Tag Archives: Matt Garza

On trading with the Cubs

Somehow, it’s already the middle of July. It seems like just yesterday we were all collectively bitching about the complete lack of baseball and the need for Spring Training to start. Anyway, the trade deadline is approaching and everyone is wondering what the Yankees will do. Brian Cashman has said that he doesn’t like the prices he sees out there right now (obviously, this means we’re minutes away from some big trade news breaking). That doesn’t mean something won’t get done, and I’m sure something will, but we’re just not sure what. Two of the oft-discussed names have been Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs. The former is a veteran pitcher with an expiring contract and the the latter is a relatively young and talented hard-thrower who’s got a fourth year of arbitration next year. Quite frankly, I don’t want the Yankees to trade for either one, and I’m fairly certain that puts me in the minority, especially with regards to Garza.

Alex wrote a piece back in June about trading for Garza and I agree with his premise: trading for Garza may not be as wonderful as everyone thinks it will be. The cost will certainly be high and is there really an upgrade there? Garza has improved his control over the last few years and he’s gotten more grounders recently, but his HR/9 is still troubling (1.34 this year, over 1.1 three of the last four years). In fairness, his HR/FB% has never been out of control (save for a bad mark this year) but moving to Yankee Stadium and a more-potent-than-ever AL East may not bode well for Garza in terms of keeping the ball in the park. For a more detailed look at Garza, check out this post by Mike E. I definitely wouldn’t hate it if the Yankees were to trade for Garza, but it obviously depends on the cost. It’s likely to cost the Yankees a handful of top-prospects for just one and a half guaranteed years of Garza and while he’s good, I don’t think he’s slam-dunk-good enough to be worth that price.

As for Ryan Dempster, I’m just not sure if the performance is there. He’s never been too awful (last year’s 4.80 ERA was definitely an exception), but what’s so special? The strikeout numbers are nice and he’s got decent control, but his groundball rates have been dropping the last few years and I do wonder if a fastball that’s just about cracking 90 this year and both a sinker and slider with declining groundball rates (via Brooks), I do have to wonder if his stuff will play in the American League. I hate to pull that card, but again, despite being pretty good, I’m not sure if Dempster is THAT good that he’s worth giving anything up. Also like Garza, though, I wouldn’t be devastated if the Yankees got him. The price, though, would have to be supremely low. Dempster’s going to be a straight salary dump move (cutting his contract in half, he’s got $7M coming to him in the second half) to whom tendering a “qualifying offer” would be way too risky. If the Yanks can get him for a PTBNL or a very minor prospect while footing the bill, fine. If not? Pas.

PITCHf/x Scouting Report: Matt Garza

If the Yankees are going to spend on a starting pitcher this trade season, Matt Garza is the front runner. Unlike Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels, Garza has an extra year of team control, as well as the only one of the three eligible for draft pick compensation following a trade. Garza has also successfully pitched in the AL East, as well as the large market of Chicago. On the negative side, Greinke and Hamels have produced much more consistent numbers of late, while Garza is struggling with homeruns. The Yankees will undoubtedly continue to be connected with all three pitchers this July, so today we’ll tackle the first and most likely candidate.

Last year was somewhat of a breakout year for Garza. Although he posted a strong 3.86 ERA in his three years with the Rays, his 2011 with the Cubs resulted in a 3.32 ERA, a 9.0 K/9, an 8.5 H/9, and a 2.9 BB/9. These are the sort of numbers an ace produces. This year, he’s thus far produced a 4.32 ERA, yet his other numbers look very similar, a 2.8 BB/9, and 8.3 K/9, and a slightly lower 8.0 H/9. The difference here is a double in his homerun rate, from 0.6 HR/9 in 2011 to 1.4 HR/9 in 2012. Overall, his 16.7% HR/FB rate looks poised for regression, and his xFIP is currently 3.69. If the numbers even out, Garza could be a strong compliment to Sabathia a top the Yankees rotation, so let’s take a look at his pitch repertoire.

Four-seam Fastball

His four-seam fastball is obviously the goto pitch, throwing it 40.7% of the time. It averages 93.5 mph, a 200 degree spin angle, and just above 2,000 RPM. The variation in the pitch accounts for quite a spread in movement, as you’ll see below. At times, Garza can use a low spin angle and a high spin rate in the upper 2,000’s to create a strong rising fastball. Overall, he’s seen a 7-8% whiff rate, and a batted ball rate of around 43% groundballs, 40% flyballs, and 17% linedrives.

Posted above is the break of the pitch on the left, a bird’s eye view on top, and 3rd base view on the bottom. Graphed on the right is the the movement of the pitch from a catcher’s perspective. On average, Garza’s four-seam has 9.49 inches of vertical “rise” above a no spin pitch, as well a 3.41 inches of horizontal movement in to right handed hitter. While this is the average movement, the right hander has the ability to consistently bring the rise up to a strong 11-12 inch range.

Here are the locations of his four-seam fastball throughout 2012, with right handers on the right, and left handers on the left. There isn’t much method to his approach with the four-seam, and nor should there be. If anything, he’s thrown a few more fastballs into right handed hitters, but not much else.


The slider is his favorite strikeout pitch, and he throws it 24.9% of the time. It averages 84.7 mph, mainly ranges between 60 to 180 degrees in spin angle, and averages around a 500 degree spin rate. While the large range of spin angles creates a wide range of movements, the low spin rate accounts for much of the movement coming close to that of the no-spin pitch. Overall, he has a strong 20.4% whiff rate… Continue reading PITCHf/x Scouting Report: Matt Garza

Acquiring Garza Could Be A Mistake

Last week, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Yankees appear more and more likely to acquire a starting pitcher at this years trade deadline and that Brian Cashman preferes Chicago Cubs right-handed starting pitcher Matt Garza over the field of trade candidates. Pleased with Matt Garza’s American League East pedigree, and concerned with the likes of Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Ryan Dempster making that transition, Yankee executives appear to have placed Garza near the top of their target list.

There is certainly a case for preferring Garza over similarly gifted pitchers. The 28-year-old has always had exceptional stuff going back to his days as a top prospect in the Minnesota Twins’ minor league system and through his early career in Tampa Bay. In four full seasons as a Major League starting pitcher, three in the American League East, Garza has pitched to a 3.72 ERA. Early career success aside, 2011 was really a watershed for Garza. His FIP, previously hovering well above 4.00 for most of his Major League career, dropped to 2.95. He struck out nearly a batter an inning and allowed just 0.64 home runs per nine innings. In 31 starts, Garza pitched to a 3.32 ERA – a career best.

Matt Garza was a different, better pitcher last season and anyone acquiring him in light of his 2011 success will pay for – and expect – similar success going forward. Garza is not an ace and will not sell like an ace. But neither will he sell like a third starter, a middled-aged pitcher capable of an ERA in the high 3s but nothing much better. Garza was overvalued heading to Chicago. The Cubs paid for a better pitcher than the pitcher we saw in Tampa Bay, as good as that guy was. If the Yankees were to take Garza off the Cubs hands this summer, they’d likely pay even more than that. Can we really be convinced that Garza has finally taken, once and for all, the steps needed to reach his potential?

In 10 starts this season, Matt Garza has a 4.10 ERA and 4.09 FIP, a far cry from the lowest figures of his career posted in 2011. Though certainly among his better early-season starts, Garza’s peripheral numbers are little better than they were back in 2009, when Garza went 8-12 with a 3.95 ERA for the Rays. Much of this is due to a high HR/FB ratio and that will likely correct itself. In truth, Garza is pitching better than he did in Tampa, but not nearly as well as he pitched last season. The difference lies in his ability to induce strikeouts. Last season, Garza threw his fastball dramatically less often, but more effectively, setting up his mid-90s heat with a mid-80s changeup and mowing batters down with a devastating slider. The changeup is back to pre-2011 levels now, the fastball and slider less effective. His swinging strike rate, which peaked at 11.2% last season, is down to 9.6% on the year. Batters, even in the NL Central, are making contact off his pitches more often. Half the progress he made in that department last season is not there in 2012.

Garza’s peripherals have always been inconsistent. The jumps we saw last season were dramatic, but no doubt aided by the league and division change Garza experienced, and to see some regression back to career levels is no surprise. We need go back not more than two years to see similar skill and performance growth prove unsustainable for this very same pitcher. After his strikeout rate sharply increased in 2009, from 6.24 to 8.38, and his xFIP saw a similar improvement, Garza struck out just 6.60 batters per nine in 2010. His xFIP shot back up to 4.31 from 4.14. At 26, much of his 2009 growth was gone and the Rays were willing to part with their gifted young starter.

If we are to believe Garza’s results from last season, we must recognize that many of the adjustments and improvements Garza made last season are missing this season, at 189 innings is not the end-all, be-all sample size of statistical analysis anyway, that Garza is quite inconsistent and that the difference between the Garza of 2007-2010 and the Garza of 2011 largely a matter of AL East vs. NL Central. If Garza’s progress last season was mostly the result of a league change, then we should not expect much of this progress to carry over in a switch back to the American League East. And while Garza was a solid pitcher in Tampa he was much the product of his surroundings. Pitching to a 3.7-4.0 ERA in front of the leagues best defenses is one thing. A similarly skilled pitcher in Yankee Stadium, in front of an old defense and an inconsistent outfield, is not going to have the same kind of success.

The Yankees may very well need to acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline and Garza is a good pitcher coming off an excellent season with AL East experience. That much is true. Expectations, nevertheless, need to be kept in check. Garza’s 2011 season so far appears to be the high watermark and his success in Tampa was in part the product of an excellent defense. Garza is a pitcher with a career xFIP above four who has pitched dramatically better in the National League. A good third starter? Sure. A top of the rotation anchor? I’m not sold.

Market for Garza takes another turn

Anthony Rizzo

You might have missed it yesterday in the midst of the hype of the NFL Wild Card weekend but Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and President Theo Epstein pulled off a small heist from former protege Padres GM Josh Bynes, who worked under Theo with the BoSox until 2005. The Cubs acquired slugging 1B Anthony Rizzo, who batted .331/.404/.652 line and hit 26 HRs in 413 PAs for the Padres AAA Tucson affiliate last year. It was something of a reacquisition of Rizzo for Epstein, who you may recall traded him to the Padres last year in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. This comes on the heels of the Carlos Zambrano deal earlier this week, which brought back perpetually disappointing Marlins starter Chris Volstad.

As I detailed in my Trade Match Series piece on Garza, heading into the off season the Cubs needed a 1B, 3B, RF and have numerous spots up for grab in their starting rotation. Rizzo should (eventually) solve their need at First Base, while Volstad takes the place of Zambrano in the Cubs rotation. As things stand currently their rotation (without Garza) would feature Ryan Dempster as their ace, with Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Casey Coleman filling out the starting 5. I think it’s safe to say that even with Garza they’re still nowhere near competing for the NL Central next year, and need to upgrade at least 2 of those rotation slots long term. The package that would now best satisfy their needs would be heavy on pitching, and possibly give them a long term answer at Third and/or RF.

After acquiring Rizzo Cubs GM Jed Hoyer addressed what the team will be looking for going forward:

“At this point, we’re still very much in the process of gathering as many quality arms as we can, and we’ll put those pieces in place as we get closer to Spring Training,” Hoyer said.  “We have worked hard, and we continue to work hard, and hopefully we’ll have even more starting-pitching acquisitions….We want to go seven, eight, nine deep in the rotation and we hope to replenish the bullpen as well.”

They won’t fill all their needs by dealing Garza, but will be obviously looking to fill as many as possible. The dumping of Zambrano and acquisition of Rizzo would seem to indicate that their time horizon for competing is 2013 and beyond. Rizzo struggled in his initial call up (.141/.281/.242  153 PAs) with the Padres last year and the Cubs plan is for him to begin the season in the minors. Farmhand Brett Jackson could fill their need in RF, but like Rizzo is expected to begin the year in AAA Iowa.

An updated list of Yankee players that match what the Cubs may be looking for in a Garza deal would be Nick Swisher, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, Brandon Laird, David Phelps, Adam Warren, DJ Mitchell. Given the multiple years of team control on Garza, it is expected that he will bring back at least 2 major pieces in a deal. But moving some of those pieces would trigger additional Yankee moves. Of course, if they trade Swisher they would be looking for an everyday RF. Dealing Laird would mean they need a caddy for A-Rod at 3B. They currently have enough MLB ready depth to give up 2 pitchers in a deal that brings back a starter and still have a few options at AAA in case of injury.

The Yankees and Pitching Prospects

Before I get into this, my first post at The Yankee Analysts, I’d like to thank everyone here for giving me this opportunity and for welcoming me so fully to the team. I have accepted this position knowing that TYA is not only among the best Yankees blogs on the internet, but among the best team centered blogs in all of baseball, and I hope I have something worthwhile to contribute.

I thought I’d introduce myself to the readers by exploring a phenomena I’ve been considering for quite some time now. Given plethora of young arms in the system – Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and Adam Warren – ostensibly close to their shot with the big league club, it’s worth noting how little success the organization has had developing starting pitchers during Brian Cashman’s tenure as general manager. In fact, since Cashman took over before the 1998 season, his system has succeeded in developing exactly one front of the rotation starter.

As with most informed Yankees fans, I have a healthy respect for the job Cashman has done over the past fourteen seasons. Thirteen playoff births, six American League pennants, and four World Series wins make for an impressive resume. Yet one has to wonder how much more this franchise could have accomplished since the turn of the century, and how much better a position it would be in, had the farm system produced the same kind of pitching talent as it drafted. Oh, the hitters are there. Robbie Cano and Brett Gardner are already All-Star caliber talents and Jesus Montero showed last fall how quickly he could reach that level. In fact the bullpen has also been kept afloat in recent years by a healthy influx of young talent. Yet all the current rotation has to show for a decade of high draft picks and bonus babies in Latin America is a mid-rotation starter and a guy who can’t stay healthy – or pitch up to expectations when he is.

The question one must ask then is simple. Why? Why is it that an organization with such a large payroll advantage over the rest of the league, an organization that has focused heavily on the draft over the past half-decade and has developed a plethora of offensive pieces and pitching prospects, failed to develop any of those arms into front of the rotation stalwarts? Is it a question of poor resource allocation? Poor draft picks and signings? Has the organization mismanaged talent? Or is it as simple as bad luck? Let’s take a trip back to the good old days of the 90’s dynasty and try to find out.

Brian Cashman was named general manager of the New York Yankees in February of 1998 and at the Major League level he inherited quite the team. The first – and, so far, only – GM in baseball history to win the World Series in his first three seasons, Cashman inherited a home grown core of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada, a core that not only led him to great success in the late 90s, but in the later part of the next decade with a World Series victory in 2009.

The farm system Cashman inherited, however, was fairly weak. The Yankees best prospect was Ricky Ledee, a 24-year-old outfield with some pop who hit .309 with just ten home runs the year before. No other Yankee minor leaguer made Baseball America’s top-50 prospects list. The system had it’s share of offensive talent. Within a couple of years, Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera would be top prospects, on their way to productive Major League careers. Mike Lowell as well, though he left the organization earlier. Jackson Melian was just getting starter, an 18-year-old at the backend of BA’s list. Pitching? Nowhere to be seen.

Cashman’s Minor League strategy early in his career was similar to his Major League strategy: win now. Instead of spending heavily on talent at the lowest levels, the Yankees front office focused on high-profile international players. Early in 1998 Orlando Hernandez signed with the Yankees. He shot through the system, and by June was winning games in the Bronx. Alfonso Soriano also signed out of Japan. He would make his big league debut within a year. El Duquecito, Adrian Hernandez, signed two years later and by April of 2001 he was pitching in pinstripes.

The low levels of the farm system were not entirely barren. D’Angelo Jimenez, and John-Ford Griffin, and Willy Mo Pena, and even Drew Henson made many a top prospect list preceding some careers of varying success in other organizations. Still… where was the pitching? Perhaps the one top prospects to come out of the Yankees drafts and signing classes early in the past decade, Brandon Claussen, struck out 220 in 2001 before undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Was this simply a case of bad luck? Of course not. With such little organizational depth on the mound, one injury was crippling. Claussen never returned to form and the system suffered.

In the early years of Cashman’s tenure in New York, the reason for the organizations failure to develop young pitching was quite simply a failure to draft and sign talented young pitching. It was a failure of scouting and of resource allocation. The big league payroll was escalating. The front office was entirely focused on the near term. Finding internal solutions to rotation problems was never a priority. This strategy came to a head in 2003 with the signing of Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras.

By the middle of the decade, though, depth was on the rise. Though most of the mid-decade Yankees system, from Julio DePaula, Ramon Ramirez, Sean Henn, and Christian Garcia, and Steven White went nowhere, Cashman and co. through just enough darts. After signing for an unprecedented for the region 1.9 million dollars out of Taiwan in 2000, Chien-Ming Wang slowly and surely ascended the Yankees system, landing in New York in 2005 at 25 years old with a hard sinker and good command. The rest, of course, is history as Wang won 46 games over the next three seasons and nearly captured a Cy Young award in his second year. Though few Yankees fans would see the middle of the decade systems as a source of pride, quantity had won out in a single instance. The Yankees teams of ’05 and ’06 and ’07 had been saved by their system. Perhaps for this reasons, but perhaps because of a power struggled that occurred just around then, more was on the horizon. The resource allocation and scouting problems were about to be solved.

Enter Phil Hughes. 6’5″ and 240 pounds. A mid-90s fastball and a knee-breaking curveball. Exceptional command. The 18-year-old from Southern California was the Yankees first round pick in 2004. Hughes signaled the beginning of a new era in Yankee-land. A picture perfect prospect, he shot through the system, dominating at every level before making his big league debut in 2007 as maybe the best pitching prospect in the league. Then came the 2006 draft. Ian Kennedy, a polished righty from USC with second starter potential. Joba Chamberlain, a righty from Nebraska with a big fastball and slider and big injury concerns. And Zach McAllister, and George Kontos, and Betances, and Mark Melancon, and Daniel McCutchen, and David Robertson. And then, before the 2007 season, the Yankees traded Gary Sheffield for Humberto Sanchez, the Tigers top pitching prospect and a guy with a poor health record. Though Sanchez’s impact was minimal in the long run, the fact that Sheffield, an MVP candidate just a year or two earlier, could be moved for a prospect was astonishing. The pitching onslaught had begun.

Depth was still no guarantee of success, of course. Kontos, and Alan Horne, and Sanchez, and a number of other pitchers suffered a series of injuries that derailed their minor league careers. McCutchen and McAllister and Ross Oldendorph – acquired for Randy Johnson after 2006 – were traded eventually and Betances proved a much longer development than initially expected. But the resources were there. And so, finally, was the elite talent. Hughes and Chamberlain and Kennedy came up through the system, not exactly together but not too far apart either. They were to lead the rotation of the future.

And then they didn’t.

Hughes was pitching a no-hitter in Texas and he got hurt. Chamberlain was having a tremendous debut as a starting pitcher and he got hurt. Kennedy was trying to find his groove at the big league level and he got hurt. Chamberlain was never the same. Kennedy was traded. Hughes made a comeback before recent injuries and ineffectiveness put his future in question. And so, the questions began. Is this just an issue of poor resource allocation? Bad luck? Or is there something wrong with the way the Yankees are developing their pitching talent.

With Hughes, it’s hard to say anyone saw this coming or that the management of his development was poor. He was about as close to a perfect prospect as one can be. He had no history of injuries, clean mechanics, and quite the combination of stuff and results. The Yankees brought him up conventionally. They didn’t rush him but they didn’t delay his progress when it was clear his time had come. They handled his injuries as one would expect. They eased him back into the big leagues at the end of 2009 and let him pitch a reasonable number of innings in 2010.

Chamberlain is quite obviously a different story. His big league debut in the bullpen was so impressive that he began the 2008 season in the same role and while he was able to prove dominant in the starting rotation to close out that season the questions continued to dog him heading into 2009. A solid start begot a terrible finished and by the following season he was back in the bullpen. The injuries were also something that could have been forseen. The Yankees would not have grabbed him in the sandwich round had he been healthy. Yet, while his failures remain his own, one has to wonder how he could have develop on another team, given a more consistent and longer shot at rotation success.

Perhaps the most telling of developments from these few draft classes came in the person of Ian Patrick Kennedy. After a dominant minor league stint he did practically nothing at the big league level in New York. The organization gave up on him and he was moved, essentially an afterthought in a trade for Curtis Granderson. He went on to a 21-4 season with a 2.88 ERA and a 5+ WAR for the Diamondbacks last season. The Yankees had the resources and the desire to go out and get one of the top college pitchers in the 2006 draft and yet question remain as to whether Kennedy could have developed as well in this organization. The rest of those classes were either moved or fizzled out or are just now reaching the big leagues.

And so we arrive again in 2011 and now 2012. The system is again stocked with minor league pitchers about to reach the big league level, about to try and break the noted trend. The good news is that organization, despite past failure, has continued to invest in pitching. Banuelos, Betances, and a number of other arms at the low and high minor league levels attest to that success in the draft and in international signing. One might also hope that they have learned from these past failures. That they were not ready, and inexperienced, when they were given Hughes and Chamberlain. That they took too many risks and mismanaged these talents and that they will be more careful, or more aggressive, or whatever it is they need to be to make sure these pitchers have every chance to reach their full potential.

The bad news is that, as we have detailed, it is not so simply as drafting and signing top talent. Even the best pitching prospects can fail. Even the best organizations can mismanage talent. Perhaps of more importance, the signs are there. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are not perfect prospects. Banuelos is undersized and Betances has an injury history. Both struggled with command last season – though Banuelos has a much better track-record. There are questions about durability, and about whether these two will remain starters. Noesi, Warren, and Phelps provide depth though they also remind one too much of the go-nowhere prospects of the last decade. There is still hope for Hughes and for Ivan Nova, who had a tremendous rookie season, though Hughes’ star has dimmed and Nova’s was never all that incredibly bright.

As Eric Schultz detailed yesterday, the history of the Yankees farm system in the Cashman era has been that of reactionary paradigm shifts. The farm-focused early-90s Yankees built a winner but they became greedy, too focused on short term payoff, and unable to build depth in the minor league system. Cashman responded by going heavy on depth and while this depth produced a success story in Chien Ming Wang, it failed to produce top of the rotation talent. Then came Hughes, and Chamberlain, and Kennedy, and the Killer B’s. Finally, with the failures of the big three and the success of Robinson Cano, the front office has shifted it’s attention to building offensive depth within the system to replace and aging positional core. Despite the relatively successful drafting and signing policies of the organization, a balance has not been reached, and each new strategy has been a response to the failures of a previous strategy. Perhaps tellingly, a corresponding bet on young big league pitching talent, proven big league pitching talent, has not been made. An expensive proposition? Sure. But one that could be pulled off, perhaps, with Matt Garza on the market, and Zack Greinke on the market a year ago, and Cole Hamels and Matt Cain potentially on the market within the next year.

So at the end of the day I think fans ought to be thankful of the resources and the scouting prowess that has been poured in to this system, at least over the past five or six seasons, but also wary of the failure of the system to take it’s players over the top and develop front of the rotation talent. We should hope this was the product of inexperience and luck but prepare for the possibility that these failures have been the product of some inherent mismanagement, a mismanagement that has been vaguely clear to even the untrained eye. We should hope Brian Cashman, and Damon Openheimer, and the rest of the front office continue to work to fix this problem, but do not become so arrogant, so sure of this (wonderful) Minor League strategy as to ignore the glaring rotational needs at the big league level and to bet the farm on the farm.

Giving and Getting

What a player gives is what the team gets. Sure, that’s a fairly obvious statement that’s likely too broad a generalization. There is more nuance to it, both on the SABR side (marginal value of a win) and the more traditional side (chemistry, etc.), but let’s take a look at the statement at its face and boil it down to two simple things: playing time and quality of performance. You want players to do both of these things and the ones who can perform at the high ends of these respective spectra are the star payers. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. There are some who can pitch a lot of innings or go up to bat a lot, but aren’t necessarily good at it. On the flip side, there are those who posses great skill and talent, but can’t stay healthy enough to play at that high level for extended periods of time.

I’ve talked before about the “two devils” of contract negotiations–money and years–but i guess w could consider this dichotomy a third devil (bonus points if you can come up with a clever term for it). We keep hearing that the Yankees don’t like the prices out on the market, and given what we’ve heard, part of me ca’t blame them. But perhaps they don’t like any of the potential signings or trade acquisitions because they’re finding it hard to find a player who gives them the right combination of quantity and quality (at the right price).

Take Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson. Each pitcher has dynamite stuff, but only shown flashes of handling it well enough to put together high quality seasons. Both, however, have mastered the quantity question by pitching a lot of innings recently.

Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda (to a lesser extent) have the opposite problem. They’ve stablished a track record of high quality performance (again, Kuroda to a lesser extent) but due to injury and/or age, there’s concern about the quantity either pitcher can give at this point.

In a vacuum, Garza is probably the best fit in terms of finding a balance between quantity and quality for the Yankees. He’s most likely a better performance bet than Jackson is and can give just as many innings. And, given Kuroda’s age and Oswat’s injury history, he’s a safer bet than they are. But, factoring cos in swings that balance.

Does Jackson become the best fit, then? His performance isn’t as bad as many (myself included) have made it seem in the past and he’s proven himself durable over the past few seasons. again, cost becomes an issue as we’ve heard multiple sources say the Yankees would have to extend the budget to accommodate a Jackson signing. That could be posturing, though. I don’t love Jackson, but $12M AAV for him would be just fine with me.

As for Kuroda and Oswalt, the Yankees have thus far steered clear, despite their relatively low costs. Again, this could be budget posturing, or they could be “covering up” the fact that neither pitcher gives them what they want in terms of a quantity/quality balance.

When there is no balance to be found, the best thing to do may be to just wait. This is a conclusion I’ve drawn on a near weekly basis, but I can’t help but come back to it. It may not be ideal to essentially stand pat, but when there is no perfect fit–no CC Sabathia, no Cliff Lee–perhaps the best thing to do is to go with the cheapest alternative and save money for later, whenever that may be.

More Things Not Happening

January 2nd was a busy day for the Yankees…in terms of things that probably aren’t going to happen. We heard multiple reports that the the Yankees are unlikely to bring in Edwin Jackson because of budgetary reasons. We also heard (in that same link) that the asking Price for Matt Garza is getting too high for the Yankees’ liking and that the team is not close to a deal with Hiroyuki Nakajima. So, for the Yankees, still, this offseason is more about inactivity than activity. But, at the same time, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve been a little sweeter on Edwin Jackson than most have, but missing out on him is not a bad thing. While he’s certainly durable, he’s obviously not a guy to whom you give a five year contract, but at $12M, he’s not a bad guy to have in your rotation. I still don’t think I’d give him four years, unless the AAV were $10M, but I think he’d be okay to have on a 3/36 deal. But, that’s not going to happen. Someone is going to give him a four year contract…and I doubt very much that it’ll be the Yankees.

I’ve covered Matt Garza a lot recently, and so have other writers here, so I’ll be quick with this one: I’m not as big on him as others are, but I wouldn’t say no to a trade, depending on the price.

As for Nakajima, his situation defines the term “whatever” better than any situation has this offseason. If they sign him, awesome; maybe they can flip him or Eduardo Nunez for something. If they don’t, oh well; they’ve got Nunez to play the backup infielder role or they could bring back Eric Chavez. We all liked him for one reason or another last year, but I’m not so sure Chavez would be the best choice. He was hurt and after April, really didn’t hit at all. He also didn’t handle right handed pitchers well (.298 wOBA). He did, however, do well in the field and that’s always helpful. Chavez is, however, helped by the fact that there really isn’t any other option out there to take his place (Wilson Betemit, maybe?).

Another day, another way to say “Well, nothing’s happening.” As frustrating as the lack of activity has been–and may continue to be–it is better than the alternative: a move for the sake of a move. I’m glad that hasn’t happened. And, as we’ve said a lot, the Yankees are still pretty good as constructed. This isn’t a team in need of a massive overhaul, especially when the pieces for said overhaul aren’t available at prices the team likes.

Commenting On Davidoff’s Choices

Yesterday, Ken Davidoff of Newsday floated out six options the Yankees could employ to improve the rotation. Let’s take a look and make some comments.

His first option was trading for Felix Hernandez. He knows it’s not going to happen. We know it’s not going to happen. Let’s just move on.

Door number two is a trade for Matt Garza centered around Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances. This is definitely more likely, but may not be cheap or easy…and I’m okay with that. I’m much more bearish on Garza than most seem to be, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Next, he throws out the money suggestion (a 4/$48M contract for Edwin Jackson), but quickly dismisses it. I don’t dislike Jackson as much as some do, but I wouldn’t give him four years. If he can be had for 3 years at 10-12 million a year, sure go for it. The odds of that happening? Not likely.

Choice four is the stopgap option of Roy Oswalt or Hiroki Kuroda. This is what I want, but it appears that the Yankees don’t want this. I think that says more about the medicals of Oswalt and Kuroda than it does about anything else. Davidoff has a Kuroda signing as more likely than an Oswalt signing, but given what we’ve heard over the last month or so, I’m not holding my breath on either one.

Number five? One word: BARTOLO. Davidoff suggests bringing back Bartolo Colon for another go ’round. MJR covered that here. I would like to see this, even if Colon is just a swingman at the beginning of the year, ready to swoop in if someone sucks or when someone gets hurt. Davidoff, however, doesn’t think it’s a good idea to bring Colon back. I’ll disagree with him there, especially if Colon takes a deal similar to the one Davidoff suggested ($2M + incentives).

Lastly, he talks about trying to find another lottery ticket with guys like Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, or even Jamie Moyer. If you want to bring one of those guys in on a minor league deal, go ahead. I talked about these guys long ago and think the same thing now: Minor league deal? Awesome. Anything else? No.

The price for Matt Garza just went up

You might have missed this amongst the year end celebrations yesterday, but ESPNs Buster Olney tweeted a significant piece of news in the Matt Garza derby. He wrote:

@Buster_ESPN Buster Olney
Tigers have made it known to other teams that they are willing to trade Jacob Turner in a deal for the right pitcher. That’s a big piece.

16 hours ago via web

This is significant for a few reasons. First, its coming from the Tigers, not some Chicago-linked source who could be floating trial balloons to drive up the price.  Next, if you’re not familiar with Jacob Turner, you should be. He’s the best pitching prospect in the Tigers system, was ranked #26 overall in 2010 and #21 last year by Baseball America, and he had a cup of coffee with the MLB club at the end of the season last year. So total that all up. He’s closer to the big leagues than either Banuelos or Betances and ranked higher twice than either of them has ever been.

This is not to say that the Yanks are out of the bidding by any means, and may be a necessary move for the Tigers to become serious players for Garza. After Turner, their farm system thins out dramatically. He was the only Tigers player on the BA mid season Top 50 list, where he was ranked #11. (BTW-Montero was #8, Banuelos #13 and Betances #26). But if you had any notion of getting Garza without giving up one of Montero or Banuelos, that’s no longer happening. As I detailed earlier this month, the Cubs need a 1B and have multiple holes in their rotation, a package where you give them Montero as a 1B and a few MLB ready AAA pitchers (Warren/Phelps/Noesi) could still easily beat the Tigers. Whether you want to give up a Montero for a #2 starter is something else to consider as well.

Personally, I think its a smart move by the Tigers and is the kind of move a win-now team should make. One could only hope Turner eventually becomes a pitcher like Garza, who represents a ready made best case scenario for Turner or Banuelos. Also, since Garza is under control for 3 more years, he could easily outperform Turner as he climbs the learning curve. In terms of WAR Garza should be expected to give you 10-12 WAR over the next 3 years, while Turner or Baneulos can’t be expected to match that as unproven commodities. For instance, say what you will about the Yankee handling of him, but Joba Chamberlain has amassed 7.9 WAR across 5 seasons (Fangraphs). Phil Hughes has totaled just 7.2 WAR across 6 seasons.  Hanging onto prospects  isn’t always a smart move, even the no-brainer types. Not if you’re a win-now team. But so far this off season, the Yanks seem to be more interested in getting to a payroll number than they are winning in 2012. But the winter isn’t over yet, so I’ll reserve judgement for now.