Think About It

Hey, did you hear that the Yankees are considering bringing Johnny Damon back to the Bronx? Wait a second, Damon’s still lefthanded and the Yankees already have a lefty outfield? What, Damon can no longer play passable defense in the outfield? He only stole 11 bases last year? How does this make sense?

I suspect this is a case of a guy who is well liked by many in the press planting a story to increase interest around the league. If Damon didn’t do this himself, we certainly know his agent is capable of doing it. This rumor made no sense from the start. If the Yankees wanted a bat who can’t play defense, Marcus Thames would be a much, much better fit. Plus, would Damon be happy coming off the bench? Until the Yankees spend some money, there are going to be rumors about all sorts of players.

With that I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Unless something new happens in Yankeeland I will post again in 2011.

He’s Right But…

Brian Cashman really put an end to the idea of Joba in the rotation with this quote given to Ken Davidoff:

“His stuff plays so much significantly [better] out of the ‘pen. We had given him an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, and the velocity dropped. It’s just not the same stuff.”

Looking at the numbers, Cashman is right. Joba averaged 92.5 mph on his fastball in 2009 vs. 94.6 in 2010. His slider went from 84.6 to 87.2 and his curve from 77.7 to 80.2. My question is- so what?

Velocity has to be the most overrated aspect of pitching. Location and the ability to change speeds are much more important. Cliff Lee looked pretty good this year averaging 91.3mph on his fastball. And if velocity is so important, why did the Yankees bring Sergio Mitre and his 90.2mph fastball back?

I think this might be a diplomatic way for Cashman to say that Joba doesn’t have the mental makeup for starting. I can’t really argue that, but the Yankees had better be sure about that assessment. Joba’s stuff may drop when he is a starter, but it is still a lot better than that of most of the other current candidates for the rotation.

Wheelering and Dealing

The Red Sox have signed another bullpen arm in Dan Wheeler. He is an AL East veteran and seems like a good addition, especially on a 1-year deal (2nd year vests with 65 apps).

The Red Sox bullpen has gone from empty to full in short order, something I assumed would happen. Why would the Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez and sign Carl Crawford if they were going to ignore one of their biggest problems last year, the bullpen.

Wheeler will be a middle reliever and joins Bobby Jenks as newly signed bullpen arms. While Felix Doubront remains the best lefty option, it is being said that the Red Sox prefer to start Doubront in the AAA and want to bring in another veteran lefty option.

This news is 2 days old, just trying to get caught up. With all of this movement, I have to remember, no official baseball for another 3 1/2 months. The will be one long off-season.

A Second Lefty

Yes, it is too much money, but the Yankees are paying the market rate with the signing of Pedro Feliciano. Jon Heyman reports that it is a two-year deal for $4 million per. I wish I could throw a baseball with my left hand.

In his career, Feliciano has held LHB to rates of .214/.282/.297. Combined with Boone Logan (.190/.286/.215 in 2010) the Yankees have two guys who can shut down lefties in the bullpen. But, their presence will also create a problem.

Assume that the Yankees go with 12 relievers in 2011 and assume the Yankees around 940 innings of work from their starting pitchers. Assuming they have 1,440 innings to cover (AL average), that leaves 500 innings for the bullpen to deliver. With Logan, Feliciano and Rivera, you probably have no more than 200 and that might be generous. That leaves at least 300 innings for the remaining four guys, or 75 each.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a big number, but look at the Yankee totals from last year. Joba pitched 71, and Robertson 61. In 2009 Hughes and Aceves both cracked 80, but Hughes made 7 starts. The point is, Joe Girardi is going to have to adjust his style and use his relievers more or the Yankees are going to have to shuttle guys up and down most of the season. Nothing to worry about right now, but something to keep in mind as the season gets going.

It’s the Bullpen Stupid

With the signing of Bobby Jenks yesterday (pending a physical), the Red Sox bullpen is starting to take shape:

Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
Set-up – Daniel Bard
Set-up – Bobby Jenks
Lefty – Felix Doubront
Lefty – Andrew Miller
Righty – Tim Wakefield
Righty – Scott Atchison

I can live with that. To me, the lefties are important. Doubront, in limited action, held lefties to a .576 OPS in 40 Plate Appearances. Miller on the other hand was a batting practice pitcher for lefties in 2010 allowing a 1.262 OPS to lefties in 48 PAs. That off the charts bad. His career OPS against lefties is .819 in 365 PAs. Not good still, but it shows you how heavily his 2010 stats factored into his overall OPS vs lefties.

Miller at this point is a reclamation project and shouldn’t be counted on in anyway. New pitching coach Curt Young will need to get his hands on Miller ASAP and see what he can do by the time spring training breaks as Miller has to stay on the big league roster or else has to pass through waivers if sent down to Pawtucket (or lower).

So the lefty burdon falls on Doubront for the time being.

The set-up arms are all power arms. Jenks is appealing b/c he can step in an close if need be but hopefully will serve to share the set-up duties with Bard.

Atchison is your reliever when all others are tired, or you when the Red Sox are losing the game and Wakefield is your utility bullpen arm. They’ll probably keep him semi-stretched out so he can make a spot start now and again.

Back to the lefties, Doubront is a big piece here as when the Red Sox step into the New Yankee Stadium, it would be nice to have a shutdown reliever in the bullpen. The same way the Yankees just signed Pedro Feliciano (career .580 OPS vs lefties) who will combat the Red Sox heavy lefty line-up, the Red Sox need to be able to do the same in New York. The Red Sox obviously play other teams besides the Yankees (but isn’t that what this website is about), so having a quality pitcher against lefties is huge.

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There is talk that the Red Sox and Dan Wheeler are talking too, that would probably spell the end to Atchison (or Miller), but nothing firm yet on those talks.

That’s A Hometown Discount

Kerry Wood has apparently taken a one-year/$1.5 million deal from the Cubs. Apparently he was seeking two years and something like $12 million from the Yankees and even turned down a one-year/$3.5 million deal from the White Sox.

While I would have gladly welcomed him back for $1.5 million, I am not too upset to lose Wood. His 0.69 ERA with New York was impressive, but he also walked 20 in 28 innings. Allowing only 2 of the runners who reached base to score was pretty lucky and he won’t repeat that feat again in 2011. Tim said in the comments the other day that you can’t handicap middlemen and I agree. We have seen the Yankees spend money on Karsay, Farnsworth, Gordon, etc. and not get what they thought they were getting. I would spend money for Feliciano because he is death on lefties and then save my nickles, unless Soriano decides to become a setup guy.

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Brian Cashman reiterated today that Joba Chamberlain is headed for the bullpen. I think that is a mistake, but I understand why the Yankees don’t want to jerk him around again. However, if Andy Pettitte decides not to come back, the Yankees really need to rethink that decision.

Largest Man Alive

Buster Olney is reporting that the Red Sox have signed Bobby “I’m Huge” Jenks to a 2 year, $12mm deal. Did I mention that Jenks is massive?

He is a power pitcher with a mean hook. But 2010 wasn’t his best season. He can still strike out a ton of people (62 in 52 ip in 2010), so he is yet another power arm joining Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. This is a lot of cash for a pitcher who blew a bunch of saves last season but they must feel it is a reasonable risk, especially at only 2 years.

Now the Red Sox need a lefty and perhaps a long-relief type pitcher unless they have Tim Wakefield penciled in for that.

Why Not?

There are plenty of naysayers out there scoffing at the Yankees announcement that they have signed Mark Prior to a minor league deal. Joel Sherman reports that the deal calls for Prior to make $750K if he makes the majors and another $800K in incentives based on innings pitched. He also notes that the Yankees view him as a reliever.

I get it, he will probably blow out his arm in camp, but what exactly are the Yankees risking here? Even if he made the big league roster, his salary of $750K is only $300K more than they would pay a guy fresh up from the minors. Kerry Wood reinvented himself as a reliever, perhaps Prior can to. It’s a great move by the Yankees to find out.

Plan B Begins

According to Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman, the Yankees have reached a deal in principal with Russell Martin. He still needs to pass a physical, which Sherman points out is more than a formality.

I’ll wait to see the dollars involved, but unless they are a lot ($5 million and up) I like the move. Martin’s bat has disappeared the past few years, but he has maintained a good OBP. He has a very good reputation for handling pitchers and threw out 39% of the runners trying to steal on him last year. He would be eligible for arbitration in 2012, so the Yankees essentially get two years of him if they want.

This frees up Posada to mostly DH which should keep him healthier. It also allows them to keep Montero in Scranton until June, eliminating the chances he becomes a “super two” guy for arbitration. The question is, what do the Yankees do with Cervelli now? I think he becomes a trade chip in the Yankees efforts to get a starter. Exactly who that starter is will have to be seen.

Yanks Are Out!

Well, the stuff in italics is what I was piecing together before I read the Jon Heyman tweet saying the Yankees are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. I was going to suggest that the Yankees pull their offer. Looks like that has been done for them.

I hadn’t gotten to it yet, but I was going to point out that while Boston is better, what other team in the AL East can say that right now? Tampa is certainly not and I don’t think Baltimore or Toronto are either. There will certainly be more competition from teams like Chicago, but the Yankees as presently constructed should be considered a strong contender for a playoff spot.

What I would do now is move Joba back into the rotation and go with Ivan Nova in the fifth spot. Andy Pettitte scares me at his age and he seems likely to retire anyway. To back up those guys, I would spend heavily in the bullpen. I would call Rafael Soriano and see how much money he wants to be a setup guy/stand by closer. Rivera pitched 60 innings last year, there are going to be plenty of save opportunities in the future for the rest of the bullpen and if I am the Yankees I would make that case to Soriano. They can certainly afford to pay him closer money now.

I would also sign Feliciano to be a lefty in the pen and get Russell Martin done. I’m going to sleep on this a bit more. Keep reading if you want to see my train of thought before this all went down.

This Cliff Lee dance is getting stupid. Now Lee and his agent have every right in the world to keep shopping for what they want, but the Yankees also have the right to change their mind. It’s obvious that Lee isn’t jumping at the chance to come to New York. He is reportedly talking to Philadelphia and seeing if they can come close enough money-wise to make it worth spurning the Yankees or Rangers.

You know what as a baseball fan, I hope Lee goes to Philadelphia. I never thought they should have traded him in the first place and you would have to think that a rotation of Doc, Lee and Oswalt would keep the Phils near the top of the NL for awhile.

As for the Yankees, yes it leaves a tremendous hole in the 2011 rotation. But as I have said multiple times, seven years is too long for Lee. The Yankees are banking on winning the World Series in 2011 or 2012 with this deal and I think they can still compete for the title without this deal. Signing this deal would lock the Yankees into paying over $100 million to A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Lee and Burnett alone in 2013.