Trade Rumor Roundup: Ubaldo, Bedard, Kuroda

Still no trades, but lots of rumors. Here’s the latest concerning the Yankees…

  • There still has not been any significant movement regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, meaning that no team (including the Yankees) has shown a willingness to meet the Rockies asking price of three top prospects. (Joel Sherman)
  • The Yankees will have a scout on hand to watch Erik Bedard make his return from the disabled list tomorrow night, and the Mariners will have a scout watching Double-A Trenton tonight. Bedard has been out since late-June with a knee strain and will be facing the Rays in Seattle. We looked at him as a trade candidate last month. (Jon Paul Morosi & Josh Norris)
  • The Dodgers want any Hiroki Kuroda trade to be a “true baseball deal” and not just a salary dump. They want a young player in return for the right-hander, preferably a starting pitcher. Contrary to some reports, Kuroda will bring draft pick compensation (projects to be a Type-B free agent) if offered arbitration after the season. He will be treated like a player with six-plus years of service time, a courtesy MLB extends to Japanese vets. (Jayson Stark & Morosi)
  • “I’m going to be hard-pressed to find anything better than getting Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes off the disabled list,” said Brian Cashman to Dan Martin today. “I can’t imagine I’m going to run into anything but you’ve still got to go through the motions … We’re prepared for chaos if it comes before Sunday’s deadline. But I like the team we have.” That’s just GM speak, Cashman’s not going to come out and say he’s desperate for anything because it’ll only work against him.

Scouting The Trade Market: Erik Bedard

Early on in the offseason, I declared Erick Bedard one of four players the Yankees shouldn’t even think about signing over the winter. It had nothing to do with Bedard as a pitcher because there’s simply no denying his performance, instead it had everything to do with his health. He had two shoulder surgeries in 2008 and made just 30 starts total from 2008 through 2010, including zero last season. There was every reason to be skeptical this past winter.

Through the first two and a half months of the season, Bedard hasn’t just stayed healthy, he’s stayed healthy and performed well. His 3.80 FIP is almost exactly league average, and he’s striking out 8.36 men per nine innings while walking just 2.96 per nine, the same kind of numbers he put up in his prime. Given the Yankees perpetual need for pitching, it’s worth seeing if Bedard would be a fit in the Bronx…

The Pros

  • When you’re talking about a strikeout heavy lefty, the upside is obvious. Bedard’s strikeout rate has been north of eight per nine for years now, covering both healthy seasons and those impacted by injury.
  • He misses bats with one of the game’s best curveballs, a pitch that drops more than ten vertical inches and sits in the high-70’s. Bedard’s fastball velocity is surprisingly good given the shoulder issue, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. A changeup and cutter rounds out a solid repertoire, though that last pitch is just a show-me offering.
  • Bedard has a slight platoon split but nothing crazy: righties have a .323 wOBA off him this season, lefties .290. The good news is that Yankee Stadium is tougher on right-handed hitters, and Bedard’s split plays right into that.
  • Not only is Bedard’s salary dirt cheap (just $1M), the extra $6.35M he could earn in incentives is reasonable as well.

The Cons

  • I already talked about the big one, the injuries. One of those two shoulder surgeries repaired a debridement and removed a cyst, the other took care of a torn labrum. Bedard also missed time with a quad strain (2009), hip inflammation (2008), an oblique strain (2007), a knee strain (2005), and Tommy John surgery (2002). All but the quad required a DL stint. That’s some serious stuff.
  • Bedard was a ground ball guy once upon a time, but over the last few years he’s around 42% ground balls. That’s not awful, but it does lead to a lot of homeruns. He’s given up nine in 70 IP this year (1.16 HR/9) and 26 in 234 IP as a Mariner (exactly one per nine). Remember, Safeco Field is not exactly hitter friendly.
  • Bedard has a reputation of being very rude and standoffish when dealing with the media, occasionally blowing them off entirely, something that absolutely won’t fly in New York. He’s also made it no secret that he prefers to play in smaller markets after growing up in the small town of Navan, Ontario (outside of Ottawa).

The wrench here is that the Mariners are actually within striking distance of the AL West crown. They’re just two games back of the Rangers in the loss column and have won 16 of their last 25 games. Justin Smoak has developed into a strong hitter, Dustin Ackley‘s promotion is right around the corner, Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda are fronting the rotation … there’s a non-zero chance Seattle hangs around long enough and goes for it rather than sell off parts.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of stuff to like and dislike about Bedard. He’s shown ace caliber performance in the past but his medical file would make Carl Pavano blush. He doesn’t like big cities but he also carved up the AL East when he was with the Orioles. He’s left-handed and matches up well particularly well against the Red Sox but he’s also homer prone. The money cost is low but I can’t imagine the prospect cost will be given his overall performance. I try to just present the facts for discussion purposes and not give a definitive yes or no in these posts, but I’m breaking my own rule and saying “no” to Bedard. That health track record is scary, I’d much prefer a surer thing (if one exists when it comes to pitchers) even if the potential performance isn’t as exciting.

The Official “Don’t Even Think About It” Post

It happens every offseason. Out of nothing but pure boredom and an overdose of creativity, we’ll see suggestions about oddball players the Yankees should acquire to improve their team. Last year’s the fetish was Mark DeRosa, who would have presumably played every position under the sun while giving the regulars a chance to rest and play designated hitter for a day. Nevermind the tendon sheath he tore in his wrist late in the 2009 season, he was a perfect fit as a super-sub!

Sure enough, DeRosa played just 26 games (.241 wOBA!) in 2010 before rupturing that same tendon sheath, ending his season in early-May. All for the low low price of $6M. Rich Harden as a setup guy was another popular one, and the “trade Robbie Cano and sign Orlando Hudson” scenario had a two or three year shelf life. And, of course, there’s the always popular “sign a closer and make them a setup man” routine. As much as we might want these things to happen because we believe they make the Yankees better, they never do happen for a multitude of reasons. I doubt I need to explain them all.

Consider this post a preemptive strike. I want to cut off some of the dumb ideas before they even start, using some good old logic and reason. The offseason is a cruel mistress, it makes us think crazy things that make us wonder what the hell we were thinking when we look back on them. So let’s get to the list …

Get the trainer. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Erik Bedard

There’s no denying that Bedard is a special talent. His last two seasons with the Orioles were preposterously good (3.40 FIP, 9.3 K/9, .298 wOBA against), but you know what? That was three full years ago. Bedard has dealt with a barrage of injuries since 2008, the most serious of which were a pair of shoulder surgeries: one to repair a debridement and remove a cyst, the other to repair a torn labrum.

Bedard has made just 30 starts in the last three years, including zero in 2010. The Mariners shoveled $16.25M into his pocket since acquiring him before the 2008 season, and all they’ve gotten in return is 2.9 fWAR. There’s a ton of talent here, no denying it, but it’s bottled up in a big glass container of risk.  The heath of Bedard’s shoulder is a total unknown, and the chance of getting zero return is rather large. There’s no reason for him to receive any kind of guaranteed contract this offseason.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Vlad Guerrero

Texas unsurprisingly declined Big Vlad’s $9M option after the World Series, during which he reached base twice (one single, one walk) in 16 trips to the plate. He got some attention after putting up a monster first half (.339/.383/.580 with 18 homers and a .405 wOBA through June 30th), but he was rather pedestrian down the stretch (.327 wOBA after June 30th) and straight up terrible in the postseason (.243 wOBA in 62 plate appearances with 16 strikeouts). Vlad’s had an awesome career, but he’s a shell of his former self and the risk of total collapse is just too great at age 35 (36 on Opening Day).

Gerald Laird

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The defense behind the plate was a sore sight for Yankee fans in 2010, and Brandon Laird’s older brother is generally considered one of the best defensive backstops in the game. He threw out 34.1% of basestealers in 2010, and over the last five years that number is a whopping 37.6%, truly top-of-the-line.

But there’s a little of a catch, and that’s that Laird can’t hit. Like, at all. He put together a whopping .207/.263/.304 (.256 wOBA) batting line in 2010, and over the last three seasons he’s hit just .238/.303/.342 (.293 wOBA). If you take out the hit by pitches and intentional walks, his on-base percentage since 2008 drops to just .269. Yeah, terrible. No amount of catcher’s defense is worth that kind of offensive cipher.

Willie Bloomquist

Yep. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

When rumors circulated that the Yanks were interested in acquiring Bloomquist at the trade deadline this year, I almost quit being a fan. Okay not really, but seriously, it was bad. Bloomquist has been worth a total, a total of -0.7 fWAR over the last four seasons, during which he’s received 1,047 plate appearance. There’s a reason teams like the Mariners and Royals are bad, and that’s because they employ players like Willie Bloomquist.

Unable to hit for power, get on base at a decent clip, or play passable defense at any of the seven defensive positions he plays, Bloomquist has basically no redeeming qualities. His versatility just means he can suck at more positions. There’s nothing to like about the guy, and if the Yanks were to sign him as a free agent, his very presence on the roster would be an insult to my intelligence and fandom. Yeah, I’m not a Bloomquist fan, but it’s justified.

* * *

The pool of free agents is something like 200 players deep this year, and that’s before non-tenders hit the market in a few weeks. These four players have very little if anything to offer the Yankees, and don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. There’s either too much risk or too little return, and in some cases both. Finding better options at the same price won’t be difficult at all, and that’s the avenue the team needs to pursue.

Bedard headed to Seattle

Life in the AL East just got a little easier. The O’s shipped the best pitcher in the division to Seattle for a package centered around uber-prospect Adam Jones. No word yet on the other pieces headed to Baltimore, but previous rumors suggest it could a few prospects like Chris Tillman (probably), Carlos Triunfel and Jeff Clement (both doubtful), and/or reliever George Sherrill (likely). I dunno about you, but Bedard-Felix in a short series scares me more than Beckett-DiceK or Sabathia-Fausto.

(hat tip to MLBTR)