Mid-Week Hot Stove

Peter Gammons blogs today that the Yankees plan to enter 2010 with both Joba and Hughes preparing to start. “They can always go from starting to the bullpen, but it’s tough going the other way,” says Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.  Gammons also states that Cashman feels that David Robertson and Damaso Marte can set up Mariano for the seventh and eighth innings.

Like so much else at this point of the hot stove, we’ll see.

Why?  For starters, prepping Joba and Hughes to start is exactly what the Yankees should do.  Cashman is right in saying that stretching them out is easier earlier rather than later, and both have shown that they can be outstanding setup men.  Saying this also likely plays a role in any conversations and negotiations the Yankees might have with potential acquisitions and, according to Gammons, the Yankees have not ruled out a run at John Lackey or Ben Sheets despite a professed desire to pare down payroll.  That is, preparing Hughes and Joba to start has the benefit of having them ready to do so, but also to use as a bargaining chip against free agents to indicate that the Yankees have and may be ready to proceed with other, younger–and cheaper–alternatives.  I am not necessarily advocating for or against that, just assessing its possible utility for Cashman and the organization.

The least believable item in Gammons’s piece to me was professing confidence in Robertson and Marte as setup men.  They can surely play a role with the Yankees next year, and should.  Robertson had a terrific K/IP ratio (63 K/43 2/3 IP).  Marte was outstanding in the World Series, compiling 5 K (Utley and Howard twice each, and Werth once) in just 2 2/3 IP.  Yet while Marte was solid down the stretch, allowing just 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs earned in his last 14 appearances after returning from a shoulder injury that saw him struggle badly early on, and Robertson was good last year (2-1, 3.30 ERA), do we envision them as good enough to set up for Mariano?  Should the Yankees sign Lackey, Sheets, or acquire someone else for the rotation, thus bumping Joba and/or Hughes into setup work, clearly Joba or Hughes move to the front of the pack to set up for Mariano.  Ergo, what does that say about Robertson and Marte?  Not that they’re poor options, although I still have some lingering questions about Marte despite his World Series heroics ala Graeme Lloyd in 1996, but rather there might be better ones available.

Buster Olney blogs that the Yankees are considering adding bullpen help.  In particular, he mentions Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Jose Valverde and Brandon Lyon as possible acquisitions.  Soriano, from the Braves, is intriguing for despite a 1-6 record, his 2.97 ERA is pretty good, and he fans a ton–102 in 75 2/3 IP last year.  He is also turning 30 this December.  Gonzales, who will be 32 next May and is also of the Braves, fanned 90 in 74 1/3, though he walked even more than Soriano’s 27 by issuing 33 passes, too many to me.  Yet that both Soriano and Gonzales allow so few hits (56 for Soriano last season, 53 for Gonzales) makes them especially tempting, for their WHIP is low as a result despite the walks–Soriano 1.057, Gonzales a bit higher at 1.197.  The question becomes, how much to pay them?  Soriano made $6,350,000 last year (after making $2.4 million in 2008), and would need to be every bit as good to justify both a high salary (probably $7+ million per over 2-3 years) and the loss of the Yankees’ first round pick.  Same with Gonzales, who may come cheaper ($3.45 million last year but would still cost that pick.  Valverde has been very good (4-2, 2.33 ERA, 56 K/54 IP last year for Houston), but again, for how much after he made $8 million last season?  Does Lyon (6-5, 2.86 ERA, 57 K/78 2/3 IP, $4.25 million in ’09) work for people?  Gonzales, Soriano, and Valverde are Type A free agents, which means the Yankees would surrender their top pick for acquiring any of them.  Lyon is a Type B free agent, which means Detroit would receive a supplemental pick after the first round, but the Yankees would not lose their top pick.

In part I cannot help but wonder where these players would fit in should the Yankees actually be serious about paring down payroll, or at least spending it very judiciously.  Several might be good investments, but are not priorities especially vis-a-vis left field and starting pitching.

This post is meant to hopefully prompt debate rather than act as stenography for professional stenographers during a slow stretch of hot stove.  Accordingly, what say you?  To acquire or not to acquire any of these relievers?  If so, whom?  Might the free agent status affect the Yankees’ decision-making especially when they have begun to stock youth and talent in the farm system?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm  Comments (6)  

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  1. honestly i don’t they should spend a penny on relievers this year. one thing cashman sems to do well is draft/grow really good bullpen guys. Marte was great in the playoffs ( except ALDS game two) but think about the parade of bad relievers they have had over the last few years…farnsy tops the list of course. i like mike gonzalez but his delivery screams elbow injury…

  2. What Mike said.

    Marte also came back hurt from the Bud Games, so how much of his reemergence at the end of the year was him finally being healthy?

    Also, it seems very outside of Cashman’s MO to spend free agent money on middle relievers. They aren’t good enough to start, and they (usually) aren’t good enough to close, meaning there is going to be a lot of volatility involved with them form year to year. Most of the time, getting a young proven major leaguer is worth the first round pick, especially down where the Yankees usually pick, but not for middle relievers, who for good reason are the most replaceable elements of any team.

  3. I’ve read on Soriano, Gonzalez but I agree Mike 100% don’t go for these guys no point giving your Type A pick for those might aswell go for Lackey or Holliday. But this is what I do I go for Putz and Sheets. Putz we know can do the AL we have seen it you don’t give up tupe A picks and I think we won’t get a big contract. Same for Sheets no type A pick would take 1 or 2 years.

    Starters – CC, AJ, Andy, Sheets and Hughes
    Releif – Ace, Gaudin, Putz, Coke, Marte, Robertson, Joba and Mo.

  4. Mike, JGS, Nick–all strong comments, some of the most succinct yet. As I might have been hinted at in the post, I am in agreement. While Soriano and Gonzales may be good to have in the pen, I am unwilling to surrender a first-round pick for a middle reliever, and I believe the Yankees are too. Two words on that front–Nuke LaFarnsworth. Plus, as JGS rightly said, that doesn’t seem to be Cashman’s m.o., either. Middle relief is something they can sort out down the road, and having a solid rotation to pitch well, and to ensure that the bullpen is for the most part rested and not overworked, is far more important.

    I would like to see Putz in pinstripes–as long as he is healthy and throwing hard. Another good lefty doesn’t hurt any. Sheets is a risk, and I wonder if Wang will be non-tendered but offered a lower contract and return as a reserve option to start. By Nick’s scenario, that would mean 13 arms, and personally I would hope they keep no more than 12. 4 on the bench is optimal, especially if a good bat like Hinske returns. Should Joba be in the pen–and he does very well there but has enough innings to have surpassed the so-called “Joba Rules”–or if Hughes is setting up, the Yankees are close to set for relievers. Aceves is key. If he can approach his sterling 2009, for which I don’t think he gets enough credit (10-1, 3.54 ERA, 1.012 WHIP–fabulous), the Yankees are more than solid.

    A question: if it comes down to putting someone between Joba and Hughes in the rotation and the other in the bullpen–and there is but one rotation spot–who starts? Who relieves?

  5. Yeah thats true it is a risk but I think a low one with high reward same with Putz. Lets say Sheets doesn’t work only really a few million given up really then we could just put Gaudin as 5th starter I know its not great not but 5 starters are there for a reason. But if he gets back to old form looking like an ace we will get A pick draft picks with all the big pitchers hitting free agency next year it could be good for us.

    Good point on 13 pitchers if HUGE if Putz does work out drop Coke to AAA if it doesnt work just bring Coke back up. the Mets gave a boat laod for Putz he was one of the best leftys if he works out could be huge.

    TO Joba/Hughes debate I would have Hughes rotation and Joba set up. The reason to me anyway Hughes always look better when he threw 2 innings or more to me he is a starter. Joba well I like most of us would be first in line to argue Joba as a starter but seeing what I saw in the WS he looked the old Joba throwing 98 looking great.

  6. Ty Hildenbrandt said in the most recent YFCR that he advocated Joba in the bullpen because he is so dominating. After his good WS work, it’s a fair argument although I still think the number of his good innings matters more in the rotation. The question is whether or not there is a place for him there, which right now is in question considering the issue of Pettite, and whether or not the Yankees acquire Halliday or Lackey. That would change things for Joba and/or Hughes.


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