Biertempfel: Yankees had interest in Chris Dickerson

Via Rob Biertempfel: The Yankees had interest in bringing outfielder Chris Dickerson back before he took a minor league contract with the Pirates earlier today. Dickerson told Tim Williams he signed with Pittsburgh because their right field job is wide open, at least until top prospect Gregory Polanco shows up.

Dickerson, 31, hit .238/.266/.400 (78 wRC+) with four homers and five steals in 109 plate appearances for the Orioles last season. He also hit .243/.350/.368 (104 wRC+) with two homers and one steal in 160 Triple-A plate appearances. I’ve always liked Dickerson because he does a little of everything — he’s got some power, got some speed, and he’s a really good defender. Not sure what more you’d want in a cheap extra outfielder. If the Yankees can unload Ichiro Suzuki, Dickerson could have filled his role (pinch-runner and defensive replacement). No surprise he went for the better opportunity though.

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Update: Yankees release Chris Dickerson

January 12th: The Yankees have released Dickerson according to the official site. What a waste, they couldn’t even get a fringe prospect out of him in a trade. I wouldn’t count on the team re-signing Dickerson to a minor league deal, though I suppose it’s possible.

January 4th: Via Chad Jennings: The Yankees have designated Chris Dickerson for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for the recently-claimed Russ Canzler. They have ten days to trade, release, or waive him.

Dickerson, 30, never got much of an opportunity during his two years with the organization. He’s a .266/.352/.407 (103 wRC+) career hitter in 599 big league plate appearances with a big walk rate (11.6%), a big stolen base success rate (81.8%), strong defense (+13 DRS and +14.2 UZR), and good numbers against right-handers (107 wRC+). His only crime was being a left-handed hitter on a team full of left-handed hitting outfielders.

Dickerson cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A last spring, but he’ll be able to elect free agency if he goes unclaimed again. I’m sure he would do that in hopes of finding more opportunity elsewhere. I’ve always been a fan, so hopefully someone gives Dickerson a couple hundred at-bats as a platoon bat in 2013 so we can see what he can do.

Season Review: Miscellaneous Position Players

As we wrap up our seemingly never-ending review of the 2012 season, it’s time to look back on the last handful of position players. These are the guys who spend some time on the big league roster this year but not much, ultimately contributing little in the grand scheme of things.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Dewayne Wise
He was sparingly used during his three months on the roster, but the 34-year-old Wise hit .262/.286/.492 (106 wRC+) in 63 plate appearances for the Yankees. He also retired both batters he faced while pitching in a blowout loss. The team originally recalled him to fill Brett Gardner‘s roster spot before cutting him loose following the Ichiro Suzuki trade. Wise went 9-for-18 with a double, a triple, and three homers during an eight-game stretch in late-June/early-July, but his greatest contribution to the club — besides the bunt that turned the season around — was his non-catch against Indians in late-June.

Chris Dickerson
Had the 30-year-old Dickerson not been on the minor league DL early in the season, chances are he would have been recalled to take Gardner’s spot instead of Wise. He instead had to wait until rosters expanded in September, and he went 4-for-14 (.286) with two homers and three steals in his limited playing time. Most of his action came as a defensive replacement in the late innings. I like Dickerson more than most and think he can be a useful left-handed platoon outfielder who also provides speed and defense, but it’s obvious the Yankees aren’t interested in giving him an opportunity. For shame.

(Elsa/Getty)

Melky Mesa
Mesa, 25, was the team’s only true rookie position player this year. He came up when rosters expanded in September and only appeared in three games — one as a pinch-runner and two as a late-innings replacement in blowouts. Mesa did pick up his first career hit and RBI in his first big league plate appearance, singling on a ground ball back up the middle. His most notable play was a base-running blunder, when he missed the bag while rounding third base on an Alex Rodriguez single in extra-innings against the Athletics. Mesa would have scored the game-winning run, but alas. Rookie mistake.

Darnell McDonald
The Yankees got a little cute prior to the All-Star break, claimed the right-handed hitting McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox before heading up to Fenway for a four-game set. The Sox were set to throw three left-handed starters in the four games, so the 34-year-old figured to see some playing time against his former team. McDonald instead received just four plate appearances, made outs in all of them, and collided with Curtis Granderson in center field. A run scored on the play. Embedded Red Sox? Embedded Red Sox.

Ramiro Pena
Rakin’ Ramiro was on the roster for less than a week this season. The Yankees called him up after Alex Rodriguez had his hand broken by Felix Hernandez in late-July, but he was sent back down following the Casey McGehee trade a few days later. In between, the 27-year-old infielder singled once in four plate appearances and got into two other games as a pinch-runner. Pena became a minor league free agent after the season, ending his seven-year stint with the organization.

Mailbag: Haren, Dickerson, Rangers, Trout

Six questions and five answers today, so we’ve got a good mailbag this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box to send us questions throughout the week.

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Vinny and many others ask: If the Angels are serious about not picking up Dan Haren’s option, should the Yankees be all over that?

Earlier this week there was a report indicating that the Angels plan to decline Haren’s (and Ervin Santana’s) club option for next season and instead pursue a monster extension with Zach Greinke. Haren, 32, is nearing the end of his worst full season as a big leaguer, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 starts and 170.2 innings. He’ll fail to make 33 starts or crack 210 innings for the first time since 2004, when he was with the Cardinals. Blame the lower back stiffness that led to his first career DL stint.

Based on Twitter these last few days, fans of every single team want their club to pursue Haren if the Angels do indeed decline his $15.5M option. Haren is from Southern California and has made it no secret that he prefers playing on the West Coast, so right away the Yankees are at a disadvantage. It’s also worth noting that his strikeout rate is in the middle of a three-year decline, and his fastball velocity has been heading in the wrong direction for years now. That second link is particularly scary. The back issue scares me as well, especially if the Halos do cut him loose. It’s the whole “what do they know that we don’t?” thing. Haren has been a great pitcher for a long time, and that alone makes him worth looking into. There are a number of red flags however, so any team interested in signing him will have to really do their homework.

Travis asks: Is it safe to assume that if we only carry three starters on the post season roster, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will have a role on the team out of the bullpen? I’m also assuming the three starters go to CC, Hirok!, and Dandy Andy.

The new playoff system and schedule really discourages the use of three-man rotations, since everyone would have to pitch on three days’ rest after Games One, Two, and Three to get away with it. CC Sabathia can do that (assuming the Yankees actually get into the postseason), but I’m not sure Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte could. I expect the Yankees to use four starters throughout the postseason, and right now the number four guy is clearly Hughes. Nova pitched himself out of the job these last two months or so.

Now does that mean Nova would automatically go to the bullpen? I don’t think that’s a given. Assuming the Yankees only carry eleven pitchers into the postseason (they could get away with ten, but I doubt it happens), four will be the starters and four other spots are accounted for: Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. That leaves three spots, one of which I assume will go to Clay Rapada. The candidates for the final two spots would be Nova, David Phelps, Cody Eppley, and I guess Derek Lowe (veteran presents!). Phelps seems like a given in this situation, then you’ve got your pick of the other three. I guess that decisions comes down to who throws the best the rest of the way, but frankly I would rather see the Yankees carry an extra position player in that situation, especially if Mark Teixeira‘s calf remains an issue.

Steve asks: Are the Yankees more likely to go with a iffy Brett Gardner or Chris Dickerson on the playoff roster? Can they fit both?

Ben asks: Don’t you think Chris Dickerson needs to figure into the Yankees big league plans in 2013? At least as a 4th outfielder? This guy is a great fielder and base runner and had a useful bat. Much rather have him over another Andruw Jones-type. What say you?

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. If the Yankees do make the playoffs and use an 11-man pitching staff, they’ll have room for an extra bench player. That spot tends to go to a speedy pinch-runner type (think Freddy Guzman in 2009), a job for which both Gardner and Dickerson are qualified. Gardner is the better player, but he also is physically unable to hit right now. I have a hard time thinking the Yankees will carry someone on the postseason roster that can’t even swing the bat in case of an emergency. Maybe that changes and Brett is cleared to take his hacks at some point in the next six days, but that doesn’t seem likely based on everything we heard for the last four months.

As for next year, Dickerson’s situation depends largely on what happens with Nick Swisher. If they let him walk, then the outfield need will be greater and they should hold onto him. If they bring Swisher back, having a left-handed outfielder on the bench doesn’t make a ton of sense. I’m probably the biggest Chris Dickerson fan you’ll find, but he is just a platoon player at the plate. More of a high-end fourth outfielder than an everyday corner guy on a contender. As much as I would like him to see him stick with the club going forward, Dickerson isn’t a great fit for the roster right now.

Shaun asks: Hey Mike, do you know who would have home field if the Yankees and Rangers tied for the best record? Thanks.

The Yankees are currently two games back of Texas for the best record in the AL, and New York would get the nod as the top team in the circuit if they tie because they won the season series 4-3. They won’t play a tiebreaker game or anything like that, that only happens when the division title or a playoff spot in general is on the line. So yeah, the only thing the Yankees would have to do to secure home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS would be to finish with the same record as the Rangers, nothing more.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Steven asks: Mike, not sure if you’re aware, but Mike Trout is good at baseball. I was wondering, hypothetically speaking of course, if the Angels were to make him available, what sort of haul would he bring? Do you see his value getting any higher than it is right now? And, finally, what sort of package would the Yankees have to piece together to get these hypothetical talks started?

I don’t think any player in baseball has as much trade value as Trout. You’re talking about a just-turned-21 kid who has already shown he can play at a superstar level. He hits homers, steals bases, hits for average, gets on-base, and plays great defense at a premium position. Plus he remains under the team control for five more seasons, the next two at the league minimum. It’s impossible to top that, and I don’t think he could possibly increase his trade stock unless he agrees to like, a ten-year contract worth $25M or something ridiculous.

There’s no way for the Yankees to acquire Trout even if he was available. What do you start the package with, four years of CC Sabathia and one year of Robinson Cano while offering to pick up the bulk of the money? I wouldn’t take that for Trout. Offer me Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and a guaranteed to be healthy Michael Pineda and I still would say no if I were the Angels. If the Giants come calling and put both Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on the table, then yeah that catches my attention. The Yankees don’t have anything to get a trade done, I just don’t see how it would be possible. I don’t think Trout can replicate this season (or even improve on it) year after year, but he’s going to be great for a long-time. At his age and with that much cost-control remaining, he’s the single most valuable asset in the game.

Mailbag: Catcher, Dickerson, Nunez, Austin

We were running light on questions this week, so I opened the floor to the Twitter public yesterday afternoon and got a bunch of responses that way. Feel free to send us questions via Twitter in the future, but I can’t promise I’ll catch them all. You’re much better off using the Submit A Tip box for mailbag questions or anything else.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

From @DanFoolery: What’s the Near/Not-so-Near yet still-pretty-near plan for a MLB catcher for the Yanks? Romine? Sanchez? (Gulp) Martin?

This is the million dollar question right here and there’s no obvious answer. Austin Romine effectively lost a season due to his back injury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a viable big league option next spring. It just means that he might not be ready for the job full-time. Gary Sanchez is still years away and is not a 2013 factor, and J.R. Murphy probably won’t enter his name into the race for another year as well. Frankie Cervelli is just a backup.

The free agent catching market boils down to Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (hasn’t started more than 70 games behind the plate since 2009), Kelly Shoppach (pretty good option on a one-year deal), and contract year A.J. Pierzynski (someone will overpay based on this season). Trade targets could include Nick Hundley (Yasmani Grandal took his job) and John Buck (no way). I want to think that Martin’s poor season has lowered his value to the point where the Yankees could bring him back on a one-year, $6-8M pact to serve as a stopgap, but I just don’t see it happening. Sanchez is the clear long-term solution here, but what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.

From @adakannayr: Small sample size, but could Dickerson be a suitable replacement assuming we aren’t bringing back Swisher?

I like Chris Dickerson probably more than anyone should, but I don’t see him as an everyday outfielder for a contending team. He’s always had a significant platoon split (this year in Triple-A notwithstanding) but the good news for him is that he’s the more often used left-handed half of the platoon. Dickerson can run well and play very good defense, so that’s not a problem. The Yankees would just need a platoon partner, and that means they’ll be using two roster spots to replace the production as one. If they don’t bring Nick Swisher back, I would hope they’d look for a legitimate everyday solution and use a Dickerson-based platoon as just a fall back. Not even Plan B, like Plan C or D.

From @TomHasOpinions: Wonder if Nunez could be a CF answer-Lower bar on offense, fast w/arm strength, bad accuracy could be masked in OF..thoughts?

Center field is interesting. I’ve always thought that if Eduardo Nunez was going to play one position on an everyday basis, the best bet is probably second thanks to the short throw, but center would make much better use of his speed. Now obviously the transition from the infield to center is not an easy one and something you want him to go through in Triple-A, but it’s definitely doable at his age. Nunez isn’t a great hitter but he makes a ton of contact, steals bases, and has just enough pop to be dangerous, so maybe there’s a chance he develops into a .280/.330/.390 guy who steals 25+ bases in center. That’s not a star but it is a pretty useful player if he can figure the defense thing out. Consider me intrigued.

From @rickhindle: If he continues to hit, will Tyler Austin be the Yankees everyday RF in 2014

I always tend to think conservatively when it comes to prospects having big league impact, but I do think that’s a very real possibility. Austin has done nothing but hit since the day he turned pro, and I mean hit for both average and power. His bat will have to carry him because he isn’t a great defender, but the kid can hit. Despite this late season call-up to Double-A Trenton, I think Austin will open next year back with High-A Tampa before earning a quick promotion back up to Trenton in May or June. If he continues to mash there and gets in a few Triple-A games late in the summer, he’d be right where he needs to be as far as being a big league option. Does that mean he’ll produce in the Bronx right away? No, he probably won’t, but I think there’s a good chance Austin will hit his way into consideration for a big league job by Spring Training 2014.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

From @HyShai: Is there another pitcher (in history, other than Mo) that had success only throwing FBs and cutters, with no off speed?

I have no idea how to look this up for all of baseball history, but we can make this work for the PitchFX era (2008-present). Looking at the 111 starters who have thrown at least 500 IP since 2008, here are the ten most fastball-heavy pitchers…

  1. Kyle Kendrick — 77.8%
  2. Aaron Cook — 77.6%
  3. Justin Masterson — 76.6%
  4. Jon Niese — 76.4%
  5. Cliff Lee — 74.6%
  6. Jon Lester — 74.0%
  7. Matt Harrison — 73.3%
  8. David Price — 72.9%
  9. Mike Pelfrey — 72.5%
  10. Chad Billingsley — 72.0%

That includes four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, but not splitters, which are an offspeed pitch. Kendrick, Cook, Masterson, Harrison, and Pelfrey are all sinker-ballers while Niese, Lee, Lester, and Billingsley mix it up and throw four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters regularly. Price is just a BAMF and pumps the heat all the time. Andy Pettitte is 12th on the list at 71.3% while CC Sabathia is way further down at 68th (59.9%). He’s actually right behind Hiroki Kuroda (60.1%).

Other than Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the least used fastball(s) belongs to Bronson Arroyo (27.9%). The most used individual pitch by a starter since 2008 is Clayton Kershaw’s four-seamer at 67.7%. Seems like two out of every three pitches being a fastball is the closest we’ll get to a one-pitch starter. The most used offspeed pitch is Armando Galarraga’s slider (36.0%), but among MLB-caliber pitchers it’s the sliders of Ervin Santana and Bud Norris (both 35.6%). Here are the fastball-heavy relievers (min. 100 IP for 244 qualifiers)…

  1. Mariano Rivera — 99.4%
  2. Jason Motte — 90.6%
  3. Kenley Jansen — 89.7%
  4. Ronald Belisario — 86.7%
  5. Andrew Bailey — 85.2%
  6. Matt Thornton — 85.0%
  7. Octavio Dotel — 83.6%
  8. Neftali Feliz — 81.8%
  9. Danys Baez — 81.8%
  10. David Aardsma — 80.9%

That missing 0.6% for Mo are just pitches the system was unable to classify for whatever reason. PitchFX ain’t perfect. Aroldis Chapman (80.1%) is right behind Aardsma while David Robertson (74.6%), Rafael Soriano (70.2%), Joba Chamberlain (63.0%), and Boone Logan (55.3%) rank 34th, 61st, 140th, and 192nd, respectively. The most used pitch by a reliever since 2008 is Thornton’s four-seamer (82.6%) while the most used offspeed pitch is Luke Gregerson’s slider (57.8%). This shouldn’t be a surprise, but relievers have far more success relying on what amounts to one type of pitch than starters. Mo just takes it to the extreme.

Yankees designate Ramiro Pena for assignment, call up six

Via Peter Botte, the Yankees have designated Ramiro Pena for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Chris Dickerson. Unlike the first time he was designated, he will now need to be traded, released, or passed through waivers within ten days. Click here for an explanation of that weirdness.

Along with Dickerson, the Yankees have also officially recalled Frankie Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, Cory Wade, Adam Warren, and Justin Thomas as rosters expand today.

Replacing Mark Teixeira with Chris Dickerson

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Yankees lost more than just a game last night, as Mark Teixeira went down with a Grade I calf strain that will cost him no less than one week. Derek Jeter, as you may remember, suffered a Grade I calf strain last season and missed roughly three weeks. Hopefully the fact that he’s five years younger than the Cap’n will hasten Teixeira’s return to the lineup. Either way, the Yankees will be without their first baseman for an important stretch of games.

With the rosters set to expand on Saturday, don’t count on the Yankees placing Teixeira on the DL. Chances are they’ll play shorthanded for the next three games (Thursday’s an off-day) before calling up some players from the minors to fill various voids. One of those guys should be outfielder Chris Dickerson, who we saw briefly last year but has spent this summer raking for the homeless Triple-A squad. He owns a .321/.421/.523 batting line (169 wRC+) in 316 plate appearances this year, including a gaudy .354/.464/.619 line since the All-Star break.

I’ve written about the potential usefulness of the 30-year-old Dickerson in the past, noting that he can hit righties (career .341 wOBA against big league righties plus a .323/.420/.568 line against them in Triple-A this year), steal bases (17-for-20 in stolen bases attempts in Triple-A this year), and play strong defense in all three outfield spots. Dickerson can’t hit lefties though, so he is yet another platoon player in a lineup already featuring too many platoon players, but at this point the Yankees don’t have any alternatives. Players who can hit both lefties and righties are hard to find this time of year.

With Teixeira out of the lineup, the Yankees would have four players for four spots against righties — Dickerson, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez. Chavez has to play third and Ichiro an outfield corner; that’s the easy part. Having Dickerson around allows them to keep Ibanez at DH and put Dickerson in the other outfield corner while the switch-hitting Nick Swisher plays first. Against lefties they would have Andruw Jones, Casey McGehee, Jayson Nix, and the recently-acquired Steve Pearce for those same four positions: Jones at DH, McGehee at third, Nix in left, and Pearce at first with Swisher in his usual right field.

It’s pretty easy to see where Dickerson fits in here. Without him, one of those four right-handed platoon bats is going to have to play against righties, and that’s far from ideal. He’ll add some much-needed speed — Ichiro is 4-for-7 in steal attempts as Yankee — and improve the defense overall while not being an automatic out against righties. The sorta tricky part is getting him on the 40-man roster, which is backlogged as it is. I’m planning to write more about the 40-man situation in a day or two, but calling up Dickerson probably costs Ramiro Pena or Justin Thomas their job. That’s life though, these decisions are going to have to be made at some point anyway.

The Yankees catch a little bit of a break because they’re scheduled to face two left-handed starters in the next three games, so they can wait until rosters expand on Saturday to recall Dickerson. They don’t absolutely have to do it right now and set off a chain-reaction of 25-man roster moves. There’s no way they’ll be able to replace Teixeira’s production, but adding Dickerson as a platoon bat is their best in-house solution at the moment. Maybe McGehee or Pearce or one of those other platoon guys gets hots and carries things for a bit, but I wouldn’t count on it. Dickerson is mashing in Triple-A and offers the speed and defense elements as well. He’s their best internal option with Teixeira on the shelf.