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Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Zambrano’

Ubaldo Jimenez

Some things are a given in life. The sun rises in the east. Commuter trains in New York are overstuffed and never run on time. The Yankees always make a trade in July.

Only, this year that last one might not happen.

It’s not for lack of need. The starting line-up is solid and the bench features guys who could start for better than half the teams in baseball. But the pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, is loaded with question marks. CC Sabathia is an unqualified ace; Mariano Rivera remains the king of closers and David Robertson has turned into one of the game’s most reliable set-up men. But the rest of the staff doesn’t inspire confidence on a daily basis.

The Yankees are plagued by the fact that among the presumed LCS teams, they’re the only team without a bona-fide number 2 starter. The Red Sox feature Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Phillies send Roy Halladay
and Cliff Lee. The Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Yankees keep hoping that AJ Burnett will be that number two guy – but after 2 ½ seasons of watching him implode at the most inopportune times, I can’t think of anyone who truly thinks he is. Bartolo Colon, based on his performance this year (7-6, 3.29 ERA, 8K/9) is probably the current #2, but he’s already thrown more innings than over the past 4 seasons combined and you have to worry about how much longer he can continue. Freddy Garcia keeps pulling magic acts on the mound, but his xFIP is nearly a half-run higher than his ERA; you get the feeling that sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Phil Hughes exploded on the scene in the first half of 2010, but since then he’s been less than a pedestrian pitcher (7-7, 5.76 ERA). Ivan Nova was sent back the minors earlier and despite showing signs of improvement when he was with the big club, he is nowhere near being a number two starter.

Likewise, the bullpen has a few holes. Rafael Soriano was brought in to be the primary set-up man, but he’s spent most of the season on the DL and was largely ineffective before getting hurt. Boone Logan is the supposed lefty specialist, but left handers are tuning him up to a 138 OPS+. While Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have been reasonably pleasant surprises, neither has experienced this level of success before. And heaven help us all if the abysmal Sergio Mitre is reactivated and added to the post-season roster.

So, like I said, the Yankees certainly have needs. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be anyone available in the trade market that can fill those needs. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Rockies
asking price (3 or 4 of the Yanks blue chip prospects) is insane. Jimenez had a terrific first half of 2010. Otherwise, he’s a sub-.500 pitcher with a career ERA of 3.87 – while pitching in the offensively challenged NL West. If Brian Cashman adds him at tomorrow’s deadline, I’ll be underwhelmed. The other starters rumored to be on the market also aren’t overly impressive. They range from the oft-injured Erik Bedard to the recalcitrant Hiroki Kuroda
to baseball’s version of a spoiled two-year old, Carlos Zambrano. In short, barring some sort of unexpected blockbuster, there simply isn’t anyone available who provides an upgrade over what the Yanks currently have on hand.

In terms of bullpen help, the Yanks are certainly looking for a left hander – but good luck finding anyone. The Orioles probably want to rid themselves of Mike Gonzales and his bloated contract, but he has had zero success in the AL. The A’s might be willing to part with Brian Fuentes, but I can’t imagine the Yankees assuming around $8.5 million in contract for a guy who has actually been worse against lefties than Logan. The only other name I’ve seen available is the Cubs John Grabow. Like Fuentes and Gonzales, he’s been more piñata than pitcher.

So, there you have it. Unlike past deadlines, this one is looking pretty quiet for the Yankee front office.

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The Yankees have been busy since Cliff Lee stunned the baseball world and retreated to the quiet confines of Citizen’s Bank Park, home of those welcoming Philadelphia types. (Unless you happen to be Santa Clause, that is). After devoting the entire offseason plan to signing Lee, you couldn’t really blame Brian Cashman and company if they didn’t have a plan B. But, much to my amazement and joy, they did! And they didn’t waste any time whatsoever in implementing it!

It seems plan B consists of signing every retread and injury-prone player still available. First, they landed their big-name pitcher in Mark Prior. Who cares if Prior hasn’t thrown a ML pitch in 4 years and has a history of shoulder ailments dating back 7 seasons? He was once one of the best right-handed starters in the majors. Then, virtually in tandem with signing Prior, the Yankees swooped in and grabbed C Russell Martin. Who cares if Jesus Montero is waiting in the wings to prove why he’s one of the 5 best prospects in MLB? The Yankees just signed a catcher who lost 1/2 of 2010 to hip surgery; a guy who once was an All-Star for the Dodgers but had played so well over the past three seasons that they flat out released him. To address a leaky bullpen, today the Yanks signed Pedro Feliciano, formerly of the Mets. Ok, so, he’s thrown in a ML leading 408 games over the past 5 years, but he’s only 34. Oh…right.

In defense of the signings, each does bring something positive – Martin does have a history of throwing out runners (2nd best percentage in baseball since he broke in). Prior is one of those low-risk, high-reward types; if he can throw effectively and recapture some of his early magic, he beats anything the Yankees currently have lined up for the end of the rotation. And Feliciano is a lefty-specialist who was put into bad situations over the past two years by Jerry Manuel. Nobody has been better at keeping LH hitters off base over the past three seasons.

But each also brings questions, and not just about durability. Can Martin still move behind the plate to be an effective defensive catcher? And potentially relegating Montero to the bench certainly won’t endear him to many who bleed Pinstripes – after all, we’ve been salivating at the thought of watching him launch moonshots for 3 years now. Will Feliciano be nearly as effective in the AL East, particularly against the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Nick Markakis and Carl Crawford?

In the meantime, the biggest questions surrounding the 2011 Yankees have yet to be addressed: starting pitching, a quality set-up reliever, outfield and infield depth.

Plenty of rumours continue to swirl around the team, especially when it comes to starters. Zach GreinkeFausto CarmonaCarlos Zambrano and Felix Hernandez have all been mentioned as potential trade targets. Greinke and Carmona are probably far-fetched possibilities; both have team friendly contracts with teams that are looking to bring in an entire farm system in return. While Jack Zduriencek is known for trading, you can reasonably expect that he’ll want a kings ransom in return for King Felix (after all, he did just win a Cy Young for a last place team). Zambrano may be easier to get, but his temper amy be more destructive than his ability to win 20 games. And of course, we all wait on Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not to come back for a 17th season.

Infield rumors were centered on Bill Hall and Jeff Keppinger. There are reports that Hall just signed with Houston, which would seemingly make Keppinger an easier get. But really, is Keppinger that much of an upgrade over Ramiro Pena? Certainly not defensively – and his bat doesn’t make up the difference. As far as RH relievers and OF go, there hasn’t been any action to speak of. On the relief front, time is getting short. With Bobby Jenks, Matt  Guerrier, Jesse Crain, J.J. Putz, Matt Albers, Kerry Wood and Joaquin Benoit already signing elsewhere, there aren’t many proven relievers left on the market. Thus far, nobody has even whispered what the Yankees plan to give their OF some depth. MLBTR has a listing of the available free agents here: there are some intriguing names on the list (including old friends Eric Hinske, Austin Kearns and Johnny Damon).

It’s only December, so Cashman gets an incomplete on this years offseason. But March is coming quickly and the most glaring problems – the ones that sent the Yankees home to watch this year’s World Series – remain, while players who could fill those voids are signing elsewhere. Heck, it was even reported that the Yankees no longer have the game’s highest payroll, a testament not only to Boston’s spending but to Cashman’s not spending.

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The One that Got Away

For those of you haven’t heard, Cliff Lee surprised just about everyone by deciding to sign with the Phillies. The move is an unqualified disaster for the Yankees and Brian Cashman, who had bet the farm (and the team’s immediate future) on signing the ace lefty. Combined with Boston’s wheeling and dealing, and Andy Pettitte’s possible (and likely) retirement, the Yanks may not be in serious contention for a playoff spot: Boston hasn’t only improved themselves, but so have the Tigers, Twins and White Sox. The Yankees look like they’re headed into the season with a two man rotation. (CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes),  a depleted bench and shaky bullpen. Ouch.

So, what to do now?

1. Trade for for a starter: use some of the Yankees minor-league depth to acquire a proven, front-end starter. Unfortunately, two best rumored to be available, Zack Greinke and Carlos Zambrano, are both head cases. Greinke is a former Cy Young winner. He’s rumored to want out of Kansas City. He’s young. He’s also had problems handling stress – and suddenly being cast as the “savior” of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees has a good chance of stopping his 2011 season before it starts. Not too mention that KC would want half of the Yankees farm sytem in return. Zambrano has top of the rotation stuff and the “Big Z” certainly has delivered both wins and quality starts in the past. But he’s also the poster child for petulance – and does anyone really think Larry Rothschild wants to be reunited with the Cubs ace?
2. Promote Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi: the last time the team slotted two rookies into the rotation was in 2008. Enough said on that idea. Although it may be the only option left.
3. Sign Carl Pavano: stopped laughing yet? Remember, this is the same front office that sent a popular outfielder and LH relief prospect to bring in a past failure who would eat innings, coming off a good season. That didn’t work out so well, but Cashman may well be considering the idea. After all, none of us thought he’d bring back Javier Vazquez, either.
4. Put Joba Chamberlain back in the rotation: no matter how much they say otherwise, this team loves jerking the kid around. He’s been everything from Mo’s heir to doghouse sitter so far. As much as they’ve been saying that Joba is in the pen for 2011, no doubt the brass has to be seriously reconsidering that idea at the moment.
5. Ride it out and wait for 2012: there are some big time prospects headed this way in 2012. Players like Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine and Brandon Laird. It smacks of the late 80s Yankees, who kept buying stop-gap major leaguers while waiting for the farm to deliver. (Anyone remember how Roberto Kelly was going to save the franchise?)

6. Stockpile relievers, realizing that half of the team’s innings need to come from the ‘pen: great idea, except free-agent relievers rarely work out as intended. The only high-upside reliever left on the market is Rafael Soriano and it’s hard to see the Yankees singing another closer.

Then, there’s my personal favorite…

7. Bring in a player personnel guy. Cashman has proven astute on the business side of baseball and made the Steinbrenner family a ton of money, so its no wonder they love the guy. But his personnel moves leave a lot to be desired. Its simply insane that the team with the highest payroll has holes, and this one now needs a 4th and 5th starter, a set-up reliever, a 4th outfielder and utility infielder. When you look at the players he’s brought in versus who he’s let go, well… that’s a whole other post.

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Sports Illustrated has a list of the 10 best sports arenas of the decade. The New Yankee Stadium ranked at No. 4. “Located across 161st Street from the House that Ruth Built, the Yankees’ new home opened in style as the Bombers won the World Series in 2009. The new home features a giant high-definition screen in center field, gourmet food in private clubs and ample food courts and luxurious seating throughout the stadium.”

Baseball America ranks Jesus Montero Baseball’s 5th Best Prospect. “When he arrives: New York’s offseason moves will dictate whether Montero spends all season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or moves up to the big leagues as a part-time catcher and DH.”

Yanks’ sign former A’s prospect, Javier Herrera to a minor league deal. This outfielder was once considered the best defender in the Oakland system. [In six minor-league seasons the 24-year-old has hit .282/.358/.468 with 49 HR and 213 RBI.]

Yanks reportedly sign catcher Rivera An unnamed Major League source, reported that the team had agreed on a Minor League contract with backstop Mike Rivera. He will be invited to Spring Training this upcoming season.

Joel Sherman reported that the Yankees are “talking regularly” with Reed Johnson and his representatives. Johnson would be obtained for the left field position, and he would give them some flexibility because he can play all three outfield positions. He’s not such a great hitter though. (more…)

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Before you rip into presents, go to midnight Mass, start the airing of grievances and feats of strengths, there are a few items of business to pass along in Yankees land.

While it is not part of Yankees news, I came across a website selling Yankees Ornaments and other Christmas goodness. The website is New York Yankees Christmas. Now, you can go open your early presents, air your grievances, have your feats of strength, etc al.

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UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that the Yankees are intent on adding a pitcher tonight and reminds us that they were close in a deal for Aaron Harang in the summer…

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Mike Puma of the New York Post has indicated that a vague Major League Baseball source has indicated that Brian Cashman will forgo celebrating the holidays and sign a starter by New Years Day.

Cashman has supposedly inquired about the availability of Carlos Zambrano, but seemed to be turned off the high price of acquiring him. Also, he might not be able to fit within Hal Steinbrenner’s concrete budget. While having Zambrano on the Yanks would be outstanding, he does seem like an enigma at times and lets his emotions get too much of himself at times. However, I would not turn him away if he showed up at the stadium to play for the Yankees.

Puma indicated there was a increased sense of urgency to add another pitcher after the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five year deal. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t pitching Cashman’s primary concern going into the offseason?

Puma’s speculative targets are Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Ben Sheets. However, Ken Davidoff of Newsday talked to “a person in the Yankees’ loop” who said Sheets is “not even on the board” currently. This is kind of surprising, but then again Sheets has a high price ($12MM), but I don’t see the Yankees going after Marquis (NL Lifer) and Pineiro (Just Don’t See It). I guess Justin Duchscherer is not on their radar too? After these names, the free agent market is kind of thin….

UPDATE: Cross Jason Marquis off the list, he is signing with the Nationals.

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