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Monthly Archives: December 2006

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What Would Andy Do?

“My elbow feels pretty good,” Pettitte said. “My wife and kids have no desire for me to retire right now. They don’t want me to be at the house. I thought they would.”
(N.Y. Times)

Andy Pettitte addressed the Houston media yesterday.

That is all.

Andy’s Heart May Be In Houston, But His Arm is Back in the Bronx

Good Andy Pettitte coverage by Jack Curry and Tyler Kepner in The Times this morning. The Astros were evidentally the southpaw’s first cherce, but Houston would not go near a second year. Pettitte still has to take a physical, which won’t happen for another nine days (Andy and his father are headed to South Texas for a previously-planned hunting trip). Here’s Tom Pettitte, Andy’s old man:

“I never wanted him to leave New York to begin with, as far as where his baseball numbers were going to stack up,” Tom said. “I always thought he could get to 200 wins as a Yankee. Now the ironic thing is he’ll have a chance to win his 200th game with the Yankees.”

…”The Yankees were always a special part of his life, no question,” Tom Pettitte said. “When he was deciding to pitch down here, he said: ‘I’m a Yankee. I’ll always be a Yankee.’ That’s how he understood it. Now he gets to go back and be a Yankee again.”

Joel Sherman likes the move, and here is one of the reasons why:

The team’s prospects get more than a great role model to see in spring training. Pettitte’s arrival also means the Yanks can keep all of their prospects, notably Phil Hughes, in the minors to begin the season to continue their education. No one has to be rushed now. This also provides a stockpile of options for when the inevitable injuries occur. Between Double-A and Triple-A, the Yanks should have Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and Steven White vying to be summoned. It is the best Yankees depth in a while.

Again, while the Yankees don’t have that one guy that strikes you as a true ace, they’ve got a nice group of veteran starters. As Sherman notes, they also have depth, a bunch of young arms. That hasn’t been the case in New York for more than a minute now. I know that I feel more confident about their starting pitching this morning than I did a week ago. Beauty, eh?

Back in the Fold

According to Buster Olney, Andy Pettitte will sign a one-year deal worth $16 million. He will also have a player option for 2008. The Big Unit, Chien-Ming Wang, Mikey Moose, Andy, and ? That’s not too terrible. Not really a proper Ace in there, but four very solid B/B+ pitchers. Funny, I wasn’t sorry to see Pettitte go, but if the report is true, I’m happy to see him back. Go figure.

Update: Our man on the spot, Pete Abraham confirms the story. Andy’s back.

The Big Chill

Yo, dudes and dudettes: It is b-r-i-c-k in New York this morning. First stupid cold day of the winter. Good gosh. I spend the winter months bitching and moaning about the cold while Emily whines all summer about the heat. Everything evens out in the end, right?

So, according to Nick Cafardo, the bloom is off the rose for Theo Epstein up in Boston. Murray Chass reports that all may not be kosher with the way the Sox are doing business. There has been talk this week that the negotiations with D. Matsuzaka have hit some trouble, but I figure Boston will get their man when all is said and done. Our man out west, Rich Lederer likes what the Sox have done so far.

Meanwhile, closer to home, nothing to do but wait and see what’ll happen with Andy P.

Sweating the Small Stuff

For the first time in eleven years, the Yankees have claimed a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Back in December 1995, the player they claimed from the Brewers was Marc Ronan, a then-26-year-old catcher who had caught six games for new Yankee manager Joe Torre’s Cardinals in 1993. Those six games were destined to be Ronan’s only major league appearances. With the newly acquired Joe Girardi, Jim Leyritz and a rookie named Jorge Posada in camp, Ronan was cut in spring training. This year, the Yankees’ claim is far more compelling: former Baseball Prospectus cover boy Josh Phelps.

Phelps fits the description of the right-handed power-hitting first baseman the Yankees were looking for, though whether or not he does so any more than Andy Phillips, who is still on the roster, or Craig Wilson, who may yet be resigned, is questionable. Phelps, now 28, came up with the Blue Jays as a catcher and, arriving directly from double-A, went 0 for 13 in two sips of coffee in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 he abandoned catching and split the year between triple-A Syracuse and Toronto, mashing the ball in both places as a DH/first baseman. It was at this point that Phelps became a cover boy. At age 24, he was drawing comparisons to a young Dale Murphy, another tall, lean, powerful, right-handed-hitting converted catcher. Pegged as a future star in Toronto, Phelps suffered a slight sophomore slump in 2003. When his struggles got even worse in 2004, the Blue Jays dealt him to Cleveland for never-was Eric Crozier. Phelps did better with the Indians, hitting .303/.338/.579 over the remainder of the season, but departed for Tampa Bay as a free agent that winter. In Tampa, Phelps lost his DH job to Jonny Gomes after hitting .266/.328/.424 through June 5. He hasn’t appeared in the majors since then, but he had his best season since 2002 with triple-A Toledo in the Tigers’ system last year. Coming off that .303/.370/.532 season, Phelps signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on November 15, but the O’s left him unprotected and the Yankees, against whom Phelps has hit .318/.369/.523 in 107 at-bats over his major league career, snapped him up.

The selection cost the Yankees $50,000 and the Yankees will have to offer Phelps back to Baltimore (in exchange for half of their money back) if they want to remove him from the 25-man roster at any point this season. Phelps will clearly compete directly with Andy Phillips this spring. Since Phillips is out of options, one of the two (if not both should Craig Wilson re-enter the picture) will likely be with another organization come opening day. With that, here’s a chart comparing Phelps, Phillips, Wilson, and a pair of similarly skilled lefty first basemen, Carlos Peña, who made a cameo as a Columbus Clipper in 2006 before making a briefer one in Boston at the end of the year and is once again a free agent, and Hee Seop Choi, who after all the hand wringing we did over his landing with the Red Sox, had an awful, injury-shortened year in Pawtucket and has since signed a minor league deal with the Devil Rays:

Name Age Hits ML AVG/OBP/SLG (AB) mL AVG/OBP/SLG (AB) 2006 AVG/OBP/SLG (AB-level)
Josh Phelps 28 R .268/.336/.473 (1203) .288/.360/.524 (2719) .308/.370/.532 (464-AAA)
Andy Phillips 29 R .228/.266/.391 (294) .295/.363/.516 (2530) .240/.281/.394 (246-MLB)
Craig Wilson 30 R .265/.354/.480 (1952) .275/.357/.496 (2271) .251/.314/.446 (359-MLB)
Carlos Peña 28 L .243/.331/.459 (1685) .283/.393/.510 (2485) .278/.383/.490 (418-AAA)
Hee Seop Choi 27 L .240/.349/.437 (915) .275/.380/.511 (1794) .207/.347/.361 (227-AAA)

Phelps stacks up well against that competition. If anything, his continued search for a major league contract may have as much to do with his glove as his bat. It remains to be seen whether or not Phelps, who has played the field in just 31 of his 343 post-catching major league games, can be trusted at first base. With Jason Giambi locked in at DH, his defense this spring is sure to be closely watched by Joe Torre and his staff. That said, mark Phelps down next to Brian Bruney and Darrell Rasner as further evidence that Brian Cashman and company are on point in all phases of their game.

“A” is for Lefty

So the word from Andy Pettitte’s camp is that the southpaw still wants to pitch in the big leagues. The Yankees are clearly hot for him and are reportedly prepared to pay him $15-16 million for 2007, and perhaps even give him a two-year deal when all is said and done. Now whether Pettitte’s agents are using the Bombers simply to get a better deal from the Astros, only time will tell. According to The Houston Chronicle:

The Astros’ excitement was a bit tempered by the realization that Pettitte hasn’t decided where he will play.

“We certainly are motivated,” [GM, Tim] Purpura said. “I think certainly Andy is motivated. I can only control our part of the process. They obviously will talk to other clubs and see what financial parameters they can glean from the other clubs.

“That part of it I can’t really tell you. Certainly from our point of view, we’re ready to move forward if we can make the right deal.”

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman had dinner with Scott Boras, Mike Piazza signed with the A’s, Freddy Garcia was moved to Philly, and the Cubs landed Ted Lilly.

Not the Retiring Type?

According to Tom Verducci, the Andy Pettitte situation is heating up:

The free-agent left-hander, who is strongly considering retirement, is said to be intrigued with the idea of returning to pinstripes and “could possibly have a deal by the end of the week” with New York, according to a baseball source familiar with the negotiations.

The Yankees are willing to wait as long as necessary for Pettitte, whose original timetable was to defer a decision on 2007 until later this month. Pettitte is the club’s No. 1 option because the former Yankee is New York-proven, is left-handed (possibly joining Johnson and Kei Igawa to give them three lefties in the rotation), does not require a lengthy term to his contract and is coming off an impressive second half of 2006.

In this market, the Yankees would do well to get Pettitte at two years and about $26 million.

I liked Pettitte when he was with the Yanks. How can any Yankee fan ever forget his performance in Game 5 of the 1996 World Serious? That said, I wasn’t sorry when he left. Though I’m generally not crazy about second-comings, I have to say, given what is out there, and the current state of the Yankees starting pitching, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see Pettitte return for a year or two, would you?

Strange Ways

Still nuthin’ doin’ from the Yanks, though reports have it that they are still interested in Andy Pettitte. Bill Madden reports:

As one rival AL scout observed in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel: “What’s with the Yankees? Are they even here? Everybody seems to be going crazy this winter and they’re just sitting back watching it all.”

“I’m patient,” said Cashman, “but I’ll be aggressive if it’s something that makes sense. At the same time, I’m more than willing to go into spring training with what I’ve got.”

I don’t think any of us would be surprised if the Yanks made a splashy move before the season begins (maybe a former fan lands a job in the front office, who knows?). That said, it sure is odd to see them so restrained. Time will tell if this is a good or a bad thing. A friend of mine wondered the other day whether or not the Red Sox are out-Yankeeing the Yankees. He worried that the Bombers could be left behind. But I’m not so sure. Hey, in Cashmoney, we trust, right? Muh-hu-ha-ha.

You Won’t Have Tanyon Sturtze to Kick Around Anymore

Actually, it wasn’t poor Tanyon that got so many Yankee fans hot-under-the-collar. It was the way Joe Torre used him. Anyhow, he’s an Atlanta Brave now. So long, Snoops. Thanks for the memories.

Meet and Greet

The rich seats just got more expensive at Yankee Stadium. There are slight price hikes all around, but nobody was hit harder than the rattle-your-jewelry crowd.

It’s a cool, crisp Saturday morning in the Bronx. The winter meetings are just a few days off. We’ll be able to follow them closely through a variety of sources, including Pete Abraham’s essential “Lo-Hud” blog. What do you think will shake down? Any hopes, any predictions? Whatta ya hear, whatta ya say?

Arbir Day

Major League Baseball’s new Basic Agreement, now in effect, mercifully stripped a lot of red tape out of the free agent process. Arbitration offers are still a part of the process, however, and midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their declared free agents. This deadline is far less significant than it used to be, however, since players not offered arbitration will still be able to resign with their former teams (under the previous Agreement they couldn’t do so until May 1 of the following season).

There are really just two remaining factors for teams to consider when deciding whether or not to offer arbitration. The first is that teams are only eligible to receive compensation for departed free agents to whom they did offer arbitration. Of course, with the elimination of compensation for Type C free agents and the reclassification of Type A and Type B players to the top 40 percent of the field (was the top 50 percent), this applies to a much smaller group of players. For example, the only Yankee free agent who falls within that top 40 percent is Ron Villone, who is a Type B (Mike Mussina was a Type A, but having resigned, that’s moot). For those players, however, the old catch remains. If you offer a player arbitration in the hope that he’ll sign with another team and bring you a compensation draft pick, you run the risk of that player accepting salary arbitration, which guarantees him a contract with your team for the following season.

Take the case of Villone, an undistinguished aging middle reliever who pitched way over his head for the first half of 2006 before bottoming out so severely that he ended up with an ERA below his already below league average career mark (how Elias subsequently placed him in the top 40 percent of all eligible free agents remains a mystery to me, though I believe playing time is a factor, and Villone did pitch in 70 games last year). Recent rumors have had Villone close to a contract with the Cleveland Indians, which suggest the Yankees may want to offer him arbitration in order to land a supplemental round pick in next June’s amateur draft. Then again, Villone is also a New Jersey native who grew up a Yankee fan and is thus a prime candidate to accept the Yankees’ arbitration offer, thus requiring them to pay for his age-37 season. In the David Parrish and Drew Henson era, the risk of Villone accepting arbitration wouldn’t be worth the shot at a draft pick, but now that the Yankees are making the most of their draft picks, the shot at an extra pick is awfully tempting.

According to Peter Abraham, there are a few free agent deals on the table that are just waiting for tonight’s deadline to pass in order to find out if compensation will be part of the cost. Those deals must be for Type A players, as the picks given in compensation for Type B free agents are supplemental round picks only, meaning they are not picks taken away from the signing team, but additional picks added to the draft specifically for compensation purposes. Remarkably, nine Type A free agents have already been signed, guaranteeing that their old teams will offer arbitration in order to receive that compensatory pick.

Who’s on First?

While there is still hope that the Yankees will persue Craig Wilson as their second first baseman, The Post reports that Shea Hillenbrand is still in the mix. Over at the Times, Tyler Kepner writes that the Bombers are also looking at one Julio Zuleta, a 31-year old who has played in Japan for the past three seasons. The chief reason the Yanks are curious about Zuleta is that he’s faired well against D. Matsuzaka. Meanwhile, according to Newsday, Bernie Williams’ future with the Yankees is more than a little uncertain.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver