A New Reliever

The Yankees have officially moved Joba Chamberlain into the bullpen.  He will pitch Monday and Wednesday and then the Yankees will evaluate his progress. 

I am heartened by the fact that Brian Cashman confirmed that Joba’s future is in the rotation, but this move has me conflicted.  Joba could come up to the Yankees and blow people away and make me look stupid in the process, but what if he doesn’t?  What if he struggles and loses confidence?  Some scouts have said they rate Joba higher than Hughes which means the Yankees should have two great young pitchers in their rotation for the forseeable futute and I don’t like messing with that.   

Furthermore, what does this say about pitchers like Ramirez, Bean, Beam and other relievers in the organization?  Jose Veras is back pitching after being hurt earlier in the year.  Only six innings so far, but why don’t the Yankees take a look at him?

I suppose I should be glad that the Yankees are finally trying different approaches.  Their refusal to do so in the past (using Phillips as the utility infielder, Matsui learning how to play firstbase, etc.) has bothered me and I probably shouldn’t complain now, but this move seems like a big risk to me. 

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Depending on what you read, I have seen trade rumors about just about every pitcher in the bullpen.  One fascinating one is that the Mariners might be interested in Igawa.  (Check out Rosenthal’s full count on fox.com)  It’s hard to invision what role Igawa would have with the Yankees in 2008 since the Yankees will probably go with some of their young pitchers (Kennedy pitched six shutout innings last night in his Scranton debut.) and I can’t see him in the bullpen.  His contract is very reasonable ($4 million a year) it is just the $26 million they spent on his posting fee. If they could get a prospect back (and please not Richie Sexson) it could be worth doing.  

One thing is certain, this had better be Farnsworth’s last game as a Yankee.  He is useless to them at this point and he could have broken Posada’s wrist with that pitch he crossed him up on.  It really seems like they have reached the point where his subtraction from the club would be an addition.  

The Yankees have about 44 hours to figure all of this out as the trading deadline is Tuesday afternoon.   

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Phil Hughes is obviously ready.  6.2 innings, three hits, no runs, three walks and four K’s.  He threw 91 pitches.

Should be a fun two days, I will be updating as things happen and tomorrow and Tuesday I will try and aseemble links to all the rumors.   

 

 

Karstens

Lost in all the anticipation of Phil Hughes’ return to the Yankees is Jeff Karstens. Karstens has been doing very well in the minors rehabbing and it is hard to imagine the Yankees will keep him in AAA much longer.

So, what role does Karstens take and who does he replace? If we assume the Yankees are serious about keeping 12 pitchers, and I think they are, a very interesting dilemma is approaching. Figure that Hughes will swap places with Henn, but the Yankees would then have to drop/demote either Myers, Villone, Bruney, Proctor and Farnsworth in order to activate Karstens. (Side note, Hughes is on the 60-day DL, so activating him will also require a change to the 40-man. Colter Bean would be my guess as to who is dropped.)

Seems to me like this is another sign that a trade is coming. Joe Torre has said for awhile he wants a “real” long reliever in the bullpen and Karstens would give them that. So, the bet here is that they add him to the roster, but not before trading away one of the other arms.

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Brian Cashman looked very smart on Friday when the Diamondbacks announced that Randy Johnson will miss the rest of the season with back surgery. While the prospects he received in the trade have not done much to date (Gonzalez is hitting in Trenton, but he bombed in AAA, Jackson has been a disaster and Ohlendorf has been hurt and inconsistent) Luis Vizcaino has emerged into a real plus for the team. Johnson managed only 56 innings for Arizona, a figure that Vizcaino will probably surpass in the next week and the Yankees saved $11-million in the process (Rj’s $16 million salary minus Vizcaino’s $3-million and the $2-million they sent to Arizona as part of the trade).

Igawa Sent Down

Just heard on WFAN that the Yankees have sent Igawa to the minors (they didn’t say where or for whom) This is obviously a sign that Hughes will be in the rotation next week and a move they had to make.

I don’t know what to make of Igawa, but perhaps the Yankees should stay away from Japanese pitchers whose name begins in “I” from now on.

This also clears the way for Hughes to start next week. The question is, do they let him start for Scranton on Sunday or have him pitch in the bigs on Tuesday?

More as I hear it.

UPDATE 5:20- Chris Basak has been recalled from Scranton. This makes sense because Torre has said for awhile that he wants to get back to 12 pitchers.

Trade “Dud”line?

Jon Heyman has a very interesting article on CNNSI today detailing the trade deadline machinations and theorizing that most trades won’t happen.  An eye-opening quote is that the Yankees were apparently told by a club out of contention that they wouldn’t trade middle relievers unless they were "blown away".  As Heyman points out, for a GM on a bad team to say that is nothing short of malpractice. 

But, if that is truly the state of things, the Yankees should look to selectively sell some assets.  Scott Proctor is cheap and durable, that should be worth a lot in this enviornment.  Farnsworth isn’t cheap or durable, but if the Yankees paid a hunk of his contract, I bet they could deal him.  Filling those spots with Britton and Ramirez would be my vote.  

Kenny Lofton was traded today which means the Texas fire sale may have begun and it should be interesting to see where it ends because they have a lot of players they could trade. 

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Tonight will be very interesting with the conclusion of the suspended game before the scheduled game begins.  Jeter will be on 2nd with Matsui hitting and 2 outs in the 8th.  The Yankees have an 8-6 lead, but will need to get six outs to win and Luis Vizcaino has already been used.  Mike Myers is currently in the game for the Yankees and with Markakis leading off, I would expect him to face one batter at least.  The Baltimore pitcher, Chris Ray, is on the DL so the Orioles need to bring someone else in.  They have used Shuey and Parrish, so maybe we will see Bradford.  

Anyway you slice it, it should be fun to see.   

The Kid is Alright

Manny Ramirez appears to be back in business.  He has entered one of his prodigious offensive streaks and shame on any of us for counting him out.  Actually, I think all of us counted him out at some point this season, but he is back.  We won’t be fooled again.

Manny in July through Thursday’s game:  .368/.473/.697 for an OPS of 1.170.

But of continued concern is the lack of production from David Ortiz.  To say he isn’t producing isn’t entirely fair, he is playing well above league average, but he isn’t playing well for David Ortiz.  He has 16 HR’s thus far, but should be double that if he wanted to come close to the 54 HR’s he hit in 2006.  Essentially, Ortiz is right on target for Avg and OBP, but way off for SLG.

So with the trade deadline upon us, here are a few of the names that have been kicked around.

Ty Wiggington – A utility infielder with pop.  24 HR’s in 2006, 15 so far in 2007.  He’d be a nice addition.

Jermaine Dye – Mired in a slump all season.  He has hit 6 HR’s since the break, but his average and obp are still way off.  He’d be a welcome addition, but not necessarily better than what Boston has on its roster today.  If the 2006 Dye shows up, that’s a much different story.

Mark Teixeira – Solid offensive weapon with .900 OPS potential.  Drawbacks are that he is going to cost a ton in talent to acquire and would force either Youkilis or Lowell to sit.  If the Red Sox are certain they aren’t going to re-sign Lowell for 2008, then it might be a deal worth making.

Andy LaRoche – Brother of Adam, LaRoche struggled to start the season in Los Angeles but has hit well at AAA since his demotion.  He has smacked AAA pitching around, but otherwise remains unproven.  Because he is a top prospect, he will be expensive yet won’t guarantee any results at the major league level.

Todd Helton – Helton is again without the power he had in the early part of this decade, but he gets on base and hits for a solid average…kind of like Kevin Youkilis.  In fact, check out this 2007 comparison:

Youk – .312/.407/.469, 58 R, 9 HR, 48 RBI

Helt – .303/.429/.458, 47 R, 9 HR, 55 RBI

They are pretty close except Helton makes $16.6m and Youkilis makes $425k.  I say let Helton stay in Colorado.

Reggie Sanders – Too old and injury prone.  He isn’t the dynamic player the Red Sox could use.

Operating under the idea that the Red Sox are not willing to sit JD Drew and Julio Lugo (who also has broken out of his slump) because of how much they make, just where are the Red Sox going to improve themselves offensively?  I think it just might be on the bench (hello Wiggington).

So there you have it, I think the Red Sox can improve with a trade for Wiggington.  I suppose if you think the risk/reward is palatable in trading for Andruw Jones (and moving Crisp), then he is one idea too.  But if the Red Sox aren’t willing to unload their top prospects, then I think a mid-level upgrade is the only thing we’ll see by Tuesday 4pm, a/k/a the non-waiver trade deadline.

BTW, Curt Schilling made his 2nd rehab start tonight and posted this line:

5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO – 66 pitches, 44 strikes.  My guess is 1 more rehab start to build up the pitch count and then back to Boston.  So that would mean his ETA in the Boston rotation is Monday August 6th.

Don’t Be A Playa Hater

The news that Jason Giambi is close to returning has been met by groans from Yankees’ fans who don’t want to see Melky get sent to the bench.  That is very understandable, Melky has been fun to watch and since a terrible April, has been hitting bullets. 

But, Giambi is a clearly better offensive player and he hit .322/.404/.517 in April before he injured his foot in the first place.  He can’t run, he can’t field, but the guy is built to be a DH in the American League and the lineup will be more explosive with him.

However, the Yankees could get creative when Giambi gets back and that would be the best scenario.  Instead of putting Damon right back into center, how about trying him again at first?  Yes, Andy Phillips deserves to keep playing, but Phillips is not going to put up numbers like Giambi.  I would guess that his current line of .305/.350/.427 is about as good as he is going to be, and that is why I would like to see the Yankees keep Melky in center.

We just don’t know enough about Melky right now.  In 792 AB’s in the bigs he has hit .278/.348/.381, but he has shown much better numbers since April hittting .304/.365/.442 which is almost in line with the average AL right fielder who is hitting .283/.356/.453.  Why do I say RF instead of CF?  Because that is where the Yankees have a big choice to make. 

When the season ends the Yankees can choose to bring back Bobby Abreu for $16 million in 2008 by exercising his option.  Or they could exercise it and trade him like they did with Sheffield, or they could let him go.  If Mekly Cabrera has proved to Cashman and the other talent evaluators that he is ready to play full time, the choice is simple, exercise it and trade Abreu for prospects.  Damon looks like he is going to be ok and Matsui is entrenched in left for the next couple of years.  By trying Damon at first now, the Yankees could solve both problems becuase Melky’s bat is much better in center (average AL CF is .275/.344/.423) and they could keep Abreu one more year and then start the great purge in 2009 when Abreu and Giambi become FA’s.  

Giambi’s return will make a deep lineup only deeper, the question is how will they blend everything together?  Stay tuned.   

Let’s Leave Joba Where He Is

Through five innings tonight at AAA, Joba Chamberlain has given up four hits, one walk and 0 runs while striking out 10. He has thrown 88 pitches, so I am not sure if he is done or not, but why would you want to mess around with trying this guy in the bullpen?

Two Moves To Avoid

The Yankees still have a lot of work to do, but now that they are 4 1/2 back in the wild card it is pretty obvious they will not be sellers at the deadline next week. That means they are buying and a lot of possible moves are out there. Here are two that I just don’t think make any sense at this point. Trading for Mark Teixeira. It is impossible not to like this guy, he hits, he fields, he is still only 27. As an added bonus he is a switch-hitter and won’t be a free agent until after 2008. Adding him to the lineup would give the Yankees an embarassing group of offensive talent. But, Teixeira is going to be very, very expensive after 2008 and command a long deal, probably something similar to what Giambi got after the 2001 season. Yes, it is probably safe to say that Teixiera hasn’t done the steroids Giambi did and he will be about two years younger than Giambi was when he signs his next deal, but this is the type of move the Yankees need to get away from. Trading one of their best pitching prospects (I assume it would take at least Kennedy to get him as part of a package) isn’t a smart move right now. The Yankees finally have some homegrown talent to build around and while Tex is enticing, it is the wrong move. Andy Phillips is going to cool off soon, but he is adequate at first and you have Giambi and Mientkiewicz coming back in the next few weeks. The offense has enough horses for now, if the Yankees want to use one of their top prospects, use it for pitching, not hitting. The other move I wouldn’t make is trading Scott Proctor for a utility bat. Proctor isn’t going to take Mariano’s place anytime soon, but there are a lot of things about him that make him valuable to this staff. He never shies away from taking the ball and he is one of the few, maybe the only, pitcher on the staff who will protect his hitters by buzzing the opposing team. With Duncan off to a good start, plus the returns of Giambi and Mientkiewicz, where would the Yankees find time to play a Wilson Betemit if they got him? Keep Proctor for the seventh inning and see if you can get someone else for the 8th besides Vizcaino.

Quite A Tuneup

I think Phil Hughes is ready to come back, the question is, do the Yankees agree? Six innings, two hits, one walk and seven K’s over 73 pitches is pretty impressive, but I imagine the Yankees will go ahead an pitch him Sunday in AAA. With next week’s day off the Yankees can juggle things so that Igawa doesn’t pitch again after Thursday (I can hear you celebrating) and then slot Hughes in for Saturday the 4th against KC.

Something’s Different

The Yankees have promoted Joba (pronounce that with an "a" instead of an "o") Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy to AAA and demoted Tyler Clippard and Chase Wright to AA.  This is a marked departure from previous seasons when the Yankees have coddled pitchers (see Phil Hughes 2006 season) and hopefully shows that the Yankees are serious about using their youth. 

This could also be a move by Brian Cashman to hedge his bets.  If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs (a very strong possibility despite the recent winning streak) Cashman can point to Chamberlain and Kennedy as evidence that he has turned the farm system around.  Assuming they do well at AAA, they are definitely in the mix for the rotation in 2008 and possibly could help the Yankees in 2007.  I would suggest that Chamberlain’s addition to AAA at the expense of Wright and Clippard means the Yankees are keeping him in the rotation, as they should.  No matter how the bullpen looks, taking Chamberlain and trying him there is the wrong move.  You just don’t fool around with prospects who could be top of the rotation starters.  

Sending Clippard and Wright down is interesting because it damages their trade value.  Based on their performances, it isn’t the wrong move, but it will obviously make it harder for the Yankees to use them as trade chips in the next week. 

But, that is a concern for another day.  For now we have two of the best prospects in the system at the top of the minor league chain.  A 2008 rotation of Wang, Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy is looking more and more likely and Yankees’ fans should be very, very excited by that.