Jon Heyman just reported (on Twitter) that the Yankees have come to an agreement with Eric Chavez to return to the Bronx this season. He’s also reporting that the deal is a guaranteed major league contract which is…surprising. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the deal has a $900,000 base salary plus incentives.
First things first, this interview is a great example of why I’m personally fond of A.J. Burnett. The guy is nothing if not a stand up professional, owning up to his failings and saying the right things, including saying nothing but nice things about the manager who always had his back. But this is the really interesting bit, which is already being framed with full negative connotation:
In 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information, one out of every five Burnett pitches registered 95 mph or faster on Pitch F/X’s radar-gun readings. In 2011, that rate was one in every 250 pitches.
“I think I just started buying in and listening to the wrong things,” Burnett said when asked why things went south. “I’m not gonna be the guy that’s not coachable and the guy that doesn’t wanna get better and doesn’t wanna learn. So when you’re surrounded by Hall of Famers like that that wanna help you, you’re gonna listen. And I think I got away from a lot. I don’t think my velocity’s dropped down. I think the way I changed my delivery made my velocity drop down. … I never felt like I did in 2009 as a Yankee.”
Asked who changed him, Burnett replied, “It wasn’t exactly a change. I think maybe reactions here or there from the crowd if I walked a couple guys or got in bad counts early, it’s like it’s over. But it’s not over, I still got six or seven innings left to pitch, so ease up.
“At the same time, I turned a lot [in my delivery in the past]. I had deception in my delivery in 2009 that made me successful. It wasn’t anybody. They didn’t like the turn. They wanted me to be more of a strike thrower and try to get more consistent in the strike zone because I was wild in that delivery — but then again I was more powerful and dominant in that delivery.”
I have no idea whether or not there’s any validity to that, but it’s a working theory, at least and, if he goes back to a similar delivery to the one he came to New York with, it will be interesting to see if he reclaims some of that lost velocity. On the other hand, he is in his mid-30′s now, so I’m more than a little bit skeptical of this explanation.
Via Chad Jennings, Joe Girardi explains his early plans for the lineup.
Raul Ibanez might have been signed to be the Yankees regular designated hitter, but that doesn’t mean he won’t need a glove.
“We plan on DHing him,” Joe Girardi said. “We plan on putting him in the outfield as well. We’ve talked about trying to give some guys a DH day or a rest day, and it gives you more flexibility since he can play the outfield as well.”
It’s the same story with Andruw Jones. Essentially, those two will form a platoon, but it’s not exactly a DH platoon.
“Not necessarily,” Girardi said. “I could stick Ibanez in left field, for example, and if I wanted to DH Granderson to give him a day, move Gardy over. I envision (Ibanez) playing against right-handers, and Andruw always playing against left-handers, that sort of thing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll always be a DH.”
To put it mildly, that would be an awful, awful idea. By just about any measure, Ibanez is a terrible outfielder at this stage of his career, and shouldn’t put on a glove for anything short of a necessity. If Curtis Granderson needs a day off*, it should basically always come against left-handers, and Andruw Jones, who’s at least an average corner outfielder these days, should get playing time in the field in his place. Ibanez should basically never take the field unless Girardi needs to make a substitution in a game Ibanez isn’t starting in.
Incidentally, I think I’m most dismayed by the insinuation that Ibanez has a guaranteed spot on the team. Even though he signed a major league contract, given that Ibanez didn’t exactly light the world on fire in 2011, even against right handed pitchers, I’d at least like to think he needs to prove he can at least be better than Russell Branyan at this point.
*Also, for what it’s worth, I really don’t get this sudden obsession with “DH days.” The assumption seems to be that hitting isn’t that taxing which, quite frankly, is just obviously wrong. Swinging a baseball bat at the Major League level involves quite a bit of torque and strain on the muscles, especially in the back and legs, and doing it 1,000+ times in a season is going to take its toll on the body no matter what. The logic of “half-days off” makes some amount of sense for aging players playing particularly demanding positions like Derek Jeter, but for players in their prime years like Granderson or someone playing a corner position like Alex Rodriguez, I’m extremely skeptical that it makes anything more than a very marginal difference, at best.
I have to admit, when I first heard that the Yankees were interested in Raul Ibanez, I had basically the same reaction as Aaron Gleeman. Namely, I thought Jorge Posada made a lot more sense, both because of his legacy with the franchise and the fact that he was actually a better hitter than Ibanez last season. As far as I can speculate, I see two major points in Ibanez’s favor. First, there’s the possibility that Posada wouldn’t have wanted to play another season at his age anyway, especially for a salary in the $1.5 million range. Secondly, near as I can tell the biggest benefit the Yankees get out of Ibanez’s major league deal is that, at his salary, it will be easy for the Yankees to DFA him if he doesn’t produce adequately. That could be a much tougher thing to do with Posada, even at a similar salary level, given the emotional cost that would include as well.
We have already seen a number of analyses of the Yankee farm this offseason (from Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein, among others), and this otherwise quiet Tuesday has blessed us with two more takes on the system. Baseball America released its annual top 100 prospects list today, and as a bonus Jason Parks of Baseball [...]
Writing at Fangraphs, Mike Axisa recommends that the Yankees lock up Russell Martin to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency after 2012. I wrote about this a while back and nothing has really happened in the interim to change my opinion. Though his point about the scarcity of quality catching talent is well taken, I just can’t say that I’m sold on the financial soundness of making such an investment in Martin. For starters, he has a decidedly non-insignificant injury history and, his 2011 power spike notwithstanding, he’s still trending downward at the plate. In fact, his 2011 batting average and on base percentage both represented career lows for Martin. His 18 home runs went a long way towards making up for that, given the role he was asked to play in the lineup, but they also came on the back of a 15.9% HR/FB rate which, for the sake of comparison, is 1.5% higher than the rate Robinson Cano put flyballs over the fence in 2010. I think it’s safe to be skeptical that he’s going to be able to repeat that laser show going forward, in which case he’ll need to hit balls with some authority a little more consistently to avoid being a below average hitter altogether.
The other thing to consider is how a long term deal will impact the Yankees plans to meet a $189 million payroll target in 2014. Axisa suggest a 3 year $30 million extension for Martin which would put the Yankees in a pretty tight space relative to that $189 million number. Just to put it in reference, by my rough calculations it would be roughly impossible to sign that deal while also retaining Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson beyond their current contracts. I’m not saying that might not be the best way to build the roster going forward, especially since Brett Gardner is more than capable of playing centerfield, but I don’t think I’d want to gamble that much on a player as volatile in terms of offense and health as Martin is when I have such limited room for error.
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks has a great take on his top-5 Yankee prospects. Usually, we tend to evaluate prospects from an optimistic perspective. This is probably a natural way to think, but doesn’t take into account the fact that most prospects fail. Park instead frames his discussion of those prospects by looking at [...]
Though Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein already put out their top prospect lists, the Baseball America list is still the holy grail of prospect rankings, and they released their 2012 list today. The Yankees placed four players on the list in Manny Banuelos (29th), Dellin Betances (63rd), Gary Sanchez (81st), and Mason Williams (85th). No major surprises there, as those are the same four farm-hands that represented the Yankees on both of the other lists as well. Jesus Montero was ranked 6th overall, and Arodys Vizcaino comes in at 40th overall (but Boone Logan yay!).
Thanks to Baseball America’s handy list of category breakdowns for the list, I can easily pass along that the Yankees are one of 14 teams to place four prospects on the list, but one of only three teams (along with the Rangers and Cardinals) to have originally signed six players on the list. If you include Gerrit Cole who, of course, they drafted but failed to sign that you’d get to seven players, but I can’t say off-hand how that would rank by comparison.
While we’re talking prospects, Jim Callis passed along what each team’s signing pool will be for Rule IV draft picks this summer, in the wake of the new collective bargaining agreement’s “soft” cap on signing bonuses, and the Yankees will get $4.192 million to play with. By way of comparison, that’s slightly less than they spent on their top ten picks combined last year, and roughly two-thirds as much as they spent on their entire 2011 draft class. But hey, existing MLB players got an increase in the minimum salary they were going to get anyway, and it was all done in the name of competitive balance (I, for one, am glad that those big spending Rays will finally be put in their place with a $3.871 million limit and that we can expect their strangle hold on the American League to come to an end sometime soon), so hooray for making the rich people richer!