Christmas Eve rumors: Yanks talking to Reed Johnson

The baseball world slows down a bit on Christmas Eve as executives, agents and players settle in for some quality time with their families. The Yankees though are still working on their holiday shopping. As Joel Sherman reported this afternoon, the Yankees are “talking regularly” with Reed Johnson and his representatives. Johnson, 33, would be a left field target for the Yanks, and he would give them some flexibility as he is a right-handed batter who can play all three outfield positions. He doesn’t, however, hit too well. He has a career line of .282/.344/.411 with a 95 OPS+ and has had an OPS+ above 100 just twice in seven years and not at all since 2006. He played just 65 games last year and has averaged 84 games per season over the last three years while hitting just .269/.333/.383. Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann can probably do that.

Link Dump: Cliff Lee, Mark DeRosa, Curtis Granderson

Nothing better than some linkage before the Christmas Eve drinkage.

Yanks made a push for Cliff Lee

Joel Sherman, who broke the Javy Vazquez story while on vacation, scribbles a few notes on the deal. In the first he says that the Yankees were in on Roy Halladay, and “made a hard, late push for Cliff Lee.” Vazquez isn’t a bad alternative, especially at that price, but Cliff Lee in the Bronx would be amazing. He’s a free agent after this season, and with the contracts of both Andy Pettitte and Vazquez expiring, the Yankees could have some cash and a free rotation spot. I expect Lee to be their No. 1 target, other than their in-house guys (Rivera and Jeter).

Uribe returning to San Francisco?

Why would Yankees fans care about an infielder returning to a team 3,000 miles away? Because the Giants had interested in Mark DeRosa as their third baseman, and reportedly had a two-year, $12 million offer on the table. Because of DeRosa’s versatility, and the Giants’ lack of an outfield, that offer might stand. But having Uribe penciled in at third has to make the Giants less attractive for DeRosa. Plus, if he wants to play for a winner, like he says, San Fran might not be the best choice.

Breaking News: Curtis Granderson is a good dude

No, there’s nothing breaking about that. Curtis Granderson is known around baseball as one of the good guys, and he fulfilled that reputation when he went straight from his introductory press conference to the Yankee Stadium food drive. Bryan Hoch also talked to Granderson about his holiday traditions and memories. His favorite present was a Walter Payton football, pads, and jersey. I remember getting a Joe Montana jersey and football back in the day. My little brother got a Rodney Hampton jersey that Christmas. I pretended Joe Montana was a linebacker.

Cashman named Major League Executive of the Year

After constructing a team that won the World Championship in convincing fashion – remember, they never once played a game that could have sent them home, despite what the bridge jumpers think – Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman was named Major League Executive of the Year by the Boston chapter of the BBWAA. If you’re in Boston, click through the link for ticket information to the award dinner if you want to attend.

Congrats to Cashmoney.

An outside look on Joba’s career

Depending on who you are, you think Joba Chamberlain‘s 2009 season was either evidence that he’s not all cracked up to, or that it’s just the first step in developing a young starter. David Golebiewski at RotoGraphs took a look at the young righthander’s career, then points out the obvious: we shouldn’t be shocked that a guy who spent half a season in the minors is rough around the edges. It’s a short but really great read, so make sure you check it out. Nothing like a little outside perspective.

Musings on the turning points of 2009

It’s often hard to pick one spot in a baseball season and say with certainty that it was the turning point for an eventual World Series winner. Yet, every team has that narrative when they say they just knew things would change. For the 1998 Yankees, it was rebounding from an 0-3 start to the season by winning 26 out of 30 games after Joe Torre’s job seemed to be on the line. But what about this year?

In one sense, the turning point for the 2009 Yankees arrived a year and a day ago when the Yanks swooped in out of nowhere to sign Mark Teixeira. Before that early Christmas present for Yankee fans arrived under our trees, the team was prepared to start the season with Nick Swisher at first base and Xavier Nady in right field. With one stroke of the pen, the Yanks found themselves stronger at the corners and with fantastic outfield depth. When Nady went down in early April with a bad elbow injury, the team barely noticed his absence.

But what of the play on the field? When did the 2009 Yankees really turn it around? I believe it came in late June in Atlanta, and I think the players would agree. The Yankees found themselves mired in an Interleague Play slump in June. They dropped two out of three to a bad Nationals team and two out of three to a mediocre Marlins club. After losing the first contest of a three-game set to the Braves, Brian Cashman made a trip to Atlanta to talk things over with his ballclub.

We may never know what was said behind closed doors, but we know the results. The Yanks went from 39-32 to 103-59 over the next three and a half months. Over a full season, that 64-27 pace would lead to a 114-win season. It was a run the likes of which we had not seen since that historic 1998 season.

As the Yanks stood on the verge of the postseason in late September, A-Rod spoke about that meeting in Atlanta. “We had a plan in Atlanta,” he said during an interview, “and we stuck with it.”

Ostensibly, the plan for A-Rod was to get him more rest. It involved keeping his surgically repaired hip feeling good while ensuring that his bat kept its spot in the middle of an offensive juggernaut. A-Rod, though, was just one of the Yanks who emerged from Atlanta with a plan. The Yanks won 13 out of 15 before getting swept by the Angels at the All Star Break, and the second half began with the Yanks going on a tear. By early August, the division was all but sewn up.

If and when someone writes the book on the 2009 Yankees, the 27th World Series championship club in franchise history, that moment in Atlanta will make for a nice narrative turn. The beleaguered general manager, tired of watching his club underperform, stepped in to rally the troops. If ever a chewing out can inspire a ballclub, that would be the one.

Now, with a winter of roster moves nearly complete, Brian Cashman is again asking us implicitly to trust him. He’s putting together another team with an eye toward repeating in the World Series. This week, he landed Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson, and these two moves could very well be this winter’s turning points. We’ll find out next year it’s for the better or the worse.

With the lineup nearly set, is Nady worth the gamble?

“I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece” – Brian Cashman on the left field situation.

There will be no Holliday under the Christmas tree. There is no Bay in the Bronx. Damon’s days in pinstripes have expired. So what, then, do the Yankees plan to do with left field? They currently have Brett Gardner penciled in there, and while some people are bullish on him, I think the Yankees would at least like to have a contingency plan. After all, not only is Gardner the top left fielder right now, but the fourth outfielder is Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffman. That doesn’t seem like an ideal situation heading into the 2010 season.

Given the team’s current composition, and given the budget constraints the team faces, it appears a second-tier option will fit best. We’ve heard a few of those names bandied about lately: Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady. Each has his ups and downs, but when considering the Yankees’ situation, Nady fits the best. He’s a gamble, of course, but at this point his demands shouldn’t exceed what the Yankees are willing to spend. Taking a flier on his health could reap big rewards for the Yankees’ outfield.

The concern with Nady is his twice surgically repaired right elbow. He underwent the second procedure in early July, after first having it in 2001. The success rate for second-time Tommy John patients isn’t high, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Most players who undergo the procedure are pitchers, who need their arms a bit more frequently than outfielders. Nady’s arm might be weakened by the second procedure, but maybe not all is lost. If his medical reports show progress, perhaps the Yankees can use him as a 4th outfielder and contingency plan.

Under the best case scenario, Nady works his way into a regular role, much like the team expected of him in 2009. He’s rated below average by UZR, which is a concern, but he’s played so many positions that it’s tough to get a good sampling on him. His bat, however, can make up for that. He almost certainly won’t hit like he did in Pittsburgh in 2008, but if he can hammer out a low .800s OPS, he’ll be a valuable asset on offense.

The worst case scenario puts the Yankees back to where they are right now, only without the budget to acquire another outfielder. That’s the main reason why I think the Yankees might stay away from Nady. If they’re bullish on Gardner, then they’re probably seeking someone who can fill in for him in case he gets off to another slow start, as in 2009. They might want to go with a more reliable option, rather than another gamble. But given the budget constraints and available talent, they might not have that luxury.

If the recent reports are true and the Giants really have offered Mark DeRosa $12 million over two years, the Yankees are likely out. That limits their free agent options to Byrd and Nady. By the numbers it appears Byrd might be a fit. In his last three seasons, with the Rangers, he’s posted wOBAs of .350, .370, and .345, all above average marks. His ISO has risen in each of those years as well. Yet I doubt he’ll replicate those numbers outside of Rangers Ballpark, and especially at Yankee Stadium, which does suppress righty power.

The last question regarding Nady is of whether he’ll sign a one-year deal for $4 million or less. Scott Boras represents him, and will probably seek more guaranteed money. But will any teams want to take that kind of gamble? Considering the lack of interest in three higher-profile corner outfielders — Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Johnny Damon — perhaps Nady ends up taking a small money, one-year deal to try and increase his value. Again, with Gardner currently penciled into left field, he has to figure he’ll get every shot to earn playing time.

If the Yankees can get him for under $4 million, they should give Nady a shot. It’s a gamble, sure, but there’s enough upside to make it worth the risk. That is, unless there’s something we don’t know about his medical report that has teams a bit reluctant to add him, even as a contingency plan.

Open Thread: Festivus, or something like that

I hated Seinfeld, but I understand there are people that live and die by it, so Happy Festivus.

Anyway, More Hardball ran a series of posts on the hitting and pitching stat leaders of the decade, and there a plenty of current/former Yankees involved, so let’s recap:

1. Alex Rodriguez- 1190
2. Johnny Damon- 1115
3. Derek Jeter- 1088

1. Ichiro Suzuki- 2030
2. Derek Jeter- 1940
3. Miguel Tejada- 1860

1. Todd Helton- 431
2. Bobby Abreu- 408
3. Albert Pujols- 387

1. Alex Rodriguez- 465
2. Jim Thome- 368
3. Albert Pujols- 366

1. Alex Rodriguez- 1243
2. Albert Pujols- 1112
3. Manny Ramirez- 1106

1. Andy Pettitte- 149
2. Randy Johnson- 143
3. Jamie Moyer- 140

1. Dave Weathers- 713
2. LaTroy Hawkins- 654
3. Mariano Rivera- 651

1. Livan Hernandez- 2201.1
2. Javier Vazquez- 2163
3. Mark Buehrle- 2061

1. Randy Johnson- 2182
2. Javier Vazquez- 2001
3. Johan Santana- 1733

Complete Games:
1. Roy Halladay- 47
2. Livan Hernandez- 36
3. Randy Johnson- 32

1. Roy Halladay- 14
2. Randy Johnson- 12
3T. Tim Hudson- 11
3T. CC Sabathia- 11

1. Mariano Rivera- 397
2. Trevor Hoffman- 363
3T. Jason Isringhausen- 284
3T. Billy Wagner- 284

(min. 1000 innings)
1. Pedro Martinez- 1.036
2. Johan Santana- 1.113
3. Randy Johnson- 1.114

It’s pretty sick that the Yanks’ had the decade’s three greatest run scorers on the team last year, and damn is that A-Rod guy good. Dude hit 97 more homers than any other player over the last ten years. Ninety. Seven. That’s crazy. Even if Pujols played in 2000, A-Rod would still lead by like, 60. Also, it’s pretty impressive how far out ahead of the pack Unit and Javy are in strikeouts. Make sure you click through, there are some other cool stats that didn’t make the cut because there are no Yanks involved.

After you do that, use this bad boy as your open thread. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all in action, but talk about whatever you want. Oh, and Happy Tex Day. Mark Teixeira agreed to a deal with the Yanks a year ago today. Now that’s a holiday worth celebrating.