The plot thickens for Yankee DH

I swear, sometimes following the Yankees is like reading a mystery novel. You find yourself piecing together shreds of evidence and jumping to conclusions on who the real killer is, or in this case who the next Yankee is. We all know Brian Cashman operates like a ninja, and for good reason. He can’t let details of free agent and trade targets leak, lest other teams (read the The Boston Red Sox) jump into the mix and jack up the price. But they will feed their media beast with tiny bits of info to fill up the tabloids and blogs and keep fans talking about the team. On Thursday, we had one of those shreds on what should be the final major move of the Yankee off season, namely who will fill the everyday DH role.

Jack Curry

@JackCurryYES Jack Curry
Yanks aren’t doing anything about DH now. Reasons? No $. Montero/Pineda deal not official. When deal & Kuroda official, could deal 4 hitter

Well well well. “Deal”? So lets eliminate all the Free Agents right off the bat, so to speak. This makes sense, as I detailed in my Jorge Vazquez piece on Thursday there really aren’t any mutual great fits out there on the free agent market. So that leaves us with trade targets.

First, lets try to ascertain who the Yanks will be looking to deal. There have been some rumors about Phil Hughes being available, but I have to think he’s not their first option. As bad as he was last year, he’s showed himself in 2009 to be stellar working out of the bullpen. With Mariano on the last year of his contract and contemplating retirement, Hughes will be on the short list of candidates to replace Mo, along with Joba and D-Rob. Joba’s coming back from TJ, so he’s a complete wild card for the next year or two. Dave Robertson is terrific, but has a habit of making a mess at times that needs to be cleaned up. Hughes would be a very good fit for 2013 Closer. I wouldn’t be in any rush to deal him.

That leaves us with you know who. The Yanks have already made it known they’d like to deal him, and are willing to eat some of that dead weight contract in order to make it happen. To state something like that publicly makes it very hard to go back on that and play kiss and make up in Spring Training. Everyone knows the Yanks are tired of his act, and would prefer he wasn’t here. That’s a tough situation for anyone to deal with, especially someone as volatile as AJ. This offseason we saw Derek Lowe and Carlos Zambrano get traded. Lowe was worthless last year and Zambrano is crazy. I have to think if you can deal those guys, you can trade AJ.

Whoever the Yankees look for, it most likely won’t be a DH-only type player. As Buster Olney explained the other day teams are transitioning away from those players in favor of those who give you some positional flexibility. In the current baseball world of 12 man bullpens and a receding run environment, this makes a lot of sense. The Yanks plan on using a rotating DH this year, with A-Rod spending up to 40 games there. At age 37, Alex figures to be transitioning into the full time DH role over the next few years. That’s one of the reasons why the Yanks were willing to deal Jesus Montero, who many doubted would stick at Catcher. With that in mind, whoever they deal for would have to give them some positional flexibility. No DH-only types. So forget Adam Dunn, Billy Butler, Russell Branyan.

At the WFAN Breakfast last year, I quoted Brian Cashman saying this:

 “Everything I say (publicly) has meaning. They’re like bread crumbs leading you in the direction of where I stand on a player.”

Where are these bread crumbs leading? Personally, I have no idea.

40 thoughts on “The plot thickens for Yankee DH

  1. Dermatio

    Kinda crazy maybe, but what about a AJ Burnett for Jason Bay?

  2. richard leo

    i always want Giambi back

    • RYan

      that would be awesome! pretty good fit.

  3. RYan

    I have a feeling AJ is gonna block Hughes from the 5th spot. The best rotation the yankees can put out there now and in the future is CC,Pineda,Kuroda(replaced by manny in ’13),Nova and Hughes. it just makes too much sense, who cares what AJ is gettin paid it’s about the best team now and moving forward.

  4. SM

    AJ – Vernon Wells.
    ;)

  5. PinstripeLifer

    I like AJ BURNOUT to the Cubs for Alphonso Soriano..The contracts are very similar,both teams want rid of these players and the change might be good for the players as well. Burnett MIGHT just be able to pitch well in the lower pressure NL and Sorriano is a Yankee vet who can take the pressure and can still HIT! A win/win for both teams if Theo and Cashman can make it happen.

    • No thanks. Soriano sucks and continues to swing through sliders six inches off of the plate. I’d rather deal with Burnett once every five days than have to watch Soriano’s bum ass on a daily basis.

      • T.O. Chris

        Agree completely! How anyone still think Soriano is any good at the plate confuses me. He is no where close to the hitter he was with the Rangers or Nationals, has lost all his base stealing threat, has drop his power considerably, and if it’s possible is even worse at drawing walks than ever before.

        Plus the contract aren’t close at all. Burnett makes 16 million per year for the next 2 seasons, Soriano makes 18 a year for the next 3. He costs more per year and the extra year pretty much makes it impossible to get under 189 million by 2014.

  6. Dealing Montero was all about NOT having to pay Hamels or Cain next offseason. It had nothing to do with making sure declining players got plenty of PA’s. This 2014 CBA codicil screwed things up a bit for the Yanks.

    • Michael P.

      Damn well better not be.

    • I’ll believe that when they pass on Cole Hamels. Not before.

  7. One of the points in this Lohud post – http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2012/01/19/pinch-hitting-delia-enriquez/ – is worth considering, which is that AJ’s 2011 stats are warped by one horrific August stretch:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=burnea.01&year=2011&t=p#month::none

    Much different in this respect than 2010, when he was more consistently horrible.

    That, plus the way he was able to bounce back and pitch decently after August is why I am not on the “Dump AJ” bandwagon. If they can get something decent – the 2011 equivalent of the Irabu for Lilly/Westbrook trade – then it’s one thing. Otherwise, AJ’s potentially useful as a starter and should not just be exchanged for chum just because he can be maddening.

    • Michael P.

      Yes thats all well and good. IF AJ didn’t pitch poorly in those months he would be respectable. And if the queen had a ween she’d be king. AJ blocks cheaper young kids, and while a single one of them may not be able to give you 190 innings, im sure a combination of Hughes, Garcia Warren, Phelps, and DJ Mitchell can at least give the quality of Burnett or better wheile keeping the Yankees options for that rotation slot open.

      Also if Burnett is on the roster next year, I could very well see the Yankees saying they have no need for Hamels, Cain, or Grienke. I would rather the Yankees settle the top 3 of their rotation with ace like pitchers and fill out the rest with Nova, Hughes, Phelps, Warren, Betances, and Banuelos.

    • Matt DiBari

      I’m really not sure “AJ can be a mediocre pitcher other than that one disastrous month” is enough reason to continue beating our heads against that particular wall.

      • 1. Getting rid of AJ does not mean it will be cheaper for the Yankees to use one of the kids. Because the Yankees still are likely to be on the hook for a significant chunk of AJ’s 2012-2013 salary.

        2. If the Yankees had serious plans for the minor league starters such in 2012, then the mistake was signing both Garcia and Kuroda. Those 2 signings should tell you something about how the Yankees evaluate these guys for 2012 (as well as lack of confidence in AJ too).

        3. Garcia, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova, and Pineda are not exactly locks for 2012. So, you’ve got AJ guy signed for 2 years, and he provides a reasonable option who still has nasty stuff.

        Now if a good trade comes up, then sure, trade him. But so far I haven’t read of a single realistic trade that would improve the Yanks.

        • 1-Yes it does. If you eat half of AJs 16M salary and replace his spot in the rotation with someone making the 500K league minimum, you have freed up 7.5M net.

          2-Not a mistake, signing that 7th pitcher frees Cashman to deal AJ, who did at least give you innings.

          3-Hughes will go to the bullpen with Garcia making the 5 man. The AAA pitchers provide you depth. As to your last point, AJ has set the bar pretty low.

          • Scout

            “He provides a reasonable option who still has nasty stuff.” The nasty stuff is a myth, a legacy of Burnett’s past. His fastball is now mediocre. Although his curve is better, he can’t command it consistently. He’s never had an off-speed pitch.

          • I’m not ready to concede that Hughes will be in the ‘pen. Not yet.

    • If it was 2009, I would give that some credence. But after watching AJ have poor stretches each of the 3 years he’s been here, I have to just chalk that up to more of the same from him.

  8. The Yankees’s offense is entering a bit of a danger zone even though it might not appear so on the surface. I think third base is a position that the Yanks need to address soon…like this offseason if possible.

    Alex Rodriguez needs to be moved to DH ASAP. He can be as excited as he wants about playing 3B, but the Yanks are paying him too much money for him not to offer any offensive production. He’ll encounter less wear and tear and be at lower risk of getting hurt if he hangs up the glove. Better health could allow him to be available for 600+ PA for the first time since 2007.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      very true

    • Michael P.

      Really hope that is not the case. Lets see how ARod handles this year. Thing is he is still very good defensively at the hot corner. I wouldn’t want to move him to be a 27.5 million dollar a year for 5 years DH. Have to wonder whats more valuable, ARod hitting healthy all year at DH or this year when I believe he was still the 3rd most valuable thirdbaseman in the entire league.

      • robert mitchell

        Lay some Muscle Branyan on me homes.With Russell getting some DH at bats against righties,you could still get A-Rod,Tex and others DH at bats.Every year Brany had 300 or more at bats[4]he’s always smacked over 20 homers&knocked in over 50 runs.He is 14th all time in home run frequency with a dinger every 14.8 at bats.Just slightly ahead of Mantel,Ted Williams&Kingman who all hit 1 out every 15 at bats.And he would only cost between$1-2 million.Russ has the 2 longest taters at the new Stadium.The shot off the Window of the Hard Rock in C.F.in 2009&the tater in the upper tank in R.F.in 2010.Has 8 h.r’s at the new Stadium in like 45 at bats,including a 3run jimmy jack,pinch hitting off Mariano last year.

  9. RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    Bay, Wells, Soriano, all RHB when we already have Jones. That doesn’t seem likely to me. Giambi would be nice, but Cash probably has a target or two that will shock us again!

  10. Steve

    Burnett does not have “nasty stuff.” He has a very good curveball and a below average fastball because he can’t locate it.

  11. Michael P.

    What was the return on Zambrano and Derek Lowe? Everyone seems to think Burnett has to be traded for a similar bad contract. If the Yankees can eat a large portion of the contract (they wouldn’t pay all of it obviously) and get a minor leaguer with upside I would take that over a bad contract for bad contract deal.

    • The problem with AJ is that he has two years to go. Lowe and Zambrano were in the final year of their deals.

  12. AJ in problem swap deal doesn’t make sense. We want a sure thing at the plate, not a crap shoot. At the least AJ would have value out of the bullpen.

    A Soriano deal could work if someone wants a closer. Wouldn’t have to eat much salary to put him in line with market value.

    Hughes makes no sense. Value is at an all time low. If we must move him, I’d rather let him show he can still start. Keep him unless some GM is willing to overpay.

    Nova is the anti-Hughes. We’d be selling high and could possibly land a quality bat. Would piss off fans though, and undo much of what Cash did on Friday the 13th.

    Warren/Phelps/Mitchell won’t get us much. Banuelos and Betances may net us something, but even so I think the lackof MLB experience would limit the potential return.

    Would Cash be willing to flip Brett Gardner for a LF with a good stick? My favorite Yankee but he’s got a ton of value if you believe WAR accurately weighs defense.

    • T.O. Chris

      Trading Gardner for a bat sort of defeats the purpose, since most if not all of the runs you would gain in the trade would be given away in the field. Plus there is almost no way you can get fair return for Gardner since his value is mostly tied up in defense and speed.

      The only way I would’ve traded Gardner is in a deal for a very top pitching return, which we no longer need.

      I honestly don’t feel DH is so big a need we have to dump someone of value to the club to fix it now. I’m nore than fine going with what we have and reassesing things at the trade deadline. Clubs will be out of it by then, and like Lance Berkman, be looking to dump salary and players perfect for DH for cheaper. Right now everyone think they’re in it, thus the prices will all be too high for fair return.

  13. ryan

    Yankees should just eat 23 mill of the 33 left on his deal. I am sure there’s a team out there that would take AJ for 2 yrs 10 mill. That 10 mill would cover the Kuroda deal. Move Freddy into the long man spot, he can throw junk for 3 innings at a time when needed. Give hughes the 5th spot, he pitched to a 3.98 ERA over his final 10 starts and his stuff was better too. If Hughes blows his LAST CHANCE then insert Freddy as the 5th starter. Hughes did win 18 games in ’10 and has the highest upside.

    • T.O. Chris

      Can we stop acting like Hughes winning 18 games is the proof he’s a great starter waiting to be? He had more run support than any starter in baseball that year. Most starters with that kind of run support every single game would win 16-18 games. Outside of the first two months of the season he was mediocre to awful. He had more average to bad innings than he did good, all the numbers back this up.

      He has more potential than Freddy because he’s younger, but holding onto this 18 wins idea like he’s got the potential to be a top 1-2 pitcher is absurd. He’s proven his upside is as a good middle of the rotation starter, with his actual production most of the time making him a 4-5 starter.

      • smurfy

        I think you are selling Phil very short, Chris. Not to ignore his first half ’10 is to not ignore his potential. He obviously faded, weakened after 120 innings, but he is a strong 25 year-old who tried to will himself to velocity, and strained too much, Verducci-wise.

        Obviously, you don’t share the belief, but, for those of us who do, we feel to let such a prospect go is foolish, given the potential payoff.

        Phil would be best served by taking the 5th role, but he can relieve awhile till his talent and someone’s weakness or injury let’s him resurface. Maybe it’s a good way to ease him back. I just hope Rothchild has a good perspective, as well as his co-deciders.

        • T.O. Chris

          This is my point, he didn’t weaken after 120 innings because he wasn’t good for a full 120 innings. People have this idea in their head that Hughes was this beast for the first half of the year, he wasn’t. He was good for the first 2 months of the season, a total of 56.2 innings.

          In the first 56.2 IP of the season Hughes had a 2.72 ERA, in the final 119 IP he had a 4.91 ERA. So he tired after the first 56 innings? If anything you are ignoring the final 119 innings of the season because it fits the narrative you enjoy.

          Break it down by month and tell me he tired after 120 innings…

          Mar/Apr- 18.0 IP, 2.00 ERA
          May- 38.2 IP, 3.03 ERA
          June- 31.1 IP, 5.17 ERA
          July- 29.1 IP, 5.52 ERA
          August- 32.0 IP, 4.22 ERA
          Sept/Oct- 27.0 IP, 4.67 ERA

          So after May he had 1 month with an ERA under 4.67. Meaning for 4 months of the year he was average or worse, yet somehow that gets turned into he faded after 120 strong innings.

          If you want to split the season into two halves it’s not much better. In the first 88 innings of the year he had a 3.57 ERA, in the final 88.1 IP of the season he had a 4.80 ERA.

      • RYan

        Phil Hughes 2010 wins:
        games won with 2ER or less: 11
        games won with 3ER: 5
        games won with 4ER or more: 1
        Can we please stop talking about his run support, He was worthy of his win total.

  14. T.O. Chris

    That’s a very simply way to look at the argument. The main point is that you can pitch differently with a big lead than you can with a tie ball game. When you have a 3 or 4 run before you even step onto the field in the first inning, or have a 6 run lead by 2nd or 3rd you can simply pound the strike zone with fastballs and not worry about mixing in offspeed pitches as often. Whether you want to admit it or not constantly playing with a big lead is way different than constantly pitching with a 1-2 run lead, 1-2 run deficit, or a tie game. There is no denying his win total was inflated by the fact that he had more run support than any pitcher in baseball, it made it much easier to be a 2 pitch pitcher.

    Win total is also a very silly way to argue whether a pitcher is good or not. It’s like the people who try to claim Michael Pineda wasn’t very good last year because he only won 9 games. Pineda winning 9 games doesn’t make him bad, just as Hughes winning 18 doesn’t make him this future ace, nor does it mean he came close to a 1-2 pitcher season.

    Also none of that can dispute the fact that outside of the first 57 innings of the season, he wasn’t much better than average.

    • RYan

      Quality starts are a good way to measure a pitcher and regardless of run support he had 14 starts with 2 runs or less and 6 starts with 3ER. thats 20 quality starts out of the 29 he made.

      • RYan

        Im not calling him a future ace but I have more faith in him rebounding than AJ. My whole arguement is for the 5th spot in the rotation not the 1st or 2nd. He’s a mid rotatoin guy and that’s better than burnett can be at this point.

      • T.O. Chris

        Quality starts aren’t the best way to judge a pitcher, the basis is simply too low. I think, and many around here have suggested this as well, they should change the definition of a quality start to 7 innings and 2 runs or less. 6 and 3 simply doesn’t quantify “quality” well enough.

        However like I said pitching with that kind of run support, especially for a pitcher like Hughes who struggles because of a lack of a third pitch, is simply easier. He didn’t have to pitch with nearly the pressure from start to start he would have otherwise. The pressure was almost always on the hitters he was facing because they had to score runs and do so fast before they got blown out. This leads to hitters pressing, chasing, and being vulnerable to any secondary offering regardless of how well executed.

  15. T.O. Chris

    “Im not calling him a future ace but I have more faith in him rebounding than AJ. My whole arguement is for the 5th spot in the rotation not the 1st or 2nd. He’s a mid rotatoin guy and that’s better than burnett can be at this point.”

    You’ll find no argument on this from me. He’s much younger than AJ, he hasn’t yet reach his athletic prime. But I still think many fans want to pretend he’s better than he is. He’s had one successful year as a starter, in which the majority of the year was closer to average than not.

    I think his upside is that if a number 3 starter, but up to this point in his career he has been much closer to a 4-5 most of the time.

  16. leonard

    The Yankees should have never gotten rid of matsui- last year as a dh he knocked in 79 rbi’s They could have signed him for 1 year deal for 2012

    He wins 2009 world series MVP- If George S was still alive he would have never let him go.

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