Archive for Trade Deadline

Jul
28

Just say no to Bronson Arroyo

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It all started yesterday afternoon. AOL FanHouse’s Jeff Fletcher noted that the Reds were “close to doing something,” meaning the completion of a trade. The likely candidates were Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, and Francisco Cordero. Each makes quite a large sum for the rest of this year and next, and with the Reds out of contention it would make sense for them to get out from under at least one of those contracts. Any time we hear that something is close, ears perk up. It didn’t take long for Fletcher to find out which deal the Reds were “close” to.

About two hours after his original report, Fletcher wrote the the Reds and Yankees were working on a deal for Bronson Arroyo. This sent a tremor through the Yankees fanbase. Why in the hell would they want Bronson Arroyo? He’s pitched progressively worse every year since the Red Sox traded him to the Reds, and he’s owed a ridiculous amount of money for the remainder of this year and next. Considering the monetary and potential player costs of acquiring Arroyo, an easy case could be made that the Yankees would be better off standing pat.

A 1995 third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arroyo struggled in his first few seasons, allowing way too many hits while walking too many batters for his strikeout rate. In February of 2003, after stints over the previous three seasons, the Pirates placed Arroyo on waivers. The Red Sox picked him up. He wouldn’t join the big league club full-time until 2004, but when he arrived he did not disappoint, posting a 3:1 K/BB ratio over 178.2 innings.

The next year wasn’t so kind to Arroyo. He pitched 205.1 innings for the Sox, but his strikeout rate plummeted from 7.2 per nine in 2004 to 4.4 per nine in 2005. This helped cause a half-run increase in his ERA. Still, the Sox apparently thought he was still worth holding onto, signing him to a three year, $11.25 million contract in January 2006. Little did Arroyo know that the contract would be his ticket out the door.

In March 2006, the Sox swapped Arroyo and $1.5 million for Wily Mo Pena. In essence, Arroyo had agreed to a team-friendly deal, only to have it used as trade bait. Whether it was the effect of pitching in the NL, the desire to prove the Red Sox wrong, or just sheer luck, Arroyo pitched insanely well in 2006, posting a 3.29 ERA over 240.2 innings, bumping his strikeout rate back up to around seven per nine, and improving his K/BB ratio to 2.88:1, up from 1.85:1 in 2005. The Reds thought they had found a gem, while Wily Mo languished with the Sox, and would eventually be traded in August 2007.

Apparently not content to ride out the remainder of Arroyo’s team-friendly deal, the Reds signed him to a two-year, $25 million extension in February of 2007. The move was perplexing at the time. Why would the Reds, with Arroyo under contract for two more seasons at an eminently reasonable rate, sign him for two additional seasons, plus an expensive club option, with a relatively expensive buyout, for 2011? His 2007 performance would add to those questions.

In his second year in Cincinnati, Arroyo made one fewer start than in his first, but pitched 30 fewer innings. His WHIP rose from 1.19 to 1.40. One reason for his decline is the rise in his number of hits per nine innings — almost 10 in 2007, compared to 8.3 in 2006. His ERA rose yet again in 2008, to 4.77, below league average. Again he made 34 starts, but pitched 10 fewer innings than in 2007. His WHIP took another jump to 1.435. All this before the contract extension kicked in.

This is the first year of the extension, and Arroyo has not earned his $9.5 million to this point. His ERA sits at 5.21, the worst it’s been since 2001, and which also places him as the league leader in earned runs allowed. His WHIP has climbed again to 1.472. Worst of all, his walk rate is near 3.5 per nine, and his strikeout rate is just 5.3 per nine, down from 7.3 per nine last season. He’s essentially gotten worse with each passing year on the Reds.

Arroyo has posted a few gems this year, including a July 10 complete game shutout of the Mets. He followed that up with seven innings of shutout ball against the Brewers. However, in his last start against the Dodgers he posted another clunker, five runs over 5.1 innings, including four walks. It’s just another start in Bronson Arroyo’s horribly inconsistent 2009 season.

With all this in mind, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to understand why the Yankees would want to acquire Arroyo. He’s pitched well in the past, but he’s certainly not the pitcher he claimed to be in 2006. His contract is among the worst in the game, and he’s still owed $13 million next season, considering his buyout. Bad pitcher + bad contract = bad acquisition. It’s as simple as that. So why are the Yankees connected with this guy?

Apparently, the rumor was just that. As PeteAbe noted, the Yanks shot it down. Jon Heyman got a quote saying that a trade is “not realistic at this point.” Even Fletcher, whose source said that the deal “will get done,” subsequently removed the line from his post. All seems to be right again for the Yankees.

There are still three more days until the 4 p.m. trade deadline on Friday, and the Yanks could certainly make a move for a pitcher before then. As we noted yesterday, the Yanks might not be able to acquire a significant target after the deadline, because the Sox are in second place and could block a potential move. Both teams would benefit with an upgrade at the backs of their rotations. Despite his overtures, expect Cashman to treat this deadline with a sense of urgency. If there is a deal to be made, expect him to pursue it. We just hope it’s not for Bronson Arroyo.

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Welcome to the week leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, a typically crazy week for baseball. Rumors fly, and most of them either don’t happen or are unfounded in the first place. Many reports filed this week will feature the Yankees, since not only are they perennial buyers, but are also used in many instances to drive up prices for other teams. They do have a couple of weaknesses to shore up, all in the pitching department. It’s not a requirement, but it sure would be nice to add another arm, whether a starter or reliever, in the next five days.

Do they have to necessarily make a move this week? According to Brian Cashman, there will be increased activity after July 31 this year because many teams will not be willing to put in waiver claims. For the uninitiated, after July 31 teams can still trade, but the players in question must either clear waivers or be claimed by their destination team. For example, if the Yankees want Jarrod Washburn, he’d either have to go unclaimed by all 29 teams, or else be claimed by the Yankees. The Yankees and Mariners could then talk trade, but only for players who either clear waivers or are not on the 40-man roster.

The reason Cashman believes there will be more post-July 31 action is that teams will be less willing to risk putting in a claim. The team placing the player on waivers can opt to foist a player and his contract on a claiming team. This is how the Yankees got stuck with Jose Canseco in 2000. They put in a claim to block other teams, and the Rays said, “you can take him and what remains of his $3 million salary.” There was nothing the Yankees can do. Cashman believes that fewer teams will make waiver claims with the intent to block, fearing a similar maneuver.

In the Yankees case, that might be of little consolation. Their list of targets is concentrated to a few high-profile starting pitchers and a number of relief pitchers, all of whom could be claimed before they make it to the Yankees. This is mostly a product of the standings. Because the Yankees are ahead of the Red Sox, the Sox will get first dibs. Their payroll is relatively low, so they could risk taking on payroll, especially if it means keeping certain players from the Yankees.

Let’s take a quick look at the Yankees potential targets and see which ones, if any, could possibly pass through waivers.

Jarrod Washburn: He has about $3.5 million left on his contract for 2009. That might scare some teams away, but there are enough teams looking for pitching help that they might risk a claim. Plus, the Mariners know they have a valuable asset in Washburn. He can fetch them a decent prospect before the deadline, and chances are if they want to move him they will prior to Friday. Still, he could clear. The biggest threat, the Red Sox, might not want to take on a fly ball lefty. Those usually don’t go over well in Fenway.

Cliff Lee: There is no chance that Lee and his team-friendly contract makes it through waivers. Not even close. If the Yanks want him they’ll have to get it done this week. Chances are, though, that they’ll continue to balk at the asking price.

Roy Halladay: His contract might be prohibitive to some teams, but the Red Sox are not one of them. If placed on waivers, the Sox would certainly put in a claim. The Phillies would, too, but the AL gets first crack. The Tigers could even put in a claim, too, as could the Angels. Zero percent chance of the Yankees acquiring him after July 31.

Ian Snell: He’s been dominating AAA, but there are still concerns about him. After his career year in 2007 he signed an extension, and has bombed ever since. The problem, it seems, is his control, as the walks have jumped. In any case, Snell is owed about $1 million for the remainder of this season, $4.25 million in 2010, and has two team options for 2011 and 2012 ($6.75 and $9.25 million). The Yankees have been scouting Snell, though there’s little urgency to get a deal done. Considering his major league performance over the past two seasons, he’d likely clear waivers.

Scott Downs: Questionable whether he passes through. He has about $1.25 million on his contract for this year, plus $4 million last year. He’s lights out, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sox and Angels put in a claim before the Yanks have a chance. Detroit and the ChiSox could also put in a claim.

Chad Qualls: Almost certainly would be claimed. He has under a million left on his contract this season, and has one arbitration year left before free agency. Even if a team didn’t want to take on his potential 2010 salary, they could dish him or non-tender him. Little to no chance he makes it to the Yanks.

Jon Rauch: Tough to say on Rauch. He has under a million left on his deal this season (about $660,000), and has a $2.9 million club option for 2010. That could lead to a few claims ahead of the Yankees, especially by a bullpen-starved team like the Angels. Again, don’t count out the Tigers. In fact, because of bullpen needs, I wouldn’t expect many, if any, decent relievers to be available to the Yankees after July 31.

Surely there are at least a few more names the Yankees are targeting, but these are the guys we’ve talked about for the past few weeks. And while it’s true that more players will pass through waivers this year than in the past, the players the Yankees are targeting right now most likely will not. This could put a greater onus on getting a deal done this week. Afterward, they might not have the same number of players available.

Just to spin this on its head, it could also open up new possibilities, players who pass through waivers who aren’t really being mentioned in trade talks right now. But chances are that the Yankees will lose out on unacquired targets on Friday at 4 p.m. EDT.

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When all is said and done, I would be pretty surprised if Roy Halladay ended up in the Bronx. The Blue Jays are not too keen on trading Halladay within the AL East, and Halladay’s recent ineffectiveness aside, the Yanks would have to give up a king’s ransom to land one of the game’s premiere pitchers.

When I last examined the questions concerning the Halladay trade, I looked at the Yankee Untouchables and concluded that just three players belonged on that list. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have already shown why scouts have long regarded them as a potential 1-2 combination in the Bronx, and Jesus Montero, at 19, has hit anything and everything thrown his way. Beyond them, I would be willing to move any Yankee prospect — and a few of the younger members of the Big League club — in the right deal.

Now, fans always tend to overvalue their own team’s prospects. The advent of the Internet has allowed us to track kids’ progress on a day-to-day level not really available to us a few years ago. We know what Montero does every time he’s at the plate, and we can see the results take shape in the form of gaudy season numbers. Still, a very valid school of thought believes that teams should trade the unknown for the known nearly all the time, and that contingent of analysts is alive and well in the Yankee Universe.

Our first example of this attitude comes to us via Peter Abraham. In a purely hypothetical post, Abraham opines on his belief that the Yankees could win now but need Halladay to do so. To get him, he recommends parting with Joba — for bad reasons — and Jesus — for good ones. “The unexplained loss of velocity is a concern. So is the stubborn unwillingness to listen to others. There is a chance he could be great. But as each day passes, there seems to be more of a chance that he won’t be,” he writes of Joba.

As each day passes, the chance that Joba will be great doesn’t lessen or decrease. He’s still in just his third full season of professional baseball, and he’s still feeling his way. As much as I have been frustrated with Joba’s results and process this year, we can’t write him off because of a bad half season. The Yankees have done that in the past, and it doesn’t ever end well.

Abraham’s argument concerning Montero closely echoes Mike Ashmore’s passionate piece urging the Yanks to trade Jesus. Ashmore, who watches Montero on a day-by-day basis, understands that Jesus is not likely to wind up a Major League catcher. Ashmore notes the Yanks’ depth at catching, and as Abraham summarizes, “There has to be pain in this trade and this is it.”

While Ashmore and Abraham focus on Halladay, the identity of the player targeted by the Yanks is nearly besides the point. To improve the team, the Yankees will have to give up something. As much as we joke about, they can’t really land anything for Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Last year, they gave up the unknown and mostly highly regarded Jose Tabata in a deal for two impact players. This year, who knows who it will be?

They can and will try to throw gobs of money at Aroldis Chapman, but he’s just another unknown not ready for prime time. The big fish come with a price tag now, and we’ll find out over the next 16 days just how much the Yanks are willing to pay.

Categories : Musings
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Coming off a series loss to the Nationals, many Yankee fans are eager to see some changes. Let’s get a shake-up! That’ll teach those professional baseball players never to lose again.

In reality, though, the Yankees and the rest of baseball are six long weeks away from the trade deadline. While the market is starting to develop, it is a thin one. The best bats out there probably belong to Adam Dunn for a steep price and Nick Johnson for too much more than he is really worth. The other pieces available for teams are relief pitchers.

For the Yankees, it’s the latter that will attract attention. Outside of some questionable characters manning center field, the Yankees’ 2009 lineup is as set as any team’s. They have top performers at most positions and the potential for a very potent offense. Meanwhile, they spent a lot of money to upgrade the rotation this year and have a few good young arms in reserve.

The bullpen, though, has been a concern. While the Yanks’ relief corps has seemingly solidified in June with Al Aceves, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Brian Bruney serving as the Bridge to Mariano, the Yankees aren’t quite satisfied with that mix. Hughes is a starting pitcher long-term and will be back in the rotation to spell either Joba, Chien-Ming Wang or perhaps even Andy Pettitte before too many months elapse. Bruney is a health risk, and the other two can’t do it by themselves.

To that end, the Yankees have already been linked to Huston Street and Jose Valverde as well as Chad Qualls, Russ Springer and even Heath Bell. Jon Heyman yesterday reported on Twitter that the Yanks prefer Street and then Valverde. However, neither the Rockies nor the Astros are ready to start selling.

There is, though, another piece to this Trade Deadline. The economy, not too robust these days, may place a limit on the Yanks’ spending. The team tried to hold payroll steady this year and succeeded. Now, news comes down from Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman that the team is not looking to make a July splash.

Speaking with the Spanish language media on Wednesday, Cashman said that he is hoping the team’s internal pieces will be enough to fill the holes. One day, Damaso Marte may return, and if Wang rounds into form, the Yanks could keep Hughes in the pen for longer than they perhaps expected to. “If we get everyone healthy and performing the way they are capable of here, there will be very little to do. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try,” Cashman said.

That’s a very vague statement from Cashman. He’ll kick the tires, as he should, on those players available closer to the deadline; he may not be able to add much in the way of payroll; and he is optimistic that the injured players can come back and contribute. While I would like to see the Yanks firm up the back end of that bullpen, Cashman’s assessment sounds about right to me.

Categories : Musings
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At least, that’s what Jon Heyman says. Jason Bay is heading to Boston as part of the deal. More as we know it. The Rays’ inability to seal the Bay deal at the deadline may come back to hurt them after all.

Update: As expected, Ramirez waived his no-trade clause in exchange for the Dodgers’ declining his club options in 2009 and 2010. Those options were worth $20 million each. So Manny figures he can get more on the open market. While we’ve, for kicks, tossed around the idea of Manny’s coming to New York, odds are that another team will sign him to a longer term deal after this season. Scott Boras knows what’s out there and wouldn’t have given up $40 million if he couldn’t land a better deal elsewhere (See: Alex Rodriguez, circa Oct.-Nov. 2007).

Update 2: Good ol’ Kenny R. has more: “Pirates outfielder Jason Bay is headed to the Red Sox. The Pirates will receive Andy LaRoche and right-hander Bryan Morris from the Dodgers and outfielder Brandon Moss and releiver Craig Hansen from the Red Sox.” The Red Sox will also pick up all of the money left on Manny’s contract, and that strikes me as odd. If the Red Sox are willing to pay Manny not to play for them and they’re willing to forego the draft picks this off-season, they must really have wanted to ship Manny out of town this week.

Update on the Yanks: As many of you have noted, the Yanks sent the Former Attorney General to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Jhonny Nunez, a 22-year-old reliever. Chad Jennings breaks it down, and I can’t imagine this trade amounting to much of anything for either team.

Categories : Asides
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Via ESPN:

Many baseball officials think the trade deadline is irrelevant in the talks between the Yankees and Mariners regarding Jarrod Washburn. Since Washburn is owed $10.35 million next season, most officials think he will easily pass through waivers after today’s 4 p.m. ET nonwaiver deadline.

Of course, after the deadline, another team could swoop in and claim Washburn, thereby blocking the Yankees and the Mariners from making a deal. Most analysts don’t see that happening.

Personally, if the Yanks have to acquire Washburn, I’d rather see the teams consummate this trade today before Sidney Ponson gets the ball again. As these talks drag on, I have to wonder if Seattle is close to overplaying its hand here. With each day, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes or Carl Pavano (HA!) near a return to the Bronx, and the Yanks’ need for Washburn lessens. Now would be a good time for the Mariners to pull the trigger if they want to accomplish anything more than a salary dump.

Update by Joe: No need to create a whole new post for this, but the Rays just got a ton better, acquiring Jason Bay from the Pirates for Reid Brignac and Jeff Niemann. No go. It appears to be bunk.

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Jul
31

Could the Yanks move on Lohse?

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Jayson Stark adds another name to the available starting pitchers: Kyle Lohse. Could the Yankees, given the death of the Jarrod Washburn proceedings, refocus their attention with just a few hours remaining before the trade deadline? It wouldn’t be easy, but as we’ve seen from Cashman in the past week, he’s open to the right deal.

Problem is, I don’t see this being the right deal for the Yanks. According to Stark, the Cardinals want a bat and a bullpen arm. We just dished one of our bullpen arms, and it’s not like we’ve got an endless supply. You want to have as many options as possible there, in case one of your guys has a bout of ineffectiveness. We’ve yet to see Veras, Edwar, and Robertson sustain quality performances over an entire season, so holding onto guys like Bruney, Cox, Melancon, etc. will be an important insurance policy.

As far as a bat, don’t we need those ourselves? They could try to flip Abreu, I suppose, though I’m sure that’s not even on Cashman’s mind. It would clearly be contingent upon the return of Hideki Matsui, which is looking more and more in doubt as each day passes. Beyond that, there is little we can offer St. Louis in those terms.

Plus, is Lohse worth it in the first place? Ya gotta remember why Minnesota got rid of him. He’s not a power guy, he doesn’t have the best control, and he’s prone to the longball. Or at least he was in the AL. In 2006, when he got booted from the Twins, he held a 7.07 ERA through 63.2 innings, and didn’t even maintain a 2:1 K/BB ratio. He’s been better with St. Louis this year, pitching to a 3.68 ERA and keeping his homers relatively in check. Still, you never know what’s going to happen when he jumps into the pressure cooker that is the AL East.

Stark mentions the White Sox and the Rockies as other suitors. The White Sox, with the acquisition of Griffey, seemingly have a spare bat. But with Scott Linebrink on the shelf, do they have a reliever to spare?

In any case, count me against acquiring Lohse. The price will be too high, as will the risk. No reason to blow prospects or proven guys on a pitcher who might implode in a return to the superior league.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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When history — in the form of Monday’s tabloids — comes to judge yesterday’s Yankee acquisition of OF Xavier Nady and LHP Damaso Marte, columnists will be rushing to pass judgment on a trade that changes the look of the 2008 Yankees. But it isn’t that simple; it never really is.

Right away, this trade makes the Yankees better, and on the face of it, they gave up a lot of nothing. Offensively, they now have a bat to sit in for — but not truly replace — Hideki Matsui or Jorge Posada while at the same time they no longer will trot out a lineup with two of Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Justin Christian. On the year, Xavier Nady has been one of the NL’s best hitters. He’s sporting a .330/.383/.535 batting line in 360 plate appearances. Melky wishes he were that good.

But the questions surrounding Nady are all about future production. Is Nady having a break-out season or is he just enjoying a good four months? His career numbers — .281/.337/.456 — don’t suggest that this stretch is anything more than a hot streak, but at age 29, he could be putting it all together. Either way, the Yankees expect him to bat seventh, and he’s bound to fill that spot more than adequately.

On the pitching front, the Yankees landed a set-up man who also happens to be a lefty. This year, Damaso Marte, the one-time Yankee farmhand once traded for Enrique Wilson, has thrown 46.2 innings and has recorded 47 strike outs. He’s allowed 38 hits, 16 walks and just four home runs with an ERA of 3.47. Even though his splits indicate more success against righties, Marte has struck out 22 of the 59 lefties to face him.

With Marte joining the team, the Yanks do have the opportunity to ensure that this trade makes the bullpen worse, albeit only slightly. If they don’t DFA LaTroy Hawkins, by far the worst pitcher in the bullpen, then Marte will push a deserving and effective reliever out of the Bronx. The only way LaTroy stays is if Dan Giese gets sent back to AAA, but I still think Giese should get the call over Hawkins.

That’s the short-term prognosis. These moves help the Yankees shore up their offense and fortify their strong bullpen. But the long-term picture — analyzed here with an assist from Mike — is more complicated, and the trade really hinges on what Jose Tabata does and does not do over the next few seasons.

For starters, George Kontos and Phil Coke are simply throw-ins. Unless the stars align perfectly, Kontos will probably never see the Major Leagues. While Coke — disappointed with the trade — could be a potential fifth starter or long reliever, he is, in the words of Mike, “easily replaceable.” Plus, the Yankees have a surplus of arms, and trades like these are always made from strengths. See ya later, Kontos and Coke.

So the prime pieces are Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata. In a way, they may have sold high on one, low on the other. Now, Ohlendorf we know. He’s got the velocity, but does he have the stuff? In 40 Major League innings this year, Ohlendorf fooled no one. He allowed 50 hits and seven home runs, an exorbitant amount for a supposed sinkerball pitcher. He had a 6.53 ERA with a 1.725 WHIP, and opponents were hitting .299/.374/.473 against him.

While he’s thrown somewhat batter in the Minors of late as the Yanks attempted to convert him back into a starter, his numbers still aren’t very overwhelming. His move back to the rotation, however, carried with it a bit of hype, and the Yanks may actually have sold high on him simply because starters are more valuable than relievers. It’s doubtful, as Mike says, that he’ll ever be more useful than Marte out of the pen, and his ability to succeed as a starter is up in the air. As this was his second trade in about 18 months, he was rather resigned to his fate.

How about Jose Tabata? The once-untouchable Tabata — the Yanks wouldn’t trade him for Bobby Abreu in 2006 — has seen his stock plummet this year. Soon to be 20, Tabata is hitting .248/.320/.310 at AA and has suffered through attitude and injury problems this year. Corner outfielders who can’t hit for power and aren’t overwhelmingly fast don’t survive long in the Majors.

Still, Tabata is one of the youngest players in the Eastern League and has plenty of time left to turn things around. He could be the next Drew Hensen or Eric Duncan or he could be a bona fide Major Leaguer. Time will tell.

So then the question is: Will Jose Tabata ever be better than Xavier Nady? Mike says that odds are against it, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Right now, this trade makes the team better today, and for 2008, it’s a very good trade. The Yanks landed what they needed without giving up too much, if anything at all. While, in five years, we could be singing a different tune, I’d still pull the trigger on this one any day.

Update by Mike (11:55): The trade has been reconfigured: Dan McCutchen & Jeff Karstens are heading to the Steel City instead of Coke & Kontos. The analysis doesn’t change much, except that these two are a level closer to the bigs. Karstens is pretty bad as we all know, and he would have been out of options next year anyway. McCutchen’s pitching well, but a little he’s two months away from his 26th birthday, so he is what he is, a solid back-end/middle relief guy.

I’m not sure what happened, maybe they found something in someone’s medicals?

Another update by Mike (12:10): Pete updated his post to say that the Pirates selected McCutchen & Karstens from a pool of players that also included Coke & Kontos. Makes sense.

Categories : Analysis
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Last night, Jarrod Washburn faced the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t beat them, but he kept them in check for 5.2 innings. Today, Washburn finds himself the subject of some Buster Olney-inspired trade rumors. The Seattle lefty, owed $13.6 million before the end of 2009, could be a good fit for the Yankees, and according to the ESPN scribe, a possible trade would involve Kei Igawa, a secondary prospect and large sums of money heading from New York to the northwest. While, according to the Seattle Times, the Yanks — and anyone with any baseball sense — would prefer A.J. Burnett, Washburn wouldn’t be a bad choice. He’s a lefty with success in Yankee Stadium and a 2.65 ERA over his last 51 innings. This is, of course, just a rumor, but it’s an intriguing one nonetheless.

Categories : Asides
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The Yanks have been doing a lot of window shopping lately. They’ve been said to be looking at Damaso Marte, Jason Bay, and Xavier Nady of the Pirates. They’re supposedly keeping up with Freddie Garcia’s rehab assignment. Now we’re hearing, via MLBTR, that the Yankees are interested in A.J. Burnett. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. While the Yanks won’t necessarily make a big move before the deadline, they’re certainly exploring what’s out there.

That the Yankees sent two scouts solely to see Burnett doesn’t mean that they’ll land him. As we’ve discussed before, it’s not likely that J.P. Ricciardi would dish him within the AL East. However, this is a unique case. Burnett can opt out of his five-year, $55 million contract after this season. So Ricciardi, knowing he could lose Burnett at the end of the season anyway, might be willing to send him to whomever bids the highest.

This brings to the forefront a number of problems. If the Yanks trade for Burnett and he smokes the competition in the second half, he’ll opt out and the Yanks will have wound up with a two-month rental. If he sucks it up, not only will the Yanks have paid for a lemon, they’ll be stuck with him for another two years, owing him $24 million. The only way this really works out is if he pitches well and agrees to stay with the team.

Then again, given his injury history, maybe the Yanks would be best served to have him as a two-month rental. We know he has the stuff to succeed. It’s a matter of his ability to stay healthy. And yeah, he’s pitched poorly this year, though he’s done well against the Yanks and the Rays in his past two starts.

Which brings me to another point: Burnett is a Yankee killer. In 53.2 innings career against the Bombers, Burnett has struck out 46 to 19 walks, and has allowed just 17 runs. Since the beginning of the 2006 season, Burnett’s first with the Jays, only Roy Halladay and Scott Kazmir have better numbers against the Bombers (minimum 45 IP). Make the minimum IP 35, and Burnett slides one slot back, to Jarrod Washburn, another guy the Yankees could conceivably target.

No, I don’t think they’ll land Burnett. No, I don’t think it’s worth adding Washburn and his $9 million salary for 2009. But Brian Cashman is certainly peeking into the window. If there’s a deal to be had, it seems the Yanks will be prepared to take it. But I wouldn’t go betting on an acquisition before July 31.

Categories : Pitching
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