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Posts Tagged ‘Javier Vasquez’

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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Third in a series

Ask anyone who knows the great game of baseball, and they’ll tell you the same thing: to win, you need pitching. To win it all, you need even better pitching. Any discussion of where things went wrong in 2010 has to begin with a serious discussion of the ultimate failure of the Yankee pitching staff. Injuries played a part, but the return of Javier Vazquez was underwhelming, AJ Burnett had his worst season ever and the bullpen never seemed to mesh until the Kerry Wood acquisition. The staff needs an overhaul, not a tweak, if the Yankees are to return to the World Series next year. So, who’s in and who’s out for 2011? (Highlighted players below don’t figure to return in 2011)

Under Contract (5):

CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Alfredo Aceves, David Robertson, Jonathon Albaladejo

Arbitration Eligible (6):

Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley

Free Agents (5):

Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, Javier Vazquez, Royce Ring, Kerry Wood

Minor Leaguers on 40 man roster (5):

Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Romulo Sanchez

As things stand now, only five players have contracts for next year, and Aceves hasn’t pitched since May because of a bothersome back. Counting on his return is iffy at best and although he was extremely effective in 2009, there is no guarantee he will be ready or effective in 2011. As we dig into the scenarios below, new players are noted by an (*).

Starting Rotation:Projected

1. CC Sabathia

2. Cliff Lee*

3. Phil Hughes

4. Andy Pettite

5. AJ Burnett

Right now, the Yankees return two starters from the 2010 team; Sabathia and Burnett. Hughes is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, but also figures to return. The key to the 2011 rotation is Pettite, who is contemplating retirement. If he returns for another campaign, the Yankees are reasonably set, only needing one more piece – which figures to come from the free agent market. The obvious target is Cliff Lee, who would team with Sabathia to give the Yanks an awesome 1-2 punch atop the rotation. In that scenario, Burnett slides into the 5 spot (based on his erratic performance, where would you put him?), with Hughes 3 and Pettite 4. If Pettite retires, then the team is in a bind. Jorge de la Rosa (8-7, 4.22 for the Rockies) is an interesting option, in that he’s always been a high strike out guy, with decent peripherals and is left handed. Oh, and he figures to be fairly inexpensive. Another option is the well-traveled Ted Lilly. There are also minor league players who might do, led by Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi. Nova had an extended cup of coffee during Pettite’s injury time in 2010. While he impressed in spurts, he tended to get hit hard his second time through a line-up and at this point might project to fill more of a swingman role, taking the place of Sergio Mitre and Chad Guadin. As far as Javier Vazquez is concerned, I’m sure the Yankees will wish him well as the door is slamming behind him.

Bullpen:Projected

CL Mariano Rivera

RH Joba Chamberlain

RH David Robertson

LH Boone Logan

LH Scott Downs*

SW Ivan Nova

Like the starting rotation, the bullpen hinges on a Core Four member’s off-season free agency decision. Unlike Pettite, who is a 50/50 shot to retire, pretty much everyone expects Mariano Rivera to come back and anchor the pen. Expect Joba Chamberlain, coming into his first year of arbitration eligibility to be back and once again vie for the 8th inning job. If he doesn’t secure it, Joba becomes trade-bait for 2011. Robertson and Logan were wild at times, but both pitched well enough to be invited back this year. The intriguing questions come in the last two spots. Joe Girardi is known to covet left-handed relievers (why else take a chance on Royce Ring?!?), and one of the best in baseball hits the free agent market this year. He’ll be expensive, but expect the Yankees to make a major push for Scott Downs (5-5, 2.64). Finally, the Yankees have a cheaper option for the swingman role in Nova, who can fill the role. Expect Mitre to get a spring training invite if nobody else signs him, but not at his 2010 salary. And only because Girardi has some kind of love affair with the guy, going back to their days in Florida, not based on ability. Wood would be a great addition, were he to return in the 8th inning spot, but the reality is he still wants to close – and he will want closer type money this offseason. There is also the question of what to do with Jonathon Albaladejo, who looks like a classic AAAA pitcher: unhittable at AAA, but eminently more so in the majors.

On a final note, there’s been a lot of talk recently about a Joba & <insert Minor League Prospect> for Zach Greinke trade. I really hope the Yankees aren’t tempted by the idea. Greinke is a nice kid with excellent stuff. But he has emotional and confidence issues pitching for the Royals. New York would tear the kid up within a month, and the Yanks would be stuck with another Ed Whitson for the next two years – and $27 million.

Name Age 2010 Salary 2011 Contract
Alfredo Aceves

28

$ 435,650.00 $ 436,000.00
A.J. Burnett

34

$ 16,500,000.00 $ 16,500,000.00
CC Sabathia

30

$ 24,285,714.00 $ 23,000,000.00
Jonathan Albaladejo

28

$ 403,075.00 Under team control
David Robertson

26

$ 426,650.00 Under team control
Dustin Moseley

29

$ 235,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Boone Logan

26

$ 405,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Phil Hughes

24

$ 447,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Joba Chamberlain

25

$ 487,975.00 Arbitration Eligible
Chad Gaudin

28

$ 737,500.00 Arbitration Eligible
Sergio Mitre

30

$ 850,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Kerry Wood

33

$ 10,500,000.00 Free Agent
Javier Vazquez

34

$ 11,500,000.00 Free Agent
Andy Pettitte

38

$ 11,750,000.00 Free Agent
Mariano Rivera

41

$ 15,000,000.00 Free Agent
Royce Ring

30

Unknown Free Agent
Potential Free Agent Signings
Jason Frasor

32

$ 2,650,000.00 Free Agent
Scott Downs

34

$ 4,000,000.00 Free Agent
Jorge de la Rosa

29

$ 5,600,000.00 Free Agent
Cliff Lee

32

$ 9,000,000.00 Free Agent
Ted Lilly

34

$ 13,000,000.00 Free Agent
Potential Trade Targets
Zack Greinke (KC)

26

$ 7,250,000.00 $ 13,500,000.00

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Courtesy: AP/Seth Wenig

As the 2011 preseason is now officially underway for the Yankees, it’s time for Yankee fans to fire up the hot stove and begin contemplating what the team will look like next Spring. But before you can take the first step forward, it helps to know where you are. After all, every destination has a starting point. It just happens that 2011 and #28 begins from the rubble of what was a once promising season in 2010.

So, where are the Yankees right now?

Front Office: The Yanks front office appears more stable than at any time in more than a generation. Gone are the days when Mount Steinbrenner might erupt at any moment, causing the Yanks management team a severe case of angina and filling the back pages of NYC’s tabloids. Brian Cashman, love him or hate him, seems certain to retain the General Manager’s position for the foreseeable future. While the Steinbrenner sons seem to have placed their faith in Cashman, I wouldn’t advise him to repeat last year’s disastrous offseason. While they strike me as the polar opposite of their Dad in the way they approach running the team, I also can’t imagine that the Steinbrenner demand for winning is sublimated to profits under their watch. Cashman is excellent at the operations side of the baseball business – but more player moves on par with Nick Johnson and Javy Lopez will end his run.

Field Management: Cashman already announced that bringing back skipper Joe Girardi is “job 1” this offseason. That probably says more about the lack of available managerial talent than Girardi’s skill in guiding the team, in my opinion. The only other decent manager available right now is Bobby Valentine. Somehow, I can’t see Bobby V’s penchant for grabbing the spotlight and the current front office’s desire to avoid controversy co-existing. Joel Sherman
made an interesting point about the skipper needing to loosen up a bit and have fun in an earlier column today. It’s a point that hopefully Girardi will take to heart in 2011. Oh, and hopefully he loses that infernal binder along the way, too.

Earlier today, the coaching staff shake-up began in earnest, as Dave Eiland was jettisoned. No real reason was given, but I suspect Eiland wanted out as much, if not more; than the brass wanted him gone (he did disappear for nearly a month during the regular season, for reasons nobody has ever explained). Regardless, the Yankees now need a pitching coach. I imagine with AJ Burnett due back and the real possibility of having a rookie in the starting rotation, the Yankees will look for somebody with not only pitching expertise, but a psychiatry degree. With Cliff Lee an obvious target of Yankee affection, expect a pitching coach Lee respects to be targeted.

Otherwise, don’t expect major changes on the bench. Kevin Long is still regarded as one of the best hitting coaches in the business and 3B/IF coach Rob Thompson is widely regarded as helping Robinson Cano realize his potential in the field. Bench coach Tony Pena seems likely to stay – but I’m certain if a managerial job opens up for him, he’ll jump on it.

Coming tomorrow: Core Four

Coming Wednesday: Pitchers

Coming Thursday: FIelders

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OK, forgive a little hyperbole. But it almost feels that way. All over the Yankee Universe, people are cheering the arrival of Ivan Nova to the big club. Nova, the club’s best pitcher at AAA, is scheduled to make his first start tonight against the Blue Jays. The question now is: whose spot in the rotation will Nova take: Javier Vazquez or AJ Burnett? Nova is starting in what would ordinarily be Burnett’s turn; perhaps most telling, both Vazquez and Burnett are being skipped for the entire Blue Jays series. Combined with a scheduled off-day on Thursday and CC Sabathia certain to get his normal turn on Friday, that means the earliest either could pitch is Saturday.

And for good reason: both have been atrocious for the past month. Their stat lines over their past seven respective starts have read more like a horror movie than anything else:

Pitcher

W – L

IP

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

BA(a)

OBPa

SA(a)

OPSa

Burnett

2 – 4

40

22

14

29

6

4.950

0.290

0.364

0.465

0.829

Vazquez

2 – 2

35

26

15

23

11

6.686

0.292

0.381

0.673

1.054

About the only good thing you can say about it is the Yankees have somehow managed to go 7-7 in these 14 starts, thus pointing to improved offense and bullpen work. Both are definitely needed when giving either of these two knuckleheads the ball.

My guess is Vazquez is going to be the odd man out, permanently. His fastball has been in serious decline for the past month – and as his fastball has steadily gotten worse, his ERA has climbed. That 6.69 ERA over the past month isn’t a mind trick. Take a look at these charts:

There are other reasons to put Vazquez in the bullpen – and then forget about him, until he demonstrates that he can either pitch with a mid-80’s fastball or regains something in the 90mph range. The Yankees have quite a bit invested in Burnett and he is proving to be something of a headcase. While not approaching Carlos Zambrano levels of psychiatric need, the Yankees can’t permanently damage the psyche of a pitcher with 3+ years and $50 million left on his contract by relegating him to the pen for the rest of the season. Further, Phil Hughes’ innings limit is fast approaching, with perhaps 30 innings or so left after his Wednesday start. Assuming Andy Pettite is able to come back next week, keeping Nova in the 5 spot in the rotation allows Hughes to move to the bullpen for the final 2-3 weeks of the season, keeping him fresh for October. Finally, Nova likely doesn’t have a long-term future in the Bronx, not with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman on the way and Cliff Lee certain to be a target in the offseason. But this is a chance for Nova – and the Yankees – to showcase him over the next 5 weeks, at the ML level and against some quality competition in preparation for a potential deal.

What do you think? Have we seen the last of Javier Vazquez as New York Yankee?

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Apparently, Randy Winn is causing some Yankees fans to cancel their season tickets. While I would never ever cancel my season tickets (if I had them), I can feel this one fans pain. Just hope he never wears the uniform number 21. Below is the transcript from two emails.

From the Yankees:

Dear Ticket Licensee,

2009 marked the Inaugural Season at the new Yankee Stadium, a season that was more exciting than we could ever have anticipated – unforgettable games, unforgettable moments, an unforgettable Postseason and the 27th World Championship!

The 27-time World Champion New York Yankees would like to thank you for having joined us as a Season Ticket Licensee during the just concluded incredible Inaugural Season at Yankee Stadium. (more…)

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Baseball Prospectus recently came out with their PECOTA rankings for 2010 and apparently the Yankees will not be in first or second place. Maybe they blame Randy Winn. Either way, if you have a subscription to Baseball Prospectus, you can click on the teams depth chart to see their projections. Apparently, Andy Pettitte and Mo will have a poor season with only CC and Javy having a ERA underneath 4.00.

Either way, I don’t think these projections will come true, however, it is fun to take a look at these. Baseball Prospectus also projects the Phillies to have only 88 wins during the season. It goes on to say that Roy Halladay will go 15-10 with a 3.49 ERA. Time will tell, I guess…

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