Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees (and Mets) have received, and are presumably reviewing, free agent catcher Russell Martin‘s medical records. The Yanks will also meet with his representatives here during the winter meetings, but a deal is unlikely to get done this week. Clearly the Yankees dig the idea of improving their catching situation, and Martin would be a) an upgrade over Frankie Cervelli, and b) allow the team to be more patient with Jesus Montero. I fully expect Martin to sign with the team that offers the best combination of money and playing time, but the fact that the Yanks are reviewing the medicals tells you they mean business.
If a Cliff Lee deal is going to get done this week, they’ll have to get things moving pretty quickly. We heard last week that his agent, Darek Braunecker, wasn’t going to take any offers until the Winter Meetings commenced. “He wants to be the ringmaster at the winter meetings,” said a source of ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews. Yet here we are, almost done with Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, and Braunecker still hasn’t started fielding offers, according to Ken Rosenthal.
The Yankees have refrained from making an offer to Lee at the request of his agent, Darek Braunecker, according to sources in contact with the club.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, anxious to close a deal, has privately expressed his frustration to others at the winter meetings about the team’s inability to move the negotiations along, sources say.
Emphasis mine. The Yankees’ interest in Lee is universally known, and Braunecker is going to use this to his advantage. His strategy apparently includes making the Yankees sweat. With no viable alternatives readily available, there’s not much that the Yankees can do about this. All they can do is continue to wait for Braunecker to accept an offer.
There is hope, though, that the situation gets moving tonight. Marc Carig reports that Brian Cashman will meet with Braunecker tonight. We’ve heard a slew of rumors today, including a team, not necessarily the Nationals, willing to offer seven years. It appears to go hand-in-hand with rumors we’ve heard already, which mostly sound like a ploy to get the Yankees’ offer to six, or maybe even seven, years. There’s a chance we could find out more on that front in a few hours.
It is interesting that the two sides are meeting tonight, after moving slowly through the process to this point. It almost resembles the CC Sabathia situation from two years ago. That situation moved slowly — not at all, really, since the Yankees made an offer in mid-November and didn’t hear back until the Meetings — but it started to gain steam not on Tuesday during the day, but Tuesday evening. I’m not as optimistic that something moves with Lee tonight. Then again, I wasn’t at all optimistic that Cashman would get anything done with Sabathia at the 2008 meetings.
For right now we’re left with a mostly unclear situation. Maybe it becomes clearer after Braunecker meets with Cashman this evening. But even if it does I don’t expect anything to get done this week. Lee and his agent are going to take their time getting something done, no matter what other teams think of it.
Earlier this morning a rumor surfaced that the Cubs are shopping left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, somewhat surprising after he managed 2.3 fWAR in just 136.1 innings in 2010. The Yankees are perpetually looking for pitching, especially since Andy Pettitte is on the brink of retirement and Cliff Lee may or may not be getting a monster contract offer from the Nationals. I’m not sure the two teams match up for a trade (Chicago’s looking for a lefty hitting first baseman, and not someone like Juan Miranda), so this may all be for naught. Either way, let’s explore.
Gorzelanny, 28, broke in with the Pirates a few years ago and was pretty good for them in 2007 (2.9 fWAR, 201.2 IP, 4.24 FIP), but he struggled in 2008 (6.35 FIP) and was shipped to the Cubs for nothing spectacular in 2009. His fine 2010 season featured a good amount of strikeouts (7.86 K/9) and an above average amount of swings-and-misses (9.7%), an important underlying skill. Gorz is generally a ground ball guy as well, sitting between 40.3% and 40.8% over the last three years, though he can definitely be a little homer prone (one for every 7.2 IP over the last three years).
A three-pitch guy (FB, SL, CH) with a fastball right around 90, Gorzelanny actually isn’t very effective against lefties, holding them to a .309 wOBA in his career and .351 this year, though the 2010 number is inflated by five triples (two doubles, four homers). That seems rather fluky since a) Wrigley’s not a triples park, and b) he’s given up six triples to lefties his entire career. I wouldn’t expect the triples thing to continue. As far as his contract goes, he’s arbitration eligible for the second time as a Super Two, meaning Gorz is still under team control for another three years. After earning $800,000 this season, he’ll get a bump to $2M or so.
Gorzelanny would certainly give the Yankees some pitching depth, but he wouldn’t be anything more than a back-end arm. Even in the two best years of his career (2007 and 2010), he still walked close to three-and-a-half batters per nine unintentionally. That combined with homer tendencies and the lack of dominance against lefties hold him back, but there’s nothing wrong with a solid starter in the fifth spot. Also, Gorzelanny would be a) too expensive for LOOGY work, and b) again, he’s not great against same side batters.
I wouldn’t be opposed to picking Gorzelanny up as sort of a Plan B or C option, but I wouldn’t expect great things and I wouldn’t give up a ton either. Like I said, I don’t see the two teams matching up for a deal given Chicago’s needs.
Today at the Winter Meetings Major League Baseball held a press conference to honor four long-time managers who announced their retirements in 2010: Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston, and Bobby Cox. Unfortunately, Cox was not able to attend. Long-time Braves GM and current club president John Schuerholz took his place. I have video for all of them, but they’re taking a while to upload. The Torre one, of course, is the most relevant to our interests.
You can’t see it in the video, but he’s rocking his World Series ring. In fact, the only one who wasn’t was Lou.
Via Mark Feinsand, the Nationals are preparing to offer Cliff Lee a seven-year contract, someplace the Yankees don’t appear to be willing to go. Jon Heyman adds that contract length is very important to Lee, and it’s hard to believe someone would match seven years, let alone exceed it. That said, Adam Kilgore spoke to some people in the Nats’ front office that shot the report right down. “Not happening” and “zero chance” were the quotes du jour.
Update (12:25 p.m.): Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are not interested in Lee and won’t be offering him seven years. Team to make offer, team later denies it. News at 11.
Via Jon Paul Morosi, the Yankees are one of several teams that have checked in a free agent righty Rich Harden. Harden’s talent is obvious, but at this point it’s pretty clear that he won’t ever reach the ceiling so many projected. He’s been on the disabled list eight times in the last five seasons, dealing with everything from shoulder and elbow and hip strains to back soreness to a sore glute. Even beyond that though, Harden’s walked five guys for every nine innings pitched, and he’s an extreme fly ball guy (close to 50% over the last three years). The Yanks might be looking at a reliever, but still, pass. Just doesn’t fit.