to the No. 30 spot. After that, we have no idea if this draftee will pan out. Still, Sky Andrecheck examines the value of a first round pick.

The value depends on exactly where the pick lies. Since compensation rules protect the first 15 picks of the draft, the Cubs, at No. 16, have the most valuable pick, valued at $4 million. The Brewers, who pick 15th, would lose their second round pick by signing a Type A free agent, which would be somewhere around the 60th overall, depending on the size of the supplemental round. That pick is worth an estimated $2.5 million. The Yankees’ No. 30 pick would be valued somewhere between $3 and $3.5 million.

For deals like Mark Teixeira‘s eight-year, $180 million, the value of the compensation pick isn’t much of a concern. It’s just the cost of doing business. CC Sabathia‘s and A.J. Burnett‘s contracts cost even less, as they cost the Yankees their second and third round picks, valued far, far less than the first round pick. Even if those deals would have cost a first round pick, it shouldn’t have deterred the Yankees. This becomes a concern, however, when signing a player to a lesser contract.

The problem isn’t just with Betancourt. The Elias rankings simply label too many middle relievers as Type A. Andrecheck explains:

The reason is that players are ranked within various positional groups, and relief pitchers have their own group. The problem with this, of course, is that unlike, say, shortstops or first basemen, most relief pitchers have relatively low value. Of relievers, only a small fraction are high-impact players such as stud closers. Therefore, when Elias rates the top 20 percent of relievers as Type A free agents, it ends up including some very mediocre pitchers. As a result, 10 out of the 23 Type A free agents are relievers, including immortals such as Oliver and Hawkins. Such players have no business being classified in the same category as Holliday or Bay, and the fact that they’re overrated by the rankings can really hurt them.

Last season we saw Juan Cruz, who pitched well in 2008, go through the winter months with few teams interested in him. Because he was a Type A free agent and had declined the Diamondbacks’ offer of arbitration, few teams were willing to pay both with money and with a draft pick. The situation got so desperate for Cruz that in late February, the Diamondbacks and Twins discussed an unprecedented sign and trade deal. Thankfully, that never came true.

I doubt many free agent relievers want to go through this again over the winter. Therefore, if Type A free agents like Darren Oliver, Kevin Gregg, Jose Valverde, and Betancourt receive arbitration offers, they might just accept. Oliver accepted last year, making his Angels return quick and painless. Still, teams like the Astros might not be so inclined to take back Valverde at an arbitration salary, and therefore might decline to offer him arbitration. That changes the landscape of the free agent setup man/closer class.

Situations like this highlight the absurdity of the free agent compensation system. It’s an anachronism, and the players would do well to get it out of the CBA in the next round of labor negotiations. I totally agree with Tango: “t doesn’t exist in other sports for ‘free’ agents, and it would not exist in MLB if we started from scratch.” I also agree to glove slap Tommy for the pointer.

Open Thread: Accessing RAB

At midnight last night, the Hot Stove League officially kicked off it’s season. The 15-day exclusive negotiating window has ended, so free agents are now able to talk to any team about gainful employment. There will be more rumors than you could ever possibly desire, and even though the vast majority of them are either a) bullshit, or b) never going to amount to anything, we’ll still touch on a good portion of them, and definitely all of the Yankee related stuff.

Now is as good a time as any to let our newest readers know all the different ways you can access RAB. If you’ve been around for a while, then consider this a refresher course.

RSS Feeds
Hopefully by now you’re taking advantage of the magic that is really simple syndication, or RSS. If not, that’s cool, but I recommend signing up for something like Google Reader. This site will tell you everything you need to know about using RSS feeds, but in short, you can subscribe to the feed of your favorite sites, and instead of manually visiting each one multiple times a day, the information will be brought right to you as it’s posted, all in one convienent spot.

Our main feed can be found here, but we also have a feed specifically set up for our amateur draft coverage. The main feed will bring you all of RAB’s content, the second is just for draft coverage. As you can imagine, it’s not very active between mid-August and March.

Subscribe via E-mail
If RSS feeds aren’t your cup of tea, you can get RAB sent right to your inbox. Just stick your email address in the appropriate box to the right (the one that says “Subscribe to RAB via email,” duh), and all of our content will be emailed to you as it’s posted.

Twitter
Has anything changed sports coverage in recent years as much as Twitter? Any breaking news will be posted their first, in 140 characters or less. You can use a (free!) service like Tweet Deck or Echofon to easily follow your friends, favorite sportswriters, celebrities, whoever has a Twitter account.

We have two separate Twitter feeds here. Our main feed is @RiverAveBlues, where the three of us will muse on various topics, post any breaking news, engage in playful banter with readers, stuff like that. It’s worth signing up just to read Ben’s knee-jerk reactions during the games. Our second feed is @RABfeed, which will automatically link to all of our posts as they go up. That’s pretty much all it’s there for, but it’s very useful.

If you want, you can also follow the three of us on our personal accounts: @bkabak, @joepawl, and @mikeaxisa. I can’t promise everything we tweet about will be about the Yankees, or even baseball for that matter, but you won’t regret it.

Facebook
It’s probably our least utilized social media presence, but there’s still over 850 people that are fans of RAB’s Facebook page. I’m not much of a Facebook person myself, but I recommend hitting our page up to connect with fellow Yankee fans.

Contacting Us
If for any reason you want to contact us (maybe you have a question, or a link to a cool story, etc), the best way to do so is to use our little “Submit A Tip” box. You can’t miss it, it’s just to the right of the main column. If you want to tip us off to a trade rumor that we’ve missed, or something like that, please make sure you send us a link. Otherwise it’ll only take us longer to get a thread up about it.

If you want to contact us individually, then just drop us a line. Our addresses are in the far right sidebar. I know I haven’t been the best at replying at a timely manner, but my early New Years resolution is to improve on that.

So, you got all that? There’s a ton of ways you can have RAB’s content brought right to you, but nothing quite duplicates the experience of coming to the site, reading the posts, then debating the topics with our great group of commenters.

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Here’s your open thread for the night, so go ahead and talk about whatever you want. The Isles are the only local team in action, but it’s Friday night, go out and do something you’ll regret in the morning.

Jackson, Nova among 40-man additions

The Yankees have announced seven additions to the team’s 40-man rotation in advance of December’s Rule 5 draft. Among them are Austin Jackson and Ivan Nova. What a difference a year makes for Nova, who was selected and then returned to the Yanks in 2008.

To go along with this move, the Yanks also outrighted Shelley Duncan to AAA Scranton. I’m sure the Yanks would be happy to trade him for some cash. Here’s the full list:

PItchers
Hector Noesi
Ivan Nova
Romulo Sanchez

Infielders
Reegie Corona
Eduardo Nunez
Kevin Russo

Outfielders
Austin Jackson

Interestingly enough, the Yanks now have 39 of their 40-man spots filled, but the team is down a left fielder, a designated hitter and a starting pitcher. Either the Yanks don’t plan to resign more than one of their three big-name free agents so quickly or they will be prepared to cut loose someone on the 40-man if need be. Of those on the current 40-man, Christian Garcia looks awfully expendable.

Girardi named March of Dimes Sportsman of the Year

While CC Sabathia is up for SI’s Sportsman of the Year award, his manager took home some honors of his own. The March of Dimes named Joe Girardi their Sportsman of the Year (Venus Williams was Sportwoman) because of his achievements with the Yankees in 2009, and will honor him 26th annual March of Dimes luncheon on December 2nd. The luncheon is at the Waldorf Astoria (walking distance from Grand Central), and if you want to attend, give the MoD a call at 212-353-1143, or email jcarlo (at) marchofdimes (dot) com.

The MoD is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, and works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Congrats to Girardi.