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Posts Tagged ‘Trade Rumors’

Ubaldo Jimenez

Some things are a given in life. The sun rises in the east. Commuter trains in New York are overstuffed and never run on time. The Yankees always make a trade in July.

Only, this year that last one might not happen.

It’s not for lack of need. The starting line-up is solid and the bench features guys who could start for better than half the teams in baseball. But the pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, is loaded with question marks. CC Sabathia is an unqualified ace; Mariano Rivera remains the king of closers and David Robertson has turned into one of the game’s most reliable set-up men. But the rest of the staff doesn’t inspire confidence on a daily basis.

The Yankees are plagued by the fact that among the presumed LCS teams, they’re the only team without a bona-fide number 2 starter. The Red Sox feature Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Phillies send Roy Halladay
and Cliff Lee. The Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Yankees keep hoping that AJ Burnett will be that number two guy – but after 2 ½ seasons of watching him implode at the most inopportune times, I can’t think of anyone who truly thinks he is. Bartolo Colon, based on his performance this year (7-6, 3.29 ERA, 8K/9) is probably the current #2, but he’s already thrown more innings than over the past 4 seasons combined and you have to worry about how much longer he can continue. Freddy Garcia keeps pulling magic acts on the mound, but his xFIP is nearly a half-run higher than his ERA; you get the feeling that sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Phil Hughes exploded on the scene in the first half of 2010, but since then he’s been less than a pedestrian pitcher (7-7, 5.76 ERA). Ivan Nova was sent back the minors earlier and despite showing signs of improvement when he was with the big club, he is nowhere near being a number two starter.

Likewise, the bullpen has a few holes. Rafael Soriano was brought in to be the primary set-up man, but he’s spent most of the season on the DL and was largely ineffective before getting hurt. Boone Logan is the supposed lefty specialist, but left handers are tuning him up to a 138 OPS+. While Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have been reasonably pleasant surprises, neither has experienced this level of success before. And heaven help us all if the abysmal Sergio Mitre is reactivated and added to the post-season roster.

So, like I said, the Yankees certainly have needs. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be anyone available in the trade market that can fill those needs. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Rockies
asking price (3 or 4 of the Yanks blue chip prospects) is insane. Jimenez had a terrific first half of 2010. Otherwise, he’s a sub-.500 pitcher with a career ERA of 3.87 – while pitching in the offensively challenged NL West. If Brian Cashman adds him at tomorrow’s deadline, I’ll be underwhelmed. The other starters rumored to be on the market also aren’t overly impressive. They range from the oft-injured Erik Bedard to the recalcitrant Hiroki Kuroda
to baseball’s version of a spoiled two-year old, Carlos Zambrano. In short, barring some sort of unexpected blockbuster, there simply isn’t anyone available who provides an upgrade over what the Yanks currently have on hand.

In terms of bullpen help, the Yanks are certainly looking for a left hander – but good luck finding anyone. The Orioles probably want to rid themselves of Mike Gonzales and his bloated contract, but he has had zero success in the AL. The A’s might be willing to part with Brian Fuentes, but I can’t imagine the Yankees assuming around $8.5 million in contract for a guy who has actually been worse against lefties than Logan. The only other name I’ve seen available is the Cubs John Grabow. Like Fuentes and Gonzales, he’s been more piñata than pitcher.

So, there you have it. Unlike past deadlines, this one is looking pretty quiet for the Yankee front office.

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For the past 2 ½ seasons, we Yankee fans have been on the Jesus Montero hype train, with appetites whetted by amazing tales of baseballs launched into orbit by the 21 year old phenom’s bat. Last season, we were shocked when we learned that Montero was nearly sent to Seattle for Cliff Lee. I think the shock was even more palpable when we discovered the reason the deal fell through wasn’t Yankee reservations about dealing the stud prospect. It was Brian Cashman‘s reluctance to send along Eduardo Nunez.

Still, entering this past offseason, the general assumption was that Montero would be joining the Yanks for 2011, sharing catching duties with Jorge Posada and perhaps Francisco Cervelli. Instead, Cashman signed Russell Martin. Martin has been solid this season – especially defensively. And that’s where the story of Jesus Montero seems to constantly wind up – with his defense, or rather, lack of defense. We all watched Jesus demonstrate how not to play catcher during Spring Training and further solidify the case that Montero actually projects to more of a Victor Martinez type – good bat, but his best defensive position is the bench.

And if that’s the case, he becomes a luxury for most teams: in the NL, he has nowhere to play. In the AL, he locks up the DH spot.

To make matters worse, the occasional rumors about his mental make-up seem to be holding true. He was recently benched for “attitude problems.” He seems to be taking his defensive struggles and expectations into his at-bats. So far at AAA this year, he’s hitting .283 with only a .747 OPS – or around 125 points lower than last year. More worrisome, his strike out percentage is higher: 22% this year from 17.7% last season while his power numbers are way down. Last year, he homered once every 24 plate appearances. This year, it’s once every 44. It has to concern the Yankees that this supreme talent may not be able to get his head into the game.

We’re now a year later and already Montero’s name has come up in trade rumors. Once again, the Yankees seem more willing to deal him than other top-flight prospects – and he recently dropped out of the top five baseball prospects for the first time since 2009. The organization obviously has reservations about his ability at the big league level, otherwise we wouldn’t have Cervelli on the ML roster. (Or Martin, for that matter). If he survives the trade season still wearing Baby Pinstripes, he will need to perform over the second half of the season and then show something in September with the big club. If not, I suspect will be gone this offseason in some package or another. And we’ll remember Montero the way we remember other über prospects who were never able to realize their full potential, from Ken Phelps to Roberto Kelly.

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In the last 24 hours, the Yankees’ apparent interest in Roy Halladay has seemingly amped up, with rumors flying left and right about what the Jays are demanding from Cashman, and what he’s considered moving. Jon Heyman is the main driver behind this, reporting that the Blue Jays demanded Hughes, Chamberlain and more for their ace pitcher, and later that Cashman apparently was willing to consider including Joba in the deal. This has (unsurprisingly) set off some interesting responses from Yankees’ Universe, where some are lamenting how we could possibly let go of someone of Joba’s immense talent, and some are offering to drive him to the airport themselves (though his probation ended a month or so ago).

Is it worth it to give up three and a third seasons of Joba Chamberlain for one and a third season of Roy Halladay? Unfortunately for rabid Joba fans (such as me) the answer is yes. Roy Halladay has already been worth 5.0 wins above average to the Blue Jays this season, as measured by fangraphs.com. Have a guess as to how many wins above average Joba has been worth in his career? That would be 5.4, with only 1.2 coming this season. Will Joba Chamberlain ever be as good as Roy Halladay is right now? It’s unlikely. What he is, is cheaper than Halladay, who will cost about $5 million over the remainder of the season, and $15.75 million next year.

The value of a win is a relative thing. If your team is set up to win, say, 85 games, and someone in your division is set to win 95, the value of adding one win is almost nothing. If adding a win gets you within 2 or 3 games of a playoff spot, the value ramps up a bit, as luck could end up awarding said slot to you. If you’re just about dead even in projections, the value of a win skyrockets.

The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are all very, very dangerous teams. One will be left off the playoff roster, and all three are looking to stock up bullets for the coming war. The value of an additional win (and Halladay may be worth more than one additional win relative to Joba over the remainder of the year–in fact, he probably is) is tremendous. (more…)

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