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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Johnson’

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Yesterday, the Yankees finally made a splash in the free-agent market, signing the best reliever on the market in Rafael Soriano. Signing the all-star closer definitely takes care of the 8th inning spot, so we can cross that off the list of needs heading into 2011. If the contract runs full term, then the Yankees have also addressed the question of who takes over for Mariano Rivera when the future Hall of Famer decides to retire. In all, I like the signing; although the contract is probably a bit too player friendly.

But the signing has opened up a whole new line of questions about the team, Brian Cashman and who is really running the show. Buster Olney tweeted the question that is running through quite a few minds this morning:

“Looks like there was a split in Yankees’ org. over this — since it took place just days after Cashman said he wouldn’t give up No. 1 pick.”

Let’s take a look at the other reasons many are wondering who actually pulled the trigger on the deal.

  1. The contract is extremely player friendly. Not only does it make Soriano the 3rd highest paid reliever in MLB (behind Mo and Francisco Cordero), it gives him the option to opt out after years 1 and 2. In other words, this could be a 1 year deal for $10M, a 2 year deal for $22M or a 3 year deal for $35M. Given Cashman’s known reluctance to pay out big dollars to relievers, his reluctance to spend on anyone this winter and his absolute abhorrence to player friendly contracts (see Jeter, Derek or Rodriguez, Alex), you have to wonder why he would throw that kind of money or those terms at Soriano.
  2. The Yankees have taken a beating in the tabloids for, well, basically standing pat this off-season. Cashman seemed content to avoid signing anyone of consequence, even as the Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies and even the Nationals have gone all-out to improve their teams. Despite the team’s obvious need for starting pitching, he never made a play for Zach Greinke and according to published statements, quickly gave up on acquiring Matt Garza. Cashman may be made of teflon in terms of criticism, but a certain member of the ownership group isn’t.
  3. Cashman’s history in the FA market is to make runs at the consensus best player available (like CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira) or try to find diamonds in the rough (Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames from last season). He doesn’t really have a history of targeting a big name to fill a limited role.
  4. Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras. Like most GM’s, Cashman normally treats Boras – and his clients – as if they have a combination of leprosy and bubonic plague. That he would suddenly, in less than week’s time, go from “we’re not surrendering a 1st round pick” to handing out a player friendly contract to Boras is really hard to fathom.

In other words, this looks a lot more like Hank Steinbrenner pulled the trigger on this deal than Cashman. Hank is like his father in many ways: not afraid of dealing with Boras, willing to hand out player-friendly contracts and hates the Yanks being upstaged by anyone.

So, here’s the question of the day: who do you think was most responsible for signing Rafael Soriano, and what do you think it means for the future of the front office? Let us know!

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Apparently, somebody forgot to tell Brian Cashman that the holiday season is one of good tidings and cheer. In particular, Cashman seems to have amped up his inner Scrooge when it comes to a pair of Yankee stalwarts, men who’ve symbolized everything the Yankees are now and hope to be in the future. Quite frankly, the posturing is baffling: he runs a billion-dollar franchise in large part because of these players, not in spite of them. As much as any executive hates to admit, the Yankees truly do have two franchise players – men who mean much more to the Yankees brand than the new Stadium or even the Steinbrenner family. Men who are as iconic to the Yankees as the pinstriped uniforms with the interlocking NY they wear.

I’m talking, of course, about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

While the Yankees reportedly offered Cliff Lee megabucks (6 years, $140 million), they’ve offered Jeter and Mo peanuts. Lee is undoubtedly a wise investment for a team with a hole as wide as the Lincoln Tunnel in the starting rotation. But would Lee even consider the Yankees without the 14 post-season appearances since 1995? That is what Jeter and Mo mean to this franchise. Before their arrival in the Bronx, the Yankees had once again returned to the sort of losing remembered form the late 1960’s: a team that couldn’t hit, couldn’t field and couldn’t pitch. Rather than playing to a packed house every game, the echoes were often louder than the cheers at Yankee Stadium. How bad was it? Imagine being able to walk up to a ticket window on game day and getting tickets, 3rd base dugout, field level. Against the Red Sox. Yes, you could do it in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

The handling of Jeter’s contract couldn’t get much more bizarre. They’ve reportedly refused to offer arbitration, for fear the captain would accept and the Yankees would be on the hook for roughly $25 million in 2011.Their opening offer, reportedly 3 years for $45 million, is supposedly based on evaluating him the same way a team would evaluate Jimmy Rollins or Hanley Ramirez. This isn’t to knock either of those guys, but they are not in the same class as Jeter. Ramirez is the best player on his team. Rollins is an all-star and former World Champion. But neither is the face of their respective franchise, neither has legions of fans who care little about baseball but live and die with their play and neither is the biggest draw in the biggest sports market in the country. Cashman’s concern is that at 37, Jeter’s play is deteriorating and the .270 performance of last year may be more realistic than his career .314 average. Whatever, Brian – get over it. There aren’t too many middle infielders who hit .270 and score 100 runs, either. Even at his reduced level of play, Jeter’s performance alone makes him an all-star caliber player. Add in the fact that the guy is a leader, both on and off the field – that the Yankees are just another good club without him; that the guy is proven winner and the kind of player New Yorkers love and other fans love to hate. But those pesky intangibles you apparently want to ignore mean more to your bottom line than your ego wants to admit, and you had better pay him for them.

Then there’s the matter of Mariano Rivera, the Greatest Post-Season Closer Ever. Mo would reportedly be perfectly happy to sign a two-year deal for around $36 million. In all, that seems a perfectly reasonable expectation for the man who owns nearly every record for relievers. Mariano is like a fine wine – he just keeps getting better with age. He has been and continues to remain baseball’s ultimate weapon; bring him in and the game is over. And unlike so many other 9th inning specialists, the greater the pressure, the better he performs. It’s been that way for the past 15 seasons in the Bronx and Mo shows no sign of slowing down. So why hasn’t Cashman done what should have been his easiest contract negotiation of this offseason and signed him already? Is he hoping to talk Mo down to $15 million for one year? Are the peanuts really that expensive in your supermarket, Brian?

When Cashman let Johnny Damon walk last year, I wasn’t happy about it but I could understand and even appreciate the motives. (Although I did rip him for even thinking Nick Johnson was a suitable replacement.) But giving Jeter and Rivera the Damon Treatment is unimaginable. The idea that you only pay any free agent based on future performance is laughable, especially for the Yankees and Brian Cashman. Otherwise, Carl Pavano would have been paid in Topps cards and hot dogs. In the case of Jeter and Rivera, you have to pay them for what they’ve meant to the franchise, the city and (in Cashmans’ case) your own career. If you really think the Yankees would be a billion-dollar franchise without them, then send them on their way. But stop quibbling over a few million dollars as if you’re trying to rebuild the Royals or A’s – if you honestly understand what those two mean to the team. And if you honestly don’t, then maybe it’s time for you to pack your bags and head elsewhere.

UPDATED 4:22pm: Of course, right after I posted this, Wallace Matthews at ESPN reported that Cashman thinks Jeter isn’t all that valuable, either as a player or as a commodity:

“We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account,” Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”

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Fourth in a series

2010 was the tale of two offenses for the Yankees: there was the offense that could explode at any moment; that led the league in runs scored and struck fear into opposing teams. And then there was the offense that could go days without getting a clutch hit; that lived and died as it waited for someone to hit the mythical 5 run homer. Both offenses were evident in the 2010 ALCS. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the latter offense was the one that spent most of the time on display. Injuries to key players like Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada robbed key players of time in 2010 and 2011 doesn’t figure to offer much improvement on that front. Of the 9 projected starters, 3 (Derek Jeter, Posada and Rodriguez) are older than 35. Additionally, the only projected regulars under 30 next season are Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. This isn’t meant to be pessimistic – the emergence of Cano as an MVP caliber player and Gardner as a solid corner outfielder were huge positives for the team in 2010. There’s also a crop of intriguing minor leaguers nearly ready for the jump to the Big Ballclub in the Bronx. Once again, players highlighted likely won’t be back in 2011.

Under Contract (9):

2B Robinson Cano, C Francisco Cervelli, LF Brett Gardner, CF Curtis Granderson, IF Ramiro Pena, C Jorge Posada, 3B Alex Rodriguez, RF Nick Swisher, 1B Mark Teixeira

Free Agents (6):

1B Lance Berkman, SS Derek Jeter, 1B Nick Johnson, OF Austin Kearns, C Chad Moeller, OF Marcus Thames

Minor Leaguers to Watch (9): Note – this group includes players who received a call-up during the 2010 season

IF Reegie Corona, OF Colin Curtis, OF Greg Golson, 3B Brandon Laird, 1B Juan Miranda, C Jesus Montero, IF Eduardo Nunez, C Austin Romine, IF/OF Kevin Russo

Infield:

Derek Jeter may be a free agent this offseason, but nobody honestly expects him to sign elsewhere. GM Brian Cashman may have pulled some idiotic maneuvers in the past, but if he fails to re-sign the Captain I would fully anticipate his head being hoisted on a pole outside gate 4. That said, all four infield starters from last year – A-Rod at 3B, Cano at 2B, Teixeira at 1B and Jeter at SS look to be back next year. The key for this group in 2011 is health, as age, injuries and lack of rest caught up to them. Jeter had what is easily the worst season of his illustrious career, and at times seemed to have a slow bat. Teixeira battled nagging injuries throughout the season, as did Rodriguez. Cano finally realized his incredible potential and had his best season ever, but tailed off towards the end of the season – although he did seem refreshed by October. Despite their troubles, the infield combined for 102 HR, 401 R and 409 RBI. Getting the regulars some rest on occasion can only help their production, especially down the stretch. To that end, the Yankees need to decide what to do about reserve infielders. Ramiro Pena has a sure, if unspectacular glove but tends to get his bat knocked out of his hands, managing a meager .504 OPS despite garnering 167 plate appearances. Eduardo Nunez got a look late in the season, but displayed shaky defense with a middling bat. Kevin Russo got a look early in the year, but proved to be another Cody Ransom. Expect Reegie Corona to get a look this spring, but I expect he’ll spend a year at Scranton as the Yanks look to see if he might be able to fill in for Jeter in 2012. Another option is the free agent market, which is loaded with career utility types. One in particular, Willie Bloomquist, has piqued the Yankees interest in the past. As for Nick Johnson, 2010’s big offseason free agent signing: I don’t think he can pack his bags fast enough for the Yankees or their fans.

Catchers:

This was a definite weak spot for the Yankees in 2010. Neither Jorge Posada nor Francisco Cervelli proved to be worth much defensively. To make matters worse, Posada not only battled an assortment of injuries during the season, but suffered through a decidedly sub-par season offensively. Cervelli finished with decent numbers for a catcher (.694 OPS), but disappeared for the entire summer, hitting only .147 in June, July and August. Fully expect touted rookie Jesus Montero to make his Bronx debut in 2011, although that will crowd the situation behind the plate. If the Yankees do keep 11 pitchers on the roster, as is generally the case these days that only leaves room for 14 fielders – carrying three catchers is probably a luxury the Yankees can’t afford. Expect the Yankees to give Cervelli a look at third before making a final decision, to see if he can field the position defensively. Whatever the future holds for Cervelli, fully expect Posada and Montero to split the catching duties, with Montero getting the bulk of the starts behind the plate as the season progresses. The reviews on Montero’s defense have not been kind, but the Yanks hope that he can learn on the job, similar to another young, power-hitting catching prospect from 15 years ago. Some kid named Jorge Posada.

Outfield:

The Yankees seem to be set, with all three of 2010’s starters returning. But here’s the catch: there are two FA outfielders the Yanks have long coveted, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Should the Yankees sign one or the other, a stable outfield situation suddenly becomes crowded. Do you sit Brett Gardner, who had a very respectable .762 OPS and stole 47 bases? Do you trade Nick Swisher, who is a fan favorite in the Bronx and posted a .288/29/89 line? Do you trade Curtis Granderson, a former all-star who found his stroke towards the end of the season? The most likely scenario has the Yankees signing Crawford (.307,19 HR, 90 RBI, 47 SB), if for no other reason than to keep him away from Boston, starting him in left and sitting Gardner. Also expect the Yankees to make an effort to re-sign Thames, who proved to be a valuable bat off the bench. But since 2011 looks to offer him even fewer opportunities than 2010, Thames will likely look elsewhere first.

That means the projected opening day line-up in 2011 would be:

SS Jeter, LF Crawford, 1B Teixeira, 3B Rodriguez, 2B Cano, RF Swisher, C Posada, DH Montero, CF Granderson

Current MLB players on 40 man roster:

Position Name Age Avg OBA SLG 2010 Salary 2011 Contract
2B Robinson Cano

28

0.319

0.381

0.534

$ 9,000,000.00 $ 10,000,000.00
C Francisco Cervelli

25

0.271

0.359

0.335

$ 410,800.00 Under Team Control
LF Brett Gardner

27

0.277

0.383

0.379

$ 452,000.00 Under Team Control
CF Curtis Granderson

30

0.247

0.324

0.468

$ 5,500,000.00 $ 8,250,000.00
IF Ramiro Pena

25

0.227

0.258

0.247

$ 412,000.00 Under Team Control
C Jorge Posada

39

0.248

0.357

0.454

$ 13,100,000.00 $ 13,100,000.00
3B Alex Rodriguez

35

0.270

0.341

0.506

$ 33,000,000.00 $ 31,000,000.00
RF/1B Nick Swisher

30

0.288

0.359

0.511

$ 6,850,000.00 $ 9,000,000.00
1B Mark Teixeira

31

0.256

0.365

0.481

$ 20,625,000.00 $ 22,500,000.00
1B Lance Berkman

35

0.255

0.358

0.349

$ 15,000,000.00 Free Agent
SS Derek Jeter

37

0.270

0.340

0.370

$ 22,500,000.00 Free Agent
1B Nick Johnson

32

0.167

0.388

0.306

$ 5,500,000.00 Free Agent
OF Austin Kearns

31

0.235

0.345

0.324

$ 750,000.00 Free Agent
C Chad Moeller

36

0.214

0.267

0.429

Unknown Free Agent
OF Marcus Thames

34

0.288

0.350

0.491

$ 900,000.00 Free Agent

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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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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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Now that a White Sox – Nationals trade sending Adam Dunn to Chicago’s South Side seems more likely than ever (the White Sox just landed Edwin Jackson, who Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo is said to covet and have included him in their offer), it’s time to look for alternatives for the slugging southpaw. Mind you, I never thought Dunn (or any 1B/DH types, for that matter) are really needed in the South Bronx and I think the team needs help in the bullpen and a bench IF more than a lefty bat. But, it seems the Yankees front office has decided to find a left-handed bat they can plug into the DH role.

Option 1: Adam LaRoche, Arizona – Call him “Dunn-lite.” A left-handed first baseman, LaRoche currently sports a slash line of .254/.330/.446 and a career slash line of .271/.341/.487. Over seven seasons, he averages 1 HR every 21.4 AB’s, 1 K every 4 – and is a notorious second-half hitter. Although the rumor mill is quiet about him, it would make sense for Arizona to move him. The team is on obvious salary-dump mode and LaRoche is on a one-year, $4.5M deal with a mutual $7.5M option for next year (or a buy-out for $1.5M). One drawback for the Yankees is that option increases to $9.5M if traded. Still, it represents a way for the D’backs to shed about $4M from their anticipated payroll if they have no plans to keep him next year.

Option 2: Lance Berkman, Houston – Trades with the Astros are notoriously difficult, unless you happen to be the Phillies. However, the Roy Oswalt trade yesterday may signal that owner Drayton McClane is finally waving the white flag. The former all-star should be familiar to most fans, but here’s the upside: Berkman is a veteran switch hitter with power (1 HR every 17 AB) and one of those high-quality clubhouse types. Unlike Dunn and LaRoche, nobody has ever questioned this guy’s work ethic or desire. But he is having a down year in terms of production and has missed significant portions of the last two seasons with injuries. Although on the production side of the equation, he is walking more than ever – a sure sign that pitchers are avoiding the one true threat in an anemic Astros line-up. The money is also going to be difficult for the Yankees. Berkman is owed around $7M for the remainder of this year and he has made it clear he wants his $15M option for next year guaranteed in order to not exercise his no-trade clause. $22M for an injury plagued 1B on the downside of his career should be too much for Cashman & Co. to swallow.

Option 3: Derrek Lee, Cubs – The Cubs are rumored to be looking to shed payroll, although they have yet to make any deals. Lee is owed around $6.5M this year before hitting free agency. This would be a bit of a reach, since Lee is having a really bad year after a bounce-back type season a year ago. If you take 2009 out of the equation, then his last three seasons work to a .290/362/.408 line. While his HR production would probably increase some at Yankee Stadium (1 for every 29.5 AB over the past 3 years), you have to wonder how he would handle NYC and the post-season. In 23 career post-season games, Lee is a .263 hitter. On the plus side, Lee is considered an A+ type guy in the clubhouse. I’d consider this a real “Hail Mary” play if the Yanks were to pursue it.

Again, I don’t think the Yankees should really go hard after any of these guys, but if they happen to fall into Brian Cashman’s lap, then they might be worth it for the 2010 stretch run. Another thing to keep in mind is that these guys will almost certainly clear waivers because of the money involved, so if the Yankees still find themselves in need in mid-August odds are one or all three will be available. That leaves us…

Option 4: Nick Johnson, DL – Yes, you heard that one right. Mike Axisa reports that Johnson is resuming baseball activities in Tampa, though they’re limited to fielding grounders and soft-tossed fungoes for now. Still, if Johnson can make it back by September then he at least has a chance to redeem himself somewhat.

Author’s note – I checked the wires just before posting this. Joel Sherman tweeted the Yankees “are definitely in for Lance Berkman, considering him seriously.” Sherman also broke the news the Yankees had landed Cliff Lee, so take it for what it’s worth.

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As a baseball fan, I love this time of year. The trade rumors start flying and in the modern world of communications, they fly so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up with them.

Anyway, I just read a bunch of articles that make it appear the Nationals priced Adam Dunn right out of the trade market. Joel Sherman is reporting the Yankees consider Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo’s asking price for Dunn too steep; the Rays apparently feel the same. Now, I just read that the White Sox are basically saying Rizzo needs his head examined. The only contender remaining at this point are the Giants, and that’s more wishful speculation on the part of their fans than anything else. So, the question needs to be asked: without any real movement on a new contract for Dunn and the Nat’s suddenly without a viable trade partner for him, could the Yankees sneak in at the last minute and grab him?

It certainly seems a plausible enough situation. The Nationals are motivated to move him if they can’t sign him now, since he is a pending free agent and has expressed a desire to test the market at season’s end. The Yankees have expressed interest in bringing Dunn to the Bronx. Certainly, enough knowledgeable baseball types like Dunn (Mike Axisa at River Avenue Blues practically drools over him). As anyone who’s read my previous posts knows, I’m not that crazy about him. This is a player who takes a sort of perverse pride in being lazy, is more or less a statue in the field and strikes out at rates that make Dave Kingman look like a contact hitter. Of course, there are pluses: Dunn has inordinate power from the left side, draws a ton of walks and is impervious to injury. In other words, he’s Nick Johnson with more power and without the ability to get hurt simply by walking on a piece of bubble gum.

So, for the right price, I wouldn’t mind having Dunn on the team. I just don’t think it should be a very high price, given that this would be a two-month rental. And I’m beginning to think this is must-move for the Yankees. Not because they need Adam Dunn – the current DH rotation seems pretty effective – but because Brian Cashman hasn’t made a good personnel move since signing Mark Texeira two offseasons ago, and Cashman has already struck out twice this trading dealine (Cliff Lee and Dan Haren). I realize Hal and Hank aren’t as impetuous as their dad, but eventually they’re going to wonder if Cashman has lost his mojo – so the pressure may well be on in the front office for Cashman to show that he can still play with the big boys.

Somehow, I’m not going to be surprised to wake up Sunday morning to find out the Yanks sprung an 11:59pm deal to put Dunn in Pinstripes.

Hey Yankee Fans! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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This is a current list of players who are on the disabled list:

Alfredo Aceves:  Date: May 9th  Status: 15-Day DL  (Bulging disk in lower back)

Nick Johnson: Date: May 8th  Status: 60-Day DL (Sore right wrist)

Damaso Marte: Date: July 17th  Status: 15-Day DL (Inflamed left shoulder)

Sergio Mitre: Date: June 5th  Status: 15-Day DL (Oblique strain) *[Starting on Saturday]*

Andy Pettitte: Date: July 20th  Status: 15-Day DL (Strained left groin – out 4-5 weeks)

(more…)

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The first half of the season is over and the Yankees are right where we expected them: in first place in the brutal AL East with the best record in baseball. That they’ve accomplished this feat is nothing short of incredible, considering the tepid seasons so far from Mark Texeira and Curtis Granderson, and the non-seasons from Nick Johnson and the departed Randy Winn.

The reason the team has done so well is that the starting rotation has performed even better than most people anticipated. That’s saying quite a bit, as this was expected to be one of the five best rotations in the majors. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the majors-leading48 wins (against only 21 losses) is beyond all expectations. That the Yanks have three starting pitchers on this year’s all-star team is proof that other players and teams agree the Yanks rotation has been the best in baseball.

So why dominance beyond that expected of other outstanding rotations? Could the answer be that Dave Eiland is a modern-day pitching genius?

Um, actually…not so fast.

A case can be made that Eiland has been anything but a pitching genius. And that the rotation, while very good, has actually been pitching below what could have been expected of them. I realize that much was written about how Eiland’s return from a still unexplained leave of absence seems to have rejuvenated AJ Burnett. And undoubtedly, Burnett’s horrible June and July resurgence coincided with Eiland’s disappearing act. But, on the whole, the staff has pitched below what might be expected of them based on their career averages. Consider the chart below:

Name

ERA

fIP

fIP-ERA

WHIP

H/9

HR/9

BB/9

SO/9

SO/BB

Andy Pettitte

2.70

3.73

-1.03

1.147

7.5

0.9

2.8

6.9

2.49

Pettite Career

3.86

3.70

0.16

1.353

9.3

0.8

2.8

6.6

2.34

CC Sabathia

3.09

3.69

-0.60

1.137

7.4

0.8

2.8

7.1

2.54

Sabathia Career

3.59

3.58

0.01

1.226

8.2

0.8

2.8

7.5

2.68

Phil Hughes

3.65

3.55

0.10

1.178

8.0

1.0

2.6

8.1

3.14

Hughes Career

4.01

3.70

0.31

1.246

8.1

0.9

3.1

8.2

2.65

Javier Vazquez

4.45

4.70

-0.25

1.221

7.4

1.4

3.6

7.6

2.11

Vazquez Career

4.20

3.82

0.38

1.244

8.8

1.2

2.4

8.1

3.40

A.J. Burnett

4.75

4.66

0.09

1.472

9.4

1.1

3.8

6.8

1.76

Burnett Career

3.90

3.85

0.05

1.310

8.0

0.9

3.8

8.3

2.19

Rotation 2010

3.68

4.04

-0.36

1.227

7.9

1.0

3.1

7.3

2.34

Rotation Career

3.91

3.73

0.18

1.286

8.7

0.9

2.8

7.6

2.75

A real danger sign that a pitcher is getting better results than ought to be expected is when FIP is more than .2 runs higher than his ERA. Put another way, when FIP is significantly higher than ERA, it’s an indication that the defense is making a habit of bailing a pitcher out of trouble. Right now, as a staff, the rotation’s FIP is .36 runs better than their combined ERA. Three pitchers are, based on the numbers, getting more defensive support than should realistically be anticipated: Andy Pettite, CC Sabathia and Javier Vazquez. I wouldn’t be surprised to see their individual ERA’s rise to more closely resemble their FIP by the end of the season. Unless the offense gets untracked, the results will be a dismal second half performance in the W/L column. For Pettite especially, that would spell disaster – but the reality is, his FIP in 2010 is remarkably consistent with his career FIP, so figuring he gives up an additional run per game in the second half is not unreasonable.

[By the way, for those of you who aren’t part-time sabermatricians or are otherwise unfamiliar with the alphabet-soup of baseball statistics, FIP stands for “Fielding Independent Pitching.” It’s a measure of how well a pitcher controls the parts of the game that don’t rely on defense: walks, home runs allowed and strike-outs. ERA, or “Earned Run Average” measures the number of how many runs a pitcher has actually allowed per 9 innings pitched, after removing runs allowed because of a fielding error. When you compare the two, you get a sense of how well a pitcher’s defense has contributed to their success. For example, this year Andy Pettite has a FIP that is more than 1 run per game higher than his ERA – an indication that the Yankee D has bailed him out quite a bit. Were he pitching for a team with a more porous defense, Andy’s ERA would likely be significantly higher. A great primer FIP can be found here.]

The real reason I’m not about to anoint Eiland as a genius just yet, though, has to do with those career numbers. As a whole, the rotation is pitching to an ERA that is .23 rpg better than their career aggregate. But I have a feeling that number is about to get flipped: the FIP is .31 rpg worse than the career aggregate, with only one starter – Phil Hughes – pitching to a better FIP in 2010 than in his career. Equally disturbing, the FIP/ERA differential is upside down by .54 rpg from the aggregate career average. And you can’t put either of the career to season discrepancies on Burnett’s June implosion – if you took his numbers out of the rotation, they get worse: the FIP difference goes up to .56 rpg and the career FIP difference goes up to .34 rpg.

So, it seems fair to say that Dave Eiland is not the reason for the Yankees pitching prowess and may actually be doing something to mess things up. In fact, it seems that the real reason the Yanks have bolted out to the best record in baseball may be their defense. This starts to become even more evident when you take a close look at the peripherals: K/BB ratio is down, BB/9 are up and yet, overall WHIP is lower than the career numbers. That’s evidence that a lot of balls that used to find grass are being turned into outs.

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Ever since the injury to Nick Johnson, there have been debates to who should be the right person to bat second. I am reminded of some very wise words, stats don’t lie. As you can see from the table below, Brett Gardner and Nick Johnson both have had the most AB in the 2 hole. Johnson having the better OBP — by .050 — but with Gardner having 8 more hits and thus almost .100 higher batting average. I do realize that Granderson has a .429 OBP, but that is over 12 at bats and is likely to go down with more time in the 2 hole.

AB ? R H HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP
Brett Gardner 75 13 20 1 4 4 6 16 .267 .321
Nick Johnson 71 12 12 2 8 0 22 23 .169 .379
Nick Swisher 45 8 11 3 5 0 7 7 .244 .346
Curtis Granderson 12 4 4 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .429
Marcus Thames 3 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 .333 .250
Jorge Posada 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000
Randy Winn 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Golson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team Total 207 37 48 6 19 4 36 50 .232 .352
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/2/2010.

If Swisher continues to hit the way he is, I don’t see why the Yankees would need anyone else to hit 2nd. Time will tell.

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Nick Johnson will be undergoing surgery on his right wrist tomorrow morning, which will prevent him from swinging a bat for 4-6 weeks. He’s already been suffering from an inflamed tendon in his wrist, but obviously it’s in worse shape than originally thought.

I don’t expect the guy to come back any time soon, and who knows if we’ll even see him on the field for the rest of the season. You never know. The guy will be out 4-6 weeks, while not being able to swing a bat. The man will than have to go on a rehab assignment in late June or early July and get ready to join the club. If he has any setbacks, you can forget about him. Let’s hope for a fast recovery.

Now, Girardi’s lineup has gotten shorter and he’ll be forced to rotate the DH spot more than he already has. There’s also a chance that the Yankees could find themselves in the market for a DH later in the season.

According to Marc Carig, Johnson is scheduled for surgery at 7:30AM tomorrow morning.

“It’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “We’ll get it fixed and I’ll be able to swing pain-free, and we’ll go from there.”

“I believe we’re going to get him back, but I don’t believe that we’re going to get him back in four weeks or three weeks like we anticipated,” manager Joe Girardi said.

“I’ve had shots on it before, and last year I didn’t have problems in it at all, so I thought the shot would work,” Johnson said. “It was stagnant. It didn’t get better or worse.”

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Robinson Cano and Nick Johnson left last night’s game with injuries. The list of injuries on this team keeps on growing. The most important thing is that the majority of these injuries aren’t very serious. The other thing that helps is that the Yankees keep on winning.

Granderson hit the DL with a strained groin. Pettitte (elbow tightness), Posada (sore calf) and Mo (sore left side) all had minor injuries that caused a stir, but they should all be fine. Johnson will be getting an MRI today on his sore right wrist, and will be headed to the DL. Cano was drilled with a 92-mph fastball to his left knee, but it’s only a day-to-day injury. He’ll probably be back within the next couple of days. We all thought Posada was supposed to be in today’s lineup, but he’s not. Extra rest? Marcus Thames will most liekly be the primary DH while Johnson is on the disabled list.

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