Friday, December 21, 2007

To trade for Johan, or not to trade that is the question.

To all but the most optimistic fans, the off season has not been kind to the Yankees and their faithful fans. Not only are we recovering from the taint of another first round playoff exit coupled with a Boston Red Sox World Series, but we are also coping with allegations of steroid use against two genuine Yankee heroes Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, as well as those levied against lesser heroes David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch. (As for the Ron Villones and Rondell White’s of the world – well, as soon as you can find their contribution to a World Series win, you let me know.) Some fans will add the loss of Joe Torre and Don Mattingly to the list, and while I admire and appreciate their contributions to the team, I am not sad to see them go.

There is some good news, Alex Rodriguez has returned, as have Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. Above all, losing A-Rod would have been absolutely devastating, as there is no way the Yankees could have replaced his production in the line up. There is a huge fall off between A-Rod’s worst season and Wilson Betemit, and regardless of whether you want to hang out with A-Rod, as fans we should all be thanking our lucky stars that Alex will be back. Rivera, Pettitte and Posada all occupy key positions that currently have no understudy. While all three are being overpaid, considering the alternatives, their return will be key to another winning season.

Once again the biggest questions for the Yankees this off season is the pitching. As of now, the rotation would be Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Mike Mussina. The bullpen is Mariano Rivera and, ummm…well, let’s talk about that another time. The rotation is very solid with a ton of upside. It is very possible that Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy could soon bring to mind some other big threes, such as John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux or Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. Of course, given the precociousness of young pitchers, they could also all be out of baseball by 2012. Looked at in a vacuum, the Yankees staff projects nothing but sunny days; looked at in comparison to their biggest rivals the Red Sox, the view is a little cloudy. The Sox are going to roll out Josh Beckett, Dice-K (too lazy to look up the proper spelling), Curt Schilling, Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Tim Wakefield, and quit possibly Johan Santana. It is that last name that is a major point of concern for the Yankees. The truth is, it will be difficult to beat a very good Boston team as things stand right now. The task will become somewhat Herculean if the Red Sox add baseball’s best pitcher; especially if they do so without giving up their best prospect, Bucholz. (Of course there is a giant asterisk to all of this. The Red Sox would only be unbeatable on paper. There is a chance Becket reverts to 2006, Dice-K does not improve, Santana’s increased HR rate last year was the beginning of a trend, not a blip, Schilling’s aging accelerates, and Bucholz doesn’t pan out – see this is why I hate pitchers.)

So, the question becomes, do the Yankees say damn the torpedoes and acquire Santana no matter what the cost may be. The question is a simple one. If you believe that Santana is the fire-breathing lefty that can lead the Bombers back to the World Series – then you make the trade no matter what. Perhaps the strongest argument to be made for this approach is this: imagine if the Yanks had Santana in games 1 and 4 of the American League Division Series instead of Wang - suddenly, it is not so hard to imagine the Yanks, not the Red Sox, pounding the National League’s latest patsies, the Rockies. Johan Santana could very well be the missing link between the Yankees and their 27th World Championship.

So why isn’t Santana being measured for pinstripes right now? Mostly because Santana is not yet a free agent, and in return for Johan, the Twins are demanding Hughes, Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Hughes is a blue-chip prospect who projects as a 1 or 2 in anyone’s staff; Kennedy projects as a solid 3, but has the added bonus of already appearing to be a polished pitcher (see Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus, or any game he pitched, if you don’t believe me); while Cabrera is probably going to project out as a 4th outfielder on a good team and a starter on most others.

As of right now, Santana is far better than Hughes, Kennedy or Cabrera. In fact, if everything goes right you hope that Hughes will someday be as good as Santana is now. So why is Hank, Cash and company so reluctant to make this deal? After all prospects are just that, prospects, with no guarantees as to their future. Furthermore, when you’re adding a player of Santana’s stature, you are going to have to give up a lot. Detroit gave up their two best prospects for Miguel Cabrera, Arizona gave up their two best prospects for Dan Haren, and now both teams are favorites to win their respective division. Given, Hughes is far better than any of the prospects given up by either Arizona or Detroit. If the Yanks add Santana, they would also be favorites to win – or would they?

Upon closer inspection, maybe there is a method to Hank and Cash’s madness. First of all, the Yankees would be parting with Cabrera, their starting centerfielder. With Melky gone, the Yankees outfield looks like this – Hideki Matsui in left, Johnny Damon in center, and Bobby Abreu in right. Not only is the outfield old and injury prone, Matsui has no range and can’t throw, Damon has range but can’t throw, and while Abrue has range and can throw, he’s afraid of the wall and has no idea how to take a proper route to a flyball. In other words, unless Santana plans on striking everyone out, his ERA is going to suffer because he will be playing in front of a below average defensive team. Now, Santana might get some of that ERA back because Yankee Stadium is a slight pitcher’s park, but he’d also be dealing with Derek Jeter at shortstop and ?? at first base – not an appealing defensive package. The bombers have missed out no the more appealing centerfield options, and would likely have to resort to Mike Cameron for an outside solution. Cameron is a fantastic fielder and as good a hitter as Melky. But Cameron is injury prone and being heavily pursued by the Phillies right now. If Melky goes, odds are Damon is back in center field this year.

Then there are the two pitchers, Hughes and Kennedy. Make no mistake, despite what some fans have made of him, Ian Kennedy is not the kind of prospect you hold onto at the cost of getting Johan Santana. The issue is not one of talent, but depth. While the Yankee farm system is loaded with pitching prospects, after the big 3, Alan Horne is the only one likely to contribute much in 2008. Therefore, if they trade both Kennedy and Hughes, the rotation will be Santana, Pettitte, Wang, Chamberlain, Moose and Horne. Given that Pettitte and Moose are health risks and Chamberlain has never thrown more than 150 innings in a season, this is a very shallow rotation. Matters would get worst in 2009, when Pettitte and Moose leave (although, there are likely to be other pitchers on the market by that point). By holding onto Kennedy, the staff is Santana, Pettitte, Wang, Chamberlain, Kennedy, Moose – a far deeper option.

So it comes down to this, if the Yanks really believe they are one Johan away from a World Series, they should do the trade. However, if the Yanks believe that Hughes will be a 1 or 2 for the next ten years, that Kennedy will be a 3 for the next ten years, and that Melky will be a solid contributor until someone better comes along – then they should stand pat. As for me, I’m torn. I’ve howled and ranted about my love for Phil Hughes and after watching him pitch, nothing has changed. I’m not as high on Kennedy and Cabrera, but can admit I’m not exactly looking forward to runners going from first to third on a fly ball because Damon can’t throw. Ultimately, I’d hold off for now. See how the market develops and hope the Twins hold on to Santana, so that the Yanks can sign him in the off season. Then again, we would still have Joba, and the thought of him and Santana anchoring our staff for the next six years – well, it gives me shivers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Melky! Is there anything he can't do?

"World Milk Day!"

And Steve Phillips thinks the Yanks should have traded him for Eric Gagne. Steve, Melky wins games, Gagne loses them - any questions?


We'd like to give the Gas Face to all the writers and pundits who criticized Brian Cashman for not giving up Melky Cabrera or Ian Kennedy to get Eric Gagne. Once again, Cashman proved the know-nothings wrong by refusing the trade and bringing up Joba Chamberlain instead. Want proof? How about last night. While Gagne was getting smacked around like the ex-superstar he is by the Baltimore Orioles, Joba was making the Indians look like small children facing a giant. Joba - 2 innings, 4 strikeouts, Gagne - 1 inning, 4 runs - Cashman wins again!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Trade Deadline Wrap-Up

'Don't believe the hype' would be a pretty accurate description of this year's trade deadline. The biggest name to move was Mark Teixeira. Other than that, we saw a whole bunch of teams doing minor patchwork to set themselves up for the stretch run. There are a couple of contributing factors to this: the Wild Card race in both leagues is wide open so a lot of teams weren't ready to deal themselves out; teams are beginning to recognize that mortgaging the future for a middle reliever or an aging starter doesn't work out in the long term; and there simply weren't that many big name players on the market. (Note: None of this applies to the Pittsburgh who have made one of the most non-sensical trade in the history of baseball. Oh well - Viva Matt Morris - for whatever that's worth).

So how did our Yankees do? Pretty well I'd say. Scott Proctor for Wilson Betemit is pretty much a no-brainer. Anytime you can trade a middle reliever without dominating stuff, whose arm may disintegrate at any moment, for a switch-hitting, 25 year old, quasi-prospect you've done well. Betemit is already a better option off the bench than Miguel Cairo and there's a chance he could still develop into an everyday player. More important was adding Jose Molina before the trade deadline. Those two deals have gone some way towards improving the Yankees biggest problem the atrocious bench. And, Cashman managed to address a major problem without mortgaging the future.

I know some people have killed the Cashman for not adding Eric Gagne, but those people should all get the gas face. While Gagne would have been nice, we need to remember that this is Eric Gagne Model 2007, not Eric Gagne model 2002 to 2004. This year, Gagne has thrown 33.3 innings pitched, he missed time at the beginning of the season, struck out 29 and saved 16 games, his ERA is 2.16. While those numbers look good, there is a giant however coming, that however is what Gagne has done since July 1st. Since July 1st Gagne has made 11 appearances, he has pitched 11.1 innings, over that span he has allowed 11 hits and 5 runs, his ERA doubled from 1.11 to 2.16. Those are hardly dominating numbers. What we're dealing with here is the myth of the closer, essentially if a guy has had success closing in the past, he will continue to do so, regardless of how bad his peripheral numbers are (For more evidence of this phenomenon, see: Borowski, Joe, Jones, Todd, or our very own Farnsworth, Kyle). Furthermore, Texas was asking for Melky Cabrera or Ian Kennedy in return for Gagne. It is never a good idea to trade your future CF and a future starting pitcher, who is dominating in the minors, for 9 weeks of a middle reliever who has had major arm problems. Gagne is no longer a dominating pitcher, and while his addition would have been nice, there's no reason to believe that Joba Chamberlain cannot do at least as well as Gagne would have.

More to the point, the Yankees are playing for their playoff lives. They need to either catch Cleveland or Boston to get into the playoffs. While they have Cleveland in their sights, they're still behind the 8 Ball. Mortgaging the future for a middle reliever doesn't make sense for a team fighting to make the playoffs. Had they made the trade and missed, this could have been the kind of trade that has disastrous consequences. You know, the ones where teams give up young prospects for middle relievers and don't win anything.

There is also the fact that Gagne would have been much more useful to Cleveland than he is to Boston. Considering, the Yanks have Cleveland in their sights for the Wild Card Spot, this is somewhat of a win.

Now, while getting Gagne made little to no sense for the Yanks, it does somewhat make sense for Boston. I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you can make a trade that will win you a World Series now, you do it without regard for future implications. I'm not saying you trade your top prospect for a lefty pinch hitter, but teams should always play to win now. If the Red Sox feel that the only thing they need is another middle reliever to guarantee post season success, they did the right thing. The Sox gave up Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre, and while it is possible that one or two of those players may turn into decent major leaguers, this is hardly giving up the farm. While I feel that Gagne is overrated, this is the kind of trade first place teams with huge leads should be making.

YES for sale, get em while they're hot!

According to, the YES Network is for sale. "The highest-rated regional sports network in the country and the cable home of the Yankees and the NBA New Jersey Nets, YES is jointly owned by the Yankees, investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. (Charts, Fortune 500) , and former Nets owner Ray Chambers. Goldman and Chambers would like to cash out, YES and Yankees insiders say, and one source says to expect a deal by summer's end. Some possible bidders: Cablevision, Comcast (Charts), News Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) and Verizon (Charts, Fortune 500)." (Source Fortune)

As long as the new owners don't adopt Fox's style of sports coverage, known for coming back to commercial breaks with runners already on base or a batter already at 3-2, I don't really care. I don't get why they would want to get rid of a source of revenue, especially one that will continue to bring in cash as long as the Yankees don't revert to the early 90's Yankees. Then again the profits on the sale could be A- Rods salary for his next 5 years here. So scratch everything I said before that last sentence, sell the network!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Four Hundred and Ninety Nine, One to Go

God clearly has a sense of humor. Every member of the Yankees homers except A-Rod. Damon, Abreu, Matsui, Posada, Melky, Cano, Shelly Freakin' Duncan all go yard. And yet poor A-Rod remains mired at 499.