Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cash Recreating The 2008 Fraud Sawx Bullpen...

... Well, maybe in Triple-A he is, if the recent signing of Manny Delcarmen to a MiL deal on the heels of the Hideki Okajima signing is any indication.  And that's just a brilliant move on Cash's part, because a veteran presence in the Triple-A bullpen is an often overlooked aspect on the pathway to a World Series ring.

Seriously, if these Okajima/Delcarmen moves are just Cash's way of trolling Ben Cherington's attempt to recreate the Yankees' bargain bin pitching wins of last offseason with his Aaron Cook signings and Clayton Mortensen trades, then it's fucking brilliant and whoever in the Yankee front office decided to do it should get a hefty raise.

On the other hand, if either one of these guys even throws one pitch for the Yankees for this year, that's probably not a good thing.

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Is There Hope For A.J. In 2012?

(It's the dreaded return of A.J. Two-Face)

After the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that A.J. Burnett's days as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees were over.  It had already been reported that Cash shopped him around at the Winter Meetings while offering to eat $8 million of his remaining contract, and that was before the Yankees were flush with the rotation depth that they now have.  Once Pineda and Kuroda were in the fold, it seemed obvious that Ninja Cash already had the next move lined up to rid himself of one of his biggest mistakes.  And yet, we found ourselves still talking about A.J. Burnett as a current member of the Yankees, which leaves the frightening door of opportunity open for him to somehow be the 5th starter in 2012.  It is a door that many of us do not want to see A.J. walk through, but we may have no choice if Cash can't find a deal to move A.J. that works for him and the team.  That being the case, we might as well prepare ourselves for what A.J. has to offer, which, given his performance up to this date, won't be much.  While most of A.J.'s 2011 stats could be used to create optimism for a better 2012, there are some trends within the numbers that make me think 2012 and beyond will be more of the same.

The biggest problem with A.J. is that his value is derived almost entirely from the quantity of innings he has pitched, not the quality of the innings (save for Game 2 of the '09 World Series).  Innings eaters are a valuable asset to have in the rotation, but for $82 million most people would expect better than the back end production A.J. has put up in those innings, and justifiably so.  His 5.26/4.83 ERA/FIP split in 2010 didn't pass the eye or the smell test, and neither did 2011's 5.14/4.77 follow up.  A.J. has been consistently erratic and inconsistently effective, marred by bouts of problems with his mechanics, inability to repeat his delivery, and little or no command of either of his two pitches.  He has tried to combat this with the attempt to develop a changeup, but mid-30s is hardly the right time for a pitcher with command problems to attempt to master a new pitch.

In order to be a successful two-pitch starter, a pitcher better have a damn good fastball, and for the early part of A.J.'s career he has.  But over the last handful of years A.J. has seen his fastball velocity steadily decrease, from 95.9 MPH in 2007 with Toronto (the earliest year PITCHf/x tracked it on FanGraphs) to 94.4 in '09, 93.1 in 2010, and 92.7 this past season.  As the velocity has decreased, the value of A.J.'s fastball has plummeted with it, both by standard pitch value measures (-14.1 in '09, -16.2 in '10, -34.0 in '11) and as measured by PITCHf/x (-12.4, -10.1, -28.1).  It's also no secret that the majority of A.J.'s fastballs tend to be located in the middle to upper part of the strike zone (see heat map below for an example), which is not a good place to live when you're losing your heat on the pitch.  Even when paired with a curve that was surprisingly above average in 2011 (8.9 rating standard/10.7 PITCHf/x), a low-90s fastball with little movement that consistently hits the heart of the plate is going to do more harm than good for a two-pitch pitcher, and it certainly hasn't done A.J. any favors.

 (Courtesy of FanGraphs)

When a pitcher's throwing a flat fastball with decreasing velocity down the meaty portion of the plate, the expected result would be a lot of contact.  Surprisingly enough, this actually wasn't the case for A.J. in 2011, as his contact rate dropped from 81.6% in 2010 to 76.5% in 2011.  His in-zone and out-of zone contact rates, 54.3% and 90.4% respectively, also decreased from their rates of 2010.  An explanation could be that hitters were laying off more of A.J.'s offerings that they didn't like, especially his curveball when he couldn't locate it, but his 2011 swing rates don't support that theory.  In direct contrast to his contact rates, A.J. generated more swings (43.8%) and more out-of-zone swings (30.3%) than he did in 2010, and his Swinging Strike rate of 10.0% was a high for him as a Yankee.

These trends last season certainly help to explain A.J.'s elevated K/9 total (8.18), but they should also lead to a better ERA and FIP result.  A pitcher generating more swings, more swings and misses, less contact, and striking out more batters while walking fewer than he did the year before should result in much more than the marginal improvements in ERA and FIP that A.J. experienced in 2011.  The answer for why that didn't happen lies in the contact A.J. is generating, specifically the quality of contact, and the insight that leads into what might be happening when batters face A.J.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bill Hall? Really??

If this report about the Yankees having "serious talks" with Bill Hall is someone's idea of a joke, it's not fucking funny.

Bill Hall as an option for a backup utility infield role with the Yankees is like the Bill Hall of options that the Yankees could choose to fill their backup utility infield role.  Bill Hall is the Bill Hall of utility infielders.  It's almost a gross overstatement to even refer to Bill Hall as a utility infielder, because lately the only two skills he seems to possess are the ability to strike out a lot and the ability to make the routine play at third base look impossible.  He offers practically the least useful utilities out of any list of candidates you could construct from anybody and everybody who has ever played the game of baseball.

Yes, I understand any offer he gets will likely be a non-guaranteed MiL deal, so there's no need for me to be this dramatic.  But that's exactly why I don't want him around.  Even if he's in Triple-A, he's a menace.  Balls bouncing off his glove from every angle could potentially hit and injure players in the dugout and fans in the first few rows on stands.  I wouldn't even hire him to work as a vendor in Yankee Stadium for fear that he would start dropping full sodas and bottles of beer on people.  Bill Hall can in no way be associated with the New York Yankee organization in 2012.

I Think Bobby V Still Thinks He Works For ESPN

(I don't know if this Clayton Mortensen is going to be our pitcher of the future, but maybe.")

Apparently Bobby Valentine wasn't finished with his assessment of the Yankees' attempts to upgrade their rotation, as he was shooting his mouth off again this weekend, this time expanding his analysis to include Jesus Montero.

"I thought that was kind of in their plans.  He [Montero] helped their plans come to fruition by the way he played that last month of the season. I didn't really ever think he was going to be their catcher of the future but maybe." 

"Kind of in their plans?"  You don't think he was the catcher of the future "but maybe?"  Who are you, fucking Peter King??  Word of advice, Bob.  If you aren't up to snuff on somebody or something or some team, then do the right thing and keep your mouth shut.  I thought we covered this last time.  Don't say stupid stuff just to be quoted.

"I don't know what the Yankees are doing... "

Obviously.  Hence the need for you to be quiet.

"I think Brian (Cashman) is a real smart guy, one of the great managers in the game of baseball, and I don't know what his plan was."

And you weren't supposed to.  Nobody was.  That's how Cash operates and that's why he's one of the great GENERAL managers in the game of baseball.  If you or anybody else would have gotten wind that he was trying to make the moves he did, that could have had an effect on how the whole thing played out.  It was brilliant strategy and smart business.

But seriously, Bobby, can you just get off Cash's dick?  Can you get off the Yankees' dick?  For 5 seconds maybe??  Your team just traded your starting shortstop for a guy who posted a 9.42/5.61 ERA/FIP split in FUCKING TRIPLE-A LAST YEAR.  His career tripleslash at the Major League level is 5.12/5.58/4.74 with 4.74 K/9 and 3.69 BB/9.  And you're about to lose out on Roy Oswalt to the Cardinals.  You've got bigger things to worry about than commenting on the Yankee rotation and what their plans are/were/could have been/should have been with Jesus Montero.

Yes, the Yankees' moves this offseason have made your team's efforts look even worse than they look on their own as they try to copycat Cash's success with Freddy and Bartolo from last year.  But your approach to address that issue should not be to comment on what the Yankees did and the questions you have about it.  Worry about your own team and leave the idiotic, baseless, cookie-cutter analysis of the Yankees to John Kruk and the rest of the BBTN clowns that are still employed by ESPN.

Predicting The New Guys' Numbers

(I wouldn't get too attached to those numbers, gents.)

Now that everything has been made official with the Michael Pineda trade and the Hiroki Kuroda signing, the next big thing to wait for will be their introductory press conference.  Part of the fun of the intro presser is seeing new players put on the Yankee uniform and hat for the first time, and part of the fun of the new unis is seeing what jersey number new players will get, as numbers tend to be at a premium when somebody joins the Yankees and what they wore for their old team might not be available.  This year, both Pineda and Kuroda look like they're going to be searching for new ones.

Pineda wore #36 last year for the Mariners, but that number was worn by Freddy Garcia last season for the Yanks and will likely be assigned to him again in 2012 as he doesn't appear to be as likely to be traded as A.J. or Phil Hughes.  If Pineda is real hung up on the 36 thing, he won't be able to split it as a Yankee, as both 3 and 6 are off limits for obvious reasons, although 6 has yet to be officially retired.  He could reverse it and wear 63, which has been vacated by Jesus through the trade, but that number would be better served as one on hold for a Triple-A call-up.  My guess is that Pineda will wear #38, which will be available as Luis Ayala won't be back with the team this year.  It's the closest to 36 with 37 being retired, and it's a pretty damn good number.  It also doesn't have a ton of "great" Yankee history, so Pineda can start his own legacy for it.

Hiroki Kuroda's #18 was occupied by Andruw Jones last season and stands to be assigned to Jones again this season.  And Kuroda might have a long way to travel from 18 to find something he likes.  If he goes down the road he's blocked by Francisco Cervelli at 17 and the retired duo of Whitey Ford and Thurman Munson at 16 and 15.  If he goes up the road, he's looking at Ramiro Pena at 19 and then the just recently-vacated #20 of Jorge Posada.  I don't think the Yankees are going to be giving that number up any time soon before they retire it along with Torre's 6, Jeter's 2, and Mo's 42.  So the next best bet would be #22, which was used multiple times last year for Greg Golson and Brien Gordon.  That's a good pitching number, and it's got some good history as a Yankee, so it makes sense to give it to Kuroda.

If either of these guys is really tied to their number, we could see some clubhouse wheeling and dealing once training camp starts.  Freddy Garcia and Ramiro Pena seem like reasonable dudes; maybe they'd be open to a good offer.  But if those talks stall, you heard it here first.  Pineda wearing 38 and Kuroda wearing 22 in 2012.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

How's The Roster Situation Looking?

With the Pineda-Campos trade now completed, and the Jones and Kuroda signings official, now is probably a good time to check in on the current roster situation and how the Yankees are managing it.

Truth is, from both the 25- and 40-man perspective, the Yankees are in good shape right now.  Working off of the 40-man roster as it stands today, I see 21 guys who are going to be no-doubt inclusions on the initial 25-man to open the season; 10 pitchers (Garcia, Kuroda, Logan, Nova, Pineda, Rivera, Robertson, Sabathia, Soriano, Wade), and 11 position players (Cervelli, Martin, Cano, Jeter, Nunez, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Gardner, Granderson, Jones, Swisher).  I would anticipate either Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett being the 11th pitcher on the staff, but not both of them, to up the number to 22, with the Yankees still looking to add a lefty DH and an Eric Chavez-type to provide some bench and corner infield depth.  Those additions would bring them to 24, still leaving them a slot to finish out the 12-man pitching staff with whoever wows the coaches the most in Spring Training.

Using the 40-man to add those players they still need should not be a problem either.  Right now, the Rule 5 guys, Cesar Cabral and Brad Meyers, are likely the next in line to go if the Yankees fill their DH spot through a signing.  If they somehow do manage to trade A.J. for a bat, that player would simply take his spot on the 40-man and that would work as well.  If there are multiple FA moves made, the Yankees would likely look to one of the duo of Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell as the next cut to make room.  It's unlikely that the Yankees will spend the money to add 3 more free agents, but they have the roster wiggle room right now to do it.

It was a little shaky earlier in the offseason, but right now the Yankees are in a very good position in terms of roster management.  They're set up to build arguably the deepest and best 25-man roster in baseball to open the season, and they have the room to do it without having to sacrifice any of the young talent they have on the 40-man roster (Betances, Phelps, Adams, Joseph, Romine, Almonte).  And once the season starts, they'll be able to open up a little more room by transitioning Feliciano and Joba to the 60-Day DL.

It's all coming together nicely right now.  Just keep the days ticking off that calendar so we can get to pitchers and catchers reporting.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 1/27 (With Bonus Friday Afternoon Jam)

Two weeks in a row of linkarounds!  I might be on to something here.  I'm thinking this will definitely become a weekly feature at AB4AR because there's just too much good stuff going on around the Yankosphere to not do it.  Let's get to the links!

- On Tuesday, Rasheeda Cooper of Bomber Boulevard had one of the better Jorge Posada tribute posts that I read this week.  Well done, Rasheeda.

- On Wednesday, Brien Jackson of IIATMS threw another name into the lefty DH hat in the form of The Giambino.  It may be unlikely, but not a bad option.

- Also on Wednesday and also on the topic of DH, Larry Koestler of RAB presented his list of DH trade options.  Some more intriguing names in here as well.

- Fishjam25 of Yankees Fans Unite expanded the trade scope for hitters to include some potential candidates to replace the quality young bat the Yankees lost in Jesus with these 7 suggested trade targets.  I would move A.J. and a prospect or 2 for any of those guys if the other teams were interested.

- Josh Norris of Minor Matters Trenton got the jump on the complete Baseball America Top 30 Yankees Prospects list last night via his Twitter feed.  Some interesting choices on that list to say the least.

- BrianV21 of The Greedy Pinstripes likes Phil Hughes for the 5th spot in the rotation.  I like his logic that Hughes offers the Yankees the most both in terms of production and potential return trade value.

- Rebecca Glass of Pinstriped Bible, on the other hand, seems to be leaning towards sticking Phil back in the bullpen with her post today.

- Frank Campagnola of Pinstripe Alley ponders whether A.J. can have a bounceback year in 2012 or not.  I appreciate the effort, Frank, but personally I'm still not buying what A.J. has to sell.

-Robbie Clark of Yanks Go Yard got political with his "State of the Yankees Universe" address on Thursday.  Although there weren't as many as Barry O got the other night, there are definitely a few standing ovation-worthy points in there.

- 2 from my TYA homies to close it out.  First one from EJ Fagan yesterday, who campaigned again for the Yankees to go after Yoenis Cespedes as some OF insurance for their soon-to-be-FA pair of C-Grand and Swish.

- Also from yesterday and also on the topic of the outfield, Michael Eder suggested trading for Andrew McCutchen and wondered what kind of prospect package it would take to get him.  Here's a hint, Adam Warren and Jake Cave would not get it done.

For the Friday afternoon jam we're going with Queens Of The Stone Age.  I know Drew Magary would approve, and I hope everyone else out there does as well.  Don't work too hard this afternoon, people, and enjoy your weekends.

P.S.- Message to all the readers and members of the AB4ARmy out there.  Help make the Linkapalooza better each week.  If there's stories I'm missing or that you want to make sure I include during the week, email me the links, and Friday Afternoon Jam requests would also be appreciated.  I'm curious to know what everybody out there listens to.

Hiroki Kuroda Says Hello

(And a tip of the cap to you, good sir.)

“I feel happy to be a part of such a storied franchise, which is always in contention for a World Series.  I am also very proud to be a part of this current team, which boasts so many great players. As a member of the Yankees, I would like to do my part by doing the best I can throughout the season. I hope that I can make a difference in achieving the team’s ultimate goal, which is to win the World Series.”

So did Hiroki Kuroda just lay down the greatest introductory statement in Yankee history or the greatest introductory statement in sports history?  Holy shit!  That's a tough act to follow if you're whoever the Yankees either sign or trade for to be the lefty DH.  Better start writing, re-writing, and rehearsing your lines now because Kuroda set the bar pretty damn high.  That's one good way to say hello to your new teammates.  Here's another:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

4 Yankee Prospects In MLB.com Top 100 Prospects List

If you weren't aware that MLB.com released its first Top 100 Prospects list yesterday, then I feel bad for you.  I don't feel bad for the Yankees, though, as they managed to put 4 players on the list, and solidly on the list I might add, as all 4 were inside the top 75.  Here's what MLB.com had to say about the 4 Yankee selections and my quick take on their takes.

- Manny Banuelos: 13th- "Once he throws more strikes, he has the chance to be an electric starter who can be a No. 2 or 3 starter."

My Take: Banuelos didn't take a huge knock for his command issues last season thanks to his track record and the fact that he's a LEFT-handed starter with nasty stuff.  It's certainly possible, but I think pegging ManBan as a potential 3rd starter at the Major League level is selling him short a bit, especially when the word "electric" was used to describe him previously in the same sentence.

- Dellin Betances: 41st- "His command took a step backward in 2011, and he’ll need to harness his stuff a bit better to have long-term success."

My Take: It's a simple statement, but it's true and it rings truer to Betances than any other Yankee pitching prospect.  Command has always been the name of the game with Betances.  Another year without it and he could tumble down a lot of people's prospects lists, including this one.

- Gary Sanchez: 53rd- "As long as the defense improves, he can be a bat-first big league backstop, catching every day and hitting in the middle of a lineup."

My Take: For as long as Jesus was in the Yankee system working on his defense, he graduated from Triple-A still having his ability to catch every day questioned.  For Sanchez to already have scouts saying he can do it every day with some improvement when his defensive game is so raw and he's still in A-ball is a very good thing.

- Mason Williams: 73rd- "A left-handed hitter who can hit for average and should mature into more power, he has a better idea in terms of an approach than many hitters his age."

My Take: Advanced speed and natural athleticism is one thing.  But to also possess an advanced skill so important to being a great hitter at a young age is even better, and Williams seems to have that with his approach.  The more that matures and evolves as he advances through the system, the higher his ceiling will become.

Well Here's One Good Rotation Decision

This almost slipped off my radar yesterday, but after the nonsense that was the 6-man rotation down the stretch last year, I had to make sure I snagged it.  At the Jorge press conference, Joe had this to say about the rotation for 2012:

“I can tell you it won’t be a seven or six-man rotation.  It’ll be five."

"Right now we’ve got seven starters, and we’re going to have to make some decisions.”

There was some more coachtalk fluff added in for the sake of not tipping his hand, which I get.  But cutting through that, I think we can all agree that CC, Pineda, Nova, and Kuroda are going to be the first 4 in the rotation in some order and they should be.  These guys' numbers clearly show that they are the 4 best starting pitchers on the staff and they should be treated as such.  Hughes, Freddy, and A.J. are going to have to fight it out for the last spot, assuming they are all still around in Spring Training to compete, and that's the way it should be.  This ain't the Little League World Series and not everybody needs to be allowed to pitch, and these comments are a good sign that Cash and Joe have learned that lesson from last year.

Not sacrificing approximately 35 starts from your 4 best pitchers to keep everybody happy?

(Quotes via LoHud)

How To Keep The Russell Martin Revival Tour Going

2011 was an important year for Russell Martin.  After two All Star-caliber seasons for the Dodgers in 2007 and 2008, he was basically cast aside like an old mitt after experiencing serious decline, much of it likely injury-related, in 2009 and 2010.  The Yankees were happy to pick him up off the scrap heap for $4 million and install him as their bridge between the Jorge Posada and Jesus Montero Eras behind the plate in 2011.  A funny thing happened on the way to that plan, though, as Martin bounced back this past season, regaining some of his All Star form and making his way back onto the All Star team.  The Yankees rewarded Martin for his 2011 with a 1-year/$7.5 million deal on Tuesday, in the process implying that they may still not be 100% sold on Martin as a long-term fixture behind the plate, even with Jorge and Jesus out of the picture.  In looking at Martin's 2011 numbers, there are a few things that he could do in 2012 that could keep his upward momentum going and instill some more confidence in the organization to extend him beyond this season.

Martin's final line of .237/.324/.408 with a .325 wOBA in 2011 was a step in the right direction from where he had been trending the previous two years, but still not up to the standard he set in '07-'08.  After a torrid start in the season's opening month (.293/.376/.587, .420 wOBA) Martin cooled off considerably and was up and down at best for the remainder.  The first two numbers that stand out to me when trying to explain Martin's 2011 are his BB and K rates.  Martin has shown from Day 1 in the Majors that he has a very good eye at the plate.  Even in 2009 and 2010, his BB rates didn't decline with the rest of his production, but in 2011 he posted a 10.5% BB rate, the lowest value of his career since the 9.6% he put up in his rookie season of 2006.  Martin coupled this lower BB rate with a career high 17.0% K rate, certainly not something that qualifies him as a hacker, but nonetheless greater than what he's traditionally shown.

A contributing factor to those changes could certainly be Martin's career high Swing Rate in 2011, 43.5% according to PITCHf/x, as could his career high 8.3% Swinging Strike rate.  But deeper than that, the numbers that concerned me the most were the number of pitches Martin was seeing in his plate appearances.  In 2011 Martin averaged 3.74 pitches per plate appearance, below what was his 3.89 career average and even further below the P/PA values in the high 3.90s that he had in his career years.  Paired with the increased swing rates, these numbers suggest that Martin was being a bit too aggressive in his approach at the plate and putting himself in too many unfavorable counts.  When in those type of counts, a hitter will tend to take more defensive swings, generate less contact and less good contact, and in Martin's case, fail to capitalize on his strength of his great batting eye at the plate.  This would certainly explain the low batting average and increased K rate.

Also concerning were Martin's contact rate splits to left, center, and right field in 2011.  Martin's track record in these categories shows that he tends to hit a lot of his ground balls to the left side and back up the middle, and starts to elevate the ball more as he goes to right.  But in 2011 these splits became even more extreme:

- LF: 18.0% LD, 61.3% GB, 20.7% FB
- CF: 18.3% LD, 49.5% GB, 32.1% FB
- RF: 22.8% LD, 17.7% GB, 59.5% FB (*29.8% IFFB)

Combined with Martin's wOBA splits of .457 to left, .239 to center, and .261 to right, these values above suggest that there are differences in Martin's swing depending on where he tries to hit the ball, and not helpful ones.  It would be one thing if he had these contact splits and was productive across the board when hitting to all fields.  But the low wOBA values to center and right tell me that he's not making a lot of quality contact on those swings, and the majority of his ground balls up the middle and fly balls to right are turning into outs.  Interestingly enough, while Martin had his lowest LD and FB rates to left field, he did hit 14 of his 18 home runs in 2011 to left. So he certainly made the most of the solid fly ball contact he did make to left field.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AB4AR Top 30 Prospects Update

With Jesus gone and Jose Campos in, there are some slight changes that need to be made to the AB4AR Top 30.  Actually it's only in the Top 10, where Campos essentially replaces Jesus and slots a bit further down the list.  The new Top 10 looks like this:

1) Manny Banuelos
2) Dellin Betances
3) Austin Romine
4) Gary Sanchez
5) Mason Williams
6) Jose Campos
7) Adam Warren
8) David Phelps
9) J.R. Murphy
10) Slade Heathcott

I said I like to go with production and steady advancement over ceiling and potential when it comes to pitching, but for a pitcher of Campos' makeup, I'll make an exception.  He already has two above-average pitches, fastball and curve, with the fastball being well above-average thanks to mid-90s velocity and very advanced command.  He's only 19 years old and he stands 6'4", so he's got time to fill out and possibly add even more velocity as he learns to harness his curve and develop his changeup to a consistent 3rd pitch.  And his numbers speaks volumes about what he already is as a pitcher and what he's capable of:

- 81.1 IP, 2.32 ERA, 2.38 FIP, 9.41 K/9, 1.44 BB/9

For the sake of comparison, here are what some other recent Yankee stud pitching prospects did in their first A-ball campaign:

- ManBan '09: 108.0 IP, 2.67 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 8.67 K/9, 2.33 BB/9
- Betances '08: 115.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 10.53 K/9, 4.60 BB/9
- Nova '07: 99.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 4.89 K/9, 2.81 BB/9
- Hughes '05: 86.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 9.70 K/9, 2.08 BB/9

Granted, those numbers above are from higher levels of A-ball than Campos' short season numbers from 2011, but you get the idea.  With what he's done as a 19-year-old with limited experience, I feel totally justified putting him in the Top 10.  And with Campos moving up to Low-A to join Bryan Mitchell, Branden Pinder, Tyler Austin, Dante Bichette Jr., and Mason Williams, it should be an exciting year in Charleston in 2012.

**SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT**- Check out the whole AB4AR Top 30 again right here.

No More Kim Jones On YES??? NOOOOOOOO!!!!

Jorge retiring is dramatic enough.  But now you're telling me I'm not going to get to see Kim Jones on YES anymore?  Now that's a nice kick in the dick to start my morning.

According to Neil Best, Kim was offered a contract by YES but turned it down to "explore other opportunities."  Unless those other opportunities involve her and Chris Carlin replacing Joe and Evan on the midday slot on WFAN, then that is just unacceptable.  Kim is the best.  And truth be told, I'm really not interested in seeing Nancy Newman get pied on the field after a walk-off win.  And Jack Curry?  He's my man, but there's no way he's going to rock an outfit like Kim.

Only 7:30 in the morning and the day is already a downer.  Oh well.  Here's to the happier times.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yanks, Martin Agree To New Deal

On a day when the Yankees lost one of their toughest players to retirement, it's good to know that not all the badassness will be gone from this season's club.

The Yanks and Russell Martin agreed to a 1-year/$7.5 million deal today, avoiding arbitration in the process and crossing another name off the list of players that they needed to come to terms with.

(Looks like a homer to me.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Jorge Posada Has Retired

The rest of the Yankosphere has done a better job at covering this today than I have, but here are the highlights of Jorge's retirement press conference today:

- Along with the entire front office, Girardi, Jeter, Rivera, and CC were in attendance.

- Posada on playing for the Yankees: “I played baseball for the New York Yankees, and that’s all I could think of or dream of as a little kid.”

- Thurman Munson's wife saying that Jorge was the reason she got back into following baseball and the Yankees after her husband's death.

- Posada on when he knew he was retiring: “Talking to my wife during the season and talking to Derek through the season, I knew that this was it. I told him and I told Laura that this was my last year, during the year.”

And with that, another member of the Core Four has retired.  Whatever the actual definition of a "true Yankee" is, Jorge Posada is the perfect embodiment of that definition.  He was a loyal teammate and member of the organization, a fierce competitor, a great leader, and one of the hardest working players in Yankee history.  He gave everything he had for his team and his teammates for 17 years of a great, possibly Hall of Fame-worthy career, and it will certainly be different not having him around this season.

For a more in-depth reflection, check out the piece I wrote up on Jorge's career when the announcement of his retirement was first made.

For more in-depth coverage of today's events, check out LoHud.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)

Triple-R: The Bullpen

(Any discussion about the Yankee bullpen starts and ends with this man.  Courtesy of UPI/John Angelillo.)

Since I did such a bang up job predicting the rotation that will no longer include almost half of the analyzed members, I figured I might as well see this series all the way through to its conclusion.  With what happened last time, maybe there's some Triple-R karma left over from the Pineda trade and a few days after this is posted the Yankees will somehow add Craig Kimbrel and Sean Marshall to the bullpen before the season starts.  But if not, here's what we can expect from the current members of the Yankee 'pen.

Mariano Rivera- Remain

At this point, history, logic, and conventional wisdom can basically go out the window with Mo.  He is doing things in his 40s and performing at a level that nobody else in sports, save for maybe Nicklas Lidstrom, is doing.  Age doesn't seem to be able to stop him, durability concerns that should come with a professional athlete his age don't seem to be able to stop, and a decrease in velocity doesn't seem to be able to stop him.  He's coming off a year where his IP (61.1), K/9 (8.80), BB/9 (1.17), FIP (2.19), xFIP (2.64), and WAR (2.4) were all BETTER than what he put up in 2010.  In fact, Mo's 2011 FIP was the 4th best of his career; his BB/9 was the 2ND best of his career and the only other time outside of 2008 that he's been below 1.20 in that category.  Mo continues to be the best in the business by being precise with his command and consistent with his approach, and he has successfully combated his decrease in velocity by becoming even more pinpoint accurate with his command.  In what could finally be his last year, Mo has given no indication that he'll be anything less than brilliant again in 2012.  There will be the 3-game hiccup once or twice, but that's it.

Dave Robertson- Regress

The bad news is that D-Rob is a prime candidate to regress in 2012.  The good news is that it has more to do with the fact that his numbers can't get much better than they were in 2011 than it does an actual regression of his skills.  D-Rob benefited from an absurdly high strand rate in 2011 (89.8%) and an absurdly low HR/FB ratio (2.3%), neither of which are likely to be repeatable in 2012 as the law of averages runs its course.  Robertson is also still prone to the occasional bout of inconsistency with his command, and his walks continue to be a cause for concern (4.73 BB/9 last season).  But when you have the shutdown stuff that he has, that will help cover up some of the problem areas, and with another year of high-leverage experience under his belt, I don't expect Robertson to regress much more beyond an ERA and FIP in the mid-2.00s.  He possesses two elite pitches and he attacks hitters with them, and he generated more swings and misses (career highs 13.50 K/9 and 10.8 SwStr %) and less contact almost across the board in 2011 than in his previous years.  The all-world numbers of 2011 probably won't be back, but D-Rob will still be one of the 5 best relievers in baseball in 2012.

Rafael Soriano- Rebound

He's not my favorite player by any means, and I won't be plunking my money down to buy his jersey any time soon, but I do believe that Rafael Soriano's 2011 was not a true representation of the type of pitcher he is and can be for the Yankees.  He was the victim of a couple of really bad outings early in the season that, thanks to his extended injury absence, he didn't have enough time and enough innings of work to correct.  He gave up 9 earned runs and 8 walks in his first 11.1 IP in March and April, and just 9 earned runs and 10 walks over 28 IP for the rest of the season.  Soriano also experienced some issues with command that had not been present in his game in the previous two seasons.  It shouldn't be taken as a coincidence that his 3.97 FIP and 4.12 BB/9 were the highest numbers in those categories from Soriano since 2008, when he posted a 3.92 FIP and a ridiculously high 5.79 BB/9.  When he can locate, he can be very effective, and he showed instances of that in 2011.  And who knows how much the injury contributed to his early struggles and bouts with inconsistent command?  Injuries are still always a major risk with Soriano, but I expect to see a healthier, more consistent version of him in 2012.  Hey, maybe he'll even smile once.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jorge To Formally Announce His Retirement Tomorrow

The day of things becoming official in Yankeeland continues as the team issued another press release today announcing that Jorge Posada will hold a press conference at Yankee Stadium tomorrow at 11AM to announce his retirement.

In honor of Jorge officially calling it a career, I'd like to go back into the AB4ARchives to find my 2 favorite Jorge-centric posts.  Those posts come from the earliest days of AB4AR, when the Yankees and Blue Jays engaged in their 2009 brawl.  The first one was my immediate reaction to the fight after watching ESPN engage in a full-on smear campaign against Jorge and the Yankees, and the second was another collection of thoughts I gathered throughout the day after the fight.  They were probably the first truly decent things I wrote for the blog and I have Jorge and his crazy competitiveness to thank for that, so thanks, Jorge.

(When it takes someone's entire team to pull him away from a fight, you know that's a guy you should not fuck with.)

Yanks Make Pineda Trade Official

Guess everybody passed their physicals.  Here is the official press release from the Yankees on the Friday the 13th trade: 

"The New York Yankees today announced they have acquired RHP Michael Pineda and RHP Jose Campos from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for C/DH Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi.

Pineda, who turned 23 on January 18, went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA (171.0 IP, 71 ER), 55 walks and 173 strikeouts in 28 starts with the Mariners in 2011 in his first Major League action. He finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting, leading all AL rookies in strikeouts and strikeouts/9.0 IP (9.11), ranking second in innings pitched, opponents batting average (.211) and quality starts (19), tying for second in starts and ranking fourth in wins. He also held right-handed batters to a Major League-low .184 batting average (min. 225 batters faced).

The right-hander’s 173 strikeouts were the sixth-most by an AL rookie over the last 30 years and second-most all time by a Mariners rookie behind Mark Langston’s mark of 204 in 1984. Both his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.15) and strikeouts/9.0IP mark (9.11) rank as second-highest all time by a qualifying AL rookie.

Pineda opened the season in the Mariners’ starting rotation and was the third-youngest AL player on a 2011 Opening Day roster at 22 years, 72 days (as of March 31), behind Kansas City LHP Tim Collins (21 years, 222 days) and Chicago-AL LHP Chris Sale (22 years, 1 day). He earned AL Rookie of the Month honors in April (4-1, 2.01 ERA), and was named to the American League All-Star team after posting an 8-6 record with a 3.03 ERA in the first half.

A native of Yaguate, D.R., Pineda was signed by Seattle as a non-drafted free agent on December 12, 2005. He was named the Mariners’ Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and was a finalist for the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year. He entered the 2011 season as the Mariners’ top pitching prospect (second overall), according to Baseball America, as well possessing the organization’s “Best Fastball” and “Best Slider.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last player to pitch with the Yankees at age 23 or younger after having already pitched for another Major League team was Mike Morgan, acquired by the Yankees from Oakland in exchange for INF Fred Stanley in 1980 after pitching the 1978 and 1979 seasons with the Athletics. Morgan made his Yankees debut in 1982 at the age of 22 years, 187 days.

Campos, 19 from La GuairĂ¡, Venezuela, was signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent on January 15, 2009, and has compiled a 14-10 record with a 3.26 ERA (171. IP, 62 ER) in three minor league seasons. He spent the 2011 season with short-season Single-A Everett, where he went 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA (81.1 IP, 21 ER) and a team-high 85 strikeouts, leading the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts and ranking second in opponent’s batting average (.214). He walked just 13 batters the entire 2011 season, recording a 1.44 BB/9.0IP ratio, third-lowest among Northwest League starters. Campos was named to the Northwest League All-Star team, and was tabbed as the league’s top right-handed prospect (third overall) by Baseball America.

Montero, 22, hit .328 (20-for-61) with nine runs, four doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI and seven walks in 18 games (14 starts at DH, three starts at C) in his Major League debut as a September call-up with the Yankees in 2011. Originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on October 17, 2006, Montero spent a majority of the 2011 season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, batting .288 (121-for-420) with 52 runs, 19 doubles, 18 home runs and 67 RBI in 109 games and leading all International League catchers with a .997 fielding percentage (two errors, 655 total chances). He ranked third among all Yankees farmhands in home runs at the minor league level en route to being named to the International League’s midseason All-Star team. Following the season, the Venezuela native was tabbed by Baseball America as the Yankees’ top prospect for the third straight year, as well as being named the organization’s “Best Hitter for Average” and “Best Power Hitter.”

Noesi, 24, saw his first Major League action in 2011, going 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA (56.1 IP, 28 ER) in 30 appearances (two starts) over four stints with the Yankees. The right-hander was 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA (51.2 IP, 23 ER) in 28 relief appearances, while going 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA (4.2 IP, 5 ER) in two starts—both against the Tampa Bay Rays. Noesi owns a career record of 30-18 at the minor league level with a 2.98 ERA (428.1IP, 142ER) and 401 strikeouts in 97 games (74 starts)."

So there you go.  Jesus and Hector are officially gone and the rotation revamp has officially begun.  I can't wait for pitchers and catchers to report.

More Stories From The Weekend

By getting caught up in the wall-to-wall college basketball on Saturday, the NFL playoffs yesterday, and my non-stop drooling over the Brett Gardner re-signing, there were a few stories over the weekend that didn't get their proper due here at AB4AR.  If you were in a similar boat this weekend, here's your chance to catch up.

- One DH option came off the table on Friday afternoon as Carlos Pena agreed to a 1-year/$7.5 million deal to rejoin the Tampa Bay Rays.  They probably needed the offensive help more than the Yankees did, and New York was never getting Pena for $2 mil, so no big deal there.

- Jorge Posada announced that he will make his retirement official some time this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, with a press conference at Yankee Stadium.  I can't imagine there are going to be too many dry eyes in the house at that PC.

- Dr. Long has been making his round of yearly offseason house calls to work with some of the Yankees hitters.  No word on whether younger MiL guys like Romine and Jorge Vazquez get a discount or not.

- Finally, in his first public comments since the still-not-official trade from Friday the 13th, Michael Pineda spoke to Christian Red of the Daily News in a very good article by Red about becoming a Yankee, saying:

"I’m not scared. I’m always focused, working very hard every day.  I don’t think about anything else on game days. I’ve never pitched in New York or at Yankee Stadium, but I’m dying to. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to work very hard to do my job."

The trade could finally become official this week as the players involved get back into the country to complete their physicals.  As for Pineda, that's just the type of stuff I like to hear from a young pitcher, and .  And as for Pineda not being scared, well I think we just found his warm-up music for his starts at The Stadium this year.

P.S.- For the love of Tebow, can you people get on the AB4AR Facebook page and "Like" it???  45 people just ain't cutting it.  Let's go!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How About This Option For DH?

It's something I never even gave the first thought to, so unfortunately I can't take credit for it.  But my man Steve S. of the TYA family posted this genius proposition earlier today when he suggested an A.J. Burnett-for-Travis Hafner trade.

It makes perfect sense.  Hafner fits the Yankees' need for a left-handed DH to likely platoon with Andruw Jones.  And with his injury history, you have to figure he's going to be out of the lineup enough to allow the Yankees to use that spot for A-Rod and Jeter and Teix and whoever else is going to need it at one point or another during the season.  And the fact that the Yanks would be ridding themselves of A.J. to fill the DH need is a classic "2 birds with 1 stone" situation if I've ever seen one.

Read the post and join the discussion.  And Cash, if you're reading this, make it happen!

A Quick Word On Just How Awesome The Brett Gardner Contract Is

The Brett Gardner signing is a story that broke a few days ago, but it definitely warrants mentioning in greater detail.  On Friday afternoon, the Yankees and Gardner agreed to a 1-year/$2.8 million deal, avoiding arbitration in the process.  The Yankees originally offered Gardner $2.4 mil, he was asking for $3.2 mil, so the agreed upon deal falls right in the middle.  The beauty of this deal is not so much what the Yankees are paying Gardner, but the value the Yankees are getting for their $2.8 million.  Consider this:

- Only 13 Major League outfielders accumulated 5.0 fWAR or more in 2010.

- Only 12 Major League outfielders accumulated 5.0 fWAR or more in 2011.

- Only 3 Major League outfielders reached that 5.0+ fWAR level in both seasons.  They were Jose Bautista (15.1), Matt Holliday (11.7), and Brett Gardner (11.2).

Say what you want about the flaws in the WAR statistic and in the sabermetric defensive measures that give Gardner the majority of his WAR value, but that's still pretty damn impressive.  You don't see Josh Hamilton on that list, you don't see Ryan Braun on that list, you don't see Justin Upton on that list, and you don't see Jacoby Ellsbury on that list.  And all of those guys are going to be making significantly more than Brett Gardner's $2.8 million in 2012 and in the near future.

True, Gardner is not the type to take home any end-of-the-year awards for his work at the plate.  He had a respectable .358 wOBA in 2010 and dropped to .330 this past year, so he's not a Silver Slugger contender.  But his value to the Yankees and in terms of generating WAR cannot and should not be understated.  He is an elite defensive outfielder with the ability to play multiple outfield positions at the highest level.  And at the plate, he has the ability to work counts, draw walks, and put the ball in play at above-average levels, which allows him to use his speed on the basepaths to create scoring opportunities.  Gardner's skill set gives the Yankees contingency plans for both Curtis Granderson in center if they decide they can't afford him after next season, and for Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot if his age-related decline finally forces Joe to remove him from that role.

If you asked me if I'd like to have one of the top 3 outfielders in total WAR over the past 2 seasons who's in his prime at 28 years old on my team this season for the price of $2.8 million, I wouldn't even have to think before I said, "hell fucking yes I would!"  The Yankees have the benefit of not even having to be asked the question, because they've already answered it for themselves.  And if Gardner rebounds offensively the way all the projections think he will, this is going to be another steal of a deal for the Yankees in 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Checking In With The Horse

I linked to this story yesterday afternoon, but when The Horse speaks I'm contractually obligated through the name of the site to not only mention it, but to comment on his comments.  It's also been a while since anything A-Rod-specific has been mentioned here, so here's a quick take on what A-Rod had to say to ESPNDeportes yesterday.

"I think the vision for us as a team is now ... you want the DH spot to be one that's kind of a revolving door.  I think a lot of us at some point or another, in such a long season, are going occupy that spot."

I wouldn't quite say the Yankees want the DH spot to be a "revolving door" as A-Rod put it.  But their reported $2 million cap to fill the position does signify that the team isn't looking to fill it with a full-time player, and kudos to The Horse for recognizing his age and the age of some of his teammates and being smart enough to realize that keeping that position open for them is important to the team's success in 2012.

"... I'm conditioning myself right now ... to help the team win a championship and play a good third base."

Hopefully those conditioning efforts are better and different than the ones he's used before the last couple seasons, because a healthy A-Rod and a healthy A-Rod at third base are both big for the Yankees.  For the same reason that Jesus Montero's value was lessened by the Yankees using him as a full-time DH, the same holds true for The A-Taur.  The more time he spends at the hot corner, the more valuable he is.

My favorite bit from this interview was definitely A-Rod's comments on Michael Pineda, who he faced one time in 2011 and said of the encounter, "it wasn't a lot of fun."

"He has 3-plus pitches and throws up in the mid 90s, and again he's quite a figure out there, he's 6-7 and has a long reach and I'm glad I don't have to face him anymore."

Normally comments like this about new players would just be chalked up to guys being PC and saying what they have to say about a new teammate.  But when the words are coming from A-Rod's lips, I think a little more weight has to be given to them.  A-Rod has a reputation for being one of, if not the smartest baseball player out there and having a great feel and understanding for the nuances of the game.  If he can describe facing Pineda as not fun and give a very positive scouting report on him, chances are there are plenty other players out there who feel the same way.  And that bodes well for the Yankees to have a guy like that in their rotation.  A thumbs up from A-Rod is like the baseball equivalent of getting a 4-star movie review from Peter Travers, and that's just more support for the trade being a win for the Yankees.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Well This Is A Slow Friday Night

Last week at this time we had top prospects getting shipped across the country, new pitchers being added to the rotation like it was going out of style, and potential DH targets being suggested by the dozen.  Tonight I'm sitting here with snow coming down outside and nothing going on in Yankeeland to occupy my time.  Well, unless you count the Gardner signing as big news.

What gives, Cash?  Do something!!  I'm bored as hell here.  DO SOMETHING!!!

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza

It's probably the fifth or sixth time I've used this headline, but it's been awhile since I've done the Friday linkaround, so F it.  Let's get to the links.

- Robbie Clark of Yanks Go Yard discusses the shift in Puerto Rico's international standing within MLB as it relates to a potential international draft.

- William of The Captain's Blog examines Michael Pineda's 2011 pitch selection and how it will serve him moving forward as he develops a change.

- Alex Geshwind of TYA breaks down both Michael Pineda's game and Cash's logic in making the move for Pineda.

- Chip Buck of IIATMS had this interview with Jim Callis a few days ago talking about the Yankee Minor League system.  If you somehow missed this, you should slap yourself.

- Also from IIATMS, Brien Jackson runs through the potential solutions to the current overcrowding issue with the rotation.  I'm a fan of any of his options that involve A.J. no longer being a Yankee.

- Delia E. of Yankees Fans Unite looks at the arbitration situations of the 3 remaining eligible players and decides whether Martin, Logan, and Gardner should take the deal or not.

- Stephen Rhoads of RAB predicts what the roster and payroll will look like heading into next offseason and how that will impact the Yankees' ability to sign Hamels a/o re-sign C-Grand.

-3460kuri of Pinstripe Alley uses run differential analysis to show why adding Pineda was more important than giving up Jesus.

-And if you were wondering what The Horse has been up to lately when he's not nailing Torrie Wilson, he talked to ESPNDeportes' Alvaro Morales about the upcoming season.  No word on whether or not the team will take his plan for a rotating DH into consideration.

Darvish Contract Makes Yankee Pitching Moves Look Even Better

Yu Darvish is officially a Texas Ranger.  For a cool $112 million, the Rangers were able to plug the gap left by former ace C.J. Wilson jumping to the Angels.  And in the process they made the Yankees' pitching additions from last Friday look even better.

For what works out to approximately $18.667 million dollars per season after factoring in the contract and posting fee, the Yankees could have had Darvish's services.  He could have slotted in behind CC as the #2 starter, provided an upgrade over what the Yankees had in their rotation at the time, and given them another young pitcher around which they could build their rotation for the future over the next couple seasons.  He also would have left them with one rotation spot still being occupied by A.J. Burnett, and at that price tag seriously crippled the Yankees' plans to cut payroll for 2014, unless they let both Swish and C-Grand walk without making offers to them and stayed dormant on the FA and trade markets.

As it stands right now, the Yankees will pay Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda about $10.4 million in 2012, significantly less than what Darvish will get from Texas, and lengthen their rotational depth in the process.  They'll do it without sacrificing their future payroll goals, and with Pineda being under team control for the next 5 years and coming off a stellar rookie year, the Yankees could stand to get production from him identical to, if not better than what Darvish will provide at a fraction of the cost.  Even Kuroda could come close to replicating Darvish in 2012 when you factor in all the adjustments that Darvish will have to make going from the Japanese game to the American game.

Darvish, for all his talents and impressive numbers, is an unknown commodity as a Major League pitcher.  Pineda and Kuroda are not.  And Pineda, at 2 years younger than Darvish, already has a very good Major League season under his belt.  His learning curve will presumably be shorter than that of Darvish.  If Pineda outperforms Darvish over the next 5 years, the decision by Cash to pass on Darvish and pursue this trade is going to look like a stroke of genius.  Even if he doesn't, it's reasonable to expect Pineda to come close to matching Darvish moving forward and at the drastically different dollar amounts that each will be making, that's still a great deal for the Yankees.

In the end, Darvish and the price tag tied to him didn't fit in with the Yankees' plans.  They went out and found a much cheaper alternative that could turn out to provide even better value.  And they lowered their risk by taking a chance on Major League players with Major League experience.  As much as they scouted Darvish, the Yankees had to have a very solid idea of what he is and could become as a pitcher and what that was worth to them.  And they decided that shelling out 9 figures for that kind of pitcher wasn't a wise investment.  When the alternative is adding 2 quality starters at significantly less money while still maintaining future roster and payroll flexibility, I would have to agree with that decision.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Searching For The Next Great Yankee Bat

While the Yankees' shoddy track record of developing young pitching is well-documented, taking a look through the recent history books also shows that they're not exactly churning out Silver Slugger Award winners at the plate either.  The last Yankee position player to come through the system and establish himself as an impact bat at the Major League level was Robinson Cano in 2006.  Before Cano, you have to head back to the mid-90s and the days of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada to find a homegrown position player who stayed in the organization and became an above-average hitter.  This theme hasn't been as easy a target to criticize the way the young pitching has thanks to the team's deep pockets.  When you're getting major offensive production from the prime years of guys like Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, it's easy to forget about your young position players.

Jesus Montero was the next in line to become an All Star-caliber homegrown hitter, and had been for some time.  With the immediate impact he made in his cup of coffee last September, the torch was all but dosed with lighter fluid and lit, ready to be passed to him.  Montero was the rare type of hitting prospect who combines great bat speed with tremendous power and a disciplined approach at the plate, a combination that has earned him high praise and comparisons to guys like Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera.  The accuracy of those comparisons can be argued, and it remains to be seen if Montero can live up to those lofty standards, but there is no denying that as a prospect, Montero trumped guys like Cano and Jeter, who were both recognized as good hitters when they were in the Minors, but not to the degree that Montero has been.  I certainly can't recall any comparisons being made between Cano and Rod Carew until he had already been in the Majors for a season or two.

Anybody with half a clue knows that prospects like Montero don't come around every year.  Like an effective John Lackey outing, they are very rare and that rarity is the foundation of their value to a franchise.  In Montero's case, he was even more valuable to the Yankees in that he gave them the potential to fill what could quickly become a need again for them in the form of a productive power bat in the middle of the lineup.  With some of the key core members of the Yankee offense getting older, to be able to inject that kind of production potential into the lineup from within the organization is a huge advantage.

That advantage is magnified even more when you take into account the Yankees' apparent new goal of cutting payroll for 2014.  Accomplishing that goal would mean not only NOT going out and spending lavishly on big time hitters as they have over the past 15-20 years, but also possibly not re-signing some of the impending position player free agents like Swish and C-Grand who already provide major production.  Those at-bats have to be replaced somehow, and the likely method would have been through cheap, team-controlled young players like Montero.  Losing Jesus, the obvious key piece in that cost-controlled replacement plan, in the Pineda trade is more than just a bummer because we wanted to see him play.  It could have a big impact on the Yankees' organizational plans both in the short term and the more distant future. 

With Montero out of the picture, the Yankees must now look to the rest of the system to find the one who will step up and assume Jesus' vacated throne as King of the Position Prospects.  If you check any Yankee top prospects list, like this one for example, you can see that there are plenty of position players scattered through the system who could develop into productive Major League hitters.  The problem is that most of these players reside in the lower levels of the Yankee system and are at least two years away from being able to make any kind of impact at the Major League level.  The upper levels, especially Triple-A, are stacked with lower-ceiling guys like Brandon Laird and Austin Romine, or guys who project as nothing more than organizational players like Jorge Vazquez, a powerful hacker straight out of the Pedro Cerrano handbook.  As it stands, none of these players are capable of filling Montero's shoes and providing a cheap outlet to replace at-bats and production, at least not at the level the Yankees would be looking for.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday To The Newest Yankee Starter

And the youngest.  Happy birthday, Mike.  Hopefully your 23rd ends up better than mine was.

Although thinking back to how much my two best friends and I drank that night, I highly doubt it will be.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

It's A Four-Alarm Signing, People

In honor of him being the newest addition to the AB4AR sidebar Photoshop collection, and in honor of the Yankees bringing back the best relief pitcher in baseball not named Mariano Rivera, a guy who put up a 1.08/1.84/2.46 line last year and K'd 100 batters in 66.2 IP, for just $1.6 million...

Ladies and gentlemen, The Fireman.

Now hit the fucking music!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fraud Sawx Rotation Is Gettin' Swolled Up

As is starting operating procedure in the AL East, the Fraud Swax had to respond to the Yankees' blockbuster moves on Friday night.  Honestly, I don't understand it either.  Sooner or later this whole "anything you can do, I can do BETTER" routine from them has to stop, but I digress.

What really fries my brain on this one is the fact that the Sawx actually got started on their comeback move BEFORE the Yankees even made their moves.  That's right.  Almost a whole week in advance.  I'm talking, of course, about the masterful steal of a deal that is the Aaron Cook Spring Training invite contract that the Fraud Sawx signed him to on January 8th.  That stroke of brilliance is enough to stand on its own merit, but when paired with yesterday's announcement of a Vicente Padilla signing, well it's damn near enough to disrupt the space/time continuum.

I mean, Cook and Padilla!  TOGETHER!!!  IN THE SAME ROTATION?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!111!!!!  Surely that tips the scales back in Bahhston's favah, right?

- Pineda 2011: 171 IP, 3.74/3.42/3.53, 9.11 K/9
- Kuroda 2011: 202 IP, 3.07/3.78/3.56, 7.17 K/9 (NL)

- Cook 2011: 97 IP, 6.03/4.54/4.37, 4.45 K/9 (NL)
- Padilla 2011: 8.2 IP (all relief), 4.15/2.68/3.40, 9.35 (NL) ((small sample sizes, anyone?))

Well there you go, the numbers tell the whole story.  You wanna know what I think?  I think the Fraud Sawx "probably" upgraded their rotation for 2012.  They'll at least have 5 guys in the rotation now, won't they?  That has to be considered an improvement.

P.S- Suck it, Bobby V.

The Potential Impact Of The Montero-Pineda Trade On The Rest Of The Roster

The immediate impact of Friday night's blockbuster moves by the Yankees are obvious and significant.  Their 2012 rotation has been drastically upgraded by the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, and the starting lineup currently has a glaring hole at DH.  The DH situation and its potential solutions are already being discussed in detail, so no sense in re-hashing that.  What hasn't been talked about a whole lot yet is the reverberations of this trade that can be felt throughout the entire 25 and 40-man rosters.  The addition of Pineda and Kuroda combined with the loss of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi lays the groundwork for some interesting possibilities heading into Spring Training.  Possibilities such as...

1) Austin Romine as the new backup catcher

With Montero heading to Seattle, the Yankees are left with Francisco Cervelli as their lone backup catching option.  While that's not the worst thing in the world from a backup standpoint, we've all seen what happens to Cervelli's production when he's forced into everyday duty, and Russell Martin is not exactly a pillar of health.  Enter Austin Romine.  Still a Top 10 prospect on almost everybody's list, Romine got a taste of the Majors at the end of 2011 and was expected to be the full time catcher for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2012.  But with Cervelli being what he is, the Yankees will certainly invite Romine to camp and could give him a real shot to win the job.  The ZiPS projections for Romine in 2012 (.252/.300/.364, 74 OPS+) are almost identical to Cervelli's (.255/.321/.343, 75 OPS+), and with very limited Major League experience, the short and long-term ceiling for Romine is higher than it is for Cervelli.  Early in the offseason Cash was signaling that he was looking to move Cervelli.  Even with one less catcher in the fold, an emergence by Romine could steer Cash's thoughts to that option again.

2) More Eduardo Nunez in the lineup

We all have our ideal guy in mind, but I think the most likely scenario for filling the void at DH is a L/R platoon with Player X and Andruw Jones.  And I think with that scenario comes the understanding that both A-Rod and Jeter are going to see more time at DH this season, which is something that has to happen if the Yankees are going to keep these two important, and expensive, pieces of their lineup healthy and on the field as much as possible in 2012.  With the Yankees failing to come to terms with Hiroyuki Nakajima, Eduardo Nunez will again be looked at to play caddy to the left side of the infield on their DH days.  That might be a frightening proposition for folks with tickets in the first few rows behind first base at The Stadium, but Nunez is the best option in house right now and the Yankees still seem committed to getting him more playing time.  He can hold his own with the stick, and after gaining some valuable experience in his 338 plate appearances in 2011 he could improve this year.  Some slight adjustments to his throwing mechanics to cut down on the errors and perhaps we saw that WAR number get into the positives for Nuney.

3) The Return Of "5th Starter Roulette"

I wouldn't say it's every Yankee fan's favorite game show, but it's at least better than "Minute To Win It," right?  Previous winners include Phil Hughes in 2010 and Freddy Garcia in 2011, and both of those gentlemen will return to defend their titles in 2012.  It would have been nice to not have to play this game in Spring Training for the third year in a row, and with the way the rotation was constructed prior to Friday night the Yankees most likely wouldn't have.  But I think the additions of Pineda and Kuroda to form a strong front 4 with CC and Nova is a fair tradeoff for us having to endure this pseudo-drama for another year.  A.J. Burnett could even sneak in as a dark horse candidate if Cash doesn't move him prior to camp opening.  Strong cases for all three contenders have already been made, but it will be their performance on the hill that determines the winner.

4) More Candidates For The Long Relief Bullpen Role

And whoever ends up on the losing side of "5th Starter Smackdown" will get tossed into a pool of candidates, likely as the early favorite, for the longman job in the bullpen.  Based on the Yankees previously committing to using Hector Noesi as a starter in 2012, the two names that stick out here are Rule 5 pick Brad Meyer and D.J. Mitchell.  Given Joe's preference for arms with experience (hi, Luis Ayala!), and the fact that he's more familiar with Freddy, Phil, and A.J., I think they would have a big leg up on the competition.  But to create a competition for a spot, even a minor role like this, is always a good thing in camp.  At least make the guys earn their keep.

5) Vacancy At The "Triple-A Rotation" Inn

Well maybe not a vacancy, but certainly no overcrowding.  With Noesi, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees were looking at 6 guys for 5 spots in their rotation in 2012 as ManBan, Betances, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and the aforementioned Mr. Mitchell would also be in the mix.  Without him, the remaining five fit in nicely, assuming the Yankees keep Mitchell in the rotation, which would be the smart move to start the year if/when the loser of the 5th rotation spot battle slides into the long relief slot in the Major League bullpen.  And even if they don't, at least now the Yankees aren't forced into making any decision with this group of young pitchers because of lack of roster space.  Everybody has a place in the rotation and they can continue to pitch and develop without worrying about whether or not a bad outing or two would cause them to lose their spot or have their role changed.  The worst thing you can do to a young pitcher is constantly alter his routine and approach, something the Yankees are all too familiar with (see: Chamberlain, Joba).  At least now they don't have to do something like that to accommodate somebody else.

Certainly nothing sexy here, that's for sure.  But it goes to show how far-reaching these big trades can be.  Four days ago, we could almost name what the entire 25-man roster would look like and what each guy's role would be before Spring Training even started.  Now?  Not so much, which brings added intrigue to this offseason.  The trade changed the Yankee roster in a big way, and it will likely continue to affect that roster right up until Opening Day and beyond.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Get Out Your 2-Year-Old World Series Gear, Folks...

Because we got us a good old fashioned 2009 World Series Championship reunion tour in the works!!  And it's going to be AWESOME!!

There might be Matsui!

There might be Damon!

And who knows what else!!  Maybe a guest appearance by Cody Ransom!!!

Quick, somebody get Andy-Wan Kenobi on the phone!

Farewell To The Jesus

I'm not a religious man by any means.  The one day of church I attend every year is on Christmas Eve, and I only do it because I know it's important to my mother.  And even then, I spend the majority of my time at that one Christmas Eve church visit trying not to laugh at the way the pastor delivers a watered down version of the Christmas story, including random animals that would never appear in the nativity scene.

So while I might not be one of the lucky few who is spared during the next rapture or end of the world of whatever, I was a believer in one Jesus.  That Jesus wasn't a product of a virgin birth (as far as I know), he didn't sport a kickass hippy beard, and he more than likely won't get nailed to a cross by a bunch of angry baseball fans.  But he was a miracle child, and he could have been the savior of the Yankee offense.  Sure, he wasn't going to be Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate, but look at that swing!!  It was a thing of beauty.  It was as if Michelangelo himself rose from the grave to craft that swing and bless it with opposite field power.  And after the events that transpired on Friday night, it is a swing that we Yankee fans shall get to enjoy nevermore.  That swing will live on through our memories of those glorious 69 plate appearances last September, and the couple in October, but from this day forth we will experience it only as that of a visiting player, the enemy, and that is truly disappointing.

I've written about the perils of prospect hugging before, but in the case of Jesus Montero I was powerless to follow my own advice, as I'm sure many of you were.  He had been hyped up for so long (with good reason), and we had to wait seemingly forever to finally get the chance to see him break into the everyday Yankee lineup, laying the groundwork for the next great batch of homegrown talent that would surely establish the next great Yankee dynasty.  And now he'll be shipped clear off to the other side of the continent, never to bless us with any of his heavenly talents.  After waiting for years for him to develop and make his way through the Minor League ranks, and seeing him held out of multiple trades for other pitchers, to have him snatched away right as he finally reached the level at which we all wanted to see him is a tremendous blow.

On a personal level, despite the fact that I quickly came to understand how good a trade this was for the Yankees on Friday night, I'm still bummed out at having to lose Jesus and not get to worship at his altar for the next 10-12 years.  He was the first prospect since Phil Hughes that I latched onto early and followed all the way through the system, and I was a firm believer that the Yankees should not have traded him for anybody and used him to build the foundation for the future lineup.  Not to mention the fact that he was my favorite of all the Photoshops I use regularly on the site, and now I can never use it again.

I'm even going to have to replace him on the sidebar of the page.  That fucking sucks.

I'm happy with the decisions the Yankees made in terms of the big picture.  But a part of me will always be bummed out that I didn't get to see what Jesus could have done in a Yankee uniform.  Whether he turned out to be Carlos Lee or Miguel Cabrera or somebody else, whatever.  It would have been exciting to see his career play out after all the hype.  I used this song last year in jest to commemorate Pedro Feliciano being lost for the season.  Today, it actually seems strangely appropriate to use in connection with Jesus leaving us.  Goodbye, sweet prince.  You will be missed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

TYA Self Promotion

If you want to know what I and the rest of my TYA colleagues think about who should/shouldn't be the 5th starter in this new rotation, head over there and check out this post.  Pretty much every possibly scenario is covered.

If you haven't even started to consider who you'd like to see in that last rotation spot (Hughes, A.J. Freddy, someone else), this is a great way to read well-reasoned arguments for all 3 of the major contenders and form your own opinion.

Shut The Hell Up, Valentine

Bobby V doesn't seem too high on the Yankees' recent acquisitions, saying that the New York rotation is "probably" better.

“Pineda, when I saw him the first half, he looked unhittable.  Second half, he looked OK. (The Mariners) saw a lot of him and they traded him."

“Kuroda is a good pitcher — a year older than he was last year, pitching in the American League and not the National League, pitching in not a great pitcher’s ballpark from a great pitcher’s ballpark.”

Listen, Bob.  I know you've been outta the coaching game for a while and doing the studio analyst thing, and you probably forgot what your job was when you said this.  But this is the kind of stuff you reserve strictly for the Baseball Tonight set, especially when your club is bringing in the immortal Aaron Cook to patch up the back end of your rotation and still employs John Lackey.  You're spending all your time talking about whether or not Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek's carcasses are going to be invited to Spring Training while Cash is snatching up exactly what your club needs.  So like my mom always used to tell me; if you don't have anything nice (or smart) to say, then just shut the fuck up.