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Posts Tagged ‘Kerry Wood’

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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Bryan Hoch reports that the Yankees have signed Larry Rothschild as their new pitching coach, replacing the summarily dumped Dave Eiland. ESPN’s Wallace Matthews reports Rothschild has a three year deal, worth $2 million.

I’m  not certain this represents a significant upgrade. The move admittedly has me scratching my head, especially in light of some better options (like Scott Aldred and Leo Mazzone) still available.

Quick recap of Rothschild’s career: he pitched a very ugly 7 games over parts of two season with the Tigers in the early 1908’s (career WHIP: 1.9; career K/9: 1.1), after being a rule 5 draft pick . He surfaced in 1990 as the Red’s bullpen coach, being promoted to pitching coach for Cincinnati for 1992 and 93. He then worked as a minor league instructor for the Braves before resurfacing as the Marlins pitching coach from 1995 -97. He served from 1998 – 2001 as the first manager in Tampa Bay’s history and has been the Cubs pitching coach since 2002.

My concern is that the Yankees signed a guy with a big name in baseball circles, but not necessarily one that fits the Yankee pitching staff well. Rothschild is known for stressing strikeouts from his pitchers – not necessarily a great idea when your staff has AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and David Robertson, all pitchers known for getting in trouble while nibbling for K’s when a ground ball would do just fine. And despite all of those strikeouts his teams have captured over the years, they really haven’t shone when the pressure was on or been great at keeping runners off base. Consider the 2003 Cubs: despite setting a NL record with over 1400 strikeouts, the staff WHIP was 1.3; relatively pedestrian. The Cubs had a staff ERA of 5.71 during that postseason. Let’s also not forget that Rothschild is a pitching coach noted for blowing out pitchers arms: Jose Rijo, Rob DibbleMark Prior and Kerry Wood all suffered career-altering arm troubles on Rothschild’s watch.

For now, I’ll withhold final judgement until I see how this pans out. If he can get AJ and Joba straightened out without ruining the rest of the staff, then Rothschild was the right hire. But right now I think this move is dicey.

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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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As we prepare for tonight’s tilt with the Rays, there are numerous questions surrounding the Yankees. Will Andy Pettites groin be fully healed before the playoffs? Will Phil Hughesinnings limit result in him being ineffective? Who will be the fourth starter? Will the offense ever remember how to hit? Can Derek Jeter regain the form that made him a Yankee icon?

But the biggest question of all has to be this: Why is Joe Girardi still the manager?

Yes, I realize Girardi was the manager last year for #27. But many observers, myself included, felt the team won despite his managerial hijinx, not because of them. And the job he’s done this year – well, this current road trip pretty much sums up his season.

A manager’s job is two-fold: one, to put his players in the best position to do their job; and two, to motivate and inspire his squad to shine. Girardi consistently fails to do either. He insists on putting in line-ups where there are as many reserves as regulars. (How else do you explain bench players accounting for 21% of the teams plate appearances this season?). Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing a bottom of the order consisting of Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli. (That particular duo has started together an incredible 15 times this season – better than 10% of the season). It’s nothing against either of those guys, but this is supposed to be the Yankees, not the Orioles. Or the Cubs.

Girardi over-relies on the bullpen; the Yankees only have 3 complete games as a staff – 11th best in the AL. Don’t forget; this is the same guy who was run out of the Marlins clubhouse largely because he burned his bullpen so badly in 2006, they fell out of contention. It makes you wonder if Alfredo Aceves‘ workload contributed to his (possibly career-threatening) injury.

He also rubbed that clubhouse the wrong way, as the players simply got tired of his act. I doubt we’ll ever hear anyone on this team complain about the skipper – they’re all too professional for it – but I defy anyone to tell me this team actually wants to win for Girardi. To be blunt, lately the Yankees look as though they would rather be taking a nap than playing baseball. That type of lethargy is direct reflection on Girardi’s leadership -or lack thereof.

Last night’s game – with the odd bullpen choices (Kerry Wood and Boone Logan combined to throw fewer pitches in 1 1/3 innings than Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre did in 2/3 of an inning), lackadaisical hitting, base running blunders – was a microcosm of the season thus far. Lost in all the noise about the bullpen maneuvering and Brett Gardner’s inexplicable attempted steal of third were two other moves that make absolutely no sense. In the 5th, Jorge Posada was caught stealing. On a straight steal. With two out. Later, in the 11th, after Austin Kearns led off with a sharp single, Girardi had Curtis Granderson bunt. If you have the heart of the order coming up, that makes sense. But not when the next hitter is Colin Curtis.

I’m sure the infamous binder had all kinds of percentages for each of the weird moves we saw. But games aren’t won in a computer model; they’re won by players on the field. Speaking of computer models, the Pythagorean prediction says the Yankees should be 89-55 or two games better than they’ve played. Why do you suppose that is?

Managers can rarely win a game. But when they insist on managing like the league idiot, they can certainly lose them. For that reason, Joe Must Go.

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Carl Crawford

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
N.Y. Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
Tampa Bay « 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 x 3 9 1
W: J. Shields (10-9) L: C. Sabathia (13-5)
S: R. Soriano (30)
HR: NYY – None   TB – None

Game Summary –  (Box Scores Courtesy of CBS Sports)  (more…)

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The trade deadline has come and gone and Brian Cashman was certainly busy over the final 48 hours, landing three new players. With Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood now wearing Pinstripes, let’s look back at what were generally considered the Yankees biggest needs heading into this year’s trade season and see how well Cashman did in addressing them.

  1. Bullpen: The struggles of Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Chan Ho Park this year, along with injuries to Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre and Damaso Marte turned what looked like a major strength at the beginning of the season into a major question mark. Cashman picked up Wood hours after the Indians activated him from the DL. And that’s been Kerry Wood’s big problem throughout his career – the guy just can’t stay healthy. At one time, he was supposed to be the Next Big Thing; now, his career has devolved into that of middle innings guy. Still, Wood has a plus fastball and curve and hitters don’t like to face him. Additionally, acquiring him gave the Yankees the perfect excuse to send Park and his thrill-a-minute pitching style packing, so that’s a plus right there. Also, Cashman gave up virtually nothing to get him, other than money and a future low-grade prospect, so there isn’t much risk involved here. Of course, this doesn’t really address the eighth inning role, but adding a power arm is never a bad idea. Grade: B-
  2. Outfield bench: Replacing Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske with Randy Winn and Marcus Thames didn’t exactly pan out. Thames has demonstrated that his all-hit, no-glove reputation is well deserved and Winn played so well he was asked to run away from Yankee Stadium. Enter Austin Kearns. Kearns represents a serious upgrade to this unit. Unlike Thames, he is a better than league-average defender at both corner spots and league-average in center, if needed. He has better than average speed, although it’s never translated to stolen bases. He has decent power from the right side, although not enough to ever be considered a power hitter. In other words, he is the epitome of a fourth outfielder even though his past teams were so awful he found himself thrust into starting roles. Once again, Cashman brought a solid player in from Cleveland for cash or the infamous PTBNL (btw, I want to meet that guy one day – he gets traded A LOT), so there isn’t much risk involved, either. The only thing keeping this from being an “A” is that Kearns doesn’t project as a guy you want starting 3-4 weeks in a row, should a serious injury occur. Grade: B+
  3. Infield Bench: This is the one area that still needs some work. Neither Ramiro Pena nor Kevin Russo are guys you really want to see with a bat in their hands, but the Yankees were unable to find any help. A waiver trade is always a possibility, but Tampa, Boston and Texas will know what the Yankees are up to and probably try to block any such move. Grade: F
  4. Designated Hitter: A full-time DH wasn’t a serious need, even if Nick Johnson is likely done. Using the DH role to rotate some of the Yankee vets would have been fine, if a strong utility guy could be found. None were, so Cashman did the next best thing: bring in some big-time thunder for the DH role. Although undeniably on the downside of very good career, Lance Berkman’s arrival means the Yankee line-up gets lengthened, with legitimate power threats from 2-8. The undeniable shocker of the trade deadline. Grade: A

Overall, I give Cashman a B- for this year’s deadline dealing, although that stands to improve if the Yanks can swing a deal for utility infielder.

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