Where To Go From Here?

"As much as I love Matt Cain, I'm pretty sure I can promise you he is not available." (Getty Images via Yahoo Sports)

Even before the 2010-2011 offseason began, the general thought seemed to be that Cliff Lee would sign with the New York. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Lee shocked the baseball world and signed with his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies. While he did sacrifice money and years to return to Philadelphia rather than to move to New York or re-up with Texas, it’s not like he took a huge discount. Anyway, I respect Lee for signing where he truly wishes to be and I cannot be more satisfied with the way the Yankees handled the situation. Brian Cashman did everything in his power to acquire Lee, it just didn’t work out.

With Lee off the board, people wondered where the Yankees would turn. Many assumed that the Yankees might go after Zack Greinke, a move I would have supported. However, this morning we learned that the Royals have traded Greinke to the Brewers. Before I put the Greinke discussion to rest, I would like to address those who believe he would not be able to handle New York. We know Greinke has a social anxiety disorder, but that’s pretty much all we know about him. To assume that he would not be able to handle the pressure of New York is ridiculous, for all we know he could strive in New York. Considering that we know nothing about him, the odds that he would perform better under pressure are the same that he would cave under pressure. For more on this issue, I highly encourage you to read Joe Posnanski’s piece of Greinke. It is a must read.

Anyway, with both Lee and Greinke off the board, where should the Yankees turn next? After studying the market, it seems that there are really very little viable external options left. Of course things could change and someone like Felix Hernandez or Matt Cain could become available, but what are the odds of that happening? Right now, I would want the Yankees to stay patient, they have specific needs and there is no reason to waste resources on players who don’t quite fit their needs. Of course, that may be hard to digest considering that the rotation now consists of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre. But remember, if Andy Pettitte re-signs with the team, the only difference between the opening day rotation of 2010 will being the subtraction of Javier Vazquez. There is no reason to panic, spring training is months away, things will change. As fans we need to remain patient and have trust in the team’s management, as hard as that can be for some.

Around the Horn: Jeter, Lee, Vazquez

Although the offseason has not been very exciting yet, I would expect that to change within the next few weeks so let’s try to sum up what’s happened so far, regarding the Yankees.

  • The negotiations with Derek Jeter have apparantly soured. The Yankees have likely made a contract offer of 3 years worth $45 million, an acceptable overpay in my opinion, and are even willing to up the offer to somewhere within the range of 3 years worth $50 million according to Jon Heyman. The latest news is that Jeter desires a contract for 4 to 5 years worth $23-24 million a year. I have no doubt that any team would offer him such a contract, and perhaps no team would even offer him the 3/45 contract. If Jeter’s agent Casey Close, a horrible lawyer in name, does not make his asking price a little more reasonable, I could easily see these negotiations stretching in January.
  • Cliff Lee has been reportedly shopping around to several teams this winter, but nothing has yet to come of it. But according to Buster Olney, the Lee talks are expected to heat up next week with the winter meetings coming up. Buckle up!
  • Javier Vazquez has agreed to a one year deal worth $7 million with the Florida Marlins. I would not be surprised to see him have a good season, I don’t know why he couldn’t keep it together with the Yankees, and I still don’t buy the ‘he can’t handle New York’ storyline. Oh well, I guess some things are not meant to be.
  • Jonathan Albaladejo will be playing next season with the Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui’s old team, after requesting to be released by the Yankees. I, for one, was looking forward to the chance that he would finally get the opportunity to impact the Yankees next season, but fortunately the Yankees have been compensated with $1.2 million by the Giants.

Around the Horn: Montero, Aceves, Posada…

As the Yankees prepare to begin a road trip in Texas allow me to sum up some recent stories.

  • Alfredo Aceves, who has been recovering from a back injury, had a setback and will not be returning to the big league team this year. Surgery is not out of the question, and it would surprise me if he did not undergo surgery. Backs are a terribly tricky thing.
  • Yesterday, Joe Girardi said Damaso Marte probably won’t be back this year as well. As we learned earlier, he may need surgery.
  • While we are talking about surgery, Jesus Montero had an unexpected operation performed on his ankle yesterday. He was not in Scranton’s lineup yesterday which led people to believe he may be called up, but the truth was that he had an infection in his ankle. Montero underwent surgery yesterday to have the infection cleaned up. Don’t worry, the surgery seems to have been very minor, and while he will miss the rest of the minor league playoff season, he should be a candidate for a major league job next Spring.
  • Yesterday, we learned that Jorge Posada has been suffering from concussion like symptoms. Fortunately, he underwent some tests and the results were negative. Posada has been cleared to play, but I would expect him to take a few days off in Texas.
  • Coming off some recent struggles, Phil Hughes’ next start will be skipped, Dustin Moseley instead will be pitching this Sunday. Hughes will return to the rotation next Wednesday, and the Yankees say they only skipped him to deal with his innings limit. Still, it should be beneficial to give Phil Hughes a breather since he is not used to throwing this many innings.

Around the Horn: A-Rod to the DL, Nova recalled…

There have been some interesting stories developing around the Yankee Universe lately, here’s a quick breakdown.

  • A-Rod has become the most recent Yankee to hit the DL as he was placed on the 15-Day DL this afternoon according to Chad Jennings. A-Rod has been dealing with a calf injury, and after a few days of rest, the Yankees medical team decided he was ready to play yesterday. A-Rod did get the start at DH yesterday, but he had to leave the game early. The Yankees are claiming that A-Rod’s calf is in no worse shape than it was a few days ago, but it’s hard to believe that playing yesterday did not further aggravate it.
  • Also coming from Jennings, Ivan Nova is being recalled and will get the start for the Yankees on Monday pushing the other starters back a day. Joel Sherman actually broke this news this morning, but now it’s official. I love the idea to plug Nova into the rotation because the extra rest for the rest of the rotation will be well welcomed. It shouldn’t hurt to get the struggling Javier Vazquez some extra rest time, and extra rest for Hughes means he may be able to pitch longer into the season before he hits his innings limit. Although Marc Carig has quoted Brian Cashman as saying that Hughes’ innings limit won’t play a factor in the playoffs and that it will be “all hands on deck”, for what it’s worth.
  • Josh Norris has confirmed the rumors that Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have been promoted to AA Trenton. Banuelos and Betances will join a rotation featuring Andrew Brackman, Adam Warren, and Hector Noesi. That’s a pretty fine rotation that Trenton has there.
  • Via NPB Tracker on Twitter, we learn that the Yankees have sent Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler to Japan to watch pitching sensation Yu Darvish. Darvish is only 24 years old, but he has really made a name for himself in Japan, and arguably in the U.S. as well. Darvish is not eligible to become an international free agent until after 2014, but his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, have the opportunity to post him in which MLB teams would have the right to bid for the opportunity to negotiate a contract with Darvish. There seems to be no question of whether this will happen, it’s just a matter of when. And rest assured, once he is available, the Yankees will be in the Darvish sweepstakes.
  • You may have heard the news already, but the Yankees announced yesterday that the Cleveland Indians have selected AAA starter Zach McAllister as the player to be named later in the deal for Austin Kearns. McAllister may seem like a lot to give up for Kearns, but McAllister has really struggled in AAA this season and may no longer have fit in with the Yankees future plans.
  • 2010 HOPE Week ended yesterday with the Yankees helping out two sisters, Melida and Johanna Arias. I really enjoyed HOPE Week this year, along with last year, and I hope it has inspired others to help out the community.

Granderson’s New Approach

Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

It’s no secret that Curtis Granderson has yet to live up to expectations this year with the Yankees. He has only managed to put up a .243 AVG and a .325 wOBA. Still, Granderson is far from a lost cause. At age 29, Granderson is still very much in his prime years, and the Yankees will have him under contract through the 2013 season. If Granderson start to produce more consistently and keep it up for the next few years everybody will forget about his first 89 games in pinstripes in which he struggled. Still, why has Granderson had such a poor year? Advanced statistics don’t really offer any clue into why Granderson has failed to hit well this year, but hitting coach Kevin Long is confident that he can get the Yankee center fielder going in the right direction.

Kevin Long and Curtis Granderson are working on what Long calls a “total reformation of the swing”. Who knows, maybe it could result in Granderson feeling comfortable at the plate and starting to really produce. It may be unorthodox to work on such a major change in the middle of a season (Kevin Long revamped Nick Swisher’s swing last year, but in the offseason), but the Yankees feel it is the right move. This past Tuesday and Wednesday Granderson did not start in the Yankees’ games because he had just begun working on the swing revamp. However, Granderson did start in yesterday’s game and his new swing was on display. It may not have been that noticeable, but Granderson was more quiet in his batting stance and his hands were held in a different position compared to his old batting stance. Obviously one game is not nearly enough to judge him on, but Granderson did well yesterday with his new approach in action. Curtis went 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a run batted in. Hopefully he can continue to put up similar results. Let’s get Kevin Long’s and Curtis Granderson’s take on the swing reformation.

K. Long:

“To do something like this, it’s a stretch. But it’s a stretch that I think is not going too far and I think he feels the same way… He’s had length to his swing for a long, long time. He’s been an all-star with length to his swing, but we’ve both decided at this point we want to shorten it as much as we can.”

“His stance is going to be a lot more square. His hands have changed their position. He’s holding on with two hands. His load to where he gets to contact, we’ve eliminated a lot of movement there. This takes time to do something like this, but we’re going to have five or six complete sessions. He did get into the game yesterday and had what I would call a pretty good at-bat.”

Curtis Granderson:

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it big changes. It’s just trying to simply things. Everything I’ve done up to this point is just trying to get to the point I want (to make contact)… and there’s always some moving parts before it. We’re just trying to eliminate some of those moving parts.”

“I’ve made changes throughout my whole career, I’ve been an unorthodox hitter. I’ve been a very routine and picture-perfect hitter as far as what everyone else is doing. And everything in between. Whenever someone says to make a change, I’ve always been a very adaptive player.”

It’s a good thing that Granderson is very accepting of the change and doesn’t even view it as a big change. Still, revamping a proven hitter’s swing in the middle of a season is a pretty big thing, but it’s great that Granderson is comfortable with it. Kevin Long has shown to really have a knack for improving hitters and I am very confident that he can improve Granderson’s swing and I won’t be surprised if he hits well from here on out. What’s your opinion? Do you think it is the right move to reform Granderson’s swing? Can he have a big turn around?

2010 Trade Deadline Analysis

With the 2010 Trading Deadline in the rearview mirror, we can finally stop listening to the latest rumors and actually think about the trades which were made. This year, many teams seemed to be very active in the trade market, including the Yankees. We all know that GM Brian Cashman tried very hard to acquire Cliff Lee and later Dan Haren. But when those two trades didn’t work out, I for one didn’t expect the Yankees to make any more moves until after the Trading Deadline. However, Cashman had other ideas. The Yankees would acquire Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and finally, Kerry Wood while not giving up too much. In total, the Yankees gave up Mark Melancon, Jimmy Paredes, a player to be named later, $4.8M, and another $0.5M or 2 organizational (it’s the Indians’ choice). Let’s take a deeper look at the players that the Yankees acquired and see how each individual improves the team.

Lance Berkman

"The Big Puma is happy to be with the Yankees." Photo Credit: Reuters Pictures via Daylife

Ever since Nick Johnson hit the DL, the Yankees have not really had a regular DH. Lance Berkman now helps fill that hole. Lance Berkman can fill in a first base occasionally if needed, but expect him to be the regular DH when the Yankees are facing right-handed pitchers. When the Yankees face lefties there is a good chance Berkman takes the bench and Marcus Thames gets the start as the DH (even though Berkman is a switch hitter, he isn’t that great against lefties). This DH platoon would be pretty impressive. Let’s take a look at each players’ splits.

In his career against righties, Berkman has a .304 AVG, a .425 OBP, a .584 SLG, and a .425 wOBA. Pretty impressive, huh? This year, his numbers are down a bit across the board, but they are still good. Against righties this year Berkman has a .256 AVG, a .390 OBP, a .471 SLG, and a .377 wOBA. If he could put up those numbers with the Yankees, they would be more than happy. So, we’d have to expect that Berkman will be the regular DH versus right-handed pitchers.

When the Yankees face left-handed pitchers, Marcus Thames will probably be the DH. In his career he has a .261 AVG, a .335 OBP, a .509 SLG, and a .361 wOBA.  This season Thames has only had 54 ABs against lefties so it’s hard to judge him based on that but he has put up a .315 AVG, a .406 OBP, a .426 SLG, and a .373 wOBA.

So acquiring Lance Berkman allows the Yankees to utilize Marcus Thames’ strength better and play him only against lefties which in turn allows the Yankees to utilize Berkman’s strength and only play him against righties. This way the Yankees now have a very good DH made of two players.

Kerry Wood

"Most people look good in Yankee pinstripes, but Kerry needs to shave that thing." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

We all know the Yankees bullpen hasn’t been too stellar this year. Outside of Mariano Rivera, pretty much everyone has been inconsistent. David Robertson has been very good lately, and I fully expect Joba Chamberlain to start putting up good numbers again. Still, another bullpen piece couldn’t hurt. Enter Kerry Wood. You may remember Wood since his phenom starter days with the Cubs, unfortunately he was never able to live up to the expectations due to injuries. The Cubs eventually moved Wood to the bullpen where he put up very good numbers. The Indians acquired Wood in 2009 and he put up okay numbers. This year Wood has not been that good and he is coming off an injury. So Wood is kind of gamble, but the Yankees basically gave up nothing to get him and he could pay great dividends. Imagine a Yankee bullpen where Wood becomes a reliable eight inning guy, Joba figures his stuff out and has the 7th inning covered up, and David Robertson continues his success. I’m not saying that will all happen, but it could. I love the move to bring in Kerry Wood.

Austin Kearns

"Kearns should fit in nicely with the Yanks." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Daylife

The Yankees acquired Austin Kearns because they had a lefty heavy outfield and were afraid to put Marcus Thames in the outfield. In Kearns they get someone who is a very good defender (8.5 career UZR/150 in the OF) and is not a bad hitter. Kearns has a .272 AVG this year with a .354 OBP and a .343 wOBA. If he can maintain that he will prove to be a great pickup. I would expect to see Kearns play against lefties occasionally probably getting starts in left field with Gardner moving to center field and Granderson moving to the bench. Hopefully a few days off against lefties here and there doesn’t hurt Granderson’s production. Still, I like the move to acquire Kearns.

Overall Grade: A-

I give Brian Cashman and the Yankees a A- for their efforts prior to the Trading Deadline. They improved the team while giving very little in return, what’s there not to like? How would you grade the Yankees pickups?

Check this out if you don’t already know about wOBA and want to learn more.

Yankees land Berkman, Kearns, & Wood

Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

Yesterday, Brian Cashman pulled off two trades. First we heard that the Yankees had acquired DH/1B Lance Berkman from the Houston Astros in exchange for Mark Melancon and low-A second basemen Jimmy Paredes. Then we got news that the Yankees had acquired OF Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later. Then, on the day of the Trading Deadline the Yankees acquired Kerry Wood from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later or cash.

Lance Berkman is owed 5 million dollars for the remainder of the season and then he has a $15M option for 2011 but part of the trade agreement is that the option cannot be picked up so the Yankees will have to buyout Berkman’s option for $2M. So in total Berkman is guaranteed $7M, but the Astros have agreed to pay about $4M of the $7M leaving the Yankees with only $3M to pay. The Yankees aren’t giving up too much to acquire Berkman, Paredes is years away from ever becoming a valuable major leaguer, if he ever does become one. However, it is tough to give up Mark Melancon. Melancon has the potential to be a top-flight reliever but has struggled in the opportunities he has gotten in the majors. In addition, Melancon has struggled the entire 2010 season in AAA. His top quality used to be his great strike throwing ability, but this year he has not shown that. Maybe the Yankees think his struggles are permanent, or more likely the Yankees just had to give up quality to get quality in Berkman. Berkman should settle into the DH role when the Yankees are facing right handers and he could bat second in the order if Girardi feels that is where he is best suited.

Austin Kearns is a nice backup outfielder and should fit in nicely with the Yankees. His arrival probably means Colin Curtis will be sent back to AAA though. Still, Kearns is an upgrade over Curtis. Kearns is a very good rightfielder (11.0 career UZR/150 in RF). In limited appearances in left field and center field he hasn’t been as good, but that’s tough to qualify because of the small sample size. Kearns wOBA this season is sitting at .342 with is almost exactly in line with his career wOBA average of .343 so the Yankees should expect consistently decent hitting out of Kearns.

Kerry Wood is just coming off the DL, but could be a huge part of the Yankees bullpen.

Rediscovering Joba

This season, we all know the Yankee bullpen has not been that great. Yankee relievers have been very inconsistent and unreliable this year (aside from Mariano Rivera), but they’ve been covered up by outstanding starting pitching. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the Yankee bullpen has been 24-year-old Joba Chamberlain. At quick glance, Joba Chamberlain has been awful this season. We as fans watch his outings which end in bad results and then look at his ERA which has now risen to 5.95 and we conclude that he has been awful this year. While that may very well be the case, let’s analyze Joba a bit more. Before I say anything let’s take a look at some statistics and compare Joba’s seasons.

Taken from Fangraphs (Click to see larger)

As you can see, Joba’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has generally been similar to his ERA throughout his career, except for 2010 when his ERA has been 5.95 but his FIP has been 3.01. This could be indicative of bad luck, but let’s not assume that yet. When we look at Joba’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in play) we see that it has generally been about .320-.330 throughout his career, but this season it has jumped to .399. This could indicate that Joba is getting unlucky breaks in the form of bloop singles, seeing-eye grounders, etc… However, it could also mean that batters are just making much better contact against Joba this year. I’d say it’s a bit of both. Joba’s GB%, LD%, and FB% are pretty much in line with his career averages, so I don’t think that is a concern. Let’s take a look at pitch types.

Taken from Fangraphs (click to see larger)

The first thing that jumps out at me here is how worthless Joba’s fastball has been this season and last season. In 2007, the year Chamberlain stole Yankee fans’ hearts, his fastball was worth 3.2 runs above average. Then in 2008, it jumped to being worth 8.2 runs above average. In 2009, however, Joba’s fastball’s value fell of a cliff. Joba’s fastball in 2009 was worth -20.2 runs above average (or you could say 20.2 runs below average). That is awful. In 2010, Joba has regained some value on his fastball, but it still below average at -2.4. For someone who has averaged a velocity of 94.4 mph on his fastball this year, -2.4 runs above average is not very good at all. I would imagine that the reason behinds Joba’s sub-par fastball is that he isn’t necessarily throwing it for balls, but he is missing within the strike zone. The drop in runs above average in Joba’s slider this year is also noteworthy.

So what should the Yankees do with Joba?

The Yankees could leave Joba in the role his is in now and hope some luck goes his way the rest of the year, they could demote him within the bullpen, or they could send him to AAA. I vote for sending Joba to AAA where he can straighten himself out in a no pressure zone and regain his confidence by blowing away measly AAA hitters. However, if the Yankees want to send Joba to AAA, they will have to act fast. Joba made his major league debut 3 years ago on August 7th, and if the Yankees don’t send him down before August 7th this year, he would have to pass through waivers in order to be sent down. Despite Joba’s struggles this year the first team which would get a shot to claim Joba would do so in a heartbeat. So if Joba is going to be sent down, it will happen soon. What do you think the Yankees should do with Joba?