Yankees release Jack Cust, Colin Curtis, and Ray Kruml

Via Donnie Collins, the Yankees have released DH Jack Cust, OF Colin Curtis, and OF Ray Kruml. Curtis has 64 plate appearances with the big league team in 2010 (42 wRC+), but missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. He’ll be best remembered for his mid-at-bat pinch-hit homer for Brett Gardner. Cust was Triple-A Empire State’s most dangerous hitter this year, posting a 145 wRC+ with an absurd 19.1% walk rate. Kruml was just a spare outfielder for the club.

None of the three were going to see time for the big league team this year, but the Cust and Curtis moves are huge blows to Empire State’s push for a playoff berth. I’m guessing we’re going to see a promotion or two in the coming weeks.

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It’s official, Freddy Garcia’s back

Monday: Via The NY Post, we have a breakdown of Garcia’s incentives. He’ll make an additional $250k each for his 25th, 27th, 29th, and 30th starts, then $275k for his 31st start and $300k for his 32nd start. Freddy only made 25 starts in 2011, in part because the Yankees avoided using him like the plague back in April. Things figure to be different this time around.

In other news, Marc Carig reports that Curtis has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton. He remains with the organization, but is no longer on the 40-man roster. Part of me wondered if some NL team would grab him as a lefty hitting fifth outfielder, but nope. The shoulder injury was too much of a red flag, I guess.

Friday: A little more than two weeks after agreeing to a new deal, Freddy Garcia is officially back in pinstripes. Sweaty Freddy signed his one-year contract this morning, which Bryan Hoch says is worth $4M guaranteed plus another $1.575M in incentives based on games started.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have designated Colin Curtis for assignment. The 26-year-old outfielder missed the entire 2011 season after suffering a shoulder injury in Spring Training, though he’s hitting .300/.391/.450 in winter ball so far (23 games). Curtis figured to be the team’s extra outfielder in Triple-A this year since Greg Golson has been released and both Justin Maxwell and Chris Dickerson are out of options. There’s a chance he’ll get claimed off waivers, but the shoulder injury is working in the Yankees’ favor.

Mailbag: Soriano, Garcia, Curtis, Cotham, Joseph

Eight questions this week, most about pitching in some form or another. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar any time you want to ask a question.

Remember me? (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dan asks: When Soriano comes back, do you think he automatically gets the 8th inning back, or will they keep Robertson there and put Soriano in the 7th? Maybe, if that happened, he would opt out and leave money on the table after this season…

Oh yeah, Rafael Soriano‘s definitely getting the eighth inning back. No doubt about it. And you know what? It’s probably better that way. Joe Girardi will be free to use David Robertson to wiggle out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings again, plus Soriano will get the easy job of starting innings fresh with no baserunners. As for the opt-out, just forget about. He’s not getting anywhere near that much cash on the open market, so the Yankees are stuck with him for better or for worse.

Shai asks: Where is Christian Garcia in rehab from TJS? Is there a chance Yankees re-sign him (if he plans on playing baseball again)?

It’s been about 15 months since Garcia blew out his elbow and had his second Tommy John surgery, so he should be healthy enough to throw with full effort and what not. Last we heard (in February), he was planning to throw for scouts but the Yankees had no intentions of re-signing him. Garcia’s going to be 26 in August and he’s faced a total of 126 batters since 2008. Bringing him back would be nothing but nepotism at this point. Great arm, too bad it was made of glass.

Josh asks: This question is a little out of left field (hardy har har) but why is Colin Curtis always on the bench with the team during games?

He’s probably just rehabbing with the team. I can’t think of any other reason, honestly. If that’s true, then good for him for sticking around instead of just packing up and spending the downtime at home. It shows determination and good makeup, or something.

(Photo Credit: Robert Pimpsner)

Ryan asks: What kind of prospect is Caleb Cotham? Does he still have any upside? High K numbers so far.

Cotham came out of Vanderbilt with knee problems and almost immediately needed another knee surgery after signing for $675,000 as a fifth rounder in 2009. While rehabbing from the knee, he suffered a torn labrum and had surgery to fix that. He’s finally healthy now and has appeared in four games for Short Season Staten Island this year (7.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K).

Cotham was considered a better prospect as a reliever at the time of the draft, and he regularly sat 89-92 with his fastball out of the pen. I have no idea if that velocity has come all the way back after the shoulder trouble. He’s also shown a very good slider, which is probably what he’s using to rack up all those whiffs. His best-case scenario before the injuries was a late-inning strikeout reliever, but we need to see how his stuff rebounds and if he’s able to stay healthy. Cotham’s interesting, for sure, but there’s a lot of risk for moderate reward.

Anonymous asks: Would an international draft and slotting ruin the chances the Yankees have at a good farm system since most talent comes through IFA for them? Or would an international draft just destroy baseball in other countries like Puerto Rico?

Oh an international draft (and slotting as well) would definitely hurt the Yankees. It would hurt every team, in reality. The draft gets all of the attention because it’s easy for us to follow, but the backbone of the Yankees’ farm system has long been it’s Latin America program. Taking away the ability to freely sign any player would be a significant hit. I do think there’s some concern about the consequences of an international draft, because the talent in Puerto Rico basically dried up after those players became subject to the draft. They were getting lower bonuses and couldn’t choose their own team, so many ended up playing other spots.

An international draft would be a logistic nightmare, and I’m not sure if they can figure one out for this upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement due in December. That would be great news for the Yankees.

Nicolai asks: You often say that it’s questionable if Corban Joseph can stay at 2B. I remember the same was said of Robinson Cano while he was a prospect. How do these two compare as prospects?

They’re similar in the sense that they’re bat-first second baseman, known for their ability to hit for average with what was considered average power. Cano has obviously soared past that power projection.  CoJo’s a .287 career hitter with a .138 career ISO. Cano’s minor league career? A .278 batting average and a .147 ISO. Identical, for all intents and purposes. There are two very significant differences between the two though…

  • Plate Discipline: Joseph draws significantly more walks than Cano did. In fact, he’s drawn 32 more minor league walks than Robbie in 548 fewer plate appearances. Cano’s never been a fan of ball four, never was expected to be.
  • Contact Skills: Robinson’s ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball is pretty freakish, you can’t teach that. He’s swung and missed just 6.2% of the time in his big league career, well below the league average. In 2,106 minor league plate appearances Cano struck out just 261 times (12.4%) and never more than 86 times in a season (he did that at age 19). Joseph has already struck out 259 times in his career (16.6%) with a 107 whiff season to his credit. When you work deep counts and draw walks, you’re going to strike out. It’s part of life.

Cano’s defense was questioned as well, he was expected to move to third or even the outfield because most felt he wasn’t quick enough for the middle infield. He’s obviously managed to become a fine second baseman and there’s no reason to expect him to move off the position anytime soon. Joseph is kind of in the same boat, generally considered to slow for the position. Cano, Chase Utley, and Orlando Hudson are three pretty notable examples of guys that weren’t expected to cut it in the middle infield but went on to be standout defenders at second because they worked hard at it, so it’s not like that kind of improvement is unheard of. It’s just tough to do. Joseph’s prospect status is at its peak right now, but I’d still take Cano at his prospect peak. That was right before they called him up in 2005.

So happy he's in the NL. (Photo Credit: Flickr user sompscigrad via Creative Commons license)

Bill asks: Who has the better chance at getting to 3000 strikeouts, CC or Halladay? CC has 1913 and is three years younger than Halladay who has 1852. However, Halladay pitches in the pitcher friendly NL.

I would have to think CC Sabathia has a much better chance. He’s already head of Roy Halladay on the raw total and has a huge head start in age, enough that the AL-NL difference probably won’t compensate. For Doc to get to 3,000, he’d have to strike out 200 batters a season (he’s been between 206-219 the last three years) every year until his age 40 season. Sabathia has struck out no fewer than 197 batters in a season since 2006, so if he averages 185 whiffs a year, he’d have to pitch until he’s “just” 37. I don’t think there’s any question that Halladay is the superior pitcher and has had the better career overall, but he had some injuries when he was younger and those cost him some strikeouts.

Joey asks: So, I’ve noticed a lot of these players with [no-trade clauses] have good teams listed. Why is this? So they can get compensated more? Or maybe in Soria’s case he doesn’t want to set up. Whats the deal with that as the deadline approaches?

It’s just leverage. All these guys list the big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and Tigers and Phillies so that if a trade does happen, they could pay to get them to waive it. Take Joakim Soria. A non-contender isn’t trading for him, if anyone does it’ll be a legit contender like the Yankees. They can buy him out of the NTC. I’m sure there are some guys that don’t want to pitch in New York or Boston, but I’d say the vast majority of these teams are listed in no-trade clauses as a way of creating leverage. Agents aren’t stupid.

Roster Updates: Feliciano, Molina, Ayala, Garcia, Colon

Via Marc Carig, Pedro Feliciano has been diagnosed with a rotator cuff strain, which is a whole lot worse than the sore triceps he reportedly had a week or three ago. No idea if this will change his return date or anything, but obviously it’s bad news. Good thing Feliciano is different than everyone else and has proven himself to be a workhorse. Grumble grumble.

In other news, both Gustavo Molina and Luis Ayala have been added to the 25-man roster while Romulo Sanchez is officially out the door and on the way to Japan. I count 41 players on the 40-man roster right now, and that doesn’t include Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. Damaso Marte will open up a spot when he’s placed on the 60-day DL, and I suppose Colin Curtis‘ shoulder injury is serious enough that he could as well. Still, that leaves one spot that has to be cleared, so another move is coming.

Update: Brian Heyman says Marte, Curtis, and Reegie Corona were all placed on the 60-day DL, so everyone’s on the 40-man now.

Who has minor league options left (and how many)?

Minor league options are one of baseball’s weird little quirks. Every player gets three, and they’re used whenever a guy on the 40-man roster is sent to the minors. Once you burn all three, the player has to pass through waivers to go back to the minors. Oh, and sometimes a player can qualify for a fourth option depending on some special circumstances. Yeah, it’s weird like that.

A player can only use one option a year, regardless of how many times they go up and down. That’s why you’ll see them referred to as “option years.” If a player is in the minors for more than 20 total days in a single year, it counts as an option. Anything less and it does not. To learn more about this stuff, I recommend Keith Law’s classic Death, Taxes and Major League Waivers post at Baseball Analysts. I’ll let him bore you with the details.

Obviously, options are important because they can dictate who can and who can’t be sent back to the minors. That information isn’t publicly available, at least as far as I know, so I figured I’d compile it myself. We don’t need to look at everyone on the 40-man roster simply because a bunch of guys aren’t ever going back to the minors, like CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. A few others are on the bubble, so let’s recap them and a could of notable young regulars…

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Andrew Brackman
Although 2011 will be his fourth full season since signing his Major League contract out of the draft, Brackman still has two minor league options remaining. He signed right on the August 15th deadline in 2007 but did not spent the required 20 days in the minors because the (minor league) season ended. The Yankees then carried Brackman on the 60-day disabled list all year in 2008 (Tommy John surgery), so he collected a year of service time instead of using a minor league option. His first option was used in 2009 and his second in 2010. Brackman will qualify for a fourth option because he will have used his three original options within his first five pro seasons. That’s one of those weird rules/ So yeah, the Yankees can send him down to the minors in each of the next two seasons without consequence.

Joba Chamberlain
Joba has all three options left. He was added to the 40-man for the first time in August 2007, when he was called up to the big leagues, and he hasn’t gone back to the minors since.

Colin Curtis
The Yankees added Curtis to the 40-man for the first time this past July, when he was summoned to the big leagues because the team was dealing with injuries and needed an extra position player during the NL park stretch of their interleague scheduled. Lil’ CC hung around a while but was eventually sent back down. He remained in Triple-A for more than a month later in the year, using his first option. He has two left.

Robert Fish
Added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason as a Rule 5 Draft pick, Fish has all three options left. Doesn’t matter though, he’ll be offered back to the Angels before the end of Spring Training.

Brett Gardner
After starting the 2008 season in Triple-A, the Yankees called Gardner up and added him to the 40-man roster for the first time that June 30th. He was with the team for about a month, ultimately sent down on July 26th because they had to make room on the active roster for the just acquired Xavier Nady. Gardner stayed in the minors until August 15th, so he was there for exactly 20 days. That’s not an accident, it prevented an option from being used. Gardner hasn’t been back to the minors since (not counting a very brief rehab stint in 2009), so he has all three options remaining.

Steve Garrison
Claimed off waivers from the Padres last year, Garrison was added to the 40-man (by San Diego) for the first time last (2009-2010) offseason. He used an option in his injury-riddled 2010 season, so he’s got two left.

"You might be using that last option this year, Greg." (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Greg Golson
Golson’s been around the block, having first been added to the 40-man roster by the Phillies after 2008. He spent basically all of 2009 and 2010 in the minors (save for the occasional cup-of-coffee, nothing major), using up his first two options. Golson has one left, which will inevitably be used this season.

Phil Hughes
Called up as a 20-year-old in what really was an act of desperation by the Yankees, Hughes was added to the 40-man for the first time in April 2007 and then went back to the minors after blowing out his hamstring. He spent a little more than three weeks in the minors that July but it was a rehab assignment, so it didn’t count as an optional assignment. The Yankees called him back up in August, so they didn’t burn an option that season.

Hughes began the next year with the big league team, but eventually hit the disabled list and then did the rehab thing again. The Yankees kept him in the minors for close to 40 days, however the first 30 were the rehab assignment. He did not eclipse the 20-day limit and did not use a minor league option in 2009. Hughes did use his first option in 2009, when he began the year in Triple-A and was called up in late April. He hasn’t been back to the minors since and has two options remaining.

Boone Logan
Logan’s out-of-options. He was first added to the 40-man by the White Sox in 2006, when they took him north out of camp because he had a great Spring Training despite having a total of 5.1 innings at the Single-A level to his credit. Yep. Boone spent considerable time in the minors in 2006, 2009, and 2010, burning all three options.

Justin Maxwell
Joel Sherman confirmed that Maxwell has one option remaining when he was acquired last month.

Sergio Mitre
The Experience has been out-of-options for a year now.

No need to look over your shoulder David, you aren't going back to the minors anytime soon. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

David Robertson
Called up and added to the 40-man roster for the first time on the same day as Gardner, Robertson went back to the minors on August 28th (in favor of Al Aceves) and then resurfaced 16 days later, preserving an option. He bounced up and down in April and May of 2009, burning an option. Robertson hasn’t been back to the minors since late May of 2009, so he still has two options at his disposal.

Romulo Sanchez
Chad Jennings confirmed with the Yankees this past December that Romulo is out-of-options.

Daniel Turpen
Same exact deal is Fish, so just re-read his comment and change “Fish” to “Turpen” and “Angels” to “Red Sox.”

Frankie Cervelli
Believe it or not, the Yankees added Cervelli to the 40-man roster for the first time after the 2007 season. That’s when he was first eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, before he ever got out of A-ball. Anyway, he spent most of 2008 in the minors, burning one options then spent the first five weeks of 2009 in the minors, burning another option. Frankie hasn’t been back to the minors since, so he still has that one option remaining.

Ramiro Pena
Pena was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in 2009, when he surprisingly broke camp with the big league team as the utility infielder. He went back to the minors for 43 games that summer, burning one option. Ramiro hasn’t been back down since, so he has two left.

* * *

Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason, so all three guys have all three options remaining. Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo were each added to the 40-man roster for the first time last offseason, and since they all spent most of 2010 in the minors, they all have two options left.

Standard disclaimer here: I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the above info. MLB has some weird rules, and what is and what is not an optional assignment is one of them. I do feel pretty confident though, the only real question is Gardner. Does exactly 20 days in the minors count as an option, or does it have to be more? Either way, it shouldn’t become an issue. Fish, Turpen, and Romulo are goners and probably soon, before the end of camp. That’ll free up three 40-man roster spots, at least one of which will go to Jesus Montero at some point. Let’s hope he never uses any of his minor league options.