Cashman built pitching depth by learning from past

Phelps would be starting for most teams in MLB

Brian Cashman has been GM of the Yankees since 1998 and we have seen him grow and evolve in the job over the years.  Like all GMs, he has made his share of terrible moves along with a lot of great ones.  Not many GMs stick with an organization over 14 seasons the way Cash has and I think his ability to adapt and learn from past mistakes has turned him into the solid executive he now is and enabled him to keep the position. Through trial and error, he definitely has developed the proper strategy to develop a winning pitching staff.

He has tried to import established veteran pitching through Free Agency and trades in the past only to see the majority of those moves fail and usually cost the team millions.  His 2 best pitching acquisitions were big-money FA deals for established aces Mike Mussina & CC Sabathia but even a team with the resources of the Yankees can’t afford to keep building its staff through Free Agency.  Not only are there less and less quality starters hitting the market, but the high volatility and fragility of pitchers makes the massive cost for these starters in years and money extremely risky.

Cashman has learned the best way to have good pitching is to develop it yourself.  And more importantly, due to the high volatility and injuries, he has focused on compiling as much depth as possible.  He has had his lieutenants Damon Oppenheimer (Director of Amateur Scouting) and Billy Eppler (Director of Pro Scouting & Assistant GM) on the lookout for low-cost, quality arms to stock the system creating a pipeline to supply the Bronx with fresh arms.  In interviews he’s said the club made a decision at the end of 2005 to go back to building the farm system. That led to the highly productive 2006 draft which netted 8 Major Lg pitchers and the team has been developing better ever since.

In addition to all of their current pitching depth, they have also used several young pitchers in trades to improve the team.  Ian Kennedy, Zach McAlister, Mark Melancon, Arodys Vizcaino, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutcheon & Hector Noesi have all been dealt in recent yrs to improve the team in other areas.  I would say it’s likely some of the depth they have now will also be used in trades.  Cashman has found that quality young arms are excellent currency either to help the team or to use in trades.

The team has roughly 24 quality pitchers capable of pitching at the MLB level right now – almost enough to stock 2 teams with pitching.  Amazingly, 19 of those 24 are Homegrown pitchers or have been acquired in trades using homegrown talent.   This has set the team up for the present and the future and Cashman deserves a lot of credit for adapting his strategy.  This may have been his belief all along since this plan really started to take form around the time that Cash wrestled full control of the team from the Tampa contingent.  Except for the Soriano signing, he hasn’t had much meddling since.   Let’s take a look at the stable of arms to see where they came from.

Veteran Free Agents (5)

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia, Rafael Soriano, David Aardsma

Cash paid big money to get C.C. locked up to be the horse of the rotation thru 2016 and with good reason.  Having the big fella guaranteed for 230 quality IP and 19 wins every yr gives Cashman the cushion to take some chances with younger pitchers in the rotation.  Kuroda & Garcia are on 1 year deals at reasonable salaries for their production and Aardsma was a nice low risk/high reward signing.  The Soriano deal was a terrible contract that Cashman was overruled on.  I don’t expect the team to sign many FA pitchers in coming yrs unless they are of the 1 yr variety as the team doesn’t need to overpay for questionable starters anymore.

Cashman envisions Pineda developing into #2 starter

Acquired in Trades (3)

Michael Pineda, Boone Logan, Kevin Whelan

Both Pineda & Logan were acquired using young players developed thru the system.  Pineda is key to future pitching decisions because the team expects him to develop into a legitimate #2 starter in the coming years. If he can’t fulfill that prophecy and no one else steps up, the team may be forced to venture into the expensive trade or FA market for CC’s partner at the top of the rotation.

Logan was acquired with Javy Vazquez for Melky Cabrera & Arodys Vizcaino.  The trade route will continue to be an avenue used to bring in pitching as the current depth could be used to bring in younger pitchers like Jorge Campos in the Pineda deal.

Homegrown Veterans (2)

Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte

These guys are consistent veteran warriors that will be sorely missed when they are gone.  Mo was an Int’l FA signed from Panama as a 16-yr old and is still one of the best closers in MLB at 42. Pettitte was a draft and follow signed in 1991.  Any has the most Wins in post-season history and Mo has the most Saves in regular & post-season history.  They are tremendous leaders & competitors and the team will never be the same when they are gone.

Homegrown – Drafted out of H.S. (2)

Phil Hughes (1st-2004), Dellin Betances (8th-2006)

It’s a little surprising to see only 2 of the 24 pitchers were drafted out of High School.  However, Oppenheimer has been drafting quality H.S. arms in the last few yrs and the lower levels of the system has many promising arms.  Brett Marshall will start the season in AA and may be the next impact HS arm behind Betances.

Homegrown – Drafted out of College (6)

Robertson was a great pick in the 17th Round

David Robertson (17th-2006), George Kontos (5th-2006), David Phelps (14th-2008), Adam Warren (4th-2009), D.J. Mitchell (10th-2008), Joba Chamberlain (1st-2006)

This is the one area where Oppenheimer has done a tremendous job of finding useful starters and relievers, especially in later rounds.  Only Joba was a high pick here and there are even more college arms in the pipeline that will help in the coming years.  the team has found that drafting solid college pitchers is an inexpensive way to find lower risk/lower reward depth that can be back-end starters or useful relievers.  They are also available to contribute much quicker than HS picks or Int’l FAs.

Homegrown – International FA (2)

Ivan Nova (D.R.-2004), Manny Banuelos (Mexico-2008)

Nova was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last yr.  Although he was a top 10 prospect after his big 2010 in AAA, not many people thought he’d be more than a back-end starter.  His successful 2011 raised expectations and he’s now looked at as a solid #3/4 type starter. I thought there would be more International signees on the team but the Yanks have also traded 2 of their top Int’l pitchers in Vizcaino & Noesi.  Of course Mariano was also signed out of Panama.  Jose Campos from the Mariners trade is a young Venezuelan who may be the Yanks top pitching prospect after Banuelos.

Minor Lg Free Agent/ Rule 5 (4)

Cory Wade, Cesar Cabral, Clay Ravada, Manny Delcarmen

These pickups are a testament to the pro scouting department headed by Eppler. Last yr they found several low-risk useful arms in Bartolo Colon, Wade, Brian Gordon, Luis Vizcaino & Garcia.  This yr one of the lefties will make the team in addition to Wade.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on March 29, 2012, in Personal Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. awesome breakdown Fish. Very good article.

  2. DOUG,

    I was listening to the FAN today and I heard a guy say some things that sounded familiar about coaching kids for 30 yrs and pitching in the minors so I started listening a little closer. Then he mentioned the Verducci List…..then that Nova has pitched the worst of all the starters this ST… I’m like this has to be Doug! I was waiting for him to say the playoffs were random (lol!) but then I heard the Host say ……”Thanks for the Call Doug”.

    I knew that was you! Congratulations, that was cool! Always good to hear a voice to go along with the posts. Was that the first time you called into the show?

    • fishjam, Yes that was me, I had to chuckle reading your post about random, I know how much you hate that word because of me. I couldn’t get my point across because my cell died. I’ve called a few times and also on Mad Dog Radio. I don’t like to go by just a pitchers performance in the spring. I think Nova and Pineda are in the same boat that Hughes was in last year. There innings may have to be monitered, both are very young. Thats why the Yanks have Garcia and now Pettite. Pettite could be a steal at under 3 million, he would have cost the Yanks 14 million last year. The Yanks may want the young pitchers to start, but they may not last the whole year. Either way the Yanks are dealing from an area of strength this year with 7 quality starters. These things tend to work themselves out. Nova is the new golden boy with the general fan because of his success last year, where Hughes has lost his appeal by his performance last year. To me Nova is in the same position Hughes was in last year, coming off a good year and being over used. Unlike other teams when you start for the Yanks as a young pitcher you are going to be over used, because they always make the playoffs. Pineda and Nova were on the Verducci list.

      • Haha….new it was you Doug.
        Why does Verducci have Nova on his list? If I’m not mistaken he threw almost exactly the same amount of innings (around 175 or so) in 2011 and 2010. is it because he didn’t throw a lot in 2009?

        Pineda has to be a little concerning just because of the velocity drop he saw from 1st half of last yr to 2nd half. Can’t judge much by his ST, so we’ll see how he looks after a few real starts.

        Another factor to consider is although Garcia is a veteran, he hasn’t been a horse for quite some time and I don’t think he’s capable of throwing 190+ IP. I can’t look it up right now but I believe he hasn’t cracked 160 IP in over 5-6 yrs.

  3. When Yanks signed Chris Tatum it was assumed it was bc Romine had a setback and Tatum would start in AAA. But on LoHud they said today he has no minor-lg options. Maybe they just want to look at him then see if he’ll clear waivers to be sent down?

  4. I always thought Phelps reminded me of IPK but looking at his mechanics in that picture and thinking about his stuff, he’s got a little Mussina in him. Not to say he’ll be as good as Moose but he shares some similar traits.

    • fishjam, I agree, of all the pitchers I saw this spring, Phelps impressed me the most of the young arms. I hope he gets a chance to pitch in the majors a little this year. He might be a better option next year , even over Baneulos.

      • Doug/Fishjam…
        I agree with both of you on Phelps but, Banuelos would be the choice of Cash and Joe G.
        Come next year ST, having Banuelos and Phelps equal (About), a lefty is needed more than a right hander, as a starter. This year, it looks like Phelps is the better of the two, next year may be a different story.

        • OldYankee – Banuelos is definitely the jewel of the system and has big upside….I can’t wait til he’s ready to pitch in Yankee Stadium. But even though he’s at AAA and has great stuff, he’s still a 21 yr old kid. We’ll see how he develops this yr with a full season at AAA to work on his command and continue to build arm strength/stamina.

          Phelps is a mature, 25-yr old who pitched for a major college progrm at Notre Dame and has excelled at every level in the minors. He has the command & poise to pitch in the majors right now. He doesn’t have the max end upside that Banuelos has but he’s ready to go right now while Manny still needs some seasoning.

      • Doug….I was really impressed with Phelps & Mitchell and Warren to a slightly lesser extent. if there were openings, Phelps & Mitchell would def make this team.

        Mitchell looked great again tonight. His change up is a weapon against lefties and he even uses it vs righties. It’s a pitch he can use behind in the count when someones sitting on a fastball and it also has enough movement that he can use it as an out pitch. He threw it 4 times in a row tonight at different speeds to a lefty and struck him out. He is also capable of getting Double Plays whenever he needs them with his 2-seam sinkr riding down and in on righties. He is very impressive. His changeup is like Edwar Ramirez’ (remember him?) but he also has a nice curve, great sinker and cutter. He’s making it hard not to keep him although they’d have to get rid of Wade to do so.

        • Fish ,I have been a Phelps fan since the Yanks drafted him,but after watching Warren this spring I think he is going tom be the guy that makes it big.He is similar to phelps in stuff but I like his body ,seems stonger than Phelps or Mitchell.I think he’s a bulldog type .

          • Warren reminds me of Catfish Hunter.

          • BP……All 3 were impressive and Warren and Phelps are so evenly matched in terms of ability its almost a pick’em as to who I’d rather keep. Both look to be MLB starters to me. Mitchell has been very impressive also but I think he’s gonna be better suited as a MLB reliever. He’s a skinny guy without great velocity but he throws strikes, gets groundballs and is effective vs lefties with that Changeup. I like him as a guy who can throw multiple innings out of the pen.

  5. I like finding pictures of the players on the net and picking up little things. Like the fact that Phelps throws a spike curve (in above picture) like Mussina did. And seeing how Robertson grips his change-up in pic above.

  6. I see the Yanks just signed Steve Pearce to a minor lg contract.
    Has me thinking the signing of Pearce and yesterday’s Jack Cust signing could possiby mean they plan on letting Jorge Vazquez go as he requested.

    • It could, but I doubt it. Pearce would most likely play RF, while Colin Curtis and Chris Dickerson will play Left and Center. Cust and Vasquez will likely play 1B and/or DH, but Vasquez could be a waiver claim for another team.

  7. It getting close to crunch time on who Girardi will pick for his starting 5 on opening, just 6 ST games left but I would think Girardi will make a decision before the Yankees last ST game.

    I keep wavering between Pineda or Garcia being the odd man out. But right now I’m leaning towards Pineda being sent down and the Yankees taking a 2nd lefty north because of their heavy schedule versus some pretty good left handed hitting teams early in the schedule. But we’ll find out soon enough.

  8. I would be shocked if Pineda doesn’t make the rotation, his K/9 of 9.11 last year was 7 in the majors, and his BB/9 of 2.89 was good. This guy is a power pitcher, just what the Yanks need. He has pitched well enough this spring already to make the team. I like to go by a pitchers body of work, rather than one start. CC had a K/9 of 8.72 and BB/9 of 2.31 last year tops on the Yanks.

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