Blog Archives

Why the Yankees should get Cliff Lee

With the trade deadline coming soon and with the Yankees without Andy Pettitte for the next 2 months or so, the Yankees could use a pitcher for the starting rotation if Freddy Garcia is to falter and David Phelps can’t get stretched out for the rotation. With the Phillies “pretenders” this season, the Yankees could look at some of the pitchers in their rotation and decide who they would like to trade for. Although Brian Cashman said that he wasn’t for trading for players this season, the Yankees could go and trade for one of the Phillies pitchers that has struggled this season; Cliff Lee.

The truth of the matter is that the Phillies cannot keep Lee and Cole Hamels while staying under their budget. According to Hardball Talk, the Phillies had offered Cole Hamels a 6 year, $130 Million contract which could mean that Cliff Lee’s days in red pinstripes will come to an end. It’s all right Cliff. There is still one place that you could still wear pinstripes and pitch for a contending team all at the same time; the Yankees.

Although Cliff Lee hasn’t exactly shown extreme excitement in being in a Yankees uniform, he doesn’t have much options at this point. If Hamels says yes to the contract offer then Lee could be out of Philly. Of course Lee hasn’t pitched extraordinarily well this season (he only has 1 win), but if he was put in a contenders environment then Lee could quickly become the Cliff Lee the Yankees know (the one who has led the Phillies and Rangers to the World Series in 2009 and 2010, respectively).

There are concerns about Lee’s contract since the contract the Phillies offered him was unbelievable but if the Yankees could work out a deal where they could give up prospects the Phillies want, maybe some sort of deal could get done.

In all honesty, it had been a dream of mine to see Cliff Lee in Yankees pinstripes. Whether it’s for 3 months or for 6 years I would love to see Lee in Yankees pinstripes. Could my dream possibly come true? We’ll see. But for now, the Yankees might want to look into one of the toughest pitchers on his team; even though his team hasn’t given him the run support he deserves.

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What would help this team at trading deadline?

What will Cashman look to add?

Baseball officials often say they like to break the season down into one- thirds. The first third is to evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses. The middle third is to look for solutions to your problems and to make changes – and the final third is to make a push with the new/improved team you’ve assembled. The Yankees are in that middle phase now and have gone through a lot in the season so far. They struggled for the first 42 games and had a .500 record on May 21st. They then went on an amazing 20-4 run that just ended with back to back losses to Atlanta. Now that we’ve seen their worst and their best baseball, I think it’s a good time to evaluate what this team needs to make a push for their 28th Championship.

Bullpen

The pen has been their strong point all season. Even after surviving the loss of 2 All-Stars in Mariano Rivera and David Robertson they still have kept it together. They are 3rd in MLB in bullpen ERA with a 2.73 mark and have blown a league-low 4 saves in 24 opportunities. With Rafael Soriano looking comfortable in the Closer’s role and Robertson returning healthy, the Yankee bullpen is set. Boone Logan & Clay Rapada have been absolutely excellent vs LH hitters and Cody Eppley and Cory Wade are serviceable in their roles. There may even be a chance that Joba and/or David Aardsma come back at some point this year so there is no need for them to look outside of the organization for relief help.

Rotation

The starters have been pitching tremendously in June and on the season they are 5th in the A.L. with a 4.14 ERA. The one disturbing trend is that they lead all of baseball in HRs allowed with 65 and are 27th overall in opposing hitters OPS at .780.  However, all the starters are pitching better as of late and right now the top 3 of C.C., Andy Pettitte & Ivan Nova look pretty strong.  Kuroda is solid as a #4 and Hughes is OK as the #5 man. So the question is, can anyone out there help them? Read the rest of this entry

A Bat Before The Deadline?

Conversation about the Yankees this spring has been dominated by pitching.  Bolstered by the acquisitions of pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, the 2012 rotation appears to be the strongest that the Yankees have possessed since the championship season of 2009. In addition to the strengthened rotation the Yankees possess one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in baseball.  There is plenty to be optimistic about in regards to the arms the Yankees will rely upon this season.

With all of the pitching talk there has been less discussion of the Yankee lineup. Part of the reason for that is that there isn’t much new to discuss about this veteran lineup where the youngest player will be twenty-eight year old Brett Gardner. The only other Yankee in the starting lineup under the age of thirty will be Robinson Cano.  Jorge Posada’s retirement in January lead to last week’s signing of Raul Ibanez, who will be part of a platoon at DH.  Ibanez is expected to be in the lineup at DH vs left-handed starters. Andruw Jones is expected to be in the lineup vs. right-handed starters along with some appearances in the DH slot by Alex Rodriguez when he gets rest from playing the field.  Other than the change at DH, the Yankee lineup will be same as it was in 2011.

2011 was a good offensive season for Yankees. They finished second in the AL in runs scored with 867, fifth in the AL in batting average at .263, second in the AL in OBP at .343, and third in the AL in slugging percentage and OPS at .444 and .788 respectively.  A similar performance by the Yankee offense this year would figure to make them tough to beat with their improved rotation.  So why does it feel like something is missing in the Yankee lineup?

Although Jesus Montero only appeared in 18 games last season, his absence from the Yankee lineup  feels bigger than that of the loss of a player who only appeared in September. Montero displayed opposite field power and vast potential while hitting .328/.406 last September.  His power/BA/OBP blend was expected to give the 2012 Yankee lineup a big boost and an injection of youth this season.  With Montero now a member of the Seattle Mariners after being the centerpiece of the Pineda deal, the Yankees will have to look for stability and improvement in the lineup from the same group as last year.  This has some folks nervous, as this lineup has failed to get the job done in the postseason the last two years and is now a year older.

Do the Yankees have enough firepower in the lineup to win it all this year or will GM Brian Cashman look to make a deadline deal for a bat?

Read the rest of this entry

A.J. Burnett’s Effect on the Yankees


A.J. Burnett has been one huge rollercoaster ride for the Yankees over the last three years. Most of it has been disappointment, which makes people forget that he has had good moments. This is a very appropriate time to write this article, considering there is a chance Burnett may not be in the Yankees rotation this year.  While Burnett’s contract is now seen as an albatross, he did help deliver the Yankees to a World Series championship. That contract is holding the Yankees back now for sure, but it has not been restricting the Yankees as much as people would think over the last three years.

How much would the Yankees be different had they not signed A.J. Burnett? Who would they have spent that money on? In 2009, it came down to A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe as pitchers the Yankees wanted to sign to go along with CC Sabathia.  Lowe pitched egregious in Atlanta for three years, and would not have been a better signing than Burnett. In three years for the Braves Lowe went 40-39, with a 4.57 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP. Burnett’s numbers were not much better if any, but his 2009 season alone makes him for successful than Lowe ever was.

Now in 2010, the Yankees offered Cliff Lee more money than humanly possible with Burnett on the roster. They could not have offered him any more money, so Burnett had no effect on Cliff Lee not being a Yankee.  There was no other free agent pitcher in 2010 that would have made a huge difference. The Yankees may have made a run at Carl Crawford if they did not have Burnett, which would have been a mistake considering what he did for Boston last season. However, maybe without Burnett’s presence Cashman would have been more aggressive then he was in trading for a starting pitcher, before he acquired Michael Pineda. Cashman might have been able to acquire Cliff Lee or Dan Haren in a trade if he was more aggressive.

This year maybe the Yankees sign C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish to an A.J. Burnett like contract if Burnett was not here. I would not have been crazy about that either. Even though the Burnett contract was a mistake, there does not seem like there were a whole lot of great free agent starting pitcher options over the last three offseasons. However, if the Burnett contract does not allow them to sign Matt Cain or Cole Hamels next offseason it would be a big issue.

While Burnett has been a huge disappointment, the Yankees do not win the World Series without him in 2009. That is a fact. He saved the Yankees with a huge clutch performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.  Burnett went 7 innings, allowed only 1 run, 4 hits, and had 9 strikeouts. If Burnett does not come through, the Yankees would have lost the first two games at home, and lost the World Series.  Burnett also won game two’s in the ALDS and ALCS, while throwing stinkers in both game five’s as well. In the last two years Burnett has represented himself pretty well in the postseason as well. He was pitching well against Texas in 2010, but Joe Girardi left him in to long and gave up the lead to Bengie Molina on a homerun. Burnett saved the Yankees season for one day last year by pitching winning well against the Tigers. Say what you want about Burnett, but he has come through in the clutch for the Yankees at times. This does not make him a complete bust, like say Carl Pavano.  Burnett has at least given the Yankees an average of 194 innings for 3 years, which is more than Pavano can say. Those innings are a lot tougher to replace than many people realize.

Obviously Burnett has done things over these past three years that drive you crazy. He has had unbearable stretches that make you really scratch your head. He has also had a sorry attitude at times, and has cursed the manager out when walking off the mound.  He has had times where he could not find the plate no matter what. Unfortunately at this stage in his career he is what he is, and is unlikely to change.  All of this had made Yankees fans despise him, and rightfully so.  However, Yankee fans should also not forget that he did help deliver a championship that the Yankees had been seeking desperately for.

Cashman remains inactive as another big starter is traded

Mat Latos is the latest top of the rotation starter to be moved

Well, another potential #2-type starter- Mat Latos -  has been traded while Brian Cashman does nothing. Cash has not made a significant move to bring in a new pitcher since the failed Javy Vazquez trade in 2009.  Since the 2010 season when both Vazquez and A.J. Burnett proved they were enormous busts, the Yankees have had a glaring need for another top of the rotation starter.  The need increased after Andy Pettitte’s retirement.

Despite the obvious need and Cashman’s own admission that “pitching, pitching, pitching” has been his #1 target, he has not made any significant additions, electing to rely on what is in the system and going for low-risk veterans like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon & Kevin Millwood.  While Cashman continues to complain about the price, we have seen more than a dozen potential top of the rotation arms change teams. Cliff Lee (twice), Dan Haren, Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Matt Garza, CJ Wilson, Trevor Cahill, Mark Buehrle, Doug Fister, Ubaldo Jimenez, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Yu Darvish (likely) & Mat Latos have all been moved since the Yanks have been in the market so what is Cashman waiting for?

Each one of the above pitchers have had their own set of circumstances but to see that many starters being moved, it is really mind-boggling that Cashman has been unable to make any moves.  The Yanks seem to have the 2 most necessary things needed to acquire a SP – plenty of cash and a stocked Farm System.  But if we look in-depth at what has prevented the Yankees from completing a deal, these seem to be the biggest obstacles:

  1. Cashman has been very reluctant to part with his top prospects.  All trade partners have asked for 1 or more of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances & Eduardo Nunez.  Cashman was willing to trade Montero for Lee but things stalled when Seattle also insisted on Nunez.  Lately Cashman has rebuffed any and all offers for Montero & Banuelos and I think he is right in doing so. Unless a truly elite arm  with multiple years of team control becomes available, those 2 should stay.
  2. Teams have not accepted or Cash  has been unwilling to trade his next level of prospects.  It seems to me that the Yanks have plenty of guys besides the big 4 mentioned above that teams would be interested in.  Romine & Gary Sanchez are both highly regarded Catchers that project to be MLB starters. They also have 4 ready or nearly-MLB ready pitchers in Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, David Phelps & DJ Williams. In addition there are many strong hitting prospects in Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Dante Bichette, Ravel Santana, Tyler Austin, etc but they are all in the lower levels of the system.
  3. The team is working under a stricter budget.  While Cashman always had a budget to work with, he knew he could always go over it if he felt a move really helped the team.  But money has been a reason why the Yanks haven’t made offers to most Free Agent pitchers lately.  While the budget doesn’t preclude Cash from signing a big Free Agent, it makes it much more important that he is right when he gives out the next big deal.  If they want to get under the $189M Luxury tax threshold in 2014 and stay competetive, they will not be able to eat another $80M mistake like AJ Burnett or ~$40M blunders like Igawa, Pavano, Wright or Soriano.
  4. Could Cashman be gun-shy? As mentioned above, the Yankees have often been wrong on their big money pitching acquisitions. I don’t believe Brian is afraid of making a mistake, however I do think he’s starting to become too rigid.  I understand not wanting to trade Montero & Banuelos, but I would trade anyone else in the system to upgrade the pitching.  I’d rather overpay a bit for a proven #2 and challenge for the World Series, than to do nothing and get knocked out early again in 2012. He must remember that most prospects don’t pan out and there are only so many openings in the Bronx for them anyway. Use your farm system while its strong!

    Well Joe, I didn't get you any new pitchers again but you still have A.J.

Based on what is left on the market, I think FAs Kuroda & Oswalt should be targets. Signing Kuroda and dumping AJ Burnett for any salary relief would be a big improvemet.  If Oswalt would consider a 1 or 2 yr deal, he’d also be an option.  On the trade front, I agree with not trading Montero & Banuelos for Gio Gonzalez or John Danks, but I think some combo of Betances, Nunez, Romine, Sanchez, Noesi, etc should be enough to get one of those pitchers.

The Reds got a great young, team-controlled pitcher in Mat Latos but also gave up a lot of talent.  If the Yanks were to match the Reds package, it likely would have been something like Montero, Sanchez or Romine, Noesi or Warren & Hughes or Joba.  That’s a heavy price to pay.  If the Padres offered you Latos for that package would you have done it? And what do you think of what Cashman has done the past 2 years?  Is he correct to do nothing?

Thoughts on the Future of the Rotation

Should C.C. be back next year at any cost?

It is likely that:

[1] C.C. Sabathia will opt out of his contract this off-season.

[2] He will return to the pinstripes next year.

[3] C.C. will receive a massive contract of at the very minimum 5 years and $120MM.

However, at what point in the contract negotiations should the Yankees consider alternate options?

Joel Sherman of the NY Post says that if Sabathia wants a considerable amount past 5 years and over $120MM, the Yanks should at least look elsewhere.

If Sabathia wants more, the Yankees have to seriously consider another direction rather than accept greater long-term risk.

In my opinion, Sherman hits it right on the money here. C.C. is 31 years old, and somewhere around 290 pounds. Look at the facts: another 7 year contract would take him to the 2018 season, and Sabathia would turn 38 that season. No offense in any way to C.C., but the combination of being overweight with a history knee problems, and in his upper thirties does not bode well for the Yanks. However, the luxury of having a true ace should never be downplayed. C.C. is an absolute horse. He’s been one of the Yankees’ best free agent signings in the modern years.

Year W L W-L% ERA GS IP H ER SO ERA+ WHIP
2009 19 8 .704 3.37 34 230.0 197 86 197 137 1.148
2010 21 7 .750 3.18 34 237.2 209 84 197 136 1.191
2011 19 8 .704 3.00 33 237.1 230 79 230 147 1.226
NYY (3 yrs) 59 23 .720 3.18 101 705.0 636 249 624 140 1.189

But- there have been some signs of weariness in the second half of this season and in the playoffs. Are the 1,198 innings he’s thrown in the past five years catching up with him? That is a question the Yankees front office should deeply think about. I’m not saying I don’t want Sabathia back in the Bronx next year; a long-term contract is a risk of gigantic proportions. It’s like the A-Rod contract for a pitcher.

Sherman also discusses possible alternatives to signing Sabathia to a massive contract.

“With that pen and a powerful offense, could they survive if — for example — they lost Sabathia, but signed Wilson and traded for someone such as the A’s Gio Gonzalez or White Sox’ John Danks? “Can you win with five No. 3 starters and strength everywhere else,” the NL personnel man said. “Yes, I think you can. I think the Rangers are doing it right now.”

If you think about it, the Yankees could certainly survive without Sabathia in their rotation next year. That is, if the Yankees take advantage of the rest of the free agent and trade market. A cluster of simply solid-to-very good pitchers could potentially work. Let’s take a look at the options Sherman gives. We’ll profile Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, and other pitchers later, but for now… The Yankees could swing a deal for Gonzalez, as the Athletics are offensively deprived and already have plenty of strong, young pitching. They could rebuild without Gio in their rotation. The White Sox are in some strange sort of rebuilding mode, and Danks may become available. You also have to consider other trade options, such as Matt Cain of the Giants. Say you sign C.J. Wilson, trade for Gonzalez/Danks, and possibly sign an innings-eater like Edwin Jackson or Mark Buehrle. Then you fill in the holes with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and one of the young-guns like Adam Warren or Hector Noesi. As for Burnett, who knows. All of a sudden, you have a solid, playoff-caliber rotation, without a massive 7 year / $140+MM contract. Then you have a pretty good amount of flexibility.

However, the Yanks would not have a clear ace. As Sherman and his source say, the Rangers don’t have a clear #1, even in Wilson. They have a team built on a solid rotation, a tremendous offense, and an excellent bullpen. Look where they are: up 2-1 in the ALCS.

Ideally, C.C. Sabathia does not opt out of his contract, but we simply have to expect the worst. Any deal exceeding Cliff Lee’s 5 years/$120MM contract, should alert the Yankees to at least consider an alternate plan.

 

Stat Insert Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2011.

The Ubaldo-Yankees Rumors Begin

THE UBALDO-YANKEES RUMORS BEGIN

The Yankees have been watching Ubaldo Jimenez closely. They had a scout at his last start (which was very good). And according to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Rockies and Yankees are a good match to make such a blockbuster trade. Heyman notes that the Rockies like Montero quite a lot, as a first baseman. They also like top prospects: Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos…and who wouldn’t? However, Jon Heyman emphasizes that the Yankees do not want to include Betances, Banuelos, and Nova. Bull****. The Yankees made a huge mistake last year by not including Eduardo Nunez in a deal for Cliff Lee.

They’d be stupid if they didn’t learn from that mistake, of holding onto prospects so much. I mean, if the Rockies are willing to trade Ubaldo for a package of: Jesus Montero, Ivan Nova, and another 1 or 2 mid-level prospects, that’s a deal.

They do have Austin Romine on his way (who is a defensive stud), and I believe they could get away with trading Montero.

I’m going to go out on a limb and give Brian Cashman a pretty good plan. Here it is: Trade for Ubaldo Jimenez to boost the rotation with a strong #2 starter for this year and years to come, while giving up Jesus Montero, Ivan Nova, and 2 mid-low level prospects. Then, with Montero gone, there could be complaints that the future Yankees offense will be diminished. Well, as I mentioned in an article a few days ago, Prince Fielder is a free agent after this season. Enough said. What do you think about that?

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