Miranda back up; Russo back down

Juan gone to AAA no longer. | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees have recalled Juan Miranda from AAA Scranton and have sent Kevin Russo back to the minors, reports Ben Shpigel. Miranda is in the lineup tonight as the Yanks’ DH, and he will be batting eighth against Tampa’s James Shields.

For the 27-year-old Miranda, this is his second stint in the Bronx this year. In his previous stay, he hit .217/.294/.435 with a pair of home runs in 51 plate appearances. Recently back from a minor injury, he had been on a tear at AAA over his last ten games, hitting .459/.545/.838 with three home runs and eight doubles. On the season, his minor league line is .291/.380/.509 with 10 home runs in 175 at bats. He certainly can mash the ball.

Russo has long been the Yanks’ odd man out. He made a splash during the Subway Series in the Yanks’ 2-1 win over the Mets in May and, a few days later, helped down the Twins 3-2. Since then, however, he hasn’t hit or played much at all. He’s had just 28 plate appearances over the team’s last 36 games, and he’s just 3 for 24 in that span. He’s far better off getting regular playing time in Scranton than he is warming the bench in the Bronx.

For Miranda and the Yankees, this could be a semi-permanent move until or unless the team finds a true DH, and it could also be a trade showcase. If the Yanks want to make a move in a few weeks without selling the farm, Miranda could be the perfect trading chip. It could also spell the end to Francisco Cervelli‘s playing time as well because the Yanks would prefer to use Jorge at catcher while Marcus Thames and Miranda share DH duties. Either way, this is a move that was a long time coming.

RAB Live Chat

Join us for the FanGraphs Live Discussion

On Saturday, August 7th, FanGraphs and River Avenue Blues are hosting their first ever Live Discussion. The event will consist of three hours of conversation about baseball, analysis of the sport, and how the game is covered. Hosting the event will be David Appelman and Dave Cameron of FanGraphs along with Joe Pawlikowski, Benjamin Kabak, and Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. Notable guests include former Deadspin editor and author Will Leitch, baseball consultant and analyst Mitchel Lichtman, Wall Street Journal contributor David Biderman, self-proclaimed egomaniac Jonah Keri as well as other writers from FanGraphs and around the web. This is your chance to talk baseball with analysts and fellow fans of the game.

A ticket to the event will cost $15 (plus $1.36 surcharge), and can be purchased here. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York, New York.

Join us for a morning of baseball conversation that will entertain and enlighten.

Ticket prices coming down for tonight’s game

Tonight promises to be a special occasion at Yankee Stadium. Before the second half opens against the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees will pay tribute to George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. YES will carry the pre-game ceremonies, but I figure that many of you will want to go to the game. If you already have tickets the Yankees suggest you be in your seats by 6:45. If you don’t have tickets, well, you might be in luck. After an initial spike in prices following George Steinbrenner’s death Tuesday morning, ticket prices have fallen a bit.

As long as you’re not angling for field-level, you should find some decent ticket prices. (Though I guess that depends on what you consider decent prices.) Check out RAB Tickets and see if anything strikes your fancy. I’d also recommend checking back around 3:00 to see if any prices have dropped at that point.

Going for the Kill: Bring in Adam Dunn

Over the last few weeks I’ve been profiling some players on the trade market that may or may not make some sense for the Yankees and their needs. That series was more or less an introduction to those players, not necessarily an endorsement of their acquisition. This time I’m going to cut right to the chase: I want the Yankees to trade for Adam Dunn.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I had been lukewarm about the idea all year long likely because he’d just be  rental, but the more I think about it, the more I want him in pinstripes. Perhaps the failed Cliff Lee got my hopes up and I’m still trying to cope with the disappointment of losing out on that big fish. Either way, Nick Johnson’s setback means the team currently has no designated hitter, which puts the Yanks at a considerable disadvantage in an ultra-competitive division. Another bat is very much needed in order to keep Ramiro Pena and Colin Curtis and Frankie Cervelli on the bench where they belong.

Scheduled to become a free agent after the season, Dunn is reportedly losing interest in signing a long-term deal with the Nationals. He’s a lock to be a Type-A free agent, and his $12M salary this year isn’t crazy enough to keep a team from declining to offer him arbitration. Even if he were to accept, there are worst things in the world than having a guy that productive signed for one year at $14-15M. It’s not like there are any age related concerns either, Dunn is still very much in the prime of his career at age 30.

Dunn’s credentials are well-known. In an era of baseball that suddenly features fewer homeruns and less offense in general, Dunn is arguably the best and most consistent longball threat in the game, whacking 38-40 homers in each of the last five years. He’s on pace for 39 this season, and that’s without the New Stadium’s short porch in right. All those homers are supplemented by a ton of walks (16.5% walk rate for his career), though he’s traded in some free passes this year in exchange for some more singles, kinda like Nick Swisher. There’s nothing wrong with that, a hit is always better than a walk.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Yes, Dunn does strike out a ton, there’s no denying it. He’s on pace for 191 whiffs this year, which would be the eighth highest single season total in baseball history and the third highest single season total of Dunn’s career. Strikeouts are (usually) the worst possible outcome, but we know that sometimes you have to trade them off for big time power, something Dunn obviously provides. His platoon split isn’t as crazy as you might think; he’s got a .397 career wOBA against righties, and .361 off lefties. That’s more than acceptable.

Dunn is so comically bad at anything on a baseball field aside from swinging a bat that it’s almost not worth mentioning his defense and baserunning. His three-year UZR‘s in the outfield and at first base are -49.4 and -18.6, respectively, among the bottom two scores in the game. So yeah, Dunn has been one the game’s two worst defensive players at not just one, but two positions over the last three years. His last stolen base came in 2008, and he has a grand total of two steals in the last two and a half seasons. Baseball Prospectus’ baserunning stats say he’s cost his teams an even six runs on the bases during that time, which actually isn’t as bad as I expected. That doesn’t change the point though, Dunn is strictly a designated hitter.

Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo maintains that it would take an “extraordinary offer” to pry Dunn loose, but it would be irresponsible of him to ignore offers with his team out of contention (14 games back) and Dunn’s sudden lack of interest in signing a new deal. Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator pegs Dunn’s value at $11.3M assuming a strong second half, which is equivalent to something like a Grade-B pitching prospect plus a Grade-B position player prospect according to Victor Wang’s research. I’m not talking Jesus Montero or Austin Romine here, those guys should only be moved for a super-elite player.

The Yanks have some surplus Grade-B prospects, so they can afford to overpay a little if that’s what a takes. Zach McAllister or Ivan Nova plus one of David Adams or Eduardo Nunez could headline the package with another low level, low probability prospect thrown in for good measure. For comparison’s sake, the last time Dunn was traded (from the Reds to Diamondbacks), he fetched a Grade-C hitting prospect (Wilkin Castillo), a Grade-B pitching prospect (Dallas Buck), and the perpetually over-rated Micah Owings (he can hit, he’s an ace!). Z-Mac/Nova and Adams/Nunez plus a third player isn’t all that far off.

The Yankees already have a fine offense. They lead baseball in on-base percentage at .353, but their power output has dropped off noticeably from last season. They’re on pace for 182 homers as a team (244 last year), and their isolated power has dropped from .195 to .174 from ’09 to ’10. It’s still a very good offense like I said, no doubt about it, but adding Dunn makes it the best in the league, with over-the-fence power everywhere you look.  The Yanks don’t need Adam Dunn, but they didn’t need Cliff Lee either. That didn’t, and shouldn’t, stop them from trying to improve the team wherever possible.

First Half Review: Those who met expectations

Over the past two nights we’ve been reviewing the first half of the Yankees’ season, looking at seven players who’ve exceeded expectations and seven who’ve fallen short. We’ll wrap up this short little series tonight by taking a quick look at those who are shooting par for the course. The guys that are doing pretty much exactly what we expected them to.

(AP Photo/Christine Cotter)

Javy Vazquez

GM Brian Cashman brought Vazquez back for a second tour of duty in Bronx not expecting the Cy Young contender from 2009, but instead a back-of-the-rotation horse that would keep the team in games and chew up innings. Javy went on to do anything but that in the early going. He was so bad through his first five starts (.337/.429/.663 against) that the team skipped his turn despite having the opportunity to give everyone in the rotation an extra day of rest.

Since that skipped start, Vazquez has rebounded nicely and given the Yankees exactly what they wanted from him, if not more. He completed at least seven innings in seven of his next 11 starts, surrendering more than three runs just twice. The Yanks would have done better than just six wins during that stretch if they bothered to score more than 30 runs, just 2.7 per game.

Overall, Javy’s season numbers have come back down to respectable levels. His ERA sits at 4.45, his xFIP at 4.53, and his strikeouts at 7.58 K/9. The Yankees have to be thrilled with how well he’s pitched over the last two months, and right now he’s giving them exactly what they wanted.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Marcus Thames

The Yanks brought Thames in for one reason and one reason only: to mash lefthanded pitchers. By and large, he’s done exactly that. In a limited sample of 57 plate appearances against southpaws (due in part to a hamstring injury), Thames has hit .327/.421/.449. He’s even chipped in nicely against righties (.250/.370/.444 in 46 PA).

Thames has picked up the team’s only two walk-off hits of the season , including what the majority of fans consider to be their favorite moment of the first half. Although his defense in the outfield has left everyone speechless for all the wrong reasons, Thames has generally been a fine reserve player for the Yanks.

Joe Girardi

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It’s hard to judge a manager, unless of course he consistently does things that are so monumentally stupid that you wonder how he ever got into baseball in the first place. Girardi’s job is fairly simple given all the talent on his roster, and really all he had to do was not screw it up. A subpar bullpen and colossal failure of a bench are not his fault, yet he’s managed to keep the regulars rested and not tax the bullpen. The Yanks haven’t just tread water, they’ve thrived.

Girardi’s job doesn’t figure to get any easier in the second half with two key pieces in Nick Johnson and Al Aceves unlikely to come back anytime soon, but there’s enough talent on the roster for the team to remain a force. All he has to do to be successful is exactly what he has been doing.

Honorable Mention: Frankie Cervelli went from super hot to super cold in the first half, but a .305 wOBA while taking some of the catching load off Jorge Posada‘s shoulders is pretty much what we all had in mind coming into the season … Damaso Marte‘s primary job function is to shutdown lefthanders late in the game, and he’s crushed them to the tune of a .146/.200/.268 batting line against … The farm system has also done what we expected it to: pump out useful players to plug the occasional hole on a temporary basis, whether it be Ivan Nova or Colin Curtis or Kevin Russo or Juan Miranda.

Montero goes deep as SWB wins big

Outfielder and 2009 37th rounder Justin Milo retired. Maybe he got an offer to play hockey overseas. If so, good for him. Meanwhile, 2010 6th rounder Gabe Encinas said he’s leaning towards turning pro, though he and the Yankees have yet to sit down and talk about a deal. Encinas is one of the two or three best arms the Yanks drafted this year, and an over-slot bonus is a foregone conclusion.

Triple-A Scranton (12-5 win over Toledo)
Reid Gorecki, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB – threw a runner out at home & at second
Chad Tracy, 3B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K – seven for 16 (.438) since signing
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 3 for 5, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 E (missed catch) – four of his last eight hits have been doubles
Juan Miranda, DH: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 HBP
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) – that’s his second homer in three games since almost being traded for Cliff Lee … ten walks & seven strikeouts in his last nine games … the best news of all is that the league has stopped throwing him fastballs because of his recent hot streak, and he’s still mashing
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K – JoVa drove in three, Reegie two … Vazquez also got hit by a pitch
Eric Bruntlett, RF & Greg Golson, CF: both 2 for 3, 1 R – Bruntlett walked & drove in a run
Sergio Mitre: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 2-4 GB/FB – 43 of his 60 pitches were strikes (71.7%) … he was sitting 89-92 … gotta believe this is his last rehab outing, he should be rejoining the team this weekend
Tim Redding: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 4-6 GB/FB – 57 of 87 pitches were strikes (65.5%)
Boone Logan: 1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – ten of his 11 pitches were strikes

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