It’s official, Granderson’s a Yankee

Joel Sherman tweets that the three-team deal that will bring Curtis Granderson to New York is now official. All the medicals checked out, and the clubs will have their press conferences soon. Joe will be there, so hopefully we get a decent quote or two.

The depth chart has been updated. Welcome to the Bronx, Curtis.

Previewing the Rule 5 draft

We’re hearing some buzz surrounding the Yanks’ first pick in tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft, so let’s take a look at what they’re saying.

  • First up is ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who says that the Yankees “are shopping the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.” I doubt this happens. What they’d get in return probably wouldn’t outweigh the possible upside of the pick, so chances are they’ll just hold onto it. The only way I can see them dishing it is if they get back a player not on a team’s 40-man roster (and not Rule 5 eligible).
  • As for who they’ll take, FanHouse’s Frank Piliere thinks it will be Arquimedes Caminero. Piliere “scouted him extensively this year,” and it sounds like the pick has his blessing. The problem is that he’s 22 and pitched just 40.2 innings in relief last year, only 2.1 of which came as high as A+. Players can make that kind of jump, but it’s unlikely he’d stick.
  • Speaking of A+ ball players, Baseball America’s John Manuel lists a few names, including Jason Rice of the Red Sox. He throws gas and dominated A+, striking out 94 in 70 innings. He walked 41, though, which makes him an unlikely pick.
  • Manuel mentions two other names: Bobby Cassevah of the Angels, a ground ball machine (4.03 GO/FO ratio) who pitched to a 3.68 ERA in AA last season. Craig Baker is another name. He struck out 75 in 63 innings while closing games for the Rockies class A affiliate.
  • Chad Jennings likes Chad Tracy and Matt McBride, both of whom are right-handed outfielders who can play first base and catch. Mike mentioned Tracy in his Rule 5 post the other day.
  • Personally, I think it will be Yohan Pino. He’s more advanced than the other candidates who has displayed great control in the minors. He also owns a 1.15 WHIP. Then there’s Tommy Mendoza, also of the Angels, who also has good control.

We’re less than 24 hours from the draft. If the Internet permits, I’ll set up a chat tomorrow morning.

Winter Meetings Live Chat (Take Two)

Yanks still exploring the Halladay possibility

“Pitching, pitching, pitching — and left field.” Whenever we’re talking about potential Yankees moves, we’ll refer back to that mantra from Cashman. He made the team’s priorities clear on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, and with the reported signing of Andy Pettitte and trade for Curtis Granderson, we can see he’s serious. There are multiple instances of “pitching” in that mantra, though, meaning the Yankees aren’t done strengthening their 2010 pitching staff, whether that be through free agency or a trade.

The biggest name on the trade market, of course, is Roy Halladay, and the Yankees continue to monitor the situation. Joel Sherman likens the situation to Mark Teixeira. Last year, after signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Cashman had to convince ownership to expand payroll for Teixeira. His arguments were strong, and obviously ownership eventually agreed. If Cashman really wants to add Halladay for 2010, he’ll have to come up with an even stronger case.

Sherman notes two points on Teixeira that won over Hal Steinbrenner last winter. First was the swing from the Red Sox to the Yankees. Teixeira was clearly the Sox’s top target, and to lure him away would not only improve the Yankees, but hurt the Sox. It’s not smart to make moves just because of your rival, however, and that’s the basis for the second point. The Yankees would eventually need another bat, and Teixeira appeared to be the best not only in 2009, but for years to come. Those points, unfortunately, won’t play as well with Halladay.

Yes, the Red Sox are involved on Halladay, but it doesn’t appear they’re as serious as they were on Teixeira. That could change in the next few days or weeks, but Theo Epstein has indicated that the next year or two are part of a “bridge period,” which could mean that the Sox won’t make an enormous splash. Again, this could all be posturing and could change at any time. But as it stands now, the Sox are not as serious players for Halladay as they were for Teixeira.

To the second point, the Yankees might, at some point in the near future, need to add another big arm. Future free agent markets, however, could feature a number of them. Halladay himself, in fact, could be a free agent at the end of next season. A number of other arms could hit the market as well, so the Yankees certainly could find that big arm without sacrificing prospects. Plus, if Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes takes a step forward this season, the need for a big arm will be reduced.

Cashman’s trump card this year, should he choose to play it, is the dominance factor. A rotation of Sabathia, Halladay, Burnett, Pettitte, and Chamberlain/Hughes would be the league’s best. Even if they lost one of those five to injury, they would still be in decent shape. Then, as Sherman notes, when they get to the playoffs they wouldn’t have to start anyone of short rest. Pettitte would be an excellent fill-in for Game 4s. In that sense, the Yankees could justify expanding payroll for Halladay.

Yet payroll is not the only consideration. The Blue Jays will not give away Halladay. It will cost plenty in prospects. If the Yankees are so inclined, the Blue Jays have great interest in Jesus Montero. He is the Yankees top prospect, and his loss would be even tougher because the Yankees just traded their second best prospect, Austin Jackson. Will the Yankees trade one of the top five hitting prospects in the game, even for Roy Halladay, even when their next best hitting prospect isn’t nearly as good?

Further complication the issue is how the Blue Jays view Montero. He’s still a catcher, and figures to start 2010 at that position in either AA or AAA if he stays with the Yankees. According to Sherman, however, the Blue Jays view him as a first baseman, and accordingly wouldn’t accept him as the center piece of a deal. This seems like posturing to me — an attempt to get even more out of the Yankees. Most of the reporters covering the trade assume that the Yankees would have to package Hughes or Chamberlain with Montero to acquire Halladay. I just don’t see that.

Best pitcher in baseball or not, Halladay is under contract for only one more year, at a slightly below open market salary. The Blue Jays have a right to demand two top flight players for him, but, because you never get more than what you ask, they’re going to start high. As they continue talking to teams, I think that price will come down. Montero himself will not get it done, but Montero and a lesser pitcher might. This, of course, depends on offers from other teams, but the general idea is that no team will come close to a Montero/Chamberlain package.

Over the past few days, the Angels have emerged as a Halladay suitor. The latest report has them willing to trade Erick Aybar, a player they considered untouchable in July. They’ve since traded prospect Sean Rodriguez and lose Chone Figgins to free agency, though, so they’d be suffering a huge hit by losing Aybar — it could lead to a left side of the infield featuring Brandon Wood and Miguel Tejada. But even with Aybar, the Angels don’t appear to have an adequate pitcher. Reports have mentioned Joe Saunders, but he’s arbitration eligible and not a top flight starter. The Jays, knowing their position in the AL East, want young, controllable, high-ceiling players. Saunders and Aybar likely won’t cut it.

If the Angels don’t have what the Blue Jays seek, if the Red Sox want to build with young players over the next two years, and if the Dodgers’ ownership situation precludes any big payroll additions, the Yankees are in a good position on Halladay. He still won’t come cheap, but it’s doubtful he’ll cost Montero and Hughes/Chamberlain. That should make the Yankees a bit more flexible in dealing for him. I still doubt they do it, but given their position compared to other teams, the chance is there if they want it.

Yanks, Pettitte agree on one year, $11.75M deal

In an entirely unsurprising move, the Yankees and Andy Pettitte agreed today on a one year contract to bring the lefty back to Bronx. After earning a $5.5M base salary and another $5M in incentives last year, Pettitte gets $11.75M guaranteed in 2010, with no incentives.

“Andy is unique in that he’s only interested in playing for one team,” said agent Randy Hendricks. “It limits what I normally do, but that’s Andy.”

The 37-year-old southpaw was on the mound when the Yankees clinched the AL East, the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series in 2009. He fell just short of his fifth consecutive 200+ IP season, finishing at 194.2. For the first time in three years, Pettitte allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and he’ll presumably slot into the third spot in the rotation.

Following yesterday’s pickup of Curtis Granderson, the Yanks have about $182M committed to just 12 players in 2010. Most of the bullpen and bench will be made up of guys making close to minimum, so it’s more like $187M for 22 or 23 guys. The payroll is expected to be between $190-200M next year, meaning they have roughly $10M to figure out leftfield, designated hitter, and possibly another pitcher.

Extreme Makeover: Yankees edition

Of all the Yankee teams since 1996, the 2008 edition is one we would all most like to forget. For the first time since the pre-strike days of 1993, the team missed the playoffs, and they do so in a spectacularly unmemorable fashion with 13 starting pitchers and Darrel Rasner as their de facto third starter.

That year, the Yanks’ biggest issues went hand in hand. They were an old team, and they suffered through far too many injuries. Behind Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte (36) and Mike Mussina (39) were expected to anchor the pitching rotation. Around the diamond, Jorge Posada (36) would have manned the plate with Jason Giambi (37) at first, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, a pair of 34-year-olds at the corner outfield positions, and Hideki Matsui (34) as the DH. After Posada and Matsui went down with injuries and the pitching turned sour, the team limped to an 89-73 finish.

Since then, we have witnessed a veritable age movement in the Bronx, and come Opening Day 2010, the Yanks’ roster will look nothing similar to the 2008 edition. Of course, the roster will still have its fair share of old men. Derek Jeter will be playing his age 36(!) season and Posada his age 37. A-Rod will turn 35 in late July; Mariano Rivera will be an ageless 40; and Andy Pettitte 38. But that’s it.

With the arrival of Curtis Granderson, the Yankees have become a team more focused on youth and athleticism than any Yankee team in recent years. Around the infield, we’ll see Mark Teixeira (30) and Robinson Cano (26). Nick Swisher (29), Granderson (29) and, as it stands right now, Melky Cabrera (25) will star in the under-30 outfield club. Even if the Yanks do something crazy — such as sign Matt Holliday as iYankees urges them to do — they would be bringing about a 30-year-old. We can’t forget that the Yanks’ Opening Day starter will be playing his age 29 season and that two other potential cogs in the rotation or bullpen will both be playing their age 24 seasons.

Thus, in the space of just two years, Brian Cashman has won a World Series and reestablished the Yankees as a team eying long-term dominance. This isn’t the one-and-done teams from the mid-2000s that seemed to be reliable on aging sluggers and weak pitchers. This is a deal that, if all the pieces fit properly, could make a good run of it over the next three or fours years.

More impressive though are the costs. To put this team together cost the Yankees a pretty penny in dollars and nearly nothing in prospects. Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are products of the farm system. Nick Swisher came from Chicago in exchange for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nuñez. Sabathia and Teixeira were free agents, and for Curtis Granderson, they had to give up Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.

To build a better club, to become younger and more versatile, the Yankees did not have to sacrifice two thirds of the Big Three. They kept the two guys with the best stuff, and the two guys with the highest ceilings. They still have a farm system with a few live arms, a few intriguing outfielders and a catcher carrying lofty expectations and a very big bat. That, my friends, is one extreme baseball makeover in very little time. It’s why Brian Cashman has been holding court in his hotel room in Indianapolis, and it’s why the Yankees probably aren’t quite through yet with their off-season plans.

On Granderson and pulling the ball

In the 19 hours or so since the Yanks agreed to acquire Curtis Granderson, much has been written about his offensive dip last year. Joe noted his shift from groundballs to fly balls last month, however Bill at The Detroit Tiger Weblog took a much more in-depth look at Granderson’s gradual shift in not just hitting more balls in the air, but pulling more balls as well. He notes that the biggest problem is that many of the balls Granderson put in play to the opposite field were simple pop-ups, which caused his batting average (and BABIP) to plummet. Make sure you check it out, it’s a great read.