The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for January, 2011

Optimism, whatever that’s worth01.28.11

Yesterday, Jim Baumbach used the word “optimism” to describe the Yankees feelings toward Andy Pettitte.

There is a growing optimism within the Yankees that Andy Pettitte will decide to pitch this season, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Today, Jon Heyman said the same thing.

Yankees people seem a bit more optimistic in recent days. That optimism dates back to several days ago when they learned Pettitte was conducting his usual January workouts.

This after Brian Cashman’s public statements on Wednesday night, saying there was absolutely nothing new to report about Pettitte. Reports of optimism also came 10 days after the Yankees were reportedly growing less optimistic about Pettitte. Cashman keeps saying that he’s moving forward with the belief that Pettitte will not pitch in 2011, and that he feels no need to push Pettitte for a definitive answer.

So what’s optimism worth right now?

It’s probably worth a little bit. Cashman has been in steady contact with Pettitte, and Pettitte reportedly has been working out at home in Texas. Those seem to be good signs — why workout and stay in contact if returning isn’t at least a consideration? — but those things certainly don’t mean anything has been decided.

Optimism is good, but until Pettitte makes an absolute decision, we’re all going to be left guessing.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 324 Comments →

Worth a long look01.28.11

The Yankees won’t really have a Brett Gardner-type situation this spring. Twelve months ago, when Doug wrote his initial defense of Gardner as a everyday player, it was at a time when left field was pretty wide open. Gardner was the favorite, but he was coming off a shaky first full season in the big leagues, and guys like Randy Winn and Marcus Thames were looming as competiiton.

Today, the Yankees everyday lineup is more or less set in stone. Gardner did more than enough to keep his everyday status, Russell Martin was signed specifically to be the everyday catcher and Jorge Posada will transition to a regular designated hitter role. There are a couple of bench job up for grabs — and the rotation has obvious questions — but if everyone stays healthy, this spring will not become a Gardner-type proving ground.

Instead, these are the guys who are similar to Gardner — big league experience, arguable favorites for a job, but not guaranteed anything — who might have to earn a spot.

Francisco Cervelli
Backup catcher
Cervelli has pushed himself this winter. He’s been training with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic, working to improve himself at the plate for what he knows is going to be a fight to stay relevant in the Yankees organization. Right now he’s the favorite for a bench job, if only because the Yankees would prefer not to limit the at-bats of either Austin Romine or Jesus Montero. But those two are charging toward the big leagues, and Cervelli could be passed in the not-so-distant future. In fact, Brian Cashman has said Cervelli will have to earn a job this spring. He’ll be the favorite, but he won’t be an automatic.

Greg Golson
Fifth outfielder
Right now, the Yankees know three bench spots will go to Andruw Jones, a backup catcher and a utility infielder. The fourth bench job is wide open, and I guess you’d have to say Golson counts as the incumbent. He made a solid impression last year — and his speed and defense certainly play at the big league level — but he’ll have to show something with the bat. Guys like Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Kevin Russo and Brandon Laird will also be pushing for a spot. Same for whoever misses out on the utility job if the Yankees choose to carry two reserve infielders rather than two reserve outfielders.

Sergio Mitre
Fifth starter/long reliever
One way or another, Mitre will have competition this spring. He seems to be a favorite — just like Gardner was last spring — but he’ll have to earn either the last spot in the rotation or the last spot in the bullpen. Right now, he seems to be a more reliable option than Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, Romulo Sanchez or any of the Rule 5 picks, but of the pitching staff favorites, he’s most on the bubble. He’ll become much more-so on the bubble if the Yankees add another rotation candidate or catch lighting in a bottle with Bartolo Colon.

Ivan Nova
Fourth/fifth starter
Right now, the Yankees have little choice but to give Nova a spot in the rotation. Best-case scenario, though, the Yankees will find a proven starter — if he’s currently hanging out in the Texas, all the better — who will push Nova into a proving ground. He’ll almost certainly go into spring training as a favorite, but he’ll have to show something, including an ability to keep getting outs more than one time through a lineup. Given the Yankees minor league pitching depth, Nova might have to keep performing during the season to keep a job.

Eduardo Nunez
Utility infielder
Ramiro Pena is limited, but the Yankees take comfort in knowing he can handle every infield position defensively and provide some speed off the bench. Nunez is a far more dynamic hitter, but he’ll have to earn some trust. Based on last season, when he hit .280 in the big leagues after a strong Triple-A season, my guess is that the Yankees would prefer to carry Nunez and give him semi-regular starts on the left side of the infield. But if he slips, the Yankees will go right back to the comfort of Pena.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 590 Comments →

Pinch hitting: Doug Waage01.28.11

Our next Pinch Hitter is something of a flashback. Doug Waage wrote a guest post last year, and he’s back to reexamine the same subject: The impact of Brett Gardner.

Doug is a 35-year-old equity analyst working in Manhattan and living in Jersey City. He’s a lifelong Yankees fan who, exactly one year ago, predicted that Gardner would thrive if given a chance to play everyday.

It’s sometimes easy to forget, but a year ago the Yankees were the reigning 2009 World Series Champions, and the team was faced with the decision of who was going to play left field in 2010.

Immediately after the season, the team had three candidates from the 2009 season: Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, and Melky Cabrera, as well two home run-hitting free agents in Jason Bay and Matt Holliday to consider.  Despite having the means to sign Bay or Holliday, or to bring back Damon on a reasonable contract ($20M for 2 years), the Yankees decided to pass on the all three free agents, trade away Cabrera, and give the job to Gardner.

The Yankees were widely criticized for not going with one of the more experienced (and more expensive) free agents and giving the job to the light hitting Gardner.  A year ago I analyzed the Yankee’s decision and concluded that in addition to being the cheapest solution (Gardner only made $452,500 in 2010), Gardner would not only produce more wins for the Yankees than all of the other LF options besides Holliday, but his production would be similar to that of Teixeria’s 2009 output of 5.1 WAR (wins above replacement) production when Teixeria was 2nd in the MVP voting.

While some people agreed with my analysis, most of the fan base thought (a) that I was nuts, (b) that Gardner couldn’t produce anywhere near the level of Teixeria’s 5.1 WAR, and (c) that the Yanks should sign Damon, Bay, or Holliday to play let.  With the 2010 season behind us, let’s take a look back at how the Yankees decision to go with Gardner vs. all the costlier options turned out:

Holliday Cardinals 675 0.312 95 28 103 9 0.390 0.396 153
Gardner Yankees 569 0.277 95 5 47 44 0.383 0.358 123
Damon Tigers 613 0.271 81 8 51 11 0.355 0.34 112
Bay Mets 401 0.259 48 6 47 10 0.347 0.336 113
Cabrera Braves 509 0.255 50 4 42 7 0.317 0.294 83

From the raw offensive data, Gardner is clearly 2nd only to Holliday in 2010 offensive contribution.  Both his wOBA and wRC+ are superior to that of Damon, Bay, and Cabrera, and he had at least 33 more stolen bases than any of them. Objectively, Gardner had a good year with the bat while Damon and Bay had OK years (but well below their historical standards and what was expected of them given their $8M and $15M respective salaries), and Melky was just horrendous.

Now let’s look at each players total 2010 contribution (including defense):

2010 “Free”
Name Batting UZR RAR WAR Value Salary Value
Matt Holliday 42.7 8.2 66.4 6.9 $27.6 $16.3 $11.3
Brett Gardner 15.4 21.9 51.9 5.4 $21.5 $0.5 $21.0
Johnny Damon 8.9 0.6 18.2 1.9 $7.5 $8.0 -$0.5
Jason Bay 6.2 -1.9 13.5 1.4 $5.6 $15.0 -$9.4
Melky Cabrera -10.1 -16 -12 -1.2 -$4.9 $3.1 -$8.0

Holliday was awesome as expected, Damon earned his pay for the year, Bay was a huge disappointment (just ask any Mets fan), and the Braves should have benched Cabrera, who should have paid the Braves to compensate them for how badly he played.  And then there was Gardner, who produced lots of value and cost next to nothing.  The Yanks got $21.5M of value out of Gardner for an investment of less than $0.5M.  If only all of us were able to earn such returns on our investments!

From a WAR standpoint, Gardner ended up producing 5.4 WAR, which was even higher than my 4.6 WAR projection from last January, which almost everyone said was crazy high.  How did he do it?  He had a good offensive year led by his 0.383 OBP (8th highest in the AL) and 47 SBs (3rd in AL), and his 21.9 UZR which was the best in baseball! Yes, you read that right, Brett Gardner was the best defensive player in all of baseball in 2010… at any position!

So just how valuable was Gardner in 2010?  Gardner’s 5.4 WAR was better than every other member of the 2010 Yankees not named Robinson Cano.  More valuable than CC (5.1), AROD (4.1), Tex (3.5), and Jeter + Posada combined (2.5+2.4 = 4.9 WAR)…and all for less money than what AROD earned playing about 20 innings of ball.  So given Gardner’s huge contribution to the Yankees 2010 campaign, how much attention did Gardner’s performance get in print, on TV, on the radio, and online vs. his less productive teammates? Virtually none. Every other article was about Cano’s great season (which was well deserved), and seemingly about Jeter’s free agency. Now I realize that Gardner isn’t a household name even for many Yankee fans, but perhaps the fans and media should show Gardner a level of “love” more in-line with his on-field contributions.   But I digress…

So what should we expect from Gardner in 2011?  As great as Gardner was in 2010, his season could have been even better if not for the injury he sustained on June 27th. In that game, Gardner was hit by a pitch in his right wrist, and while he played out the rest of the season, it negatively affected his hitting in the second half.  Prior to the HBP, Gardner was batting .321, with a .403 OBP, and a .418 SLG.  After the HBP (which required surgery in the offseason), Gardner batted .233, with a .361 OBP, and a .342 SLG.  So while Gardner still drew his walks, his ability to hit the ball fell off a cliff.

Now I don’t know if Gardner will be able to return to his level of production from the first 3 months of 2010, but if he can hit at that level for an entire season and his defense ability remains constant, Gardner could produce a 6.8 WAR in 2011.  How good exactly is 6.8 WAR? Here are the players with a WAR higher than 6.8 in 2010: Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Ryan Zimmerman, Adrian Beltre, Cliff Lee, Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Matt Holliday, and Carl Crawford.

So if Gardner can play all of 2011 like he did in the first three months of 2011 (a very large “IF” I realize) and the rest of the players’ production remained constant, Gardner would be the 11th best player in all of baseball.  A high bar?  You bet, but he hit that well in Triple-A in 2008 (.389 wOBA) and for the first three months of 2010 (.370 wOBA), so we’ll just have to wait and see if Gardner is able to maintain this level of production going forward.  Barring an injury, my money’s on Gardner.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Pinch hitterswith 172 Comments →

Swisher: “I don’t want to leave New York”01.27.11

Nick Swisher was on the Mike Francesa’s radio show this afternoon, professing his love for the Yankees, the Bleacher Creatures and all things New York.

“I don’t want to leave New York,” Swisher said. “This is the place to be. I love it. I absolutely love it… Meeting my wife, and Kevin Long, and the city of New York just completely resurrected my career.”

Coming off the best season of his career, Swisher has stuck with his offseason routine. We already know that Long has been to California to work with Swisher this winter.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Swisher said. “Continuing to do the same thing. Just trying to keep that same mentality. Really trying to stay consistent with something.”

It’s a nice, quick interview that’s available over on the YES Network website. Swisher talks a lot about his transition to New York, his popularity in New York and his upcoming honor at next week’s Thurman Munson dinner. It’s Swisher, so you know it’s entertaining.

A few other notes and links from today.

• Newsday has a cool photo gallery showing some of the oddities of Brian Cashman’s offseason, everything from the Derek Jeter negotiations to the Rafael Soriano press conference to last night’s bartending experience.

• My good friend Bryan Hoch did a nice job wrapping up last night’s bartending event. “I think I’m keeping (the fans) happier right now tending bar than I am in terms of finding a starting rotation that they can be comfortable with,” Cashman said. “But in time, we’ll do that, I promise.”

• Make sure you check out Buster Olney’s take on what the world of Twitter might have looked like with a George Steinbrenner account. My favorite fictional tweet: Mattingly’s hair has gotten so long that he looks like one of the Beatles — one of their girlfriends, I mean.

Vladimir Guerrero’s most logical next step might be a one-year deal with the Orioles. As Ken Rosenthal pointed out, there aren’t many teams still looking for a designated hitter.

The Nationals designated Justin Maxwell for assignment. If the 40-man weren’t full, and the Yankees hadn’t already added Jordan Parraz for outfield depth, I’d suggest Maxwell might be a solid target for the Yankees. He was pretty bad in Washington last year, but Maxwell raked in Triple-A and seemed to be developing into at least a fourth outfielder not too long ago. That said, I’m not sure outfield depth is as much of a concern now as it once was.

• ESPN says that the best unknown high school player in the country is a kid from my hometown (though I went to a different high school). My dad really likes high school basketball, so I’ve actually heard about Otto Porter quite a bit. The last high school kid in that area to create this sort of buzz was probably Tyler Hansbrough.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 155 Comments →

Get to know Cano tonight on YES01.27.11

Tonight, the YES Network will air “Getting to Know Cano,” a special look at Robinson Cano’s offseason at his home in the Dominican Republic. There are some previews the segment already online, including an interview with Francisco Cervelli, who’s been training with Cano this winter.

“I think for me, he’s one of the best players in the Major Leagues right now,” Cervelli said. “We want to do something similar, and the good thing is, he wants to teach you. He wants to give you what he’s got.”

The Cano show airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET on YES. It’s Jack Curry, Cano and the DR. What’s not to like?

Two other notes from the YES Network’s preview interviews online…

• Cervelli says he’s reworked his swing this winter, and he’s looking forward to some heavy competition this spring. It’s easy to knock Cervelli’s offensive ability — and believe me, I’ve questioned it plenty — but he’s shown flashes of hitting at the big league level, certainly enough to be a backup. “I feel great,” Cervelli said. “My body’s good. I’ve been swinging so good. I’ve got something different right now, but I have to keep doing that every day because I want to make everything like a habit.”

• Eduardo Nunez has been driving an hour and a half to workout with Cano, and says he’s prepared to transition from everyday minor leaguer to role player at the big league level. “We have to make an adjustment (to) play every one week, two weeks,” Nunez said. “We’re working. We can do it.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 129 Comments →

Law: Montero and Banuelos among the elite prospects01.27.11

For whatever reason, there’s been a lot of prospect stuff going on the past few days. Probably because it’s late January and there isn’t much else going on.

Today, Keith Law chimed in with his Top 100 list, and it’s much kinder to the Yankees than the MLB Network list was a few days ago.

Law lists Jesus Montero at No. 4, immediately behind the game’s trio of premier outfield prospects: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Domonic Brown. In his evaluation, Law brings up the idea of immediately moving Montero away from the catcher position:

With a bat this potentially strong, why risk injury or give up the 20-25 games a year when your catcher has to rest? Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.

Law is also high on Manny Banuelos, who ranked 12th on this list, one spot ahead of the Blue Jays Kyle Drabek, two spots ahead of the Rays Jeremy Hellickson and three spots ahead of the Reds Aroldis Chapman. That’s impressive company.

Gary Sanchez, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman all fell between 60 and 90 on Law’s list. Catcher Austin Romine was mentioned as one of the players who just missed the cut, with Law noting that he’s not completely sold on Romine’s bat and that he’s seen Romine struggle with “basic receiving tasks.”

Arodys Vizcaino — the young right-hander the Yankees lost in The Boone Logan Trade — made it just inside the top 50 at No. 47.

In his team-by-team rankings, Law shows some love for Graham Stoneburner, ranking him as the seventh-best prospect in the Yankees system, just ahead of Slade Heathcott and immediately behind Romine.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 126 Comments →

Cashman: “We’re an an unfinished product”01.27.11

Today’s guest post was another example of fortunate timing.

This morning, Yair wrote about the Red Sox putting themselves back in contention, making moves to refuel the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.

At last night’s charity bartending event, Brian Cashman was once again asked how his club stacks up against the Red Sox at this point in the offseason.

Cashman had been asked a similar question during Tuesday’s now infamous WFAN breakfast, and he answered much the same way last night, saying that the Red Sox look like a better team on paper because they have a deeper rotation.

“They might be a finished product,” Cashman said. “We’re an unfinished product.”

The Yankees have remained a work in progress all winter, and — if Cashman can’t solve his rotation issues in the next month — they might remain a work in progress until July 31.

As for other notes from last night’s event…

• Cashman’s quick, to-the-point evaluation of his current situation: “I need starting pitching,” he said. “That’s what I need.”

• About the Andy Pettitte situation: Last night, Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees were prepared to offer Pettitte $12 million. Craig Calcaterra quoted a source saying there’s a “very strong possibility” that Pettitte will pitch this year. Cashman said, in no uncertain terms, that the Pettitte situation has not changed. Pettitte has told the Yankees he’s learning toward retirement, and that opinion — as far as the Yankees know — has not changed.

• One quote from Cashman about Pettitte: “No one wants to let him go. That’s probably the issue.” Cashman said Pettitte has been “awesome” about the situation, that communication has been constant and the Yankees are not being stopped from making a move because of Pettitte’s possible retirement.

• Why hasn’t Cashman added a reliable starting pitcher? “If I could do business and fill my rotation, I’d do it right now” Cashman said. “I just don’t like the choices.”

• Asked one more time about the possibility of leaving the Yankees, Cashman said: “I want to do what’s best for the franchise at all times. As long as I feel that I’m capable of doing that, and they want me, and I’m effective, and the fans are happy, then I can stay.”

• Last night’s event benefited prostate cancer research. Cashman said he was excited to participate because the cause meant a lot to him. His father-in-law died of prostate cancer. Cashman also joked that he always wanted to be a bartender, and last night was an opportunity to check that off his bucket list.

The picture is from my cell phone. Yes, Cashman was wearing his highlighted wig.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 185 Comments →

Pinch hitting: Yair Rosenberg01.27.11

Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Yair Rosenberg, a senior at Harvard College, where he is currently the Movies editor at The Harvard Crimson. “I have a nagging suspicion that this piece will be slightly more controversial than my Toy Story 3 review,” he wrote. As a native New Yorker, Yair said he’s enjoying yet another year in which a New York football team has eliminated the Patriots, and he hope to see the Yankees do the same to the Red Sox this coming season.

That said, for his guest post, Yair wrote about a rather odd feeling that’s grabbed him this winter. He’s actually been — sort of — cheering for the Sox.

Anatomy of a Rivalry

As a lifelong Yankees fan, I have a confession to make: I’ve been rooting for the Red Sox this off-season.

No, it’s not that four years as a New York expatriate and Boston college student have finally eroded my team loyalty or my competitiveness. Quite the opposite, in fact — it is my love of the competition that has put me in this strange predicament. Now, before you begin drafting a choicely worded death threat for the comments, do let me explain.

I don’t think I’m the only Yankees fan out there who felt that over the course of last season, the Yankees/Sox rivalry just wasn’t much fun. With Boston’s lineup decimated by injuries – stocked not with superstars but with mostly minor leaguers, bench players, and a few rapidly declining veterans – the games felt like a sham. This was especially true toward the end of the season, when the Yankees found themselves facing an out-of-contention Sox squad headlined by Darnell McDonald and the line-up of AAA Pawtucket.

In any sport, it may be fun to watch one’s player or team of choice upstage random, hopelessly inferior opponents — like watching Kobe Bryant dunk on some no-name defender, or the Yankees shellacking the Orioles (yet again) — but good, battle-tested rivalries are made of much stronger stuff.

Like many epic enmities, the Yankees/Sox rivalry is fueled by the narcissism of small differences. That is, what makes the competition so acute is the similarity between the two clubs in talent, style and approach, which throws their slight disparities into sharp relief. To take an illustrative example from my backyard, the storied university rivalry between Harvard and Yale sure isn’t predicated on the vast differences between the two twin Ivy League elites; rather, it stems from their commonalities. Because the two schools are so alike in terms of academics, student body, and culture, their most minute distinctions are put under the microscope in a search for uniqueness and superiority, intensifying the rivalry to the extreme. Every detail becomes a battleground. Each side wants to be the best when it comes to the traits both so dearly prize. So to with Yankees/Sox.

Consider plate discipline. The Yankees grind out every single at-bat, jacking up pitch counts, and working one of the best OBP’s in the league. So do the Sox. Joe West was onto something when he griped that Yankees/Sox games tend to go on far longer than any others in baseball. That’s what happens when you pit the two teams with the best OBP in the American League for six of the past eight years against each other. Indeed, the front offices of both squads have cultivated many of the same virtues both at the plate and on the mound. The result? Nine-inning grinds that exhaust umpires but exhilarate fans.

Consider payroll, where New York and Boston are far and away the highest spenders in baseball, especially in the AL. Consider size of fanbase, where both the Yankee nation and the Red Sox nation leave all other teams in the dust. Wherever you look, what makes the NY/Boston rivalry so potent is the spectacle of two well-matched titans duking it out for supremacy.

But what we had last year was a parody of that spectacle. I felt like Boston didn’t hold up its end of the traditional bargain. Who wants to watch the New York Yankees beat the Replacement Level Red Sox? All of which is why this off-season, I’ve found myself cheering Boston’s acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Don’t get me wrong – if the Sox had signed a free agent the Yankees were actually interested in (Cliff Lee, for instance), I wouldn’t be writing this. But so long as the Red Sox can retool without treading on our free agent territory, I’m for it.

After all, who is it more satisfying to pound into submission – an outfield captained by Crawford, or one patrolled by last year’s fearsome trio of Bill Hall, Ryan Kalish and Eric Patterson? With a newly reloaded rival at the ready, I look forward to the singular thrill of Yankee victories in hard-fought, three-and-a-half hour Yankees/Sox duels come September.

Truth or treason? What do you think?

Associated Press photos of Crawford and Soriano

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Pinch hitterswith 281 Comments →

Texas CEO: Rangers opened door for Lee’s return to Philly01.26.11

Feel free to really hate the Rangers now.

During a Fan Fest in Arlington on Sunday, Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg said it’s his belief that Cliff Lee was going to sign with the Yankees until Texas made one last attempt, keeping the door open just long enough for the Phillies to swoop in and land the left-hander.

“Even though Philadelphia was probably not in, they were always in the back of our mind,” Greenberg said. “I think if we wouldn’t have gone to Arkansas that last time, I think he was going to sign with the Yankees. We pried the door open a little bit to give ourselves another opportunity. And ultimately the Phillies were able to take advantage of that opportunity that we created.”

A few more notes and links on this Wednesday night.

Hank Steinbrenner says the Yankees “have to win.” Actually, he said it a little more colorfully than that.

David Cone is returning to the YES broadcast booth. He’ll do 25 games, according to Joel Sherman.

Chad Moeller has signed a minor league deal with the Rockies.

• Keith Law says the Yankees have the ninth-best minor league system in baseball, directly ahead of the Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers. The Royals, of course, are at the top.

• I’ve never met him, but I’ve always rooted for Rocco Baldelli to stay healthy enough to keep playing. It just wasn’t in the cards, though, and Baldelli now says he’s finished for good.

• According to a press release, the YES Network finished 2010 as the most watched regional sports network in the country for the eighth straight year.

• Just in case you missed it, Brian Cashman acknowledged yesterday that Joba Chamberlain’s injury in Texas in 2008 has significantly impacted his performance and perceived future.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 441 Comments →

Decisions to be named later01.26.11

When today’s guest post suggestion first popped into my email inbox, I remember immediately trying to come up with Brian Cashman’s most embarrassing prospect loss. Mike Lowell, maybe? That’s a bad one, but it also came more than a decade ago. Most recently, Ben’s right on the money: Cashman has traded away young players who became solid big leaguers, but no stars.

Giving away C.J. Henry for Bobby Abreu was a steal. So was landing Nick Swisher for a package built around Jeff Marquez. When the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez, the PTBNL was Joaquin Arias, who actually had quite a bit of prospect clout at the time. As Ed pointed out, Dioner Navarro and Brandon Claussen never developed into stars. I’ll add that neither did John-Ford Griffin, who was traded barely a year after being a first-round draft pick.

It’s hard to argue that Cashman has generally known which prospects to keep and which to trade, but to be fair, some of Cashman’s recent prospect dealing is still to be determined. Four trades that standout to me as to-be-judged-later:

July 26, 2008
Fighting to make the playoffs, Cashman made a deal with the Pirates to add outfielder Xavier Nady and left-handed reliever Damaso Marte.
The cost: Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendrof, Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen

There’s no chance this trade will ever be a positive for the Yankees. They missed the playoffs in 2008, Nady was hurt in 2009 and Marte has been a disappointment (aside from the ’09 playoffs). This was a bad trade for the Yankees, the only question is how bad. It hinges on Ohlendorf to some extent — he’s proven to be a solid starter, might never step to the next level — but it mostly hinges on Tabata. Always highly touted, Tabata’s stock had taken a hit when the Yankees traded him, and he bounced back with the Pirates. Tabata hit .299/.346/.400 last season. For a Yankees team light on upper-level outfielders, he’d be a nice option in 2011.

December 8, 2009
Uncertain about Austin Jackson’s ultimate upside, the Yankees worked a three-way trade to add Curtis Granderson as a short-term and long-term solution in center field.
The cost: Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke

Whether the trade was worth it will depend on whether Granderson keeps making the strides. Whether Cashman gave up the wrong prospects will almost certainly depend on Kennedy and Jackson. There’s no question the Yankees sold low on Kennedy, who was one year removed from a brutal showing in New York, and only a few months removed from surgery. Kennedy pitched well next season, and could help in their current situation. Did the Yankees give up too soon? Jackson was a Rookie of the Year candidate, but high strikeout total and relatively low power numbers were significant reasons the Yankees were willing to lose him. There’s was never any doubt Jackson would be a solid big leaguer, the question was — and is — whether he can take the next step to become a star.

December 22, 2009
Looking to add stability to the back of the rotation, the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez, who was coming off a career year and had always — except his one previous year in New York — been a steady source of 200-plus innings.
The cost: Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino

Short-term, the trade didn’t work especially well for either team. Dunn and Boone Logan pretty much negated one anther, while both Cabrera and Vazquez were significant disappointments. The long-term impact of this trade will depend on Vizcaino, who was considered the Yankees top lower-level pitching prospect, ranked as high as No. 3 overall in the Yankees organization by Baseball America. There’s raw talent, but Vizcaino is young enough that there’s significant risk between now and his potential big league debut. His first year with the Braves was cut short by injury, though not before he had a dominant 14-start stretch in Low A.

July 30, 2010
Needing to upgrade the bench and add some outfield depth, the Yankees made a move for fourth outfielder Austin Kearns, who was hitting .272/.354/.419 at the time in Cleveland.
The cost: Zach McAllister

Kearns was a huge asset for a brief time with the Yankees — at a time when injury meant he was a key part of the lineup — but he ultimately finished with awful numbers in New York. To get him, the Yankees gave up a starting pitcher who was having the first truly bad season of his career. McAllister had been a highly touted pitcher, one of the high points even in the Yankees deep system, but he had a 5.09 ERA in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at the time of the trade. Clearly McAllister isn’t missed right now — too many other pitchers have taken significant steps forward — but if McAllister bounces back, he could certainly be a player the Yankees regret losing.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 514 Comments →

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