Good News Baseball Fans

TBS has decided to "part ways" with Chip Caray, bringing an end to our suffering. 

I generally don’t root for people to be fired, but I am also not a big fan of nepotism. I hope TBS thinks about adding a good play-by-play guy like Gary Cohen or I would take Jon Miller if Joe Morgan didn’t come with him. 

Sportsman Of The Year

Congrats to Derek Jeter who was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year today.  He is the first Yankee to win that award and only the third athlete from a New York team to win.  (Impossible trivia question- who were the others?)

It has been a treat to watch Jeter play for the Yankees for 14 seasons and it is nice to see him receive an award like this. 

 

Void at Short

The Red Sox have treated their shortstops like temps over the past 6 seasons. Let’s review who has played shortstop for the Red Sox since Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004 (the majority for each season since the trade): Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Julio Lugo again and Nick Green (AGon was also a major contributor toward the end of the 2009 season of course).

Now, for a "major market" team like Boston, it is only fair to compare their shortstop situation to that of other major market teams, no? So let’s look at who the other major market team have had a shortstop since 2004:

NYY: Derek Jeter, Jeter, Jeter, Jeter, Jeter, Jeter (1 player)

LAA: David Eckstein, Orlando Cabrera, Cabrera, Cabrera, Erik Aybar, Aybar (3 players)

NYM: Kaz Matsui, Joese Reyes, Reyes, Reyes, Reyes, Alex Cora (injury to Reyes)(3 players)

CHC: Ramon Martinez, Neifi Perez, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Theriot, Theriot, Theriot (4 players)

LAD: Cesar Izturis, Izturis, Rafael Furcal, Furcal, Angel Berroa, Furcal (3 players)

STL: Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein, Eckstein, Eckstein, Cesar Izturis, Bredan Ryan (4 players)

PHI: Jimmy Rollins, Rollins, Rollins, Rollins, Rollins, Rollins (1 player) DET: Carlos Guillen, Guillen, Guillen, Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Adam Everett (3 players)

HOU: Adam Everett, Everett, Everett, Everett, Miguel Tejada, Tejeda (2 players)

This illustrates it is possible to have a franchise shortstop, but it also tells us it isn’t easy to have one player (or even just 2) lock down the position for a long period of time.

The Red Sox can’t look to Gonzalez anymore as he signed with Toronto, so they are left to either sign someone like Marco Scutaro or Adam Everett if they choose the free agency route. Boston does have a few high-ceiling prospects in the minors who could handle the position (Jose Iglesias being the best known) down the road, but for 2009, we are again headed for uncertainty. Jed Lowrie hasn’t stayed healthy and signing Scutaro would cost Boston a 1st round draft pick in 2010.

Oh well, they might just figure out the shortstop position at some point, but 2010 seems to be headed towards a patch-work of utility guys or overpaying a player that is as big a risk as anything on the open market having never played in Boston (Renteria and Lugo). We’ll known soon enough.

We’ve Been Here Before

Let’s see, the Blue Jays have an ace pitcher and the Yankees may be in the trade market for one.  This has a familiar feel to it…oh that’s right it’s happened twice before- Roger Clemens and David Cone.  In 1995, the Yankees traded for Cone in the midst of a pennant race.  In 1999, they traded for Clemens at the start of spring training.  Both trades are good barometers of what it might cost to land Roy Halladay in 2009. 

The Yankees made a trade for Cone on July 28, 1995, sending three minor league pitchers to Toronto for Cone.  Cone was two months from free agency and was coming off a Cy Young-winning season in 1994.  It turned out to be one of the best trades in Yankees’ history as Cone went 9-2 and pitched the Yankees into the playoffs.  The three pitchers they surrendered were at AA and lower at the time and combined to win only 6 games in the majors over the course of their careers. 

In February 1999 the Yankees traded for Roger Clemens, sending David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush to Toronto.  Clemens was coming off of the 1998 Cy Young, but Wells had pitched very well in 1998 as well, going 18-4 with a 3.49 ERA.   Lloyd you may remember as the Damaso Marte of his time.  He had a rough transition to New York, but became a hero in the 1996 playoffs and settled into a productive role in the bullpen after that.  Bush, who came to the Yankees in the Hideki Irabu trade, was somewhat like Freddy Guzman all speed and no bat.  Clemens was two years from free agency at the time of the trade.

So, Halladay would probably fall somewhere in between these two trades.  He is not as close to free agency as Cone was, but he is closer than Clemens was.  Extrapolating from those two trades, the Yankees shouldn’t have to give up a pitcher of the same quality as Wells, but they would need to give up better prospects than they did for Cone. Translate that into today and I would think a package of Joba or Hughes, Melancon and another lower-level arm would be about right.  That’s a trade I wouldn’t make with Lackey available on the free agent market because once you trade for Halliday you are going to have to give him a huge deal as a contract extension.  Now, if Lackey goes elsewhere, the Yankees need to give Halliday a long look. 

The Voice Is Silenced

Bob Sheppard announced his retirement yesterday and Yankee games will never be the same.  From Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter, Sheppard announced every great Yankee in between.  I believe it was Billy Crystal who said, "When I die and go to Heaven I want Bob Sheppard to announce me." 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all our readers, thank you for making this a great experience.  Andy and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

And, to my fellow Yankee fans it seems appropriate to say…ENJOY THE PIE!

A Halladay in Boston?

The NY Daily News is reporting that the Red Sox are making a strong push to acquire Toronto’s Roy Halladay.  This would be a great acquisition for Boston, but is it the best way to upgrade the pitching staff?

For starters, it might take a package of Clay Buchholz, Casey Kelly and another 1-2 prospects (and maybe Daniel Bard) to make the move (I’m not here to suggest the above is the necessary package of players, just trying to introduce a concept).  Then, once here, Halladay would require an extension, 5 years at between $80mm or $90mm ($16m – $18mm per year) sounds about right.

Or perhaps the Red Sox just go out and sign John Lackey.  Lackey isn’t as good as Halladay, but he also wouldn’t cost as much and still provide a solid #2 pitcher.  Consider, signing Halladay would cost lots of money and lots of talent.  Signing Lackey would cost less money and only a 1st round pick in the 2010 draft.

You tell me, assuming both moves prove possible, which is the best approach?

Halladay is awfully tempting but would probably negate any possible offensive upgrade using prospects (names like Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera have been mentioned).  In addition, whether or not the Red Sox re-sign Jason Bay will play into this as well.

To me, if the Red Sox can re-sign Bay, I’d make the Halladay move.  Jon Lester, Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett would be a compelling 1-2-3, wouldn’t it?  If they cannot sign Bay or Matt Holliday, I think the focus needs to be a trade to upgrade the offense.

In an ideal world, I’d see the Red Sox re-sign Bay, trade for an offensive upgrade at shortstop or the corning infield and get Halladay.  That would make this a great off-season for Boston, but I’m not sure the minor league system has enough ammunition to get all of that done.

As we approach and enter the Winter Meetings (Dec 7-10), we should start getting some clarity on what the Red Sox will look like in 2010.

Mauer Matters

The Twins are trying to get local boy, Joe Mauer, to agree to a contract extension and their success or failure will have a big impact on the Yankees’ offseason.

If Mauer doesn’t agree to an extension he will become a free agent after 2010, and considering he is a catcher and only 27, he will be looking at a monster contract.  Obviously, the Yankees would be one of the favorites to sign him in this scenario.  Knowing this, New York could gamble and put their best prospect, Jesus Montero into trade proposals if they thought they could sign Mauer after the 2010 season.  I know people are a bit down on Joba, but imagine what a package with Joba and Montero in it could fetch. But, if Mauer stays in Minnesota (and I think he will) the Yankees need to have internal options to play catcher and therefore must hang onto Montero.

I read today that the Twins hope to have these talks concluded by Christmas, so we should have an answer by then.  Whatever happens, the Yankees will definitely be watching. 

The Next Deadline

The next big choice facing the Yankees is which free agents they want to offer arbitration to.  What this really boils down to is compensation.  If you don’t offer arbitration, you won’t receive a draft pick if the player leaves. But, you only receive compensation if the player qualifies as a Type A or Type B free agent.  (And, for those of you who remember the old system, you can keep negotiating with a free agent no matter what you do.)

As I have mentioned, the Yankees have seven free agents.  Of those seven, Molina, Hairston, Hinske and Matsui (yes Matsui) didn’t qualify for compensation.  So, the Yankees don’t have to worry about offering them arbitration because there is no reason to do so.  That leaves three players, Damon, Pettitte and Nady who do qualify.  Damon is a Type A free agent which means the Yankees would get two picks (probably a first rounder depending on which club he signed with and a "sandwich" pick, which is one between the first two rounds).  Nady and Pettitte are Type B which means the Yankees would only get a sandwich pick.  The thing to remember about arbitration is if you offer it and the player accepts, he is signed to a one-year deal.  But, and this is important, he cannot earn less than 80% of his previous salary in the process.  So, if the Yankees offer it to Damon and he accepts, he will make at least $10,400,000 in 2010.  Arbitration has no middle ground, one side will win and one will lose.  They can work out a deal, but if a hearing is held there can only be a winner and a loser. 

That makes it a no-brainer to me for the Yankees to offer Damon arbitration.  Worse case, he accepts and you have to give him a big deal for one-year.  How much could he really make?  With Abreu just signing for two-years/$19 million it would be hard to see him earn much more than the $13 million he made this season. That’s a figure I think the Yankees could live with.  Plus, with Boras as his agent I think he declines in search of a longer-term deal.  That means the Yankees can wait and see what offers he gets, knowing they will probably get two top-50 draft picks if they decide to let him walk.

I would not offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte because I don’t believe he is a threat to sign anywhere else and with a top-25 ERA in the AL, he could probably ask for and receive a big raise in arbitration.  (Remember there is no limit to what a player can ask for)  Pettitte’s agents will compare his numbers to AJ Burnett. (not too far off and AJ earns $16 million.)  They will compare them to Dontrelle Willis (100x better in 2009 and Willis made $10 million)  In short, I think Pettitte might win whatever figure he asks for.  I would prefer to just talk to Pettitte and try and work out a deal. 

And that brings us to the last choice, Xavier Nady.  Nady made $6.55 million last year, so he would be eligible to make at least $5,240,000 if he was offered arbitration.  There is simply no way you can offer that to a player coming off of his second Tommy John surgery.   

We will learn what the Yankees think in the next week.  

What We’ve Learned

We’ve learned the Yankees have added seven players to their 40-man roster while subtracting one.  It’s kind of an odd approach.

By adding seven guys (Ivan Nova, Reggie Corona, Austin Jackson, Hector Noesi, Kevin Russo, Eduardo Nunez and Romulo Sanchez) they protect those players from the Rule 5 daft.  But, they also leave only one spot open on the 40-man, which they created by cutting Shelley Duncan (He isn’t really cut, but he is not going to accept a minor league assignment, but more on that later)  Leaving only one open spot on the 40-man means you have to start putting players on waivers if you sign more than one free agent.  So, if the Yankees bring back Andy Pettitte and Johnny Damon, someone on the 40-man has to go through waivers. 

The reason I find this odd is because of the way the Rule 5 draft works.  Teams can select a player who isn’t on the 40-man roster, but they then have to keep that player in the majors all year or offer him back to the original team.  This actually happened last winter when Nova was selected by the Padres, but returned to the Yankees at the end of spring training because he wasn’t ready for the bigs.  So yes, leaving a player unprotected for the Rule 5 is a risk, but to remove him from the 40-man means you have to pass him through waivers only.  Isn’t that a bigger risk?  So, I really don’t get why the Yankees filled their roster almost to the brink, but I imagine we will read something about it in the next few days.

Of the guys they added, I think Russo has the best chance of making the team out of camp.  He can play all over the infield and he put up a .326/.397/.431 line in AAA last year.  The Yankees could very well bring him up as the backup infielder next year. 

Jackson has been talked about everywhere, but looking at his AAA #’s last year it doesn’t look like he will hit for enough power- yet.  I see no reason to rush him and barring a monster spring, I hope the Yankees let him get comfortable in AAA for a few months in next season

Nunez is interesting because he has always been a good shortstop, but he had never hit prior to 2009.  But in 2009, he took a huge leap forward offensively hitting .322/.349/.433.  If he can keep that up the Yankees suddenly have their shortstop of the future.  

Reggie Corona is another middle infielder and he has not hit at all. I would expect him to be the first guy waived if the Yankees need to free up a 40-man spot.

Ivan Nova split time between AA and AAA starting at both.  He walks almost 4 per 9 and he doesn’t strike enough guys out to be a legitimate prospect for 2010.  He is only 21, so there is always the chance he can grow.

Hector Noesi is interesting because he strikes out a lot of guys with very good control.  He is only 21 and he hasn’t advanced past A ball, so he is unlikely to show up in the Bronx until 2011 at the earliest.

Romulo Sanchez is a guy the Yankees got from Pittsburgh for Eric Haker.  He started and relieved in Scranton posting a 4.04 ERA in 64 innings.  Since he is 25, it’s hard to see him as more than a system filler a this point.

I mentioned that the Yankees sent Shelley Duncan to the minors, an assignment he will almost certainly refuse.   I don’t think Duncan would have ever become a star, but I don’t understand why the Yankees chose to protect Sanchez and Corona while letting him go.  I am sure some organization will pick up Duncan and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him blast 15 home runs next season in the bigs.  He would be a nice bat in a platoon.