Open Thread: The night of tenders

By midnight tonight, every player still pre-free agency will either have been tendered a contract or let go. We are pretty confident that the Yanks are going to non-tender Chien-Ming Wang, and although the team has yet to announce it, they probably will tender Melky Cabrera, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre contracts for next year.

Around baseball, non-tender fever is spreading. The A’s announced earlier this evening that Jack Cust, a potential DH/bench candidate for the Bronx, was non-tendered. The Nationals dumped Mike MacDougal and will probably hand their closer role to — gulp — Brian Bruney. Anyway, Mike is keeping track of all of the non-tenders right here at MLBTR. We’ll update the site when news of the Yanks’ decisions come down.

In the meantime, feel free to use this as your open thread. You know the drill: Anything goes; just play nice. The Rangers, Islanders and Devils all are in action tonight, and “Lost” Again features two great episodes after midnight tonight on ABC. So we have that going for us.

When the Yanks almost traded Jorge Posada

So here’s a fun little bit of Yankee history for you: In December 1995, the Yankees tried to trade Jorge Posada and could not. When the Yankees were negotiated with the Mariners over Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada was originally in the deal. The Mariners, Jack Curry reported on Dec. 5, 1995, did not want to give up Jeff Nelson and Tino Martinez for Sterling Hitchcock and Jorge Posada. The Yanks, meanwhile, were hesitant to include Russ Davis in the deal. Eventually, Hitchcock and Davis, but not Jorge, went west. I’d say the Yanks made a good choice.

Three weeks later, though, George Steinbrenner personally tried to off-load Posada, and this time, the Yanks got lucky. As Murray Chass reported on Dec. 27, 1995, the Boss who desperately wanted David Wells called then-Reds GM Jim Bowden to offer him Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera for the larger-than-life lefty. Bowden decided he preferred Curtis Goodwin. A bad move by the Reds turned into a great one for the Yanks. (Hat tip to Bryan Hoch.)

Bidding farewell to Ian Patrick Kennedy

Signing free agent relief pitchers to large, guaranteed contracts is a high-risk maneuver. The Yankees have learned this over the years, as they’ve signed previously good relievers only to see them falter in pinstripes. Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, and Kyle Farnsworth come immediately to mind. The former two had varying degrees of success, but ultimately were not worth the investment. One pitcher who did work out was Tom Gordon, and for a number of reasons. Not only did he mostly pitch effectively in 2004 and 2005 while setting up Mariano Rivera, but he paved the way for the 2006 draft.

After the 2005 season, the Yankees offered Gordon arbitration, but he declined, eventually signing with the Phillies. Even though the Yankees sacrificed their own first round pick that winter by signing Johnny Damon, they picked up the Phillies’, and then a supplemental pick between rounds one and two. With those the Yankees drafted Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom shot through the minors and pitched for the big league club in late 2007.

Chamberlain was the high-ceiling, risk pick. Other teams backed off because of a triceps injury, but the Yankees could afford to pounce in the supplemental round. Kennedy was the safer pick. As Mike said on draft day:

Solid pick, but very safe and conservative. He’s not far away from the Bronx. He’s a bit undersized (6’0″, 180) and he doesn’t throw hard, but he’s a winner and strikeout machine.

Mike also described his ceiling as a No. 2, but that was based on Kennedy recovering his fastball speed. After sitting 92-93 in his first two college seasons, Kennedy dipped to 89-91 his Junior year. The point is that Kennedy was never supposed to be a top of the rotation starter, a la Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. He was the middle of the rotation, possibly back of the rotation guy who had the command to succeed in the bigs.

We didn’t see much of that command. In Kennedy’s 2008 audition it looked like he was downright afraid to put the ball in the strike zone. It’s a shame, because that was one of his strengths. Without that, he predictably failed. Then came the injuries. Though he only lasted a little bit in the majors in 2008, he pitched just 77 minor league innings because of back troubles. His innings total was even lower in 2008 because of an aneurysm in his right armpit. No, Kennedy didn’t do himself any favors in 2008, but he also didn’t catch any breaks.

I think Chad Jennings has a great take on Kennedy. He’s seen him pitch more than any of us, and comes in with a great conclusion to Kennedy’s pinstriped career: “Two bad months in the big leagues — as a 23 year old with one year of professional experience — is hardly enough to judge Kennedy as a pitcher.” He goes onto describe Kennedy’s recovery this fall; he’s working in a two-seam fastball and has started to use his curveball to induce bad contact rather than a swing and miss.

We’ve always liked Kennedy at RAB, hence “Save the Big Three.” But, as many people pointed out at the time, it was really, “Save the Big Two and think hard about what you do with Kennedy.” He was never a player who would hold up a trade, and after two years of ineffectiveness and bad luck, the Yankees decided not to make him an obstacle in the Curstis Granderson trade. It was probably in their best interests. But I’m definitely going to miss Kennedy. He could have played a role on this team.

Report: Yanks interested in Ryota Igarashi

With Brian Bruney and Phil Coke exiled to Washington and Detroit and Phil Hughes slotted for the starting rotation, the Yanks’ bullpen is in flux right now. Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Al Aceves and probably Chad Gaudin are guaranteed to hold down five of the spots with a variety of young arms ticketed for some Spring Training auditions. In an effort to secure one of the open slots, the Yankees may be looking to Japan. According to Yakyu Baka, the Yanks are one of at least seven teams interested in Ryota Igarashi.

Igarashi is a 30-year-old reliever, and NPB Tracker called him “the top free agent coming out of Japan” earlier this season. He sports a mid-90s fastball but has had some command problems over the course of his career. He missed 2007 to Tommy John surgery but has rebounded nicely over the last two seasons, striking out 86 in 97.1 innings. Prior to 2009, he had struck out 586 in 516.1 innings while walking 221. Video of a mid-decade appearance is available here on YouTube.

While Yankee fans are wary of Japanese pitchers after the Kei Igawa debacle, Japanese relievers have fared better than starters, and Igarashi’s stuff translates nicely to a Major League bullpen. Igarashi could be a good pick up for the team. He would offer them a live arm for their bullpen and probably at the right price as well. Yakyu Baka reports that Igarashi wants a two-year deal at $2-$3 million per, and for that money, the Yanks should kick the tires on this one.

Coke a starter in Detroit? Not likely

The Curtis Granderson trade hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It still feels like Ajax the Great is still the team’s No. 2 prospect. It feel like we’ll still be wondering if IPK can break camp in the bullpen. But most of all, it feels like Phil Coke will still play a part in relief. It’s part of the odd nature of the off-season. We grow so used to these players over seven months and over 170 games, and in a matter of 20 hours everything changes.

Coke’s inclusion in the Granderson trade seemed like a token gesture. A “yeah we’re clearly getting the better player, so here’s a major league bullpen arm to make you feel better about yourself” throw-in. He’ll help them out, for sure, especially with a weak bullpen that will lose its top two pitchers. But will he really add more than a half win above replacement? Judging from his 2008, I doubt it. But the Tigers will want to get the greatest possible value from him.

Might that be in the rotation? Coke hasn’t pitched in that role since July 25, 2008, but it appears the Tigers might see if he can stick in that role. “There is a chance, by all means,” said GM Dave Dombrowski of Coke’s chances to be a starter. “I’d not be surprised if he had that opportunity.” Chris from iYankees thinks that it could add immense value to Detroit in the trade. “If Coke becomes a decent left-handed starter for the Tigers behind current ace Justin Verlander and future ace Max Scherzer, then the trade package they received earlier this week will be viewed as an even more valuable haul.” Problem is, it almost certainly won’t happen.

During the Winter Meetings I talked to Chad Jennings about Coke. He loved what he saw in relief in late 2008, but recalled an instance earlier in the year where Coke failed horribly as a starter. That was on June 3, when he allowed eight hits over three innings. Clearly, no one should judge a starter based on one start, but it’s just another bit of evidence in a long string suggest that Coke’s optimal place is in the bullpen.

Never one of the Yankees big-time prospects, Coke ambled around the minors, finally finding success in A+ ball in 2006, and continuing it the next year. By age 25, with Trenton, he definitely hit a groove, and maybe that was a product of his maturing a bit late. But, by most accounts, he just doesn’t have the stuff to be a major league starter. Even out of the bullpen in 2009, we saw his weaknesses exposed. His slider is his secondary pitch, and I hate to think what major league hitters would do to a third pitch.

I personally liked Phil Coke and thought that he was a good option out of the pen at certain points in the season. There were stretches of games where he’d throw 75, 80 percent strikes and retire everyone he faced. But there were also stretches where he hung his slider and allowed a ton of homers. I can’t imagine him improving on that situation in the rotation. Starters are more valuable than relievers, and teams should explore rotation options for their best pitchers. I just don’t think it’s a realistic possibility for Coke.

Davidoff: Yanks will not tender Wang

Wang

The deadline for teams to offer contracts to players under their control is midnight tonight, and Ken Davidoff reports that the Yankees will not tender Chien-Ming Wang a contract. Davidoff initially reported this development six days ago via Twitter and confirms it tonight.

Says the brief subscribers’ only article on Newsday’s website:

The Yankees’ top priority this offseason remains improving their starting rotation. On Saturday, however, they’ll bid farewell to the pitcher who has won the most games since Brian Cashman became a bona fide general manager. Chien-Ming Wang, still rehabilitating after right shoulder surgery, will not be tendered a contract by the Yankees Saturday. He might very well top the list of non-tenders throughout the industry…

Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, has said the righthander could be ready by Opening Day, but Cashman said this past week that he thinks Wang will be back sometime between April and June. The Yankees simply don’t think Wang will be able to contribute in any significant fashion in 2010.”

Wang, who turns 30 in March, was signed by the Yanks as an international free agent in 2000. He made his Major League debut in 2005 and turned in three very strong seasons for the Yanks at a time when the team couldn’t find pitching. In mid-2008, though, disaster struck when Wang suffered a freak Lisfranc injury while running the bases during an Interleague Play game in Houston.

After sitting out the second half of 2008 while rehabbing his foot, the sinker ball specialist attempted a comeback in 2009. He suffered through a bout of horrendous ineffectiveness early on. In his first three appearances of the year, he lasted just 6 innings and allowed 23 earned runs on 23 hits and six walks. After spending a month on the disabled list to build up his lower body strength, he came back in late May and was better. Over his final nine games for the Yanks, he went 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA in 36 innings. Encouraging for Wang were the 27 strike outs, but he left his July 4th start with shoulder pains. A few weeks later, after three different opinions, he opted for labrum surgery, the second major arm procedure of his career.

At this point, the Yankees are moving forward without Wang in their plans. He says that a Bronx return remains his first choice, and as a non-tendered free agent, he could come back to the Yanks on a low base salary with some incentives. The Dodgers, however, will be very keen to bid for his services.

Still, even before his injury, the Yanks were wary of Wang’s long-term ability to get outs. They want to arbitration with him after the 2007 season over a matter of $600,000 and then saw his sinker ball lose its effectiveness during the first half of 2008. Had the Yanks tendered Wang, they would have owed him at least $4 million in 2010, and that was a financial risk the team was simply unwilling to take.

Wang was a shining star on the Yanks when the team had no pitching. He was always calm and collected on the hill, and he was a true superstar in his native Taiwan. If this is the end of the Yanks’ relationship with Wang, I’ll tip my hat to Number 40 and wish him well wherever he lands. A promising career cut short by a freak accident is a sad even to witness indeed.

After the jump, a photo from the Yanks’ rookie hazing efforts in 2005. Hard to believe how far Wang, grinning happily in that photo, and the Yanks have come since then. [Read more…]

Open Thread: Looking at the Granderson Trade

Someone asked about using the Trade Value Calculator to analyze the Curtis Granderson deal in our Lice Chat earlier today (it’s part of our public awareness campaign, lice is a serious issue among children age 4-15), so I figured it would make for a good open thread topic. I’ve used the Trade Value Calculator before, once for King Felix and once for Josh Johnson, but it’s not a serious analysis tool. It’s just something fun to look at, really.

Here’s what the Yanks gained and lost in the deal. Make sure you click to get a larger view.

Granderson Trade Value Calc1

Here’s my assumptions:

  1. All WAR data, basically best case progression for each player.
  2. Salary for the remainder of Kennedy and Coke’s pre-arbitration years.
  3. Granderson being a Type-A free agent when his contract is up, Kennedy a Type-B, and Coke a Type-nothing.

Based on Victor Wang’s research, Austin Jackson is worth $23.4M in a trade (top 26-50 hitting prospect), so that makes the total value of the three players the Yankees gave up $62.6M. Granderson, as you can see, is worth either $39.9M or $48.2M depending on whether or not his option picked up. On the surface, the Yankees lost the trade. If you’re curious to see the entire three team trade, click here. As you can see, Detroit wins big.

I have no idea how to (or even if you can) post an editable spreadsheet, so if you want to play around with the Trade Value Calculator, you can download it here. Remember, this is not a serious analysis, so don’t get too upset that the Yanks “lost” the deal.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all in action. Have at it.