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Morning Bits: Noesi, Mariners, Nunez, Montero

Good morning Yankees fans and happy Saturday to you all! Phil Hughes will take the mound versus Seattle’s Hector Noesi. Here are the morning links

– ESPN New York breaks down Hector Noesi’s last couple of starts for the Mariners. Being a former Yankee, it shouldn’t be hard to get runs off him, right?

– Seattle Mariners GM says that he feels ‘bad for the Yankees’ after the Montero & Pineda trade. Oh, so they originally tried to con us to get Montero?

– As we all know by now the Yankees have sent Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A to work on being a shortstop. Not sure, but to me this sounds like he might become trade bait…

– The Daily News talks about how Jesus Montero envisioned hitting the ball over the right field wall--and then does it anyway with a 6th inning solo shot. I know it was for the good of the team so that we could get starting pitching, but Montero is really hitting–for Seattle.

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Don’t jump the gun on the Montero-Pineda trade just yet

Shortly after Michael Pineda ended his miserable 2.2 innings against the Phillies, Yankees fans were horrified to learn that he had been pitching with a sore right shoulder. After taking an MRI yesterday morning, Pineda has been diagnosed with tendinitis and is now on the 15-Day DL. This unfortunate turn of events eliminates Pineda’s chances of starting the regular season in the Yankees’ MLB rotation. The Yankees will now fill the rotation with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. This injury comes on the heels of a substantial amount of scrutiny over Pineda’s low velocity, and many share the opinion that Pineda just hasn’t looked right all spring.

Although the team is yet to play one game of regular season ball, the trade of Montero for Pineda is already being called a disaster by some. The Yankees undoubtedly gave up quite a lot for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, losing an absolute stud of a hitter in Montero and a nice pitching piece in Hector Noesi. Montero has looked excellent thus far for the Mariners with a .306/.366/.556 line in Spring Training to this point. In 5 IP, Noesi has a 1.80 ERA and has held opponents to a .176 BAA. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda’s has an ERA of 5.68 and a .324 BAA, and both his velocity and control have been sub-par (4.74 BB/9).

As grim as it looks for Pineda heading into the 2012 regular season, is it really already time to abandon all hopes for the trade to be a success? Some fans think the answer to that question is yes.

However, by already describing the trade with words like “disaster” and “apocalyptic” based on the very short time Michael Pineda has been a Yankee, I think many fans are jumping the gun much too soon. When evaluating a trade, it is extremely important to remember that every deal is a two-sided deal. While it is certainly a possibility that Michael Pineda might not live up to expectations placed on him, the same is just as true with Jesus Montero. When Brian Cashman and Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik agreed to the blockbuster trade, they both accepted a substantial amount of risk. Pineda might never become the #1 starter that many think he can be, and Montero might never become the Miguel Cabrera-like hitter that he is supposed to become. While this is merely looking at hypotheticals, there is one thing that is known for sure in the case of both players. There is a tremendous amount of time for each player to proove the trade good or bad for his respective team.

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The Good and Bad of Spring Training

Joe Girardi (l.) & Brett Gardner (r.) during Yankees Spring Training

During the last couple of weeks, the Yankees have done what the other 29 teams in the league have done; prepare for the regular season in Spring Training. We’ve gotten a sense as to what the pitchers have, what the hitters are bringing to the table and the moves that the Yankees are making as the course of Spring Training goes on. So far in Spring Training, the Yankees have made improvements, but at the same time we are questioning some of the moves that were made.

The Good

1. Andy Pettitte has returned to the Yankees

When Jack Curry of YES Network first reported the Andy Pettitte signing, I thought it had to be an early April Fools joke. As he continued on, I realized that it wasn’t a joke, that it was actually real. Another core part of the Yankees had returned. While Pettitte may not be ready until May, this was a good signing by the Yankees during Spring Training, as now they have more depth to the rotation in case someone gets injured or if Michael Pineda gets sent to Triple-A (since he still has options). The question is, will we be able to see Pettitte in the Bronx for his first game of the 2012 season or will he decide that pitching wasn’t what he really wanted and re-retire?

2. Alex Rodriguez‘s offense has returned

Yankees fans were pretty iffy, wondering if Alex Rodriguez was going to be able to come back after he posted not so stellar numbers in the 2011 season due to injury. In Alex Rodriguez’s first at-bat, he silenced my doubts. So far in the Spring, Alex Rodriguez has hit 2 HR, 6 RBI’s and is hitting over .300. Not that Spring Training means anything, but so far, Alex Rodriguez is looking good! It would be nice to see Alex keep up the pace when the Yankees play the Rays in 2 1/2 weeks.

3. Phil Hughes keeps having good outings

Phil Hughes is certainly doing all he can to claim a spot in the rotation, and so far he’s doing a really great job. Hughes has 1 loss in Spring Training but other than that, his ERA, his HR number & his BB are pretty sparkling: 1.08 ERA, 0 HR allowed & 1 BB. If Hughes continues pitching the way he’s pitching then there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be in the rotation. Again, I know that Spring Training means absolutely nothing (although it means something to Phil Hughes). In 2010, Hughes was 0-4 with a 4.35 ERA. Who walked away with 18 wins in 2010?

4. Bill Hall has impressed

When the Yankees signed Bill Hall to a minor league contract with the invitation to Spring Training, I was pretty excited to watch him fight for a bench spot on the 25 man roster. If I were Girardi, he would get one of the spots on the roster. So far, Hall has played amazing defense, almost looking like Robinson Cano when he plays 2nd base. His bat is coming along as well, having 3 RBI’s under his belt as well as a HR. Hall also has a desire to play baseball and he looks like he’s having fun out there while doing it. That’s the type of player that the Yankees could use on the bench.

5. Gardner aims to be consistent

During Spring Training, Brett Gardner had one thing in mind that he would like to do this season; he would like to be more consistent. The good news with that is Gardner has done multiple things to work on his game. He has seen Kevin Long where the both of them had worked on his swing, he was spotted trying to bunt baseballs into a white bucket by the second baseline after practice & he likes to lead the Yankees in running drills. Can you blame him? The man loves to run. When this translates into a game, Gardner’s defense is still consistent. He has flashed the leather over the last couple of games and has shown arm strength. He also seems to start to get his hitting together and getting on base more often. Yep, Gardner is looking in great shape coming into Spring Training this year, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s 100% healthy coming into the Spring unlike in 2011 when he was coming off of wrist surgery.

The Bad

1. The injury list

No manager wants to go into the clubhouse early in the morning to ask his players how they are feeling and the answer he gets is something that he wouldn’t expect. That’s the kind of spring Joe Girardi has had so far. Girardi has had to deal with injuries from Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eduardo Nunez, David Robertson…the list goes on and on. Luckily all of the players that I listed, don’t have serious injuries. But still as a manager it’s frustrating to go through the spring trying to get your guys healthy and because they are a bit rusty, something hurts. Hopefully the Yankees won’t have a lot of injuries to deal with this season.

2. Was the Pineda for Noesi/Montero deal a mistake?

During the offseason, Brian Cashman made a big splash by trading away #1 prospect Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda. Now as we are watching in Spring Training we are wondering if the trade was such a big splash after all. Along with Russell Martin, Michael Pineda has been working on his change up which isn’t the problem; it’s his fastball. Pineda’s fastball’s velocity last year was 95-98 MPH. This year when he came into camp he would hit 94 MPH on the radar gun occasionally but would periodically hit 91-92 MPH. That’s a dip in velocity, the same issue that Phil Hughes had last year. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi aren’t concerned about it, but should we really be concerned?

3. Raul Ibanez‘s horrid Spring

The Yankees signed Raul Ibanez in the offseason to be their DH after Jorge Posada retired this past offseason. So far, we aren’t seeing what we paid for. Raul Ibanez is hitting .071 this Spring with only 2 hits and 7 K’s. Couldn’t the Yankees have just paid Jorge Posada to come back 1 more year and he would’ve  hit better in the Spring? I’m not going to give up on Ibanez just yet, but he isn’t getting off on the right foot with Yankees fans.

4. Ivan Nova‘s poor outings

Coming into Spring Training, Ivan Nova looked as if he was to be the favorite to get a spot in the rotation. At first when Nova wasn’t pitching all that great, we assumed that it was just some rust. But as time went by, we realized that it wasn’t exactly rust, and that Ivan Nova was having trouble on the mound. Nova so far this Spring is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA. He’s pitched in 8.2 innings and allowed 7 runs on 9 hits. Girardi said that he was going to start observing the pitchers in the rotation around this time, so this should be where Ivan Nova picks his game up. If he keeps having outings like this in Spring Training & the regular season then he’ll get a one way bus ticket to Scranton.

Evening Notes & Links: Trade Talks, Soler, Noesi, Joba-Lin

Good evening everybody. Here are a few notes & links to cap the day….

— Although we heard the Yankees and Pirates were at stand still for most of the day, things appear to have changed, says Newsday’s David Waldstein. Progress has been made today with the Yankees and both the Pirates and the “mystery team”, yet to be identified. The Yankees will probably strike a deal with whichever team provides the better offer.

Kevin Kernan of the NY Daily News talked to Joba Chamberlain about “Linsanity” and the similarities he and Jeremy Lin share.

— Now that Yoenis Cespedes has signed with the Oakland Athletics, the attention is turning to fellow Cuban OF Jorge Soler. The 19 year old is drawing heavy interest from the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins in addition to many other teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. Ken Rosenthal writes that the bidding figures to be broader than for Cespedes. I’m sure the Yanks will be large participants in the bidding as Soler would be a terrific signing for them.

— Via Chad Jennings, Hector Noesi (the secondary piece sent to the Mariners in the Montero trade) expressed that he is happy to be on the Seattle Mariners now. He also marvels over the accomplishments of ace Felix Hernandez, saying that he “is someone all Latin Americans can be proud of, with what he’s done.”

Have a great night!

Yankees Bullpen Among MLB’s Best

When the Steinbrenners went against Brian Cashman’s wishes to sign Rafael Soriano they envisioned a lockdown bullpen that would be among the best in MLB.  They got what they were looking for, although probably not the way they envisioned it.  Soriano struggled early and got hurt. Joba Chamberlain had to have Tommy John surgery.  David Robertson became a savior and was one of the best setup men in MLB.  Once Soriano came back he pitched well. Along with Robertson and Mariano Rivera the trio formed one of best 7-8-9 combo’s in baseball.

Having a lockdown bullpen is crucial in baseball. It is devastating for a team to waste a good starting pitching performance or a good offensive performance because the bullpen blew it. The bullpen can also bail out a bad start from a pitcher to allow the offense to comeback. The 2011 Yankees bullpen finished 4th in MLB in bullpen ERA at 3.12.  They only blew 16 saves, which was good for 5th best in MLB, and 8.46 K/9 which was good for 6th best in MLB.  Once Soriano and Chamberlain went down all the pressure went to David Robertson. If he hadn’t stepped up his game, the Yankees season could have gone with him. He responded in a way nobody could have ever dreamed off.  Robertson went 4-0, with a 1.08 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and an unprecedented 13.5 K/9.  Robertson did allow to many walks (2.86 BB/9), but he always seemed to get strikeouts to cancel them out. With the help of a deceptively fast fastball and a devastating 12-6 curve, Robertson always came through in the clutch.

Mariano Rivera continued to defy the odds to be almost as dominant as in his prime. Rivera had 44 saves, pitched to a 1.91 ERA, and an impeccable .897 WHIP. He displayed his amazing control by only walking 8 batters all season.  He did have his usual stretch of the season, last year in August, when people questioned whether he was done based off a few blown saves in a row. Of course the answer was as it has always been. No he is not done. There are still not many closers, if any, you would rather want on the mound for a big save other than Mo.

Cory Wade, Hector Noesi, Boone Logan and Luis Ayala also made nice contributions to the bullpen last season. These guys fulfilled many different roles and were versatile enough to perform. When Wade was going well he was even the 7th inning guy. Noesi performed great as a long man and middle innings guy.  Logan was the Yankees only lefty reliever but was also capable of getting righties out due to his plus fastball and slider.  Ayala got off to a good start, but struggled down the stretch. These guys provided great depth behind the Yankees great back end of the bullpen pitchers.          

Going into this year I see the Yankees having the 2nd best bullpen in MLB behind the Atlanta Braves. The San Francisco Giants are a very close 3rd. A 7-8-9 of Soriano, Robertson, and Mo the Yankees will be in great hands at the end of the game. Chamberlain is a wild card coming off Tommy John surgery because he was pitching extremely well before he got hurt. Combine the great Yankees bullpen with an improved starting staff,and you are looking at one of the best overall pitching staffs in MLB.  The Yankees bullpen was a huge reason for the teams’ 2011 success and should be about just as good heading into 2012.

Brian Cashman Strikes Gold

Brian Cashman recently proved why he is not just one of the best GM’s in baseball because of his checkbook. He made the shrewdest move of the offseason and fixed the Yankees rotation problems in one night. On Friday night, Cashman traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Michael Pineda and prospect Jorge Campos. Cashman also signed Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a 1 yr deal for 10 million dollars. This was a trade you don’t see very often. Money was not involved; it was just a deal where studs were traded for each other to help each team’s needs.  There was some risk involved of course, but this was the right move for Cashman to make.

Cashman, amazingly enough, was able to accomplish two huge things in this trade. He greatly improved the team in 2012 and for the future without raising the payroll. You do not often see 23 year old studs like Pineda available on the market often, especially when they are under contract until 2017. Funny thing is- nobody even knew he was. Cashman swooped and stole him, leaving  the rest of MLB in shock. I say stole him because when you look at the trades made for aces Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos this offseason, that is exactly what it was. The Reds and Nationals gave up more talent in their farm systems for lesser pitchers then Pineda in my opinion. The Yankees also did not have to kill their farm system to get him. I am not saying Jesus Montero will not be an elite hitter for years to come because in all likely hood he will be. However, you always take the elite pitcher over the position player, especially when the position might end up being DH. Also, do not underestimate getting Jose Campos in this deal. He is a guy scouts are loving and is probably already a top 10 Yankees prospect. His upside is better than Hecor Noesi, whom the Yankees traded to Seattle.

Pineda had a great rookie year going 9-10, with a 3.74 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 (2nd in the AL).  At 6-7 260 lb., Pineda is an intimidating force with a great arsenal of stuff.  Pineda has a terrific fastball that averaged 94.7 mph, which was the fourth fastest fastball in MLB. Pineda can get it up to almost triple digits when need be. Pineda also has a devastating slider that righties cannot touch. Righties only batted .184 off of Pineda, which leads the AL, and whiffed at a ridiculous 41% of his sliders. Pineda does need to develop a better changeup in order to deal with lefty hitters. I would say that is his biggest weakness right now. Developing that 3rd pitch is a big key for him. Pineda showed the capability to eventually be a number one starter, but right now he will be just fine as their number 2.

The two knocks on Pineda last season are that he pitched in a pitchers park and that he fell off in the 2nd half last season. A 9.1 K/9 translates to any ballpark. His 2.89 BB/9 is not elite per say, but very good for a rookie who struck out all the guys that he did.  Pineda will have to improve his fly ball% (44.8%) because more of those fly balls will turn into home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Many people are using the argument that Pineda had a very poor second half of 2011. However, his ERA of 5.12 during that time does not tell the whole story. His peripherals were much better than that ERA suggests.

Split

BB%

K%

GB%

HR/FB

BABIP

LOB%

FIP

xFIP

Mar/Apr

9.5%

23.8%

30.9%

0.0%

0.262

76.5%

2.26

3.90

May

5.6%

28.6%

36.6%

10.8%

0.231

82.0%

3.15

2.98

Jun

8.3%

21.2%

26.5%

7.5%

0.243

76.1%

3.90

4.28

Jul

9.3%

28.8%

40.6%

14.3%

0.294

46.1%

3.74

3.14

Aug

7.4%

24.2%

46.8%

19.0%

0.262

65.4%

4.20

3.09

Sept/Oct

6.7%

22.7%

45.3%

9.5%

0.275

71.4%

3.41

3.44

Graph by Dave Cameron- Fan Graphs

Looking at this chart suggests that the reason for Pineda’s high second half ERA was because he had a higher BABIP. However, his FIP and xFIP  in the second half were not really bad at all. In July, Pineda’s ERA was 6.75, while his xFIP was an excellent 3.14. Besides, it is common for a young pitcher to wear down a little bit as his innings go up to where they have never gone before.

Pineda makes the Yankees a better team in 2012 and in the future.  A rotation of CC Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and a TBA 5th starter is much better then they had last year. Barring a trade, A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes will battle it out for the 5th spot, and give the Yankees great rotation depth. This also gives Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances another year to develop in the minors.  Even without Montero the Yankees will still boast one of the games best offenses around Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. As for replacing Montero at DH, my choices in order would be Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have reportedly been in contact with all of them.

Brian Cashman has once again set up the Yankees to be a championship caliber team.

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?

Yankees Winter Meetings Recap

The 2011 MLB Winter Meeting have come and gone without much noise from the New York Yankees.  Instead, the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made all the noise in this years very active Winter Meetings.  What would George Steinbrenner think about all of this if he were alive? The Yankees have so far refused to overpay for anybody, or give up any top prospects.  The only thing they did was win the rights to sign Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. There were some interesting rumors out there for starting pitchers that maybe will develop down the road this offseason.

First let’s start off with the only concrete thing that happened with the Yankees winning the Nakajima bid. It sounds like the Yankees really did not expect to win the bid and that Nakajima probably will not sign with the Yankees. He probably does not want to come to the Yankees in a backup role when he can be an MLB free agent next offseason. If Nakajima did sign with the Yankees he has good power and would be able to help the Yankees give their middle infielders and A-Rod a breather.  There was the idea that they could sign Nakajima and then dangle Eduardo Nunez in a trade, but I do not see that to be the case.

The major trade rumors involving the Yankees were about Oakland A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez. One trade that was rumored by Mike Silva of New York Baseball Digest was the Yankees getting Gonzalez, the Royals getting David Phelps and Michael Taylor, and the A’s getting Brett Gardner and Clint Robinson. Also, Silva said the Yankees were the front runners for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespesdes. I believe this would be an absolute steal and a no brainier for the Yankees. They would only have to give up Gardner and Phelps in this scenario. Gardner is a nice player and great on defense. However, he is replaceable especially by Cespesdes, who offers a similar kind of speed and defense. Doing that trade would be the much better alternative to what Bob Klapisch reported the A’s wanted, which was Jesus Montero, one of Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances, and new stud prospect outfielder Mason Williams. That is obviously an asinine offer but I would be inclined to do a trade package around Montero for Gonzalez. The Yankees have a huge need for a number two pitcher and there is no way around it. Gonzalez I think would fit that bill well. Gonzalez is only 26 and is not a free agent until after the 2014 season year. He had an outstanding year last season going 16-12, with a 3.12 ERA, 197 strikeouts, and a 1.31 WHIP. His one negative is that he issued 91 walks last year. Scouts told New York Daily News writer John Harper, that they believe he was pitching too carefully due to lack of run support in  Oakland, and that it would change in New York. I tend to agree with that theory.  I think Gonzalez is the most talented pitcher on the trade market and has a very nice contract. The Yankees should be trying hard to land him.

The other relevant Yankees information that came out of the Winter Meetings is that Yu Darvish will be posted. As I said with Gonzalez, if the Yankees feel Darvish is a number two caliber starter the Yankees need to win the bid on him. It is currently all question marks behind CC Sabathia in the rotation. Will Ivan Nova have a sophomore slump? Can Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett be trusted? Can Freddy Garcia repeat his 2011 year? Can Hector Noesi come in and live up to the potential the Yankees think he has? Do not relate Darvish to other Japanese pitchers like Dice- K or Kei Igawa, as he has much better stuff. Cashman has been lukewarm in the media regarding whether or not they will bid highly on him, although Yankee scouts are said to love Darvish.

Cashman has done a nice job of protecting his assets so far and not doing anything regrettable. However, one has to wonder with the Angels gaining a ton of talent in Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, if he will get more aggressive.  The strategy paid off for Cashman last year, but he may be hedging his bet if he goes with the same starting rotation as he did last year. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the offseason plays out.


Cashman has High Praise for Noesi

Cashman has High Praise for Noesi

by Matt S.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman thinks Hector Noesi “has the chance to be a good major league starter” and says the team likes Noesi “as much as we like (Ivan) Nova.”

“Right now Noesi is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation,’’ Cashman said. The Yanks GM adds the “right now” caveat, of course, because he’s expected to target a premiere starter this offseason. If he deems the price too high, though, Noesi then becomes a real option for the back end of the rotation. He held a 4.47 ERA as a mop-up guy and occasional spot starter for the Yankees in 2011 while posting a 3.28 mark in six games — five starts — at Triple-A.

Dan Haren Speculation

 

Brian Cashman has done a great job recently of avoiding the temptation to trade his best prospects for pitchers who were not worth the price. However, in hindsight, one error he did make was not completing a deal for Dan Haren when Arizona traded him. He reportedly would not give up Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, and Hector Noesi for Haren at the July trading deadline last year. Haren is the number two starter the Yankees are looking for, and getting him without having to give up Jesus Montero or Manny Banuelos is a no brainer in my mind. It is obviously easy to say after Joba’s injury but he was not being used as a starter in 2010, and a bullpen arm is not valuable enough to stop you from acquiring a pitcher like Haren. Maybe Cashman will get another chance to redeem himself, but it would cost him a lot more than it reportedly would have before.

The Angels and Yankees do match up pretty nicely as trade partners. The Yankees can help fill the Angels major needs at third base and catcher, where they do not have MLB quality players currently on their roster, and nobody ready in the minors. The top of the Angels rotation is great, but if they lose Haren their rotation would be a little thin. Here are two packages I find to be fair: Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, and a lower level prospect for Haren, or Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Hector Noesi, and David Phelps for Haren. The Angels could want a stronger pitcher back in Betances, or a stronger third basemen back in Nunez. I find the first package to be stronger, but maybe the Angels would think differently. Haren would be exactly the kind of pitcher the Yankees want to put behind CC Sabathia.  He had an excellent year last year going 16-10, with a 3.17 ERA, 192 strikeouts, and a 1.02 WHIP. Haren also only walked an astonishing 1.25 batters per 9 innings last year.  His arsenal of pitches is outstanding with a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, splitter, cutter and a spiked curve.  Haren does not throw especially hard but still has racked up at least 190 strikeouts in the last 5 years. The downfall is that he is already 31 with a lot of innings under his belt.  The Yankees may fear giving him a long term deal.  He does have team options in his contract for the next two years. A rotation of Sabathia, Haren, Nova, Hughes, and Burnett certainly looks appealing though.

I personally doubt the Angels would trade Haren unless they acquired C.J. Wilson, who they are rumored to be interested in. Haren is still under team control for the next two years, and the Angels are not a small market team, so they can afford him. However, if they got Wilson, they would feel comfortable with a Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana top three, and may want to improve their offense. Montero would be an instant middle of the lineup hitter for them, which they definitely need.  I would love for Cashman to be able to make up for an error in judgment and go get Haren. However, the Angels will ask for more than the Diamondbacks did and Cashman wasn’t willing to pay that price, so one would wonder if he would in fact pay more. I think he would be willing to because he can undo his previous mishap with Haren. Also it helps that Haren is a proven, elite pitcher. If the Angels will listen, the Yankees should consider Haren for sure because I think he would be an excellent fit for them.

Several Interesting Rumors: Cain, Garcia, Wilson, Haren

Yesterday, Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest dished out some pretty interesting rumors regarding the Yankees. I’ll recap them in this post. Now, I’m really not sure about the overall reliability of these rumors. However if they are true, then they are very interesting. I did look through the comments at River Ave. Blues, and Steve S. of The Yankee Analysts was adamant that the author, Frank Russo, has always had a rock solid source, “very tied in to baseball matters with the Yanks.” Keeping that in mind, here we go…

— Russo wrote that the Yankees made an offer of four players for Matt Cain of the Giants, that included at least 1 position player and several minor-league pitchers. The deal was quickly turned down. Some of the names that were reportedly tossed around were: Jesus Montero, Nick Swisher, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Hector Noesi.

— He says that in Tampa, the word on the street is that Freddy Garcia will not be the only starting pitching acquisition, and that it wasn’t really a “value signing”. Russo says that Garcia could be utilized both as a starter or a long reliever. “They also love his clubhouse presence as he was a mentor to Ivan Nova.”

— Russo states that although there have been no numbers tossed around, the Yankees “could” offer CJ Wilson one of two types: (1) a 5 year contract with an opt-out option, (2) a 4 year contract with several vesting option years. They reportedly feel their main competition for Wilson is the Angels’ aggressive GM, Jerry DiPoto.

— He mentions that rumors are starting up that the Angels may make Dan Haren available. Russo says the Yankees would really like to acquire him, but “the belief down in Tampa is that DiPoto will only trade Haren to the Yankees for several ‘top tier’ prospects, (think Montero/Romine and Betances/Warren).”

Grading 2011 and Looking Ahead: Bullpen

Mariano - The Greatest just keeps on going

The last part of the team we’ll look at is the bullpen. This was the strongest unit on the team as the pen led the American League with a 3.12 ERA, and was 2nd in OPS against (.677) and K/9 (8.46).

Mariano Rivera

He just keeps rolling along. Another year with a sub-2.00 ERA, his 4th in a row and 8th time in last 9 years.  Mo was consistent all season and finished with 44 saves in 49 chances to break the All-Time record for most career saves with 603.  The Sandman had a 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and a ridiculous 7.5 strikeout to walk ratio.  While he doesn’t throw as hard as he did when he was 27, his velocity was actually his highest since 2008 averaging 92.3 on his FB and 91.6 on his Cutter.   Grade:  A

2012 Outlook:  He is signed for one more yr @ $15M and will turn 42 in a month.  We all know he has to fade at some point but until he does he’s welcome as my closer for as long as he wants to pitch.

David Robertson

Maximum extension & follow through is how a 5'11, 180 pounder can blow Fastballs by MLB's best hiters

Robertson began the yr as the man Girardi used in the middle innings to get out of jams.  He did so well in that role he was the natural guy to take the 8th inning role after injuries to Joba & Soriano.  DRob flourished in that role the way he did in every situation Girardi used him in.  He led A.L. relievers in ERA (1.08) & K/9 (13.5) as he used his sneaky Fastball and knee-buckling Curveball to get big outs whenever he needed them.  His only blemish is he still walks a lot of hitters (4.7 BB/9) but makes up for it by getting strikeouts whenever he needs them and inducing a lot of groundballs.  He saw a big 7% increase in his GB rate and his velocity was up 1.2 mph to an average FB of 93.1 MPH.  Robertson showed a filthy Changeup and Cutter at times but his FB/Curve combo is so dominant he rarely needs his 3rd and 4th pitches.  Grade: A+

2012 Outlook: Robertson was one of the best bargains in baseball at $462,450 in 2011.  He’ll see a raise to around $1.5-2M in his first yr of arbitration in 2012.  He’ll have to be in the 8th inning role again and heir to the closers role if Mo ever retires.  With his 4 nasty pitches one can’t help to imagine DRob throwing 200+ IP as a starter but with his max effort delivery and small frame he may be best suited as a 1-2 inning guy.

Rafael Soriano

Didn’t look right in beginning of yr and soon went down with arm injury.  After nearly 3 months on the DL was much better when he returned in August. Finished with 4.12 ERA in just 39.1 ip.  His K rate (8.2) was the same as his dominating 2010 yr in Tampa but his Walk rate more than doubled to 4.1.  Grade: C-

2012 Outlook:  He has an opt-out he won’t exercise so will be back for $11M to pitch the 7th Inning.  Hopefully he will get comfortable in the role as the highest paid middle reliever in MLB. He has the stuff and track record to give the Yanks a shutdown 7th thru 9th inning unit.

Boone Logan

Logan was off to a lousy start through April & May then he lowered his arm angle a little and things turned around for him. After striking out just 7 in his first 13 innings he K’d 39 in his final 28 innings to finish the yr 5-3, 3.46 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9.  He was fairly good against lefties but was prone to HRs vs them with a 1.32 HR/9 vs them and 0 HRs vs Righties.  Grade: B

2012 Outlook:  In his 3nd yr of Arbitration he’ll get a small raise on his $1.2M salary and be back in his lefty relief role.

Luis Ayala

Ayala was  a nice find and had a surprising season although he pitched to a lot of luck.  He had a tidy 2.09 ERA but a 4.19 FiP.  He’s not a strikeout pitcher (6.2 k/9) but induced a lot of grounders (50% GB rate) and gave the team 56 quality IP.  for $650,00.  Grade:  B

2012 Outlook:  He was solid but I doubt he’ll be back as the Yanks are loaded with bullpen arms and could insert a younger guy with a higher upside.

Cory Wade

Wade is a feather in the cap of Billy Eppler’s pro scouting department as he was plucked off of Tampa’s Triple A team in late June and was brilliant in New York.  He finished 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA & 1.03 WHIP. While he dominated righties (.541 OPS against) his ChangeUp & Curve were also effective vs Lefties as he held them to a .730 OPS.  Grade:  A-

2012 Outlook:  Wade will definitely be back in the bullpen mix in 2012

Others:  Joba Chamberlain was pitching well with a 2.83 ERA/1.04 WHIP til he blew his elbow out.  His surgery will likely keep him from being effective until around June or later.  Hector Noesi showed some promise while riding the Scranton to NY shuttle and being moved back and forth from starter to reliever.  He may be in the mix as a #5 starter or long man in 2012.  Late inning call-ups George Kontos and Andrew Brackman will be candidates to make the pen in ST as both showed good stuff in Sept.  Cashman will look to bring in a second lefty in the Winter but other than that the bullpen appears set with almost everyone coming back and a lot of young guys looking to make the team.

  W L ERA SV IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
                       
Mariano Rivera 1 2 1.91 44 61.1 0.897 6.9 0.4 1.2 8.8 7.50
David Robertson 4 0 1.08 1 66.2 1.125 5.4 0.1 4.7 13.5 2.86
Luis Ayala 2 2 2.09 0 56.0 1.268 8.2 0.8 3.2 6.3 1.95
Boone Logan* 5 3 3.46 0 41.2 1.344 9.3 0.9 2.8 9.9 3.54
Rafael Soriano 2 3 4.12 2 39.1 1.297 7.6 0.9 4.1 8.2 2.00
Hector Noesi 2 2 4.47 0 56.1 1.509 10.1 1.0 3.5 7.2 2.05
Cory Wade 6 1 2.04 0 39.2 1.034 7.5 1.1 1.8 6.8 3.75
Joba Chamberlain 2 0 2.83 0 28.2 1.047 7.2 0.9 2.2 7.5 3.43
Scott Proctor 0 3 9.00 0 11.0 2.818 15.5 4.9 9.8 9.0 0.92
George Kontos 0 0 3.00 0 6.0 1.167 6.0 1.5 4.5 9.0 2.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Yankee News…

Yankee News

by Matt S.

Jesus Montero will not play winter ball.

Montero played in 127 total games this year between the minors and majors, and caught nine innings in most of them. While the Yankees would like him to get more work before officially committing to him as a regular for 2012, there’s no point in putting his body through the ringer.

Hector Noesi is expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation next spring.

The Yankees used Noesi strictly in relief this year, but now think he was underused in that role. “It wasn’t part of the plan to have him as a mopup guy or long man out of our bullpen this year,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “He needs to make up for lost innings.” The 24-year-old righty posted a 4.47 ERA in 56-plus big league frames.

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.

Noesi, Yanks unable to hold Rays down; 5-2 loss means tie for Tampa and Boston

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NYY
1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 0
TB
0 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 x 5 9 1
W: Shields (16-12)
L: Noesi (2-2)
SV: Farnsworth (24)
NY Yankees AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Jeter, SS 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 .298
Granderson, CF 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 .264
Cano, 2B 4 1 2 2 0 1 0 .305
Rodriguez, Al, DH 4 0 1 0 0 0 2 .278
Posada, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 0 4 .239
Chavez, Er, 3B 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .259
Martin, C 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 .237
Romine, C 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167
a-Montero, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .351
Nunez, E, RF 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 .262
Gardner, LF 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 .259
Totals 31 2 6 2 3 4 11 .264
NY Yankees IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Noesi(L, 2-2) 2.0 5 3 3 2 1 0 4.47
Valdes 2.0 2 1 1 0 2 1 3.27
Hughes, P 1.2 1 0 0 2 1 0 5.86
Kontos 0.2 0 1 1 2 1 0 3.38
Ayala 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1.64
Brackman 0.2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.00
Totals 8.0 9 5 5 8 6 1 3.70
And here is the game recap from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

ST. PETERSBURG — For the Yankees, the last three games of the year constitute a tuneup series to prepare for the American League Division Series, as evidenced by the loud laughs in their clubhouse after the game.

Everyone, it seemed, had something to feel good about on a festive Monday at Tropicana Field. Certainly, the Rays did, posting a 5-2 victory that vaulted Tampa Bay into a tie with the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card.

“I actually saw one of their players look at the scoreboard when there was a loud cheer today,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “That probably wouldn’t happen on a normal day. And they should be excited.”

A Robinson Cano homer and run-scoring single accounted for most of the offense against right-hander James Shields, who finished one out shy of a complete game and picked up his 16th win of the season.

Read the rest of this entry

Game 160 | Yankees @ Rays

Noesi is making his second big league start tonight.

Lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Jorge Posada 1B
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez RF
Brett Gardner LF

Pitchers:

Hector Noesi (2-1, 4.14) vs. James Shields (15-12, 2.84)

Enjoy the game.

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