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Posts Tagged ‘Ramiro Pena’

On his blog, Bryan Hoch reports that in the greatest upset since the St. Louis Browns 1944 World Series win, neither Jesus Montero nor Austin Romine will break camp with Yankees. Instead, the backup catcher (at least for now) is Gustavo Molina. In other news, the primary back-up infielder for the past two years, Ramiro Pena, is on his way to Scranton. His roster spot is taken by Eduardo Nunez.

You can read all the details here.

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Yesterday, I reviewed the Baby Bomber’s pitchers and catchers and evaluated their chances of making the opening day roster. Today it’s time for the infielders and outfielders. Unlike the wealth of talent behind the dish and on the rubber, there isn’t any outstanding talent in these spots, but there are some intriguing guys who might help out somewhere along the line.

Infielders – Let’s face it. As fans, we don’t want another season of Ramiro Pena’s average glove and Mario Mendoza bat. And while Kevin Russo seems like a nice kid, he wasn’t any better. Who might replace him?

Eduardo Nunez: If any of the young infielders in camp have a sincere chance of unseating Pena, this is the guy. He continues to hit decently, showing some line-drive power and decent speed. He isn’t the smoothest guy in the field, but he isn’t a liability, either. Besides, he is the guy who was supposed to replace Derek Jeter had Armageddon come to the Bronx this past winter.

Eduardo Nunez

Eduardo Nunez

Reegie Corona: Quite frankly, I don’t see much difference between Corona and Pena. Both of them get the bat knocked out of their hands by anyone who throws harder than 85mph. Both are competent, but not other-worldly, fielders. He looks targeted for AAA Scranton and will likely be first guy up should Jeter or Robbie Cano get injured.

Brandon Laird: The Yankees are sending the natural 3B to AAA Scranton to learn a “super-utility role” – 3B, 1B, RF, LF. It makes sense since both 1B and 3B are sewed up for the next few years. And I doubt the front office wants to keep bringing in retreads for reserve RH bench spots, when there may well be a better option in the high minors.

Jorge Vazquez: Look, when you’re 29 and never been on a major league roster, you might want to start thinking about taking the Crash Davis route. Vazquez possesses a slider speed bat but can’t hit breaking balls. He plays the corner spots, but is known in the minors as a defensive liability at third and barely adequate at first. He does have power and displayed it against other minor leaguers early in camp. He’s a classic “AAAA” player – too good for AAA, but will get eaten alive in MLB.

Outfielders – Fortunately, the Yanks don’t really need anything other than competent bench players here, because this is easily the most underwhelming part of the minor league system.

Justin Maxwell: Ok, so he isn’t exactly a rookie, with 122 major league appearances over three seasons. But the Nationals aren’t exactly a MLB club, either. He has a career ML slash line of .201/.319/.379 with a .698 OPS. What he brings to the table is decent speed, the ability to play all 3 OF positions adequately and the high expectations from his college career at Maryland. Hopefully, a full season at AAA (something he never got from Washington) will help him rediscover the form that made him a 1st round pick.

Colin Curtis: Yankee fans got a glimpse of Curtis last year, when he appeared in 31 games for the Bombers. He didn’t really impress, putting up a .538 OPS in 64 plate appearances. (Although he did hit a memorable homer against the Angels). The former Arizona State standout may have reached his limit. If so, that would be a shame because he certainly has a compelling back story.

Greg Golson: Yet another player that fans have seen in Pinstripes, the 25 year old Golson also saw MLB time while with the Phillies and Rangers. He has become a speedy defensive specialist, and his arm proved invaluable in a key game against the Rays last year. Still, he needs to do better than his career MiLB slash line of .263/.309/.398 if he wants to stick with the big club.

Melky Mesa

Melky Mesa: Another long shot, the 24 year old Mesa has played 5 seasons of MiLB and never reached AA. He does have speed and power but his strikeout percentage (.319) is higher than his on base percentage (.307), never a good sign. I hope he figures it out, since he is the prototypical 5 tool player. The Yanks are taking something of a chance, assigning him to AAA to start the season and skipping AA entirely.

Jordan Parraz: In 7 minor league seasons, the 26 year old former Astros and Royals farmhand has compiled a MiLB slash line of .289/.376/.438, which is decent. But he may be another case of the classic “AAAA” player, since he has yet to see the majors despite an ability to play all three OF spots and good peripherals in the minors.

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I’ve been hearing a lot of rumbling from some folks about the lack of offense during Spring Training. Folks, it’s only Spring Training. What’s more, it’s early in Spring Training. If you’re thinking you’ll be seeing this much of Ramiro Pena come the regular season, then you are probably a lost cause. Of course, if you also think this is really a preview of things to come, then I suppose we should fit Ivan Nova for a Cy Young trophy now, as he’d have the most incredible season in history. For that matter, unheralded Jorge Vazquez would slam 72 homers (career high in MiLB: 33, 5 years ago). In other words, you can’t place any faith in Spring Training statistics. Guys don’t play complete games, the level of competition is all over the place and both managers and players are trying different things to see how they work. But in case you’re the type who does place a misguided faith in the numbers, consider this: so far, the nine guys who comprise the Yankee’s starting line-up have accounted for just 39% of the team’s plate appearances this spring. As a group they’ve combined for an .282 batting average and slugged their way to an .831 OPS. That is otherworldly production. Here’s the breakdown: 

ST Stats through March 13, 2011

I’ll take this level of production over 162 games, along with Nova’s Cy Young. :)

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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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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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Throughout the season, you kept on hearing about how well the Yankees were playing and why they were the favorites to win the World Series. They spent 94 days in first place. On the other hand, the Texas Rangers were certainly considered a formidable opponent, but you didn’t hear people talk about them like they were on top of the American League. The Yankees, Rays and Phillies were thought to be the strongest teams in all of baseball.

By Season Half: New York Yankees

First Half: (W-L, 56-32) RS: 469  RA: 352  WP: .636

Second Half: (W-L, 39-35) RS: 390  RA: 341  WP: .527

As the season was winding down, the Yankees looked as if they were dragging their feet across the finish line. They weren’t playing like they did in the first half of the season. Girardi was resting players when they didn’t lock up the AL East division. I just never understood how you could bench your starters (even if they could use a day of rest) if you are in the middle of a pennant race. The bottom of the lineup consisted of Ramiro Pena, Austin Kearns and Juan Miranda. That wasn’t going to cut it with the fans. It’s always good to give your players a rest, especially if you expect to go deep into October, but you can do all that once you lock up that playoff spot.

The month of September didn’t turn out  the way the Yankees had envisioned it. It wound up being the worst month of the season, compiling a W-L record of 12-15 (.444). They were playing under .500 baseball during the most important part of the season. Their offense may have been doing just fine during that period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficits the pitching staff was placing them in. In the last 12 games of the regular season, the pitching was horrendous, allowing an average of 6.3 runs per game. In that time, they went from 2.5 games up in the division to 1 game back. In the end, the Yankees (95-67) handed the division over to the Rays (96-66). You were actually hearing rumblings from the fans about how they “might not make the playoffs” (even though they had a nice lead over the Red Sox) during the month of September. They took the AL Wild Card and stumbled into the postseason. They had a clean slate after that. They gained some confidence when they swept the Twins in the ALDS. After seeing the Rangers take the Rays in five games, it looked like Texas was for real.

The Yankees took Game #1 of the ALCS, but you wouldn’t see them laughing after that. The Rangers would go on to win the next three games of the series (Lewis won Game #2, Lee won Game #3, & blew out the Yankees 10-3 in Game #4). Lewis pitched really well for the Rangers, but he’s not the type of pitcher who should be shutting down the Yankees. The ball was given to CC Sabathia in Game #5, and he pitched well enough to force a Game #6 (even though he didn’t have his best stuff that day).

The Yankees had their season lay in the balance, and they gave Phil Hughes the ball. Colby Lewis shut down the Yankees offense in embarassing fashion. The Rangers batters eventually got to Hughes in the 5th inning, and it was all over. You can blame the manager in some instances, you can blame the lineup and the pitching staff. In general, the team didn’t play up to what they were really capable of. There were a few players who stood out, such as Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Curtis Granderson. That wouldn’t be enough to get this team to the Fall Classic. The Rangers simply outplayed them in every facet of the game.

We all saw the Rays get knocked off by the Rangers, the Rangers eliminate the Yankees and the Giants beat the Phillies. Now, you can ask yourself..how did that happen? Back in July, the Rangers swooped in and grabbed Cliff Lee from the Mariners, which made them a major threat to anyone they would face in the postseason. Their offense was rolling on all cylinders, and the young arms on the team raised their level of play when it mattered most. Some might say the New York Yankees were the better team, but they simply didn’t step up in big situations. During the regular season, the Yankees went 4-4 against Texas. The Rangers came to play, and they earned every right to be in the World Series. Sometimes, the better team doesn’t always win.

  (2nd From L-R) Kerry Wood #39, Mariano Rivera #42, Derek Jeter #2, And Andy Pettitte #46 Of The New York Yankees Look

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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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In an earlier post, I discussed Javier Vazquez‘s recent ineffectiveness and his “dead arm.” I postulated the idea that this is the perfect opportunity to skip him once or twice through the rotation, see if his arm strength returns in September and take it from there. I fretted about the cumulative effect of having an ineffective Vazquez, an inconsistent AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes’ innings limit will have on the team as a whole and on the bullpen in particular.

If you watched last night’s game, you saw everything I’m worried about in a nutshell.

I realize the offense was pathetic and if the team had hit – even just a little bit – they likely win that game. I realize, too, that mid-August is not the time for a team-wide slump (but anytime your line-up includes Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner you’re not likely to see much offense, anyway). And I know Joe Girardi publicly blasted the team for the overall horrible way they played yesterday. But let’s have a reality check here: Javy’s performance last was the epitome of “it’s better to be lucky than good.” He pitched with men on base throughout his four innings of work and every ball the Tigers hit seemed to leave a vapor trail. Once again, his average fastball clocked in at 87mph – below his season average of 89mph and more than 4mph below his career average.

At this point, the question isn’t if Javy can be effective pitching without velocity. The answer is patently obvious – he can’t. The question now is, what do the Yankees do about it? I can’t see them throwing him out there again without having Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre warmed and ready to go in the first inning. Much as the Mets found themselves doing earlier this season with John Maine, it may be time for the Yanks to tell Javy he’s hurt and DL him. Even though you might think that Vazquez would let somebody know if he’s hurt, this is a guy with a track record for hiding injuries. The last time he was in pinstripes, much the same thing happened – and it can be argued that it cost the team a chance to repeat as AL Champions that year. And this year, facing free agency at the end of the season, Vazquez has even more reason to hide an injury – even if it costs the team a chance to defend their World Championship. As bad as he’s been lately, he still has a chance at a decent contract with a 2nd division team. But nobody will give a 35 year old pitcher coming off an injury much in the way of a contract – a fact Vazquez has to be aware of.

Regardless of his health, the team simply cannot let him pitch until they know he can be effective. The race is too tight to let the bullpen eat up this many innings on a nightly basis. If they aren’t going to DL him and bring up a serviceable starter in his stead, then the least they can do is skip his next turn or two and let Mitre or Gaudin take the turn. While they’re not exactly world-beaters (there IS a reason they’re in the bullpen, after all), it would give Vazquez a chance to rest his arm and the Yankees a chance to see if he can be counted on for the stretch run.

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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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  Adam Dunn #44 Of The Washington Nationals HitsWith the non-waiver trade deadline now only two weeks away, this seems an opportune time to look at some of the current rumors surrounding the Yankees. Below are the players most recently linked to the Yankees by various sources, including MLB Trade Rumors, River Avenue Blues, ESPN and FOX Sports. I’ve included some personal thoughts on whether I think the player would help or hurt the drive for 28. By the way, I suspect that with AJ Burnett‘s tantrum yesterday and Andy Pettite‘s injury meaning he’s likely lost for at least a month, this list will be changing rapidly.

Adam Dunn (1B/OF, Washington Nationals): Easily the most controversial player on the board, but it may be a moot point. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is pretty much asking for the moon for a guy that would essentially be a rental, since his contract ends this season. What Dunn brings is home runs and a lefty bat, but that’s about it. The guy runs as well as a fire hydrant and strikes out at a seemingly impossible pace (he owns three of the top five strikeout totals in ML history). And forget about that “1B/OF” designation; the only position he can field adequately is Hot Dog Stand. The reality is, Dunn is this generation’s version of Dave Kingman. Still, the Yankees can pencil him in as DH, hit him 7th or 8th in the order and learn to live with his all-or-nothing approach. Only thing is, Dunn has made it abundantly clear he doesn’t want to DH. That stance would pose a real headache for Joe Girardi. Opinion: Skip him. A one-dimensional player with the ability to turn into a clubhouse cancer isn’t what the team needs and besides, the asking price is likely outrageous.

Joakim Soria (RHP, Kansas City Royals): If you can pry him loose, this one may be a no-brainer. Soria is currently the closer for yet another woeful Royals team and possesses a 93mph cutter and devastating change. (Remind you of anyone currently on the roster?) Unusual for a closer, he also features two other secondary pitches – a sharp breaking slider and a curve. He’s only 26 and under team control for another two seasons after this one. He not only fits as a terrific 8th inning guy, but projects as Mariano Rivera‘s heir apparent. (Hey, he is 25 for 27 in save opportunities for a horrible team). The problem is with prying him away from KC – they are likely to ask for half the roster from Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Still, it might be doable. KC is well stocked at catcher, 3B and 1B and would likely want outfield and/or pitching help. Opinion: If he can be had for anything less than Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, Brian Cashman needs his head examined if doesn’t trade for him.

Wes Helms (3B/1B, Florida Marlins): I have to admit this one has me scratching my head. Yes, he can play third and the Yankees have spent all season looking for a suitable backup for Alex Rodriguez. But the guy is hitting .243 this year with a .690 OPS. While those numbers do represent an upgrade from Ramiro Pena and Kevin Russo, it isn’t by an overwhelming amount. Helms is 36, has been declining for the past few years and would represent a rental – his contract expires at the end of the season. Bringing Helms aboard would also mean wasting a roster spot for a guy to back up third base – the Yankees can play either Nick Swisher or (gulp) Marcus Thames at first, if needed. Opinion: skip him. He doesn’t offer enough versatility to be a bench player on this team.

Leo Nunez (RHP, Florida Marlins): Nunez is an interesting player. Over the past 1 ½ seasons, he’s racked up 47 saves for the Marlins. Prior to that, he pitched to a 1.4 WHIP and 4.92 ERA in 106 appearances for the Royals. He features a plus fastball but can be a bit wild at times. In other words, he represents more upside than most of the relievers on the trade market, but is still somewhat typical of why trading for relievers can be a roll of the dice. If he winds up in the Yankee pen, does he replicate his Marlins numbers? Or does he revert to his KC form? If the former, he would easily be the 8th inning guy for Joe Girardi. If not, then the Yankees have an older version of Joba Chamberlain on their hands. Since at this point the Marlins aren’t conceding the NL East, you have to wonder why they would put their closer on the market. Opinion: Nunez could be a good play for the Yankees, provided the asking price isn’t too high. If he can be had for, say, Jonathon Albaladejo, I say make the trade.

Cody Ross (CF/RF/LF, Florida Marlins): So, how much would you pay for a 29 year old outfielder who is not exactly known for plate discipline, but has shown some power in the past and is having down season? Ross would essentially replace Thames on the Yankees roster and despite his down year, represents a significant upgrade over the incumbent. While he will never be mistaken for Willie Mays, Ross isn’t a defensive liability, having played a slightly better than major league average OF, regardless of which position he’s slotted. I would imagine of particular interest to the Yankees is Ross’ career .950 OPS against left-handed pitching, since he most likely would slot into a semi-platoon with Curtis Granderson. I can also understand the Marlins wanting to move Ross; they’ve had a logjam in the outfield ever since they recalled Mike Stanton. Opinion: Getting Ross would be a good move for Brain Cashman, but getting the Marlins to agree on a price could prove difficult. They still view him as a starter while the Yankees would use him as part-timer. Could a Nunez/Ross deal be swung for Albaledejo, Reegie Corona, Zach McAllister and another low-minors prospect? That would be worthwhile, I think.

Well, there’s my take on the rumors as of Sunday afternoon. As always, your feedback is welcome – let me know if you agree or disagree!

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Here are a bunch of updates courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com:

The Yankees are focused on improving their offense right now. Olney wonders if the Yanks could pursue a powerful infielder like Ty Wigginton. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports listed some easier-to-obtain infielders yesterday.

The Yankees are not actively looking for a utility infielder, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal names Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Jayson Nix as options the Yanks could consider should they decide that they want more experience than Kevin Russo and Ramiro Pena can offer.

The Yankees now seem like the favorites to sign Lee this winter, but could they acquire the lefty during the season? They will call the Mariners in case they like the asking price for Lee, but the Yanks don’t seem like a fit.

  Starting Pitcher <strong><a href=Cliff Lee #36 Of The Seattle Mariners Pitches” width=”500″ />

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The Pitching:

It seems as if A.J. Burnett is turning a point in his Yankee career. The guy isn’t walking the ballpark anymore, and he looks completely dominant so far this season.

Burnett hurled 7 1/3 innings, allowing an unearned run on 5 hits. His final pitching line was: (W, 4-0) 7.1IP 5H 1R 0ER 2BB 8K (107 Pitches, 68 for Strikes). Damaso Marte and Alfredo Aceves both came on in relief, each recording an out to finish up the 8th inning. With Mariano Rivera still out, Joba Chamberlain had to nail down the save. Joba posted up a scoreless frame, striking out two batters in the process to record the save (S,2). 

The Offense:

Francisco Cervelli has done a fantastic job filling in for Jorge Posada in the lineup. He went 3-for-3, and collected two runs on the game. Brett Gardner went 1-for-3, picking up 2 runs, a walk and a stolen base (SB, 12). Robbie Cano went 2-for-4

Swisher, Teixeira and A-Rod went a joint 0-for-9. Alex did pick up an RBI when he was walked (with the bases loaded), forcing a runner to cross the plate.

Final Score: Yankees 4, Orioles 1

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