Holiday Mailbag: Freddy Sanchez

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Two people asked: What about Freddy Sanchez?

Sanchez, 35, played zero big league games this past season due to shoulder surgery (labrum) and back surgery (herniated disc). He was rehabbing from the shoulder procedure when the back problem popped up in July, which led to the Giants acquiring Marco Scutaro prior to the trade deadline. That worked out pretty well for San Francisco.

Prior to the injuries, Sanchez was a classic low-power, contact-oriented middle infielder. He won the 2006 batting title with the Pirates and hit .291/.338/.397 (104 wRC+) in 740 plate appearances with the Giants from 2010-2011. Sanchez will put the ball in play from the right side of the plate (13.9 K% and 84.7% contact rate), but he won’t walk (6.1 BB%), won’t hit for power (.106 ISO and 5.2% HR/FB), and won’t steal any bases (13-for-22 career). He did most of his recent damage against lefties (122 wRC+ from 2010-2011) rather than righties (98 wRC+), though it wasn’t a massive split.

Defensively, Sanchez has been a second baseman exclusively since 2008. He has less than 1,350 innings of experience at third as a big leaguer and just 351 innings at shortstop, all of which came more than a half-decade ago. The various metrics have consistently rated him as an above-average defender at second through the years. The surgery was on his right shoulder, so it’s unclear if Sanchez still has the arm strength to make the throw from the left side of the infield. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but he has to prove he can before a team could seriously consider him a utility infielder.

Sanchez’s agent recently told Derrick Goold that his client is healthy and looking for an opportunity to prove himself this coming season. Several unknown teams have expressed interest, though none have made offers. The Yankees have Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez in-house, both of whom are able to play the left side of the infield (not necessarily well, but they can do it) and be something more than zeroes with the bat. Sanchez has to still prove he can do both of those things, which is why I think he’d look to join a team that offers more of an opportunity. If he wants to take a minor league deal and compete for a job, great. Otherwise the two sides don’t fit well with each other.

Saturday Night Open Thread

It’s the last Saturday of 2012, which blows my mind because I swear it feels like this year just started. Anyway, talk about whatever you like here in this open thread. The Nets are playing and there’s a bunch of college football and basketball on, so at least there’s something to watch if you’re not going out in the snow tonight.

Holiday Mailbag: Derek Lowe

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Several people asked: What about a Derek Lowe reunion?

I hadn’t thought too much about Lowe this offseason until writing this MLBTR post last week, which is when a few people emailed in. The 39-year-old sinkerballer has fielded calls from five teams this winter, but all five want him as a swingman. He’s looking for a job as a starter though, which is what he said after the ALCS.

The Yankees have Ivan Nova and David Phelps ready to compete for the fifth starter’s job in camp, and while I would like to see them add a veteran starter for that role, I was thinking someone better than Lowe (coughShaunMarcumcough). There are six bullpen spots already accounted for: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Aardsma, and Clay Rapada. The final spot figures to go to a long-man and the loser of the Nova/Phelps role makes sense for that role, but I don’t think we should rule out a return to Triple-A for that pitcher either. Especially if one of the two gets his brains beat in during Spring Training.

Right-hander Cody Eppley and left-hander Cesar Cabral are also candidates for that final spot, but Eppley has minor league options left and Cabral isn’t expected back until May-ish following his elbow fracture. They’re depth pieces more than Opening Day bullpen guys. I could totally see a trade (Joba? Logan? Robertson?) opening up another bullpen spot, but that’s just my speculation. There haven’t been any rumors of New York shopping or even discussing their bullpen arms. It would make sense though, especially with Logan one year away from free agency and coming off a career-high workload and league-leading appearance total.

The Yankees are expected to “bottom-feed” for pitching depth later this offseason and Lowe fits the bill. He had a nice little run in the bullpen last year (3.04 ERA and 3.77 FIP in 23.2 innings) but has been a pretty ineffective in the rotation for more than three years now (4.73 ERA and 3.99 FIP since 2009). Then again, we’re talking about a potential seventh starter here, maybe even an eighth starter if Adam Warren or Brett Marshall makes a statement in Triple-A early in the season. I’d be totally cool with the Yankees bringing Lowe back on a minor league contract for a swingman role, but I don’t like the idea of guaranteeing him a contract or a roster spot.

Friday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the evening. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, but talk about whatever you like here. Have at it.

Holiday Mailbag: Joba Chamberlain

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Tom asks: I’ve seen people suggest that Joba Chamberlain‘s career is a failure with the reasoning that when he was a prospect, he was promised to be something so special that even considering the attrition rate for prospects, he should have turned out better. Are you happy with Joba’s apparent role now as a good relief pitcher?

Oh no, he’s absolutely not a failure. Joba was selected with the 41st overall pick in the draft and here’s the full list of players taken with that pick who have been above replacement level in their career.

Year Tm Pos WAR
1973 Red Sox Fred Lynn (minors) OF 46.7
1980 Cardinals Dan Plesac (minors) LHP 15.9
2006 Yankees *Joba Chamberlain (minors) RHP 6.5
1982 Phillies Lance McCullers (minors) RHP 4.7
1991 Tigers *Trever Miller (minors) LHP 4.2
1965 Athletics Bob Stinson (minors) OF 3.5
1983 Reds via Yankees *Joe Oliver (minors) C 2.2
1970 Giants Butch Metzger (minors) RHP 1.0
2007 Athletics *Sean Doolittle (minors) 1B 0.8
1990 Red Sox via Braves *Frankie Rodriguez (minors) RHP 0.4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2012.

That’s it, ten guys and Joba is currently the third best with a chance to climb into second before things are all said and done. The Yankees have gotten plenty of return on their draft pick and $1.1M signing bonus, so there’s no way he can be considered a failure.

Now, being a disappointment is another matter entirely. Joba will billed as an ace-in-waiting — “Chamberlain fits the No. 1 starter profile in nearly every way,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) when they ranked him as the third best prospect in baseball prior to 2008 — as a prospect and he has not delivered on that promise, so in that sense he’s a disappointment. There’s wasted talent here in that he’s been used primarily as a reliever when he had the stuff to start, but the team played a big role in that obviously.

The Yankees gave Joba only 33 full/unrestricted starts (3.88 ERA, ~4.00 FIP) and ten pitch-count limited starts to prove his worth in the rotation in 2008 and 2009. As a 23-year-old in 2009, he pitched to a 4.34 ERA (4.43 FIP) in 24 starts and 130.2 innings before being limited during the final month of the season, when he got hit pretty hard. He didn’t light the world on fire from April through August, but that performance in the AL East at that age doesn’t strike me as something that warrants being banished to the bullpen for good. That’s what happened though. It is what it is.

Joba set the bar crazy high with his out of this world 2007 debut and that led to unrealistic expectations that were impossible to meet. He also didn’t do himself any favors through the years by showing up to camp out of shape and getting arrested for DUI, so I don’t want to make it seem like I’m absolving him of blame for the failure to reach his ceiling. I wanted Joba to get more time to show what he could do as a starter but that didn’t happen, so I’m disappointed. In no way is having one decent year as a starter and 3+ years as a good to great reliever a failure though. Not at all.