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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Prior’

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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