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.
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.
The guy behind the guy • 11.09.10
Of all the issues the Yankees have this offseason, one of the most important also figures to be one of the simplest: Bringing back Mariano Rivera.
We know it’s going to happen. If there’s, say, a 5 % chance that the Yankees don’t work out a deal with Derek Jeter (if that much) than there’s like a .0001 % chance they don’t get Rivera signed (maybe a two-year deal, though there are rumblings that maybe Rivera just wants to go year-to-year now). In other words, the Yankees have their closer.
But what about their setup guy? Kerry Wood did a nice job after coming over late, but he (understandably) wants to try and close somewhere next year. And as the great MLB Trade Rumors site mentions here, he isn’t be the only one. With a glut of closer hopefuls likely on the market and few actual closing jobs available, it figures that the Yankees might try and add a high-end reliever to work behind Rivera. If you can’t be a closer, I’d say that setup man for the Yankees is about as good a gig as there is.
Would the Yankees bring in someone from outside to pitch ahead of Joba Chamberlain or Dave Robertson? I wouldn’t be surprised. Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Kevin Gregg and another (sort of) intriguing injury reclamation in J.J. Putz, who bombed with the Mets but had 65 strikeouts in 54 innings for the White Sox last year, are some of the possibilities. Depending on how the trade and non-tender markets shape up, someone like Heath Bell or Leo Nunez could be available, too (though the package, especially for Bell, might be pretty steep).
One name I get emailed all the time from people is Scott Downs. Obviously he had a very nice year for Toronto and would give the Yankees another lefty (something we may talk more about later this week), but don’t forget: He’s a Type-A free agent. Giving up draft picks for Mark Teixeira is one thing, but I’m not so sure the Yankees would want to give up picks for a lefty reliever.
Remember, the Yankees got ultimately Wood for two extremely low-level prospects – the deal at the time was actually for cash or a player to be named. The key for bullpen acquisitions is always finding high value for low price since production typically varies so wildly from year to year.