Decision makers, relievers and a few links • 01.15.11
Reports of a divided Yankees front office continue to surface in the wake of the Rafael Soriano signing. It might not be a huge issue — baseball people disagree all the time — and it should come as no surprise that the people in charge of the money ultimately have the ability to spend it as they see fit. Brian Cashman might have disagreed, but he reportedly didn’t try to stand in the way when it became clear that ownership wanted to make the move, and Cashman reportedly still has the “full backing” of the Steinbrenners.
Frankly, from the very beginning, the Soriano signing never seemed like a Cashman signing. It goes against his bullpen strategy of the past three years, and it goes against his public comments of the previous week. But in the end, this is not his team, and if ownership wants to make a move, ownership can make a move.
Some other notes and links:
• Of course, good perspective on the Soriano situation comes from Tyler Kepner, who writes that at some point — probably when the signing becomes official — Cashman will have to address the perception of an organizational split, as well as the perception that he wasn’t honest when he said the Yankees would not sacrifice a first-round pick this winter. Kepner also calls the Soriano signing “a clear indictment of (Joba) Chamberlain.”
• Just a few words of my own on Chamberlain: Cashman seems to believe Chamberlain can once again be a reliable and possibly dominant reliever. Cashman seems to like Chamberlain in that spot. It seems to be ownership — and the fan base — that’s not so convinced.
• Speaking of Chamberlain, today the New York Post quoted a talent evaluator who said Chamberlain has value on the trade market but, “in the past two years his stuff has gone backwards.” The source said that there are still “some people” who believe Chamberlain can be a Major League starter.
• In a mailbag, Padres beat writer Corey Brock reports that San Diego is not expected to pursue former Yankees utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. Brock guesses that Hairston will get roughly $2 million on the free agent market.
• The A’s are reportedly in the running for Brian Fuentes. This news comes just one day after they agreed to terms with Grant Balfour. Oakland already has a very good young rotation, and it’s added some solid pieces to its weak lineup, now the A’s seem to be focused on building an awfully good bullpen leading up to young closer Andrew Bailey.
Associated Press photo of Cashman
The Sabathia’s started the PitCCh In Foundation, which does a ton of work for inner-city youth. They’ve also contributed to the Boys and Girls Club, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and Strikeouts for Troops as well as several New York based groups. The Sabathia’s will receive the annual award at the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) Dinner on January 25 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
CC was also named one of 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. It’s given annually to athletes who display an exemplary commitment to service in their community.
A few links and notes from today.
• Jon Heyman once again says the Yankees are still interested in Rafael Soriano. He says Brian Fuentes is also a possibility. The Yankees would have to give up a first-round draft pick to sign Soriano, and they might have to outbid teams that offer ninth inning opportunities to Fuentes.
• Speaking of Heyman, he brings up the possibility of Johnny Damon going to Tampa Bay, leaving Desmond Jenings to open the season in Triple-A.
• All-times saves leader Trevor Hoffman has decided to retire. Mariano Rivera is 42 saves behind Hoffman. Rivera had 33 saves last season and 44 the year before. The fact the number 42 is involved here seems like a good sign, no?
• Brad Penny has agreed to a $3 million deal with the Tigers. At this point it’s easy to forget some of their early offseason moves, but Detroit has done quite a bit to rebuild its team.
• It doesn’t sound serious, but Josh Hamilton has been hospitalized with a case of pneumonia. He’s expected to be released within 24 hours.
• This afternoon — when I wasn’t breaking all of the incredible news surrounding the Yankees these days! — I checked the guide on my TV and found nothing worth watching. That’s when I started flipping through random television nonsense and stumbled upon some sort of live performance by The Shins. Turns out, it was an episode of the Gilmore Girls. Can’t make this stuff up.
Associated Press photo
The pieces that don’t necessarily fit • 01.10.11
This free agent market doesn’t match the Yankees needs. We know that. It’s been discussed time after time, day after day, but this morning the good people at MLBTradeRumors listed the 11 players remaining from their initial list of the top 50 free agents. It paints a pretty convincing picture of just how little is out there. Here’s their list.
1. Rafael Soriano — Significant cost, in dollars and draft picks, for a setup man.
2. Carl Pavano — There was never a real chance of the Yankees bringing him back.
3. Jim Thome — Hasn’t played the field in three years. DH spot isn’t available.
4. Vladimir Guerrero — Another designated hitter, best kept out of the outfield at this point.
5. Manny Ramirez — Probably a better defensive option than Guerrero, but still questionable. Plus, Manny in pinstripes?
6. Andy Pettitte — This one’s not up to the Yankees. It’s all up to Pettitte.
7. Brian Fuentes — If he wants to close, he won’t come to the Yankees.
8. Kevin Millwood — Amazing how quickly the starting pitching market falls into the questionable zone. At least Millwood has been fairly durable.
9. Grant Balfour — Another setup man who would cost a draft pick.
10. Scott Podsednik — Left-handed, speed-oriented left fielder. The Yankees already have one of those.
11. Johnny Damon — Probably a better defensive option than some of the other guys who are primarily DHs. Might prefer an everyday role. A right-handed hitter would be a better fit.
Here we go again • 01.10.11
Time to start another week with the Yankees still needing to find the final pieces of their roster. A quick list of priorities:
If not Pettitte, then someone who can legitimately help the rotation for next season. Starting pitching has been the priority all winter, and that hasn’t changed. It does, however, become significantly more difficult if Pettitte decides he’s finished.
I actually like the idea of Andruw Jones for the Yankees. They need a right-handed hitter who makes some noise against lefties and can play a solid right or left field. Jones fits. He’s not what he use to be, but the Yankees don’t need him to be what he used to be.
Not a necessity, but there are enough relievers still on the market that the Yankees might as well go after one of them. If the Rays want Brian Fuentes, they can probably offer him a better opportunity than the Yankees. A guy like Jon Rauch, though, could play a role at the right price. Again, not a necessity, but this is what the market offers.
Even if the Yankees get Pettitte back, another arm to compete for a rotation spot in spring training couldn’t hurt. Jeremy Bonderman, Jeff Francis and Freddy Garcia have been linked to the Yankees this winter.
I’ve written several times that I don’t believe a utility man should be a priority this winter — I think it makes more sense to stick with the in-house options — but if an upgrade is available, the Yankees might as well look into the possibility. Consider it part of Brian Cashman’s wide net. Worth looking into. Might or might not be worth signing.
Could the Rays become an offseason pest? • 01.09.11
In the wake of the Matt Garza trade, the Rays have insisted they want to compete in 2011. They saved some money by sending Garza to the Cubs, and the Rays want to use that payroll space to add pieces. According to Marc Topkin, the Rays have committed only $32 million in payroll — $32 million! — so they have some room to spend and maintain limited spending. Topkin notes that they’re looking to add one or two relievers and one or two hitters. The addition of catcher Robinson Chirinos could also leave them free to trade Kelly Shoppach.
What I’m wondering is whether the Rays remaining free agent targets and Yankees targets might overlap.
The remaining Type-A relievers are former Rays Grant Balfour and Rafael Soriano. Brian Cashman has indicated the Yankees aren’t willing to lose draft picks to sign either of them, and my guess — strictly a guess — is that the Rays would like to spend elsewhere and get those draft picks when Balfour and Soriano land elsewhere.
If that’s true, it would leave the Yankees and Rays looking through the exact same group of relievers, with the Rays able to offer the ninth inning to any pitcher with an eye on being a closer. Even before the Garza trade, the Rays were said to be interested in Brian Fuentes to take over the ninth inning.
The most natural fit for the Yankees is a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder who can come off the bench and start occasionally against lefties. Isn’t that the same sort of outfielder the Rays will be looking for?
B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings can play center field, so the Rays primarily need help in the corners, and they already have Matt Joyce and new addition Sam Fuld swinging from the left side. The left-right preference probably isn’t as significant with the Rays as with the Yankees, but my guess is that it’s there to some extent because they already have two left-handers who are strictly outfielders, and one DH option — Dan Johnson — is also a lefty.
This is the most obvious difference between the Rays needs and Yankees needs. The Rays could pump some of their money into the significant DH market, while the Yankees seem unlikely to be involved. The Rays could also get into in the first-base market — where the Yankees also won’t be involved — though that market is down to nothing more than low-cost options like Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman.
Obviously it’s better for the Yankees if the Rays spend their time and money on players who don’t fit the Yankees plans.
Associated Press photo of Garza
How many teams have a ninth-inning opening? • 01.08.11
The Yankees might be out on Rafael Soriano, but Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls are also available, all with closing experience and none requiring a draft pick for the Yankees to sign them. At the very least, we know that Fuentes would like to close again in 2011. How many teams could offer him — or any reliever, for that matter — an opportunity to pitch the ninth inning?
Rays — Not sure you heard, but Soriano is a free agent, leaving the ninth inning up for grabs at the Trop. The Rays have a lot of good young arms, but they could certainly offer a closing opportunity to an interested free agent.
Braves — Billy Wagner made good on his promise to retire at the end of the 2010 season, and for now it seems the Braves might turn the ninth inning to rookie Craig Kimbrell who has exactly one big league save.
Nationals — Drew Storen seems to be the closer of the future, but the closer of the present is still unknown. It could be Storen, or it could be someone else for the suddenly free-spending Nats.
Pirates — There are least 16 or 17 save opportunities up for grabs in Pittsburgh.
Angels — Right now the job seems to belong to Fernando Rodney, but it’s hard to imagine the Angels would turn down the chance to upgrade. They could certainly offer the ninth inning to someone like Soriano.
White Sox — With Bobby Jenks in Boston, the White Sox best internal ninth-inning candidate might be lefty Matt Thornton. He’s not a bad option, but the White Sox could easily slide him back into the setup role.
Orioles — Baltimore is full of potential closers, but there’s not a sure thing in the bunch. Koji Uehara had the job at the end of last season, but Mike Gonzalez is healthy again and Kevin Gregg just agreed to a two-year deal. It’s a full house, but no face cards.
Blue Jays — With Kevin Gregg gone, the ninth inning in Toronto could be a fight between Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor. In theory, the Blue Jays could add a third arm to that competition. Ken Davidoff says the Blue Jays are among the suitors for Fuentes.
Rangers — The ninth inning in Texas is either completely locked down or completely wide open depending on the team’s decision on a role for Neftali Feliz.
Mariners — After offseason hip surgery, David Aardsma is expected to be healthy in time for Opening Day, but you never know.
Brewers — John Axford stepped into the role last season, and he pitched well enough to return to the ninth inning this season. That said, Axford was never particularly highly touted and his grasp on the role could be fairly loose.
Mets — Whether they like it or not, the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez as their closer for 2011. But the situation is crazy enough to list as a possible opening. At this point, would anyone be shocked to find someone else pitching the ninth inning at Citi Field by mid-June?
Yankees — You know this story.
Red Sox — Even if Jonathan Papelbon falls apart, the Red Sox still have Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks waiting to take over.
Athletics — Andrew Bailey seems to have a pretty firm grasp on the ninth inning in Oakland. Doubt the A’s are in the market for relievers anyway.
Indians — Chris Perez couldn’t hold down the ninth-inning job in St. Louis, but last season suggested Perez might be better prepared this time around.
Royals — This job is very clearly taken unless the Royals actually decide to deal Joakim Soria.
Tigers — Detroit made its move for a closer one year ago. It’s still Jose Valverde’s job.
Twins — The Twins still have Matt Capps after last year’s mid-season addition, plus Joe Nathan is set to come back from the disabled list.
Cardinals — Last season was a step back for Ryan Franklin, but he still converted 27 of 29 save opportunities and the Cardinals are ready to stick with him for one more season.
Cubs — The ninth inning belongs to Carlos Marmol, and the Cubs already have Kerry Wood waiting in the wings should Marmol lose his grip on the job.
Reds — Francisco Cordero blew eight saves last season but still finished with 40 of them. For better or worse, he’s their guy in the ninth. You could bump this one up to a possible opening if you’d like.
Astros — Brandon Lyon didn’t have a bad debut season as the Astros closer, and clearly the job belongs to him heading into spring training. The Astros have bigger concerns than the ninth inning.
Diamondbacks — Arizona just committed $10 million to J.J. Putz. He seems to be their guy in the ninth.
Dodgers — Despite the Yankees comeback against him last season, Jonathan Broxton has a pretty firm hold on the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium.
Giants — Fear the beard!
Rockies — Huston Street took a bit of a step back last season, but the ninth inning is still his in Colorado.
Marlins — He hasn’t been the most dominant closer in baseball, but the Marlins seem committed to Leo Nunez.
Padres — Heath Bell is handling the ninth inning for an impressive group of relatively unknown relievers.
Phillies — Brad Lidge seems perpetually on the verge of losing the job, but he rebounded from a rocky 2009 and seems to once again have the job locked down.
Getting ready for baseball again • 01.06.11
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.