Updated: Gammons out at ESPN for MLB; Curry takes Times buyout

Just a few media hits for the afternoon: Via a release at their media center, ESPN announced a few minutes ago that Peter Gammons will be departing the network after the Winter Meetings are over. Gammons has not yet announced his next move, but Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president for production, says Peter wants “new challenges and a less demanding schedule.” In local media news, Jack Curry has taken a buyout offer from The New York Times and will be leaving the Grey Lady shortly. The Sports Section of The Times will seem a little less complete without him.

Update 5:58 p.m.: The Associated Press is now reporting that Gammons will be joining the MLB Network with an official announcement coming perhaps as early as tomorrow. This move seemed nearly inevitable when Gammons announced his decision to leave ESPN. Say what you will about Gammons’ biases, but this is a huge move for the one-year-old MLB Network. They get a bona fide giant in the field and steal one of ESPN’s most senior reporters. I wonder how much it’s going to cost them.

Yanks will meet with Ben Sheets’ agent

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees (among others) will meet with Casey Close, agent for free agent pitcher Ben Sheets. I’m assuming the meeting will take place in Indy at some point. Close also represents Derek Jeter, so surely he’s familiar with Brian Cashman & Co.

Sheets, meanwhile, represents a tremendous buy low candidate. He’s coming off non-ligament elbow surgery, and has had over 14 months to recover from his various non-arm maladies. Assuming he signs for a short deal (one year plus an option would be ideal) at reasonable dollars, then Sheets provides (dare I say) ridiculous upside without much risk. For what it’s worth, Keith Law rated Sheets the 17th best free agent on the market, saying there’s “not much downside with the upside of a No. 2 starter who might give you 160-180 innings.”

Angels interested in Matsui (UPDATE: ChiSox too)

Update (3:48pm): The White Sox also have “have emerged as a serious contender” for Matsui, according to Mark Feinsand. Kenny Williams apparently has an infinite amount of money at his disposal, because he’s added about $120M worth of obligations within the last six months (Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, today’s Mark Teahen extension).

10:46am: Via Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels have internally discussed a pursuit of Hideki Matsui. “He’s a person we’ve talked about,” Angels’ GM Tony Reagins said. “But we have a lot of scenarios we can attack, whether through trade or free agency.” It’s likely that Matsui is just a fallback option given his inability to the play the field, because The Greatest Manager Who Ever Lived likes to rotate four players between the DH and the outfield regularly.

Meanwhile, Ken Davidoff reports that Godzilla began a two-week mini-camp yesterday, and is working out in the outfield. Obviously, he’s trying to boost his free agent stock.

Yankees set to acquire Curtis Granderson, pending physicals

The rumor started late last night and developed throughout the day. Now it’s close to official: the Yankees have agreed to acquire centerfielder Curtis Granderson from the Tigers in a three team trade. Here’s the breakdown of who will get what:

To Yankees: CF Curtis Granderson

To Tigers: LHP Phil Coke, CF Austin Jackson, RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Dan Schlereth

To D-Backs: RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Ian Kennedy,

Joel Sherman says that removing lefty reliever Mike Dunn was a key for the Yankees, who now have some leverage to use against free agent Johnny Damon. Sherman adds that the trade may not be finalized today because “minor details, mainly medicals, take time, must be worked thru.”

In Granderson, the Yankees will get a 28-year-old centerfielder coming off a 30 homerun, 20 steal season. However, he can’t hit lefthanded pitching at all (.210-.270-.344), and his once superb defense is now just slightly above average. The Yanks also pick up some major cost certainty, as Granderson is signed through 2012 for a total of $25.75M, plus there’s an option for 2013. He’s also familiar with Derek Jeter, having played with him during the WBC.

To get Granderson, the Bombers gave up their top prospect coming into 2009 in Austin Jackson,  who hit .300-.354-.405 in Triple-A this year. Ian Kennedy’s last act as a Yankee will be pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a meaningless late season game against the Angels, while Phil Coke will be remembered as the guy that gave up two homers in one World Series inning. The move makes a dent in the Yanks’ pitching depth, however the Yanks can make up for some it with the player they take first overall in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.

Dave Cameron at FanGraphs calls the deal “almost too good to be true” for the Yanks.

2009 Winter Meetings Chat

Yanks have their hands full at Winter Meetings

When your most notable move during a typically transaction-heavy week is dealing Brian Bruney for a Rule 5 pick, times might seem slow. For the Yankees, though, that’s not the case. They’ve been working towards their goal of acquiring “pitching, pitching, pitching — and left field” this week. Just because nothing has come of these talks doesn’t mean nothing’s happening.

The three-way trade talks from last night have died, and it appears that the Yankees aren’t interested in revisiting it. They didn’t like giving up all four players just for Granderson (the latest on the matter said that “the Diamondbacks currently aren’t willing to send prospects to New York in the exchange.”). That doesn’t mean the Yanks are out on Granderson, however. As Mark Feinsand notes, the Yanks are still talking about Granderson, but without the Diamondbacks involved. There’s that.

Then there is the matter of Andy Pettitte, who started the week atop the Yankees’ priority list. He still remains up there, though the Granderson talks might have taken the top stop temporarily. According to Ken Davidoff, the Yanks are still talking with Pettitte’s agents, the Hendricks brothers. Those are two pretty major negotiations, so it’s understandable if we don’t see the Yankees connected with anyone else.

So when you see something about the Yankees not being interested in Rafael Soriano, that might be a temporary thing. Right now they have two big deals on their plate, and that requires plenty of attention. We might just have to wait this one out.

Updated by Mike (12:03pm): Turns out the three-way trade might be back on.

What are the Yankees going to do with the first pick of the Rule 5 Draft?

Update (10:30am): I’m an idiot. Tosoni was drafted in 2005, but not signed until 2006 as a draft and follow. He has one more year left before he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible. So, this is embarrassing…

Rene Tosoni's backTalk about topics I didn’t think I’d be writing about when I woke up yesterday morning. When the Yankees traded enigmatic reliever Brian Bruney to the Nationals, they received one of those generic players to be named later, and no one thought much of it. Bruney was gone, meaning the Yanks saved some cash and I would need a new reliever to despise (early favorite: Phil Coke). Not long after the trade, I mused that maybe the return would be the rights to the first pick of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, and whaddya know? That’s exactly what they’re getting.

Trades involving Rule 5 picks aren’t uncommon. The Reds worked out a deal with the Cubs to get Josh Hamilton in 2007 because they were afraid the Marlins would take him before they got a chance to pick. The Cubs took Hamilton with the third pick, then immediately send him to Cincinnati for $100,000.  The same basic thing is happening with the Yanks and Nats this year, except the player the Nats take will be sent to the Yanks as the PTBNL. And yes, the Yanks will tell the Nats who to pick, otherwise this deal wouldn’t make sense.

As per the Rule 5 Draft rules, the Yanks will have to keep the player on their 25-man Major League roster all season in order to retain his rights permanently. If they don’t, then the player has to pass through waivers (if a team claims him, the Rule 5 rules follow him) before being offered back to his original team. I thought it was a very shrewd move by the Yanks, because now they get to choose their return for Bruney from a massive pool of players, rather than being limited to one organization and the players they’re willing to move.

Through the magic of common sense, we know that players from 28 teams are possible picks. A team can’t pick a player from it’s own system, so that rules out everyone in the Nats’ system, and the Yanks aren’t going to have the Nats take one of their own (New York’s) prospects. It’s possible to unearth a gem in the Rule 5 Draft (Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, and Johan Santana are R5D alumni), thought it’s extremely unlikely. The latest CBA took all the fun out of the Rule 5, because it gave teams another year before they had to protect players.

So, realistically speaking, the Yanks don’t have many places to hide a Rule 5 player. There’s always the back of the bullpen and the bench, and given their current situation, leftfield. I’m going to rule out an infielder because the Yanks felt compelled to add the likes of Eduardo Nunez and Reegie Corona to the 40-man last month. Let’s run down some possibilities after the jump, listed alphabetically.

[Read more…]