• Rosenthal: Yanks Ponder Ways To Skin Their Pitching Needs

    Posted by on November 20th, 2009 · Comments (14)

    Via Ken Rosenthal yesterday –

    There are a number of ways for the World Series champion Yankees to address their starting pitching.

    One would be to sign a free agent such as right-hander John Lackey or trade for an ace such as Blue Jays righty Roy Halladay.

    Another would be to strengthen the bullpen, allowing right-handers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain to return to the rotation.

    The Yankees’ direction, at this early stage of the offseason, is not clear.

    The team, according to one rival executive, plans to pursue free-agent relievers Rafael Soriano, a right-hander, and Mike Gonzalez, a lefty. The Yankees have liked both pitchers in the past.

    However, another source with knowledge of the Yankees’ thinking says the team prefers to address any bullpen holes from within, using the same strategy that they employed successfully last season.

    Signing relievers and using Hughes and Chamberlain in the rotation could be a short-term disaster…since Phil and Joba have yet to establish that they can be trusted starters. Since the two Yankees youngsters have proven, albeit in a small sample size, that they can do well in the pen, why not have them work in relief?

    Comments on Rosenthal: Yanks Ponder Ways To Skin Their Pitching Needs

    1. Scout
      November 20th, 2009 | 12:05 pm

      The short answer is because starting pitchers are more valuable. And they cost a lot more on the market than relievers do.

      Of course, that assumes they (Hughes and Chamberlain, that is) can be successful in the starting role, and until they prove it we cannot know whether they will be up to the challenge. Success is also a matter of degree; there’s a significant difference between middle-of-the-rotation guys, who are valuable, and back-end types who are a dime-a-dozen. Of course, young starters are often incosnistent and struggle at times, so what you hope to do is to weather the early ups-and-downs and find yourself with a relaible starter in year two or three. The Yankees may think they have passed the steep learning curve stage and are ready to produce with some consistency. I am not sure what such an assessment would be based on; I don’t see it.

      One safe course is to hedge your bets by assuming one of the two will be effective next year as a starter while the other works out of the bullpen. If the Yankees take that approach (which I support), and Pettitte returns, then the Yankees need one other solid starter. (And, no, I don’t want the last starter to be sifted from the back-end flotsam of Guadin, Aceves, Kennedy et al.) I would expect the Yankees to address the need either with a top-flight acquisition — we all know the names — or a guy coming back from injury — and again we know the names.

      If the Yankees bank on both Hughes and Chamberlain as starters, they risk a return to the 2008 rotation fiasco when they counted too heavily on unproven starters. The team now is stronger in other respects, but not so much so that I have confidence the Yankees could weather that. If two young starters falter, it has all sorts of ripple effects — you overuse the bullpen, overpay for in-season help, recycle Ponson-types.

    2. MJ
      November 20th, 2009 | 12:24 pm

      Signing Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez are exactly the kinds of moves the Yanks SHOULDN’T make. At this point, have we not learned our lesson that relief pitchers, in general, are completely unpredictable from year to year? We’ve seen this happen to all MLB teams, not just the Yanks. It blows my mind that teams continue to overpay middle relievers for past success. Toss in the fact that Soriano/Gonzalez are two of the most injury-prone relievers in recent memory. How many times have those two been on the DL?

    3. Scout
      November 20th, 2009 | 1:16 pm

      @ MJ:
      It’s an even worse idea when you consider that as Type A free agents some of these guys would cost the Yankees a high draft pick (assumign their old teams fofer arbitration).

    4. MJ
      November 20th, 2009 | 1:44 pm

      @ Scout:
      Excellent point. I wouldn’t trade draft picks for middle relievers under any circumstance.

    5. BOHAN
      November 20th, 2009 | 2:52 pm

      youll never know if joba or hughes can be productive starters if you dont give them a legit chance. theyve been learning how to be starters at the highest level, which isnt easy. joba has spent one almost full season as a starter. he wasnt the worst pitcher and for a guy that is learning how to be a starter at the major league level i think he did alright. and phil hughes just hasnt been given a chance at all. you gotta give them a chance to show what they can do. especially joba he now has one more year of experience under him which is going to help him. and hughes has his confidence back i feel.

    6. BOHAN
      November 20th, 2009 | 2:54 pm

      going after gonzalez would be a good idea. then youll have damaso and gonzalez as our leftys and you can use coke as trade bait for some kind of need. theres plenty of teams out there that would like to have coke i bet

    7. MJ
      November 20th, 2009 | 3:28 pm

      @ BOHAN:
      You’d give Mike Gonzalez a 3Y/$15M contract and give up the first round draft pick it would take to sign him?

      Why not just use that draft pick to draft an elite college relief pitcher and bring him up to the majors after a few innings of seasoning, like the Nationals will do with Drew Storen this year?

      If you’re going to sign a Type A free agent, you may as well blow the draft pick on someone that can provide more value than a 60 inning middle reliever, don’t you think? Phil Coke may not be all that but isn’t the difference between Gonzalez and Coke smaller than the difference between the 30th overall pick in the first round and the approximately 80th overall pick in the second round?

    8. butchie22
      November 20th, 2009 | 4:38 pm

      Scout wrote:

      @ MJ:
      It’s an even worse idea when you consider that as Type A free agents some of these guys would cost the Yankees a high draft pick (assumign their old teams fofer arbitration).

      Scout, this is not Toronto or Baltimore where that is an essential consideration! If this were a middle market team THEN fine they’d worry about the draft picks. They lost their 1,2,3 round draft picks last year in signing CC , AJ and Teix, I didn’t hear an outcry from the fans reagrding those moves on the basis of lost draft picks. Don’t get me wrong, I grok your idea BUT I don’t think that this organization operates like a middle market team worried about losing first round picks BECAUSE they just can’t buy players……..

    9. MJ
      November 20th, 2009 | 4:51 pm

      butchie22 wrote:

      this were a middle market team THEN fine they’d worry about the draft picks. They lost their 1,2,3 round draft picks last year in signing CC , AJ and Teix, I didn’t hear an outcry from the fans reagrding those moves on the basis of lost draft picks.

      Butchie, the analysis is completely different for two reasons:

      -First, the Yanks had a compensation pick in the first round of last year’s draft for failing to sign Gerrit Cole. As such, the decision to spend their own first rounder on a Type A free agent was partially mitigated by the fact that they had a compensation pick to fall back on. I completely agree that the Yanks would’ve signed Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira regardless of whether they had the Cole-compensation pick or not but it does bear mentioning.

      -Second, I assume you’ll agree that there is an immeasurable difference between CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett or Mark Teixeira and Mike Gonzalez. The former three players are all elite, game-changing talent whereas the latter is a good but by no means unique middle relief pitcher. The odds of getting a Sabathia, Burnett or Teixeira in the draft — meaning not only identifying the correct player but developing that player in the system and then having him come up to the big leagues and perform at an all-star caliber level — are not terribly likely. The odds, however, of finding a relief pitcher in the first round are quite good.

      Given the fact that Gonzalez is probably the best relief pitcher available in free agency and likely to demand closer money (let’s assume 3Y/$15-20M), I fail to see how spending the money and the draft pick on Gonzalez makes sense. The Yankees could just as easily use that first round draft pick, spend a bonus of $2M on the 30th overall pick (that’s quite above slot) and have themselves a potential relief pitcher at 1/13th the cost.

      I definitely agree with your larger point about the Yankees not being a middle-market team and not letting the draft pick calculus affect their judgment but I’d argue that for a relief pitcher of Mike Gonzalez’s caliber and reputation, that’s not the best allocation of that resource.

    10. Scout
      November 20th, 2009 | 4:59 pm

      Mj has amplified the point I intended to make in my initial comment on the draft pick matter. Of course, the Yankees are not like many other teams that must husband their high draft choices. But give them up for pieces of high value that you really need. Set-up men in their mid-30s do not qualify by my calculation.

    11. BOHAN
      November 20th, 2009 | 6:21 pm

      @ MJ:
      i would be willing to give him that money. number 1: you’re not going to get an “elite” college pitcher that low in the draft. the top pitchers r goin to be gone by the 15th pick. everyother pitcher u get is going to take a while to “season.” number2: i would feel much more comfortable with a 31 yr old (not “mid-30′s,” as Scout refered to him) veteran thats been very successful thru out his career.

    12. BOHAN
      November 20th, 2009 | 6:22 pm

      and dont they get draft picks if they dont sign damon and matsui????

    13. Scout
      November 20th, 2009 | 6:35 pm

      @ BOHAN:
      It depends. They have to be classified as type A or B free agents to earn the team that loses them a compensatory pick. I don’t have the list at hand, but because Matsui lost most of 2008 I doubt he ranks as a type A. If the Yankees offer them arbitration, they can get draft picks, although the worst 15 teams have protection against losing their first-round pick. Offering arbitration is risky, though, because it means the Yankees have to offer a one-year deal at higher pay than last year.

    14. MJ
      November 21st, 2009 | 8:16 am

      @ BOHAN:
      Johnny Damon is a Type A free agent. Matsui was not listed as either a Type A or a Type B. Thus, should the Yanks offer Damon arbitration and he declines, the Yanks would get two draft picks as compensation from any team that would sign him but Matsui would yield no compensation picks.

      Also, you’re wrong that the Yanks couldn’t get an elite relief pitcher at the end of the first round. A recent example is Ryan Perry of the Detroit Tigers. He was the 21st pick overall in the 2008 draft and was a polished college reliever for the University of Arizona.

      I’m not advocating that the Yanks use their 1st round pick on a relief pitcher, I’m merely trying to illustrate that there’s no sense giving up a 1st rounder to Atlanta for a reliever when you can draft your own. Relief pitchers grow on trees and the Yanks bullpen has improved dramatically in 2008-2009 specifically because they’ve built from within their own system instead of spending tens of millions on everyone else’s relievers.

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