Archive for December, 2009
Bruney: Loving the facial hair • 12.29.09
Brian Bruney was a solid reliever and a very good guy for the Yankees the past few years, and I was glad to hear that he would be getting an opportunity to compete for the closer’s job after being traded to Washington earlier this winter. Matt Capps is legitimate competition but I’m sure Bruney is planning to give the former Pirate all he can handle in spring training.
Bruney recently did a Q & A with a Nats beat writer where he says that a) he’s healthy now and his poor performances in the postseason had nothing to do with injury; b) that he’s happy to be reunited with Mike Rizzo, who drafted Bruney in Arizona and is now the Nats GM; and c) that winning could be more fun in Washington since no one expects the Nats to do much (“When you expect to win every night like we did in New York, I don’t know if the winning is as fun as when nobody expects you to win. You are the underdogs every night and you prove people wrong. I think that is a lot more fun.”)
The best part of the piece, however, is the part where Bruney talks about the first thing that occurred to him when he heard he was traded. Much like many Yankees who leave town, his first thought had to do with a razor blade.
“I can finally grow some facial hair after four years,” he said. “That’s great. That was one of the first things I thought about. When I was traded, I said, ‘Wow, finally, I can grow a beard.’”
Searching for agreement • 12.29.09
Left field is up for debate. The roles of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are undefined. There are favorites for the bullpen and bench, but few of those pieces are set in stone.
At this point, though, can we agree on that these 14 spots and roles are set for the Yankees in 2010?
A.J. Burnett – Starting pitcher. Probably the No. 2 spot in the rotation. Just have to hope he stays healthy.
Robinson Cano – Starting second baseman. Production from the bottom half of the batting order.
Curtis Granderson – Starting center fielder. Able to play multiple roles in the lineup. Biggest name of the new additions.
Derek Jeter – Starting shortstop. Face of the franchise. Almost certainly the lead-off hitter.
Nick Johnson – Designated hitter. Backup first baseman. Almost certainly the No. 2 hitter.
Damaso Marte – Left-handed reliever. Hoping for the 2009 playoff version, not the 2009 regular season version.
Andy Pettitte – Starting pitcher. Middle of the rotation. A repeat of last season would be just fine.
Jorge Posada – Starting catcher. A few lingering health concerns. Probably occasional starts at designated hitter.
Mariano Rivera – Himself.
Dave Robertson – Right-handed reliever. Middle to late innings. He’s a lock, right?
Alex Rodriguez — Starting third baseman. Clean-up hitter. Suddenly a playoff hero.
CC Sabathia – Starting pitcher. Opening day. Probably for the next few years.
Nick Swisher – Starting right fielder. Pest at the plate. Power at the bottom of the order.
Mark Teixeira – Starting first baseman. No. 3 hitter. MVP candidate.
It’s more or less certain that Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Alfredo Aceves and Chad Gaudin will play one role or another, but I’m not sure those roles are 100 percent set at this point. Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Jamie Hoffmann and (maybe) Boone Logan are also favorites to make the team, but those situations could change depending on other moves that might or might not happen.
Expectations for Jamie Hoffmann • 12.28.09
In the past few days, I have twice written that Reed Johnson (in my opinion) makes some sense for the Yankees because he’s versatile in the outfield, he bats right-handed and his splits are very good against left-handed pitchers. As low-cost options go, Johnson seems to fit.
Some have countered – fairly enough – that Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann is also a versatile outfielder who bats right-handed and has shown good splits against lefties.
True, but I’m not sure that makes a player like Johnson redundant.
You might remember that Hoffmann was a name absolutely no one was talking about until a few minutes before he was announced as the top Rule 5 pick. When the selection was made, we quickly learned that he made a lot of sense for all of the reasons listed above, but the fact is that the Dodgers didn’t think they had room for Hoffmann on the 40-man roster, much less the 25-man roster. He has only 22 big league at-bats and only 72 games of Triple-A experience.
Based on numbers and scouting reports, Hoffmann seems to have plenty of potential. My guess is he’ll make the Yankees out of spring training, and he could eventually work his way into something more than a last option off the bench. But I’m not sure it makes sense for the Yankees to go into spring training counting on him to play a significant role. If Hoffmann produces, that’s a bonus for the Yankees and a job well done by the Yankees pro-scouting department, but it’s hard to enter the season expecting a big contribution. Hoping for it makes sense. Planning on it doesn’t.
DeRosa on the radar, but unlikely • 12.28.09
Turns out, it’s also cold in New York. After a bit of a delay in Detroit, I’m finally back in my apartment. And the hot stove has at least gotten a bit warmer.
Looks like Mark DeRosa is moving closer to a deal with the Giants. Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees remain interested and will be “disappointed” if the DeRosa-to-the-Giants deal goes through. None of this is especially new information — we were basically hearing the same things last week — but it suggests the situation hasn’t changed over the weekend.
One thing that might have changed, Heyman is also reporting that the Yankees are not interested in Jermaine Dye. I’m not sure the Yankees were ever closely linked to the veteran outfielder, but he was certainly the subject of some speculation because he’s a right-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and hit for power, and he would probably be available on a one-year deal.
Even if DeRosa and Dye aren’t in the mix – and if the Yankees are honestly not planning to spend the money it would take for Matt Holliday, Jason Bay or Johnny Damon – there are still handful of interesting options to boost left field: Marlon Byrd, Rick Ankiel, Reed Johnson, Xavier Nady (depending on cost and health), Marcus Thames, Randy Winn. Considering the Yankees are looking for a No. 9 hitter, those are pretty solid options. I still like the idea of a Reed Johnson/Brett Gardner platoon.
Baby, it’s cold outside • 12.28.09
After a morning flight out of St. Louis, I’m hanging out at the Detroit airport waiting for a plane to take me back to New York. There’s snow everywhere, and just looking out the window makes me shiver.
Seems appropriate, considering the Hot Stove has also gone stone cold.
Unless you’re a big Bob Howry fan, the weekend didn’t bring much news, and the only thing I’ve read today are a few minor league signings by the Nationals. But things might start to heat up this week as things get back to business as usual.
For now, MLBTradeRumors has a post examining the best known offers for Matt Holliday. I’m still skeptical that the Yankees will get involved – unless he’s changed his mind, Sam is as well – but I know a lot of fans are holding out hope, and given the events of last winter, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility.
One more link before I get ready for this flight, Jesus Montero ranks as the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball according to John Manuel of Baseball America. The recently traded Kyle Drabek — part of the Roy Halladay deal — ranks 16th on Manuel’s list. Meanwhile, it’s tough to argue the top three. I’m sure you know all about Strasburg and Heyward. You probably know Mike Stanton as well, but if not, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard some scouts speak so glowingly about a position prospect’s potential.
A familiar face is still out there waiting • 12.28.09
The Yankees non-tendered Chien-Ming Wang in early December and it was widely assumed by most baseball officials that the move would be the end of Wang’s tenure in pinstripes. At this point, that is still the most likely scenario.
There is a chance though, however small, that Wang could end up back in New York. Grace, a friend of the blog’s in Taiwan who often checks in with updates on Wang, recently emailed to say that Wang said publicly in Taiwan that there were no hard feelings on his side about being non-tendered.
Of course, it’s possible that a) he was just saying that publicly; and b) that any hard feelings he has have more to do with the way the Yankees handled his arbitration process a few years back. Either way, it’s interesting that Wang is at least leaving the door slightly open to a return.
Are the Yankees interested? They might be, on the right terms. According to Grace, Wang told the media in Taiwan that he started long-tossing on Dec. 1 and will return to America this week before seeing Dr. James Andrews on Jan. 4. He hopes to be able to get into rehab games in April or May, meaning he likely wouldn’t be major-league ready until near June (at least).
My bet is still that Wang ends up signing elsewhere, but you never say never, especially with the Yankees. We know that Brian Cashman loves rotation depth. On an incentive-laden, minor-league deal, maybe Wang could have a second act with the Yankees after all?
Joba or Phil • 12.27.09
If everyone stays healthy, the Yankees rotation will have room for only one of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. That’s obvious. Whichever doesn’t make the cut will fall back into the bullpen or go to Triple-A (though I tend to think Triple-A is unlikely simply because the bullpen impact would be too great to pass up).
When I’ve been asked to guess, I’ve guessed that Hughes will be the starter and Chamberlain the reliever, but I don’t think there’s an obvious answer. I’ve long been in the “Chamberlain should be a starter” camp, and I’m still there. I think the best thing for the Yankees is to use both Hughes and Chamberlain as starters, but there simply is not room for both of them in the New York rotation.
If one of them is going to bump to the bullpen, I prefer moving Chamberlain because his stuff plays up so well as a reliever. Hughes throws a little bit harder when he’s coming out of the bullpen, but it’s not the suddenly electric stuff we’ve seen from Chamberlain. And, frankly, I think Hughes is the better starter of the two. He has the fastball, curveball and cutter, and I believe the changeup will be a quality pitch.
Hughes would have more of an innings limit than Chamberlain, but Hughes threw 105.1 innings this year. That’s more than Chamberlain pitched in 2008. Hughes has also been stretched out to 146 in the past, which is much more than Chamberlain ever threw in the minors. If Hughes can pitch a little bit beyond the 157 innings that Chamberlain threw in 2009, I think that would be enough to make it work.
And the alternative of putting Hughes back in the bullpen would mean a fourth straight year of him pitching not much more than 100 innings. Every year that happens it becomes more and more difficult to ever make him a starter.
Fifth time’s a charm • 12.26.09
Javier Vazquez has been traded five times, a fairly stunning number considering he’s been a productive pitcher throughout his career. He seems to be the kind of player a lot of teams want, but that no team is unwilling to deal. Good but not great. Valuable but not priceless.
Here’s the company Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino are joining in the fraternity of players traded for Javier Vazquez.
December 16, 2003: Traded by the Montreal Expos to the New York Yankees for…
Randy Choate – Fairly young lefty reliever who went on to bounce from Triple-A to the big leagues. He’s had solid numbers at both levels.
Nick Johnson – Young first baseman stuck behind Jason Giambi. He’s been awfully good when healthy. You know where he’ll be next year.
Juan Rivera – Young outfielder on the rise. Within 11 months of this trade, he was traded again, this time to the Angels, with whom he’s had a nice big league career. Still a good, not-too-old big leaguer.
January 11, 2005: Traded by the New York Yankees with Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks for…
Randy Johnson — Second in the Cy Young voting the year before, Johnson was supposed to do what Vazquez could not and get the Yankees back to the World Series. He never got out of the Division Series.
December 20, 2005: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Chicago White Sox for (a few of these names should be familiar)…
Orlando Hernandez — Coming off a bad season, the aging Hernandez would ultimately be traded again just six months and nine starts later.
Luis Vizcaino — The journeyman reliever had pitched well for the White Sox, and he pitched well for the Diamondbacks. Then he was traded to the Yankees in the deal that sent Randy Johnson (see above) to Arizona. Apparently, baseball’s circle of life always comes back to Javier Vazquez.
Chris Young — The hot prospect in the deal, Young had hit for power as a Double-A center fielder in 2005. The White Sox could afford to lose him because they had Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney. Within two years, Young hit 32 home runs as a rookie center fielder in Arizona.
December 4, 2008: Traded by the Chicago White Sox with Boone Logan (same extra pitcher who came to New York) to the Atlanta Braves for…
Tyler Flowers — Good power and a terrific on-base percentage as a High-A catching prospect in 2008, he went all the way from Double-A to the big leagues in his first year with the White Sox. Very legit prospect.
Brent Lillibridge — Very good defensive shortstop, but his bat was always a question. Still is after he hit .158 with Chicago this season.
Santos Rodriguez – Baseball America called him the “wild card” in the trade because he had good stuff but no polish. The lefty could hit 91-93 with his sinker, but his control was bad. He’s still very low in the White Sox system, but had 50 strikeouts and 18 walks in 31 innings this season.
Jon Gilmore — Third baseman who was a supplemental first-round pick in 2007. Gilmore had been terrific in short-season ball with the Braves, but had struggled when sent to Low-A. The White Sox sent him to A-ball this season and he was OK, but not great.
Where does the Yankees’ package fit? It seems to be more or less in keeping with the past two Vazquez trades, but it’s impact will ultimately depend on Vizcaino’s development. To get Vazquez, the White Sox gave up Young and the Braves gave up Flowers, two prospects who were a year away from the big leagues. Vizcaino is the top prospect in the Yankees package, but he’s much, much farther away. The reward could be higher, but so is the risk.
And the Yankees could still get two draft picks out of the deal.
Umpires reach agreement with MLB • 12.26.09
This announcement came on Wednesday, but that was the day the Nick Johnson signing became officially, and the day I was on several airplanes getting to Missouri, so the news never reached the blog. Here’s the press release:
Major League Baseball and the World Umpires Association (WUA) have reached a tentative new five-year collective bargaining agreement that extends through December 31, 2014, it was announced today.
The agreement is subject to the ratification of the 30 Major League Clubs and the membership of the World Umpires Association. Ratification is expected to be complete by the middle of January.
Neither party will issue any comment regarding the substance of the agreement until its ratification.
Opening day roster guess No. 1 • 12.26.09
The day after Christmas. A little more than a month and a half before pitchers and catcher report to spring training. The Yankees have so far made three trades, signed two major league free agents and chosen a Rule 5 draft pick.
At this point, there is at least the slightest chance — though still very unlikely — that the opening day roster will be chosen from the current group of Yankees. This seems to be a good time to take a guess at the 25 players who will break camp with New York in April.
My guess includes just one additional free agent signing. He’s an outfielder who fits Brian Cashman’s (public) plan of a not spending too much, he has experience at all three outfield positions, he has experience in the AL East and his numbers are outstanding against left-handed pitching.
For the last spot in the bullpen, I went with a guy who has caught the Yankees’ eye in spring training in the past and was pitching extremely well late last year in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.