As you may have noticed, there has been precious little to report but rumors regarding the advent of the hot stove “season.” I for one intend to be more patient than in years past regarding my speculation on such matters. To a considerable degree, there is only so much that one can read into negotiations and behind-the-scenes discussions without appearing to be a sports version of a Kremlinologist, attempting to decipher the tea leaves of corporate sports management and labor relations that, for the most part, exists outside our collective purview.
Also, as regular readers here also know well, I am usually loathe to simply regurgitate what other beat writers pass along without trying to offer some original insights and analysis. That is of course all the more difficult to do when there is literally nothing but speculation to report. But the last thing I have ever wanted this blog to be is a tertiary source to merely digitally footnote what others have written. Additionally, while it is difficult to say whether or not the Yankees under Cashman have an m.o., last off-season’s moves illustrated the relative futility of investing too heavily in speculation, for hile C.C. seemed likely to me to don the pinstripes, the Yankees swooped in to land Teixeira late when many thought he was going to Boston, and outbid the Braves for A.J. What the Yankees will do regarding Halliday, and left field/DH, has already been discussed to a good degree, and it is still early in the process. Much of the hot stove, by definition, is a holding pattern for us.
Nick Cafardo has stirred the blogosphere’s pot somewhat with his post that speculates if Joba or Hughes, plus others, will be enough to land Halliday. It might well be, but who knows, especially since this segment of Cafardo’s article has no attributed source, even anonymous, on which to rely. Would I make that deal? Depending on the others involved, perhaps. Montero is absolutely off limits, yet Jackson plus Joba/Hughes seems to be the minimum for whom the Jays would ask. Personally, of the two whom I’d rather not see traded, it is probably Joba, for he has shown a greater ability to pitch effectively out of the bullpen and in the rotation. Yet it is worth remembering that Hughes had an injury-plagued 2008, and while he struggled in the team’s run to the World Series championship, Hughes was nothing short of outstanding as a setup man to Mariano. While Halliday is great and in no way would I complain if the Yankees acquired him–unless they gave away the farm system and both Joba and Hughes–I cannot help but urge patience with Joba and Hughes. Tell me the last time the Yanks have had two prized pitchers come up through the system at the same time like this.
Mariano and Pettite?
Exactly. The kids also helped the Yanks win a World Series, ahem.
In the meantime, worth examining if you have not done so already is some typically excellent minor league reporting by Chad Jennings on several additions to the Yankees’ 40-man roster, in this case Yankees pitching prospect Hector Noesi, about whom I knew nothing before Jennings, via Frankie Piliere, posted the following at LoHud. Noesi turns 23 this off-season. It’s worth a read.
Noesi is a very interesting guy, I guess probably the definition of a late bloomer as a prospect. I saw him with SI (Staten Island) in ‘08 and he had the fastball but not much in the way of a secondary pitch. This year when I saw him in Charleston then later on in Tampa he had come a long way. Sits around 91-93, touches 94 and heard reports of 95. But pretty steady around 92-93. Plus command of the fastball, can go east and west very well. The difference now is he’s mixing the curveball with good 12-6 action (72-76 mph). About an average pitch now, flashed plus now and then. Mixes a changeup but saw him make a lot of mistakes on it. 82-86 mph. Really a show pitch right now. If he can get it over enough he’s got a #3 type profile. He was just really surprising this year. Really became a pitcher, throws a lot of quality strikes and the fastball has a lot of life.
I don’t think he’s a guy that converts to the pen either. I saw him go deep into some games, change his patterns and actually even pick up velocity at higher pitch counts. His curveball had a tendency to tighten up later on too. Clean delivery, everything is pretty nice and easy.
I’ve thought he was maybe the most overlooked good prospect in the system by the end of the year. He’s not that far off I don’t think. Pitches and carries himself like an experienced guy.
It is important not to get too jazzed up about prospects, since so much can and cannot happen between their work in the minors and anything in the majors, if at all. But Noesi sounds intriguing and, if he can hone his off-speed stuff, it sounds as though he might start in Trenton in 2010–3-0, 3.92 ERA, 40 K/41 1/3, just 3 HR and 4 BB in Tampa last season. Again, we’ll see.
Plus, and with all due respect to the now-departed Pete Abraham. Jennings deserves considerable credit for how seamlessly he has made the transition to not just a new paper, but onto a new blog that, thanks to Abraham’s tireless work, without question has its own distinct blog culture. His knowledge of the minor leagues from his sterling work at SWB has without question abetted that and far surpasses that of Abraham, who himself did more than many beat writers to at least nod to the minors. Jennings, however, is three steps above Abraham in his detailed knowledge of the Yankees prospects, and has the connections with others to incorporate details of some of the lesser known players, as the quote above attests. It is also worth noting that Jennings has done more than fill in for Abraham, but has to a degree changed the material and also tenor of the blog at LoHud. I truly wondered if the paper would continue to devote the kind of time and work necessary into it that Abraham did to make it such a rich resource for fans. They have, but with Jennings in ways that complement what Abraham did. In some ways, Jennings was the right guy for that job, not just because he had his own terrific blog but also because his strengths–knowledge of the minors–help to round out what Abraham and now Borden and he do with the majors. Yet he also seems more laid back than The Mighty Abe, and I for one hope that it is a byproduct of his personality rather than adjusting to a new place that accounts for this welcome change. Well done, Chad.
Unrelatedly, I conked out somewhat and unexpectedly early tonight, then got up in the middle of the night with the TV still on, announcing on SportsCenter the belated outcome of the MLS championship game. So good to see that Real Salt Lake, a team with a losing record during the regular season, won the title on penalty kicks. Yawn. It isn’t as though I dislike soccer per se, although I find the sport dominated by a disproportionate amount of whiners and injury fakers, and just plain too low-scoring. Nor is it that I cannot appreciate the subtleties of the sport, for I love a well-placed cross for a goal or good scoring chance, and I enjoy good defense as much as the next bloke. I also fully respect how much running they do, especially the midfielders with last night’s announcers declaring that David Beckham ran approximately 3 1/2 miles in the first half alone. That is impressive. Plus, I watch my kids play soccer and appreciate every minute of it. But I must admit that there is not enough scoring for my tastes. Watching a game for a couple hours yet seeing but two goals is not my glass of beer. If soccer (or football as regular reader Nick rightly refers to it) averaged 4-6 goals per game, great. Otherwise, it just will not grab me. I hate to sound superficial on the subject, but scoring does matter to me, and quite frankly to many sports fans. It clearly delineates and quantifies success but, more than that, even a good number of scoring chances–sorely lacking from last night’s lackluster championship game–would help matters considerably. If I were to propose a somewhat radical, Skip Bayless-like change to the sport, it would be to allow double the substitutions to six per game. That might allow some fresh bodies and spring into games, while also increasing the number of scoring chances.