Tomko, Gardner Moves Prove Yankees Are Playing Smart

The Yankees won a lot of games during the Joe Torre era. When you win a lot of games, you tend to default to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy for roster building. The Yankees happened to win with guys like Luis Sojo, Billy Traber, Enrique Wilson, Ruben Sierra, and Joe Torre. I could name more Torre-era mistakes, but that’s not important. It took a new manager and a loosing season for the Yankees to break old conventions and establish a smarter strategy.

The Yankees do not need a long reliever. They have five healthy starting pitchers and seven versatile relief pitchers. None of their relief pitchers are Mike Myers types – one-out guys who will put a burden on others around them. There is no reason to believe that some combination of Coke, Albaladejo, and Ramirez can’t put together 3-4 innings of relief work when a starter gets blown out in the 3rd inning.

Tomko was very tempting.… Click here to read the rest

Revisiting The Gary Sheffield Trade

According to MLBTR, the Tigers released Gary Sheffield today, eating the 14 million dollars he is owed for 2009 rather than have him remain on the roster. This got me to thinking about the trade that the Yankees made with the Tigers after the 2006 season, in which the Yankees sent Sheff to Detroit for Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett.

The Yankees had traded for Bobby Abreu close to the trade deadline in 2006, a season in which Sheff played 39 games. This made Sheffield a spare part, and many believed the Yankees would decline the 13M dollar option that they had on Gary. Instead, Brian Cashman picked up the option so as to get something for a proven commodity like Sheffield. One week later, the deal with the Tigers was done. Here is what Keith Law had to say at the time about the three guys the Yankees got:

In exchange for Sheffield, the Yankees get some much-needed pitching depth in their farm system, acquiring three power arms who all rank among the hardest throwers in the Yankee organization.

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Albaladejo convincing Girardi

Jonathan Albaladejo appears to have a stranglehold over the final bullpen spot after a strong spring. Obviously, if he makes the team, that would mean that the Yankees would not carry a long reliever (despite Joba’s innings cap).

Now, Albaladejo is a solid option, however, I wonder why he would make the team over someone like David Robertson. This spring, Albaladejo has struck out 8 and given up 1 ER over 9 2/3 IP (1 BB). Meanwhile, over 6 2/3 IP Robertson struck out 10 and gave up 1 ER (3 BB). Albaladejo’s numbers are certainly better, overall, but Robertson’s stuff is undeniable. Also, Albaladejo has only been with the team for a season yet has been given ample opportunities to excel while Robertson has been with the Yankees since 2007 and, at least for now, is destined to toil away in Scranton.

At this point, in order to maintain depth, I guess you can afford to leave Robertson in the minors (he’ll be 24 this year) and go with the older Albaladejo (26).… Click here to read the rest

Ramiro Pena Overkill

I linked to this article on Ramiro Pena yesterday, suggesting that we use caution when discussing a prospect who has seemingly come out of nowhere. Pena hit only .266/.330/.357 in Trenton and has never been higher than AA, yet Madden still felt that it was prudent to write the following:

Fact is, Pena has always demonstrated world class defense since being signed by the Yankees out of Mexico in 2005, but his improvement with the bat is what’s elevated him to legitimate major league prospect status.
“When I first saw him three years ago, you could knock the bat out of his hands,” said one veteran scout whose primary assignment is in the minor leagues. “But he was a magician with the glove and that made him someone to keep an eye on. Now that he’s gained a little weight, put on a little muscle, he’s no longer an ‘out.’ He can handle the bat. I always felt his glove would get him to the big leagues, but now I can see him as an everyday shortstop.”

This is Rob Neyer’s response:

I haven’t seen Ramiro Pena play.

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BA Checks In On Montero and DeLeon

Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently penned a brief writeup on some Yankees minor leaguers after watching a spring MiLB game. His words about Jesus Montero’s defense and Kelvin DeLeon’s plate discipline were far from encouraging:

Jesus Montero doesn’t have too many doubters about his abilities at the plate. On Friday Montero showed excellent bat speed that allows him to let balls travel deep into the hitting zone, power to all fields and a knack for putting the barrel to the ball.

While there aren’t too many 19-year-olds who can hit like Montero, the industry consensus is that the young Yankees’ prospect will likely have to move off of catcher down the road. Yesterday Montero showed all the reasons why scouts question Montero’s ability to stick at catcher. His arm strength is just OK, and he’s not especially good at throwing out base stealers.

More problematic was his receiving, as Montero committed three passed balls in one inning. Tall catchers—Montero is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds—can provide a big target, but they sometimes have trouble getting down low enough to block balls in the dirt, which Montero showed on Friday.

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