Open Thread: Evolution of a rumor

We’re just one day into the Winter Meetings, and already we have a week’s full of false reports. Exactly how these start is anyone’s guess. Maybe it was overheard in the lobby. Maybe it was an overzealous team official. In any case, most of what we’ve heard today is crap, but there is no crap greater than a report on MLive regarding Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson.

It all started with a relatively benign line from a Chicago Tribune post: “Yankees apparently are trying to put together a package of young players.” Notice the words “apparently” and “trying” in that sentence. It is complete speculation, and I don’t think it was intended to be anything else. Yet somehow, over the course of just a few hours, that morphed into “Tigers close to dealing Edwin Jackson, Curtis Granderson to New York Yankees.” Even in the body of the article, James Schmehl says that “the Tigers are closing in on a deal” with the Yankees, so we can’t just blame this on a copy editor. Again, no source — anonymous or not — was cited in this, other than the Tribune article.

Look, blogs and Twitter are great media tools. They allow a faster, more direct dissemination of information. But, as we’ve seen in Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, they can, like other types of media, be misused. Fans love a juicy rumor, and through reporters and aggregators we hear everything. But let’s just make sure we’re labeling rumors as such, and not escalating them for no apparent reason.

Buster Olney has an actual rumor on the Granderson part, something that is assumed to be speculation. Apparently, the Tigers seek both Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson from the Yankees. Speculative, of course, but if true it’s clear that Granderson will not be a Yankee. That’s way too high a price. Thanks to Doug for sending in the screen shot. It’s tough to link to ESPN’s rumor updates.

In actual Winter Meeting news:

Umpire Doug Harvey and manager Whitey Herzog were elected to the Hall of Fame. Congratulations to those two. I would have posted it at the time, but the wireless Internet is horrible at the Marriot. It was pretty much down all day, and spotty when it was working. As many others noted, it’s a shame that Marvin Miller still hasn’t gotten the nod.

The Yanks have checked on Kelvim Escobar, as they should. When he’s healthy, he’s nasty.

Via Ken Davidoff, Cashman’s priorities: “Pitching, pitching, pitching — and then left field.” Sounds good to me. First up: signing Pettitte.

And with that, we turn it over to you, the commenter, for this evening’s open thread. There’s plenty to talk about, so have at it. As long as we have no e-decapitations, it’s cool.

Updated: Yankees send Bruney to Washington for Rule 5 pick

Update (5:15 p.m.): The Yankees, according to Mark Feinsand, will receive Washington’s Rule 5 draft pick in exchange for Bruney. The Nationals pick first during Thursday’s draft.

Posted at 12:15 p.m.: Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees have traded reliever Brian Bruney to the Nationals for a player to be named later. There was talk this morning about Bruney possibly being shipped to Atlanta, however those are obviously false.

Bruney was set to earn a decent raise over last year’s $1.25M salary through arbitration, and frankly he was a non-tender candidate. Considering the Yanks are looking to trim payroll, this is about $2M they can better spend elsewhere.

Signing Pettitte makes the off-season clearer

While I’m out at the Winter Meetings, I’m doing some work for the YES Network. It won’t be breaking any stories — as I overheard from a journalist this morning, “Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney break all our stories.” –but it’s something. Andy Pettitte is atop the Yanks’ ledger, and I explain why he’s the logical place to start.

Yanks shouldn’t fall for the DeRosa trap

DeRosa at the WBCEarlier today, Marc Carig tweeted that the Yanks have had initial talks with Mark DeRosa’s agent, and plan to meet with him later this week. There’s certainly nothing wrong with kicking the tires on a player, however I hope the Yanks aren’t falling into the trap of thinking DeRosa is better than he actually is, something that’s plagued the MSM.

Don’t get me wrong, DeRosa is a fine player worthy of a roster spot on any team, however he’s not a three win super-sub capable of playing every position under the sun. He’s a soon-to-be 35-year-old that’s coming off wrist surgery with negative UZR/150 scores pretty much everywhere. Here’s what Keith Law had to say about DeRosa in his Top 50 Free Agents piece, in which DeRosa was ranked #44:

DeRosa is now recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, an injury that contributed to an incredibly disappointing season for him after a career year in 2008. When fully healthy, he’s a useful utility player who can play four or five positions, but none of them really well enough to handle every day. The average power he developed in Texas has stayed with him through three more teams, none in parks as hitter-friendly as the Rangers’ stadium, and prior to 2009 he’d shown increased patience. He has a strong reputation for intangibles, which should keep his market fairly strong even with the injury and down year and may even have him land a starter’s salary, but if a team can grab him at a reserve’s salary there’s value to be had here.

From what I’ve seen on the interwebs, the general thought is that DeRosa could either a) replace Johnny Damon in left, or b) fill-in at a different position every day while everyone else on the team rotates at DH to stay fresh. The former sounds fine, however for the life of me, I can’t figure out why any player would accept the latter role unless he had one foot in the big leagues and one foot in independent ball. Think about it: would you want to go into work every day not knowing what you’re going to be asked to do? I don’t see why an accomplished player like DeRosa would accept a handyman role with the Yanks when other clubs will be offering full-time gigs at a set position.

As for the leftfield thing, DeRosa and Damon have actually been very close in value over the last four years, dating back to DeRosa’s breakout with Texas. Since then, DeRosa’s been a .281-.356-.448 hitter worth a total of +11.0 WAR. In his four years with the Yanks, Damon has been a .286-.363-.441 hitter worth +11.7 WAR. The raw triple-slash stats don’t account for the AL-NL difference, but WAR does. Of course, you’re not getting the last four years of either player. You’re getting the next year or two of them.

DeRosa is coming off wrist surgery, which I already mentioned a few times, and that generally saps a player’s power for a year or so. He’s also swinging at more pitches out of the zone (19.5% in 2007, 20.9% in 2008, 23.5% in 2009), and (not coincidently) he’s also making contact on a fewer percentage of the swings he takes (82.5%, 79.3%, 77.9% in those three years, respectively). Moving to the AL East, where power pitchers are plentiful, could lead to further regressing from DeRosa.

Meanwhile, we basically know what Damon is. He probably won’t ever be as good as he was last year again, however it’s not unreasonable to think he could maintain the ~.360 OBP and ~.445 SLG he posted in his three other years as a Yankee. His defense in left if awful, but DeRosa’s is nothing special, checking in at -1.1 UZR/150 in barely 400 career innings played in left. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, even if the devil you don’t know is a gritty gamer that plays the game the right way.

DeRosa is reportedly looking for three years at $9M each, which should be an absolute no-no. The Yankees have no need to lock themselves into a player’s decline years for that long at that price, especially when there are equally qualified candidates available. However, as Erik Manning noted this morning, the Chone Figgins and Placido Polanco deals set DeRosa’s price tag in that range. Like I said earlier, I have no problem with the Yanks kicking the tires on DeRosa. In fact, I love it. It’ll drive up the price for whoever does sign him. However, I don’t want to see the Yanks bring him in and expect him to produce at an above-average pace, regardless of where they stick him on the field.

Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok, Reuters

Intriguing Rumor of the Day: Center field options

So here’s a fun puzzle to play with a pair rumors from Joel Sherman. First, he says via Twitter, that the Cubs “want Mike Cameron for CF, but so might Yankees, which could be interesting since Cubs like Melky Cabrera.” Then, in his next update, he says that a team official from a club interested in Curtis Granderson believes the Yanks “really want” the 28-year-old for their outfield. So what do you think? Sign Cameron for a short deal, acquire Granderson and flip Melky to the Cubs for some prospects? If only it were that simple.

Updated: Did Pettitte reject Yanks’ first offer?

Update (11:54 a.m.): Despite earlier reports to the contrary, Mark Feinsand says that the Yankees have not yet made an offer to Andy Pettitte. Indications are that the team will make him a one-year offer some time today in excess of the $10.5 million he earned in 2009. “They don’t intend to low-ball him,” Feinsand’s industry source said.

Update (7:22am): Buster Olney says that Pettitte has decided to pitch in 2010, and of course his preference is the boys in the Bronx.

7:12am: Via Joel Sherman, Andy Pettitte has rejected the Yanks’ first offer, a one year deal believed to be worth about $10M. He’s the only player the Yanks have made an offer to since the end of the World Series. Sherman basically says the deal will get done at some point, and the Yankees believe Pettitte wants to return next year. After incentives, Pettitte pulled in about $10.5M in 2009, though it’s not clear if this new proposal contained any such escalators. He’s certainly earned a raise over his $5.5M base salary. Sherman also mentions that the Yanks have told the Blue Jays to stay in touch about Roy Halladay, though no proposals have been made.

A Plan C at DH

Carlos DelgadoOf the three major holes the Yankees have to fill this offseason, designated hitter is probably the least important. I think everyone’s preference is to bring Hideki Matsui back on a one year deal, and we’ve already discussed Nick Johnson as a backup plan. However, every good backup plan needs a backup backup plan.

One such backup backup plan could be former Toronto great Carlos Delgado. After spending the last four years stuck in Queens, Delgado hits the free agent market for just the second time in his career (the first time he cashed in on a four year, $52M deal from the Marlins of all teams). However, the former AL MVP runner-up missed all but a month of the 2009 season with an inpingement in his hip, which is the exact same thing that kept A-Rod on the shelf to start the season. Delgado went ahead and had the full blown surgery to repair the condition rather than the hybrid procedure the Yanks’ third baseman had. It was Delgado’s first trip to the DL in four years, a testament to his durability. A-Rod and Chase Utley came back from similar procedures like champs, however those guys are world class athletes and several years younger than Delgado.

Obviously, there’s a tremendous health risk in signing Delgado. He’s expected to join a Puerto Rican League winter ball team soon, which will give him a chance to showcase his surgically repaired hip. The risk comes with a potential great reward however, as Delgado remains one of the game’s best sluggers despite being 37-years-old.

Prior to the hip injury (SSS, yes), Delgado was hitting .298-.393-.521 this year (no doubt fueled by a .343 BABIP), and that includes .280-.393-.600 in 61 plate appearances at spacious CitiField (.314 BABIP). Over the last three seasons, Delgado’s been a .267-.347-.488 hitter, though that includes a .229-.306-.396 first half in 2008 before Ross Ohlendorf was nice enough to help get him back on track.  Delgado played in the AL for a long time, and he’s done the DH thing before, so there’s certainly some familiarity. Plus, I learned from watching Yankees on Deck that he’s great friends with Jorge Posada, another feature in the familiarity cap. Oh yeah, I went there.

Any team that signs Carlos Delgado shouldn’t expect the .290-.400-.580 monster he was for most of his career, instead he’s probably a .260-.380-.470 guy these days, which really isn’t that far off from what Hideki Matsui was in 2009. His power remains elite (sitting around a .220 IsoP the last few years), and it’ll probably get a bump up improve with a move to the New Yankee Stadium. Of course, the health of his hip is the controlling condition. If he’s not 100% a-okay, then forget it. Oh, and nothing more than a one year deal too.

Also, just because his name will come up, the soon-to-be non-tendered Jack Cust could also be an option. However the only two departments in which he provides value – on-base ability and power – have been in decline during the past three years. Is OBP has dropped from .408 in 2007 to .375 in 2008 to .356 in 2009, while his SLG has gone from .504 to .476 to .417. If more advanced stats are what you crave, his IsoD has gone from .152 to .144 to .116 in that time while his IsoP has dropped from .248 to .245 to .177. After three full years in the league, the book may be out Cust, and he doesn’t appear to have adjusted back yet.

I’m not saying Cust is a non-option at DH, but he should only be a “break glass in case of emergency” option. World Series MVP Hideki Matsui remains the most obvious and best choice to fill the DH spot going into 2010, however there are no shortage of affordable options.