Javy Vazquez and the arbitration question

I posted the following at MLBTR on Thursday, but it’s relevant to the Yankees so I’m going to syndicate it here for discussion purposes …

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Yankees haven’t offered a single free agent, Type-A or B, arbitration in either of the last two years because they were afraid of getting stuck with an unwanted player at an unwanted price (had they accepted), but it stood to reason that they would make such an offer to righthander Javier Vazquez. As one of the game’s few true workhorses with a long track record, he was all but a lock to decline arbitration after 2010 and seek a multi-year deal (perhaps his last) elsewhere. Now four months into the season, suddenly that scenario doesn’t seem as likely.

Vazquez’s season has been quite the roller coaster. The 34-year-old posted a 9.78 ERA in his first five starts, a 2.75 ERA in his next 11, and then a 6.43 ERA in his last five outings. The team has indicated that he’s currently battling through a “dead arm” period, and last night Vazquez himself acknowledged that he’s got a lot of miles on his arm and they may be catching up to him. Only Livan Hernandez has thrown more innings since the start of the 2000 season, and Javy’s fastball velocity is down noticeably this season.

In the grand scheme of things, Vazquez’s strikeout (7.0 K/9) and walk (3.5 BB/9) rates this season are among the worst of his career, and he’s on pace to throw slightly more than 176 innings, which would be his lowest total since 1999. Still, he’s well on his way to being a Type-A free agent after the season, but given his underwhelming performance and that aforementioned workload, an arbitration offer becomes a much riskier proposition.

With an $11.5MM salary this season, the Yankees would have to consider the possibility of Vazquez accepting arbitration and receiving a salary upwards of $13MM next season. We laugh at the idea of the Yanks having a budget, but that could put a serious dent in the payroll with the team expected to heavily pursue Cliff Lee.

When the Yankees re-acquired Vazquez from the Braves in the offseason, they apparently considered two draft picks part of the package since he comfortably projected to be a Type-A free agent. It’s easy to understand why they’d think that following a season in which he placed fourth in the Cy Young voting, but as it tends to do, time may have changed things.

* * *

That’s the dumbed down version of the situation awaiting the Yankees and Vazquez after the season, but you all know what’s going on. Personally, I wouldn’t offer him arbitration because there’s so much risk involved right now. Javy’s clearly not the guy he was White Sox any more, let along the guy he was with the Braves last year. The velocity’s down, he’s obviously very aware of it, and the potential of getting stuck with him for $13M+ next year (even on a one year deal) is too great for my liking.

I like draft picks as much as anyone, especially when you’re talking about next year’s epiphany draft, but I like not overpaying for declining players even more. If Vazquez can’t find a multi-year deal on the open market, which is not out of the question given the current market and economy, he’ll accept arbitration like Carl Pavano and Rafael Soriano did last year. I wouldn’t risk it, but that’s just me.

Cashman’s best offseason move

Credit: Sipkin/New York Daily News

Brian Cashman had a tough offseason coming into 2010.  While many of his moves made sense at the time, several of Cashman’s offseason trades and signings have not worked out.  Nick Johnson is likely out for the season after less than 100 plate appearances.  Javy Vazquez has at least provided innings, but otherwise has been much worse than expected.  Curtis Granderson, so far, has not rebounded from his poor 2009 and will need to hope Kevin Long can get him straightened out with an overhaul of his swing.  Chan Ho Park and Randy Winn, again signings that made sense, were disasters.  All of this brings me to one move that Cashman nailed in the offseason: Marcus Thames.

Thames was brought in to mash left handed pitching.  Cash likely had some visions of Thames playing the OF, but the injury to Johnson has for the most part left Thames in the DH role.  That’s a good thing.  Thames is a butcher in the outfield, but we knew this before he was signed.  Keep him out of the outfield at all costs. Despite doing everything asked of him and more, Thames has seemed to get no love this year which is unfortunate.

It started for Thames in spring training when he could not buy a hit.  He went 7 for 52 putting up a stunning .135/.182/.269 line.  Just 33 at-bats into spring training people already wanted Thames cut (Ed. Note: Like this idiot).  Small sample size be damned, people were killing the Thames signing and instead wanted the Yankees to keep Jamie Hoffmann, or explore the Jermaine Dye, Gary Sheffield market.  Luckily cooler heads prevailed and Thames made the cut.

Thames shining moment of the season, when he was finally appreciated by the majority of fans quickly disappeared.  On Monday May 17th Thames did the thing that Yankees fans might enjoy most for a regular season game.  Hit a walkoff against Jonathan Papelbon.  It doesn’t get much better than that, and remember, Paps is a right handed pitcher, so it wasn’t what Thames was brought in for.  If Thames had struck out there I would not have been surprised nor pissed at him, it’s not his primary role.  24 hours later of course it all came crashing down as Thames dropped a ball in the outfield that led to a Yankees loss, again against the Sox.  Thames was nearly in tears after the game; probably as much for the reception he would get from fans as he was for blowing the game.  Again though, Thames was outside of his element, he had no business being in the field in the 9th inning of a close game.

Getting back to Thames’ actual role he could not be doing a better job.  He is hitting .343/.416/.448 off left handed pitchers.  More shockingly Thames is even destroying right handed pitchers this year to the tune of a .283/.386/.500 line.  For a guy who was only brought in to hit lefties, could he have possibly brought more to the table than he has?

Yankees sign tenth rounder Ben Gamel

Via Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have signed tenth round pick Ben Gamel for $500,000, though the deal has not yet been officially announced. His bonus exceeds MLB’s recommended slot by $350,000. A pure hitter like his brother (and Brewers’ prospect) Mat, Gamel has a sweet lefty swing that produces line drives from gap-to-gap. He’s not much of a power threat right now, but he has a chance to grow into some as he puts some weight on his 5-foot-11, 170 lb. frame. A corner outfielder in the long-term, his non-hit tools are nothing special, but he’s got a rep of being a big time grinder. Here’s video.

Once Gamel’s signing is made official, the Yanks will have 12 of their first 13 picks under contract.

Yankees sign ninth rounder Taylor Morton

Via Jim Callis, the Yankees have signed ninth round pick Taylor Morton for $450,000, exactly three times over slot. Coming out of a Tennessee high school, the 6-foot-3, 200 lb. righthander was inconsistent with his velocity this spring, though he did top out around 94-95 mph. Morton also throws a really good changeup and a curve, and is arguably the best pitching prospect the Yanks drafted this year based on the total package – present stuff, future projection, and command. Here’s video.

It doesn’t look like the Yanks will hand out a seven-figure bonus this year, but they’ve still gone over slot more than a half-dozen times. That’s good news though, because I’ve been pretty amazed that the Yanks managed to sign a player at the price they did on several occasions, including Morton. They’re getting some serious bargains this year.

After the rain, Yanks drop a close one to KC

Lightning streaked over the Big K during a rain delay of over two hours. Credit: AP Photo, Orlin Wagner

For the second time this season, the Yankees and Royals sat through a lengthy rain delay, but for the Bombers, the payoff wasn’t worth the two hour and ten minute wait. Despite a ninth inning threat against Joakim Soria, the Yanks couldn’t get a big hit, and Billy Butler’s 5th inning home run stood as the winning run in a 4-3 game. The Yanks played their fifth one-run game in a row, and as Tampa Bay and Boston both lost, the AL East playoff picture stays static for another day.

The Bad: Dustin Moseley and the Curse of the RISP

Billy Butler's fifth inning home run amidst the rain drops held up. Credit: AP Photo, Orlin Wagner

After three solid starts and a one-hit relief appearance against the Royals last month, Dustin Moseley couldn’t command his stuff. It took him nearly 60 pitches to get through the first six outs of the game, and the Royals plated three runs on a double and a bunch of seeing-eye singles in the bottom of the second. Moseley settled down a bit after that, but a Billy Butler home run with one out and rain falling in the fifth doomed the Yanks.

Moseley ended up with the loss after a 4.1-inning outing cut short by the weather. He allowed eight hits and three walks while striking out just one, and some nifty defensive work behind him prevented the Royals from breaking the game wide open. The bloom has come off his rose a bit, but the Yankees, meanwhile, had their chances. They went just 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position with all three of those hits coming in the third inning. From the fourt inning on, they were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. After the rain delay, it seemed as though the teams were just going through the motions when play resumed at 11:30 p.m. central time.

After returning from the rain delay, the Bombers made a late go of it against Joakim Soria. The young Royals relief stud allowed a single by Derek Jeter. Then, Curtis Granderson laid into two pitches. The first was pulled foul, and the second was a shot to the warning track in left field. After Mark Teixeira struck out, A-Rod singled up the middle, but Jeter could make it only to third.

That Jeter was still only on first when A-Rod was up remained a mystery to me. Soria isn’t particularly fast to the plate, and Jason Kendall, with a league average caught stealing rate, isn’t a particularly adept thrower behind the plate. The Yanks had to put themselves in a position to tie the game on a single, but Jeter never stole. With runers on first and third, Robinson Cano bounced out to second to end a long game.

The Good: Brett Gardner‘s Arm and the bullpen

Brett Gardner nailed Gregor Blanco with a strong throw to the plate in the first inning. Credit: AP Photo, Orlin Wagner

Despite the outcome, Brett Gardner and the bullpen deserve some praise. In the first inning, Gregor Blanco singled and later stole second. Billy Butler bounced a base hit between short and third, and as Blanco rounded third, Gardner came up throwing. He mailed a perfect one-bounce throw to Jorge Posada to nail Blanco. As Posada held onto the ball — but not his glove — Gardner earned his ninth assist of the season.

Also of note was the relief work today. After Dustin Moseley’s start was cut short by the rain, Chad Gaudin, Kerry Wood, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless, hitless baseball. The only base runner the Royals managed after the rain delay came on a walk issued by Gaudin to restart action in the 5th. Logan hasn’t allowed a lefty to reach base since the end of June when he hit Ichiro with a pitch, and Wood has been impressive since arriving from the Indians.

Box Scores Galore

ESPN, Fangraphs.

After Jeter’s ninth inning single, the Yanks’ win expectancy was still around 30 percent, but it just went down from there.

Up Next

It’s a Saturday night special, as Phil Hughes (13-5, 3.92) faces off against Sean O’Sullivan (1-3, 5.05) at 7 p.m. Eastern time. If that match-up seems familiar, that’s because these two pitchers have already faced each other twice this season. Rain is thankfully not in the forecast.

Murphy makes DotF history with big night

Aceves during tonight's rehab outing. (Photo Credit: Robert Pimpsner)

The hottest prospect in the minors last week? That would be Jesus Montero according to Prospect Hot Sheet. Right behind him is Manny Banuelos, who was third. Meanwhile, Kevin Goldstein drops some knowledge on ManBan today (sub. req’d), saying he’s been up to 94-95 with the fastball. That would be a rather exciting development if true.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Toledo)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Reid Gorecki, LF: both 2 for 4, 1 R – Nunez drove in a run, stole two bags & walked … Gorecki doubled twice, swiped a bag & K’ed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 1 K – 14 for his last 30 (.467) with four doubled & three homers
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 B, 1 K – four game hit streak, but he’s only four for 18 (.222) during that stretch
Colin Curtis, RF & Chad Huffman, DH: both 0 for 4, 1 K
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB – ten for his last 30 with two doubles, a triple & three homers
Ivan Nova: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 7-6 GB/FB – 61 of 98 pitches were strikes … I’m tell you, it’s no accident that he and Dustin Moseley are lined up and pitching on the same schedule
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0-2 GB/FB – eight of 15 pitches were strikes
Jon Albaladejo: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0-2 GB/FB – 12 of his 20 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 115: Keep it going

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Considering the general mood around the interweb about the Yankees in the last few days, you’d be hard pressed to believe that they’re actually 4-2 in their last six games. I know, crazy, right?

The goal of tonight’s game is to simply keep the good times going. Dustin Moseley will take his Aaron Small act on the road to Kansas City to face the imminently beatable Kyle Davies, and tonight Joe Girardi will have Mariano Rivera at his disposal. It would be nice to give Mo another day off though, he has worked in four of the last six games after all, so a sizable lead and some Chad Gaudin action in the late innings would be welcome. We fans need an easy win, August has been stressful as hell.

Here’s the starting nine…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Berkman, DH
Kearns, RF
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, it’s Dustin Moseley.

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET on what I’m sure is another sweltering hot night in Kansas City. YES has the broadcast, as they almost always do. Enjoy.

Update (11:45 p.m.): After a lengthy rain delay, the Yankees and the Royals will resume play at approximately midnight eastern time. The Royals are leading 4-3 with a runner out and one out in the bottom of the 5th. Chad Gaudin is currently warming for the Yankees in the bullpen.

Update (11:57 p.m.): Just kidding about that midnight start time. With lightning nearby, Joe Girardi pulled the team off the field, and the grounds crew has put the tarp back on. We wait.

Update (12:30 a.m.): Game on.