Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sha na na na

This couldn’t make me any happier. I’ll even wait until you finish reading it until I continue.

Okay, good. Now you’re as elated as I am.

This move has been a long time coming, as the only non-derogatory term that can be used to describe Quantrill and Stanton is “ineffective.” But we all know even that is being a little generous.

These are two guys who, in their prime, were huge contributors to their respective teams: Quantrill in Toronto and L.A., and even most of the season last year for the Yanks; Stanton while setting up for ‘Mo. But pitchers can’t last forever, and with Quantrill turning 37 in November and Stanton having turned 38 earlier this month, it just seems their time is up.

I was actually getting optimistic yesterday when I read in a Florida paper that the Marlins were interested in giving us Juan Encarnacion – whom they are fully disappointed in – for Quantrill, who they think can shore up their bullpen. But when you can get him for free, why trade a commodity?

Instead, he’ll get the axe with his underachieving buddy Stanton, leaving nothing more than a lack of warm bodies in the Yanks ‘pen. Thankfully, there are reinforcements on the way.

I’ve been wanting to bring up Jason Anderson for a while, if for no other reason than he’s 26 and not getting any younger. Rumored to be joining Anderson in the ‘pen is Colter Bean, who has 49 strikeouts in 40 innings in AAA to go with a 3.15 ERA. Bean was up with the Yanks briefly earlier in the year, surrendering a run, a hit and two walks in two innings of work.

This series of moves makes all the sense in the world. My dad may have put it best when he said, “You’re tellin’ me that we can’t find guys in Triple-A that can play at least as well as Stanton and Quantrill?” Then again, he wants to axe Sierra as well, but I have to disagree there. Even though his numbers disagree with my assessment of him, I do think Sierra can be valuable down the line as a pinch hitter/ sometimes DH.

Well, I had intended on doing a parting piece for Stanton and Quantrill, but at this point, I’m too happy to see them go to give them a memorial. They’ve been two of the most unreliable bullpen guys in recent memory. True, we’ve had Felix Heredia and Antonio Osuna, but they weren’t making the four million Stanton is or even the three million owed to Quantrill.

On an unrelated parting note, what is Randy’s excuse going to be Friday when he gets roughed up by the Tigers?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Offense for Defense?

Up and about at 3:00 a.m., as per usual lately, there is really nothing on the radio except a steady flow of Ozzy and GnR on 92.3 and the rotating overnight guys on WFAN. So, considering I own most everything Ozzy and GnR, listening to mediocre sportscasters deal with out of their minds callers is the obvious choice. And, as with most sports radio, the airwaves are cluttered with guys who think they know better than the GMs in the front office. Yours truly has been guilty of that on multiple occasions lately – hell, even twice yesterday.

But today’s trade talk didn’t really come from the callers. Jerry Recco, my personal favorite overnight guy who is stuck rattling off last night’s scores every 20 minutes, announced that Brian Cashman and Omar Minaya were in the “infancy” stages of a Mike Cameron (and a lil something something, a.k.a. Miguel Cairo) for Gary Sheffield. Jigga what?!?

I realize that the team is in need of some defense in the outfield, but really, Cashman can’t be serious about this. How can you trade away your three hitter? Furthermore, how can you trade your three hitter for a lifetime .250 hitter? I know Cameron came back from the DL with some fury and put up some great numbers in May. And yes, his .298/.399/.536 constitutes a pretty damn good season thus far, especially when compared to Sheff’s .300/.396/.502. A quick look at the slugging percentage says that Cameron’s power numbers are actually superior to Sheff’s.

Oh, but then we have the nasty business of splits. After a monster .372/.476/.686 May, Cameron is looking much more like himself this month, posting a .200/.293/.338. Oh, and he’s been injured for the second time this season.

You want one more split? To embolden Cameron’s drop off, in the last seven days, he’s been a monster, hitting .198/.267/.308.

The tradeoff of offense for defense here is, well, indefensible. Nothing short of a Kazmir-esque pitching prospect can even this trade out. Not even Miguel Cairo, who should be a Yankee anyway, can even things out here, especially considering there’s nowhere for him to play at this point.

Oh, and this little tidbit makes me feel a bit safer about the deal. From the New York Times:

"I'm not going anywhere," said Sheffield, who is signed through 2006. "If I have to go somewhere, I won't go. If they said, 'Wouldn't you want to get paid?' I'd say, 'I've got plenty of money.' I'm not playing nowhere else. I can promise you that."

If I’m Minaya and I see a quote like that from a player I’m in trade talks with, I’m canning the deal right then and there. And rightfully so. In fact, this statement may save Cashman from making a grave mistake.

Now, if you want to talk about trading Sheff, the only remotely feasible move the Yanks should/can make is for pitching. There is no way that Cameron’s defensive contribution will equal Sheff’s on offense. And it’s not like Sheff is biggest problem in the outfield. He’s in right, and therefore has the least ground to cover out there.

And why trade Sheff for Cameron when there are other defensive center fielders on the market? Let’s not forget about Mark Kotsay here. Or even Juan Pierre, who is up for arbitration following this year. These guys offer defense in center, and will come at a lesser price than our number three hitter.

I’m going to say it one more time today. Number three hitter. I’d like to find out the last time the number three hitter was traded away from a contender mid-season.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How About...

In looking for possible guys to fill the outfield void in the Bronx, it's almost natural to scour the Kansas City roster for possible replacements. How about Emil Brown? True, he's 30 years old, thus wouldn't be helping the team get younger, but he has plenty of upside. First, his age makes him expendable to a team like the Royals, who won't be good for the next two or three years even if they get serious about building a team. Second, he's hitting .295/.363/.469 this season with 8 homers and 13 doubles. That isn't superb for a right fielder (Sheff is .304/.401/.509), but the Yanks shouldn't be looking for superstars this trade deadline.

Additionally, Brown has a similar split against lefties and righties (.286/.340/.500 against lefties, .294/.373/.449 against righties), which is always a plus. If Sheff is on his way out the door, this guy would be an adequate replacement. And when away from the abyss that is Kansas City, he's putting up even more solid numbers, hitting .325/.383/.482, which is much more Sheff-like than his .255/.336/.453 home numbers.

And just to tout him just a bit more, in 81 ABs in June, he's .358/.404/.519, having improved each month of this season.

Crazy Fantasy GM

It seems everyone is qualified to be a GM, and has “the solution” to the Yankees woes. Ship Player A and Prospect B to non-contending Team C for Player D, who will surely shore up our defense/bullpen/starting rotation.

Of course, the glaring problem with these fantasy GM moves are that a) certain teams (Marlins, Giants) are very ambiguous at this point as to their players’ availability, b) no one knows exactly who the Yanks are willing to dish and c) other teams may want to pounce on the same player.

ESPN’s Peter Gammons penned an interesting piece about the lack of willingness of teams to part ways with players who in other years would surely be available. This is due to the sound financial status of most Major League teams. Now, let’s just think about this for a second.

Most teams – i.e. the Pirates, Royals – are perpetual sellers because they play in a small market and therefore don’t have the resources to lock up star players long term. Once a star comes along, the team is almost always willing to dish him near the end of his contract to avoid letting him go for a mere draft pick. The team normally gets two or three prospects in return, and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they work out or not.

But it seems that these perpetual sellers are in much more sound financial shape now, mainly due to revenue sharing/luxury tax. Where does the bulk of this revenue sharing/luxury tax fund come from? Duh, George Steinbrenner’s fat pockets. So it comes full circle: George is going to have a dickens of a time dealing prospects for Major League talent this year because his payroll is so inflated that he has to pay other teams for compensation, allowing to keep the players he covets.

So maybe the Bucs will hang on to Oliver Perez. Maybe Zack Greinke won’t become available within the next few years. And I know it’s still a distant shot at this point, but maybe we’ll see Rich Harden pitching in Oakland in 2010.

So this means a depleted market this year, and with so many teams still in contention, teams are really going to have to up the bids for these few players that have become available. This gives young teams like the Orioles an edge, since they have more valuable pieces to dish than the Yankees, who have plenty of low-level minor league talent, but really aren’t holding on to a sure thing.

The media has been whispering in recent days about the Yanks pursuing Mark Kotsay and Jason Schmidt, and I have to admit, hearing those names under normal circumstances has most teams jumping for joy. Buyt not the Yanks. The absolute last thing we need at this point is another National League pitcher making the jump to the American League East, where the hitting is just superb. True, Matt Clement didn’t have a difficult time acclimating himself, but when it comes to the Yanks, they just don’t have a good track record in this department.

As a quick side note: could Mel Stottlemyer be losing his touch? Could the pitching woes be in some way his fault? Old time Yankees fans would want my head on a stake for suggesting such an unthinkable idea. But hey, there has to be a reason that every incoming pitcher over the past four or so years has been a disappointment. Some of them aren’t bad by any means – Mike Mussina – but no one has really played to the level they were pre-pinstripes – Randy, Pavano, Vazquez, Weaver, Wright, Brownie, etc.

So now it’s my turn to play fantasy GM. I know I had Kotsay in my crosshairs long before it was thought he’d become available. The talk in the Oakland media was how he’s coveted by Billy Beane, and the GM’s first priority was going to be to sign Kotsay to an extension. Still, I thought that since this Oakland team had pretty much played itself out of serious contention in a division with the Rangers and Angels, Beane might change his tune and try to get value for a player that might not even want to sign over the offseason.

But is Kotsay the best option out there? Is the addition of him really going to help this team surge? In and of itself, a deal for Kotsay most likely won’t reanimate a tired, tired franchise. In fact, there doesn’t look to be a player available that can deliver the much-needed cattle prod to the Yanks. So what is the Boss to do?

I’ll open up this theory with precedent. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox dealt the centerpiece of their franchise, Nomar Garciaparra, for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewcz. It’s not even like Nomah was having an off year. True, he had been dogging it through an injury, but in the 38 games he played, he was batting .321/.367/.500. But, it was decided that his clubhouse presence was a burden to the team, and they decided to get rid of him while a) they could still get value for him and b) while the season was still salvageable.

And we all know what happened once Nomar was exiled. The team found it’s groove, surged back into the Wild Card spot, and yadda yadda yadda, they became World Series Champs.

This year, the Yanks are in a similar situation. They’re playing as flatly as the Sox were at this point last year, and given the grumblings in the media, the atmosphere in the dressing room has to be categorized as something below peachy cream.

What I’m about to propose here will surely prompt many, “oh, you’re a [bleeping] idiot!” comments, but it makes perfect sense. I have to give some credit to my father here, who came up with this initial proposal. So without further ado:

A-Rod to the Marlins for A.J. Burnett, Juan Pierre, and a top prospect.

Of course, we’d have to eat roughly half of A-Rod’s deal, but since we’re only responsible for 15 mil of it, we’d be eating 7.5 mil, which isn’t something you brag about, but it’s certainly doable.

Obviously, this leaves a hole at third base. Now, considering we don’t dish him, the Yanks have Eric Duncan waiting in the wings in the minors. He’s anything but a sure thing now, but the Yanks are high on him, and it would be nice to see them allow a player with such potential make his way all the way through the minors and end up playing for the big dogs, a la Jeter. So you’re looking more for a short-term solution at the hot corner.

Enter the Reds, who will more than likely be sellers at this point. Enter Joe Randa, who could be the next Scott Brosius. He’s hitting a solid .293/.364/.500 this year, and would be the perfect solution at third base. He’s not a big name, just a solid player with experience (in general, not playoff experience. But it’s not like Brosius had deep playoff experience before he came to the Yanks in ’98).

Yes, I know I sound as crazy as the guys who call into WFAN nightly and propose their, “okay, we’ll just dish anonymous prospects A and B for Barry Zito.” But if you really sit down and think about it, this just might be what the Yanks need to shed this me-first attitude and return to late 90s form.