Notes: Jeter, A-Rod, Swisher, Gordon

Lots of stuff to round up this afternoon…

  • Derek Jeter will not play in the All-Star Game next week. He wants to rest and play it safe after coming back from the calf injury.
  • Alex Rodriguez is being sent for a precautionary MRI on his right knee. The knee’s been bothering him for a while, and Alex has already withdrawn from the All-Star Game.
  • Nick Swisher is out of the lineup tonight with a sore left quad. Thank goodness the break is coming up, sounds like everyone could use a few days off.
  • So long, Brian Gordon. The right-hander is heading to Korea after a team over there purchased his contract. The Yankees reportedly received $25,000 for their troubles. Thanks for the two starts, man.

The Yankees connection to Mike Trout

It’s clear to even the greenhorn baseball fan that unless you bleed pinstripes, you pretty much loathe them. The feeling is completely understandable. The Yankees have won far more championships than any other team, which sets in a measure of jealousy. There is also the infamous Yankee Greed: their shameless pursuit of free agents no matter the cost. You can look right to a recent Hardball Talk post for a shining example. There are few instances where I can disparage someone their Yankee hatred.

Angels fans, however, should be thankful that the Yankees got greedy in the winter of 2008. That, of course, is when they made their big splash, landing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. All three were Type-A free agents, and therefore cost the Yankees their first three picks. Teixeira was the last of them to sign, and even then it came as something of a surprise. Media reports had Boston as the favorites, and there was little, if any, word that the Yankees were making a last-minute run. The Angels would be in a distinctly different position now if Boston had gotten its way.

As everyone knows by now, the Angels have called up Mike Trout, the consensus No. 2 prospect in baseball. They did so with the 25th pick of the 2009 draft, which was originally property of the Yankees. It was well known that the Yankees wouldn’t pick in that position, given their interest in multiple high-end free agents, so it’s not as though they ever had a shot at drafting Trout themselves. The situation would have changed, though, had the Red Sox signed Teixeira. Anaheim would then have received Boston’s pick, the 28th in the draft, while Milwaukee would have taken the 25th overall pick as compensation for CC Sabathia.

The situation isn’t as simple as it’s laid out, of course. The Angels also had the 24th pick in the draft, which they used on outfielder Randal Grichuk. There were reports that the Cardinals considered taking him with the 19th pick, but it was no lock that he’d go that high. (They were smart to take Shelby Miller instead.) In any case, since the Angels picked twice in a row there’s no real way of knowing which player they would have chosen if they had only the 24th pick. Maybe they just would have taken Trout then. If they hand’t, though, then Milwaukee would have had two cracks at him, at 25 and 26, and then Seattle would have had a chance before the Angels picked again. There is a decent chance, then, that Trout would have been off the board.

At the time, Trout was not in any way a world-beating prospect. If you read his draft report, you see the makings of a very good defensive outfielder who had some skills at the plate that were still raw. Also, he apparently started to switch hit around draft time, but he’s ditched that in favor of his natural righty swing. But in reading the report there’s no indication that he’d explode onto the scene and turn heads in every at-bat. Yet he dominated the Arizona League (rookie level) immediately after signing, hitting .360/.418/.506 before moving up to A ball for the final week or so of the season. That put him at No. 85 on Baseball America’s Top 100, which is quite a slot for the No. 25 pick in the most recent draft.

One year of A-ball dominance and a half-season of similar results in AA later, and he’s with the big league club. It might be only a temporary move, to let him get his feet wet while the starting center fielder, Peter Bourjos, nurses a strained hamstring. And, as Sam Miller of the Orange Country Register notes, the odds are against him producing much at the plate. But it still has to be a great feeling for Angels fans, to get a glimpse at one of the most hyped, and justified, prospects in baseball. I just hope they remember that the pick they used to take Trout was born of Yankee Greed.

The RAB Radio Show: July 8, 2011

Mike’s out this week, so I’m hosting the show solo. Don’t worry: it’s not just a 45-minute monologue. First I talk to Tommy Rancel of the Rays blog The Process Report. It’s an excellent read for anyone curious about the Yankees’ AL East rivals. We talk about the organizational philosophy and the current state of the team. Then it’s onto mailbag questions, submitted by you and read by me.

Podcast run time 42:44

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

RAB Live Chat

Scouting The Trade Market: Sean Burnett

Left-handed bullpen help has a permanent spot on the Yankees’ shopping list, and with the news that Pedro Feliciano had to be shut down with soreness in his injured left shoulder, the search only figures to intensify. Yesterday we learned that the Yankees have had some internal discussions about Sean Burnett of the Nationals, and they had a scout on hand to watch him give up a homer (to Carlos Pena) and walk two others in two-thirds of an inning last night.

No relation to A.J. Burnett, Sean has an ugly ERA (5.76) this year, but that doesn’t tell us anything useful when it comes to relief specialists. Let’s break this Burnett down, starting with the negatives…

The Cons

  • Burnett is a left-handed, but he’s not exactly a shutdown lefty. Same-side batters are hitting .240/.316/.420 with just six strikeouts (10.5%) in 57 plate appearances off him this year, which is pretty awful. From 2009-2010, he held lefties to a .230/.293/.362 batting line with 23.9% strikeouts, which is quite a bit better. Still though, the recent performance is ugly.
  • Unsurprisingly, right-handed batters give Burnett a hard time too. They’re hitting .308/.373/.431 with 11 strikeouts (14.7%) in 75 plate appearances against him this season, though from 2009-2010 he held them to a .180/.271/.259 batting line with 18.8% strikeouts. I wouldn’t count on that 2009-2010 performance coming back though.
  • His swinging strike rate has declined for the third straight year, sitting at a below league average 7.8% this season. That helps explain why Burnett is striking out just 4.85 batters per nine innings this year, about half his 2010 rate and two-thirds his 2008 and 2009 rates.

The Pros

  • Burnett is not a typical LOOGY in that he actually has three pitches, which comes from his days as a starter in the Pirates’ system. He backs up his low-90’s fastball with an upper-80’s slider and a mid-80’s changeup, but neither of the offspeed pitches is a true put-away offering.  He does get plenty of ground balls, almost 56% of the time against lefties and a touch more than 50% against righties.
  • Burnett missed the entire 2005 season with shoulder and elbow trouble (including surgery on the latter), but he’s been perfectly healthy and hasn’t visited the disabled list since. He’s only 28 and there hasn’t been a ton of mileage put on that arm in recent years (no more than 63 IP or 73 appearances in each of the last three years).
  • He’s not just a rental. Burnett is already under contract for 2012 at $2.3M, and there’s a $250,000 buyout of a $3.5M option for 2013. He will earn $1.4M this year, about $233,000 per month from here on out.

Burnett’s struggles this year might result in a buy-low opportunity, but what would the Yankees be buying low on? A reliever with limited use and limited upside? That’s not to say he’s not worth pursing, in fact he’ll probably provide more bang for the buck than a bigger name lefty specialist (coughFelicianocoughMartecough). It all comes down to cost, what do the Nationals want in return? I think it goes without saying that I wouldn’t give up much for Burnett, certainly not one of the Triple-A starters (Adam Warren, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, that group) or anyone off the big league roster (except Ramiro Pena). Kick the tires, but don’t outbid yourself. One Burnett is more than enough.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Rehab, Waiver Deals, Expansion

Four questions, four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you have any questions you want to send in.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Kevin asks: Is it just me or is A-Rod quietly having his best defensive season at third base? His UZR is already 10.3, only the second time he has been above average.

Alex Rodriguez has looked much better this year defensively, no doubt about it. UZR doesn’t tell us much after half-a-season, but it’s cool to see his 10.3 UZR as the third best in baseball, regardless of position. Brett Gardner is first at 16.0, Gerardo Parraz second at 11.2. Denard Span and Dustin Pedroia are right behind Alex at 10.0 and 9.9, respectively. For what it’s worth, DRS has him at +8 runs saved, which is the 15th most in baseball. The Fans Scouting Report has him at four runs above average. So yeah, all the advanced metrics agree so far, and he certainly passes the eye test.

I think most of it has to do with the weight loss and what not this offseason. Remember he shed something like 15 lbs. and 4% body fat in the offseason, and he was noticeably slimmer and lighter on his feet in camp. It’s not as obvious now because he’s dealing with that knee issue and it has slowed him down a little bit, but he did make that great play to save Boone Logan‘s bacon Wednesday night, and we’ve seen him make plays like that all year.

Dan asks: What factors into decisions on rehab assignments for injured players? By this I mean what determines whether or not someone will even take rehab starts (e.g. Colon vs. Jeter), and why do others max out their rehab at AA instead of AAA (e.g. Hughes)? Wouldn’t it make more sense to test their performance against better competition?

The Double-A vs. Triple-A thing mostly has to do with travel. They’ll pick whatever team has the easier schedule (i.e. is closer to home in New York) and send them there. Trenton was home during Derek Jeter‘s rehab and their travel wasn’t bad when Phil Hughes was around. A lot of times you’ll see guys rehab with Short Season Staten Island and skip the upper levels entirely. It’s not so much about testing performance, because you know these guys can perform at the big league level, it’s just about staying sharp and getting back up to game speed.

The length of the rehab assignment depends on a lot of things, namely the type of injury and how much time the player misses. Bartolo Colon was shut down for about a week, then he started throwing bullpen sessions. They didn’t have to rebuild his pitch count like they did with Hughes. Jeter just needed a little tuneup (two rehab games, not even the full nine innings either) after missing two weeks, but remember he needed five full rehab games after separating his shoulder in 2003. A-Rod played in a week’s worth of Extended Spring Training games when he was coming back from his hip surgery. There’s a lot that goes into it, and every player is different.

A former waiver trade pickup. (Photo Credit: Flickr user Kimberly* via Creative Commons license)

Larry asks: I have a question about waiver trades in August and players to be named later. Can the Yankees trade “a player to be named later” for a player who cleared waivers? For example, lets say Carlos Beltran clears waivers and the Yankees and Mets agree on a player to be named later, lets say its one of the Killer Bs who obviously would not clear waivers. Are the rules regarding who the player to be named later has to be? When does the player have to be named? Otherwise couldn’t the Yankees and the Mets wait until After the World Series to name the player and complete the trade? It just seems to me like there is a lot room to manipulate the system.

The only players that have to clear waivers to be traded in August are players on the 40-man roster, and yes, they could agree to a player beforehand but not name him until after the season. Dellin Betances won’t clear waivers, but if the Yankees wanted to trade him for Carlos Beltran, he could be the player to be named later but not officially sent to the Mets until after the end of the World Series. PTBNLs have to be named within six months of the original trade, that’s really the only criteria. Teams do this all the time, every single year, and it’s a big fat loophole in the system.

Stephen asks: In a hypothetical two-team expansion draft after this season, who would be the 15 all-organization Yankees you would protect first?

The Platoon Advantage and a ton of other sites recently conducted a mock two-team expansion draft, and it was a lot of fun to read through and follow. The rules are explained via the link, but the general idea is that every player in the organization is eligible to be taken except amateur players acquired in 2010 and 2011 (that’s drafted players and international free agents). Teams can protect 15 players for the first round and then add three more players after every round thereafter. Here’s the 15 players I’d protect (alphabetically) …

  1. Manny Banuelos
  2. Dellin Betances
  3. Robinson Cano
  4. Joba Chamberlain
  5. Brett Gardner
  6. Curtis Granderson
  7. Phil Hughes
  8. Brandon Laird
  9. Jesus Montero
  10. Hector Noesi
  11. Ivan Nova
  12. Eduardo Nunez
  13. David Robertson
  14. Austin Romine
  15. Nick Swisher

It’s an expansion draft, and an expansion team is not going to take on the $100M+ contracts of CC Sabathia or A-Rod or Mark Teixeira. I feel pretty comfortable leaving those guys unprotected. It’s the young guys in their pre-arbitration years or guys signed to long-term, below-market extensions that are most in danger of being poached. And heck, if some expansion team wants to take A-Rod’s or Rafael Soriano‘s or A.J. Burnett‘s contract off the Yankees’ hands, let them.

David Phelps and Adam Warren were the last two cuts. I gave some thought to protecting Russell Martin, but I figure he’s around for one more year (if that) and I’ve already protected two young catchers. Phelps and Warren are numbers crunch guys, but I can’t justify protecting them over Hughes or Nova or Noesi, who have at least shown something in the big leagues. Betances and Banuelos are too talented to leave unprotected, can’t let a top prospect like that go for nothing. Ditto Montero and Romine, and even Nunez, who’s proven useful.

I’d protect Phelps, Warren, and Corban Joseph after the second round, then J.R. Murphy, D.J. Mitchell, and Gary Sanchez third time around. That leaves Andrew Brackman, George Kontos, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner, Shaeffer Hall, Josh Romanski, Frankie Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Greg Golson, Chris Dickerson, Cory Wade, and Rob Lyerly among the notables left unprotected. I can live with that.

Rays smack Colon around as Yanks lose again

You know things aren’t going well when Bartday sucks. The Yankees lost their series opener to the Rays because the couldn’t hit or pitch, and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Thursday’s game was about as uninteresting as losses get.

Death by Zobrist.

Bad Bartolo

For the first time all year, Bartolo Colon got absolutely rocked. Just about every ball in play was hard hit, so it’s not a surprise that he gave up ten hits in 5.2 IP. After walking just 18 men all year, Colon walked four in this game, including John Jaso and his sub-.300 OBP twice. His velocity was fine but his command wasn’t, and he wasn’t getting any help with pitches at the corner. It was the first time we’ve seen Bartolo be really helpless on the mound, when he had absolutely nothing working and the hitters were all over him. Considering it’s July, that’s not too bad. Shake it off and do better the next time, Bart.


We’ve seen this game before, right? Do I really have to recap it? The Yankees had men on the corners with one out in the first, but didn’t score. Then they had men at second and third with one out in the second, but didn’t score. Jeff Niemann then retired ten of the next eleven men he faced before Robinson Cano hit a solo homer with two outs in the sixth. The Yankees were down by five at that point, so it didn’t matter. Niemann escaped those first two innings unscathed, then completely shut the Yankees down through the next five-plus innings. Stop me if you’re heard that before.

Right in there for #2,998.

Two Away

Derek Jeter wasted no time continuing his pursuit of 3,000 career hits, doubling to center on Niemann’s first pitch of the game. It was his third straight game with a double, the first time he’s had an extra base hit in three consecutive games since late-May of last season. Jeter didn’t hit the ball out of the infield in any of his other four at-bats, but he is hardly the only one to blame for the lack of offense. The Cap’n is two hits away from the milestone, and he better do it tomorrow, when I’ll be at the game.


It’s good to know the Yankees have Hector Noesi around for important situations like this game. Those 3.1 scoreless innings were really, really important, and winning takes priority, right? Seriously, please just send the kind to the minors so he can start while some veteran schmuck sits in the bullpen for two weeks between low-leverage relief appearances. This is ridiculous.

Mark Teixeira drew two walks but he’s one hitless at-bat away from a sub-.240 batting average. Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and Jorge Posada each had a hit, and Cano had two. That’s pretty much it, the trio of Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher went a combined 0-for-12 with five strikeouts.

The Yankees have now lost two in a row and four of their last five since that seven-game winning streak. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in each of those losses.

WPA Graph & Box Score has the box score and video, FanGraphs the nerd score.

Up Next

The second game of this four-game series will be played Friday night, when Freddy Garcia gives it a go against rookie Jeremy Hellickson.