Yomiuri sends Yankees $1.2M for Albaladejo

Well check this out. According to a report passed along by MLBTR, the Yomiuri Giants have sent the Yankees $1.2M for Jon Albaladejo. Albie finalized his deal with Yomiuri yesterday. I didn’t expect the Yanks to get anything out of the move other than a free 40-man roster spot, so this is a pleasant surprise. Granted, $1.2M isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just about enough to cover the salaries of Jesus Montero, Frankie Cervelli, and Ramiro Pena next season.

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Albaladejo finds a job in Japan

Via ESPN NY, Jon Albaladejo has finalized a one-year deal worth $950,000 with the Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui‘s old team. The Yankees released Albaladejo at his request two weeks ago so he could pursue a job on the other side of the Pacific. “He has the ability to start or come on in relief,” said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. “His role will depend on the situation of the team.” I’m not so sure about the starting part, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.

The move represents close to a 400% pay raise for Albaladejo, who made about $250,000 in Triple-A last year. It’s about double what he would have earned if he’d have stuck on the 25-man major league roster all of next season, so it’s good to see him come out ahead on this one. Good luck, Albie.

Yankees release Jon Albaladejo

Updated (4:51 p.m.): The Yankees released righty reliever Jon Albaladejo today so he could pursue a contract in Japan. He probably requested the release after an NPB team expressed interest, and the Yanks obliged. The 28-year-old has thrown 59.1 unspectacular innings for the Yanks since being acquired from the Nationals for Tyler Clippard after the 2007 season, though he was a monster in Triple-A. Albie was out of options, so he would have had to clear waivers to go back to the minors next year. He’ll be getting a deal from the Yomiuri Giants, so good for him.

The move frees up another 40-man roster spot. By my unofficial count, there are just 30 players on the team’s 40-man at the moment, but they have a full offseason ahead of them.

The Forgotten Relievers

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

As predictable as it was, the trio of Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson have emerged as Joe Girardi‘s trusted righthanded setup crew over the last few weeks while Boone Logan has taken advantage of Damaso Marte‘s injury to become his go-to-lefty. With the Yankees still in the division race and a few wins away from clinching a playoff spot, he’s leaned heavily on those four plus Mariano Rivera in the late innings of close games. Heck, even Chad Gaudin seems to emerged as that next guy, the one who’s just outside of the regular setup crew that sees plenty of work in what we’ll call “various” situations.

It’s still September though, and the Yanks have a full arsenal of relievers on hand aside from those six mentioned above. They’ve called up three extra arms this month, and remember, they had a 13-man staff before that with Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The call-ups and spare long men haven’t seen much action at all (as you’d expect), so let’s recap where each of those guys stand…

Jon Albaladejo

The Triple-A relief ace hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 12th, which is when he worked the final 1.1 innings of a game in which the rest of the team was busy getting shut down by Cliff Lee and the Rangers. Since being recalled at the start of the month he’s appeared in four games, throwing three innings and allowing a pair of hits and a walk while striking out three. Those three baserunners each reached in his last appearance, so the three before that were pretty solid except for some hit by pitches. Albie seems to be the favorite among the extra, sparsely used relievers, probably because he has seniority.

Sergio Mitre

Girardi’s love affair with Mitre always seemed questionable at best, especially since their relationship dated back to their time in Florida and Serg never really did anything on the field with the Yanks to stand out. He last appeared in a game on Sept. 13th, when he gave up the walk-off homer to Reid Brignac, the only batter he faced. Prior to that he had appeared in just one game since August 27th, and two since August 20th, so that’s three total appearances in the last 32 days. Clearly, he’s just a “break glass in case of emergency” long man right now.

Dustin Moseley

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

To be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten that Moseley existed until Ben mentioned his name last night. The last time he pitched was his start in Texas against Lee, the same date as Albie’s last game, when he pitched admirably for six innings before turning back into Dustin Moseley in the seventh. His only other appearance this month came on Sept. 4th, which is when Girardi brought him in with runners on the corners and two outs against the Blue Jays only to watch him give up a double to Lyle Overbay to tie the game. You remember that, it was the mother of all second guess moves.

Royce Ring

Recalled last Wednesday, Ring has yet to appear in a game for the big league team. The lefty last pitched on Sept. 9th, when he faced two batters in Game Two of Triple-A Scranton’s playoff series with Columbus. He walked one and got the other to ground out. Ring is the definition of a LOOGY, so his appearances-to-innings pitched ratio is well below one this year. At some point Girardi will call on him to get a lefty out, maybe even tonight since Logan has faced multiple batters in each of the last two games.

Romulo Sanchez

Sanchez was promoted over the weekend and Girardi hasn’t called on him yet. Before that he was recovering from an apparently minor elbow injury that had him on the Triple-A disabled list, so he hasn’t pitched in an actual game since August 24th, his only outing in the last 32 days. For a guy that’s wild as it is, I can’t imagine that’s a good thing. Luckily he won’t be seeing any high leverage work anytime soon.

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Javy Vazquez

Oh Javy, how the mighty have fallen. It’s seems like ages ago that the righty posted a 2.75 ERA during an 11 start stretch from mid-May to mid-July, but now he’s so out of favor that he’s nothing more than a highly paid mop-up man. Vazquez hasn’t pitched since starting in Texas on Sept. 10th, when he allowed four runs in five innings of work. He has warmed up a few times since then, but Girardi seems completely disinterested in using him. Given his disappearing fastball and hit-me-breaking ball, can you blame him?

* * *

The Yanks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to just five, so any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses totaling that number will put the Yanks in the postseason for the 15th time in 16 years. Barring another epic slump, they’ll clinch that spot by the end of the weekend, giving Girardi a chance to rest his regulars and line up his rotation and all that. That’s when Albaladejo and Ring and Mitre will really start to see some action, and chances are Moseley and Vazquez will make some spots starts as they try to line up CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes for the ALDS.

Jonathan Albaladejo’s big chance

Today’s September 1st, so that means dozens of prospects, former big leaguers, has-beens, never will-bes, and more will join the 30 big league teams as they expand their rosters down the stretch. For most of the clubs, it’s a time to give some youngsters a look or back off their young starting pitchers, stuff like that. For a guy like Jon Albaladejo, who the Yankees will activate before tonight’s game, it’s an audition for a future job.

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Albaladejo, the portly 27-year-old righthanded reliever, failed to make the Yanks’ Opening Day this season for the first time since joining the organization following the 2007 campaign, and that’s because he was simply atrocious in Spring Training. He appeared in five games, recorded just eight outs, and allowed 16 (!!!) hits and 11 runs. He walked a pair and struck out just one. With last year’s stellar relief corps intact (plus some new additions), it was going to be tough enough for Albie to crack the bullpen to start with, but his performance in camp cemented his trip to Triple-A Scranton.

With his sinker-slider approach apparently no longer doing the trick, Albaladejo decided to reinvent himself as a more traditional power pitcher. The sinker was replaced with a more traditional four-seamer that has registered in the mid-90’s, the slider with a 12-to-6 curveball. Well, he still throws the sinker and slider on occasion, but they’re nothing more than his third and fourth pitches right now. That’s pretty good for a reliever.

The results of the change were staggering. Albaladejo struck out 82 batters and walked just 18 in 63.1 innings this season, and opponents hit just .170 off him. A mere 22 of the 113 righthanded batters he faced with Scranton this year reached base, and exactly double that number went down on strike three. Along the way he saved 43 games, setting franchise and International League records. Clearly, the new Jon Albaladejo was a force to be reckoned with, and it’s just a matter of proving himself against big league competition now.

Albie showed off his new approach in a brief late-July call-up, when he allowed a run and struck out three in 2.2 innings of work spread across a pair of appearances. Basically a one inning pitcher all season, he appeared to fatigue in the second inning of his first appearance, when he allowed a single (the baserunner was then erased on a caught stealing) and a walk before giving way to Chan Ho Park, who of course allowed the inherited runner to score when he served up a homerun ball on the second pitch he threw. It wasn’t much to judge the new Albaladejo by, but it was obvious that all the talk of his new fastball-curveball combo was more than just talk, it was reality.

September, like Spring Training, isn’t the best time to evaluate players because of the diluted talent pool, but sometimes we’re forced to do it. That’s what the Yankees are going to have to do with Albaladejo, who’s going to be out of options next season. He’s either going to have to stick with the big league club out of Spring Training in 2011 or be placed on waivers before going to the minor leagues. Given the dearth of quality relievers and Albie’s kick-ass Triple-A performance, there’s a pretty good chance someone will give him a whirl. Hell, someone claimed Chan Ho freaking Park off waivers, Albaladejo’s not making it through.

David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Kerry Wood figure to remain Joe Girardi‘s primary righthanded setup relievers down the stretch and rightfully so, which means Albaladejo’s going to have to make the most of whatever playing time he gets. That’s probably going to be sixth and seventh inning work in close but probably still trailing games or blowouts. And remember, Albie’s not just pitching for a job with the Yankees next year, he’s basically auditioning himself for the other 29 clubs as well. Perhaps the Yanks could net something in a trade after the season than risk losing him for no return off waivers.

Jon Albaladejo’s reemergence this year was just one of several pleasant pitching surprises in the farm system this season, but unlike the rest of the guys down there, the Yanks don’t have the luxury of time in this case. Surely they’ve been evaluating him all season long, but this month they’re going to get a crash course look at what he can do against Major League hitters and use that to make a decision on his future with the organization. Hopefully he takes advantage of it.