Archive for January, 2010
Boras and Cashman speak • 01.27.10
As always, good work by our good friend Tyler Kepner, who passes along these comments.
From Scott Boras: “The Yankees never even made an offer to me regarding Johnny Damon during the entire process.”
From Brian Cashman: “On Dec. 17, Scott’s exact words were that he would not take a penny less than $13 million a year for two years. We believed him.”
The good and the bad of Randy Winn • 01.27.10
It’s hard to tell how much of the negative reaction to today’s signing is a legitimate dislike of Randy Winn, and how much is legitimate disappointment at not bringing back Johnny Damon. The Yankees spent the past few weeks telling everyone to expect this sort of signing — a low-cost, fourth outfielder to round out the bench and compete for a starting job — but it still seems to have caught everyone off guard. After last year’s Mark Teixeira signing, a last-second change of plans always seemed possible, if not likely.
Obviously, Winn has some holes, but so does every $2-million extra outfielder. Randy Winn is not Johnny Damon, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player for this Yankees team.
The Good: Until last season, Winn was a solid everyday player for the better part of a decade. He’s a career .286 hitter who plays good defense and runs pretty well. Until last season, the idea of Winn as a fourth outfielder would have been outstanding.
The Bad: Last season was awful. Winn’s .318 on-base percentage came with only two home runs and his highest strikeout total in five years. He’s 35 years old, and you can’t help wondering if his age is catching up to him.
The Good: In his career, Winn’s left-right splits are fairly even. He’s hit .280 as a right-hander, .289 as a left-hander. Slightly higher on-base percentage as a lefty, slightly higher slugging percentage as a righty.
The Bad: Again, last season was awful. He hit .292 as a lefty, but put up a .158/.184/.200 line as a right-handed batter. Cody Ransom hit better against lefties than Winn did.
The Good: Last year’s splits seems to be out of the ordinary. Winn hit .289 with a .470 slugging percentage as a right-handed batter in 2008, and he hit .351 with a .535 slugging percentage right-handed in 2007.
The Good: At just $2 million, Winn was inexpensive even in this outfield market. Rick Ankiel — coming off a .231/.285/.387 season — got $3.25 million guaranteed. Xavier Nady — coming off a second Tommy John surgery — got $3.3 million. This deal likely (I’m guessing here) does not blow the Yankees budget for a possible mid-season addition, should that be necessary.
The Bad: The Yankees’ talk of sticking to a budget seems to have been sincere. I’m not actually sure that’s a bad thing, but I know, in a lot of ways, it will seem to be a bad thing.
The Good: If Winn bounces back to his 2008 form — or even comes fairly close to his 2008 form — the Yankees will have a cheap outfielder who’s capable of playing every day. The version of Randy Winn who played two years ago could hit lefties and righties, play all three outfield positions, provide some speed on the bases and occasionally hit a ball out of the park. For what the Yankees need him to do, that’s an outstanding option.
The Bad: If Winn repeats last season, the Yankees have a veteran on the bench who doesn’t provide much: No power, and certainly not a right-handed complement to Gardner and Granderson. This isn’t Johnny Damon, and for those holding out hope for an unexpected Damon return, this clearly doesn’t satisfy.
Bottom line, this is a fourth outfielder being asked to compete for a starting job. That’s exactly the kind of role Winn should fill. He doesn’t cost much, and last season’s numbers aren’t in keeping with his career numbers (or even his recent numbers). I don’t know why the Yankees wanted him over a more traditional platoon-type outfielder — I really thought it would be either Reed Johnson or Marcus Thames — but that’s a question Brian Cashman might answer after the deal is official. For now, there is only Randy Winn.
Maybe not the guy you were expecting, but hardly a terrible option for this role.
It’s Randy Winn • 01.27.10
Joel Sherman says the Yankees have reached a one-year deal with Randy Winn. Looks like that’s the extra outfielder.
Winn is coming off one of his worst seasons when he hit just .262/.318/.353 with San Francisco. His right-handed splits were even worse — .158/.184/.200 — which is curious considering the Yankees were said to be in the market for a right-handed outfielder to balance Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees are clearly hoping for a rebound.
Winn hit at least .300 with double-digit steals and double-digit home runs in both 2007 and 2008. He hit .289/.343/.470 as a right-handed batter in ’08, .351/.399/.535 as a right-hander in ’07. If he returns to those numbers, he’s a great addition. Of course, he also turns 36 in June.
He has extensive experience at all three outfield positions, and is generally considered a good defensive player.
UPDATE, 4:54 p.m.: Great day for Joel Sherman. He’s now reporting that Tampa Bay has entered the race for Johnny Damon. That would more or less leave Pat Burrell as a very expensive DH against lefties.
UPDATE, 5:10 p.m.: Joe Girardi just confirmed the Winn signing on Mike Francesa’s radio show. He also confirmed that Johnny Damon will not be back in New York, saying that he talked to Damon today to wish him well.
“Johnny is going to be missed,” Girardi said.
A closer look at the latest addition • 01.27.10
As a follow to his morning post on Pat Venditte, I asked Frankie Piliere for his thoughts on the newest member of the Yankees 40-man roster: Greg Golson.
“I think it’s a fantastic deal,” Piliere wrote. “Zero risk. (Mitch) Hilligoss was pretty limited, I think. Golson can absolutely fly and can play the outfield. I think it’s a great gamble. It wasn’t very long ago that he was a top prospect. He wasn’t awful in AAA, not great but not bad. I think he can continue to develop.”
At the very least, the Yankees have added a plus defensive player who can provide speed off the bench. If Golson grows into his tools, the Yankees might have found a legitimate young outfielder. As we’ve noted before, the outfield depth is thin in the upper levels of the Yankees system. They had to search through independent ball to fill last year’s Double-A outfield, then they traded away Austin Jackson.
Colin Curtis remains an interesting young outfielder, but he’s a little bit like Golson in that he has obvious talent without especially good numbers. The Yankees have also signed 24-year-old power hitter David Winfree, speedy 29-year-old Reid Gorecki and 32-year-old veteran Jon Weber to minor league deals, but outfield depth remains a concern. That’s why it makes some sense to take a shot on Golson.
Piliere said he spoke to a baseball source who labeled Golson as having two plus-plus tools: His arm and his speed. The same source called Golson a premier athlete with great makeup, but noted the obvious: He hasn’t hit. The Yankees are hoping that changes. If not, no real harm done.
At this point, it makes more sense for the Yankees to take a chance on a Triple-A outfielder than a Class-A infielder.
Pinch hitting: Frankie Piliere • 01.27.10
Next up in the Pinch Hitters series is one of our most unexpected guests, Frankie Piliere, who volunteered a scouting report on switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.
When Sam and I asked for pinch hitters, we didn’t expect an offer from Piliere, a former professional scout and current writer for AOL Fanhouse. I’ve linked to Frankie in the past, but certainly had no plan of asking him to write a post. The week after we asked for pinch hitters, though, Frankie emailed to say he’d seen Venditte, had plenty of notes on him and would like to write a guest post on the young Yankees pitcher.
We certainly weren’t going to turn that down.
There is not a more interesting prospect in baseball than Pat Venditte. Hundreds are better, but none are as fascinating. We know the story by now. He’s the guy who can pitch both right-handed and left-handed.
How do you even scout a player like this? That was my first thought when I went over the Charleston RiverDogs’ roster before I began my coverage. For one, a pitcher that throws both ways doesn’t fit very neatly into a scouting report sheet. It’s the equivalent of scouting two pitchers at once. He really is two completely different pitchers, with a different arsenal, different delivery, and a different approach from each side.
My expectations were low. I didn’t expect much more than a side show or a gimmick. While he’s hardly a top prospect, Pat Venditte is more than just a gimmick.
It’s from this side that the stuff is a little closer to the norm you see at the Major League level from Venditte. The stuff is fringy but close to big league average. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph, and he has plus command of this pitch. He produces a little arm-side run down the zone, and can pick at corners with big league maturity. This type of command will need to be there, however, because he’s just not overpowering enough.
His breaking ball from this side will need to improve. It’s fringy at best right now, grading out as a 4 on the 2-8 scale. It flashes average, and the consistency and sharpness will need to make progress if he’s going to pitch from this side at the big league level. The curveball comes in consistently at 72-74 mph, reaching 75 at times with 11-5 action. His command is good enough to keep hitters off balance, but he’s not going to produce swings and misses at the next level. Everything will hinge on his command.
He has limited deception from the right side, as opposed to his delivery from the left side, which we’ll look at in a moment. Venditte is polished, but it’s going to be a struggle to get by with his current right-handed stuff.
If he’s going to make it as a big leaguer, he’s going to need to be Mike Myers, or someone of that nature. It’s from this side that Venditte is a bit more interesting, but only interesting to the point of possibly being a left-handed specialist.
His fastball from this side is only around 81-85 mph from a funky, side arm type delivery. He’s very tough to pick up and has the appearance that he’s throwing from behind lefty hitters. Few pitchers make lefties look as bad and absolutely lost as Venditte can. It’s his breaking ball from this side that gives them fits. The big, sweeping breaking ball comes in at 68-71 mph with huge lateral action and a nice tilt. And, this is where he makes his living. He has learned to spot a pitch with an exceptionally large break on the outside part of the plate. The pitch and his command of it both grade out as plus.
If he can locate against big league hitters the way he’s done at the minor league level, he has an opportunity to succeed. His upside is very limited, and he is going to be what he already is right now.
In other words, Venditte is more than a side show, and does have enough going for him to be considered a potential big leaguer. But, his margin for error is very small.
Girardi: “I don’t see it getting done” • 01.26.10
Joe Girardi was in Times Square tonight to accept the Bobby Murcer Award from the Baseball Assistance Team, a group that provides aid to former players, coaches and others in the “baseball family” who need financial, medical or psychological assistance. Before the awards dinner, Girardi spoke for about five minutes.
To Bryan Hoch‘s eternal credit, the first question was about Murcer and the spirit of the evening, but the bulk of the questions were about — you guessed it — Johnny Damon.
“I don’t think anything is completely shut until it’s completely shut,” Girardi said. “We’ve talked about our budget and what we have, and it has to work in everybody’s framework. I don’t see it getting done, but you never say never.”
Obviously the winter hasn’t gone exactly as Damon hoped or expected, but Girardi said Damon’s “spirits were great” when the two talked recently. Girardi said he wouldn’t worry about Damon carrying any frustration into New York should he return at a steep pay cut.
“Players who come back, they want to win,” Girardi said. “I think Johnny wants to play for a while, so it would be in Johnny’s best interest to have a good year and see if he can parlay that into a bigger deal the following year or the next year. I would not have any concerns about Johnny coming back. I think Johnny loves to play and Johnny loves to win, no matter what it takes.”
• Girardi said he wouldn’t rule out the idea of Brett Gardner starting in center field and Curtis Granderson moving to left next season. He said, “I do,” when asked if he saw the two as fairly interchangeable in left and center. “You’ve got to wait to see what happens here,” Girardi said. “If we do sign another bat, another outfielder, and how that adjusts everybody’s playing time. I’m not really locked into anything.”
• I mentioned Bryan Hoch earlier. Tonight he reported this quote from Cashman regarding Damon: “I’m not having any discussions on him. His abilities exceed the money that I have.”
• Today’s trade does not affect the Yankees pursuit of a right-handed hitting outfielder. “No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “The kid we picked up today, Greg Golson, is kind of what Gardy was. We expect Gardy to have more playing time, and (Golson) gives us another guy like Gardy (off the bench) if we feel there’s a need.”
• On Francisco Cervelli being in line to takeover as the backup catcher: “I think it’s a job that he can do. He played at a very high level for us last year and I think he learned a lot. He got some great experience. I think it’s a job that he can handle.”
• Girardi said Bernie Williams has not talked about wanting to come into spring training as an instructor, but if Williams asked about it, Girardi said he would certainly want to discuss the possibility.
• Girardi took the World Series trophy to his daughter’s school this morning. Has anyone ever topped that for show-and-tell?
• Girardi on accepting an award with Murcer’s name on it: “Bobby worked very hard trying to get the players to give back, and it has come to fruition and the players have been generous. For our team to be the highest giving team in the American League, it says a lot about Bobby but it says a lot about our organization. It’s something the Steinbrenner family has always done, which is giving back. To have Bobby’s name on the award, it feels good.”
A special night with some special guests • 01.26.10
Every offseason there are plenty of charity dinners and fundraisers, and they’re all for fantastic causes. There’s one going on this weekend, though, that I wanted to highlight because a) it has a ton of great benefits for Yankee fans who attend; and b) it’s right in the LoHud backyard.
On this Saturday, January 30, Bernie Williams is hosting his 8th annual dinner and auction to benefit the Hillside Food Outreach Neighbors Helping Neighbors program. The outreach helps over 700 families in Westchester and Putnam Counties who are, literally, unable to put food on the table.
Good friend Sweeny Murti from WFAN will be hosting the event which is at Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle, and Joe Girardi will be this year’s special guest. There are a variety of ticket options for people interesting in attending – including one package that gives access to a special meet-and-greet and cocktail hour with Bernie and Girardi. You will also receive an autographed jersey from Bernie.
There will be both live and silent auctions featuring a number of great prizes. I’m told one is the right to “Go to Work with Sweeny Murti” for a day, which includes having dinner with him and the rest of the media in the press dining room. One can only imagine that will go for less than the autographed Joe DiMaggio lithograph.
Yankees add OF Greg Golson • 01.26.10
The Yankees just confirmed in a press release that they have traded for outfielder Greg Golson.
The New York Yankees today acquired outfielder Greg Golson from the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league infielder Mitch Hilligoss.
Golson, 24, batted .258 (118-for-457) with 27 extra-base hits and 40 RBI in 123 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009. He is a .263 (674-for-2,558) career minor league hitter with 120 doubles, 36 triples, 48 home runs and 265 RBI in 634 combined games in the Philadelphia Phillies and Rangers minor league systems. Originally selected by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, he has appeared in seven Major League games, six with Philadelphia in 2008 and one with Texas in 2009, going hitless in seven at-bats and scoring two runs.
Prior to the 2009 season, Baseball America named the Austin, Tex., native as the “Best Athlete,” “Fastest Baserunner” and “Best Outfield Arm” in the Texas organization.
Hilligoss, 24, batted .233 (38-for-163) with seven doubles, two triples and 14 RBI in 51 games with Single-A Tampa in 2009. He is a .275 (387-for-1,406) career minor league hitter with seven home runs and 134 RBI in 367 games. He was selected by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
Golson will be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster, which now stands at 39 players.
From Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook: “(Golson) has progressed slowly, showing several premium tools but vexing Philadelpiha with his lack of feel for the game… Golson immediately became the best athlete in a Rangers system stocked with good athletes. His plus-plus speed plays very well in center field where he’s a plus defender with excellent range and instincts and a strong arm. Golson also has average power despire a poor contact rate.”
I was covering the Phillies system when they took Golson in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was considered one of the best athletes available, and he made a nice debut in rookie ball, but he didn’t hit above .264 until his third full season. The defense and the speed were as expected, but Golson struck out a ton. He seemed to put some things in order with Double-A Reading in 2008 when he hit .282/.333/.435 — it was the second year in a row he’d shown progress — but after his trade to Texas, Golson fell back to .258/.299/.344 with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Golson is still just 24 years old, and this is clearly a case of the Yankees hoping the results catch up to the tools. The outfield is very thin in the upper levels of the minor league system, so it makes sense to add a guy like Golson to the mix (especially at the cost of a guy like Hilligoss, who had fallen almost completely off the map).
Because Golson was DFA last week, but traded before he cleared waivers, the Yankees had no choice but to add him to the 40-man roster. That said, he has options remaining, so he’ll most likely open the season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Golson, Colin Curtis, David Winfree, Reid Gorecki and Jon Weber… that’s a fun-to-follow group for the Triple-A outfield. Pretty young and athletic.
I usually add my two cents to the morning’s guest post around this time, but there are a couple of newsworthy things going on this afternoon.
1. Major League Baseball has announced the tentative game times for the 2010 season. You can find a printable version of the Yankees schedule right here. There are still a few TBA’s here and there, but for the most part, the times are set.
2. Xavier Nady has signed with the Chicago Cubs, taking one right-handed outfield option off the free agent market. As of right now, I haven’t seen anything on contract details.
UPDATE, 12:59 p.m.: Looks like Ben Sheets has signed with Oakland, which means the A’s are no longer likley to go after Johnny Damon. It had been reported that Damon was Oakland’s Plan B if a deal couldn’t be reached with Sheets.
UPDATE, 1:58 p.m.: Nady got $3.3 million plus heavy $2 mil in incentives. Probably a little more than the Yankees would have wanted to spend. Sheets is one-year, $10 million, almost certainly more than the Yankees would have wanted to spend.
Pinch hitting: Ryan Lee • 01.26.10
Our next pinch hitter is Ryan Lee, who brings an unusual perspective to a blog about baseball’s most successful franchise.
Ryan is 15 years old. He doesn’t remember 1996, has no real memories of 1998 and can hardly remember anything from the Yankees 2000 season. For him, 2009 was the first championship experience. He wasn’t waiting for the Yankees to do it again, he was just waiting.
Originally from New York and New Jersey, Ryan now lives on the West Coast. “Which means I’m 99 percent of the time hated by everyone when baseball’s on,” he wrote. “But, I get to watch games at 4 pm, which is a plus.”
To be perfectly honest, I asking a 15-year-old to write one of these didn’t seem like a great idea, but Ryan nailed it.
A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a New Orleans Saints fan. He was ecstatic about the results so far in the NFL playoffs. “Ah, you wouldn’t understand,” he said. “Usually I expect them to lose, so this is amazing.” When I shrugged and said that I was used to watching the Yankees lose for most of my baseball-following life, he shook his head. “No,” he said. “You always expect the Yankees to make the playoffs.”
That’s true, but as any Yankees fan knows, the playoffs are just the beginning. Clinching the playoff berth is a minor victory on the long, nearly seven-month journey to the World Series. As a young fan, 2009 was the first time I experienced a full victory.
I was finally able to comprehend the rules of baseball around the age of 5, when I was in T-ball. By 6, I was watching games on TV, but I don’t remember an emotional response to any of it. At 7, I was following baseball on-and-off. By 8, I was a true fan.
That was 2002.
I grew up watching “Pinstripe Destiny” with my Dad — watching the glory days — but by the time I started watching the Yanks, those glory days were over. I waited, holding on to hope they would eventually get back to the glory I kept witnessing on those old World Series films.
Disappointment in ’03. Heartbreak in ’04. Losses in ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, and ‘08. I came to the realization that the Yankees might be descending into mediocrity. My friends didn’t share my feeling of dread — they followed the San Francisco Giants, and were wrapped up in Barry Bonds, Barry Zito, and Tim Lincecum. Team accomplishments, to them, became almost secondary to individual wins, ERAs, Home Run records and Cy Young Awards.
Then came 2009. Now in high school, my attitude about the world had taken a considerable turn to the pessimistic. When it came to baseball, I tried to keep the faith, but midway into April, I almost gave up. After seven years of patiently waiting, I was getting tired.
Then they started to win.
I watched all the old tapes again. “Pinstripe Destiny.” “100 Years of Pinstripes – Greatest Teams.” I was reliving the glory days.
November 5, 2009 was one of the greatest days of my baseball-following life. As I watched the players celebrating, I played a montage in my mind. John Wetteland jumping into the air, holding up his finger in victory. Scott Brosius jumping for joy in San Diego. Mariano celebrating on the mound.
I now have the 2009 World Series DVD. I’ll add it to the collection, and eagerly await more.