Are the Yanks buyers or sellers? Over at River Ave, Mike Axisa takes a look.
[Photo Via: Shawn O’Donnell]
The trade market was supposed to be the Yankees refuge from this year’s class of overpriced, and perhaps overrated, free agents. Brian Cashman has reportedly been kicking the tires on several young pitchers, but, at least at this point, the demands have been too extravagant. One of the names in which the Yankees were believed to have an interest was John Danks, but now even he is no longer eligible for consideration. After weeks of espousing a “rebuilding philosophy”, the White Sox did a semi-about face and signed Danks to a five-year, $65 million extension.
Beyond the disappointment expressed by Yankees’ fans, the Danks extension was greeted by two common reactions. The first was confusion, namely, why are the White Sox handing out lucrative contract extensions when GM Kenny Williams has repeatedly talked about being a seller this offseason? The second reaction was incredulity over the terms, especially when compared to two recent extensions for pitchers with a similar amount of service time (Chad Billingsley and Wandy Rodriguez). However, both of these responses seem to miss a key point. Danks is a uniquely talented young lefty.
At age 26, John Danks is not that much older than some of the prospects over which so many drool. The difference, of course, is the White Sox’ left hander has five full major league seasons under his belt, during which he has compiled a WAR of 19.2. Put in a historical context, only seven other left handers, age-26 or younger, had a higher WAR over their first five seasons, and most on the list that surround him went on to very successful careers (1,769 pitchers qualified for this screen). In other words, not only has Danks been pretty darn good, but the best may be yet to come.
Top-15 Young Southpaws, from 1901*
*Noodles Hahn’s career began in 1899, and his statistics before from 1899-1900 are excluded.
Note: Data is from first five seasons of left-handed pitchers age-26 or younger.
Although it should be noted that Danks’ performance has fallen off since his peak 2008 season, his peripherals are strong and, just as important, he is still relatively young. So, if his past performance and future potential are accurately depicted in the chart above, it’s easy to see why the White Sox would be willing to extend him even if in the midst of a rebuilding process. Talented young left handers are a very valuable commodity, and they tend to do very well in free agency. Had the White Sox allowed Danks to hit the open market after this season, there’s a good chance the then 28-year old would have commanded a contract well in excess of the extension he just signed. After all, the White Sox will be paying Danks over the next four years the same amount the Rangers just bid simply for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish. And, if other teams agree that Danks’ contract is a relative bargain, the White Sox should have no problem trading him should the organization determine that its “retooling” will take longer than expected.
In contrast to my viewpoint, some have suggested that the White Sox were overzealous in their decision to extend Danks because Billingsley and Rodriguez, two pitchers who have been statistically similar, recently signed three-year deals for $35 million and $34 million, respectively. Off the bat, the comparison to Rodriguez fails because the Astros’ lefty was 32 when he signed his extension, or one year older than Danks will be when his new deal expires. Billingsley, however, is a good comparison, but since when does one contract define the market?
As mentioned above, there is every reason to believe Danks would have been a very popular free agent in 2012, which seems much more relevant than what Billingsley accepted last spring. Furthermore, a comparison of the two contracts requires that one look at risk in two ways. In addition to the increased exposure to injury and underperformance that comes from a longer-term deal, teams must also consider the risk of replacement cost. Assuming Billingsley and Danks perform up to expectations, which is the basis for offering an extension in the first place, both pitchers will likely command another lucrative contract when their current one expires. Should that scenario come to fruition, the White Sox will likely be enjoying Danks’ age-31 season at a discount, while the Dodgers are forced to re-extend Billingsley one year earlier (Los Angeles has a $14 million option for 2014). Although a myriad of variables must be considered, many based on conjecture, the possibility of Danks’ longer deal being more cost effective can’t be ignored.
Who knows how seriously the Yankees and White Sox discussed a deal for John Danks? For months, I have been advocating (and hoping) for such an exchange, but now it’s time to move on to another target. Without many attractive options remaining (maybe Gio Gonzalez and Matt Cain), however, the new question becomes just how far to look ahead? Yankees’ fans may not like to hear this, but it’s entirely possible this offseason is simply laying the groundwork for winters to come.
The Yankees did not make a move before the trade deadline yesterday. Did Brian Cashman blow it? Or was he wise to not panic?
Here’s Joel Sherman in the Post:
Cashman said he never got close to a trade. Not for Ubaldo Jimenez. Not for Hiroki Kuroda. Not for Heath Bell. Not for anyone.
Instead, Cashman decided a 106-game sample size was significant. The Yanks are 64-42 after trouble was forecasted following Cliff Lee’s decision to go to Philadelphia and Andy Pettitte’s retirement. The Yankees have the majors’ third-best record, are sitting on Boston’s doorstep and are 6½ games up in the wild-card race.
So Cashman did not feel desperation, though he knew his trade-deadline inactivity would trigger a new round of “the Yankees are doomed.” Cashman, in fact, feels sure the Yankees have enough depth, even in pitching, to weather the rest of the season.
And over at The Yankee Analysts, Larry Koeslter writes:
Bottom line, Brian Cashman and company didn’t like any of the hypothetical deals they were mulling enough to pull the trigger, and that’s OK. The Rockies were asking for a Cliff Lee-type package for Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ubaldo is not Cliff Lee. NL Central lifer Wandy Rodriguez wasn’t exciting anyone enough to surrender anything worthwhile, and Hiroki Kuroda decided he likes being on a losing team too much to leave Los Angeles. I personally wouldn’t have minded seeing Erik Bedard come to the Bronx instead of Boston, but he’s not exactly a sure thing either.
One thing seems almost certain now — Jesus Montero will be making his Major League debut for the Yankees soon; it’s really just a matter of when. And with the news that Manny Banuelos was promoted to AAA today, it’s not out of the question that we could see the Yankees’ prize pitching prospect pitching important innings in another month as well.
Oh, and Alex Rodriguez comes back in roughly two weeks. So for those upset that the team didn’t make a trade, it’s probably best to keep in mind that help is still on the way, only this time it isn’t costing the Yankees anything except time.
[Photo Credit: Magritte via todayandtomorrow]
Think Brian Cashman has a to-do list before the trade deadline today at 4:00 p.m. The Yanks have been quiet thus far. Does this mean Cash is in stealth-mode or does this mean that nothing is going down? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, the Yanks have a game. And after yesterday, it would be a disappointment if they don’t handle the Orioles again today.
Stay cool and:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Herve Bertrand]
Where is the chatter about the approaching trade deadline? No discussions in the lunch room, no frantic refreshing at MLB Trade Rumors. The Yankees have one of the best teams in baseball and look like a great bet to make the Postseason without major roster modification, but that’s the case almost every year and there’s usually more buzz than this.
There is a lack of big names with expiring contracts for sale. The Red Sox and Yankees, usually two of the biggest dealers during this time, have better options in their farm systems than usual. The combination of top prospects and a shallow market might make these two clubs shy away from any blockbusters. Their relative security in the standings factors as well.
The Yankees hold a big lead in the Wild Card standings, but as currently constituted, are they a viable threat to the Red Sox in either the American League East or in a short series? Which target should Yankees aim at, the Red Sox or the Wild Card?
If the Yankees want to win the Wild Card, they shouldn’t do anything crazy. They have Rafael Soriano coming off the DL to enhance the bullpen and Jesús Montero and Iván Nova in the minors to bolster the lineup and rotation. It’s doubtful they could get much better than that on the trade market that would justify the expense in both dollars and players.
But is winning the Wild Card enough? The Yankees would probably have to win a road series in Texas (which they failed to do last year) to earn the right to face Boston in their park, for a best of seven ALCS (I’m giving Boston an easy win versus the AL Central champ. Prove me wrong, AL Central champ, prove me wrong.).
The Red Sox have trashed the Yanks thus far, but as 2009 showed, that early success can be irrelevant in October. And on paper, the Yanks and Red Sox don’t appear that far apart. The Yanks currently hold the better run differential and the better Pythagorean record. The Red Sox surge back ahead in both second and third order wins, though, so if you want to find the gap, you can.
Running the risk of oversimplifying a multi-faceted calculation, the quick-and-dirty in me sees two aces on Boston’s side and only one in New York. I also see Boston’s DH making a difference while New York’s sputters and fails. The Red Sox have the better top of the rotation, the better lineup, and the better bench. I don’t think the Yankees are winning a best-of-seven series against the Red Sox without the kind of good fortune that makes myths.
So what would it take to put that series in play? The Yankees want to pair another ace with CC Sabathia and they need to get something out of DH and/or catcher. For the Yankees to stand on even ground with Boston in October, they’d need to acquire the best hitter and pitcher available.
Right now, those seem to be Ubaldo Jiménez and Carlos Beltrán. To accommodate Beltrán, the Yankees could rotate men through the DH slot and demote Jorge Posada to back-up catcher and pinch hitter. Or they could cut him. And other than CC Sabathia, I think only Bartolo Colón has proven worthy for an October start, so plenty of room for Ubaldo.
Perhaps there are other big players hovering beneath the radar, but two major acquisitions would devastate Scranton, Trenton and probably Charleston as well. They’d certainly wave goodbye to their two best prospects, Montero and Manny Banuelos. And they’d probably lose Nova and a few like him who are ready for the Majors or close to it.
Even then, the Yanks would be underdogs in Fenway, where the Red Sox are their toughest. So the return for this huge expenditure is to move from severe underdogs to close underdogs. Is that enough to justify the cost?
I don’t think it does. If the top end talent in the Yankee system can help the Yankees in the very near future, they should hold onto them. The Yankees should know these kids better than anybody else and their job at the deadline is to not only make the team better for the upcoming Postseason, but to put them in the best shape possible for years to come.
What happens at this trade deadline will be a signal of the organization’s true feelings for their big prospects. If they are dumped for something less than stellar, we’ll have to conclude the Yankees didn’t believe in them. And if they hold onto them even though it concedes a clear edge to Boston from this point forward, that should mean they expect them to graduate to beating Boston as soon as next year.
Over at Baseball Think Factory, a heated debate has centered on Rafael Soriano’s decision to leave the clubhouse early on Tuesday night, before he could be grilled by reporters about his eighth inning blow-up at the hands of the Twins. Some posters have defended Soriano, saying that they do not want to listen to the media whine about the difficulty of doing their job. The Soriano defenders sympathize with him, saying that it’s understandable that he didn’t want to talk after such a poor performance. Others have criticized Soriano for failing to “face the music” after walking three batters, all of whom scored during Minnesota’s rally from a 4-0 deficit.
As someone who has worked in the media and has had to conduct interviews in locker rooms and clubhouses, I’ll always take the writers’ side on this issue. First off, those that think it is fun or glamorous to conduct interviews in a losing clubhouse, talking to guys who are probably not in the best of moods, are horribly mistaken. Reporters who venture into clubhouses do so because they are expected to by their bosses, whether it’s to pick up a good quote or two for the next day’s newspaper, or to come up with a sound bite that can be used on radio or TV. To me, it’s one of the least pleasant aspects of being a reporter/writer. So I figure that if I have to go into the clubhouse to do an interview, then athletes should shoulder a similar responsibility and make themselves available with a reasonable degree of civility.
Players who don’t stick around after wearing goat horns also place an unfair burden on their teammates, who are left trying to make explanations for the players who avoid the media. Do you really think that Russell Martin wants to sit there trying to explain what Soriano was doing wrong on the mound, or speculating about how he felt after blowing a four-run lead and essentially the game? A report in the New York Daily News indicated that several of the Yankee players were indeed upset with Soriano for leaving the clubhouse early and making them have to do the talking for him. We can be sure that at least one Yankee player pulled Soriano aside the next day and informed the temperamental reliever that he had made a bad choice. So it wasn’t just the Yankee front office that expressed its displeasure to Scott Boras, the agent for Soriano.
I’m not saying that it’s the law, or even a rule, that players must do this: I think it’s just the decent and ethical thing to do. Joe Sheehan and other Sabermetric Internet writers don’t care about players making themselves available because the kind of writing they do doesn’t depend on player interviews or quotes. They’re writing as analysts, and their writing is largely dependent on statistics and the evaluation of what they mean in regard to player performance. So how would Joe Sheehan and other writers react if teams and leagues didn’t make statistics available to the mass media? How would they feel if boxscores were not printed and statistics like on-base percentage or WHIP were not released to the public, but were instead treated as proprietary information? Would they be as quick to give teams a free pass for such a policy? After all, there’s no law or rule that says teams have to make this information available to the public for free. But once again, it’s the right thing to do.
As a fan, I don’t feel that I absolutely have to hear from the players after every game. A lot of what they say is clichéd and trite balderdash. If I hear “It is what it is” one more time, I may not be held responsible for my actions. But if a Yankee player screws up a game, I’d like to hear why it happened, or at least how it happened. And if a Yankee player blasts a game-winning home run, I’d like to hear him talk about it, even if it’s just for a moment.
The Yankee players seem to agree with that philosophy. For years now, their players have made a policy of always talking to reporters, even after losses and even after they themselves endured bad games. Yankee players believe in being accountable, and being willing to answer tough questions after difficult defeats. And they’re absolutely right about it. It’s called being a professional.
Interesting piece on stolen bases in the Wall Street Journal.
And, according to Jerry Crasnick, you won’t have ol’ Serge Mitre to kick around anymore.
[Painting by Roger Patrick]
According to reports, the Yanks have signed Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal.
[Photo Credit: FLC]
Some thoughts on the Rafael Soriano signing…
Soriano has a checkered injury history, and there is a better-than-average chance that somewhere in the course of his deal the Yankees will pay him to soak up the post-surgical sun. Despite this, the worst-case scenario is that they have a very qualified eighth-inning pitcher who can close on the off chance that Mariano Rivera needs to rest/is injured/suddenly pitches his age. Still, the Yankees had good bullpen resources and a lot of additional options for the pen in whichever of their 900 starting prospects they choose to demote from the rotation and groom for middle relief. Further, as good as Soriano is, he’s only going to give you somewhere between 60 and 75 innings, and as bad as some of the relievers looked in the 2010 postseason, those innings aren’t going to be so much better than what the holdovers would have delivered that the extra outs really justify the move. There has to be another shoe yet to drop for this move to make sense.
In terms of the 2011 team, there are no complaints. The Yankees had plenty of money to spend, and they certainly upgraded the back end of the bullpen. This will lead to a greater enjoyment of the 2011 season. The Yanks might win a few games that they otherwise would have lost, and we will all be a little less irritable the next mornings. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what this means for the 2012 and 2013 teams.
…In Soriano the Yankees get an excellent reliever who can help lockdown the endgame. It cost them a lot of money relative to his potential contribution, and it cost them the chance to draft a young player. If he stays healthy and locks down the eighth inning before sliding into the closer’s role for the final year of the deal, it might end up working out. But knowing what we know now, about relievers in general and Soriano specifically, I’m not too excited over this deal. Though I realize I’ll sleep that much easier during the 2011 season.
Ovet at It’s About the Money, Stupid, Jason likes Soriano but isn’t wild about losing a draft pick to the Rays.
Soriano has been one of the 15 best relievers in the game during the last three seasons, so this isn’t exactly Kyle Farnsworth redux (although it is eerily similar to Steve Karsay, another injury-prone pitcher who happened to be the fifth-best reliever in baseball by fWAR over the three seasons preceding his signing with the Yankees in 2002), but it’s still a pretty ugly deal. To focus on the positives for a moment, the Yankees’ 8th-9th inning endgame should be quite treacherous for opponents to deal with, although that’s also assuming they’re able to deliver Soriano and Mariano Rivera a lead — no sure thing with the uncertainty in the rotation.
And that’s probably the aspect of this deal that I find most critical. The money’s bad, but the greater problem is that Brian Cashman still hasn’t done anything about the gaping hole also known as the Yankees’ fourth and fifth starters. As literally every single person on my Twitter feed has noted, the silver lining to this move could (and should) be the rightful move of Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation. There is literally no reason to keep him in the ‘pen now. Unfortunately Chad Jennings already spoke to someone with the Yankees, and apparently there have still been no internal discussions about moving Joba back to the rotation. Here’s holding out hope that perhaps that’s just another “we won’t surrender a draft pick for a relief pitcher” red herring, but if they were planning on converting Joba back to a starter I’m not sure why they’d be playing it this close to the vest.
Something tells me that the analysts aren’t going to be kind to the Bombers on this deal.
|CARL CRAWFORD||JAYSON WERTH|
|Age: 29||Age: 31|
|Position: LF||Position: RF|
|Height: 6-2||Height: 6-5|
|Weight: 215||Weight: 220|
|Bats/Throws: L/L||Bats/Throws: R/R|
|MLB Service: 1,235 games||MLB Service: 775 games|
|BA/OBP/SLG: .296/.337/.444||BA/OBP/SLG: .272/.367/.481|
The Yankees were in Arkansas yesterday visiting Cliff Lee, but that doesn’t mean they’re blind to other free agents who could help the ball club. As recently as a week ago, it was reported in numerous outlets that the Yankees were not planning to pursue corner outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
Enter the latest developments: we know that per Jon Heyman at SI.com, that the Yankees have called Crawford, who is reportedly the Angels’ top target. Torii Hunter has already begun stumping for the speedy left fielder. “We need Carl Crawford,” Hunter told the LA Times. “Put it like that.” In that same article, Hunter predicted the finalists in the Crawford Sweepstakes would be the Angels and Red Sox.
To date, the Yankees have not contacted Scott Boras regarding Werth. That’s not to say they aren’t interested, however, according to Frank Russo at NYBD.
“It would be foolish to count the Yankees out on a bat after their stealth singing of Mark Teixeira two years ago,” Russo writes.
Discussions regarding all three players should heat up during the GM Meetings next Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando. If no progress is made by then, there is always the Winter Meetings, which start December 6.
With all that in mind, if the Yankees end up demonstrating interest in both Crawford and Werth, and ultimately land one of them, which one should it be? Who is the better fit for the pinstripes? I e-mailed some members of our network of trusted bloggers and newspaper scribes to get their thoughts. With the exception of Jay Jaffe, whose commentary was excerpted from a recent post at Pinstriped Bible, their e-mail responses are listed below.
Sincere thanks to the respondents for participating.
Anthony McCarron — NY Daily News:
Crawford might be a better player, but Werth would be a better fit only because the Yanks can probably get him on a shorter contract. If the speculation is right and Crawford will get $100 million, that’s just too much money and probably too long a contract for a guy whose best skill, speed, likely will be regressing in the twilight years of the deal. He’s not worth $100 million to a team that already has a dynamite speed guy in (Brett) Gardner.
As for Werth, if the Yanks got him on Jason Bay’s deal or even a little more (4 years, $66 million, with a $14 million option for 2014), I think he’d be a good buy. But only if the Yanks are convinced he’d be happy in New York.
Jonah Keri, uber-writer:
Crawford is the better player – better D, better stealing/running, younger and more likely to age well over the next 5+ years.
Fit isn’t all that important when one player is clearly better than another.
Jay Jaffe, in the aforementioned post at the Pinstriped Bible, warns of luxury tax implications steeper than paying $200 or 10 percent of your assets:
While it might seem natural to link the Yankees to just about any player with a big sticker price — it’s what those players’ agents lie awake every summer night dreaming of, not to mention an obvious talking point for any pundit — they’re simply not fits for the combination of the Yankees’ current needs and budget. And while the Yankees spend far more than any other team on payroll, they most certainly do have a budget. …
… Hal Steinbrenner’s stated desire is to keep the Yankee payroll at “the same level” as recent years. Loosely translated, that means an opening day payroll somewhere just north of $200 million. The Yankees have been above that mark four times in the past six years. They’ve been above $205 million in three of those years, including 2010 ($206.3 million). But they’ve never been above $210 million, topping out at $209.1 million in 2008. Similarly, while they’ve shown a willingness to add payroll in-season via trades, their year-end payrolls — which tally the incentive bonuses, buyouts and other benefits they actually paid over the course of the season, as well as the base salaries — have never topped $225 million. We don’t have those figures for 2010 yet; the commissioner’s office generally releases those figures right around Christmas time, but from 2007 through 2009 they ranged from $218 to $222 million, again a very narrow band.
Accounting for the salaries coming off the books and the raises due the remaining players via contract clauses and arbitration, my calculations quickly took the Yankees to $159 million committed to 19 roster spots, which would appear to leave not much more than $50 million available to re-sign Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and whomever they go after on the free agent market — not only Cliff Lee, their number one target, but also any significant bench players to fill the slots vacated by Marcus Thames and Austin Kearns, to say nothing of the sizable hole in the bullpen left by Kerry Wood’s departure. Considering that Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte made nearly $50 million alone in 2010, it’s apparent that the Yankees can’t simply pile another $20-25 million on without heading for a $230 million opening day payroll and a $250 million year-end tally. Remember too that for every extra $1 million the Yankees add to the pile above a certain threshold — $170 million in 2010, $178 million in 2011 — they pay a 40 percent luxury tax.
Another vote for “neither,” from Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues:
Don’t see it from a money or marginal win upgrade perspective. Depends on returns, but I highly doubt either end up in pinstripes.
The ever astute and cerebral Larry Koestler, of Yankeeist, throws a bone to the Werewolf:
If the Yankees were to look into acquiring one of the two, they’d likely have to move one of their current outfielders first. Each of Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher — the latter two of whom put up career years, while the former didn’t quite meet some lofty pre-season expectations — have been mentioned in various circles as potential trade bait, but given that each is (relatively) affordable and produced at a 3.0-plus fWAR level in 2010, it’s difficult to make a serious case that any of them should be traded.
On the surface Crawford might seem like the more appealing option, given that he’s two years younger than Werth, fast and a great fielder, but if it were up to me I think I’d probably pursue Werth, who theoretically should command a slightly lesser deal in both years and overall dollars and is going to provide more bang for your buck.
Crawford had a career year in 2010, posting a .378 wOBA along with an eye-popping 6.9 fWAR for a season worth $27.4 million according to Fangraphs. However, Werth wasn’t exactly a slouch himself, with a .397 wOBA (good for 5th-best in the National League) and 5.0 fWAR, worth $20 million.
For 2011 Bill James has Crawford projected for a fairly significant regression, with a triple slash of .300/.350/.453, and a .357 wOBA. Those are solid if unspectacular numbers, and probably not worth the $20M/year Crawford is likely looking for.
Bill James has Werth projected to a .275/.375/.493 and .380 wOBA line in 2011. No Yankee outfielder put up a wOBA that high in 2010, and the highest wOBA the trio is projected to produce per James is Nick Swisher’s .362.
Crawford’s clearly superior to Werth (and almost everyone in baseball) defensively, but given the various shortcomings of the assorted advanced defensive metrics we have at our disposal, I’m not sure how wide the gulf truly is. Anecdotally I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone say Werth was a particularly lousy defender, so I wouldn’t get too caught up on defense.
So while I’m sure there’s a case to be made for locking Crawford up long-term, my preference for a hitter boasting patience and power — two of the rare baseball skills that can improve with age, unlike speed — makes Werth the easy choice.
My former colleague, MLB.com’s Jon Lane:
I love both players, but based on statistics, my “eye test” and overall feel, Carl Crawford is both the better player and fit for the Yankees.
Werth obviously has the edge in power numbers, has blossomed into a star the past two years and would fit nicely in the middle of anyone’s batting order, but that’s where it ends. Crawford is two years younger and gives you a good bat with speed that bolsters his offensive numbers, and the better range in the outfield. Crawford is a four-time MLB leader in steals and triples. The Yankees aren’t getting younger and there still tends to be such an over-reliance on power, which could explain their frequent undoing with runners in scoring position. As much as I like Brett Gardner, Crawford’s gotten it done in all categories in a longer time frame and will continue to get it done.
Another thing to factor in is if the Yankees will actually bite the bullet and move Derek Jeter down in the order. Crawford hitting in the No. 2 spot would go a long way in solving that problem.
As far as Crawford’s defense, he’s been in the top three in putouts from left field every season since 2005. Ditto his range factor since 2003. In the same category he leads all active players and is sixth all-time (Source: Baseball-Reference.com).
I’d take an outfield of Crawford, Granderson/Gardner and Gardner/Swisher/Crawford any day. Both players can play multiple positions, but like Joe Girardi I’m more comfortable moving Gardner around the outfield on given days.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 2 for Crawford, 1 for Werth, and two for “none of the above.”
What’s your take?
Twitter is all, um, atwitter with word that the Yankees are on the verge of trading for a Mystery Pitcher. We know it’s not Aaron Harang, believe it’s not Carlos Zambrano, and the Daily News‘ Mark Fiensand says “it’s not a salary dump.” So, who is it, and what are they giving up to get him?
When a team plays well for an extended stretch of games, the intensity of the rumor mill tends to lessen. That’s certainly been the case for the Yankees, who have played well for the last month in taking a share of the top spot in the American League East. The only prominent name that I’ve heard linked to the Yankees in recent weeks is Cleveland’s Mark DeRosa, a player that the Cubs foolishly traded over the winter for three middle-of-the-road pitching prospects. Ravaged by injuries, the Indians are going nowhere in the AL Central. DeRosa is 34 years old and just a few months away from free agency; he is almost certain to be traded sometime between now and July 31.
So should the Yankees make a play for DeRosa? I’d say yes, but within reasonable limits. Let’s begin with DeRosa’s potential contribution. As well as the Yankees have played since Johnny Damon hit that three-run homer on a Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, their bench remains mediocre at best. Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner have been assets, but the Yankees have received precious little offense from their backup infielders and have virtually no power in reserve—at least until (or if) Xavier Nady returns. DeRosa would solve the latter two concerns. He can play third, second, or first, along with the outfield corners. He has above-average power, along with a team-first grittiness that would play well in New York.
Yet, the Yankees should be conservative in what they offer for DeRosa. After a career year for the Cubs in 2008, DeRosa brought back only three mid-level prospects on the trade market. In the midst of a mediocre campaign with the Indians, DeRosa’s value has decreased further. I might be willing to give up two young pitchers—pick two from a group that includes Anthony Claggett, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, and Christian Garcia—but no more. I’m not giving up Mark Melancon, or Alfredo Aceves, or even an injured Ian Kennedy. DeRosa would help, but he’s not currently worth a price tag involving any of those right-handers. If the Indians insist on any of the three, I’d suggest that Brian Cashman hang up the phone…