New York Yankee 40 man roster needs this off season

August 20, 2009

Every year right after the World Series, the various major league teams need to update their 40 man roster. Sometime in November new names are added and mnay players are designated for assignment and released. The new 40 man roster attendees are usually young players (unless your the Mets, then you need to be over 40) who have impressed and moved up the ranks.

Most are in AA and AAA, but a few needing protecting could be in A ball, especially if the player has just come back from injury. In fact, the Yankees do have one pitcher who fits that description.

If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor-league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the off-season. Usually when college players are drafted and they spend three seasons within organization, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. High school players (or underage free agents) need to spend four seasons before needing 40 man protection.

The 40 man roster was devised to keep deep teams from hoarding talent within their system.

The Yankees are very fond of keeping young pitchers on the 40 man, exposing injured players and generally have been pretty good about keeping their good talent within. No, I won’t get into the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady deal for Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen. By the way, Ohlendorf now is 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA (sorry no FIP numbers available) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But the Yankees will need to make significant changes to their 40 man roster this off season. There are good things and bad things about having a tremendous draft (like the Yankees did in 2006) is that all the great college players they took in that draft need to be on the 40 man roster this November. Or they could be drafted elsewhere.

Also, all the high school talent taken prior to 2006 need to be added, too. This group includes future Yankee fan whipping boy Austin Jackson, taken in the 8th round in 2005.

I have identified 11 Yankee farmhands who need to be protected this off season, some household names to those who follow the Yankees, and some which are not.

Those I would ABSOLUTELY protect at Triple A include Jackson, UT Kevin Russo, LHP Zach Kroenke (who will likely be called up anyway in September) and RHP Ivan Nova. Interestingly, both Kroenke and Nova were left unprotected last season, were selected by the Marlins and Padres, respectively, then offered back to the Yankees.

I was shocked both of those guys did not stick with the drafting teams.

Russo is a former college hitting star who can multiple positions including third, second and short. Similar to Ramiro Pena, but with more pop, but less of a glove. He will stick with another team if taken, but his history of injuries might scare off teams.

At Double A Trenton, I would ABSOLUTELY keep RHP Kanekoa Texeira, SS Eduardo Nunez and RHP Lance Pendleton. Little Tex was obtained from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and Nunez surprised many people in spring training with his hitting exploits (which have carried over into this season). Pendleton is interesting because while he is 26, he finally has been healthy.

Also starting the season at High A Tampa was RHP Tim Norton, a 26 year old taken out of college in that great 2006 draft. I would protect him, too, unless his recent 7 day DL is related to his shoulder surgery he had over a year ago. He is a beast on the mound with a little bit of a mean streak which would serve him well in the bullpen.

That is eight guys, but there are a few tweeners, too. Guys like OF Colin Curtis and George Kontos at AAA plus RHP Jason Stephens, who has bounced around the entire minor league system and is currently at High A Tampa.

Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken, but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Kontos had Tommy John surgery on July 7th and should be out May/June of next season, so he might slip through. But he was performing extremely well before the surgery and I might not take on chance on him. The Yankees are very high on him, and if he didn’t not hurt his arm, he would likely be the #5 starter right now.

Jason Stephens is still only 24 and has been in the Yankee system since age 18, when he was a third round pick out of high school. He has appeared in High A, AA and AAA this season. He had really good success in the early part of his career before elbow surgery, and has pitched effectively this year despite the bouncing around, both with the levels and as a starter and reliever.

I feel if the Yankees left Stephens alone as a starter at Double A this season, he would have better numbers all around. I would protect Stephens because a lesser team could just stick him away as the last guy in the bullpen, and at age 24, he still has loads of potential. 

Of the maybe tweeners, I would keep both Kontos and Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for th AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans. And that is probably what the Yankees will do, too, as they love to hold young pitching.

Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember last year after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

He actually faced Joba Chamberlain and Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

But since we are adding 10 guys to the 40 man roster, there needs to be some people released off the current 40.

On the current Yankees 40 man roster are marginal players not likely to have an impact on the Yankees major league team such as Jonathan Albaladejo, Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia (he’s hurt AGAIN!), Edwar Ramirez, Kevin Cash, Shelley Duncan and Xavier Nady.  

That’s seven guys right there – gone, released, see ya’. No way they ever get a shot with the parent club, and many could be re-signed after the release. Yankees just need to clear room for the new blood.

Everyone expects Francisco Cervelli to become the full time backup next season, so that eliminates Jose Molina. Hideki Matsui, as I have written previously, will not be retained. And that is even more true now that he recently had his knee drained, the second time this season he has had that procedure.

That’s nine.

And now the big decisions. Despite how they pitch this season, I can’t see Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre being part of the team for next season, but the Yankees could keep one (if not both) on the roster for depth. Even more so if what I believe should happen, will happen.

That gets us down to the last two possibilities.

Chien-Ming Wang had surgery on his shoulder in July and no one knows how that capsule tear will respond to the stress of throwing. If the Yankees release Wang, will another team claim him? If the Yankees offer Wang arbitration (they have tow more years left on Wang control), he will definitely get no less than $4 million. MLB limits salary reduction at 20%.

The Yankees likely will no-tender Wang, and try to sign him to a minor league deal where he can rehab at his own pace. But if another team signs him to a major league deal, Wang will get major league money, and that it is a possibility of Wang pitching in late 2010 or even 2011 with say…the Dodgers.

The other possibility is Andrew Brackman. Is there anybody out there in Yankee land who thinks this guy is ever going to make it to the big leagues, let alone any higher than Double A? He can’t even throw the ball into the strike zone – at Low A Charleston! Imagine him trying to throw into the miniscule strike zones of major league umpires?

The most important aspect in pitching is control, more important than velocity of “stuff.” Very few pitchers succeed with velocity and stuff but no control, but many succeed with great control and normal velocity.

But no way the Yankees (ie: Brian Cashman) releases Brackman off the 40 man roster, at least not until he gets another year under his belt.

If it comes down to making a decision on one more player to be released to fill out the 40 man roster, I would probably release Wang, try and sign him to a minor league deal then hope for the best that he doesn’t still feel too perturbed about being taken to arbitration a few years ago, losing, and having the Yankees brag about it to the press.

The Yankees would then likely need both Gaudin and Mitre on the roster if Wang goes somewhere else on a major league deal.

That’s what I would do with the 40 man roster this off season. Ten men in, ten men out.

Hideki Matsui Need NOT be a New York Yankee in 2009

August 14, 2009

His game last night was awesome as he went 4-5, with 2 HR’s, five RBI’s and four runs scored. He is one of the more professional hitters on the Yankees and in baseball today.

He also will be 36 years old next season and answered post game press questions with two big ice bags strapped to his well worn knees. He looked like Patrick Ewing of the Knicks used to after games. It was painful to watch and likely even more painful to endure.

Matsui played nine full seasons on the tough carpets in Japan, where every step he took upon the concrete foundation turf tore at his young knees. That did not seem to affect him in Japan or his first three seasons in the Bronx. During the 2003-2005 period in New York, Matsui played every single game, further extending his professional consecutive game playing streak to 1768 games.

But Matsui missed most of 2006 with a broken wrist (that injury ended his consecutive games streak) and last year his knees began bothering him to where he only played in 93 games, while his production suffered. The 2008 season is the only one Matsui has had an OPS of less than .800.

His bad knees resulted in him becoming primarily a DH, and when Hideki made it to left field last year, it was a nightmare. His defensive exploits make Johnny Damon look like Carl Yastrzemski.

Hideki also has had to be rested on many occasion this year. He was having a horrendous June until he was forced to sit in the National League parks during inter-league play. After pinch hitting through those eight games, Matsui was on fire, beginning to hit like Yankee fans loved and remembered. Once the interleague games ended, and Matsui had his rest, he hit .310 with nine homers and 30 RBI over 36 games and had a .402 on-base percentage.

But while he hit then, and is hitting well now, Matsui should not be re-signed for next year and beyond.

At this point in his career, Matsui is solely a DH and the Yankees need that spot in the lineup to give to Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon (if re-signed) A-Rod, Derek Jeter and other Yankee thirty-something year olds who need periodic rest next season. Guys like Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner and maybe Austin Jackson will need more playing time next season.

And don’t forget about the big guy in the minors, Jesus Montero, whose bat is major league ready now (except I guess for his currently broken finger). Montero should be in the mix next season at least for some DHing duty.

If Matsui continues to hit this season and have a good post season, he will be in demand from some of the American League teams who would need a lefty DH (Detroit, Seattle, Texas?). He will not be able to consistently play in the National League, and likely will not play for the San Francisco Giants.

At that point, Matsui might command a multi-year deal, at least two years. But, in reality, his career could come to and end. Would he want to play elsewhere? His two professional teams, The Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the New York Yankees in the United States are each the premier teams in baseball.

But he has enough money, would he want to endure other cities and a knowledge that he might not be a pennant contender each year?

I have written before that the Yankees need to get younger and some of their top position prospects (Montero, Austin Jackson) are about ready for the majors and they need roster spots. Also, the Damon situation is hanging over the Yankee hierarchy, too. Do they sign Damon to a multi-year deal. He does have some talent still to play the field, and he is a total offensive threat in the new, new Yankee Stadium.

If Damon is signed, and the Yankees should try and get him on a series of one year deals, that is another player who can do all what Matsui can do–and more.

Matsui is expendable and should not be a Yankee next year–no matter how well he hits the balance of this season.

Detroit Tigers Make a Bold Move

July 31, 2009

Quite possibly beating the New York Yankees to the punch today, the Detroit Tigers made a bold move in acquiring LHP Jarrod Wahburn for the Seattle Mariners for LHP’s Luke French and Mauricio Robles.

Although French has bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors this season, neither of those two pitchers have been particularly impressive in their pro careers. But I guess the Mariners had to fill their coffers a bit after making the Erik Bedard trade a season ago.

Washburn is a free agent after this season, and he could be only a two-month rental for the Tigers.

That shows they are going for it this season. Washburn is a good complementary pitcher to the hard throwers the Tigers have in Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga. Rick Porcello will likely be given a breather, by allowing him to only now start (maybe) once a week. 

That is a pretty good rotation now to compete with the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. I am record saying the Twins, with a combined 24 games still left with Kansas City and Cleveland, will win the AL Central division.

This deal might have tipped the balance.

Amazing how if the Yankees were involved (and reports are that Washburn WANTED to be a Yankee), it would have taken more than two simpleton LHP’s to get Washburn.

It would of had to include either AAA OF Austin Jackson or High A catcher Austin Romine and probably a top young pitcher.

The Yankees coveted Washburn over the last few weeks, and despite their starting rotation being very good since the All-Star  break, the wanted Washburn for the last two months–possibly to ease the innings on Joba or a backup for Andy Pettitte.

They can always sign the free agent Washburn during the winter, but might have to face him in the playoffs this year. 

Just proves that the Yankees need to continue to produce their own talent through the system and then buy a pitcher the following off-season if they really have to have a guy.

Johnny Damon’s been good in 2009, but should he be a Yankee in 2010?

July 25, 2009

For a few weeks early in the season, Johnny Damon was the entire Yankee offense. At various times this season A-Rod was not yet back from hip surgery, Mark Teixeira was struggling in April, Xavier Nady was out (for the entire season now) and even Robinson Cano, who started so brilliantly with the bat, had begun to struggle, especially with runners in scoring position.

But there was Damon, he of the walk off homers and other game winning blasts. (The Baltimore pitcher that day< Jim Johnson, also allowed the recent GW HR by Hideki Matsui). Damon sported a decent April with .295/.385/.500/.885 OPS with 4 homers and 10 ribbies, and in May he really hit well, hitting .304/.355/.565/.920 OPS with 10 doubles, six home runs, 25 runs scored and 21 RBI’s, the most important stat on offense, including the two game winning HR’s.

But in July, Damon has only put up a .226/.342/.355/.697 OPS with two homers and eight RBI’s, three of which came in last night’s victory over Oakland. Defensively, he continues to be a nightmare, never looking sure even on the easiest of catches and still possessing that Little League throwing arm.

Damon’s 4 year/$52 million contract he signed before the 2005 season expires at the end of this year, and Damon seemingly has the ability to be an offensive force at the age of 36. 

Despite his great start and production 2009 season, the Yankees should not sign the lefty hitting outfielder on a multi-year contract in the off season.

Many Yankee fans will disagree, and maybe even Yankees GM Brian Cashman will disagree, too. Both the fans and Cashman will think that the Yankees need Damon’s offense and he could be a viable player for several more years.

Maybe he will, but the Yankees don’t need him.

Even though Damon says he wants to stay in New York and play for the Yankees, he also has the desire to go for 3,000 career hits( he currently has 2,365). That means he needs to play four more seasons after 2009 and based upon a nice ending to 2009, Damon would for a three-year deal in the off season.

That is too much time for the Yankees, who need to continue to get younger as a team, not older. Without PED’s in teh game today, getting younger and more versatile is the trend in baseball.

Think Kevin Youkilis and Ben Zobrist, not Johnny Damon.  

The Yankees will likely be relieved of Hideki Matsui’s contract (unless, of course, he has a big season, too and then the fans will want him back next year) and Xavier Nady, who has been nothing during his time with the Yankees.

Have I mentioned before how I hated that Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady trade with the Pirates?

They can therefore certainly afford Damon, but with youngsters Austin Jackson coming ready soon, and Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner becoming important parts for the Yankee team, is Damon (and a multi-year contract) what this team needs? The younger guys style of play is good for the team, so why bring back an aging player?

Where will the Yankees play him next year? Despite being only 22 and needing more seasoning at AAA, Jackson could be ready, Swisher is an New York media darling, while  Gardner and Cabrera play great roles on this team and show they belong.

Damon won’t play in left field as his defense is brutal and his arm is terrible. He looks timid out in the field, and just can not go back on this ball any more. Jackson, Cabrera, or a free agent signing (or trade) will patrol left field in 2010, especially if Matt Holliday impresses down the stretch for St. Louis.

Don’t get me started on that free agent disaster waiting to happen.

Damon also can’t exclusively DH, because where will Jorge Posada play most of his games next year? Posada is slowing down behind the plate (he is lazy and can’t block pitches anymore) but will catch some in 2009, 2010 and 2011, as he is signed through those years. With the emergence of Francisco Cervelli, however, and a plethora of catchers in the system (namely Jesus Montero and Austin Romine), Posada’s days behind the plate are numbered.

As I mentioned previously, Montero is the next big bat for the Yankees.

The Yankees are all tied up with long term deals with Teixeira and A-Rod and don’t need another aging, one dimensional player in Damon for the next several years. If Johnny wants to play towards getting 3,000 hits on one year deals for the next couple of seasons, that will be beneficial to both sides.

Seriously, with limited defense what National League team will take him? And where in the AL could he play?

Interestingly, Damon’s best bet for 3,000 hits might be as a Yankee hitting in front of Tex and A-Rod on a series of one year deals. Keeps him hungry and motivated. It is a much better scenario than going to play out his career in an unappetizing setting somewhere else.

Cashman needs to play hardball with Johnny Damon this off season, and let the broken bats fall where they may.

Roy Halladay to the New York Yankees?

July 14, 2009

Now that Roy Halladay confirmed last night at the All-Star festivities that he is, indeed, available and willing to be traded to a contender, the New York Yankees surely is a possible destination.

Widely considered the best pitcher in baseball (Derek Jeter said as much last night), Halladay has been seeking a trade to a contender to finally perform in meaningful games in August and September. Since Halladay is signed through 2010, a trade will give him two chances at the playoffs and a possible World Series.

According to many, including Jonathan Papelbon, a contender who secures Halladay’s services will certainly be viewed as the favorite to win a World Series.

What if the contender is the Yankees? Because they are in the same division, reports have the Blue Jays needing more from either the Yankees or Boston Red Sox in a trade. The Jays want major league read players, not Single-A level prospects with hype.

Some Yankee fans want to give up the kitchen sink for Halladay. Names speculated concerning the Yankees needing to trade include Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes (maybe both), AAA centerfielder Austin Jackson, AA catcher Jesus Montero and current major league relief pitcher Mark Melancon.

If I were the Jays I would take that haul right now, but the Yankees would be stupid to make that type of deal as there is a crack in the trading armor of Jays GM JP Ricciardi.

Ricciardi has speculated that the winner of the Halladay sweepstakes might need to take the contract of Jays CF Vernon Wells. In December 2006, Ricciardi signed Wells to a seven-year $140 million contract. Since Wells immediately declined in production after signing the deal, the contract is an anchor both in terms of dollars and distance.

If Ricciardi insists that a team (such as the Yankees) take on Wells’ exhorbitant contract, then it is very possible the team taking that contract will not have to pay another ransom in terms of young talent.

With Yankees GM balking at paying up for Johan Santana a year and a half ago, I don’t see him giving up big prospects for Halladay. Not that “Doc” isn’t worth the dollar or prospect price. Overall he is much better than Santana, both in terms of pitching and temperament.

And I do not see the age being much of an issue either with Halladay. He is 32 now and unless he signs and extension, will be 34 when he comes up for free agency. His mechanics are perfect and he has not had a history of arm issues. He was on the DL in 2004 with shoulder soreness, but no problems since then. In terms of durability and style I rank him along with Derek Lowe, who is still going well at 36.

If Ricciardi insists on including Wells in the Halladay deal, the Yankees could be able to pull it off, as the excess money taken on will help save the oh-so-close to the major league prospects in Jackson and Montero. No way a team can take on TWO big salaries (Halladay and Wells) and give up a boatload of prospects, especially with no guarantee that Halladay will be around after 2010. I originally thought that Halladay would be traded, but that feeling is receding quite rapidly.

And all the rivalry teams mentioned as possible suitors such as Red Sox and Yankees, Phillies and Mets, Cardinals and Brewers, Dodgers and Giants, or Angels and Rangers would love to have Halladay, but don’t necessarily NEED Halladay.  All teams would probably be happy if he wasn’t traded at all, especially to their closest rival.

With the Blue Jays owner dying over the winter, the Jays likely need to cut salary and Wells is the biggest salary to dump. That is why Halladay needs to be dealt. The Jays can not afford Roy’s new expected salary and Wells’ monstrosity. You can throw in Alex Rios’ underperforming contract, too, but Halladay is the biggest marketable commodity.

The Yankees (or any team) should remove players from the table if Wells is included. The Blue Jays have no leverage in that type of situation, a situation the other teams can exploit by pulling back some of their prospects.