Got some injury updates, courtesy of Chad Jennings. Pedro Feliciano has been shut down for a week with soreness in his throwing shoulder. He had been making light tosses off a mound as he rehabs from a torn shoulder capsule. Rafael Soriano is on his way back, throwing a bullpen yesterday and reporting no problems. He’ll throw another one tomorrow. Damaso Marte (remember him?) threw a bullpen today, though it’s unclear how long and with how much effort. Either way, good news for him and Soriano.
I’ve got five questions for you this week, each bringing something unique to the table. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go if you want to send in questions.
Findley asks: What are the chances that Bartolo Colon makes a start for the Yankees this season? And how would he fare?
I will say small, maybe 10% or so. The Yankees seem to like him in that Al Aceves role (even though we’ve only seen him in long relief so far), the versatile bullpen guy that could give you three outs or three innings. We also have to remember that his velocity has declined steadily during his outings (here’s his velo graph from game one, game two, and game three), maybe from lack of conditioning/fatigue, maybe from being physically unable to hold that velocity over 80-100 pitches. The guy had some major shoulder problems, you know.
I suspect that if he did start, Colon would be average at best. Six innings and three or four runs seems like a reasonable best case scenario, and finding a guy to do that shouldn’t be too hard. I wanted Colon to start the season in the rotation and think he should be there, but that’s only because I think he’s better than Freddy Garcia.
David asks: It seems like so called “toolsy” guys are a dime-a-dozen in the minor leagues. Athletic shortstops who have a great glove but nobody is real sure if the bat is ever going to show up. Obviously some of these guys even make it to the bigs (like Nunez/Pena). So, is it safe to say that predicting what a guy is going to be able to do in the field is a helluva lot easier than predicting his hitting ability? IE if you see a slick fielding high school guy, is it a much smaller leap to assume that guy will be able to do the same things in the big leagues? By comparison, some guy who can hit home runs off HS pitching (or hit for average for that matter) seems like much more of a crap shoot to project (hell, I even hit a few dingers in my day).
Hitting a round ball with a round bat is the hardest thing to the do in sports, so yeah, projecting offensive ability is tough that projecting defense. That doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk though. Players get bigger and might have change positions, which has a big impact on their future defensive value. The professional game is faster than anything these guys saw in high school and in college, so routine grounders aren’t so routine anymore. That said, the athleticism and reflexes needed for fielding a little more obvious than those needed for hitting. When it comes to batting, you’re talking about guys seeing breaking balls for the first time, getting pitched inside for the first time, using wood bats for the first time, etc. There’s a lot that can do wrong there.
But then again, I’m no expert, so I wouldn’t take my word as gospel. It just seems like projecting defensive ability would be a helluva lot easier than projecting whether or not a guy could hit Major League caliber pitching.
Charles asks: Is it possible for a team to exercise future club options early? For instance, is it possible to exercise Buchholz’s club options now, then trade him to another team if they could receive a good deal in exchange? Strictly hypothetical, not logical.
Just about all of these options have windows during which they must be exercised/declined, and that’s usually within ten days after the end of the World Series. Sometimes the contract will stipulate that the team has to decide on an option a year ahead of time, like the Blue Jays had to do with Aaron Hill’s 2012, 2013, and 2014 options this year. They had to either a) pick up all three before the start of this season, or b) forfeit the 2014 option all together. They passed this time around, but can still exercise the 2012 and 2013 options after this season.
Sometimes there’s no window and it’s anytime before the player becomes a free agent. I know the Phillies picked up Jimmy Rollins’ option a full year before they had to. Frankly, I think Buchholz would have more value without the options picked up in your hypothetical scenario. Instead of trying to trade a 26-year-old with five years and $30M coming to him with two club options, they’d be trying to trade a 26-year-old with seven years and $56M coming to him. I’d rather not have the options picked up and keep the flexibility.
Brian asks: So apparently the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is already calling the Pirates the winners of the Nady/Marte trade of a couple years ago. Is it still too early to tell who won? Granted Nady is gone and Marte likely wont pitch again this year, but Tabata has only played MLB level ball for a couple weeks now. And we did get that magical post-season out of Marte in 2009.
I think the Pirates won this trade rather convincingly. Xavier Nady predictably turned back into a pumpkin after the trade, and then he missed basically all of 2009 with the elbow injury. Damaso Marte‘s been a complete non-factor for New York outside of two weeks in October and November of 2009. If you want to fWAR this, the Yankees acquired exactly one win the trade.
As for Pittsburgh, they’ve already gotten two okay (1.1 and 0.9 fWAR) seasons (285 IP total) out of Ross Ohlendorf, not to mention a pair of up-and-down arms (393.1 IP combined) in Jeff Karstens (0.8 fWAR) and Dan McCutchen (-0.7 fWAR). Jose Tabata’s the real prize as a legitimate everyday outfielder. He’s not (yet?) the star we thought he’d become and probably won’t ever turn into that guy since he’s a corner outfielder with little power, but he can hit (career .336 wOBA) and is dirt cheap for the foreseeable future. He’s already been worth 2.7 fWAR by himself, and has a good chance of being a four win player this season.
The Yankees probably don’t win the 2009 World Series without Marte’s great relief work, so in that respect they “won” the trade. But in terms of value added and subtracted, the Pirates kicked their asses, even if none of three pitchers turns into anything better than what they are right now.
Tucker asks: Who would you say has been the most productive big leaguer out of the old big three (Joba, Hughes, Kennedy)? I’m leaning Kennedy but Hughes is right there.
I think it’s Joba Chamberlain and not particularly close. Let’s look at their big league resumes in general terms…
Joba: one full season as a starter (2009), one full season as a reliever (2010), one full season as a reliever/starter (2008)
Hughes: one full season as a starter (2010), one full season as a reliever (2009), one half season as a starter (2007 and 2008 combined)
Kennedy: one full season as a starter (2010), one half season as a starter (2007 through 2009 combined)
Hughes has a leg up on Kennedy because of his relief stint in 2009, and Joba has a leg up on Hughes because of the 2008 season he split between the rotation and bullpen. If you want to get technical and compare fWAR, then Joba (7.5) leads Hughes (6.0) by a sizable margin and IPK (3.0) by a mile.
Who would I want long-term? I’d take Joba if I could move him back into the rotation. If not, then give me Kennedy. Phil’s missing velocity and stuff this year raises a pretty big red flag. Four months ago I would have said Hughes without thinking twice about it. Funny how that works.
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.
Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, we’ve got a pair of quick injury updates for you. Eric Chavez experienced spasms in his calf yesterday, but he says it’s fine. He took batting practice today and will do a full set of fielding drills tomorrow, though Joe Girardi told him they’re going to hold him out of games until Friday. I know Chavez has been brittle over the last few years, but I wouldn’t worry about calf spasms. No big deal.
Meanwhile, the forgotten man Damaso Marte was in the clubhouse this morning and said his surgically repaired shoulder is doing well. He expects to start working out and throwing soon, and doctors have told him that there’s a chance he’ll be ready to return by the All-Star break. I still have zero expectations of Marte making it back healthy this season, but hey, good news is better than bad news.
The first official day of the GM Meetings has come to a close, at least in theory. Like I said on Monday, the hot stove is a 24/7 business, so who knows what could happen overnight. Obviously, the big news from Tuesday involved Dan Uggla, who was dealt to the Braves for the low, low price of (All Star) Omar Infante and former Yankee prospect Mike Dunn. I know they’re just getting one year of Uggla before free agency, but damn. You mean someone else wouldn’t top that?
Anyway, let’s round up today’s miscellaneous items, with the source in parenthesis again…
- “Things are going well right now,” said Hal Steinbrenner (Chad Jennings). He acknowledged talking to Derek Jeter‘s agent “a couple of times” since last week’s meeting in Tampa, but otherwise there’s not much going on.
- Meanwhile, Jon Heyman hears that the Yankees will bid at least three years to keep Jeter. Three years? Fine. At least three years? I don’t like where that’s going.
- The Yankees still have no idea if Mariano Rivera is looking for a one or two-year deal, but they’re expecting it to be the latter (Buster Olney).
- Bill Hall is on the list of free agents the team is interested in, and they have a bit of a connection: Hall works out with Yanks’ hitting coach Kevin Long during the offseason (Ken Rosenthal). I’m not much of a Hall fan, mostly because the idea of multi-million dollar utility players with multi-year contracts strikes me as utter lunacy.
- The Yankees did in fact contact the Diamondbacks about trading for Justin Upton, but it was nothing more than due diligence (Marc Carig).
- “I’ve got a small player move that I’m working on that might get done at some point this week,” said Cashman (LoHud). “But it’s small.” Let the speculation begin. I hope it’s Randy Choate.
- They won’t consider releasing Damaso Marte to free up a 40-man roster spot even though they expect him to miss the entire 2011 season. Cashman doesn’t believe the team has a roster crunch when it comes to protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft.
- Cash on the pitching coach situation (Marc Carig): “This is a scenario where there isn’t an obvious, without a doubt, in-house candidate.”
- In somewhat surprising news, Brian Cashman said that Al Aceves might have been healthy enough to pitch in the World Series if they’d gotten there (LoHud). The Mexican Gangster last pitched on May 8th and suffered a setback as recently as early-September. Cash said he’s “hopeful” going forward, presumably talking about Ace’s ability to stay healthy. That’s basically all you can do, back issues are tricky.
And finally, former Yankee GM Bob Watson announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season. Watson is currently MLB’s VP of Rules & On-Field Operations, meaning he disciplines players and what not, but he ran the Yankees’ ship from in 1996 and 1997, bridging the gap between Gene Michael and Cashman. He was a helluva player before that, hitting .295/.364/.447 with 184 homers in a career that spanned from 1966 to 1984. Watson played mostly for the Astros, but he also had stints with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves. Congrats on the retirement, Bob.
The 2009 Yankees were a club that relied heavily on its bullpen, and for the most part to great success. Chien-Ming Wang was horrific before being sidelined with a shoulder issue, Joba Chamberlain was perpetually bumping up against some kind of limit, and the fifth starter conglomerate of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin were hardly reliable. The bullpen picked up the slack, and the Yanks were able to ride that bullpen right to a World Championship.
The bullpen was again a strength in 2010, especially in the second half, but two key contributors from the previous year were essentially non-factors after the first few weeks of the season, and the Yankees suffered because of it.
Maybe not the most valuable member of the 2009 bullpen, Aceves was certainly the most versatile and relied upon. His 80.2 relief innings were by far the most on the team (Mariano Rivera was second at 66.1 IP) and he pitched in every possible role. Long-relief, righty specialist, middle relief, setup man, four-inning closer, you name it and Aceves did in the 2009. The Yankees penciled Ace in for a similar role this season, but it was not meant to be.
The Mexican Gangster missed the end of Spring Training with a stiff lower back, a sign of things to come. He was healthy enough to crack the team’s Opening Day roster, and proved his value in the second game of the season, firing two perfect innings in a tie game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park on just 23 pitches. He was used somewhat sparingly through April and early May, perhaps held back because of lingering issues with his back that we didn’t know about, but when he pitched he was pretty good: nine games, eleven innings, and just four earned runs allowed, all of which came within his first three outings of the season. The only concern was his lack of strikeouts (just one compared to four walks), but that early in the season no one thought much of it.
The Yankees were again in Fenway on May 8th when a rain delay forced starter CC Sabathia from the game. Aceves was brought in to pick up the slack, his third appearance in five days, and after recording the final out in the fifth, he went back out for the sixth. Kevin Youkilis led off the frame with a single, and two batters later J.D. Drew singled as well. Boston was mounting a mini-rally with the Yanks up by three. Jeremy Hermida stepped to the plate with men on the corners and two outs, and one pitch later Aceves was done for the season.
A first pitch curveball to Hermida dropped in for a strike, but it also dropped Aceves to the ground. Okay, not really, he never went down. But he did buckle at the waist and limp off the mound in a way that made you think it was a hamstring or quad or something like that. Aceves immediately left the game with what turned out to be the same thing that hampered him in March: a stiff lower back. Three days later he was placed on the disabled list with a bulging disc, and two weeks after that he reaggravated the injury while rehabbing in Tampa. Aceves had a few epidurals throughout the summer but nothing worked, and he was eventually shut down for the year after re-injuring himself in a minor league rehab start.
The Yankees were never able to replace Aceves in that jack-of-all-trades role, instead relying on several pitchers to pick up the slack. Gaudin and Mitre were given opportunities to do it, but they just couldn’t replicate the Gangster’s success. The Yankees had a solid setup crew for the seventh and eighth innings, but the gap between them and the starter was largely a revolving door all season.
Marte’s absence wasn’t as damning as Aceves’, nor was it as unexpected. After all, he did miss a huge chunk of the 2009 season with a shoulder issue before returning for that brilliant playoff run. The 35-year-old lefty specialist not only managed to stay on the field into July this season, he was also pretty effective. His overall numbers (4.08 ERA with a dozen strikeouts and eleven walks in 17.2 IP spread across 30 appearances) don’t really tell the story given the nature of his job. Marte faced 45 lefty batters in 2010 and just nine reached base. They hit just .146/.200/.268 against him, which works out to a .227 wOBA. He did a fine job neutralizing lefthanders, exactly what he’s supposed to do.
Marte pitched a scoreless inning in Oakland on July 7th, but that was the last time we’d see him this season. He was placed on the disabled list the very next day with shoulder inflammation, an issue that just kept lingering all summer. The Yankees eventually ruled him out for the season in early September, and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum just last week. Damaso won’t return until after the 2011 All Star break at the very earliest.
* * *
The Yankee bullpen managed to survive the injuries to Aceves and Marte, but there’s no denying they would have been a better team with those two healthy and performing like they’re capable of. We already know that Marte is basically a no-go next season, but Aceves’ status is still up in the air. Given the nature of back injuries, it’s wise to expect nothing from him in 2011 and treat whatever he gives the team as a bonus.
Via Erik Boland, lefty reliever Damaso Marte underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder last Friday, and won’t begin to throw again until after the 2011 All Star break. Marte was afraid he’d never be able to pitch again, so he took this as good news. For all intents and purposes, consider him out next season. He won’t start throwing until after the break, nevermind facing batters and stuff.
Damaso is under contract for under $4M next season, then the Yanks will buy out his 2012 option (another $4M) for $250,000. Since signing his regrettable three-year, $12M contract after the 2008 season, Marte has thrown just 31 innings with a 6.39 ERA. The ERA’s skewed by the ass kickin’ he took before going on the disabled list in 2009, though. He did hold lefties to a .136/.205/.242 batting line over the last two seasons (73 plate appearances), which is what he’s supposed to do. We’ll always have the 2009 playoffs, Damaso.