Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marlon Byrd

Well, the "Snyder on the trade block" rumors didn't last long. It appears Arizona is more likely to deal Montero, which doesn't seem like a good idea to me. LH hitting catchers are slightly harder to find, and Montero would seem to be a natural platoon partner for Snyder. Anyway, Peter Gammons was fanning the embers of a Montero to Boston deal, wondering if the Red Sox would be willing to take on Eric Byrne's contract. Interesting concept, similar to what I had proposed in the Helton situation below.

Anyway, back to my favorite topic -- the 2009 Yankee center fielder. I've been digging through as many stats as I can find, and a new contender has emerged -- Marlon Byrd. Byrd's UZR/150 led all CFers in 2008 with a minimum of 400 innings played, and while he won't set the world afire at the plate, he posts a pretty good average, OBP, and a little pop (Marcel projects a .281/.352/.437 line, while Bill James projects .283/.351/.425). Exactly what the Yankees need.

I'm not going to speculate on what it would take to get Byrd from Texas. The Rangers always need pitching, but suggesting Kennedy yet again would be redundant. Cashman, the move is all yours at this point.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yankees and Diamondbacks to Hook Up?

Some of these posts are obviously pie-in-the-sky type deals, and while there's little chance of seeing them happen, that doesn't mean I don't think both teams would benefit from making the trade.

With that in mind comes word tonight (courtesy of Ken Rosenthal) that the Diamondbacks are looking to make room for Miguel Montero by trading catcher Chris Snyder and bringing in a veteran backup. Interesting, particularly in light of my earlier beliefs that Arizona matched up pretty well with the Yankees in a Cano for Young deal.

How about expanding that just a little? The Diamondbacks are looking for a 2B and some relief help with the departures of Hudson, Lyon, and Cruz. How about ...

Cano, Molina, and Britton for Snyder and Young

Early reports on Posada's recovery seem favorable, but I'd feel a lot better about the situation with Snyder backing him up rather than Molina. Molina is a good backup (and Mussina's personal catcher, no longer needed), but if he gets more than 200 PAs next year, the Yankees are in trouble.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trade Proposal

Above almost anything else, the Yankees value OBP. The dynasty that was the late 90's was built on a philosophy of making pitchers work, getting on base, and then getting clutch hits. How many times did you hear announcers say the Yankees were experiencing success because they brought an NL style baseball to the AL? It's a model that the Red Sox have adopted (immitation as the sincerest form of flattery) with great success, and one the Yankees have gotten away from lately.

Nick Swisher is definitely a step in the right direction in getting back to those roots. Last year he averaged 4.5 pitches per plate appearance -- by way of comparison, Bobby Abreu (known for his patience) averaged 4.3. One Yankee not known for his patience is Xavier Nady (3.7 P/PA). So where am I going with this?

Colorado is in a bind with the huge contract they have with Todd Helton. Assuming his option year will be declined, he's got three years left on his deal that will pay him $57M. That's awfully stiff for a club that had a 2008 opening day payroll of $68M.

The Yankees are also in a bind with their CF situation, and I've made my case before that Spilborghs is the answer. So here's the deal:

Nady + Kennedy to COL for Helton + Spilborghs + $5M/year

The Yankees shift Swisher to RF, and put Helton at 1B and Spilborghs in CF. Spilborghs still isn't arbitration eligible and would be playing for the minimum, while Helton would be coming over at about 3 years / $42M. And in 3 years (if things go according to plan), Montero ought to be ready for the big apple.

For the Rockies, they save enough to sign Atkins to a long term deal and plant him at 1B, allowing Stewart to take over at 3B. They move Hawpe to LF (where his defense is better hidden), Nady to RF, and still have Taveras/Fowler in CF. On top of that, Kennedy moves to the back end of their rotation and comes on the cheap with some potential upside.

Seems like a win/win type trade that should be done, but probably won't ...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Yankee Front Office Shows Its Incompetence

I'm at a loss. A total and complete loss. There is no explanation that can be provided that would justify the decision made today to not offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte and Bobby Abreu. All goodwill generated with the Swisher trade has been completely flushed down the toilet in a single afternoon.

I'm racking my brain trying to figure out this decision. Best I can tell, the only downside is that you could end up overpaying on one year, non-guaranteed, completely tradable contracts for two players who have already shown they can perform at a high level in a Yankee uniform. Can someone give Cashman a call and let him know that his current rotation includes Hughes, Aceves, AND Kennedy? And that the Mets and Cubs are both looking for LH bats in RF?

Mark my words, Cashman's ego will drag the Yankees down to the bottom of the AL East and all the bullsh!t writers and baseball "purists" will applaud how smart he is for cutting salaries and attempting to win using home-grown talent. Winning #27 with the league's highest payroll is not good enough for him since no one will say he's the smartest GM in baseball.

Bottom line, when you generate the highest revenues, you should have the highest payroll. And if you use the highest payroll in even a semi-intelligent way, the result is championships. Winning a championship with a low payroll brings no more satisfaction than winning one with a high payroll to anyone except Cashman.

Hal, Hank -- surely you both have more sense than this?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cano for DeJesus?

I read a rumor tonight from a fairly legitimate source that a Cano for DeJesus swap was being considered. Surely that talk is coming from the Royals camp, because there's no way on God's green earth the Yankees should make that deal.

I don't have a huge problem with trading Cano, but for DeJesus? He's not even my top choice for CF in '09, and I wouldn't give up Cano for any of the others on my list either.

If I'm trading Cano, it has to be for (1) a pitcher, or (2) a position player with the same kind of upside as Cano (see Young, Chris).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Matsuzaka to pitch in WBC?

The Boston Herald is reporting that Dice-K intends to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in the spring. From this Yankee fans perspective, that's music to my ears.

I haven't read it elsewhere and no one can say for sure, but I'm not convinced that the Red Sox '08 trip to Japan didn't take something out of them in October. The MLB season is a marathon, and willingly lengthening it in any way just doesn't make sense. Couple that with a couple of trans-Pacific flights, and the impact can only be detrimental.

So, here's to hoping that Japan goes deep into the tournament, and Dice-K adds another 30-50 IPs onto his arm before spring training even opens.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Two more options for CF

The hunt for a CF for 2009 continues, and two other names that seem to be getting some play are David DeJesus and Cody Ross.

DeJesus is signed to a team friendly deal, which, like Spilborghs and the Rockies, means that the Royals don't have much incentive to move him. He is a NY native and gets some extra credit for that from Yankee fans, but I'm lukewarm on him. He's another LH bat, plays pretty good defense, but he's not exactly a lead off hitter and he's not going to bang out many HRs. He would be a good #2 hitter for the Yankees, but that spot is currently occupied, and unless the Yankees plan on shipping out Damon and letting Jeter lead off, I don't believe he will be worth what KC will be asking for him.

Cody Ross would be an interesting acquisition. He hits for power from the right side, plays excellent defense, but he's not exactly the most patient guy in the world. Marcel projects him to hit .266/.331/.485, which would look awfully good from CF when combined with his defense. That said, I'm not sure what FLA would be looking for in exchange. They have Cameron Maybin penciled in as their CF of the future -- would a Kennedy-based deal get him?

My preferences (in order) to fill the vacancy in CF in 2009:

1. Ryan Spilborghs
2. Cody Ross
3. David DeJesus

Sunday, November 16, 2008

CF option?

One of the most overlooked players I continue to come across in searching for the next Yankee CF is Ryan Spilborghs. He can play above average defense in the corners and average defense in CF, he works the count and takes his share of walks, and the guy can hit. And yet, the Rockies have never managed to get him more than 275 ABs.

The Rockies don't have much motivation to move him (don't think he's arbitration eligible until after 2009), so the price might be slightly steeper than if he had a big contract, but surely he could be pried loose with a reasonable offer.

There is much love for Ian Kennedy among Yankee fans (I'm not one of them), and Kennedy's name has come up in connection with Colorado in the past. How about a Kennedy for Spilborghs deal? Let's be honest, Kennedy has slipped considerably on the depth chart, especially if the Yankees are sincere and able to pull off their expected FA signings, and now might very well be the time to deal him. Why not fill a need in the process?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yankees with a bold move

It's being widely reported that the Yankees went after the big fish today with a 6 year $140M deal. While *slightly* higher than most opening offers, I'd imagine it had the desired effect -- Sabathia has been served notice that if he truly wants to play in the NL and on the west coast, he'll be taking less money and years than what the Yankees are willing to put on the table.

Slightly more disturbing is news that the Yankees are also preparing offers for Burnett and Lowe. I guess with the uncertainty around Pettitte and Mussina, Cashman is planning for all contingencies, but I'm not a big Burnett or Lowe fan. Burnett's stuff is electric, but his inconsistency and injury history would be enough to keep me away. And Lowe seems far better suited to the NL (and in front of a good infield defense) rather than NY.

Given Mussina and Pettitte seem content with short term deals, my preferred rotation for '09 would be Sabathia - Wang - Joba - Mussina - Pettitte, with Hughes and Aceves in the 6 and 7 holes. That's pretty strong, and it also offers the Yankees greater flexibility over the next few years for FA or help from the minors.

Think of it this way:

Sabathia v. Beckett
Wang v. Matsuzaka
Joba v. Lester
Mussina v. Lowe (?)
Pettitte v. Wakefield

I like the Yankees chances ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cashman steals Swisher

Well, I called for a Cano - Swisher trade a couple months ago, then backed off in favor of a Cano for Chris Young deal. Not bad on the Swisher front, but I'd give myself an "F" for the Cano side.

I don't see any way this trade is anything but a huge win for the Yankees, and I'm giving Cashman all the credit in the world for it. Swisher's exceptional patience at the plate fits like a glove with what the Yankees were doing in the late 90's, and I'm not worried about his poor 2008 -- I'd bet he ends up a strong candidate for comeback player of the year next year.

That said, this would seem to indicate that Teixeira is a wish and not a requirement, unless the Yankees can trade Damon or Nady and move Swisher to an OF corner. Nady doesn't fit the Yankee model for displaying patience, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him moved in the next few weeks. Having three OFs hit free agency at the same time probably isn't the best idea anyway, and Swisher would fit really nicely into RF for the next few years.

I also think this makes Juan Miranda expendable. What teams would be interested in a Nady - Miranda - prospect package for a CF? Obviously getting greedy, but I'm really, really, really liking a lineup that includes both Swisher and Teixeira.

How about Nady - Miranda - Kennedy to Seattle for Bedard? Ichiro? Maybe Nady - Miranda to the Giants for Rowand?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Obvious, One Not So Obvious

Ah yes, the much maligned free agent market. Everyone who follows baseball knows who the big name free agents are, and most have an opinion on who their favorite team needs to sign in order to contend.

The good news about being a Yankee fan is that they're not bashful about diving head first into the cream of the crop. And this year there are two names that stand out above all others -- Sabathia and Teixeira. Call it the perfect storm, but the Yankees have a lot of money coming off the payroll, have a need at 1B and for pitching, and the two premiere free agents are of a quality and age not often seen on the open market.

Anything less than both Sabathia and Teixeira in pinstripes next year will be a huge failure on the part of Brian Cashman. Forget the dollars, forget the ribbing you take as a Yankee fan for buying the next championship, forget all of it -- both of these guys are must gets. Sabathia immediately moves to the top of the rotation, and when combined with Wang and Joba, forms a very nice top 3 for the next 5-7 years.

And Teixeira? All he did this year was post a BRAA of 54 and a FRAA of 9. Giambi, who I would advocate keeping if not for Matsui's lock on DH in 2009, posted a BRAA of 27 and a FRAA of -10. Roughly, that means Teixeira is worth somewhere in the vicinity of 4-5 wins over Giambi, and given the difference in their ages, is a gap that will only widen going forward. Another 5 wins this year and that end of year series against Boston has a whole lot more meaning.

The less obvious signing is Mark Ellis. With the Cano trade to Arizona, the Yankees have a hole at 2B and most would assume the Yankees would pursue Orlando Hudson. While I don't have anything against Hudson, I look at Ellis as one of those ballplayers who does all the quiet/little things to help a team win -- he plays defense, he gets on base, and his offensive numbers have been masked to a large degree by playing in that cavernous ballpark in Oakland. Also, Ellis is looking like a type B free agent and Hudson an A, and assuming the usual number of free agents declare, the most type A free agents the Yankees could sign would be three. I'd like to save that third type A for later.

So, assuming Cashman earns his money and completes the above, where do we stand on the 2009 roster?

C: Posada
1B: Teixeira
2B: Ellis
3B: Arod
SS: Jeter
LF: Damon
CF: Young
RF: Nady
DH: Matsui

Bench: Molina, Duncan, Betemit, Gardner

SP1: Sabathia
SP2: Wang
SP3: Joba
SP4: Hughes
SP5: Aceves

Bullpen: Britton, Coke, Albaladejo, Bruney, Veras, Ramirez, Rivera

2009 is starting to take shape ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Change of Heart

Well, I got two of my three predictions right, but Moose did get his 20th win, and to be perfectly honest, that was one I'm glad I got wrong. He deserved it, and I'm hoping he returns for another year or two in pinstripes before hanging up his spikes and heading for the Hall of Fame.

I've also had a change of heart about the Cano for Swisher trade. With the kind of numbers Teixeira put up this year (WARP1 = 10.0), it's hard to make a convincing argument that the Yankees best course of action is anything but going all out to sign him. Even if it takes a 7 or 8 year deal at $18M/year, Teixeira is just too good offensively AND defensively to pass up. And with Arod signed for another 9 years, the Yankees would be pretty well set at the corner IF spots (and 3-4 hitters in the order) well into the next decade.

That said, with Hudson and Ellis available as free agents, I still think Cano is trade bait. The Yankees have a huge hole in CF, and with Austin Jackson a couple of years away, both Melky and Gardner as more of the 4th OF type, and no real FA options in CF, the Yankees don't have a lot of options but to try and fill the hole with a trade.

Much has been written about a Cano for Kemp deal, but I don't think the Dodgers are going to be sending Kemp anywhere in the near future. But there's another young CF in the NL West who might be available.

The Diamondbacks will have a hole at 2B with the departure of Orlando Hudson, and four OFs ready to play in '09 -- Eric Byrnes, Justin Upton, Conor Jackson, and Chris Young. Jackson is probably limited to LF, and Byrnes' contract means he will be playing somewhere, most likely in right. Upton is a naturally gifted athlete with a huge upside and should have no problems making the transition to CF. So, the trade the Yankees should be making is

Cano to Arizona for Chris Young

I know he strikes out a lot and his OBP is not where you would want it to be, but Young is only 25, he is already an excellent defensive CFer, and as he learns how to play the game, he's going to get better (and more patient) at the plate. This trade helps both teams for the next several years, so it's my first move as the fantasy Yankee GM.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Road to Recovery - Part I

Without question, the worst Yankee season in over a decade will mercifully come to a close in a couple of weeks. Moose isn't getting his 20 wins, Arod will get to 100 runs and RBIs, and barring a mini-slump or a couple days off, Jeter should close out the stadium with more hits than any other player.

That aside, almost every Yankee fan's thoughts have turned to 2009, my own included. There are a million opinions out there on what the Yankees should do -- most begin with potential free agent signings, but before getting into those, I'd recommend a couple of trades. In the interest of keeping things reasonably short, I'll hit them one post at a time.

Cano to the White Sox for Nick Swisher

I don't doubt Cano's ability to rebound from his struggles at the plate, and this is more of a "make both teams better" trade than any sort of indictment of his future. Cano is extremely talented, but his occasional lapses in focus and his (outwardly anyway) indifferent attitude represent what went wrong this year with the Yankees -- a lack of heart. Swisher didn't put up the numbers Chicago expected, and with the White Sox poised to move Alexei Ramirez to SS in '09, Cano would fit nicely for the next few years at 2B. And to be honest, Ozzie Guillen may very well be the type of manager under which Cano would thrive.

For the Yankees, Swisher would bring some toughness to a Yankee team that lacks it, and would have no problem providing swift kicks in the rear end when needed. This trade makes sense for both teams, and so, Swisher is in my opening day Yankee lineup at 1B.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Win Over the Angels !!!

It was a nice win for the Yankees last night over the Angels. They got seven good innings from Aceves, and he was helped by some early run support courtesy of Nady and Arod. Nady continues to prove he's for real, and it seems as though RF is in good hands once he takes it over in '09. Arod has been much maligned for his lack of "clutch" this year, but baseball isn't a sprint, and when you look at what he has done at the plate and in the field over the course of the season, he's as good a 3B as there is in baseball. Without him, the Yankees aren't even a .500 team.

It's hard to say what the future holds for Aceves. One start is not nearly enough to evaluate anything (didn't Karstens throw a near perfect game in his first start for the Pirates?), and his peripheral numbers look OK but not outstanding. I'm a big believer in xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching - courtesy of The Hardball Times) as a measure of a pitcher's effectiveness, and Aceves outing when combined with his earlier relief appearances shows a 4.22. Pretty average in spite of his early success.

That said, he's earned another couple of starts in '08, and subject to the inevitable spending spree we're about to see in the offseason, a shot at making the rotation out of spring training next year. And as far as this Yankee fan is concerned, spring training can't get here fast enough.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yankee Depth Chart Entering '08-'09 Hot Stove

Here's what the '09 Yankees look like before "shopping" season begins:

C: Posada
1B: Miranda
2B: Cano
3B: Arod
SS: Jeter
LF: Damon
CF: Cabrera
RF: Nady
DH: Matsui

Bench: Molina, Duncan, Betemit, Gardner

SP1: Wang
SP2: Hughes
SP3: Kennedy
SP4: Aceves
SP5: Rasner

Bullpen: Britton, Albaladejo, Bruney, Veras, Ramirez, Chamberlain, Rivera

Obviously, a few assumptions have been made -- Melky getting another shot in CF, Joba coming out of the bullpen, etc. That said, I think this is the hand the Yankees are playing as they head into this offseason. Payroll for the above will come in around $140M, and assuming a neutral payroll number for next year, the Yankees will have somewhere in the vicinity of $60M to spend on upgrades.

How would you spend it?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The day the music died

No one can point to when exactly it happened or what series of events caused it, but at this point, even the most die hard Yankee optimist would have to admit that the latest Yankee run is over. The team in its current state is old, overpaid, injured, beaten, and most surprisingly, completely void of what could only be called heart. It's been a heck of a run since '96, but whatever magic they had is long since gone.

Brian Cashman is running the show, having won the internal power struggle for control, and he has presided over a steady decline in on field performance in an environment of record payrolls. He has thrown bad money after good in trying to preserve what he inherited, but the results speak for themselves -- a team playing out the string, with nothing to play for in what should have been a time to honor Yankee stadium and Yankee fans with one more magical October.

His efforts at "building from within" are noble and widely lauded in the press, but completely ineffective and far better employed with a team who's resources aren't what he has at his disposal in New York. If I have one wish this offseason, it's that the baby bosses see him for what he is, a totally inept Yankee GM, rather than the image he has worked so hard to cultivate as an academic baseball purist.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yankee Free Agents

The Yankees have six potential free agents who offer the possibility of obtaining draft pick compensation (guesses at Elias status within parentheses) -- Pudge (B), Giambi (B), Abreu (A), Pettitte (A), Mussina (A), and Marte (A). The Yankees actually hold 2009 options on both Giambi and Marte, but I am going to assume both will be declined. In order to obtain compensation picks, the Yankees must offer arbitration, otherwise the players become free agents and no compensation is received. So, question #1 in determining the 2009 roster is the decision to offer or not offer arbitration. One by one:

Pudge: Given the status of Posada's shoulder will not be known at the time the decision needs to be made, offering arbitration to Pudge seems like a no brainer. He appears to be headed to a 'B' status, meaning it costs the signing team nothing to sign him as a FA, and I really don't think he will want to gamble on having to spend next year as Posada's backup (and quite possibly Molina's) if Posada is capable of being the full time catcher. If he does choose to accept, there are definitely worse things than having him as insurance on a one-year deal. My guess though is that he signs a two year deal somewhere -- Dodgers (allowing Martin to move to 3B) or maybe Marlins for a hometown discount -- and the Yankees net the supplemental pick.

Giambi: Giambi has held up well this year, but expecting that to happen in back to back years is asking for trouble. I do think he enjoys playing in NY, and I would worry that if offered arbitration, he would accept. So, unless the Yankees can work out an agreement ahead of time that he will not accept if offered, I would not offer arbitration to Giambi.

Abreu: Abreu has done well this year at the plate, but his defense in RF is atrocious (FRAA = -8). With the acquisition of Nady, I think Abreu sees the writing on the wall that his time as a Yankee is over. But, his bat and reputation will earn him a two or three year deal somewhere -- my guess would be the Mets -- and I would be pretty comfortable offering him arbitration with the knowledge he will decline in favor of a multi-year deal. As an 'A', he nets the Yankees a first rounder and a supplemental.

Pettitte: Some of the luster has come off Pettitte over his last few starts, but when you look at the season as a whole, he's been an asset. Andy likes to take his time (January?) in deciding whether to play another year, and the Yankees should feel completely safe in offering arbitration. If a replacement is found for his services while he's still deciding, he's always free to go back to Houston. In the past, Pettitte has expressed a desire to play in the new stadium, so my guess is the Yankees offer, but come to an agreement in January for him to return.

Mussina: No brainer here -- offer arbitration. Moose is coming off his finest season in a number of years, and although the odds of repeating that level of success aren't great, the Yankees would have no problem with getting him back on a low-risk one year deal. The bigger question would be whether or not Moose would get and accept a two year deal from another club? His propensity for the North East would seem to limit his options somewhat, but my guess is Philadelphia makes him a two year offer, and the Yankees decide to let him leave.

Marte: Although he's had highs and lows since coming over from Pittsburgh, Cashman has salivated over Marte for so long, it's hard to envision him not picking up the $6M option for 2009. Hopefully a new GM will have more sense, and recognize that better LH options are available. I would let Marte walk and take the picks.

So, in summary, here's what SHOULD happen:

1. Yankees get three first/second round picks for Abreu (Mets), Mussina (Philadelphia), and Marte (?), and four supplemental picks for those three plus Pudge.
2. Pettitte is resigned for one year.
3. Giambi is allowed to walk without draft pick compensation.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Yankee Weekend

The Yankees just finished a miserable weekend in Anaheim, getting swept by the far superior Angels. The Angels are everything the Yankees are not -- young, aggressive, solid defensively, and capable of hitting in the clutch. They move runners over, they drive in men on 3rd with less than two outs, and unless something drastic happens over the next two months, they are the clear favorites to win it all.

The Yankee season has been one of frustration and injury -- Wang, Joba, Hughes, Posada, Matsui, Damon, Bruney, etc. have all spent time on the DL, and given Jeter's struggles, I suspect we will find out after the season that he has been dealing with a nagging condition as well. Kennedy, Cabrera, and Cano have struggled and been wildly inconsistent, and Giambi and Abreu just inconsistent. Looking back, for the Yankees to even be in the race this late in the season is surprising.

That said, the Yankee front office should be completely focused on 2009 at this point. This offseason has been one Yankee fans have been looking forward to for a number of years due to the "bloated" contracts coming off the books -- Giambi, Abreu, Pettitte, Mussina, and Pavano, and the potential 2009 draft picks for the newly acquired Pudge and Damaso Marte. With the new stadium looming and the inevitable roster upheaval, it is definitely a transition year in New York, the most critical hot stove season of the last decade.

I wish I had more faith in Brian Cashman to do the job that needs doing. Unfortunately, Cashman seems more concerned with proving he's smarter than all other GMs more than with putting the best Yankee team on the field. What he seems to fail to realize is that with the highest payroll in baseball, you don't have to be the smartest GM -- you just have to "not make a muck of it" as Aidan O'Brien once said. Cashman's history has repeatedly shown that he favors the "no downside" moves -- ones in which another team has given up on a player, and by picking him up, he thinks he looks like a genius if that player actually performs. But if the player doesn't perform, no big deal. That thinking just won't get it done this offseason.