Archive for Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster has been suspended five games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Alex Rodriguez on Sunday, the league announced. Joe Girardi was also fined for his tirade. Because the Red Sox have some off-days coming up, Dempster can serve his entire suspension and not miss a start without even filing an appeal.

MLB had to suspend Dempster for a number of reasons, first and foremost the whole “protect the players” thing. They also can’t let it be open season on A-Rod no matter how much opposing players don’t like him, and remember, Alex has accused both the Yankees and MLB of conspiring to get him out of the game. Letting Dempster go unpunished would add some validity to that claim. Anyway, it’s no surprise Dempster won’t miss a start, pitcher suspensions are always a joke.

Categories : Asides
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Nov
06

The Pitching Backup Plans

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(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

If you haven’t headed over to our Depth Chart page in a while, you might not have noticed that as of right now, the Yankees currently sport a five-man pitching rotation of…

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Ivan Nova
  4. David Phelps
  5. Adam Warren

If you’re optimistic, you can say Michael Pineda will take Warren’s spot sometime in June. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you. Either way, that’s not a championship-caliber rotation. The Yankees have some work to do this winter, and for the most part I think the pitching plan involves waiting for Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to declare their love of pinstripes and sign nice little one-year deals to rejoin the team in 2013. That would be ideal.

What if that doesn’t happen though? It doesn’t take much effort to envision a scenario in which Kuroda decides to return to Japan and Pettitte decides to stay home with the wife and kids. The Yankees would really be in a bad spot if that happened because … well … look at that rotation above. Luckily this free agent class offers some solid rotation options, so the Yankees would have plenty of alternatives if things don’t go according to plan. Some of those options are better fits than others, however.

Zack Greinke
The undisputed best pitcher on the market, Greinke is probably looking at a contract worth $120M+ across five or six years. Matt Cain type of money. Fair or not, the Yankees are concerned about how the 29-year-old would fit in New York though. Greinke met with Brian Cashman face-to-face during the 2010 Winter Meetings in an effort to convince him that he wanted to pitch in the Big Apple, but no dice. Cashman wasn’t having any of it. There isn’t a team in baseball that couldn’t use a pitcher of this caliber in their rotation, but the combination of asking price and other concerns make Greinke almost a non-option for the Yankees.

Dan Haren
There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t want their team to take a one-year flier on Haren this offseason. He’s been an ace-caliber pitcher for the last half-decade or so and he’s still relatively young (turned 32 in September), which is all you could ask for from a free agent. That said, there are major red flags here. Haren has battled back trouble through the years and they caused him to hit the DL for the first time in his career this season, plus his fastball velocity has been declining for years.

The Angels were trying to trade Haren before having to make a decision about his option last Friday, but ultimately they came up with nothing and had to decline the net $12M deal ($15.5M option with a $3.5M buyout). The combination of the Cubs pulling out of the Haren-for-Carlos Marmol trade talks and the fact that no other club made a viable trade offer makes me think his medicals are looking pretty grim. You also have to look at it this way: if Haren is looking for a one-year, “re-establish my value” contract, why would he come to New York? A fly ball heavy pitcher in a small stadium in the AL East is no way to rebuild value. The Yankees should look into him because of his track record, but I don’t see Haren as a slam dunk no-brainer they should go all out to sign. Lots of risk here.

(Pool/Getty)

Anibal Sanchez
I’m a pretty big Anibal Sanchez fan and I consider him the best non-Greinke free agent pitching option this winter. He offers the best combination of youth (28), performance (3.70 ERA and 3.40 FIP since 2010), and durability (major shoulder surgery in 2008, but 195+ innings in each of the last three years). Sanchez made a brief cameo in the AL this season following his trade to the Tigers and he handled himself well, plus he impressed in his three postseason starts. Not the sexiest name but a rock solid pitcher. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about an appropriate contract, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a team gets an aggressive and offers the A.J. Burnett/John Lackey contract (five years and $82.5M). I highly doubt the Yankees would offer that much, but Sanchez would be my first target if Pettitte and Kuroda decline to come back.

Edwin Jackson
Keith Law said it best this weekend: “It’s time to accept that this is almost certainly what Jackson is going to be. He looks like an ace, holding mid-90s velocity or better for 100 pitches, but just turned in another season of good-not-great performance, this time entirely in the National League.” There’s nothing wrong with that at all, especially at age 29 and with his track record of durability (180+ innings in five straight years). I’m just not expecting Jackson to get any better even though he’s yet to hit 30. He would be my number two target behind Sanchez if Kuroda and Pettitte don’t come back, number three if Haren’s back checks out okay.

Kyle Lohse & Ryan Dempster
Lohse is going to get a significant contract this winter, maybe the biggest behind Greinke, but I wouldn’t touch either him or Dempster unless they’re willing to come real cheap. They’re two guys who have had most (all?) of their success in the NL and don’t operate with much margin for error. It’s also worth noting that Lohse received a qualifying offer from the Cardinals and would require draft pick compensation. Solid pitchers for sure, but not guys I would consider impact additions for the Yankees.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon McCarthy & Shaun Marcum
All three have their warts, but all three have some kind of track record of success in the AL. Guthrie is probably the safest bet while McCarthy is both the riskiest (very long injury history) and has the highest upside. Marcum’s kind of the in the middle. I prefer any of those three to Lohse and Dempster and would consider them solid additions on one-year contracts. Anything more than that is really pushing it.

Because he doesn’t really fit anywhere else, I’m going to mention Carlos Villanueva here. I’m a big fan (perhaps too big), but I like him best as a sixth starter/swingman. I wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea of him making 30 starts and throwing 200 innings. I can’t see how anyone could expect him to do that in 2013.

Francisco Liriano, Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders, Scott Feldman & Roberto Hernandez
I wouldn’t trust any of these guys with a starting spot, at least not right out of the chute in Spring Training. To be honest, Liriano is the only one who is remotely intriguing to me. He’s still on the right side of 30 and has a year of ace-caliber performance in the not-too-distant past to his credit (2010). I consider guys like Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard, Scott Baker, Kevin Correia, Dustin Moseley, and Jason Marquis to be minor league contract only options for the Yankees. This is the bottom of the pitching barrel right here, but thankfully there are plenty of other options out there.

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(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The trade deadline is 4pm ET today, and the Yankees will definitely be in the market for a fill-in third baseman with Alex Rodriguez on the DL with a broken bone in his hand. Mark Teixeira‘s wrist problem could spring them into further action as well, and pitching help — both rotation and bullpen — is always on the agenda. The Bombers are almost certainly done with the outfield market following the Ichiro Suzuki pickup, however. We’re going to keep track of any Yankees-related trade deadline rumors right here throughout the day, so check back often for updates. The latest will be on the bottom. Here are Sunday’s and Monday’s rumors if you missed them…

  • 10:00am: Teixeira’s injury should have no impact the team’s deadline plans, and the Yankees are still trying to acquire a defense-first type player for third base. Things are pretty quiet right now. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • The Yankees are focused on acquiring 40-man roster depth pieces, guys they can stash in Triple-A to cover for any injuries that pop-up down the stretch. [Joel Sherman]
  • Reports indicate that the Yankees have stepped up their pursuit of Ryan Dempster in the last 48 hours — lines up with when we learned about Andy Pettitte‘s setback, no? — but that has since been shot down. Dempster has 10-and-5 no-trade protection and seems hellbent on joining the Dodgers. [David Kaplan, Jon Heyman & Jayson Stark]
  • 12:34pm: There is still a “distinct possibility” the Yankees will acquire Ty Wigginton before the deadline. The Phillies are selling off all their movable pieces, with Shane Victorino headed to the Dodgers and Hunter Pence headed to the Giants. [Matt Gelb]
  • 12:56pm: The Yankees don’t believe Wigginton can handle third and are valuing defense at the position. A deal is said to be “highly unlikely.” Guys like him will get through waivers in August. [Sherman]
  • 2:03pm: The Yankees are “engaged in heavy discussions” with the Cubs about Dempster. I think this might be a case of the Cubbies trying to drive up the price for the Dodgers, but who knows. It’s worth mentioning that pitching coach Larry Rothschild knows the right-hander from his time in Chicago. [Bob Nightengale, Sherman & Rosenthal]
  • 2:14pm: The Dempster stuff is basically due diligence, the Yankees did their homework and expressed some level of interest yesterday. [Marc Carig]
  • 2:25pm: Dempster has told the Cubs that he will waive his 10-and-5 rights to join the Yankees because of his relationship with Rothschild and special advisor/former Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Chicago would have to kick in some money to facilitate a deal. [Heyman, Sherman & Sherman]
  • 2:29pm: The Cubs are said to like Angelo Gumbs and Dante Bichette Jr., but the Yankees are unlikely to part with them for a fifth starter upgrade. [Sherman & Sherman]
  • 3:12pm: Ownership has not been presented with any kind of financial information for a potential Dempster deal yet, so it doesn’t sound like anything is close as of right now. The commissioner’s office has to approve any trade involving more than $1M exchanging hands. [Sherman & Sherman]
  • 3:31pm: With less than a half-hour to go, the Dempster talks are still “nothing serious.” Either they’re going to scramble to beat the clock or the deal isn’t happening. [Carig]
  • 3:53pm: The Yankees “may” have acquired Dempster. No confirmation yet, however. [Jim Bowden]
  • 3:58pm: Scratch that, Dempster has been traded to the Rangers. [Buster Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

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Dempster said he’ll waive his 10-and-5 rights for a contender, but will he shave his beard for one? (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

If a columnist connects an available player to the Yankees, you can bet it will get widespread publication in the major baseball blogs. It wasn’t a surprise, then, to open up Hardball Talk and see the headline, “Yankees, Dodgers are interested in Ryan Dempster.” Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times stirred the drink here, writing that Dempster “is coveted by several would-be contenders, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.” Coveted? Really?

Two weeks ago we heard quite the opposite. Jon Heyman wrote that the Yankees have concerns about Dempster pitching in the American League. Since his debut as a 21-year-old for the Marlins in 1998, Dempster has pitched exclusively in the NL. The Yankees seemingly haven’t had success with pitchers who switch leagues, though Hiroki Kuroda has performed admirably this season. It does seem, as Heyman writes, that they’d prefer to trade for Dempster’s teammate Matt Garza, though Garza will be a bit more expensive since he’s still under team control for 2013.

Dempster has gotten off to a great start this season, allowing just 19 earned runs through 74 innings while striking out 63 to just 20 walks. His ground ball rate is down a bit, which is somewhat concerning. During his peak years of 2008 through 2010, when he produced a 3.49 ERA in 622 innings, his ground ball rate was around 47 percent, while it’s under 43 percent this year. And, again, the transition from the NL Central to the AL East is a significant one. That shouldn’t stop the Yankees from acquiring Dempster, but it should certainly limit the price they’re willing to pay.

The Yankees might have five starters going well right now, but as we’ve seen in years past, that can change at any time. In 2010 they had five starters pitching well when the Cliff Lee trade fell through, and it seemed like no big deal. But then Hughes’s performance worsened considerably. Javy Vazquez fell off a cliff. Andy Pettitte got hurt. And A.J. Burnett again turned in a poor summer performance. That is to say, a currently full pitching staff shouldn’t turn off the Yankees. With the rate at which situations change, they’d be fools to write off such a trade solely because they seem set in the moment.

This is no ringing endorsement of Dempster. Where he is, he’s fine. Great, you can even say this season. But move him out of his current environment and stick him in the AL East and it’s a different story. I think he can pitch well, but not nearly to the level he’s currently achieving. We’re talking more back-end starter. There could come a time between now and July when the Yankees might need such an arm. Getting Dempster for the right price will be tricky, but if they can figure out something with the Cubs then they should go ahead. There will inevitably be a need on the pitching staff later this season.

Categories : Pitching
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(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Dustin asks: According to Bob Nightengale, nearly everyone on the Cubs but Jeff Samardzija is available. Looking at this realistically, who are some guys the Yankees should call in on?

Here’s the MLBTR write-up on Nightengale’s report and also clarification from Theo Epstein that shortstop Starlin Castro is not available. I’m sure they’re going to listen if someone is willing to blow them away, but I don’t think the Yankees have the pieces to land a young guy like Castro.

Anyway, the Cubs have a number of players that are both interesting and potentially useful to the Yankees. Some are obvious like Matt Garza (4.09 FIP), who Jon Heyman says New York is most interested in. I’m a Garza fan and think he’d be an ideal trade target for the rotation, though it would be costly. They’d be getting him for a season and a half at a below market salary, so I think something along the lines of the Dan Haren package — one premium prospect and two or three secondary pieces — would be reasonable. Heyman says the Yankees aren’t interested in Ryan Dempster (3.48 FIP) and I don’t love him either. Quality pitcher but not someone I consider a difference maker. Here’s what I wrote about Garza and Dempster last year.

Slugging first baseman/corner outfielder Bryan LaHair could be a fit for the Yankees depending on what they think of his defense in the outfield. He doesn’t have enough big league time for the defensive stats to be meaningful but it’s safe to assume he’s best at first given how often he’s played there this year and in the minors. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter is having a huge year (158 wRC+), but his primary skills are his ability to draw walks (12.7 BB%) and hits for power (.273 ISO), making him an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium. He strikes out a ton (28.9 K%) and struggles against southpaws (61 wRC+), so he’s cut from the Russell Branyan/Jack Cust cloth. LaHair came into the season will less than two years of service time, so he’ll be dirt cheap for the next five years and fit right into that 2014 payroll plan if he can handle a corner outfield spot on an everyday basis and essentially replace Nick Swisher.

Lesser pieces like David DeJesus (113 wRC+) and Reed Johnson (95 wRC+) could make sense if Brett Gardner‘s injury lingers, plus DeJesus is under contract for next year and could help replace Swisher in the short-term. I’m not the guy’s biggest fan but it is an option. The Yankee Analysts wrote more about DeJesus recently, so check that out. A reliever like changeup specialist Shawn Camp (3.17 FIP) could be a fit given the Mariano Rivera‘s injury, but I consider Carlos Marmol (5.47 FIP) a no-no. He’s just way too erratic and makes too much money. Kerry Wood could have been an option had he not retired a few weeks ago.

Garza and LaHair are the two most obvious players who could interest the Yankees if the Cubs do indeed conduct what amounts to a fire sale. A few lesser pieces like DeJesus and Camp could make sense but that’s really it; the north-siders don’t really have the most exciting roster in the world. The Yankees have never made a trade with the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime because of the whole Red Sox thing, but I can’t imagine that would impact any trade talks. Both parties know what’s up.

Categories : Mailbag, Trade Deadline
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(Photo Credit: Flickr user wisley via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees’ perpetual search for pitching takes us to Ryan Dempster today, who we got to see firsthand over the weekend. He wasn’t very good, walking six and allowing eight hits in just 5.1 IP on Saturday, and the three runs scored had more to do with the Yankees not getting the job done with men on base than Dempster bearing down and pitching his way out of jams. A recent report indicated that there’s “no likely scenario” in which the Cubs trade him, but we’ve heard that about so many players in recent years that it’s tough to take it seriously. Let’s break it down…

The Pros

  • Dempster has proven himself as a bonafide workhorse over the last few years, throwing at least 200 innings every year since 2008 (he’s on pace to do that again this year). Although he had a lot of elbow issues early in his career, his only trip to the disabled list in recent years was due to a broken toe he suffered climbing over the dugout fence in 2009. That qualifies as a fluke.
  • His fastball velocity has held up well over the years, still sitting in the low-90′s regularly. He’ll use both a two and four-seamer, though Dempster’s bread-and-butter is a mid-80′s slider that he throws 35.5% of the time. He’ll also throw his low-80′s changeup one out of every ten pitches. Since the start of the 2009 season, his slider has an 18.1% whiff rate, the changeup 20.2%. That’s pretty damn good.
  • Since returning to the rotation in 2008, Dempster’s been above eight strikeouts per nine innings in three of the last four years (it was 7.74 K/9 in the one exception year, which is still close to eight per nine). His ground ball rate has hovered between 47.1% and 48.1% every year since 2007. Hooray for consistency.
  • This is the last guaranteed year of his contract and he projects to be a Type-A free agent at the moment.

The Cons

  • Dempster does have a considerable platoon split since returning to the rotation. He’s held right-handed batters to a .240/.304/.375 batting line with 19.8% strikeouts and 7.3% unintentional walks since the start of 2008, but lefties have gotten to him for a .259/.339/.409 batting line with 24.0% strikeouts (very good) and 9.8% unintentional walks (not very good). His unintentional walk rate since 2008 is solid (3.18), but he’s been around 3.50 both this year and last. That’s nothing special.
  • He’s become increasingly more homer prone over the last several years and is well-below-average at 1.27 HR/9 this year. His 15.1% HR/FB ratio is a touch high compared to recent years, and it’s worth noting that eight of the 13 homers he’s allowed this year came in his first five starts. He’s allowed just five homers in eleven starts since.
  • I’m not sure how much (if any) stock to put in this, but Dempster is a career National Leaguer and has gotten hit around during Interleague play: 4.98 ERA, ~4.55 FIP in 202.1 career innings against the AL. We saw that on display last weekend and it’s not an insignificant amount of innings, but they’re spread out over 14 seasons (so an average of 14.5 IP per season, which is nothing). For what it’s worth, he has just one career playoff start to his credit, this one back in 2007.
  • Dempster has a $14M player option for 2012 in his contract, and player options are alwaysbad news because the team has zero control over what happens. Any team that acquires him has to assume he’ll pick it up. He’ll earn $13.5M this year (about $2.25M per month) and there are a series of escalators built in the contract that are based on award finishes, etc.

The Yankees reportedly have no interest in Dempster (or teammate Carlos Zambrano), but we know they were at least scouting the Cubs recently. Plus “no interest” has led to an introductory press conference a number of times over the last few seasons, so I have a hard time believing that report. The player option is a killer because he could come over, completely stink, then eat up $14M of payroll next year. That said, at least Dempster’s option is market value; you don’t have to try all that hard to envision him going out on the market after the season and getting that kind of money. If he comes over, pitches well and picks it up, hey that’s freaking awesome. But that’s just one possible scenario out of many.

As for similar players traded recently, all I can come up with are Ted Lilly (Cubs to Dodgers), Javy Vazquez (Braves to Yankees), and Jake Westbrook (Indians to Cardinals), though I think we can all agree that Dempster is a notch above those two. They also aren’t perfect comparisons because of the player option (plus Javy was not a midseason trade). Those three required packages of multiple young players/prospects, which is probably what it would take to acquire Dempster. Anyway, I’m not sure what to think here. There are obviously pluses and some definite red flags, but I think it’s safe to say he passes the “better than Freddy Garcia” test. But is the cost and risk worth it?

Categories : Trade Deadline
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A few weeks back I had the chance to meet Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster. I’ll start off by saying he was an extremely nice, down to earth guy, and from now on I’m a fan of his. While I only had a few minutes to talk to him, my first question was what he thought the Yankees should do with Joba Chamberlain. As a pitcher who has had success in both the rotation and then pen, I was intrigued on what he had to say on the subject.

Dempster first said they need to just make up their minds one way or another, which I completely agree with. The bouncing around Joba has been through isn’t helping anyone and they need to make a decision and stick with it. It’s pretty interesting to note, that while Dempster has pitched in both roles, in his 12 full seasons, he had a defined role and wasn’t switched back and forth. The closest he had to being bounced around was in 2005 where his first 6 appearances were starts and he spent the rest of the season in the bullpen. That is clearly the easy way to transition, from the rotation to the pen not the other way around. There’s no building up of innings or stamina, and once he was moved to the pen, he stuck.

Dempster believes, primarily because of pitching in the AL East, that Joba should probably remain in the bullpen. He mentioned the way lineups wear you down and how the pitch counts can grow pretty quickly, especially for a guy like Joba who racks up a lot of strikeouts. While I do disagree with him in that I am fully in the Joba as a starter camp, it is interesting to think about what Joba’s career path might have been like coming up in another division, or even in the NL as a starter. Obviously there’s no way the Yankees can ease their starters into the big leagues against weaker competition than the AL East, but the bullpen might be the way to go, as long as there is a set path to get a good young pitcher back to the rotation. While both Joba and Hughes have somewhat followed this path, it wasn’t by design, instead it was by necessity.

After talking with Dempster I decided to take a look at his career arc and found that after his time in the bullpen he became a much better starter. Phil Hughes may have gotten a boost in confidence last year in the pen, but Dempster had a full 3 seasons of relieving, and came out of it significantly improved in the rotation. In his 3 years as a starter before going to the pen Dempster had a 4.6 BB/9 ratio and a 6.9 K/9 ratio. In the three years since he’s been back in the rotation he’s at 3.2 BB/9 and 8.1 K/9, all coming in the NL.  While there are likely a ton of reasons why Dempster improved, I wouldn’t be shocked if spending time in the pen was one of the main factors. As much as I want Joba in the rotation (and wanted him there for 2010), I really hope he can take advantage of his time in the bullpen to help him as a starter down the road.

My few minutes with Dempster certainly made me think about what’s going to happen with Joba’s future and how the (hopefully) temporary banishment to the bullpen (and yes, it was a demotion) makes him better down the road As much as I want Joba in the rotation (and wanted him there for 2010), I really hope he can take advantage of his time in the bullpen to help him as a starter down the road (even if with the Diamondbacks).

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