Cashman met with Burnett last week

After teasing us last night, Buster Olney tells us this morning exactly why Brian Cashman flew down to Maryland to meet with A.J. Burnett the day before Thanksgiving (Insider req’d). We had some fun trying to guess the reason, but it’s nothing terribly exiting. The GM simply told the enigmatic right-hander that the Yankees still believe in him, and to “reset and refocus” for next season. They kind of have to say that when they owe the guy $49.5M over the next three years.

Saturday Night Open Thread

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

I don’t know about you folks, but I killed off the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch earlier, and I’m sad. Thankfully, the Yanks made me feel better by signing one of my favorite prospects from back in the day, lefty Andy Sisco. That’s a picture of him throwing with the White Sox in Spring Training a few years ago. I’m a sucker for tall, hard-throwing lefties, and Sisco (6-foot-10) fits the bill. It was a match made in prospect heaven.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. The Devils already beat the Flyers and the Knicks already lost to the Hawks, but the Rangers are in Nashville and the Nets are in Philly. Plus there’s a zillion college football games on as well. Talk about whatever you like on this chilly Saturday evening, have a blast.

The Manny Ramirez Option

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

There’s nothing more tempting to fans than a future Hall of Famer on the free agent market, especially after they’ve watched him do unheard of amounts of damage to their favorite team for the last decade. “I want that guy to do that in our uniform” is the feeling, and for the last three years there’s been a decently sized contingent of Yankee fans that have pined for Manny Ramirez in pinstripes. If you’re reading this site, then you’re no doubt very, very familiar with Mr. Ramirez, perhaps more familiar with him than you care to be. He tormented the Yankees for years, hitting .322/.413/.607 (.422 wOBA) with 51 homers in 861 career plate appearances against them. That’s MVP caliber production over a year-and-a-half worth of plate appearances.

Manny is a free agent this offseason, two years after his last crack at the open market. Over the summer he was placed on waivers and claimed by the White Sox, meaning that even if the Yanks wanted to claim him, they didn’t get the chance since the ChiSox had a higher priority. Just three years ago he posted a .432 wOBA, whacking 37 homers with the Sox and Dodgers. The “Manny quit on Boston” narrative is blatantly untrue; he had a .398 wOBA with the Sox that year, and hit .407/.500/.712 (.480 wOBA) in the weeks leading up to the trade. If only every player would quit on his team like that. Yeah, Ramirez has had more than his fair share of off-the-field issues that have occasionally spilled over into his on-the-field effort, but he was a baseball mashing machine.

The problem is that over the last two seasons, the baseball mashing has occurred with less and less frequency. After averaging 39.75 homers per year from 1996 through 2008, Manny dipped down to just 19 homers in 2009 and then just nine this year. After a solid but injury plagued effort with the Dodgers (.393 wOBA in 232 plate appearances) this season, he really dropped off with the White Sox, picking up just two extra base hits in 88 plate appearances. His .353 wOBA with Chicago is inflated by five hit by pitches; if we remove those, he drops down to a .314 wOBA. Here’s a graphical look at his power decline…

The Fall of Manny Ramirez.

Buster Olney thought it would be a good fit to poll various talent evaluators around the league to see what everyone thinks of Manny at this point in his career. It’s behind the iron curtain of Insider, but for the most part all of their opinions can be summed up by: “he’s a DH,” “solid bat, mid-.800 OPS guy,” “incentive-laden deal,” and “slow.” One called him a healthier version of Nick Johnson, meaning his offensive value stems from the ability to control the strike zone and get on base rather than drive the ball with authority.

The Yankees need a replacement for Marcus Thames, some kind of right-handed bat that will crush lefties, but Ramirez isn’t that guy. Not now anyway, it just doesn’t make sense. Manny offers negative defensive value and in fact the health of his legs is a concern (he was on the DL three times with leg related issues in 2010), so he probably couldn’t even play the field in an emergency spot. They’d be wasting one of three non-backup catcher bench spots on a guy that couldn’t do anything other than walk to the plate and occasionally run the bases. He would also take at-bats away from Jorge Posada as the DH, which in turn would take at-bats away from Jesus Montero, which is clearly bad for the long-term outlook of the franchise.

Manny is first ballot Hall of Fame lock, one of the greatest right-handed hitters we’ll ever see, but there’s no place for him on the Yankees at this time. They need someone more flexible defensively and frankly a little cheaper to be in a reserve role, not someone used to playing everyday that could become a distraction if things don’t go his way. I fully respect Manny’s absurd career accomplishments (how the hell did he never a) win an MVP, or b) finish higher than third in the voting?), but there’s no fit here. The Manny Ramirez option is a non-option for New York.

Yanks ink a pair of pitchers to minor league deals

Brian Cashman is all about the small moves so far this winter. Today he continued adding bit pieces. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Yankees have signed RHP Brian Anderson and LHP Andy Sisco to minor league deals with spring training invites. Both could be bullpen options for the 2011 team.

Anderson was a 2003 first rounder, selected by the White Sox with the 15th overall pick. He put up impressive numbers in the minors, but never stuck in the majors. He actually did make 21 high-quality appearances for Boston in 2009. After the season he converted to a pitcher and signed with the Royals. I’m assuming that the conversion process took a while, as Anderson threw just 17.1 innings on the season, and only seven at AAA. He’ll turn 29 in Match. Here’s a quick and dirty scouting report:

“He’s definitely throwing Major League stuff,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s got his fastball up to 97 miles an hour and his comfort zone is 95.”

Yost also said Anderson’s slider rates as Major League average quality and his pitch command just a tick below average.

Sisco was taken in the second round of the 2001 draft, and then selected by the Royals in the 2004 Rule 5 draft. His 2005 debut went well, but he was never able to replicate that success. After bouncing around for a bit he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, but made his return only in 2010. With the Giants AA team he again flashed his strikeout stuff, but he still walks a ton of guys. Still, a 6’10” lefty is going to get plenty of shots. Rosenthal reports that he’s back to throwing 95 in winter ball.

While these moves won’t make huge waves, they are solid long shots. Anderson has always had the talent, but couldn’t put it together as a hitter. Sisco was also highly regarded — he was the No. 53 prospect in baseball before the 2003 season and No. 77 before 2004 — but command issues have held him back. If one of these guys can come through, it will be a huge score. Even if neither of them do, there’s little risk here. Good on the Yanks for bringing a few more high upside relievers to camp.

Albaladejo finds a job in Japan

Via ESPN NY, Jon Albaladejo has finalized a one-year deal worth $950,000 with the Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui‘s old team. The Yankees released Albaladejo at his request two weeks ago so he could pursue a job on the other side of the Pacific. “He has the ability to start or come on in relief,” said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. “His role will depend on the situation of the team.” I’m not so sure about the starting part, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.

The move represents close to a 400% pay raise for Albaladejo, who made about $250,000 in Triple-A last year. It’s about double what he would have earned if he’d have stuck on the 25-man major league roster all of next season, so it’s good to see him come out ahead on this one. Good luck, Albie.

Jeter seeking four or five years, $23-24M per

Via Michael Schmidt, Derek Jeter is reportedly seeking a four or five-year contract that would pay him upwards of $24M per season. That’s certainly better than the nonsense that was shot down earlier this evening, but it’s still far more than what the Yankees appear to be willing to pay. The gap between 3/45 and say, 4/96 is certainly one that can be bridged, but I can’t imagine it’ll be easy.

The Derek Jeter-free RAB weekend is just three hours away…

Open Thread: TGIF

I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving and that a whole lot of you are in the middle of a four-day weekend, but there’s a large contingent of us that don’t have that luxury. Working the day after a holiday can be rough, especially when you’re still feeling fat and tired from a big feast. Anyway, that above is the latest graphic from RAB diehard Tyler Wilkinson, who managed to capture the feelings of Yankee fans everywhere in Brian Cashman‘s face and some block letters. Baffled indeed.

Here’s tonight’s open thread. The Islanders ended their 14 game losing streak by beating the Devils this afternoon, but the Rangers still have a game to play tonight. The Knicks and Nets are off. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.