Tagged: General Managers

Billy The Bean Counter Builds A New Beanstalk

BbeaneHow much is an all-star RHSP, a solid switch-hitting corner OF, and a
gimpy CF who is on the better side of thirty worth in today’s market.
Well, if you consider wunderkind GM Billy Beane the Alan Greenspan
of baseball, the answer is 11 prospects. To be more accurate, that
would add up to 3 Gold Star prospects, 3 Blue Chip prospects, 3 Above
Average prospects, and 2 Average prospects.

In the space of one month, Billy the bean counter has not only
rebuilt the A’s farm system with legitimate prospects, he has acquired
one of the toughest things to acquire in baseball—lefthanded starting
pitching. Of the 11 players acquired in these three deft deals, 4 of
them are LHSP, 2 of which are Gold Star, top of the line prospects.

Breakdown of Trades

Dan Haren Deal

Twins GM Bill Smith might want to study this deal when negotiating
the bounty he is seeking in return for Johan Santana. If we simply go
by Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list, Beane  traded his ace pitcher for the Diamondbacks’ # 1 (outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez),  #3 (left handed starting pitcher, Brett Anderson), # 7 (outfielder, Aaron Cunningham), and # 8 (first baseman, Chris Carter) prospects, plus two average left handed starting pitcher prospects (Greg Smith and Dana Eveland).

Cgonzo_1Another
way to look at it is that Beane traded an all-star RHSP, who has three
financially controllable years left on his contract before he hits
free-agency, for what will likely be the A’s starting RF in 2009
(Gonzalez); a LHSP (Anderson) that should be a member of the A’s
rotation by 2010; their possible fourth OF (Cunningham) by 2009; their
possible 1B or DH (Carter) by 2010; and two LH pitchers (Smith and
Eveland) who could compete in 2008 either as back-end starters or long
relievers.

This trade by Beane is another feather in his cap when you consider
that by the time the A’s are good again, Haren will be a free-agent, a
free-agent that the A’s would never have been able to afford.

Nick Swisher Deal

This deal might end up even better for the A’s than the Haren deal.
While Swisher is a solid, young switch-hitting OF/1B with good power,
what the A’s received fromm the White Sox for him is astonishing. In a
three-for-one steal, the A’s received the White Sox’ three
top-prospects. Though this trade occurred before Baseball America’s
2008 Top Prospect compilation, OF Ryan Sweeney (Baseball America’s # 1 White Sox prospect in 2007), LHSP Gio Gonzalez, and RHSP Fautino De Los Santos almost assuredly would have topped the list.

GgonzoGio
Gonzalez (the Sox’ 2004 # 1 pick) might be ready to contribute as soon
as 2008. After having been dealt to the Phillies for Jim Thome in 2005,
he was traded back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia in 2007. Only 21 years
of age, Gio dominated the Southern league last year in his second
season at Double-A. If he continues to improve, he should join fellow southpaw Brett
Anderson in the A’s rotation by 2009.

While almost every scout who has seen them agrees that Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los
Santos were the White Sox’ top two pitching prospects, some feel De Los
Santos could be even better than Gonzalez. De Los Santos dominated
A-ball opponents in 2007 and though not as experienced as Gonzalez,
many scouts feel he could arrive in the majors in a hurry, possibly as
a member of the A’s rotation in 2009.

The caveat to this trade could be OF Ryan Sweeney. The left handed
hitting 23-year old could end up being a better overall player than
Swisher, albeit less power. In 2007 Sweeney probably possessed the best
throwing arm in the entire White Sox system, and is a far superior
defensive outfielder to Swisher. In  his last two seasons in the
minors, he finally started to show some power and because of his short
compact swing, his .289 career minor league average should translate
well in the majors. Sweeney has a good chance at being the A’s fourth
outfielder in 2008 and could contend for the starting CF or LF job in
2009.

Mark Kotsay Deal

Jdevine
At the rate Billy Beane is going, he could pass Ricky Henderson on the
all-time “steals” list sometime soon. After letting Andruw Jones walk,
the Braves needed a CF so badly that they decided to part with their
2005 # 1 pick, relief pitcher Joey Devine,
for a 32-year old left fielder whose best days are behind him. Just to
make sure the trade was lopsided enough, the Braves threw in A-ball
prospect, RHP Jamie Richmond.
Kotsay’s bum back has been so bad the past two years that he’s missed a
total of 139 games in that span. Besides grabbing a young power
throwing right handed reliever who could turn out to be the perfect
set-up man to Houston Street, Beane saves a nice chunk of change,
$3-million, for the 2008 season.

While Devine struggled with his confidence through a rough 2006, he
was absolutely dazzling in 2007 in Double and Triple-A. Don’t be
surprised if the 24-year old Devine ends up as one of the best set-up
men in the AL when 2008 is all said and done.

Final Overview

Beanstalk_1
By the time 2010 or 2011 rolls around, when Dan Haren is looking for
the highest bidder on the free-agent market, and Nick Swisher is
spittng sunflower seeds on the bench as the White Sox DH, and Mark
Kotsay is looking into his first coaching job, the A’s should be ready
to contend again.

With probable deals for Joe Blanton and Eric Chavez on the way, the
A’s farm system will be bulging with top prospects. In three years, if
things work out for Beane and his scouts, the A’s could be the giant
once again looking down at the rest of the AL West. And we can all look
back at the winter of 2007-2008, and say that was the year Billy the bean counter
built a new beanstalk.

 

       Amount Billy The Bean Counter Saved A’s For 2008

            Mark Kotsay-  $3-Million (A’s pick up $5-million of his salary)

            Dan Haren-     $4-Million

            Nick Swisher- $3.5-Million

            *Subtract  approximately $2-Million for the 11 prospects

 

             Approximate Total Savings For 2008- $8.5-Million

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NL East Hot Stove Report Card!!!

This is the first of a six part report card analyzing each MLBteam’s winter moves to improve. In today’s entry we will review and
rate all the Hot Stove action that took place in the NL East this past
offseason. Who upgraded the most? Which teams got the most bang for
their buck? Will the Mets dominate the division again? Or could their
be a new beast in the East? Let’s take a look.

Philadelphia PhilliesPhi_1271_1

Grade  B+


New Additions

SP Freddy Garcia, SP Adam Eaton, RP Alfonso Alfonseca,          C Rod Barajas, 3B Wes Helms, OF Jayson Werth

 

Hasta La Vista

SP Randy Wolf, SP Gavin Floyd, RP Aaron Fultz, RP Arthur Rhodes, C Mike Lieberthal, OF Dave Dellucci, OF/1B Jeff Conine


Analysis

GM Pat Gillick began accelerating the Phillies’ youth movement at the trade deadline last season, when he jettisoned outfielder Bobby Abreu (33-years old) and middle reliever Rheal Cormier (40-years old). The net result of those two deals were 27-year old lefthanded reliever Matt Smith and four young prospects, including the Yankees’ 2005 first-round pick shortstop C.J. Henry. In the winter Gillick continued his youth movement when he allowed catcher Mike Lieberthal (35-years old), utilityman Jeff Conine (40-years old) and lefties Arthur Rhodes (37-years old) and Aaron Fultz (33-years old) to walk. The young duo of Matt Smith and Fabio Castro
will take over as the lefthanded portion of the bullpen. Both proved to
be very effective at the end of 2006 and will cost the Phils a fraction
of what Rhodes, Cormier and Fultz cost. New catcher Rod Barajas is three years younger than Lieberthal, much more durable, and
has a bazooka arm. If Jayson Werth
can avoid the injury bug that has hampered him over the past year and a
half he could provide a nice power bat off the bench while giving the
Phils more range than Conine in the outfield.

Fred_garcia_3jpg_1The two best acquisitions Gillick made were starting pitchers Freddy Garcia (Photo on Left) and Adam Eaton. The duo gives the Phillies the deepest starting rotation in the East. Garcia should slot in nicely between Brett Myers and Cole Hamels.
The combination of moving over to the the lighter hitting NL, and the
extra motivation of having to pitch for a new contract in 2008 has him
poised for a big season in 2007. Third baseman Wes Helms is a marginal addition who will help plug a position that has been a major problem for the Phils over the last few years.

If there was one area Gillick didnt address enough it was the
bullpen depth. Unless he can revert back to 2004 form, 35-year old Antonio Alfonseca, the sole addition to the bullpen, might be more of a liability than an asset. With closer Tom Gordon nearing the big Four-O and top set-up man Ryan Madson
coming off the worst season of his career, the Phillies bullpen looks
to be their achilles heel. Expect Gillick to continue his pursuit for a
top-end reliever with starting pitcher Jon Lieber acting as the
main bait. If he is unable to swing such a deal, Adam Eaton could be
headed to the pen. Because of a history of arm problems, counting on
Eaton every couple of days does not seem to be an ideal solution.


Atlanta Braves
Atlantabraveslogo_1

Grade  B


New Additions

RP Rafael Soriano, RP Mike Gonzalez, RP Tanyon Sturtze,
1B/OF Craig Wilson, SS/2B Chris Woodward


Hasta La Vista

1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Marcus Giles, SP John Thompson, RP Danys Baez,                     RP Chris Reitsma, RP Ken Ray, RP Mike Remlinger


Analysis

Probably the biggest reason the Atlanta Braves 14-year dominance of
the NL East ended last year was their over-reliance on an ineffective
bullpen. The Braves had only three pitchers that totaled over 100
innings last season. The Braves’ pen finished 11th in the NL in bullpen
ERA (4.39), and blew more saves (29) than any other team in the senior
circuit. After toiling with a closer by committee situation for most of
2006- a committee that saw the likes of Chris Reitsma, Ken Ray and Jorge Sosa as the lead firemen- GM John Schuerholz pulled off a deadline deal in July to acquire a reliable stopper. 38-year old Bob Wickman
turned out to be more than reliable, dominating his new league to the
tune of a 1.04 ERA while converting 18 of 19 Save opportunities.
Schuerholz wasted no time in locking Wickman up, signing him to a
one-year extension before the season ended.

Mgonzalez_1_1With
the closer situation settled for 2007, Schuerholz turned his attention
to shoring up the rest of his leaky pen. In maybe the best deal by any
team over the winter, he traded inconsistent lefthanded starter Horacio Ramirez to the Mariners for one of the top set-up men in the game, righthander Rafael Soriano. And Schuerholz didn’t stop there. After a month of intense negotiations, he acquired Pirates’ southpaw closer Mike Gonzalez (Photo on Left)
to be his top lefthanded set-up man. In a little over five months
Schuerholz has turned the Braves’ weakest link into the team’s greatest
strength.

While the bullpen has been renovated, it came at a cost. The Braves
sacrificed their first baseman and a lot of lefthanded power when they
dealt Adam LaRoche for Gonzalez. In addition, the loss of second baseman Marcus Giles means the Braves will have an entirely new right side of the infield. Free-agent signee Craig Wilson will help fill in for LaRoche at first base as part of a platoon with lefty hitting Scott Thorman (2000 first-round pick). Outfield prospect Kelly Johnson has been converted to second base and will compete with 24-year old switch-hitting Willy Aybar (part of the return from the Wilson Betemit deal with the Dodgers last July), and 23-year-old prospect Martin Prado in place of the now departed Giles.

Another area of concern could be the starting rotation, where the Braves will hope that southpaw  Mike Hampton
can contribute 200+ innings after missing the past year and half while
recovering from Tommy John surgery. In fact the entire makeup of the
rotation has some dubious qualities- ace John Smoltz will be 40-years old in May, Tim Hudson will try to bounce back from the worst season of his career (4.86 ERA), Chuck James will be in his first full year as a starter, and Kyle Davies
(6.38 ERA in 151 career IP) could be about to run out of opportunities.
Unlike past years, the Braves do not have any top starting pitching
prospects that are close to major league ready.


New York Mets
Mets_logo_5

Grade  C


New Additions

LF Moises Alou, 2B/SS Damion Easley, OF Ben Johnson,              Util David Newhan, SP Chan Ho Park, SP Aaron Sele,                       SP Jason Vargas, SP/RP Jorge Sosa, RP Scott Schoenweiss,     RP Ambiorix Burgos


Hasta La Vista

LF Cliff Floyd, 2B/SS Chris Woodward, SP Steve Trachsel, SP Brian Bannister
RP Chad Bradford, RP Royce Ring, RP Darrin Oliver


Analysis

The best move GM Omar Minaya made in the offseason was resisting temptation by saying NO to Scott Boras’ ridiculous demands for Barry Zito. Unless your name is Johan Santana,
it is rarely wise to give a starting pitcher a contract longer than
five years, let alone seven years. If you look around the league it is
very difficult to find a starter who has pitched more than seven years
in the majors without sustaining at least one serious injury. Zito, who
has never had a serious injury,  is now entering his 8th season and has
pitched over 200 innings for six consecutive years. It’s hard to
imagine a curve ball pitcher like Zito, who puts so much stress on his
elbow everytime he twists an Uncle Charlie, avoiding injury over the
next seven years.

The New York media has tossed some pointed criticism at Minaya for
not bringing in a top line starter to help fill out the Mets’ rag-tag
rotation. The criticism is similar to the 2000 offseason when the Mets
resisted Mike Hampton’s absurd contract demands, allowing him to sign
with the Colorado Rockies where he received the largest contract ever
given to a pitcher at the time (8 years/$123-million). We all know how
that turned out. If Minaya has correctly evaluated the odds of Zito
sustaining a major injury or ever pitching to a level that is equal to
the value of his contract (Giants signed him for 7 years/$126-million),
it might just be the best deal he never made.

Minaya also made a more than decent run at Japanese star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka
when he bid a reported $37-million for the right to sign him (the
second highest offer), and while he came up short, one shouldn’t blame
him for not topping the Red Sox’ ridiculous $51-million posting bid.

So, instead of overspending in a bad market, Minaya chose to
guarantee a total of less than $2-million for three veterans who will
push top prospects Mike Pelfrey, Phillip Humber and recently acquired Jason Vargas for a rotation spot come spring training.

Of the three vets, Chan Ho Park ($600,000 guaranteed) has the
best shot of making the rotation. Last year Park returned to the NL for
the first time in five years and showed that he might finally be
regaining some of the arm strength he lost because of multiple arm
injuries suffered while with Texas. No longer under the security of a
sweet deal (Texas’ deal with Park is another good example of why one
should be wary of doling out long expensive deals to starting
pitchers), Park has lots of motivation to prove he can still be an
effective starter.

Jorge Sosa will probably never again have a season like he
did in 2005 when he had a 2.55 ERA in 134 IP. But, for $1.25-million
he’s a low cost risk that could eat plenty of innings until Pelfrey,
Humber or Vargas is ready.

While Aaron Sele is a long shot at best, his success in the
first half of 2006 with the Dodgers (2.91 ERA in 65 IP) coupled with
the fact that he costs the Mets nothing unless he makes the team
($1-million non-guaranteed) is a prudent no risk signing by Minaya.

The best move Minaya made to improve his 2007 rotation could be his deadline deal last July for Oliver Perez. Towards the end of last season and in the playoffs Perez showed he still has the

dominating stuff that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2004. If pitching coach Rick Peterson can help minimize Perez’s lapses in command, the Mets’ rotation will be a lot better than most baseball pundits are predicting.

Alou_6377_1Last year only the Chicago Cubs (.253) had a lower batting average vs lefties than the Mets (.254). Replacing Cliff Floyd with lefty killer Moises Alou (Photo on Left) should help improve this glaring weakness markedly. With the versatile Endy Chavez
on the roster, hopefully the Mets will be able to spot the 40-year old
Alou enough so he avoids the injuries that have plagued him throughout
his career. Even with his health concerns, this is a good sign because
at 1-year/$8.5 million Minaya has limited the mets’ overall liability.

The most questionable moves Minaya made this winter concern the
bullpen and bench. The 2006 postseason exposed the lack of punch the
Mets have on their bench. It’s difficult to consider 38-year old
utilityman Damion Easley an upgrade over Chris Woodward, and trading lefthanded reliever Royce Ring for marginal outfielder Ben Johnson
could come back to bite the Mets. Trading Ring, who has shown a wicked
curve ball that works nicely with his tailing fastball, and replacing
him with free-agent lefty Scott Scoenweiss seemed uneccessary.
Besides the fact that Schoenweiss will cost roughly seven times the
amount of money, Ring has a very good chance of being a much better
pitcher.

Letting side-slinger Chad Bradford walk could also weaken a
bullpen that was the savior of the Mets’ season in 2006. Bradford was
the Mets’ best reliever in the playoffs. Maybe because of the
development of prospect Joe Smith, another side-armer,  Minaya
felt giving Bradford a 3-year deal wasn’t necessary, but it seems to be
the opposite logic that he used in replacing Ring with Schoenweiss.

The one positive addition to the Mets’ pen is flamethrower Ambiorix Burgos who was obtained from the Royals for Brian Bannister.
Burgos is still only 22-years old and has shown that he has the arsenal
to one day be an effective closer. If Burgos can establish himself it
would allow the Mets to once again dangle Aaron Heilman on the trade market should they need another starting pitcher during the season.


Florida Marlins
Floridamarlins_1

Grade  C-


New Additions

1B/3B Aaron Boone, CF Alex Sanchez, RP Kevin Gregg,
RP Henry Owens, RP Matt Lindstrom, RP Felix Rodriguez


Hasta la Vista

1B/3B Wes Helms, SP Jason Vargas, SP Brian Moehler,
RP Joe Borowski, RP Chris Resop


Analysis

When analyzing the Marlins one has to look more at internal moves
than external since they are perennially hamstrung by the lowest budget
in the major leagues. To put that fact into perspective, one must
recognize that the Yankees last year paid Alex Rodriguez almost $10-million more than the entire Marlins’ player payroll (just over $14-million).

If one were to rate the job GM Larry Beinfest has done on
player development and prospect acquisitions, he would get an A+. But,
since we are rating the entire organization the grade is C-. One should
not just blame the economic structure of MLB for the Marlins plight.
This is an organization whose revenue continually bleeds red. Their
inability to strike a new stadium deal or exploit the large latin
population in south florida most likely means their days in the
sunshine state are numbered.

First, we must give Beinfest his props. Last season the Marlins produced the NL Rookie of the Year winner, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, and placed five of the top ten players in the NL Rookie of the Year voting: second baseman Dan Uggla, starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez, and leftfielder Josh Willingham to go along with Ramirez.

While the Marlins have produced a large pool of talent, they still
have some glaring holes. No NL team had less production from their
centerfield position in 2006 than the Marlins. The best they could do
this winter was to sign feather hitting speedster Alex Sanchez
to a minor league deal. Sanchez hasn’t played in the majors since 2005,
largely because of a suspension for steroid use. The Marlins are
working with him on his bunting and hope he can turn into a cheap
version of Juan Pierre.

Boone_2222_1The only other change the Marlins made to their offense was replacing effective platoon first baseman Wes Helms with retread Aaron Boone (Photo on Left).

Beinfest has done his best to fill the gaping holes in the bullpen,
but because of a lack of funds the additions have been marginal. Since
closer Joe Borowski signed with the Indians, the Marlins will try to plug that role with 2004 first-round pick, lefthander Taylor Tankersley, and converted starter Ricky Nolasco. Beinfest was able to obtain two minor league fireballers from the Mets, Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom, but it cost the Marlins their top lefthanded pitching prospect, Jason Vargas.
Both Owens and Lindstrom throw in the high nineties and are expected to
be given a chance to make the major league roster. Owens did have a
very successful season last year as the closer for Double-A Binghamton,
so maybe he’ll turn into a closer option at some point. Veteran Kevin Gregg
was acquired from the Angels to bring some experience to the pen, but
his arm has logged a tremendous amount of innings over the past few
years and his performance is starting to reflect his overuse.

So, while we give Beinfest an A for effort, the Marlins will find it difficult to improve until they get out of South Florida.


Washington Nationals
Washington_nationals_logoeps_copy

Grade  F


New Additions

SP Jerome Williams, RP Emiliano Fruto, OF Chris Snelling,             C Jesus Flores, 1B Dmitri Young, 1B Travis Lee,                             2B Ronnie Belliard 


Hasta La Vista

OF Alfonso Soriano, OF Jose Guillen, OF Marlon Byrd, 2B Jose Vidro, C Matt Lecroy,
SP Tony Armas Jr., SP Ramon Ortiz, RP Felix Rodriguez, RP Joey Eischen
,
Manager Frank Robinson


Analysis

What does it say about a team’s offseason when the best player they
obtained was a backup catcher through the Rule 5 draft. The two best
things I can say about GM Jim Bowden and the Washington Nationals is that Jesus Flores will be a definite upgrade to Matt Lecroy at backup catcher, and that they’ve finally recognized that they are a bad team.

Empty_pockets_1
When you’re a bad team it makes no sense to pay players like Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro
tons of bucks, but it is of the utmost importance to acquire some young
talent when dealing these money bags away. So, the upside is that the
Nationals got a lot younger while shedding a boatload of salary. The
downside is that Bowden was able to get very few prospects in return
for all the high priced talent he had. How the Nationals could come to
a decision to not trade Soriano last year is hard to fathom. Maybe
Bowden was busy reading the The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" when he stated that he thought he had a realistic chance of re-signing Soriano.

The two prospects Bowden did receive were in the Vidro deal— outfielder Chris Snelling and reliever Emiliano Fruto.
While Snelling has fourth outfielder written all over him, the 22-year
old Fruto has shown he has the arsenal to be a very effective reliever
one day. After struggling with his command mightily in his first few
years in the minors, Fruto was able to harness his dominating fastball
at Triple-A in 2006. The results were encouraging. In 45.1 IP for
Tacoma he struck out 55 men while posting a 3.18 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. 

The only other transactions to speak of were the signings of three marginal veterans, first basemen Dmitri Young and Travis Lee along with second baseman Ronnie Belliard. Young and Lee will compete to spell Nick Johnson until he is ready to return from injury. Belliard will compete with Christian Guzman for a lineup spot. If Belliard succeeds it would result in Felipe Lopez moving back to shortstop. They also signed nomadic starting pitcher Jerome Williams.
Once upon a time Williams was a well thought of prospect in the Giants’
system. This will be Williams’ third team in three years. So far the
Giants and Cubs have given up on him, but Williams is still only
25-years old, so the Nationals are hoping the third time around will be
the charm.

Cashman Delivers!

Cashman1_1Quick, off the top of your head, how many GMs have the New York Yankees
had since George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973? Now, without
looking it up, how many can you name? O’k, time’s up! If you include
Bob Lemon’s five powerless months in 1979, 17 men have held or shared the GM duties over the past 34 years.
Possibly, more than any other owner in sports, Steinbrenner has
encapsulated the meaning of a win-now team. Three year or five
year-plans are for teams like the A’s or the Twins, but not the best
team money can buy. In fact only two of the 17 men who have worn the
title of GM in Steinbrenner’s tenure have ever lasted more than two
years. And one of them, Gene ‘Stick’ Michael, only exceeded the
two-year mark (1990-1995) because the Boss was suspended from baseball
for two and half years during Michael’s reign. The result, of course,
was the building of the latest Yankees’ dynasty. So, when Steinbrenner
hired Brian Cashman in 1998 you’d
have been hard pressed to find any Yankee diehard who would have
predicted that he’d still be the GM almost 10 years later. In fact, not
only is Cashman the longest tenured Yankee GM in the Steinbrenner era,
he is currently the 7th longest tenured GM in baseball.

Stability = Wins

If you don’t think stability matters, consider the success that the
six organizations have had who have had one GM for a longer continuous
period of time than the New York Yankees. Walt Jocketty (1995-
) is in charge of the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and
has seven postseason appearances, two NL pennants, and a World
Championship in his portfolio. John Schuerholz (1991-   ) led
the Atlanta Braves to 14 consecutive division titles between 1991-2005,
and has five NL pennants and one World Championship during his 16 year
reign. Brian Sabean (1997-   ) led the Giants to the NL pennant in 2002 and has four postseason appearances to his credit. Kevin Towers
(1998-   ) won the NL pennant in his first year as GM and has led San
Diego to three postseason appearances while continually tearing down
and rebuilding the cost-conscious Padres. No one has done more with less than Terry Ryan (1992-   ) in Minnesota where Ryan has led the Twins into the postseason four of the past five seasons. O’k, I take that back- Billy Beane
(1998-   ) has done so much with less in Oakland that they came up with
a new baseball term for him, "Moneyball". Beane has led the A’s into
the playoffs five times in his nine years as GM. The lesson here,
stability not only counts, it wins. Of the seven longest tenured GMs in
baseball, five of them led their teams into the postseason last year.

While it’s no secret how important it is to have a steady hand at
the helm when building and maintaining a contender, and despite the Yankees’ unbelievable success
over the past decade, Brian Cashman is just starting to get his due.
How can a GM who was the first GM in major league history to win three
World Championships in his first three seasons, and has led his team
into the postseason in all nine of his years on the job be underrated,
especially in the media capitol of the world? Simple, it has only been
a little over a year since the Boss finally decided to do away with the
infamous "Tampa Mafia".

Tampa Mafia or Cashman?

Cosanostra
Between 1998-2005 Steinbrenner’s main Tampa consiglieri, VPs Bill Emslie, Billy Connors and Damon Oppenheimer
had so much input that it was rather difficult to know what exactly
were Cashman’s decisions. For instance, while one might be able to
hoist some blame onto Cashman’s shoulders for the Kevin Brown
acquisition (which he supposedly supported), one cannot blame him for
the disasterous acquisition of Tony Womack which he was adamantly
opposed to. Sportswriter Phil Allard retells a humorous long-rumored
story of how the 2005 signing of Tony Womack was one of the final
straws in Cashman’s decision to leave the Yankees if he didn’t get more
authority. Allard writes,

"This was not Cashman’s move. he argued
against acquiring this human out-maker. In fact, Cashman was
dumbfounded when Damon Oppenheimer- who was objecting to Miguel Cairo’s
agent playing hardball- blurted out on a conference call: ‘**** for
that kind of money we could get Tony Womack’. One can only imagine the
silence that followed that phone call."

In Cashman’s first seven years on the job, an overly crowded
conference call was just one of the problems that made organizational
disorganization a common theme. One year former VP Lin Garrett was in
charge of Scouting, then VP Gordon Blakeley, next it was senior VP Mark
Newman, then VP Bill Emslie or was it VP Damon Oppenheimer? It was bad
enough that the Yankees probably had more VPs than the rest of the AL
East combined, to have them all changing hats every year caused mayhem
incarnate. The one thing that didn’t change in this period was the lack
of input provided to probably their best scout and the architect of
their 1990’s dynasty, Gene Michael (VP/Special Advisor to no one). Why
Steinbrenner would eschew the wisdom of his best baseball mind for so
long in favor of guys like Bill Emslie (a former minor league umpire
with no Scouting experience), and Billy Connors (a mediocre pitching
coach who had a 7.53 ERA in a pitching career that spanned all of 26
games) is still rather hard to understand.

As with any power sharing scheme, eventually one side usurped power.
In the fall of 2005, with both the Tampa and New York contingents
bickering, with Cashman’s contract ending, and with half the league
wanting to sign Cashman as their GM, Steinbrenner finally yielded a
morsel of power. Cashman re-signed for three years with the stipulation
that he would finally be given the authority he long sought. Before
re-signing Cashman actually wrote out a "Document of Philosophy"
explaining how he thought the chain of command should be. He re-signed
only after he received full agreement from the Boss that this document
would be adhered to. Had Steinbrenner finally gained some humility? Not
really. The reasons were two-fold. One, Steinbrenner hates to lose
anything, especially an employee so well thought of by the rest of his
peers. And two, the Boss’s health was clearly becoming an issue, and
son-in-law Steve Swindal (heir apparent) was beginning to take on more
responsibility. Swindal and Cashman have always had a strong bond.

Cashman’s Job Rating

Applause1
When trying to assess Cashman’s GM record between 1998-2005, one must
take into account a few things. First, Cashman, just like his mentor
Gene Michael, has always believed in building from within. Most of the
Yankees’ expensive free-agent signings- Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield,
Jaret Wright… were situations where Cashman acted as contract
negotiator only. Second, the lack of pitching depth in the minor
leagues was more a result of spotty scouting and decisions by
Steinbrenner’s groupies in Tampa to trade away young pitchers. Billy
Connors’ (Minor League Pitching Coordinator) infatuation with
reclamation projects like Aaron Small led to a lack of interest when it
came to signing young minor league free-agents. And third, Cashman has
always been a proponent of giving prospects a shot at the majors before
giving up on them. Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera would probably still be stuck in Triple-A if it weren’t for Cashman.

While it is difficult to assign credit or failure to many of the
Yankees’ moves from 1998-2005, Cashman’s stamp can definitively be seen
over the past two offseasons. If one were to rate him on this short
period of time, one would have to give him a round of applause. In
fact, I would argue that no GM did better this past offseason than Mr.
Cashman. Believe me, as a Mets’ fan, that’s not an easy statement for
me to make.

So, what has Mr. Cashman done in the past year and a half that allows me to assert such a bold claim. Let’s take a closer look:

1. He has rid the Yankees’ of a number of albatrosses and lowered payroll

2. He has rebuilt the pitching depth in the minor leagues

3. He has re-established internal stability

4. He has expanded the Yankees’ committment in the International Market

5. He is in the process of elongating the current Yankees’ dynasty

The Unmovable Contracts

This is a good place to start. The Yankees’ clubhouse has become
overcrowded with more than a few burdensome contracts in the past few
seasons. On the basis alone that Cashman was able to move three of
those ************ while receiving top prospects in return, I’d rate
the Yankees’ 2006 offseason a grand success.

Randy Johnson

Waved_albatross1_1
If you ask most non-Yankee fans what the Bombers did this offseason,
they’d say they traded Randy Johnson and they’d stop right there. Well,
we won’t. Yes, the Yankees did deal Johnson, and what a great deal for
the Yankees it was. Over the past year Johnson had become more of a
"Big Albatross" than a "Big Unit" in the Yankees’ universe. Not only
did Cashman rid the Yankees of a broken down old version of a once
great pitcher, he shed $14-million from the payroll, and got a usable
major league middle reliever and three pretty good prospects to boot.

For Cashman 24-year old righthander Ross Ohlendorf
was the centerpiece to this deal. Ohlendorf, a 4th round pick in 2004
has had good success at every level he has pitched. An ivy league
graduate, he is a heady pitcher with steely composure. Last season he
pitched in Double-A where he was named to the all-star team. He should
begin this season at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Ohlendorf is a
sinkerballer with a low-nineties fastball and a plus-changeup. He
should be a top the Yankees call-up list if any injuries befall the
major league pitching staff.

Alberto Gonzalez is the other
interesting pick up in this deal. Gonzalez is a 24-year old slick
fielding shortstop who was acquired as a possible replacement for
utilityman Miguel Cairo next season. Look for Gonzalez to hone his
batting skills in Scranton and provide the Yankees with a solid
defensive presence off the bench in 2008.

Righthander Luis Vizcaino is an average reliever who adds depth to the major league bullpen for a year, and 24-year old Steven Jackson is a hard throwing righthander who provides the Yankees with yet another strong arm for the Scranton bullpen.

Gary Sheffield

Hsanchez_2
Just about everyone in baseball figured the Yankees wouldn’t pick up
Sheffield’s $13-million option and he would become a free-agent this
past fall. What chance did the Yankees have of getting any value
trading Sheffield if they did pick it up? With the Bobby Abreu
acquisition, there was no place for grumpy Gary. Who would give the
Yankees anything good knowing that Cashman would then have to trade the
malcontented slugger? The Tigers, that’s who. Cashman correctly
analyzed that there were enough teams willing to meet Sheff’s contract
demands, so he wisely activated the option, took him off the market and
negotiated a pretty sweet deal with the power hungry Tigers.

The prize of the deal was top-50 prospect, righthander Humberto Sanchez.
Armed with a heat seeker for a fastball and a deadly curve, the 23-year
old starter utterly decimated Double-A competition last year. While he
could continue to start, there are rumblings that he could be groomed
as Mariano Rivera’s replacement this season in Scranton.

Righthanded 23-year old Kevin Whelan
was a nice caveat to this deal. Drafted in the 4th round in 2005,
Whelan throws in the mid to high nineties. In his first full season in
the minors, he dominated High-A competition. Whelan will begin the year
at Double-A Trenton and could be Kevin Farnsworth replacement as the
top set-up man either next year or in 2009.

Getting 23-year old Anthony Claggett
tossed into this deal was a real sign that Cashman’s scouting
department is working overtime. Claggett, has a potential devastating
slider that gives him a shot at becoming a very useful middle reliever
in the majors one day. Claggett augments his slider with a
plus-fastball that allowed him to post an 0.91 ERA last season at
A-ball, Claggett gave up a total of 6 ER and struck out 58 men in 59
IP.

Jaret Wright

On the day before the Yankees had to decide whether or not to pick
up the $7-million option of the untradeable Jaret Wright or buy him out
for $3-million, Cashman picked up the option and traded him and
$3-million to the Baltimore Orioles for one of their better middle
relievers, righthander Chris Britton.
After a dominating and steady ascent through the minors, the 24-year
old Britton moved up to the big leagues early last year where he posted
a
3.35 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 53 IP for the Orioles. The overwieght
Britton is a Brian Bruney clone with a few less mph on his fastball,
but much better control. What makes this such a great deal is that if
the naive Orioles had just waited a day, almost assuredly Cashman and
the Yankees would have bought out Jaret Wright and the O’s could have
signed him as a free-agent and hung onto Britton. Instead Cashman paid
the same $3-million he would have payed anyway AND received a solid
reliever for his bullpen.

The Arms Buildup

Phughes145100_2
After the 2005 season, with his newly attained authority, Cashman made
three very important decisions. First, he made it known to any GM
during trade discussions that top pitching prospect Philip Hughes
was untouchable. Second, Cashman brought Gene Michael back into the
loop. And  third, he made a move to consolidate his power when he
replaced Scouting Coordinator of the day Bill Emslie with Billy Eppler
and moved the Yankees’ Pro-Scouting department back to New York from
Tampa. Replacing Emslie with the astute Eppler was the first move in
rebuilding the organizational pitching depth. Cashman recognized that
when rebuilding anything one must know what one has and what one needs.
More than anyone else, Eppler knew the true value of the Yankees’
inventory in the minors. The days of Emslie and Connors trying to
reclaim the potential of oldies-and-not-very-goodies were over. Guys
like Aaron Small and Scott Erickson would now have to buy a ticket like
every other New Yorker if they wanted to enter Yankee Stadium.

The redefining of the scope of responsibilities, would continue as a
hierarchy became clearer. Damon Oppenheimer’s responsibilities would
now be confined to what he does best, the running of the June draft.
Billy Connors would now just concentrate on coordinating the minor
league pitching programs. Bill Emslie would now take care of um, um…
shining George’s shoes?

In 2006, two of Cashman’s first moves were to sign young minor league free-agent pitchers Jose Veres (26-years old) and Darrell Rasner
(25-years old and former 2nd round pick of the Expos). Both were
immediately plugged in at Triple-A and both were able to fill in
effectively for the major league Yanks towards the end of the season
when injuries mounted. Cashman also jumped on a good scouting report
from Eppler to sign 24-year old minor league free-agent Brian Bruney
during the summer of 2006 after the D’backs released him. Bruney became
one of the Yankees best relievers during the pennant race. These were
the type of under the radar moves that the Yankees were unable to act
on during the Emslie, Oppenheimer/Connors’ era.

Joba_2_1
2006 also marked the first time Cashman would have the unquestionable
final say in the June amateur draft. Continuing in his quest to rebuild
the organizational pitching depth as quickly as possible, Cashman
authorized $7-million in signing bonuses as the Yankees drafted 14
pitchers with their first 18 picks (including 6′ 9" top high schooler Dellin Betances and first-round picks Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain photo on right). In all the Yankees drafted 26 pitchers. In July, Cashman signed one of the top pitchers from the Dominican Republic, Hario Heredia, during the international amateur free-agent signing period.

If you add the signing of Andy Pettite and Japanese free-agent pitcher Kei Igawa to the drafted pitchers (26), the meaningful minor league free-agent pitchers (3), the traded for pitchers (7), and the international amateur signing (1), Cashman has added 38 new arms to the Yankees’ organization since last spring. That’s 8 new pitchers on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, 12 new pitchers who will pitch at Double-A or above, 1 top-high schooler, 2 first-round draft picks, and 1 gem from the Dominican Republic.

By 2010 when Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers,
Luis Vizcaino and possibly George Steinbrenner are gone, it is not a
stretch of the imagination that the Yankees could have a pitching staff
brimming with prospects from their own farm system.

The Calm Within The Storm

One of the hardest tasks for a Yankees’ GM has always been to withstand the great pressure from the Boss and his brass to trade their best prospects in search of the missing link. As the trade deadline approached over the last two seasons, fans as usual
were barraged with articles of possible all-star additions as the
Yankees made their traditional World Series push. The name that
appeared most in these articles was Philip Hughes. While there
was much debate within the organization as to whether to trade their
top prospect, especially after he had suffered an arm injury the year before, the one voice that stayed constant in this matter was
that of Brian Cashman. The organization’s leading proponent of
‘building from within’, Cashman resisted all attempts by other teams that wanted to pry Hughes away. His patience payed off when he out-waited veteran GM Pat Gillick all summer and was finally able to obtain Bobby Abreu from the Phillies without having to part with Hughes or any other top-pitching prospect.

Cash_n_boss
Cashman has continually shown this type of strong hand through all the Yankee
bluster over the past two failed postseasons. After the latest defeat
in Detroit, while journalists like Bill Madden
(Daily News), WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog and most of the New York
media were predicting the guillotine for the heads of Alex Rodriguez
and Joe Torre, Cashman deftly calmed the waters until the storm passed.
Assuaging the always media-conscious Boss was a grand feat that should
not be overlooked. Convincing Steinbrenner to keep Torre and lay off
A-Rod not only maintained the internal stability of the clubhouse, it
kept the Yankees from taking two steps backwards. There was no way the
Yankees could have gotten equal value for the best third-baseman in the
AL, and firing a skipper who has the full respect and support of his
players would have caused a collective clubhouse depression.

Make no mistake, Cashman does not make decisions based on loyalty
alone as the Bernie Williams situation proves. If trading A-Rod and
firing Torre would have actually improved the Yankees, they’d be gone.

The attitude that George Steinbrenner has cultivated within the
Yankees’ culture might best be described by this quote from legendary
British football (soccer) manager Bill Shankly, "Some
people believe sport is a matter of life and death. I’m very
disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
important than that."
  The poise Cashman has shown in the
midst of this type of atmosphere could be his greatest strength. In a
land where he is in charge of giant egos, where those under him have
all held important roles within the organization, many of whom were
once his boss, he has provided a voice of clarity and confidence. While
Joe Torre has been given much credit for being the salve in the
clubhouse, it is time to give Cashman credit for being the calm within
the storm of the front office.

Marco Polo

Cash_yankees_univ_2
There really is no stone Cashman won’t turn. In the next week or two, Cashman will become the Marco Polo
of baseball as he leads a small contingent behind the Great Wall. The
Yankees will become the first MLB team to venture into China. The
purpose of the visit, to strike an agreement with the government of the
world’s largest population to train and develop prospects for a future
in the Major Leagues. Cashman has recently stated that he hopes to have
players from China playing in their lower minor leagues by 2010.

Since 2005, he has not only expanded the
Yankees’ international search for gold but also the budget for young
talent. While the Yankees have had one of the best international
divisions among baseball organizations for quite some time, and though
they have had great success in developing the likes of Alfonso Soriano,
Wily Mo Pena, Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera in
recent years, their signing bonus budget has not reflected that
success. Cashman has increased the emphasis on the signing of youthful
prospects rather than just spending for players who are close to major
league ready. In 2006 during the International Amateur free-agent
signing period Cashman authorized over $4-million dollars in signing
bonuses for 8 Latin American free-agents all under the age of 22-years
old. So, as the Yankees continue their search for the next Hideki
Matsui or Orlando Hernadez and bring in guys like Kei Igawa, they are
signing international teenagers at a much higher rate than ever before.

For the past two seasons Cashman has scored big in the teenage
market by signing possibly the two best Latin American
hitting-prospects in baseball. In 2005, he signed then 17-year old
Venezuelan outfielder Jose Tabata, and this past July he authorized a $2-million bonus to sign then 16-year old Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero. Adding Cuban defector, 24-year old first baseman Juan Miranda
was another nice move. Besides Montero and Miranda, the Yankees signed
seven international amateur free agents this past July, including the
aformentioned Hario Heredia.

Extending The Empire

Fist_2000_rings
Between 1921-1964 no team in the history of baseball dominated the game
like the New York Yankees. In that 44-year period, the Yankees were in
29 World Series and won 20 of them. Since 1995, the Yankees have begun
a new dynasty. They have been in the postseason every year since then
(12 times). They have been in 6 World Series and won 4 of them. Anyone
who thinks this latest mini-dynasty is coming to an end, think again!
While it is impossible to plan for a 44-year dynasty, Cashman and the
Yankees are combining their enormous funds with excellent scouting and
the wisdom of patience. In 2010, most of their current mega-deals will
be over. Only Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (who can opt out of contract after 2007) and newly signed Kei Igawa are presently under contract
through 2010. While Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jorge
Posada, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettite
will be long gone by then, the Yankees are in great position to still
dominate. And that domination could easily last until 2015 and beyond
with the next herd of prospects on the way combined with the available
cash that will be in the budget for free-agents. While it is always
dicey to project the potential of prospects so far in advance, just for
fun I’m going to take a crack at it. How does this 2010 roster look to
Yankee fans who like the ‘build from within’ philosophy:


Position Players

C- Free Agent (w/Jesus Montero starting in 2011)Tabata_3

1B- Eric Duncan (Keep an eye on Juan Miranda though)

2B- Robinson Cano

SS- Derek Jeter

3B- Alex Rodriguez

LF- Melky Cabrera

CF- Austin Jackson or Free Agent

RF- Jose Tabata (photo on right)

DH- Free Agent

Util- Alberto Gonzalez                  
                                                                      
                        

 


Starting RotationKennedy_2_1

1- Philip Hughes

2- Chien-Ming Wang

3- Tyler Clippard or Free Agent

4- Ian Kennedy (photo on right)

5- Kei Igawa (W/Dellin Betances starting in 2011)




BullpenWhelan_1

CL-   Humberto Sanchez

SUP-  Kevin Whelan (photo on right)

SUP-  Joba Chamberlain

Midd- J. Brent Cox

Midd- Chris Britton

Long- Ross Ohlendorf

Lefty- Free Agent



*Other Pitching Prospects On The Way

Steven White

Mark MelanconTaxi_stork_1

Steven Jackson

Hario Heredia

Darrell Rasner

Jeff Marquez

Christian Garcia

Tim Norton

T.J. Beam

Brian Bruney

Anthony Claggett

Jose Veres

RJ Swindle                           
                                                                      
               

Obviously, in the next few years there will be some trades,
free-agent additions, and injuries, but the most important point to
realize is that Cashman is putting the Yankees in a position where they
won’t have to rely on other teams to garner their talent. He is
building a minor league system that is filling up with quality and
quantity. If a Joba Chamberlain’s elbow gives out, there’s a Hario Heredia, or an Anthony Claggett right next to him. If the
Yankees see a good trade prospect, they have the numbers to deal from
instead of everyone and their mother just asking about Philip Hughes.
If the Yankees need to plug in one or two areas they can still buy the
best free-agent to do so, but they will have the leverage so they’re no
longer held hostage by agents like Scott Boras who love to peddle their
middling talent to the Yankees for contracts that last way too long.

The days of Jaret Wrights and Carl Pavanos donning pinstripes appear
to be over. The Yankees are approaching the next decade with even more
firepower than they possessed in the mid-nineties. And with Cashman at
the helm, I wouldn’t bet against this latest Yankee dynasty dominating
the majors for a long time to come. If Steinbrenner was smart, the next
long-term contract he would issue would be to Brian Cashman.

Color Key

The color BLUE represents players who probably will, should be, or could be on the Yankees’ roster in 2010.

The color RED represents a position that might need to be filled by a free-agent in 2010.

                                                                                            

                                                                                   Carl The Cabbie


Minaya & Cashman Catch A Rising Star

Risingcatchstar_1 While many fans who like to look to the future mark down June 6th every year to see where the next great players will go in the Baseball Amateur Draft, July 2nd has become just as important a date. This is the day when teams are allowed to sign international free-agents. Two of the most interesting free-agents on the list this season were 16-year old catchers, Jesus Montero and Francisco Pena.

Francisco Pena has garnered much of the attention because of his famous baseball father, former MLB catcher Tony Pena, but Jesus Montero could be the top prospect among all the international free-agents. This past weekend both New York teams paid hefty bonuses to ink the talented young backstops.

The Yankees struck first, signing Montero to a reported $2 million contract. After losing out on Montero, the Mets quickly followed the Yankees’ lead by coming to terms with Pena for a reported $750,000.

Jesus_monteroMontero is considered by many scouts to be the best hitting prospect to come out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. The fact that Tony Pena is the first base coach for the New York Yankees seemed to have no bearing on which of the two catchers the Yankees were targeting. Montero was clearly the favorite of Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. His signing replenishes a Yankee farm system that, since the trading of Dioner Navarro, was devoid of top-talent at the catching position. He will start his Bombers’ career next season playing Rookie Ball for the GCL Yankees.

Montero was also the first choice of the Mets, but Mets’ GM Omar Minaya was ready to pounce on Pena once Montero chose the Yankees. At 6′ 2", Francisco Pena, from the Dominican Republic, is bigger and has more potential pop in his bat than both his father and brother (Tony Pena Jr. the shortstop for the AAA Richmond Braves). Upon his signing, he immediately becomes the Mets’ top-catching prospect.

"The kid is a good defensive catcher, but it is his bat that will take him far in baseball. We could say that he is a combination of Tony Pena’s defense and Mike Piazza’s bat."

                                                                                Leo Mercedes, Pena’s baseball mentor

"I feel embarrassed to talk about my own son, but I think Francisco has a natural talent for batting, and as a catcher I can say that right now he has a better arm than I had when I was 16."
                                                                               Tony Pena , father and 5-time all-star catcher

The Mets have not announced where Pena will start his career, but the GCL Mets in Rookie Ball is a good bet.

Taxi_america_american_usa_nyc_new_york_t_1

 

 

 



               Carl the Cabbie

D-Day In The Bronx

Johnnysized_1The New York Yankees came to the shores of free-agency, but had yet to make a splash. Yesterday, was D-Day in the Bronx and they jumped into the water full-force! In a New York minute, the splash caused a ripple that will affect not only the American League (AL) East, but the entire junior circuit. Johnny Damon is one of the top three leadoff men in the AL (along with Ichiro Suzuki and Grady Sizemore). By adding him to an already potent line-up, the Bronx Bombers are as dangerous as ever. Bombers’ general manager (GM) Brian Cashman was banking that Damon and his agent, Scott Boras would come down in their demands from seven to four-guaranteed years. At 32 years of age, four years is about what Damon has left as a dominant player. Once the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped out, there was no team willing to go past four years (The Baltimore Orioles discussed offering Damon five or six years, but never got into serious discussions with Boras). It came down to the Boys in Beantown versus the Bronx Bombers. After the Yankees $52 million offer was tendered, the Red Sox had a chance to match. But, the new young guns in Boston’s front office (Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer) blinked in the end and decided to pass, making Johnny Damon the new center fielder for the New York Yankees.

Dotel_octavio050118_3The Yankees were busy on another front while they were winding up the Damon negotiations. Early yesterday, they signed former Met and injured closer, Octavio Dotel to reinforce their bullpen. Dotel is the latest former fire-baller coming off of Tommy John surgery. The Yankees guaranteed Dotel $2 million for the season and gave him the chance to earn another $3 million to $4 million in incentives. Like Damon, Dotel is 32 years old. He has been a closer or dominant set-up man for most of his seven-year career. The progress of his rehabilitation has the Yankees targeting June or July for his return, just in time for the second half of the season. Last year, Dotel had 7 saves and a 3.52 earned run average in 15 games before opting for surgery. Before getting hurt, Dotel was one of the premier strike-out relievers in the game. In 2001 he struck-out 145 men in only 105 innings and has never had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched in any of his seven seasons in the bigs.

Bnx_bomb_plateDamon will be joining his fourth team in his 11-year career. Not only has Johnny been one of the most effective lead-off men in the game for the past eight years, but he has also been incredibly durable- not counting his rookie year, Damon has avoided major injuries and has never played in fewer than 145 games in a season. With Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi hitting behind him, Damon should have no problem extending his streak (8 consecutive years) of scoring at least 100 runs in a season. Heck, with Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Robinson Cano hitting at the bottom of the order Damon could drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. The Yankees hitters’ resumes are so impressive that Damon will sport the second lowest career average in the starting line-up, even though he is a lifetime .290 hitter and has hit over .300 in four different seasons.

While the Yankees starting nine is top-shelf, their bench is mostly driftwood. The present group should see very little playing time. The sprited and hustling Bubba Crosby is presently their fourth outfielder. He is 29, and a lifetime .221 hitter in 163 career at bats (ABs). Long-time minor leaguerCartoonbench_7 Felix Escalona, 26, is their utility infielder. He is a career .209 hitter in 206 ABs. Andy Phillips is another guy who has seemingly laid down roots in Columbus over the last couple of years. Phillips, 29, is the backup first baseman and has a .167 average in 48 major league ABs. Kelly Stinnett  is Randy Johnson’s new personal catcher and has the most experience of all the spare parts. Stinnett is 35 years old and a .239 career hitter in 1860 ABs. With the Yanks having cut ties with Ruben Sierra, expect the Bombers to add an experienced and versatile veteran who can play some first-base and outfield. Eduardo Perez and Daryl Ward are two options that Cashman might explore. Another player Cashman has been interested in before, former Oakland A’s outfielder, Eric Byrnes is also available now that the Orioles have non-tendered him.

 

Nomar- New York Bound?

New_york_yankees_logo_1As Bob Sheppard’s voice rings out on opening day at Yankee Stadium, "Now playing first-base for the New York Yankees, Nomar Garciaparra", the Bleacher Creatures’ echoes erupt, "No-Mar Garci-a-Parra…",  Nomar tips his cap and Yankee fans cheer deliriously and delightfully. Welcome to the future. Yesterday Joe Torre made his Bronx Bomber pitch to Nomar Garciaparra from his red phone, a rare call that usually signals the gift wrapping is under way. It looks like the Yankees might have three potential hall-of-fame shortstops starting in their infield next year.

Garciaparra’s agent Arn Tellem is one of Steinbrenner’s favorites. He is also Jason Giambi’s agent, which means that if Nomar does sign to play first-base, the Giambino’s move to designated hitter will be assuaged. Now that Blue Jays’ general manager J.P. Ricciardi has Nomar1_7said ‘No More’ to Nomar, it appears that the four finalists for Garcy’s services are the Yankees, the Astros, the Dodgers and the Indians. Along with the Tellem angle, the Yankees are the only team of the four willing to keep Garciaparra in the infield. The media attention in New York also creates the perfect market for a great hitter trying to re-establish his value. If Nomar signs a one-year deal for about $4 or $5 million and has a successful season, he will command double that on next year’s free-agent market. The Astros are moving Lance Berkman to first-base and are looking at Garciaparra as a left-fielder, while the Indians and Dodgers are trying to upgrade in right-field. Since all four teams are looking at one-year deals, the Yankees should be able to outbid the others.

Because of two serious injuries (achilles and groin) over the last couple of seasons, many baseball observers perceive Garciaparra as an older ballplayer in decline. But take heart Yankee fans, Nomar is still only 32 years old and would be moving to first base at about the same age as another great former shortstop, Ernie Banks. Banks played another solid eight years and hit 214 of his 512 career home-runs after his positional switch in 1962 at age 31.Erniebanks

If the Yankees do come to terms with the former Bostonian, it would add the latest fire cracker to the fabled Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Garciaparra would probably hit second in the lineup behind Derek Jeter. He could also slide into the seventh or eighth slot if the Yankees keep second baseman, Robinson Cano in the two-hole. Garciaparra is a lifetime .320 hitter and has the 48th all-time highest career batting average in major league history. He led the American League in hitting in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372) and has hit over .300 in eight different seasons.

Winter Lava Still Flowing

Lava_flow_iThe Winter Meetings have officially ended, but the lava continues to flow from Wednesday’s and Thursday’s eruption (see yesterday’s blog entry for all the transactions). Earlier today, The Mets completed the Paul Lo Duca deal by sending A-Ball outfielder Dante Brinkley to the Florida Marlins. Brinkley, 24 years old, batted .364 in 214 at bats (ABs) for the Mets’ A-Ball Hagerstown affiliate last season. he doesn’t project as more than a fourth outfielder. Mets’ general manager (GM) Omar Minaya made two other moves— Last night he drafted righthanded pitcher Mitch Wylie (Giants organization) in the Rule 5 draft and today he agreed to a two-year deal with old-timer and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Julio Franco. Wylie is 28 years old and a nine-year vet of the minor leagues. The Mets will have to keep him on the roster all season, otherwise they will have to offer him back to the Giants for $25,000. Because of Wylie’s age and mediocre repetoire the Giants probably wouldn’t want him back, allowing the Mets’ to sendFranco him to AAA at some point. Franco is the oldest player in the league (47 years old) and is the only player that has been in the majors longer than Roger Clemens (He broke into the Bigs in 1982 as a member of the Phillies). Even at his advanced age, Franco continues to be a solid hitter. In 2005 for the Atlanta Braves, he hit .275 with 9 home runs (HRs) and 42 runs batted in (RBIs) in 233 ABs. He is a lifetime .299 hitter and should be one of the Mets’ top pinch-hitters this coming season. He will also get an occasional start at first-base and possibly be used as a designated-hitter during interleague games. After signing Jose Valentin yesterday, the Mets’  now have two new utility infielders that are a combined 83 years old.

More Moves Around The League

The Baltimore Orioles are not only having a hard time attracting
free-agents, their lone star player has now asked for a ticket out of
town. Miguel Tejada is tired of losing and has demanded a trade. Tejada is owed quite a bit of money on his current contract and there are only a
few teams that would be able to afford him. The Red Sox could inquire about a possible
Tejada/Manny deal. Stay tuned! The O’s did complete one signing when
they signed yet another past-their-prime player by inking 1B/OF Jeff Conine to a 1-Year/$1.5 Million contract. Conine was previously an Oriole between 1999-2003.

Former Mets’ set-up man, 41 year old Roberto Hernandez has
agreed to a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who might give
him a shot at their closer’s role. The Indians signed utility man and
former Red Sox’ player, Lou Merloni to a minor league deal.

Romerojcmnt1_2The
Anaheim Angels great bullpen just got greater! Early Friday, they
completed the one trade of the day thus far when they acquired premier
lefty set-up man J.C. Romero from the Minnesota Twins for infield prospect Alexi Casilla.
The Halos are loaded with young infield talent and Casilla was only
their 4th or 5th best infield prospect. With the price for good
lefthanded relievers always high, it seems like Twins GM Terry Ryan got
very little in return here while saving only a little more than $2
million dollars. Romero is 29 years old and was 4-3 with a 3.47 earned
run average (ERA) last year. Romero’s best season was in 2002 when he went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 81 innings pitched. To make room for J.C. on the 40-man roster the Angels designated catcher Josh Paul for assignment.