Monday, March 22, 2010

Yanks Done Hassling With The Hoff

Earlier today, Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann cleared waivers and was returned to the Dodgers. The Dodgers will pay $25,000 for Hoffmann's return, half the initial price the Yankees paid for the pick. Hoffmann hit .130/.259/.174 in 26 plate appearances this spring. He drew three walks against one strike out and was one for two in stolen base attempts.

Barring an Elijah Dukes signing, it appears that Marcus Thames has won the fifth outfielder competition, despite his equally anemic .107/.167/.107 line in 29 plate appearances this spring and poor play in the field. Setting aside the useless, small sample size stats of the spring, it appears that the club values Thames' right handed power more than Hoffmann's versatility, defense, and speed. Thames may only do one thing well, but apparently that's the one thing the club is seeking from this spot. The team is lacking in right handed power from left field and the bench, but have players with skill sets similar to Hoffmann's in Brett Gardner and Randy Winn.

Speculation abounds that the Yankees may make a trade with Los Angeles, potentially sending an extraneous fifth starter candidate/longman such as Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre, to secure Hoffmann's rights. This would slightly reduce payroll and would free the Yankees from carrying Hoffmann under Rule 5 obligations, giving them the flexibility to stash him at AAA rather than carry him on the Major League roster all year. If that were to happen, it would create quite a log jam in the Scranton outfield with Hoffmann, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Reid Gorecki, Jon Weber, and David Winfree, though Hoffmann figures to be of more value than the rest of them.

On the flip side, such a deal would also mean that the Yankees had to trade two Major League pitchers - Brian Bruney and whoever goes west - in order to obtain a AAA outfielder. None of those pitchers should be considered a major loss, but I'd like to think that for the price of two Major League caliber pitchers the team could at least secure a fifth outfielder in whom they are confident.

In the end, it doesn't appear the pick has worked out well for the Yankees. The Rule 5 Draft isn't designed for teams like the Yankees and it was unlikely from the start that they'd obtain anyone of value from the pick. For every Johan Santata, Joakim Soria, or Shane Victorino that gets selected in the Rule 5, there are hundreds of Jamie Hoffmanns and the like who don't pan out. Still, Brian Cashman executed a shrewd trade with the Nationals to secure the top pick in the draft. It's unfortunate they weren't able to find a usable part with the pick of the litter.

Midday Odds & Ends

Here are a few items of note, mostly from over the weekend:
A rainout down in Florida forced the Yankees to schedule an intrasquad game today to ensure that all their pitchers stayed on their respective schedules.

Hearing that, Jon Heyman busted out his jump to conclusions mat and declared that since Joba Chamerlain was not playing against the Phillies in Clearwater that he was no longer in the race to be fifth starter and can take his rightful place in the bullpen. (/rolls eyes and makes wanking motion)

Where does Joba belong? The chronically uninformed and impatient contingents of the interwebz have spoken loud and clear.

Alfredo Aceves had a bad outing against the Astros (4.1 IP, 5R). HE'S OUT OF THE RACE!!!!!

Chad Jennings profiled Ace in the Journal News on Sunday.

While the primary topic of the Yanks' Spring Training continues to focus on who will be the 5th starter, Marc Hulet at FanGraphs contends that the role is something of a myth. He instead suggests a three-headed approach to soaking up the last 25 or so starts the top four members of the rotation don't make.

Mark Teixeira (somewhat understandably) doesn't understand why UZR categorizes him as a below average first baseman. Joe Pawlikowski explains what UZR might be missing, to which I will add the fact that the metric totally disregards infield line drives which go a long way between determining which first baseman are good and which aren't. Joe also leaves open the possibility that we are giving Teix a little too much credit.

Marc Carig has a video interview with Phil Hughes wherein Phil demonstrates and discusses the different grips he uses for this 4-seamer, cutter, curve and change.

Carig also caught up with Kevin Towers over the weekend who explained how his background helped him as GM in San Diego:
Because I wore several hats, I probably had a greater appreciation for all the different roles. I knew what it was to be a player, to be a prospect, how difficult it was being a prospect and going through the different levels of the minor leagues, what goes through a player’s mind. As an area scout, how difficult and lonely a job that is... You feel like you’re kind of off there on your own, especially when I was doing it. There wasn’t cell phones, there wasn’t computers, there wasn’t voice mail. You were really kind of a nomad out there trying to find players.
Before Jesus Montero was assigned to minor league camp, Chad Jennings sat down with him for 5 questions.

Austin Romine, Colin Curtis, Reid Gorecki, Dustin Mosely, Jason Hirsh also got the boot from the Big Leauge camp.

Tyler Kepner caught up with Chein-Ming Wang.

'Duk from Big League Stew checked in on Rinku and Dinesh, the winning contestants from the Indian reality show Million Dollar Arm.

Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star did a piece on the mysterious man that is Tom Tango, who helps the Blue Jays' front office in an advisory capacity.

Jeff from Lookout Landing ran some data in an effort to see how much LASIK surgery benefited the players who had it done and came to a somewhat unexpected conclusion.

If plan on visiting Citizen's Bank Park anytime soon, you might want to vote for their signature hot dog. My vote would certainly be for the The South Philly, which is "all-beef and topped with broccoli rabe, spicy roasted peppers, and sharp provolone on an Italian roll". They had me at "broccoli rabe".

This suspect's second biggest crime was wearing a green Yankees hat.

The Bells Of St. Mary's

Good morning, Fackers. Hopefully everyone had a good weekend. Between the beautiful weather in the Northeast and the great NCAA tournament action, you'd need a pretty serious excuse to not have had a good past couple of days.

Although Albany's own Siena failed to upset Purdue and was bounced in the first round, Jason's alma mater Syracuse breezed through both UVM and Gonzaga on the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Surprisingly, they weren't the only school from New York to win their first two games with ease. In the same weekend that they won the ECAC championship in hockey, Cornell handily dismantled both Temple and Wisconsin, racking up 165 points along the way. Rumor has it that Andy Bernard has been on a three day bender.

The Big Red - and the bear on its logo that would surely be mauling the shit out of you if that giant "C" weren't holding him back - were one of 9 teams to pull off upsets in the first round (not counting 8 vs. 9 match ups) and join Nothern Iowa, St. Mary's and Washington as seeds in the bottom half of the tournament who have made their way into the round of 16.

It's not hard to understand why the NCAA tournament is so popular. There are a metric ton of things to like about it. The last four days have been jam packed with exciting roundballing action and brackets get people who aren't fans of college basketball or even sports in general moderately interested in the games. In general, CBS does a good job of switching to the best game on, so watching it is sort of like having the Red Zone channel. Sometimes you get lulls in the action or two good finishes happening at the same time, but it's extremely watchable even for someone who doesn't even have a dog in the fight.

On a deeper level though, my favorite part of the tournament are the upsets. With a few exceptions, I root for the team with the higher number next to their name. The assumption might be that Yankee fans wouldn't root for underdogs but that's not really how sports fandom works.

The tournament is the perfect showcase for Cinderella stories. In no other sport are there such clearly labeled #2 Goliath vs. #15 David match ups and there is something about human nature that makes us pull for the little guy. One of the most compelling things to watch in all of sports is a huge underdog try to weather an onslaught from the favorite in the closing minutes of a game with their respective season's hanging in the balance.

It was a pretty good weekend for underdogs in the MLB as well. The Twins (who aren't really a small market team, but act like one) signed Joe Mauer to an 8 year, $184M contract. He essentially got Mark Teixeira money but based on the gap between him and the next best catcher in the league (probably Jorge Posada at the moment), has the potential to be much more valuable. Even if he can't stay behind the plate for that whole time - which is pretty likely given that he'll be 35 when it expires - if he's still hitting anything like has over the past few years, his bat alone still might be worth $23M a year.

I'm honestly happy for the Twins and Mauer. The hometown boy gets a massive deal and the team locks up one of the very best players in baseball for a very long time. It's not without risk, but it was the right thing for both sides. The deal is good for the game of baseball as well. Between moving out of that shitty old Dome and locking up Mauer long term, the Twins franchise is shining pretty brightly coming into the 2010 season.

While part of my inner Yankee fan isn't exactly begging for more competition atop the AL and would have obviously enjoyed watching Mauer play everyday instead of 10 times a year, the other part knows baseball is a better game when franchises have identifiable superstars and play in nice buildings and that it made too much sense for the Twins not to make the ultimate commitment to the pride of St. Paul. Maybe the latter is the same part of me that likes to see St. Mary's take down Villanova.

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