Keith Law’s Top 50 Free Agents

The free agent market officially opened for business at 12:01am last night, but no, the Yankees haven’t signed Cliff Lee yet. Hardy har har.

Anyway, Keith Law posted his list of the top 50 free agents last night, and of course topping the list is Mr. Lee. Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre, and Victor Martinez round out the top five. All three articles (1-10, 11-30, 31-50) are Insider only, but I can tell you that seven Yankee free agents made the list: Andy Pettitte (“should give [a team] 25 to 30 starts without drama”) comes in at number nine, Derek Jeter (“does still hit left-handed pitching well and has an excellent feel for the game”) at #13, Mariano Rivera (“batters know the cutter is coming and still can’t do much except wave at it”) at #18, Kerry Wood (“very respectable eighth-inning guy who can close in a pinch”) at #33, Lance Berkman (“he has value for his ability to get on base and his average power”) at #44, Nick Johnson (“standard ‘if healthy’ disclaimer”) at #48, and Javy Vazquez (“perhaps an offseason of rest will see his fastball tick back up”) at #50. A few former Yanks also made the cut, namely Carl Pavano (#7), Jake Westbrook (#10), Johnny Damon (#27), and Hideki Matsui (#46).

I recommend reading all the capsules if you have Insider, it’s a great look into a free agent class that frankly seems rather shallow after the top 15 or so players. In fact, ten of the last 16 players on the list are basically middle relievers, maybe setup men or capital-C closers. I guess it’s just a down year when Juan Uribe is one of the 20 best free agents.

Open Thread: Banuelos on the bump

(Photo Credit: Kevin Pataky,

It’s been almost a week since we were able to watch a real live baseball game (on television or in real life), but it feels more like a year. Evenings without baseball simply suck. Thankfully, the Arizona Fall League Rising Starts Game is on MLB Network tonight, and if that’s not good enough, Yankee farmhand Manny Banuelos is starting the game for the East team. Austin Romine and Brandon Laird will also suit up.

All three were recently ranked as one of the ten best prospects in the farm system by Baseball America, with Banuelos placing as the second best pitcher. Their subscriber only scouting report says that he “has surprising velocity for a little lefthander, sitting at 90-94 mph with his fastball and touching 95. He has excellent fastball control, even with his improved velocity, and projects to have true big league command. His changeup and curveball can be plus pitches, though they often aren’t working at the same time. His changeup is more consistent and has better action, with late fade and sink at its best.” ManBan’s probably only going to thrown an inning, maybe two, but it should still be fun to watch.

The game starts at 9pm ET, and as I said it can be seen on MLBN. Use this thread to talk about it, or whatever you want. There’s a zillion college football games on, plus the Islanders and Nets are also in action. Enjoy.

Link Dump: Jeter, Joba, MLB vs. NFL

Just a few links to tide you over this Saturday afternoon.

Tim Marchman lays out the facts about Derek Jeter. As usual, Marchman hits on the most important points. The takeaway:

You can futz with the math a bit, but even after you apply a standard aging curve, even after you weight 2010 more heavily than 2009 and 2009 more heavily than 2008 and do all other good things backed by actual research rather than one’s vague sense that the man’s bat has slowed and that time has crept upon his face, he projects as a very good player for next year and even beyond, one whose declining offense is offset by his ability to play a lot, to run the bases well, to field a difficult position tolerably and so on.

Nailed it.

Beyond the Boxscore takes a look at Joba Chamberlain using PitchFX. It’s a neat look at how things have changed, but I’m not sure how much the article itself helps — the author fails to take into account Joba’s shoulder injury from 2008. That seems particularly important when evaluating his progression as a pitcher.

William of The Captain’s Blog makes a cameo at The Yankee U to discuss MLB and NFL ratings. He does an excellent job of putting the issue in perspective.

Olney: Yanks first offer to Lee would be a good fit within 72 hours

Via Buster Olney (Insider req’d), the Yankees are expected to make their first offer to Cliff Lee very soon, perhaps within the next 72 hours. Free agency officially opens at 12:01am Sunday morning, so eleven or so hours from now. Anthony McCarron backs Olney’s report up, for what it’s worth.

Unlike CC Sabathia, who the Yanks offered the largest pitching contract in history just as a starting point, the general belief is that they will not pursue Lee as aggressively. That’s not to say they don’t consider him a priority, but they’re just not as desperate as they were two winters ago. They can afford to make an initial offer that other clubs can presumably match, and go from there.

An update on the search for a pitching coach

Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, right, talks to manager Ozzie Guillen. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Yankees have been without a pitching coach for close to two weeks now, which would be a much bigger problem if we were in the middle of the season. But since we’re on the doorstep of the offseason, the Yankees are taking their sweet time replacing Dave Eiland simply because they can afford to. We know that Leo Mazzone is interested in the job and that both Gil Patterson and Mike Harkey are receiving consideration, but beyond that it’s been a relatively quite search.

Not too long ago I put together a speculative list of candidates for the Yanks’ pitching coach position, but like I said, it was just speculation on my part. Let’s get you up to date on what’s going on with some of those candidates and more…

Rick Kranitz

I mentioned Kranitz as a possible candidate last week because of his relationship with Joe Girardi (he was his pitching coach with the Marlins) and strong resume (Baseball America’s Major League Coach of the Year that season), but we scratch his name off the list. He joined the Astros as their minor league pitching coordinator earlier this week. As young players become a bigger part of the game, these roving minor league coordinators are become increasingly more important. Thankfully the Yanks have a great one in Nardi Contreras.

Curt Young

I don’t know too much about pitching coaches at all, but I know that Young was generally considered to be one of the best and brightest in the game. He held the position with the Athletics from 2004-2009, helping them turn a bevy of young prospects into bonafide big league starters. Young turned down the A’s contract offer a week or two ago with the idea of landing more money elsewhere, and presumably he has; Young was named Boston’s new pitching coach this week. He and Terry Francona knew each other from the latter’s time in Oakland back in 2003, which I’m sure was a factor in Young’s decision.

Don Cooper

The current White Sox pitching coach has a great reputation, earning praise for getting Gavin Floyd on track and helping John Danks go from very good to elite, among other accomplishments. The Yankees asked the ChiSox for permission to speak to Cooper about their open pitching coach position, but Jon Heyman says they were told no. So much for that idea, but hey, at least the Yanks are thinking big.

Open Thread: A new deal for D-Ras

Remember Darrell Rasner? How could you forget. Claimed off waivers from the Nationals back in 2006, Rasner went on the make a total 30 starts and 11 relief appearances for the Yankees over a three year span. During the disaster of 2008, he threw 113.1 innings with a 5.40 ERA, striking out only 5.3 batters per nine. It was by far the most big league action of his career.

Rasner sought employment in Japan after that season, so the Yankees helped him out by selling his rights to Rakuten Golden Eagles for a cool million bucks. The move across the Pacific allowed Rasner to make more money than he would have been able to here (his two-year deal with Rakuten guaranteed him $1.2M and could have been worth up to $3.5M), so it was an obvious move for him. In the two years since, he’s pitched to a 5.09 ERA with a 170-81 K/BB ratio in 233.2 innings, and apparently that was good enough for him to keep his job. The great NPB Tracker reports that Rakuten and Rasner just agreed on a new contract, a one-year deal with an option for 2012. No idea what the money is like, but either way it’s good to see him still pitching and making some bucks. Dude’s got a wife and (at least) two kids to take care of.

Anyway, here’s the open thread for the night. The Rangers and Devils are playing each other, and both the Knicks and Nets are in action as well. Chat about that here, or anything else your heart desires.

Ring opts for free agency

Via Anthony McCarron, lefty reliever Royce Ring has elected to become a free agent, which is his right after being outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this week. Ring spent most of the season with Triple-A Scranton and wasn’t able to grab hold of the second lefty reliever’s job in a brief September tryout (2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 K). Make sure you check out our Organizational Depth Chart to see where the roster presently sits. It’s pretty bleak at the moment.