Posts by :

Good Luck, Jon

On the Yankees side of this page, we generally root for the Red Sox to lose every game and hopefully go out of business. Tonight is different as Jon Lester is taking the mound for Boston in his first start in the bigs after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Lester has made a courageous comeback and for one night we are going to put our partisan feelings aside and hope he has a great game and a long and healthy life.

Backup Plans

A great indicator of how bad Wil Nieves was is the fact that Jose Molina is considered an upgrade over him.  That isn’t to say I don’t like this trade, Jeff Kennard wasn’t going to help this team anytime in the future, but I just wonder why Cashman went with Nieves for as long as he did. 

Getting rid of Nieves is a positive, but adding Molina doesn’t mean they should stop looking for a backup.  For his carrer, Molina has been .237/.275./.319.  Those are terrible numbers and the Yankees still are screwed if Posada gets hurt.  Plus, Molina is 32 and with Cervelli still in A-ball and Montero quickly gorwing too big to be a catcher, there are no prospects anywhere near the majors who can catch.  Cashman may think he took a need off his list with this deal, but he still has work to do.   

How Will This Work?

Peter Abraham is reporting that the Yankees will recall Shelly Duncan from AAA today.  Nothing against Duncan, he is killing the ball at AAA, but I don’t get the move.  First off, Andy Phillips has played well and is a much better defender, so I don’t think Duncan will start unless the Yankees are suddenly benching Johnny Damon (wouldn’t argue against it, but I strongly doubt it)  So, Duncan becomes a righty bat off the bench I guess?

The harder part to understand is that Duncan isn’t on the 40-man.  That means they have to make a move and they are already faced with two moves in the near future when Karstens and Hughes come back from the DL.  Looking at the 40-man, I would guess Colter Bean and Bronson Sardinha are the top candidates to be let go, but Bean is scheduled to spot start for Scranton tonight.  Sardinha has gone backwards this year and is back in AA, but he is still only 24.  Does this mean someone else will be dropped?  Is there a trade about to happen?  Stay tuned….

UPDATE- Thompson has been sent down and Mientkiewicz put on the 60-day DL. Ok, that just delays things (they could do the same with Giambi when they want to bring Hughes back) for a couple of weeks. And, Damon is starting in CF with Duncan at DH and Melky on the bench.

Hughes Update

I guess the raindrops ended in Trenton because Phil Hughes took the mound and went four innings allowing two hits, two walks and a run while striking out five.  I haven’t see any official word yet, but I suspect his next start will be in Scranton on the 23rd (Monday)  and could be back in the Bronx as early as the 28th.  I don’t think that will happen as the Yankees are going to obviously bench Igawa for Hughes and they are not on the same rotation schedule right now.  So, I would expect if everything goes well, Hughes takes the mound for the Yankees against the White Sox on August 2nd. 

From Now Until The Deadline

Two weeks from today is the trading deadline and the Yankees have 15 games left to find out exactly where they stand.  If the Yankees can feast on the mediocre schedule and go 10-5 or better, they should consider adding some players at the deadline.  If they do not, they should become active sellers.  Let’s look at each scenario.  

If they are buyers, they key area they need to strengthen is their bullpen.  Whether it was overuse in April or just mediocre talent, there is little in the pen that is worth keeping other than Rivera and (surprise) Vizcaino.  Bruney has had some positive results, but he doesn’t have enough control to trust him in big spots.  Myers is not getting lefties out.  Proctor is struggling with his command and his strikeouts are down.  Based on past results, Villone is going to blowup soon, Ramirez is untested and Farnsworth, well we have all suffered enough of Kyle I suspect.  

For the Yankees to make a run, they are going to need upgrades to the pen.  Now, they could and should go the internal route and let Ramirez show what he has while getting Chris Britton and Sean Henn back from AAA.  But, assuming they continue to avoid doing that, trading for some relief help would be priority #1.

The second thing the Yankees have to do is bolster the bench.  Even with Sunday’s outburst, Wil Nieves is hitting .132 while Jorge Posada is on pace for the most plate appearances of his career.  The Yankees have to find a real backup catcher and actually trading for a prospect who could fill in for Jorge in the future would be an even better idea.  

That would be the extent of the moves I would make to add players.  Phil Hughes should be back in about 10 days, so that should fix the rotation and the lineup is going to live or die with players like Abreu, Matsui and Damon either doing what they have in the past or continuing to struggle.  

Now, if the Yankees are sellers at the deadline.  Things get a lot more interesting.  The first and biggest thing they should do is go to A-Rod and sign him to an extension or ask him to waive his no-trade clause.  The Yankees need to play hardball with Alex and make it clear to him that they will not be used to benefit his negotiations for a new contract.  Alex has to know by now if he wants to stay or go, so make it simple for him.  Offer him 5 years and say $150 million on top of his current deal and if he doesn’t agree tell him that negotiations are over and you would like to trade him.  

I go back and forth on what I think will happen with A-Rod this off-season, but the more I look at teams and payrolls, the more I think his potential market is very, very small.  There are 12 teams that have a payroll of $90 million or higher so let’s start with those as the potential market.  Of those, the Orioles are out because they are not a contender.  The Mariners are certainly not going to welcome A-Rod back and I just don’t see the Cardinals making that type of move.  The Mets have no need for A-Rod, so that leaves New York, Boston, both LA teams, both Chicago teams Detroit and San Francisco.  The Cubs are going to have a new owner, but probably not in place in time to bid for A-Rod.  The Tigers have a lot of young pitchers who are going to make a lot of money so both of those teams are handicapped in this sweepstakes.  The White Sox would probably need to fire Ozzie Guillen (remember he ripped A-Rod) to have a chance.  The Angels have a lot of young talent and smart ownership, would they invest all that money in A-Rod?  No, I think this comes down to New York, Boston, the Dodgers and the Giants.  Boras can take a gamble if he wants to, but if the Yankees make it clear they won’t negotiate beyond July 31st, A-Rod will have a very tough choice.  

Even if they can’t trade A-Rod, the Yankees have some very good options.  Bobby Abreu would probably accept a trade if his option was picked up and the Yankees should do that and send him and some cash somewhere for prospects.  Farnsworth and Myers might hold some appeal and they should be sent packing.   

Step One

The Yankees reached .500 last night, the first step for any team that wants to be considered a playoff contender. They are 31-31 with 100 games to go and actually 1 game ahead of the pace set by the 2005 Yankees.

This isn’t the time to focus on divisions or wild cards, it is the time to try and mend some cracks and get to five games above .500. The biggest crack at the start of the year was the pitching and the starters have now rounded into shape. I don’t know if Clemens is going to do much better than he did on Saturday, but the Yankees may not need him to. The offense is back on fire, thanks to Abreu, Cano and Cabrera having huge June’s.

Abreu looks like a changed man and when he takes pitches like that, he just wears out the opposition. Cabrera has found the same fire he had last year and while it bothers me that he couldn’t do that as a bench player, it is a welcome sight now. Cano is back as well and he is becoming more selective which is nice to see. In 2005 he saw 3.05 pitches per plate appearance. In 2006 that went to 3.22 and in 2007 it is 3.38. If he ever learns to draw a walk, look out.

My biggest worries right now are the bullpen and first base. Torre seems committed to using Cairo at first as part of a platoon that makes no sense (how do you platoon two righties?) I can see the argument that when Wang is pitching, you want a defensive firstbaseman, but on other nights it is a mistake. While many are calling for the Yankees to trade for Mark Teixeira, I would set my sights a little lower. The Giants aren’t going anywhere, so how about Ryan Klesko? He’s about average to below-average with the glove, but he has a nice bat and can also play the corner in the outfield. Would the Giants take Farnsworth and something else in exchange if the Yankees picked up most of his money?

For the bullpen, I would definitely get Chris Britton back and send Ron Villone packing. I think with Britton, Bruney and Proctor the Yankees would have three good choices for the 7th and 8th. Vizcaino has been better this month, though his command is still shaky. Myers is what he is and Henn gives you a long guy. That would also get you back down to 12 pitchers which is something the Yankees should do ASAP no matter what.

Two more with Arizona before the suddenly-slumping Mets come in for Subway Series Part Two.

Things I Will Never Get

Sorry for not posting the last few days, but I have just been trying to enjoy the baseball and not gripe about the Yankee things that are bothering me. Well, I can’t hold back on some complaints.
1- I know Rivera is Torre’s security blanket, but what is he doing pitching the ninth on Thursday? Joe brought him in to pitch the eighth which was great because the game was on the line, but are you telling me that you don’t trust any of the other relievers with a seven-run lead in the ninth? Yes, the Yankees need wins, but if they can’t "squeak" that one out they are finished.
2- Do Brian Cashman and Joe Torre talk about the roster ever? Josh Phelps is not going to get us to forget about Don Mattingly, but his bat has some promise. Yes, he is bad with the glove, but until recently the Yankees haven’t been scoring runs in bunches. There was obviously an agreement to platoon Phelps and Mientkiewicz at the start of the season, so when 1/2 the platoon goes down the plan becomes keep the platoon but insert Miguel Cairo? Cairo makes Mientkiewicz look like Mattingly with the bat when you consider his career .267/.315/.360 line. If Torre is that uncomfortable with Phelps why is he on the roster? And, do you really expect me to believe that there isn’t anyone the Yankees could dig up to play first better than Cairo? Aaron Guiel is in Japan, I bet he would come back in a second. Seriously, I don’t know how much better Cairo’s glove really is at first (he’s played a total of 38 games there in his career) but his bat will kill you on a regular basis. The Yankees have to resolve this and either get a new guy for the job or trust Phelps.
3- Does anyone pay attention to what has happened with the Yankees’ bullpen this year? The reason I ask, is how does Chris Britton get sent down today? Britton has shown an ability to pitch in the majors (3.35ERA in 53IP with Baltimore last year) and has done nothing but shine at AAA. Do you really need three lefties in the bullpen? Is Luis Vizcaino worth keeping? I would say no to both of those questions and ask Britton to come back in 10 days.
Wow, can you imagine what this post would have been if the Yankees had lost five-straight?

Thompson And DeSalvo Down

The Yankees optioned Matt DeSalvo back to Columbus which wasn’t a surprise, but sending Kevin Thompson there as well was.
Now, the good news is that Chris Britton survived the cut and it appears the Yankees are actually going to allow him to pitch for the big league club. Britton has certainly earned a chance, dominating at Scranton with a 0.78ERA in 23 innings while looking pretty good last night as well.
The question will be what happens later this week when Roger Clemens will have to be activated to start on Saturday? My guess is that Sean Henn, who just got recalled today, will go back down, unless the Yankees send Ron Villone away. Henn has been starting in AAA which may be a sign that the Yankees are going to use him as a long man from now on and could increase his chances of sticking.
Sending Thompson down is interesting because if the Yankees are really going to DH Damon regularly, they wouldn’t be able to move him to outfield without losing the DH if Abreu, Matsui or Melky were injured in a game. That means that either Damon is going to move to first fairly soon or the Yankees are taking a stupid risk.
I say stupid because the Yankees recalled Chris Basak. Now I have nothing against Basak, he was my choice to replace Miguel Cairo as the utility guy, but Basak hasn’t played outfield to my knowledge. The Yankees may think they have the second coming of Clay Bellinger, but what evidence do they have he can play all those positions? For this team, I would rather see Basak and Thompson than Basak and Cairo, but I would have settled for Cairo and Thompson. Promoting Basak now is taking a strange risk, but I will approve if it means chucking Cairo later on.
Now, Cairo is going to start tonight over Phelps which is a mistake. I know Phelps is a butcher with the glove, but is Cairo that much better of a firstbaseman defensively? I will go into this more tomorrow, but the Yankees haven’t been the run-scoring machine we thought they would be and Phelps would definitely outhit Cairo.
So, we have a team that has 13 pitchers and a bench of Nieves, Cairo and Basak. That is not a good combination and hopefully the Yankees get down to 12 pitchers quickly and rebuild the bench.

Disrupted Scar Tissue

It doesn’t sound good and that’s what Roger Clemens has in his groin, but he says he will be making his start on Saturday. I say we wait until he throws a bullpen on Wednesday before believing that.
Since Clemens used to pitch for the Red Sox, maybe he can get some advice on a cure from another Boston "legend".

We’ll Take It

Hey, 2 out of 3 in Boston is nothing to sniff at and while the Yankees leave 12.5 back, they at least gained some ground this weekend. They showed they can go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox, now the question is can they overcome an almost impossible deficit?
I don’t know, but the Yankees have almost half a season to figure things out. The Red Sox and Yankees won’t play again for 70+ games. And if the Yankees can play .100 percentage points better than Boston over that stretch, they will still be at least five games back of the Red Sox.
So, don’t expect a division crown coming in 2007 and I still think that means Clemens is a bad idea right now, but tonight should be a happy night, so we will leave that until later today (it’s already Monday.)