The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

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 →

Getting ready for baseball again01.06.11

That’s a picture of Yankee Stadium being converted back into a baseball field after spending some time ready for football. Thanks to the Yankee PR staff for the photo. As usual, here are a few links from the day.

• Scott Boras says Rafael Soriano is willing to pitch the eighth inning for the Yankees. “I don’t think there is a team in baseball where he could be asked to be a setup guy other than the Yankees,” Boras told ESPNNewYork. Question is, does being willing to setup mean Soriano considers that job equal to a ninth-inning job elsewhere?

• Speaking of the ninth inning, Brian Fuentes is apparently still looking for a team that needs a closer.

• Not that he was ever a legitimate possibility for the Yankees, but it seems Carl Pavano is off the market. Ken Rosenthal says Pavano is closing in on a two-year deal with the Twins.

• If Edgar Renteria had experience at third base, I wonder if the Yankees might have become interested. Renteria seems to be on his way to Cincinnati on a one-year deal.

• The Indians made room on their roster for short-term Yankees outfielder Austin Kearns by designating Jordan Brown for assignment. Brown’s been a pretty good hitter in the minor leagues, but he doesn’t have much pop for a guy whose primary position is first base.

Interesting story in the Times about publicly funded stadiums (or the lack of publicly funded stadiums).

• Nothing good coming out of this Alfredo Simon shooting case. It seems he might have tried to cover his tracks by changing the barrel of the gun he turned over to police. Not a good situation.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 243 Comments →

A year of trades for the Yankees12.23.10

One year and one day after last winter’s trade for a Javier Vazquez, a look back at the Yankees trades from December to December.

PH2009120703823December 7, 2009
RHP Brian Bruney to the Nationals for OF Jamie Hoffmann
Why? Because Bruney was due for an arbitration raise and the Yankees outfield depth was woefully low.
Good move? Didn’t really matter. Bruney probably would have been non-tendered anyway, and the Yankees at least got to take a look at a guy who’s now on the Dodgers 40-man roster. No harm done. Hoffmann was a Rule 5 pick who didn’t stick. Bruney was a reliever on his way out.

December 8, 2010
RHP Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, LHP Phil Coke and CF Austin Jackson to the Tigers for CF Curtis Granderson
Why? Because the Yankees were worried about Jackson’s holes and didn’t have a spot for Kennedy. In Granderson, they seemed to be getting a proven player who basically represented Jackson’s best-case scenario.
Good move? Little too early to say. Jackson, Coke and Kennedy each had good years, but Jackson showed the holes that the Yankees expected — a ton of strikeouts, not much power — and Kennedy might have benefited from the change of scenery. If Granderson continues the strides he made in the second half of last season, he’ll be better than any of the three players the Yankees sacrificed to get him.

Rangers Yankees BaseballDecember 22, 2009
CF Melky Cabrera, LHP Mike Dunn and RHP Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves for RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan
Because the Yankees needed consistency and durability at the back of the rotation, and those had been trademarks of Vazquez for 10 years.
Good move? No. Vazquez was a complete disappointment, but Cabrera wasn’t very good either, and Logan for Dunn was basically a wash. This seemed to be a big trade, but in the end, the left-handed relievers were the best pieces. Even Vizcaino took a step back, making only 17 starts because of a torn ligament. The Yankees got a compensation pick when Vazquez signed the Florida, so that helps make up for the loss of a very young prospect.

January 26, 2010
INF Mitch Hilligoss to the Rangers for OF Greg Golson
Why? Because the Yankees needed outfield depth much more than infield depth.
Good move? Sure. Hilligoss had a nice year — .296/.365/.370 between High-A and Double-A — but Golson played a role in New York, and he should be around to do the same next season whenever the Yankees need him. Hilligoss would still be no higher than fourth or fifth on the utility depth chart. Golson is probably at the top of the outfield call-up list.

March 9, 2010
RHP Edwar Ramirez to the Rangers for cash considerations
Why? Because Ramirez had been designated for assignment to make room for Chan Ho Park.
Good move? At least they got something for him. Ramirez actually didn’t do much more than Park. He was ultimately traded to the A’s, pitched 11 innings in the big leagues and he’s now floating through free agency, probably destined for a minor league deal somewhere.

ALCS Yankees Rangers BaseballJuly 30, 2010
RHP Zach McAllister to the Indians for OF Austin Kearns
Why? Because McAllister was quickly becoming overshadowed in Triple-A, Kearns was hitting pretty well in Cleveland and the Yankees needed a right-handed fourth outfielder.
Good move?
Looked good for a little while, but ultimately no. Through his first 17 games with the Yankees, Kearns hit .275/.373/.451 and was especially helpful during that August road trip through Texas and Kansas City, but he was dreadful in September. McAllister didn’t pitch any better for Triple-A Columbus than he had for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he was passed by a ton of talent coming through the Yankees system, but it wasn’t worth losing him for three good weeks from Kearns.

July 31, 2010
RHP Mark Melancon and INF Jimmy Paredes to the Astros for DH Lance Berkman
Because the Yankees needed to created a platoon at designated hitter, and Berkman gave them someone who could legitimately hit lefties. Melancon’s time and come and gone, and Paredes was an afterthought in the Yankees system.
Good move? Yes. Berkman got off to a slow start, but when he came off the disabled list he hit .299/.405/.388 through the month of September, and he was better than most of the Yankees hitters in the playoffs. I’m one of the few Melancon believer still out there, but he had his chances to prove himself in New York and never did. Unless Paredes significantly exceeds expectations, this will have been a worthwhile trade.

July 31, 2010
INF Matt Cusick and RHP Andrew Shive to the Indians for RHP Kerry Wood
Why? Because the Yankees had a chance to solidify the bullpen without losing any key pieces of the farm system.
Good move? You bet. No offense to Cusick and Shive, but they were pretty far off the prospect radar in the Yankees system. Wood, meanwhile, seemed to magically bring the bullpen together to make it one of the Yankees absolute strengths down the stretch. If the Yankees had continued their playoff run, the Wood trade would have been considered one of the great turning points of the season.

November 18, 2010
1B Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for RHP Scottie Allen
Because Miranda is out of options and had no spot on the big league roster.
Good move? Sure. It’s too early to know whether Allen will turn into anything of value — he’s not even 20 years old yet — but Miranda was completely expendable. With Jorge Posada ready to get most of the DH at-bats and Mark Teixeira entrenched at first base, Miranda had no place in the organization and it was best for everyone involved to send him elsewhere and get something in return.

Associated Press photos of Bruney, Cabrera and Kearns

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Yankees luxury tax drops more than $7 million12.21.10

I’ll leave this one to The Associated Press.

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees lowered spending on players by $12 million this year, cutting payroll by $5 million and slashing their major league-leading luxury tax by more than $7 million.

New York was hit with an $18 million luxury tax Tuesday by Major League Baseball. The tax was New York’s lowest since 2003 and down from $25.7 million last year, when the Yankees won the World Series.

“Atta baby. And right now we’re in the $170s,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, looking ahead to his 2011 payroll.

Season-ending payroll information and the tax was sent to teams Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press.

Boston is the only other team that will have to pay. The Red Sox, who missed the playoffs this year, exceeded the payroll threshold for the first time since 2007 and owe $1.49 million.

New York’s payroll was $215.1 million for the purpose of the luxury tax, down from $226.2 million, and the Yankees pay at a 40 percent rate for the amount over the threshold, which rose from $162 million to $170 million. Boston’s luxury-tax payroll was $176.6 million, and the Red Sox pay at a 22.5 percent rate.

“We’re doing a better job of managing our payroll and managing our decision-making as we enter the free-agent market,” Cashman said. “Our payroll doesn’t necessarily have to live at that level, but it’s nice to know that our owners are committed to allow us to get there if we need to.”

To compute the payroll, Major League Baseball uses the average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters and adds benefits. The Yankees failed to land free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee despite being given permission from ownership to make a $150 million, seven-year offer. Lee agreed to a $120 million, five-year deal with Philadelphia.

“We weren’t going to exceed where we were this past year, but the bottom line is that now that the Lee thing has declared itself, it would be hard-pressed for us to get up to that level,” Cashman said.

Some notes and links:

ALCS Rangers Yankees Baseball• A.J. Burnett is getting himself ready to work with Larry Rothschild next week in Maryland. Ken Davidoff reports that Rothschild is expected to visit Burnett for a week to 10 days.

• In the notes of the Davidoff story is this quote from Cashman about why Joba Chamberlain is no longer considered a rotation option: “His stuff plays so much significantly (better) out of the ‘pen. We had given him an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, and the velocity dropped. It’s just not the same stuff.”

Governor David Patterson has been charged $62,125 for his tickets to the 2009 World Series. The charge includes the face value of the seats, plus fines.

• The Yankees aren’t the only ones finding the price of pitching a little extreme. The Mets are also waiting for the prices to drop.

Austin Kearns on his return to Cleveland: “I enjoyed playing here. There are a lot of good guys on this team. Guys I’ve maintained relationships with. They have a lot of talented young guys on this team.”

• The Plain Dealer listed three right-handed outfield alternatives to Kearns. Two of them are familiar names: Shelley Duncan and Chad Huffman.

Associated Press photo

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Kearns lands back in Cleveland12.20.10

ph_400290His stint in New York was rather forgettable, but Austin Kearns turned an otherwise solid 2010 into a $1.3-million deal with the Indians.

One year ago, Kearns had to settle for a minor league deal. Cleveland invited him to big league camp, he made the team and he hit .272/.354/.419 before a deadline deal to the Yankees, who gave up Zach McAllister for the rental. With the Yankees, he hit for no power and only a .235 average.

The Yankees need a right-handed reserve outfielder, but after his stint last season, it would have been hard to see the Yankees bringing Kearns back.

Speaking of not coming back: Chan Ho Park has agreed to a deal with the Orix Buffaloes. Try to contain your disappointment.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 285 Comments →

A few notes and links after a long day12.14.10

Cliff Lee BaseballAround here, it’s hard to see the Cliff Lee signing as anything but a punch to the Yankees gut, but there’s another side to this story. What’s taking place in Philadelphia is impressive, and Jayson Stark did a nice job writing about the Lee signing from the Phillies side.

I appreciate any story that includes this quote: “Holy [colorful adjective] [colorful noun].”

Brian Cashman wasn’t quite as colorful in his Phillies assessment, but he made the key point.

“They have evolved into one of the more premier franchises, and that’s a credit to Dave Montgomery,” Cashman said during this afternoon’s conference call. “It’s an attractive place to play. It’s healthy competition, and it’s good for baseball.”

Not a lot of “mystery teams” end up with the top free agent on the market. The Phillies made it happen. Give credit where it’s due. It’s a heckuva signing.

A few other links:

• Cool post over at MLBTradeRumors about the lessons of the Lee signing.

• Even before Lee signed, Jack Curry was already reporting that the Yankees did not consider Zack Greinke to be a legitimate Plan B. I talked to quite a few Yankees officials today, and one of them suggested it’s more likely the team will mix and match a few different upgrades rather than try to find a Lee replacement.

• The A’s have finalized their Hideki Matsui signing. He’ll get one year and less than $6 million.

Austin Kearns is on the Diamondbacks radar, according to Jon Paul Morosi. So is former Yankees outfielder Xavier Nady.

• Jerry Crasnick says the Rangers have discussed signing Chien-Ming Wang.

The Mariners have signed Royce Ring to a minor league deal. When it rains it pours, huh?

• Former Yankees prospect Dioner Navarro has signed with the Dodgers.

Associated Press photo

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Window closing with no Yankees re-signed11.06.10

The clock will strike midnight with none of the Yankees free agents re-signed.

The Yankees do not expect to work out any sort of deal before tonight’s deadline, meaning all of their free agents — including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — will hit the open market at 12:01 tomorrow. The Yankees have had exclusive negotiating rights since the end of the World Series, but no deals have been reached.

This hardly comes as a surprise. The team has given no reason to expect a quick resolution with Jeter or Rivera, and Andy Pettitte has always been expected to take his time deciding whether to come back next season.

The Yankees will also not re-sign either Austin Kearns or Marcus Thames within the exclusive negotiation window, leaving both outfielders free to sign elsewhere.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 173 Comments →

Exclusive negotiating window closing11.06.10

ALCS Yankees Rangers BaseballThis is the Yankees last day of exclusive rights to their own free agents. The negotiating window closes at midnight. At 12:01 Sunday morning, the frenzy begins. Already the Yankees have bumped Chad Guadin off the roster, and Royce Ring has declared free agency.

Much bigger decisions are looming.

In his radio interviews on Tuesday, Hal Steinbrenner was already preparing the fan base for the possibility of a lengthy negotiating process with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. No one seems to expect Andy Pettitte to make a decision any time soon.

Assuming those three aren’t going to sign in the next few hours, the Yankees immediate decisions are limited to two players who had as many as 70 at-bats this season.

Austin Kearns
In some ways, he makes sense: Right-handed hitter in a left-leaning outfield; can play both corners plus center field in a pinch; probably won’t cost a lot. That said, he was bad enough in 2008 and 2009 that he accepted a minor league deal this offseason, and although he hit a little bit for Cleveland, he did next to nothing for the Yankees.

Marcus Thames
If the Yankees could get him on the same deal as this season — minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp — he would be a no-brainer, but Thames had a good enough year that he should certainly test the market for a Major League contract. He was terrific this season, but given the Yankees need to keep the designated hitter spot open, he might not make much sense this time around. Probably best for both sides to explore their options before entering into a quick agreement.

Associated Press photo of Thames

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Yankees negotiating window remains open, but fairly meaningless11.03.10

ALCS Yankees Rangers BaseballThe Yankees have four more days to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but that might not mean much.

Unless Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera sign much sooner than expected, those two are going to hit the open market at 12:01 Sunday morning. Andy Pettitte is certainly going to reach that point.

I’m honestly not sure whether the five-day exclusive negotiation window applies to players who had an option declined, but I don’t think it matters in the case of Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood or Nick Johnson. Those three either don’t have a place on next year’s Yankees or would be better off testing the market.

The Yankees could use this time to negotiate with Javier Vazquez, but I can’t imagine that happening.

That leaves the Yankees to potentially use this window to talk to Marcus Thames about resuming his role as a platoon designated hitter, or perhaps talk to Austin Kearns about playing a cheap bench role, but ultimately the exclusive negotiating window doesn’t seem to mean much for the Yankees the year.

Associated Press photo of Kearns

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Wrapping up from Target Field10.05.10

ALDS Yankees Twins Baseball

Reporters are doing two very different things on the day before a playoff series. The beat writers are asking very specific questions about roster decisions and lineup choices. We’re wondering about the current whereabouts of a guy like Ivan Nova, who some other reporters in the room have never even heard of.

The national writers and columnists are here to do bigger picture stories. Nick Swisher was asked again about his mechanical adjustments. CC Sabathia was asked about his playoff success last season. Joe Girardi was asked about filling the gaps left by Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

I’m going to assume most of you know that Swisher trusts Kevin Long and that Girardi loves Robinson Cano. For today’s blog, I’m going to focus more on the nuts and bolts, starting with the pitching staff.

“Our plans are to go with a three-man rotation,” Girardi said. “If we have to change that, with the roster that we have, it gives us the flexibility to do that. A.J. will pitch out of the bullpen, but if he needed to start a game, he will start a game for us unless he was used (out of the pen).”

As for the bullpen.

“We really liked the way (Mitre’s) sinker has been working lately and the way he has been throwing the ball. And we felt we needed another guy to give us distance in case the first scenario came up… If A.J. has to make a start, you don’t really have a guy that can give you distance if you get in an extra-inning game except for Moseley.”

ALDS Yankees Twins Baseball• Despite starting on Sunday, Moseley is available to pitch immediately. Girardi said he can pitch tomorrow if necessary.

• Girardi said he has a lineup in mind, but he wants to sleep on it. Asked if that looming decision centers on his outfield, Girardi said, “Yes.” I have to believe that means he’s deciding between Brett Gardner and Austin Kearns against the lefty Francisco Liriano.

• The Yankees wanted Ramiro Pena over Eduardo Nunez because of Pena’s experience at second and third. “We felt Pena was the more experienced guy if you get in those situations,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees wanted Greg Golson over Nunez because of Nick Swisher’s recent knee problems. “He’s not banged up now, he feels good,” Girardi said. “But we felt that it was probably in our best interests to carry a defensive outfielder in case something happens in this series. (Golson) is also a guy that can pinch-run for you if you wanted.”

• Close to carrying Royce Ring? “He was definitely in the discussion,” Girardi said.

• Ring, Nunez, Nova and Jonathan Albaladejo have been sent to Tampa to keep working out and stay sharp in case the Yankees need them.

• Girardi on Andy Pettitte in Game 2: “We felt with all the left-handed hitters, we would try to throw four lefties at them in five games.”

• If the Yankees get to the ALCS, Burnett seems to be the front runner to be the fourth starter. “I hope we have the discussion,” Girardi said.

• Sabathia in response to a question about the unpredictability of the rotation beyond him: “I don’t see what you guys are saying about uncertainty. Andy Pettitte is the best pitcher in the playoffs in the history of baseball, so I think our rotation starts up pretty good against anybody.”

Associated Press photos of Jeter and Sabathia

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