Archive for Edwin Jackson
As Joe wrote last week, it seemed nearly inevitable that the Yanks’ attention would turn to Edwin Jackson. He’s a 28-year-old Boras client who can fill innings, and the Yankees, in need of pitching, would seemingly love to bite if the price is right. The price may soon be right.
As Jon Heyman reported today, Hal Steinbrenner and Scott Boras met to discuss Jackson this evening. According to Heyman, the Yanks and their scouts “seem to like Jackson but want to keep deals short.” The CBS Sports reporter also reports that the Yanks’ owner would “think about the right deal” for Jackson.
We’ve written extensively about Edwin Jackson this winter, and you can check out our archives right here. Joe scouted Jackson in December. Personally, I’m not so high on Jackson. He’s a fine filler piece, but his numbers will slump in the AL East. If the Yanks can get him on a short-term deal that doesn’t hinder their ability to go after, say, Cole Hamels next winter, then I’m all for it. But anything more than a two-year deal isn’t something the Yanks should consider. With the Yanks also kicking the tires on Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt, the rotation may not be as set as we think it is.
Earlier today we learned that the Yankees will reevaluate their budget in the coming weeks, and tonight the Jons (Heyman and Morosi) report that the team is in a “holding pattern” with regards to its pitching search. They are still in touch with Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, and Roy Oswalt, but they just don’t like the asking prices. They are not interested in Ryan Madson, however. So in other words … nothing new to report.
It sure is quiet. Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean. For most of this winter there has been little, if any, talk about MLB Trade Rumors’ No. 6 free agent, Edwin Jackson. In fact, the first page of his MLBTR archives takes us all the way back to early December, an oddity for such a highly rated free agent. Normally there is some level of buzz surrounding this type of player, even if he’s not close to signing. Yet with Jackson we’ve seen scant few mentions. Most of them have been 1) noting that he’s still on the free agent market, 2) mentioning teams not interested in him, or 3) mentioning unlikely destinations, such as Baltimore and Minnesota. Yet activity has picked up lately.
One year ago, another top free agent went through similar motions. Just take a look at this page from Rafael Soriano’s MLBTR archive. As with all MLBTR archive pages, it spans 10 posts. The dates on those posts: December 6th through January 1st. Edwin Jackson’s page goes from December 5th to January 2nd. While the nature of the pages is slightly different, the stories are developing similarly. Soriano went from having some interest — from the White Sox and the Angels, mostly — to radio silence for a bit. At the beginning of January his name started coming up as a Yankees target, and later that month the two parties came to terms. Would it surprise anyone, then, if the Yankees ended up with Jackson?
Remember, earlier last off-season the Yankees reportedly had no interest in Soriano. In fact, in late November Joel Sherman said: “Soriano is not an option to come in on a closer’s salary and serve as the set-up man to Rivera now and the closer-in-waiting for when Rivera eventually retires. The Yankees do not want to invest that kind of money in a set-up man and Soriano is determined to close now.” That all changed, of course, after the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee and Soriano never got that big offer to close games. With Jackson, though, there needn’t be a change of heart. The Yankees have already expressed interest in him, with the hopes that his price tag falls to what they consider an acceptable level.
Yet even after the failed Lee pursuit, reports still indicated that the Yankees weren’t interested in Soriano. Sherman, Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, and ESPN’s Buster Olney all stated, at some point or another, indicated as such. (See previous link to Soriano’s MLBTR archive.) Yet one voice persistently connected the Yankees and Soriano. Jon Heyman, then with SI and now with CBS, continued insisting that the Yankees were monitoring the situation, even when everyone else reported otherwise. He was right then, and it appears he’s back on the job. Just yesterday he sang Jackson’s praises while connecting him to the Yankees. Could this portend another mid-January signing?
Scott Boras obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s held onto two valuable chips, Jackson and Prince Fielder, while a number of trade candidates and free agents have come off the board. Only Matt Garza remains as a well-known and viable trade candidate. Boras could easily hold back Jackson until the Cubs move Garza, creating a powerful situation. Any team that wants a lineup or rotation upgrade must then go to him. That could jack up the asking price for both Fielder and Jackson.
At an even higher price point — say, four years and $57 million, mirroring the last four years of the John Danks deal — would the Yankees be interested? After all, all we’ve heard this winter is that they’re looking to reign in their spending. Yet that might not be the concrete plan. Team president Randy Levine might have merely been making a calming statement to fans when he spoke to the New York Post last week, but his words do stand out. “There’s obviously room to improve the team. I don’t like to get into the amounts, but obviously there’s room to improve the team.”
Last winter, Heyman obviously had the inside track on the Soriano signing. He was the only one pointing in that direction, and he ultimately broke the news. This might have been through a connection with Boras, but it also might have been through connections to the non-baseball operations side of the front office. If Heyman does have and use that connection, perhaps he does have an inside track on the team’s feelings for Jackson.
Signing Jackson would be far from the worst thing for the 2012 Yankees. He’d probably step behind CC Sabathia as the team’s second best starter, pushing everyone else down the ladder. He’d create a bit more depth, since his presence would push one of the bottom two out of the rotation — perhaps in a trade, which could add more depth. The only downside is that adding Jackson will render the goal of a $189 million payroll by 2014 more difficult. But, really, that’s of little concern. That’s something for the Yankees to figure out, and if they sign Jackson it signals that they either have a solid plan in place, or otherwise don’t care that deeply about the limit.
It’s a bit much, at this point, to say that the parallels between Soriano and Jackson mean that the Yankees will sign him later this month. But it’s also hard to see the two situations and rule out the Yankees completely. They might be playing coy for now, but it would come as no surprise if the Yankees eventually emerged as frontrunners for Jackson’s services.
Via Buster Olney, the Yankees like free agent starter Edwin Jackson, but they don’t have the room to add him because Rafael Soriano is taking up a big part of their budget ($11M in 2012, $14M in 2013). Joe wrote about Soriano and how his contract may be preventing moves last week, in case you missed it.
Would Jackson help the Yankees next year? Of course. Is he the one missing piece that would put them over the top? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I know he’s young and all that, but he is a classic “should be better than he is” type and I think the Yankees have about three of those guys in the rotation already. Being the best available anything has a way of distorting reality and making players seem better than they really are, which is what happened with Gio Gonzalez and is probably happening with Jackson. I’m terrified of ownership stepping in an ordering a signing here, frankly.
If the Yankees don’t make a move for a pitcher this off-season, it won’t be for lack of options. To this point we’ve seen two free agent signings, an NPB posting, and two trades involving pitchers who would represent an upgrade to the Yankees. Perhaps they think that the prices to acquire these pitchers does not match the upgrade they’d receive, but the opportunities are there nonetheless. Brian Cashman figures to have a few more chances to upgrade later this winter, as there are a number of actually or reportedly available pitchers.
In terms of pure results, he’s the best available arm. His 3.31 ERA since 2009 ranks 23rd among all qualified starters. Even better, he’s reportedly seeking a one-year contract at a reasonable $12 or $13 million. The Yankees have been frequently connected to Kuroda, and it stands to reason that they’ll remain involved until he does sign somewhere.
While he does have the top results, there are some downsides to Kuroda. For instance, the hitters on the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are better than those on the Padres, Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks. The AL East also features more hitter-friendly parks than the NL West. Then there’s Kuroda’s age, 37. A one-year deal helps limit some of that risk, but if he shows decline in 2012 he might not present much of an upgrade.
Not far behind Kuroda in terms of results is Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros shopped him at last year’s trade deadline, but the Yankees weren’t interested unless Houston paid a significant portion of his remaining salary. He’s owed $36 million for the next three years, because his 2014 option becomes a player option if traded. That makes him much less attractive, meaning Houston will have to kick in some cash if they want to trade him. While they showed reluctance earlier in the off-season, they now appear willing to make that trade-off.
Not only does the NL Central have a number of top-flight hitters, but none of them actually play for the Astros. That is, Rodriguez has the burden of facing all of these elite hitters. The closest they ever had was Hunter Pence, but he wasn’t even a top-five hitter in the division. That does make him look a bit more attractive. He also has fewer pitchers’ parks in the division. Yet the Yankees appear not at all interested. That’s probably because of the commitment length. Were Rodriguez signed only through 2013 they might be more on board. But three years to a pitcher you’re not totally sold on? While Rodriguez might help, it’s understandable why the Yankees are shying away.
In the last three years, despite multiple bouts with lower back injuries, Oswalt has accumulated a 3.46 ERA in 531 innings. All told that’s a pretty solid accomplishment. Since we just discussed Oswalt yesterday there’s no need to elaborate further. He remains a tantalizing yet risky option.
There has been no shortage of Gio Gonzalez news this winter. The A’s seem pretty intent on trading him, and judging by how slowly they’re moving they’re also trying to extract every last drop of value from another team. This makes complete sense. Gonzalez ranks 39th in ERA among all starters from 2009-2011, despite his horrible 2009 showing. He’s been among the best in terms of results the last two seasons. Even when you look at only his away stats, he still fares pretty well: 3.96 ERA in 238.2 innings since 2009. That takes away some of the concern that he’s the product of a large ballpark.
The Nationals were rumored to be pushing hard for Gonzalez, offering up a four-for-one trade that will involve prospects Brad Peacock and Derek Norris, among others. Still, four-for-one deals can get complicated, since they typically lack top-end quality. Today on ESPN.com, Jim Bowden suggested a few trades for Gonzalez (subscription required). For the Yankees he suggests Dellin Betances, David Phelps, and Austin Romine. Since Gonzalez has four years remaining of team control, this could work out for the Yankees. The only catch: Oakland might find a better package, and one that fits their needs better, elsewhere.
Garza represents an interesting option, if only because he’s experienced success in the AL East. But the Cubs are apparently asking for a lot. Would the Yankees be willing to trade Banuelos and at least one other top-five prospect (Gary Sanchez or Mason Williams), plus other pieces, to get the last two years of Garza’s pre-free agency years? It seems unlikely. While he’s been good, he might be a bit more expensive than other pitchers. If he costs more than Gonzalez, he certainly isn’t worth it.
You can check out our large and growing John Danks archive for various takes on the 27-year-old left-hander. He’s an enticing option for a few reasons. He’s been solid for the last four years, he has AL experience and in a hitters’ park no less, and he is conceivably someone the Yanks could sign long-term after the 2012 season. The issue, as with Garza, is that the White Sox are asking the moon for him. It’s simply not worth a top-five prospect for a player who will reach free agency after this season. At a price more commensurate with his overall value, Danks could be the best target on the board.
A free agent, Jackson requires just one resource to acquire: money. The Yankees have that in abundance, though they’re seemingly not throwing it around this off-season. They might also be reluctant to sign Jackson for four years. As with Oswalt, we covered Edwin Jackson recently, so there’s no need to dive any deeper into his case. He’s there for the taking and could represent an upgrade in the Yanks rotation.
That brings us to a dozen candidates who could have upgraded, or still might upgrade, the Yanks rotation in 2012. All of the candidates, save for Darvish, have sported ERAs under 4.00 since 2009. They’ve all thrown a good number of innings, and everyone on the list, save for Oswalt and maybe Latos, has been relatively healthy. If the Yankees are serious about upgrading their rotation, they’ll connect on one of these 12 options, even though there are just seven remaining.
If you take a look at MLB Trade Rumors’ remaining free agents list, you might notice something peculiar. Actually, maybe you won’t; I didn’t until Mike pointed it out. First browse the position players and identify players who could hit in the middle of a contender’s lineup. Then look at the relievers and see who could soak up high leverage innings. And then finally look at starting pitchers and see which ones will likely give you above-average production. We might quibble here and there on the details, but it’s pretty clear that the three best remaining players from those categories are Prince Fielder, Ryan Madson, and Edwin Jackson. It should come as no surprise to learn what they all have in common.
They’re all Scott Boras clients.
Boras has laid relatively low this off-season. He has placed only three players so far, four counting Andrew Brackman, and they’re all lower-tier types: Bruce Chen, Gerald Laird, and Willie Bloomquist. Yet his greatest assets are still not only on the market, but they’re the best choice for any team looking to upgrade. That means he’ll likely extract a decent price for them. While the market remains quiet for Jackson — his last MLBTR mention came more than a week ago, and it was to note a non-interested team — he’ll surely fetch a decent sum if only because he’s the best remaining pitcher on the market.
Chances are the Yanks won’t pursue him. They stayed out of the C.J. Wilson sweepstakes and reports are that they didn’t go big on Yu Darvish. It sounds as though they’re looking for either a true No. 2, or to shore up the back end of the rotation. Jackson could help them in the middle of the rotation, but probably not at a cost that the Yankees find appealing.
- Jackson just turned 28 this past September, making him one of the younger options on the market. Many, if not most, free agents hit the market as they’re exiting their prime years. Jackson is just entering them. That makes it more likely they’ll pay for future, rather than past, performance.
- He’s shown some improvement in his peripherals the past two years, notably in his ground ball rate. He’s also kept the ball in the park better in the last two seasons, which has led to his two best FIP seasons.
- Even with a .330 BABIP last year, almost 20 points higher than his career average, he still managed a 3.79 ERA in nearly 200 innings.
- His last two seasons have been split between the AL and the NL, but he’s actually performed better in the AL — while pitching for the White Sox, a team with a hitter-friendly park.
- Once a big problem, he’s improved his walk rate in the last year and a half.
- His numbers in the last three seasons: 622 IP, 7.09 K/9, 3.04 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, 3.96 ERA, 3.91 FIP. Those aren’t outstanding numbers, but they’re solidly above average.
- Scott Boras has him in a good position now and can likely extract a decent price. Plenty of teams need pitching, and as listed above Jackson has plenty of positive qualities. Chances are he’ll provide solidly above production for a salary of a slightly better pitcher.
- He hasn’t exactly been a welcome member of any staff, as he’s pitched for six teams in his career. Part of that might be circumstance beyond his control. But there has to be something about a pitcher that so many teams are willing to part with.
- Chances are that in addition to a sizable salary, Boras is also looking for a four-year contract, or even more. That’s a long time to commit to a pitcher who will at best be your No. 3.
- As we mentioned earlier in the off-season, Jackson’s strikeout rate tends to fluctuate wildly. It’s not necessarily a red flag, but it does raise some eyebrows.
There’s no way to justify it other than saying it’s a gut feeling, but it seems as though Jackson is the type of free agent who would sign with the Yankees and then pitch pretty poorly. Maybe it wouldn’t be Carl Pavano 2.0, but I do feel as though Jackson wouldn’t work out nearly as well as the numbers suggest. This is by no way an authoritative stance, but it’s just something that I’ve felt when evaluating Jackson as a free agent.
Via George King, the Yankees have been in contact with the agent for right-hander Edwin Jackson, a reasonable fellow named Scott Boras. Brian Cashman said his priority this winter will be pitching, which is why he’s been in contact with Jackson, Roy Oswalt, and C.J. Wilson already.
This is still the time of the offseason when teams and free agents are just feeling each other out, gauging interest and whatnot. It’s not a surprise that the Yankees have already gotten in touch with basically the three best free agent starting pitchers, but we’re a long way from offers and bidding wars and all that fun stuff. It’s an underwhelming class of starters, but I think Jackson is the best bet to be worth his contract going forward. Doesn’t make him a bargain or a must-have, though.
I was in the writing mood when I put this together yesterday, so you’re getting seven questions and close to 2,000 words worth of mailbag this morning. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.
Many, many people asked: What about Grady Sizemore in some capacity?
The vast majority of the questions we got this week were about Sizemore, either as a fourth outfielder or a full-time corner guy with Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner being traded away. From 2005-2008, Sizemore was arguably the best player in the game, hitting .281/.372/.496 (.376 wOBA) with power (107 homers) and speed (115 steals) to go along with very strong defense in center field. His 27.4 fWAR and 24.4 bWAR during those four years were both the fourth highest in the game. He’s a free agent because the Tribe declined his $9M club option earlier in the week.
The now 29-year-old Sizemore is a shell of his former self due to injuries, specifically to his knees. He had microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 (and then some setbacks), and had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee just a few weeks ago. He’s also needed surgery for two sports hernias (2009 and 2011) and for a debridement in his elbow (2009). All those injuries have limited Sizemore to just 210 games over the last three years (no more than 106 in a single season), during which time he’s hit .234/.314/.413 without any of the speed he showed before (just 17-for-29 in steal attempts). Over the last two years, it’s a .220/.280/.379 line with four steals in eight attempts in 104 games.
I don’t see the fourth outfielder thing working for the Yankees because he’s a left-handed hitter, and they have enough of those in the outfield already. They need a right-handed bat that can step into the lineup against tough southpaws, especially the AL East guys like David Price, Jon Lester, and Ricky Romero. I also don’t see any reason to believe that Sizemore can hold up for a full season playing everyday, he hasn’t done that in three years now. He’s a sexy name because he was legitimately one of the best players in the sport at one time, but Sizemore isn’t that guy anymore and there’s not much evidence that he’s coming back. I expect him to sign with some team that guarantees him a bunch of playing time, then is left scrambling when he gets hurt again.
Ed asks: Let’s say the Rockies non-tender Ryan Spilborghs this offseason, should the Yanks sign him to replace Andruw Jones for the 2012 season? Spilborghs has a career .277/.357/.443 line against lefties, and is a decent fielder.
Spilborghs is okay, but he got wildly overrated a few years ago because he had some dramatic hits during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007. I don’t even think he even qualifies as a platoon bat anymore, he’s hit just .236/.332/.401 against lefties over the last three seasons (.258/.317/.384 vs. RHP), so the majority of his career damage against southpaws came 4+ years ago. Spilborghs is a big step down from Jones, who works the count well and (more importantly) can really hit for power.
As an aside, my all-time favorite Ryan Spilborghs moment was when Woody Paige said the Rockies should trade Matt Holliday (in June 2008) so Spilborghs could become “a full-time starting outfielder who could be the next Holliday.” Nice thought, if it wasn’t for the fact that Spliborghs is four months older than Holliday. Fire Joe Morgan did a number on that one.
At least a dozen emailers, paraphrased: Will the Yankees show any interest in Edwin Jackson this off-season?
If it feels as though Edwin Jackson has been around the league for nearly a decade, it’s because he has. He made his debut in 2003 at age 19, throwing 22 innings for the Dodgers. That came after he rolled through the AA Southern League with relative easy, producing a 3.70 ERA and a 2.86 FIP. It’s tough to mistake that type of talent as anything but star-bound.
It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. The Dodgers let him start the 2004 season in AAA, and he got rocked down there. His stint in the majors went just as poorly. A repeat in 2005 completely removed Jackson’s prospect luster. The Dodgers wasted little time in trading him to the Rays for Danys Baez and Lance Carter. That is, they traded a 22-year-old who, two years prior, was Baseball America’s No. 4 overall prospect, for what amounted to an overrated reliever and an utterly crappy one.
Here’s where Jackson’s story becomes relevant to the Yankees’ interest in him. Once he was out of options, in 2007, the Rays made him a full-time starter. In each year since then he has made at least 31 starts. That makes him seem a durable pitcher, something teams value on the free agent market. But in those five full-time seasons Jackson has displayed a measure of inconsistency. His ERA has fluctuated wildly, moving 1.00 or more in three of the last four off-seasons (and 0.85 in the fourth).
Yet we know that ERA tends to fluctuate year-to-year, at least to some degree. That’s why we have FIP: to look at a pitcher through events over which he has most control. In this manner Jackson has shown inconsistency too, especially in his strikeout rate. Here are Jackson’s K/9 numbers from the last five years:
Again, we’re not talking small fluctuations here. We’re talking a change of at least 1.00 per nine every season. That should make wary anyone with a long-term contract offer in hand.
There are a number of things to like about Jackson. He’s still just 28 years old, so there shouldn’t be any decline-related worries. As mentioned, he’s also made at least 31 starts in each of the last five seasons, so he’s proven himself durable. He’s also seen his FIP pretty consistently decline over the last three seasons. from from 4.88 in 2008 to 3.55 this past season. His xFIP has also dropped a bit, to around 3.70 in each of the last two seasons. He pitched plenty of those seasons in the AL as well — in fact, you could say that he pitched better in Chicago than he did at either of his NL stops.
In terms of a deal, chances are Jackson would command three to four years. Normally I’d say three, but the market works in strange ways when it comes to starters — especially those that Scott Boras represents. Only nine free agent pitchers in history have signed deals longer than four years, and given how few of them have worked out it’s pretty safe to say that four years is the max. If the Yankees were going to offer Jackson a contract I’d prefer three years at max, with a $33-$35 million ceiling. I’m not sure that gets the job done, but anything more could be a big mistake.
That said, I’m not sure the Yankees seriously consider Jackson this winter. They have a number of in-house options for the 2012 rotation. They might not be better than Jackson right now, but I suspect that the Yankees think they’ll be close enough in the near future that signing him makes little sense. He’s not a terrible get, especially on a three-year contract (that expires when he turns 31). But given the market, which I think will provide him a fourth year, and the current number of righties on the brink of the rotation, I think the Yankees pass on Jackson. He’s not a bad idea as a backup plan, though.
Five questions this week, and four are farm system-related in one way or another. You can use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in a question.
Matt asks: Would you agree that an off-season strategy could be to include E. Nunez in a package for something the Yankees want, while giving his role for 2012 to Corban Joseph?
I would not agree with that, mainly because Joseph can’t play shortstop. I assume he played it in high school, but he’s been a second baseman almost exclusively as a pro. I’m willing to bet that CoJo could fake short in an emergency, but Derek Jeter‘s getting up there in age, and the Yankees need someone capable of playing there for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that, but I’m not sure Joseph can. I think if anything, he could step into Eric Chavez‘s shoes as the lefty bat/corner infielder, but I can understand wanting a veteran in that role.
The CoJo situation will be interesting to watch, because I’m not really sure where he fits in. He’s obviously not going to unseat Robinson Cano at second, so maybe it’s best to turn into some kind of utility guy that can play first, second, third, and maybe left. Of course, they could always use him as trade bait. I would have no trouble trading Nunez in the right package, but I wouldn’t count on Joseph replacing him, at least not in 2012.
Jeff asks: Hey Mike, I read that Zachary Arneson signed for a 20k bonus. Any idea why it was so low compared to other picks before and after his round? Cheers.
Arneson, this year’s ninth rounder, was a college senior out of Lewis-Clark State, and college seniors don’t have much leverage at all. Their options are either sign or go back to school as a fifth year senior and come out next year with even less leverage. Very rarely do they improve their stock. Seniors definitely get the shaft in the draft game, but that’s life. Some other notable college seniors the Yankees have drafted in recent years: Adam Warren ($195k), Tim Norton ($85k), Kyle Roller ($45k), Sam Elam ($40k), T.J. Beam ($20k), and Chris Malec ($1k). Yep, Malec got a grand, that’s it.
Update: One thing I forgot to mention … the signing deadline does not apply to college seniors. They are free to sign at any point before the next year’s draft.
Sean asks: With St. Louis about to (presumably) tie up a lot of money in Pujols, do you think there is a chance to snag a piece of their rotation in the off-season? Assuming they do not exercise their options for Wainwright or Carpenter, can you see the Yankees pursuing either of them or Edwin Jackson? And if so, what kind of contract would Wainwright be looking for?
Despite the Tommy John surgery, I can’t see why the Cardinals would decline Adam Wainwright’s options after the season. The team has to pick up both at the same time, and they’ll pay him $9M next season and $12M the season after. Even if he comes back and is two-thirds of what he was before (so 4+ WAR instead of 6+ WAR), that’s a bargain. They’d be foolish not to pick them up, but if they didn’t for whatever reason, I’d want the Yankees to be all over him. Wainwright’s a legit ace when healthy, with a fastball-curveball combo that will play anywhere, NL Central or AL East. There’s no real precedent for an ace-caliber pitcher hitting the open market after missing the year due to injury, so I have no idea what kind of contract would be appropriate. Maybe one-year, $10M plus incentives and a huge option for 2012 ($18M?) to let him rebuild his value than cash in shortly thereafter? I have no idea, just spitballin’.
Chris Carpenter is a much different story. We’ve written about him a number of times here, and his option is for $15M next year. That’s pricey for a 36-year-old who’s still very good (3.10 FIP), but maybe not truly elite anymore. He’d be an ideal stopgap number two type for the Yankees, allowing them to avoid the C.J. Wilsons of the world before going nuts on the 2012 free agent class (Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, all of them and more will be free agents after next season). Edwin Jackson … meh. I loved him as a rental for this year, but signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent? I’d rather pass on that.
JCK asks: Pat Venditte has been great since mid-June in Trenton. Everyone says his stuff doesn’t play to major league hitters, but he’s adjusted to every level so far. Do you think the Yankees protect him this winter?
Venditte’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and no, I don’t think the Yankees will protect him. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and George Kontos are all going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, and there’s only so much room for pitchers on that thing. Venditte’s done a great job in the minors, but he doesn’t really have an out pitch from either side and it shows in his strikeout rate this year (8.74 K/9 this year vs. 11+ in previous years). He’s a great org arm, but there wouldn’t be much attention paid to Venditte if he only threw with one arm. I’m pretty sure some team will grab him in the Rule 5 just to give him a look in Spring Training, the novelty is too tempting, but I can’t imagine him sticking in the big leagues for all of 2012. I have to think he’d be offered back at some point.
Alex asks: How involved have the Yankees been in IFA this year? What have been their major signings? It seems as though they’ve been more quiet on this front than in years past.
The Yankees have only signed one player so far (that we know of), Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750k. The top guys (Victor Sanchez, Elier Hernandez, and Ronald Guzman) have all signed somewhere, but there is still plenty of talent out there for taking, namely Roberto Osuna, who the Yankees have their eyes on. The entire international market seems to have slowed down recently because MLB has really stepped up their age and identity verification process, but remember that the signing period never ends. There’s no deadline, but a new crop of players is added every July 2nd. In fact, the Yankees’ two biggest signings last year – Rafael DePaula and Juan Carlos Paniagua – didn’t agree to terms until December and March, respectively. You can question their drafting strategies, but there’s no way to question the work the Yankees do in Latin America. They consistently produce quality players and prospects year after year, and I see no reason to believe this year will be any different.