Baseball officials often say they like to break the season down into one- thirds. The first third is to evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses. The middle third is to look for solutions to your problems and to make changes – and the final third is to make a push with the new/improved team you’ve assembled. The Yankees are in that middle phase now and have gone through a lot in the season so far. They struggled for the first 42 games and had a .500 record on May 21st. They then went on an amazing 20-4 run that just ended with back to back losses to Atlanta. Now that we’ve seen their worst and their best baseball, I think it’s a good time to evaluate what this team needs to make a push for their 28th Championship.
The pen has been their strong point all season. Even after surviving the loss of 2 All-Stars in Mariano Rivera and David Robertson they still have kept it together. They are 3rd in MLB in bullpen ERA with a 2.73 mark and have blown a league-low 4 saves in 24 opportunities. With Rafael Soriano looking comfortable in the Closer’s role and Robertson returning healthy, the Yankee bullpen is set. Boone Logan & Clay Rapada have been absolutely excellent vs LH hitters and Cody Eppley and Cory Wade are serviceable in their roles. There may even be a chance that Joba and/or David Aardsma come back at some point this year so there is no need for them to look outside of the organization for relief help.
The starters have been pitching tremendously in June and on the season they are 5th in the A.L. with a 4.14 ERA. The one disturbing trend is that they lead all of baseball in HRs allowed with 65 and are 27th overall in opposing hitters OPS at .780. However, all the starters are pitching better as of late and right now the top 3 of C.C., Andy Pettitte & Ivan Nova look pretty strong. Kuroda is solid as a #4 and Hughes is OK as the #5 man. So the question is, can anyone out there help them? Read the rest of this entry
Wandy Rodriguez is a name that’s been linked to the Yankees on and off over the last year and a half. he was once a very attractive commodity but interest in Wandy cooled a bit when Astros GM Ed Wade signed him to a 3-year contract extension in January that made him much less attractive to other teams. The Yanks were known to have interest at the Trade deadline this summer but wanted Houston to pick up some of the money on the deal and talks stalled. However, with news that Ed Wade has been fired as GM this week, the new Astros GM will be coming in will have a different view and will likely try to cash in one of the team’s few attractive assets to continue the rebuilding that has seen Houston cut payroll from $102 Million in 2009 to $77M in 2011 and will be even lower in 2012. Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and others have been dealt so is it now Wandy’s turn?
Rodriguez has been a successful pitcher over the past 3 years putting up a record of 36-35 for poor teams in Houston with a 3.36 ERA / 3.73 FIP / 3.61 xFIP with a strong K/9 of 8.17 , 46% GB rate and a 0.96 HR/9. He’s shown solid durability averaging 32 starts and 197 IP since 2009.
Wandy is not a hard thrower. His 4-seam fastball maxes out around 92 and averages 89.1 MPH. His 2-seamer is slightly slower but has a lot more tail to it. Rodriguez’ out pitch is his curveball which is one of the most effective in MLB. The lefty threw it 37% of the time in 2011 and close to 50% of the time in 2-strike counts. He also throws a Change and a Cutter but the fastball and curve make up 84% of his pitches.
The curveball makes Wandy extremely tough on lefties who hit a mere .233/.281/.347/.628 OPS off him in 2011 and struck out once every 4 Plate Appearances.
Since his career year in 2009 when he went 14-12 with a 3.02 ERA he has seen a subtle decline in most of his peripheral stats. His K/9 dropped to 7.82, his lowest since 2007, while his BB/9 grew to 3.25 which is his highest since 2006. The other troubling number this year was his 13% HR/FB rate and subsequent 1.18 HR/9. Both of those rates were the highest since his rookie year in 2005. He still maintained a 3.49 ERA but are these numbers the signal of problems?
Although his curveball makes him a headache for lefties, he lacks an effective offering to baffle RH hitters who hit 256/.328/.439/.768 in 2011.
Playing for Houston, Wandy has had the advantage of facing some offensively challenged lineups in the NL West. How would his stuff translate pitching in the Al East? Well, if his career interleague stats are any indication, not too well. He has a career record of 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA & 1.42 WHIP in 130 IP. His K% drops to 6.6 and his HR rate jumps to 1.45 vs the AL.
Fit for Yanks?
It’s no secret that LHP has an advantage in Yankee Stadium and Rodriguez has fared pretty well pitching in a hitters park in Houston. Wandy is not exactly the strong #2 type starter the Yanks crave but he would be a welcome addition and could slot in as a solid #3. However, I am definitely concerned with how his stuff would play in the AL East against longer and stronger lineups. Coming off a bit of a down yr and turning 33 in January, there have to be some concerns whether he is heading for a decline or if 2011 was just a bit of a letdown after signing a large 3-yr extension.
The ‘Stros are in rebuilding mode and whomever takes over as GM will likely try to move Wandy. Wade tried to do it at the deadline but teams were scared off by the ridiculous contract extension. He has 3 yrs @ $39M remaining on it. The last year is a club option that becomes a player option if he’s traded. Moronic provision given by Wade.
The Astros traded Berkman to the Yanks for a couple of 2nd-tier prospects who both blossomed in Houston. Mark Melancon became their closer and Jimmy Paredes jumped from A-Ball to Houston at 22 yrs old and may be their starting 3B in 2012. This bodes well for reputation of the Yankee system with Houston.
What Would it take to Get Him?
That’s a tough question. Wade was asking for top prospects which is out of the question unless the Astros eat some of the salary. When you consider that Mark Buehrle could probably be signed for a contract similar to Rodriguez’, the only way Wandy becomes attractive is if he can be obtained cheaply or if Houston picks up some $. Hypothetically, I would guess maybe something like David Phelps and Corban Joseph might be appropriate.
Based on what’s available, I would only look to Wandy if the Yanks strike out on other fronts, or if Houston agrees to take on money, or agrees to 2nd-tier prospects. What do you think? What would you be willing to give up for Wandy? Houston fans, what would you want in return?
We’ll be updating this throughout the day. Now that both Kuroda and Jimenez are off the market, there doesn’t appear to be any difference maker left. Within 6 hours, Yankee fans will figure out if Cashman does have something in the cards. Hopefully, he does…
—UPDATE, 2:34pm: Check that, Heath Bell is still available. Rosenthal says its Adams the Rangers acquired, not Bell.
—UPDATE, 2:28pm: Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rangers and Padres have agreed to a deal for Heath Bell. So much for that route.
—UPDATE, 12:21pm: Jon Morosi reports the Yankees and Astros discussed Wandy as early as this morning.
—UPDATE, 12:11pm: Jon Heyman says the Yankees don’t like Rodriguez’s contract or even his pitching, necessarily, but “they know they need to do something.” Buster Olney says the Astros would have to eat a huge chunk of Wandy’s contract in order for them to strike a deal.
—UPDATE, 11:56am: Marc Carig says the Yankees wouldn’t have to include top end prospects for Wandy, if they “kick in enough money”.
—UPDATE, 11:39am: Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees are trying for Astros’ pitcher Wandy Rodriguez.
—UPDATE, 11:15am: Joel Sherman says the Yankees like Mike Adams more than Bell, because he is much stronger against lefties (.194 BAA compared to .273 BAA). However, Adams is not as cheap, as he is under control through next year. Bell is a Type A free agent after this year, so he could bring good draft pick compensation, notes Sherman. He also says that both Bell and Adams have success on the road, so their great numbers aren’t just a result of being in huge Petco Park.
—UPDATE, 11:06am: Could be nothing, but Austin Romine is not in the Trenton lineup today. Could be a normal day off, or not. We’ll see.
—UPDATE, 10:37am: As of this morning, there wasn’t much common ground for a Heath Bell trade between the Padres and Yankees, Joel Sherman says.
— Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are in on Padres’ closer, Heath Bell. Andrew Marchand speculates that Soriano would pitch the 6th, Robertson the 7th, Bell the 8th, and Mariano in the 9th. Sounds a bit farfetched, but it could be a last resort if they can’t trade for a solid starting pitcher by 4pm. Danny Knobler adds that when the Yankees couldn’t get a starter in the winter, they “threw $$$ at Soriano instead.” Now that they might not be able to get a starter, it may be Heath Bell.
Over the past month, I have noticed a lot of concern from Yankee Nation on Twitter and Facebook about the team’s starting pitching. Yes, the Yankees have CC Sabathia, who they can trust in a big spot. However, the other four starters are still a question mark. With the recent rumors of Ubaldo Jimenez and even rumblings of Felix Hernandez rolling around, starting pitching is something I wanted to address this week in the trade deadline series.
Keep this in mind: Next Friday night, I will be recording a special trade deadline podcast over at YanksGoYard.com where I will break down what the Yankees need in more detail and give my take on who they will obtain next Sunday by 4:00 EST. I want to hear from you guys as always. Questions and Comments as always will be taken for the show and put on air.
Well, let’s get to it. Here are five pitchers I think the Yankees will look at to help the rotation, but they are in no particular order.
- Wandy Rodriguez (Houston Astros) – The Yankees would love to have another lefty in their rotation for the playoffs, even if it is from the lowly Houston Astros. Rodriguez is not the sexiest choice, but he is a very efficient pitcher. He is 6-6 with a 3.67 ERA in seventeen starts. Now, his record is not pretty in any of his seasons in the Lone Star state. The positive on Rodriguez is that he has a 1.37 WHIP, which is pretty good and he has only given up 44 ER in 17 starts. The negative is that he is under contract till after the 2013 season, where he will make $13 million. The Yankees are a team that will spend money, but not that much on a number three starter at best.
- Anibal Sanchez (Florida Marlins) – I have been sticking up for Anibal for the past two weeks on Twitter. We all know this guy has no-hitter stuff since he has thrown one and nearly threw another one back in April. He is 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA and has great stuff. It shows with his two complete games. The only problem is Florida might want to keep him and put him in the rotation of the future in their new ballpark. The only starter they are really putting on the block is Ricky Nolasco. His strikeouts are up (9.3 K/9), but his asking price might be way up despite being a free agent. I would love him as a Yankee, but I do not see that happening.
- Chad Billingsley (Los Angeles Dodgers) – You know that a lot of teams will be looking at players from the Dodgers because of their financial situation. One of their pitchers in Hiroki Kuroda has already publicly he said he would not play on the East Coast. Former Yankee Ted Lilly just got a new deal with LA last year, so why not take a look at Chad Billingsley. The former Dodgers’ ace is 8-8 with a 4.07 ERA in 2011. Can the City of Angels afford to pay him over 10 million dollars in the next few years? Probably not. The guy does have postseason experience, but he is only 1-2 in four starts and went 0-2 in the NLCS back in 2008. Kuroda is a more reasonable option, but with his lack of desire to change time zones, I look for the Yankees to pursue Billingsley or Lilly as they always do.
- Ryan Dempster (Chicago Cubs) – This name came across me when I was listening to Mike Francesa’s conversation with SI.Com’s Jon Heyman on Tuesday. He has pitched much better in the past two months. He went 3-1 back in May with a 2.55 ERA and impressed the Yankees back in June during the series at Wrigley Field. His contract expires at the end of the year, but has a player option of $14 million. New York has Colon and Garcia who have pitched more effectively than the 7-7 Dempster, but Chicago might give them the right hander for practically nothing since they are trying to dump payroll.
- Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado Rockies) – Yes, I saved the best for last. Jimenez has not been the same Ubaldo that went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the All-Star break last year. I find it rather strange that GM Dan O’Dowd wants to trade him even though his contract is very manageable over the next couple of years. Ever since he defeated the Yankees back in June, he has seem to regain some of that arm strength on his fastball. The only problem is he doesn’t control his pitches well and pitching coach Bob Apodaca has tried very hard to fix those issues. The price is reportedly very high on his services and it’s not surprising since he is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in the month of July. Unless the price goes down, I don’t think the Yankees will trade for him.
2009 – No Roy Halladay
2010 – No Cliff Lee
2011 – Why would it be yes Ubaldo?