The New York Yankees Should NOT Include Manuel Banuelos for Dan Haren

July 25, 2010

The Dan Haren trade has been discussed for a couple of days with the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher coming to the Yankees in exchange for Joba Chamberlain and Triple A starting pitchers Zach McAllister (22 years old) and Ivan Nova, who is 23 years of age.

The last place Diamondbacks are also insisting that the Yankees pay all of the remaining salary for Haren, but also taking on either unreliable Chad Qualls or catcher Chris Snyder, both of whom have money let on their contracts. Qualls has about $750K left on his one year deal, while Snyder’s contract runs through next year to which he would be owed around $7 million total.

Paying Haren’s contract is fine, and teams which trade for a player should assume the contract. But asking for the trading team to assume the big contract and then to tell them they also must take another bad player or bad contract is a little greedy.

Especially when you are getting three talented arms, two of which the Diamondbacks can plug into their current pitching staff.

The Yankees rightfully declined that offer, insisting that while they will take on Haren’s contract, they are supposedly not interested in trading Joba or taking back another player.

Now the Diamondbacks are asking the Yankees for another pitcher, High A left-handed ace Manuel Banuelos. I have seen Banuelos pitch several times this season in Tampa, and reported on Banuelos a few weeks ago. Unless the Yankees are getting absolute top talent back, they should never trade Banuelos.

He will be a star.  

Although I believe the Yankees should make the three-for-one trade, I believe the Yankees are holding off on trading Joba to try to get the Diamondbacks to pay a portion of Haren’s salary. Any money the Yankees can get back on the Haren deal could be used next year for a run at potential free agent Cliff Lee.

If Haren becomes a Yankee, they will have about $58 million tied up in their four starting pitchers of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes (eligible for arbitration) and Haren. Based upon what he does this year in the post season for the Texas Rangers, Lee would want at least $20 million per season.

Either way the Yankees decide to go, Manuel Banuelos should never be included in a deal for Haren.

Banuelos is just too good.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Need to Be Realistic About Dan Haren

July 23, 2010

When the Diamondbacks were swindled by Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s on December 14, 2007, they traded six promising players for the right to the then one-time All Star.

Except for a mediocre 2010 campaign thus far, there  is no doubt that Haren is a pretty good pitcher, with ERA’s in the low 3.00’s his first two seasons in the desert and his final one in Oakland.

He also is durable. Haren has started 33 or 34 games each of the last five seasons, averaging over 220 innings pitched over that span. He also increased his innings total by 43  innings from age 23 to 24 with no problem. Doesn’t look like the Verducci Effect worked here.

Swindled is a bad word as the D’Backs thought they were obtaining Haren to form a dynamic duo a the top of the rotation with former Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb. But Webb’s shoulder injury, and some inconsistent play from their young players such as Chris Young, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton, have left the D’backs mired in last place for two straight seasons in the National League Western Division.

There are many teams interested in the big right-handed thrower, and with the D’Backs having new management, they probably would like to move Haren’s contract. That long-term deal runs through 2012 plus an option, for at least $12.5 M plus per year.

But the D’Backs have to realize that times have changed over the last 2.5 years since the Haren trade with Oakland. Teams value their top prospects exponentially more now, and you will not see teams giving up multiple top picks in trade deadline deals. 

Or even Winter Meeting trades.

So the D’Backs new GM Jerry DiPoto, needs to come down off his demand of two major league ready starting pitchers and a major league ready relief pitcher.

That is just much in today’s market. With the absence of performance enhancing drugs the game has changed from being homer heavy to more pitching and defense oriented. Players who have those skills are widely coveted and organizations are loathe to dish out these types of top prospects for an established star.

Even if that star has been one of the top pitchers in the game over the last five seasons.

So the D’Backs need to realize they can’t get back what they gave up for Haren three seasons ago. If they believe that former ace Webb can return from his shoulder issues and return to form, then he and Haren can finally make that great one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

That is a big IF, however, and even then would the D’Backs have enough to compete in the competitive National League West?

If not, then it might be best for the D’Backs to cut Haren’s salary out now at the trading deadline when teams are eager to make a move. They can play their young players and start the rebuilding process again with young talent.

Unless the teams believes it can get much more in the off-season when all teams seemingly are pennant contenders.

But based upon current trends, I doubt it.


New York Yankees: Joe Girardi Makes Excellent Move with Mariano Rivera

June 24, 2010

It wasn’t a classic to begin the evening, with lots of walks and terrible clutch hitting, but last night’s New York Yankees-Arizona Diamondbacks matchup ended up being a really good baseball game.

It had everything in the latter innings: great defensive plays, big hits (although not enough), and some stellar clutch pitching by the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.

With the Boston Red Sox blowing a lead in Colorado and Tampa Bay’s starting pitching continuing to crumble, the Yankees had an opportunity to pick up another full game on both their closest division rivals.

At this point, they were playing with house money.

A nice eighth inning rally scored the tying run on Alex Rodriguez’ sacrifice fly. And it all happened without the benefit hit, the Yankees’ second such inning of the game.

Simultaneously, the game was utopia and a virtual disaster for the sabermetric crowd. The Yankees “didn’t make outs” on 23 of their 47 plate appearances, generating 13 walks and ten hits plus A-rod’s sac fly.

But while their on-base percentage was about .500 for the evening, they were terrible in getting hits with runners in scoring position. Robinson Cano, their best hitter this year, had multiple opportunities to drive in runs, but he could not do the job. They hit into five double plays. It happens.

But it shows the RBI stat can be a big deal and is very important.

Joe Girardi saw an opportunity to steal a game in the standings and went for it. Again, he was playing with house money. What helped was that the Yankees have an off-day on Thursday, and Rivera would have an extra day to rest.

The manager brought Rivera into a tie game, something he rarely does. Not bringing in Rivera in a tie game earlier this season at Toronto cost the Yankees a chance at winning another contest.

(Isn’t the image above this piece priceless? It is from last night’s game, and it shows Girardi leaving the mound basically saying, “I’ve done my job, no need to say anything else. You do your job and go get ’em, Mo.”)

Instead of Rivera in the 14th inning of that game, Girardi used Chad Gaudin (who stinks) and the waiver wire pick-up only needed nine pitches to lose that game.

But Girardi used his biggest bullpen chip at Arizona, and Rivera used his Houdini escape tricks to help seal another Yankee win.

And now they have a 2.5-game lead on both Boston and Tampa Bay.

OTHER THOUGHTS ON LAST NIGHT’S GAME

While Girardi did make a good move by having Rivera in the tie game, he did (and almost did) make some head-scratchers.

1) Why did Girardi pinch-run for Nick Swisher in the ninth inning? Is Kevin Russo that much of a burner that he is significantly faster than the Yankee right fielder? And why put in Chad Huffman to play right field, essentially burning three guys on one play?

Girardi might have been better off sticking with Swisher (since he was not the tying run) and keeping the extra position players. Remember that the Yankees had already used Colin Curtis (a great kid by the way) earlier to hit for Javier Vazquez.

The game might have gone into further innings, but…. 

2) The Yankees didn’t seem like they wanted more extra innings. That is the reason they went for broke and brought the infield in with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th.

The normal move would be to play the infield back for the double play, give up the tying run and then try and get out of the inning with the next batter.

By using almost his entire bullpen during Monday and Tuesday night’s games and burning Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and now Mo in the current game, Girardi likely wanted to win the game there in the 10th or lose it there in the 10th.  

He did not want an 11th inning.

 

 3) I would have blown a gasket if Girardi brought in Boone Logan (who was warming up) in for Rivera in the last of the 10th inning. You don’t need to pinch-hit for Mo in that spot already up a run.

I would rather go into the bottom of the 10th with a one-run lead and Rivera on the mound than try to extend the lead with a pinch-hitter and put Logan on the mound.

4) But if you are going to use a pinch-hitter, why use Ramiro Pena? He is your last position player, and you have no one else to back up Francisco Cervelli in case he gets hurt.

Remember that Girardi had used Jorge Posada to pinch-hit in the eighth inning.

That is why burning up all your players for unnecessary pinch-running stunts causes you to lose your bench quickly.

And that is why I always like to have only 11 pitchers at the most and more position players, especially when playing in National League parks.

But if you are going to use a pinch hitter for Rivera (now batting in the No. 2 spot), why not use C.C. Sabathia?

He loves hitting, is pretty good at it, and you don’t use your last bench player IN CASE the game goes longer than the 10th inning.

Sabathia is actually a better hitter than Ramiro Pena, anyway.

But as I said earlier, Girardi was playing with house money, as Boston and Tampa already lost, and he was going to win the game in the 10th or lose it there.

He did win it by making his best move of the night (and maybe the season) by bringing in Mariano Rivera to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game.


An Open Letter to all Major League Baseball General Managers

September 7, 2009

This is an open letter to primarily the National League GM’s, but it will apply again next season for the American League teams, too. In fact, all teams can benefit from this advice.

Just imagine you are the GM of a team in trouble. You might have lost your standings in the playoff picture (like the Dodgers, Marlins or Giants) or your team has mired itself in so much turmoil that you need a good looking trade to build up your stature with the owners (like Omar Minaya of the Mets or Jim Hendry of the Cubs).

Do you want to look good as GM for your respective team and possibly keep your job?

Then make a trade for an aging veteran pitcher just before you go play the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of the worst hitting teams in the majors and a team which has pretty much given up on the season.

This tactic will work for any contending or needy team about to visit a terrible hitting team. You could also trade for a pitcher right before you play the Kansas City Royals or Cincinnati Reds. Maybe the San Diego Padres or currently comprised New York Mets are coming to town.  

This would then give Omar Minaya one less team to work with.

But this situation has worked wonders for playoff contending teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies. Both teams acquired starting pitchers last week, who ended up turning in great performances against the Diamondbacks.

Jon Garland was acquired by the Dodgers from the Diamondbacks themselves, and went out and threw a gem against the Diamondbacks a few days later.

Then two days later, Jose Contreras, just acquired by the Rockies from the Chicago White Sox during their veteran player fire sale, pitched a great game against the same lowly Diamondbacks.

Now, it should be mentioned that the Diamondbacks are likely the worst hitting team in the major leagues RIGHT NOW, worse even then the Washington Nationals or the Pittsburgh Pirates. Only the Royals could challenge the Diamondbacks for mediocrity with the bat.

While the Rockies have to contend with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers lineups the last seven games of their season, it only gets better for the Dodgers.

 They have three more games this week against the Diamondbacks, then seven more against the Pirates, three versus the Nationals, seven against the Giants and finishing up with two against the Padres.

No exactly a Murderer’s Row in the bunch.


Lou Piniella’s Disastrous 2007 NLDS Blunder Will Cost the Chicago Cubs

October 4, 2007

By the sixth inning of the Chicago Cubs – Arizona Diamondbacks playoff game, the third playoff game of the day (does life get any better!), I anticipated a game for the ages. Two of the games’ workhorses, Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, were battling the opposing lineup…and each other.

I foresaw matching zeros until extra innings appeared. Two heavyweight fighters going toe-to-toe, mano-y-mano for the duration; both men standing, but only one bloodied at the end.

I just wanted to watch and enjoy the game, not to analyze everything involved. I do too much of that in my life already. My only thought was could I stay up long enough to witness the ending to this probable gem of a game?

Leave it then to Lou Piniella, the Cubs’ free agent manager, to force me, at nearly midnight, to think more than I wanted.

When Piniella inexplicably pulled his starter, Carlos Zambrano, at the end of a “monster” day at work (6 innings, 1 ER, 85 pitches), he created an atmosphere of confusion not only with me, but also with the players. Second baseman Mark DeRosa was perplexed and so was Diamondbacks second baseman Augie Ojeda.

“I was surprised,” Ojeda said. “He’s (Zambrano) usually a guy who goes 120, 125 (pitches). And especially in the playoffs. It was his game. He was pitching great. Six innings, 85 pitches, that’s not bad. He’s usually a guy who throws a lot of pitches. I don’t know what they were thinking there, but it kind of helped us out because he was pitching a great game.”

The Cubs players in the dugout heard the news before the rest of the nation:  Piniella was going to give his “workhorse” a short night, saving him for a possible Game 4. Reliever Carlos Marmol started the 7th inning and immediately gave up the go ahead run when Mark Reynolds homered.

While Marmol has routinely pitched during the 7th inning this season (a specialist if you will), this is the playoffs and a game where your ace is dominating. 

When your team has a chance to win a Game One on the road, the starting pitcher should be allowed, check that – he should be REQUIRED to go more than 6 innings.

The only time your ace needs to be removed from a playoff game is when he is getting pounded, which Zambrano was not. Zambrano tried to plead his case for one more inning (how about 2 or 3 more?), but was rebuffed. When questioned after the game, Piniella said, “I’m bringing back a pitcher on three days’ rest on Sunday, and I took a shot with my bullpen. It didn’t work today. They’ve done it all year, and I’ve got confidence in them, period, end of story.”

The point here is not that the bullpen has “done it all year,” but in a tie game against the Diamondback’s ace, you need to worry about the current game and not about the future! There is no guarantee there will even be a fourth game!

Zambrano has been a workhorse all year, throwing more than 100 pitches in 26 of his starts, reaching a high of 127. Why did the Cubs give Zambrano a contract extension this year worth $91.5 million? They gave him that money to be the #1 man on the staff, and a #1 pitcher is supposed to pitch deep into post season games.

Throw the pitch count clickers out the window in the post season; only real men need apply to pitch in October!

What Piniella’s decision also did, besides give the Diamondback’s  a two-run lead, was allow Webb to only throw 7 innings, giving the Arizona ace an early night, too. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, Webb’s early night came on a victorious evening for his team as he left with a lead. While I doubt now that the need should arise, Webb should be ready for a Game 5, on full rest and in his own ballpark.

However, Webb’s next start will likely be in Game 1 of the NLCS.

Why would Piniella want Zambrano for Game 4 on three days’ rest anyway? Zambrano’s only start this season on short rest (In fact, it was Zambrano’s only start EVER on three days’ rest) was September 18th against the Cincinnati Reds where he was pummeled over 5 1/3 innings.

He lost 5-2, allowing 7 hits, 3 walks and 4 ER’s while whiffing only one batter. He obviously did not take too well to the short rest, and that loss pulled the Cubs back into a virtual tie for first with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The next day, Ted Lilly pitched on three days’ rest, winning his game. According to GM Jim Hendry, Piniella wanted his two aces to go on short rest the balance of the season. Hendry agreed, saying “It’s part of the game. It’s September. You cut back on the side stuff in between (starts) and go after it.” After evaluating Zambrano’s performance, the experiment was quickly extinguished.

So the question remains, why want to pitch Big Z on three days’ rest during the playoffs? Wouldn’t you want your ace to be available for a possible Game 5? Does the manager not have any confidence in his other starters? No one could find out because at the post game press conference Piniella became defensive and wouldn’t answer any more questions on the subject.

But, when you win a World Series 17 years ago with the 1990 Reds, you can pretty much refuse to answer questions about the biggest bonehead decision of the year, and in Piniella’s career.

By the way, since that 1990 season Piniella is only 50 games over .500 as a manager, and that includes the record 116 win season with Seattle in 2001. He is not that good as a manager, ask the people of Tampa.

It’s interesting that Piniella is so strict with his pitchers because he is from the Old School of baseball, learning under managers Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, Dick Howser and Jack McKeon. All these managers allowed their starters to throw the ball deep into games, even when their team was behind in the game.

Besides the reduced starts during the season in today’s game compared to years past, managers not allowing a starter to go deep into a game even when the team is behind is the main reason why 20 game winners are practically extinct.

Thirty years ago Piniella was a member of the 1977 New York Yankees, featured this summer on ESPN’s made for TV movie, “The Bronx is Burning.” Led by Reggie Jackson and a strong starting pitching staff, these Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games for the World Series Championship.

Besides Game 1 of the 1977 World Series, when Don Gullett “only” went 8 1/3 innings, every starting pitcher for the winning team went the entire distance!

Mike Torrez started Game 6 for the Yankees, throwing 119 pitches in his series-clinching complete game. This was after 3 days rest when he beat the Dodgers in Game 3, throwing 125 pitches. The only time a starting pitcher that series was removed was when he began to get hit hard.

One of the videos you continually see from that series is the last play of the World Series when pinch-hitter Lee Lacy popped up a bunt, which the ball caught by Torrez. At this point, the Dodgers already had a run in during the ninth inning and two men were already on base! If Lacy reached base, the tying run in leadoff hitter Davey Lopes, would have come to the plate.

Do you really think any of today’s managers would have let Torrez start the 9th inning of that game, let alone finish it up in that situation? Absolutely not. It much easier for today’s manager to go to his bullpen, no matter the result, and say, as Piniella said Wednesday night “…they have done it all year…”

Because of the money involved, and the dearth of good starting pitching, managers and organizations have been babying starting pitchers for the last decade. I can understand during the first week or two during the season when the arms are not yet fully strengthened and the weather might not be conducive to long stints, the starters can be brought along more slowly.

But when October arrives and the playoffs are here, that is when the real money is earned. Last night Piniella should have remembered back 30 years to those 1977 Yankees, starter Mike Torrez and the other men Billy Martin pitched in that series.

 Piniella should have let his horse Carlos Zambrano go the distance, like Josh Beckett did about three hours earlier for the Boston Red Sox. Remember that in baseball only real men need apply for work in October.

Maybe Piniella filled out the wrong application.