Saturday Links: Severino, Breslow, Gardner, Headley

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Five weeks from today, Yankees position players are due to report to Tampa for Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers have to report four days prior to that. Spring Training is slowly approaching. Emphasis on slowly. Anyway, here are some nuggets to check out.

Yankees believe Severino is too bulky

Earlier this week, Brian Cashman the Bryan Hoch the Yankees believe Luis Severino may have added too much muscle last winter, so they suggested he work on his flexibility this offseason. I remember seeing videos of Severino last offseason (this one, specifically) and thinking he was noticeably bigger. There is such a thing as too big though. Too much muscle can limit flexibility and affect mechanics.

Now, that said, I don’t think Severino’s issues last season were solely a product of him adding too much muscle. Concerns about his overall command have lingered since his prospect days. He also lost feel for his changeup, and that can happen to anyone, not just a kid who may have bulked up too much. Hopefully Severino trims down a bit and is better able to streamline his delivery going forward. That should help his command.

Yankees will be among teams to scout Breslow

According to Peter Gammons, the Yankees will be among the teams on hand for veteran reliever Craig Breslow’s workout on January 23rd. New York is said to be looking for a lefty reliever, so Breslow fits. The veteran southpaw had a 4.50 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 14 innings with the Marlins last year before being released at midseason. He hooked on with the Rangers and spent a few weeks with their Triple-A affiliate after that.

Interestingly enough, Gammons says Breslow is working out with Rich Hill this offseason, and like Hill, he’s dropped his arm slot and is working to increase the spin rate of his breaking ball. That’s basically how Hill went from independent league player to ace-caliber starter two years ago. He dropped his arm slot, and, more importantly, he starting spinning the hell out of his breaking ball. Hill is essentially a curveball pitcher with a show-me fastball now. That isn’t to say Breslow will have as much success as Hill, but when you’re nearing the end of your career and want to hang around, it’s worth trying.

Cashman doesn’t expect Gardner or Headley trade

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Not surprisingly, Cashman told Hoch and Brendan Kuty he does not expect to trade Brett Gardner or Chase Headley before Opening Day. The Yankees have rejected all the offers they’ve received so far, I’m guessing because they were of the “eat a bunch a money and take this fringe prospect” variety. “I think the teams that had interested took their best shot,” said the GM.

The Yankees can and probably will continue to gauge the market for Gardner and Headley in Spring Training. Another team could lose an outfielder and/or their third baseman to injury, creating a need. Then again, how often does that actually happen? We talk about that possibility every year and yet it rarely happens. Even when teams do suffer those major injuries, then tend to stay in-house rather than make a desperation trade. Eh, we’ll see. The Gardner situation is far more pressing than the Headley situation given the Yankees’ young outfield depth.

Mailbag: Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

J.R. asks: Looking at what the A’s got in return for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow, could you speculate what the Yankees would had to have given to match the package?

In case you missed it yesterday, the Athletics traded Cahill and Breslow to the Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook. None of you Gio Gonzalez fans need to worry, Ken Rosenthal says he’s still on the trade block even after Oakland dealt one of their starters. I will miss the regular poundings the Yankees gave Cahill, he was good for two or three wins a year.

Anyway, the real prize for the Athletics is the 24-year-old Parker, the ninth overall pick in 2007. He missed the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, but made his big league debut this September and threw 5.2 shutout innings in his only start. The right-hander has been on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list in each of the last four years, ranking between 29th and 36th the last three years. Kevin Goldstein told Joe last night that Parker is a better prospect than Dellin Betances because he has a better chance to remain a starter long-term.

Cowgill also made his big league debut this year, hitting .239/.300/.304 with one homer and four steals in exactly 100 plate appearances. Baseball America considered him Arizona’s 18th best prospect before the season, saying he profiles best as a fourth outfielder because he “probably won’t have enough bat for an outfield corner or enough speed to play center field every day.” They mention that the 25-year-old gets the occasional comparison to Cody Ross.

Cook is another guy that debuted in 2011, throwing 7.2 disaster innings (11 hits, eight walks, seven strikeouts, six runs). The 24-year-old righty didn’t appear in Arizona’s top 30 prospects list this year, and he didn’t even make the team’s depth chart in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. In his trade write-up (Insider req’d), Keith Law says he’s “90-95 with a hard-diving slider in the low 80s, but doesn’t command either pitch and has a wicked hook in his delivery as well as a lot of effort; he could peak as a setup guy, could be a middle guy, could spend years bouncing up and down.”

Matching that trade package player-for-player is a little tough for the Yankees, just because of Cowgill. Manny Banuelos steps in for Parker and someone like George Kontos, Ryan Pope, or Craig Heyer is your Cook replacement. The Yankees don’t have an outfielder like Cowgill though, he’s better than the Colin Curtis/Chris Dickerson/Justin Maxwell trio. He’s similar to Brandon Laird offensively, but Laird is an infielder that can fake left field on occasion while Cowgill can handle all three outfield spots if needed. Austin Romine is too much, plus he doesn’t do anything to help Oakland’s outfield situation.

So if we’re speculating that it would have been Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow, would you do it? I say no, mostly because I’m pretty high on Banuelos and not the biggest Cahill fan in the world. He could turn into top flight starter, he has that ability, but boy he sure does leave a lot of sinkers up for a ground ball guy. Maybe my opinion of him is clouded by how the Yankees have crushed him over the last few years. He’d definitely help their rotation both now and for the next four years (signed through 2015 with two club options after that), there’s no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t give up three MLB ready (or very close to MLB ready) pieces to get him. What about you?

Would you have traded a package of Banuelos, Laird, and Kontos for Cahill and Breslow?
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Yankees have interest in Tyler Clippard, Craig Breslow

Via Nick Cafardo, the Yankees have varying levels of interest in relievers Tyler Clippard and Craig Breslow. Yankees fans should be familiar with Clippard, who has blossomed into one of the game’s best relievers since being traded away. I can’t imagine the Nationals are going to just give him away though, so I don’t rally expect a deal to happen.

As for Breslow, he’s left-handed and breathing, so of course the Yankees will have interest. He’s got a shiny 2.93 ERA with the Athletics, but ERA is a bad way to evaluate relievers. His real value comes from being able to handle both righty (.207/.291/.331 against since joining the A’s in 2009) and lefty (.240/.290/.388) batters, but Breslow hasn’t been effective against same-side batters this year (.390/.403/.559). That’s probably a sample size thing though (just 62 PA). He’s making $1.4M this year and would be under team control through 2013 as an arbitration-eligible player. He’d be a decent pickup, but not anyone that would save the season.

Mailbag: Oakland Relievers

Not gonna happen. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Tucker asks: You already wrote about possible deals with the A’s for starting pitchers, but what about relievers? Could guys like Blevins, Breslow, Wuertz or Ziegler be had and would they be worth it? Could taking a shot on Joey Devine play dividends?

Here’s the post I wrote about Oakland starters earlier this offseason, before the Hisashi Iwakuma fallout and the David DeJesus/Vin Mazzaro trade. Maybe a trade for a starter could have been worked out if things had played out differently, maybe not. At the moment, the A’s are set to open the season with Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and the winner of the Rich Harden-Brandon McCarthy Spring Training battle in the rotation. That leaves about 14 candidates for the bullpen according to the team’s 40-man roster, but of course some of those guys still need time in the minors. Regardless, they have plenty of bullpen depth and can afford to move one or two relievers for an upgrade elsewhere.

Assuming that former Rookie of the Year and two-time All Star Andrew Bailey is off-limits, let’s look at five of the team’s better relievers and see if they’d make sense for the Yankees.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Jerry Blevins
I’m not sure if anyone has shut down lefty batters as quietly as Blevins has in recent years. He’s held them to just a .276 wOBA with 54 strikeouts and six unintentional walks in exactly 200 plate appearances against. It’s not a huge sample, but it’s what we have. His career ground ball rate isn’t fantastic (36.6%), but it’s workable. From what I can gather, he has one minor league option (though I could easily be wrong, this stuff can be tricky) and five more years of team control remaining (he’s going to qualify as a Super Two, however), so he also provides quite a bit of flexibility. The 27-year-old Blevins fits in any team’s bullpen.

Craig Breslow
A Yale grad, Breslow bounced from the Padres to the Red Sox to the Indians to the Twins before finally sticking with the A’s. His overall numbers were rock solid in 2010, pitching to a 3.91 FIP with 8.56 K/9 and 3.01 uIBB/9 in 74.2 IP. The lefty held same-side batters to .273 wOBA in 2010, and for his career it’s a .265 wOBA against. His 83-31 K/uIBB ratio in 360 plate appearances isn’t as good as Blevins’, but it’s plenty good enough. The biggest negative is that he’s an extreme fly ball guy (70.4% non-grounders last year, and it’s been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now), so Yankee Stadium will exacerbate his already established homerun problem (1.06 HR/9 last few years). Breslow is definitely out-of-options, so he has to stick in the big leagues no matter what, plus he’s just heading into his arbitration years and will be making some decent coin.

Joey Devine
Back when it was cool to draft college closers in the first round, the Braves made Devine the 27th overall pick in the 2005 draft, one spot ahead of Colby Rasmus. I think Atlanta would like to push the reset button on that one. The 27-year-old hasn’t thrown a pitch (majors or minors) since 2008 because of a prolonged recovery from Tommy John surgery, but the A’s stuck by him and have continued to renew his contract since (a total of $1.525M counting his 2011 salary). He was lights out in 2008, striking out 9.66 batters per nine while walking just 2.56 unintentionally per nine in 45.2 innings (zero homers, 0.59 ERA, 1.97 FIP). That accounts for 69.9% of his big league career in terms of innings.  Devine, a rare sidearmer that throws hard (averaged 93.3 mph), has demonstrated a slight platoon split in his brief time in the majors: .240 wOBA against vs. RHB, .274 vs. LHB. He has to be considered a complete unknown given the long layoff, but there is some upside here.

Michael Wuertz
You’d be hard pressed to find a better relief season than Wuertz’s 2009 campaign. He struck out 102 batters in 78.2 innings (11.67 K/9) and walked just 22 unintentionally (2.52 uIBB/9). Combine that with an above average 45.5% ground ball rate, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dominant reliever. That season earned Wuertz a two-year, $5.25M contract (with an option), buying out his final two years of arbitration eligibility. Elbow trouble (completely unsurprising for a guy that throws about 60% sliders) and minor thumb tendinitis limited him to just 39.2 IP in 2010, when his rate stats dropped to 9.08 K/9, 3.63 uIBB/9, and 41.3% grounders. He also became strikingly homer prone (1.36 HR/9 after a few sub-1.00 years). If you acquire him, you’re gambling $3.05M (his 2011 salary plus the buyout of his $3.25M option) that he reverts back to the guy he was in 2009. In terms of walk and homerun rate, that 2009 season sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his career.

(AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

Brad Ziegler
Ziegler burst onto the scene with a 39.1 inning scoreless streak to start his big league career back in 2008, but since then he’s been a rather generic sinker-slider submarine reliever. He makes up for a mediocre strikeout rate (5.81 K/9 career) by getting a ton of ground balls (60.5% career) and limiting walks (2.88 uIBB/9 career). As with most submariners, Ziegler has a pronounced platoon split and should be considered nothing more than a righty specialist. He’s held right-handed batters to just a .269 wOBA, but lefties have tattooed him for a .371 wOBA. The 31-year-old has four years of team control left and at least one minor league option remaining.

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The Yankees have shown interest in Wuertz before, but Blevins and Ziegler are the most desirable to me given their low cost and general flexibility. The fact that both are nothing more than specialists sucks, but it is what it is. I can’t imagine the A’s would be willing to part with Devine (at a reasonable price, anyway) after sticking with him for so long. Perhaps a potential trade could be expanded to include Conor Jackson, who is stuck in limbo after the A’s rebuilt their corner outfields this winter. He’s a righty hitting leftfielder/first baseman with a career .373 wOBA against southpaws that does not strike out at all (just 238 K in almost 2,100 career plate appearances, 4.9% swings and misses). The problem is that he’s been hurt (Valley fever, two hamstring strains, and a sports hernia) and generally awful (.294 wOBA) over the last two seasons. He earned $3.1M last season and will make at least that in 2011 during his final trip through the arbitration process, and that’s simply too much money to gamble on a rebound candidate for the bench in my book. Why Oakland didn’t non-tender him, I’ll never know.

Anyone, one of the problems involving a potential deal is that these two clubs don’t match up well. Oakland’s pitching staff is generally set, and after adding Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, and Hideki Matsui this winter, their lineup is pretty much set as well. They re looking for an upgrade over Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, but they Yankees don’t have that guy to offer. Maybe prospects would get it done, but I don’t like the idea of giving up prospects for relievers, especially flawed ones like Ziegler and Blevins. There’s definitely a it for the Yankees, but not for the Athletics, and it takes two to tango.