Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Evening Links

While the General Managers' Meetings continue at the O'Hare Airport Hilton, there's not much worthwhile to pass along other than irresponsible rumor mongering based on vague and non-specific quotes. MLBtraderumors.com can keep you up to date with what's going on outside the nation's busiest airport. Here are some links to get you through the night:
  • Joel Sherman reports that Johnny Damon won't give the Yankees a home team discount. I'm not going to put too much stock into this at this point. First of all, it's based on what Scott Boras says. Secondly, this is typical early posturing in free agent negotiations. Thirdly, we'll continue to discuss this at length here as the Hot Stove League moves on.
  • This one came through BBTF over the weekend (I swear on all that is holy that I don't read OK Magazine). A-Rod's special lady friend's kind-of-dad, Kurt Russell, weighs in on the Yankee third baseman. Normally I would dismiss this as just another Hollywood asshole giving us his opinion on something we didn't ask for in the first place, but Russell actually knows a little baseball, spending three years in the Angels' organization until a shoulder injury ended his career. He's also the uncle of former Met Matt Franco.

That's it for tonight Fackers. See you in the AM.

Two Parts Awful, One Part Awesome

That pretty much describes the entirety of what you can find at Everything Is Terrible. They specialize in mash ups of embarrassing instructional videos, repetitive promotional videos, obnoxious videos attempting to tell you how to be funny, anti-drug videos so unrealistic that they border on propaganda, ridiculous religious videos, awful 80's movies, and apparently even do really strange live shows.

Well I bring them up because they recently found a baseball video that takes the most annoying components of Scooter the talking fastball and the cheesiest parts of Tom Emanski's videos and compressed it down into two and a half very terrible minutes.

And to make up for how painful that was to watch, here is my favorite EIT creation, which isolates the part in every infomercial where the narrator essentially asks "Are you tired of...?":

Replacing A World Series MVP [Part II]

Yesterday, Matt noted that for the third time since 1996, the Yankees will have to evaluate whether or not to retain a World Series MVP who is heading into free agency. In 1996, they opted to let John Wetteland walk in favor of an up-and-coming closer named Mariano Rivera. However, they decided to keep Scott Brosius after their legendary 1998 campaign instead of turning to Mike Lowell, who had just posted two excellent minor league seasons, the majority of which came at AAA.

Interestingly, 11 years later, Mike Lowell found himself playing the role of Brosius for the 2007 Red Sox with frightening accuracy. Lowell had a standout year at the plate that was driven by a batting average well above his career mark, played excellent defense at 3rd while putting up an OPS+ in the 120's, made the All-Star team, and drove in exactly 15 runs in the postseason en route to a team championship and a World Series MVP.

Membahs of Rex Sawx Nation were all, "Aw, you've gotta resign Mikey Lowell. Dood is fackin' moooooney!" And, yes, some people (presumably a group of 7th graders) even started a petition, which included this gem:
These statistics show that Mike Lowell has elevated his game since his coming to Boston. In the perspective of Red Sox Nation, he has been the team MVP the entire 2007 season. He delivered for the team when the team needed something big to happen. Mike Lowell has been "a clutch player" this entire season.

However, this past post-season, he has taken things to another level.
[cites 2007 postseason stats]
So how did Mike Lowell's incredible postseason carry over into the 3 year, $36M contract he signed with the Sox? What of his "Bostonian Game Elevation" and "Clutch Player-ing"?

Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Lowell has hit only slightly above league average for a third baseman, played no more than 110 games in either season at 3rd base, underwent hip surgery, watched his defensive skills erode and oh by the way, kind of sucked in the playoffs.

So what of Hideki Matsui, who finds himself in a similar situation this year? Matsui won't be looking for a deal anywhere near as long, and didn't even play defense this year, but both are older players coming off surprisingly strong offensive seasons, punctuated by productive postseasons and, of course, the WS MVPs.

Yesterday, Brian Cashman came right out and said that he wasn't going to be influenced by what Matsui (or Johnny Damon) did in the playoffs when it comes to deciding whether or not to hold onto them this offseason:
We’re thankful for the guys who did what they did, and if you had a great postseason, terrific.

What they are when they went into October, that’s what they still are, regardless of how good or how poor they played in the postseason.
I know Matt advocated bringing Hideki Matsui back yesterday (not because of his postseason, obviously), but I'm on the other side of this debate. There are certainly going to be offensive losses involved with giving Posada, A-Rod, Jeter and Damon days off by DH'ing them, but there will also be defensive upgrades. I believe those players are going to need the days off and having to sit Matsui by no fault of his own will make it more difficult for Joe Girardi to give guys adequate rest, regardless of how professional Matsui is about it. And if he's on he bench in 1/3 or 1/2 of the games, how effective will Matsui be when he finally gets to the plate?

Matsui's knees have become a nagging problem and he needed to have them drained multiple times throughout the season. They have already turned him into a full-time DH so I think it's fair to wonder how long it will be before they total kill his baserunning skills and begin to sap his offensive power as well.

He was a great hitter and a consummate professional in his time with the Yankees, but I think it's time to say "sayonara" to Godzilla and send him off on the highest possible note. Thanks for the memories, Hideki.

Revisiting Mike Cameron & CF

Good morning Fackers. As I mentioned yesterday morning, even though we continue to bask in the glow of the Yankees' World Series victory, the Hot Stove League is underway in earnest. The Elias Rankings for free agents were released yesterday. Brian Cashman arrived at the General Managers' Meetings in Chicago yesterday and explained that the Yankees will be taking the cautious approach with their off-season moves.

Be that as it may, other teams are already acting. One of the first deals this off-season occurred Friday, when the Brewers flipped shortstop JJ Hardy to the Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez. On the surface this deal has minimal impact on the Yankees, but I think there could be a ripple effect to this.

It was a virtual lock that the Brewers were going to move Hardy, given that top prospect Alcides Escobar is primed to take over at short. The prevailing theory was that Milwaukee would use Hardy to bring in some much needed pitching help, and they still will, but in a roundabout way. Gomez will be an approximate $4.5M cost savings over Hardy next year, and Gomez' presence has allowed the Brew Crew to let incumbent center fielder Mike Cameron and his $10M salary walk as a Type B free agent.

This is where I think things can get interesting. The Yankees kicked the tires on Cameron when he was a free agent following the 2007 season and last off-season were involved in ongoing discussions with the Brewers about a potential Melky Cabrera for Cameron swap.

In Cabrera (.274/.336/.414, 99 OPS+, .331 wOBA, 2.3 UZR/150) and Brett Gardner (.270/.345/.379, 93 OPS+, .337 wOBA, 15.4 UZR/150) the Yankees have two good, young players at a premium defensive position, both of whom outperformed the average AL center fielder in 2009 (.265/.329/.403). As we detailed yesterday, in Austin Jackson the Yankees have a highly rated center field prospect who is probably half a year to a year away from being ready to take over. He is almost universally projected to be a better player than both Cabrera and Gardner, perhaps as soon as this coming season. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the Yankees have a glut of young talent at a premium defensive position.

This is a good position in which to find themselves, as the Yankees have some trade chips to carry into a post-season with a relatively weak free agent market. Knowing that Jackson is likely a year away at most and knowing that Cameron, in whom they've expressed interest in both of the last two off-seasons, is available without having surrender a draft pick, might the Yankees consider trading one of their two current center field options now, and sign Cameron as a one year place holder for AJax?

I wouldn't rule it out. I don't envision the Yankees committing the years or dollars to Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. I don't think any of the other corner outfield free agent options are particularly palatable. If Damon and/or Matsui departs, the Yankees will be in the market for a corner outfielder/DH type. I don't particularly relish the idea of either Cabrera or Gardner playing a corner since they lose much of their value there, and I would imagine the Yankees feel the same way. If the Yankees are relatively certain that Austin Jackson will be prepared to be the center fielder in 2011, thereby relegating both Cabrera and Gardner to fourth/fifth outfielder status, then the time is now to cash in on either Gardner or Melky.

If it were up to me, Cabrera would be the one getting shopped. It's no secret here that we've been big advocates of Brett Gardner being the regular center fielder on the strength of his on base percentage, his speed on the bases, and his extraordinary range in the field. Cabrera had a very nice bounce back season in 2009, posting his best numbers since his rookie campaign in 2006. He's still just 25, has a good arm, is a decent enough defender, and is a switch hitter who has shown the ability to hit Major League pitching at a young age. But I'm still not sold on him, and I'm admittedly enthralled with Garnder's plate discipline, speed, and range. If someone else is going to take over in center, I'd rather have Gardner available off the bench than Melky.

As for Cameron, he's not without his warts. He'll be 37 come Opening Day, which is absolutely ancient by center field standards. He doesn't hit for a high average and strikes out a ton. But, he's still a valuable player. He walks at a good clip, posts a decent OBP, is a 20+ HR guy, and outside of a one year blip playing in the spacious confines of Petco Park's outfield, he's been an outstanding defender over the course of his career. He'd probably come cheaper than the $10M he made last year - perhaps $8M, and is unlikely to get a multiyear offer elsewhere. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs even makes the argument that Cameron is more valuable than Jason Bay. Far less importantly, he's considered yet another "good character" guy and is reportedly close with former teammates Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia.

Cameron could be a very nice one year place holder for AJax while allowing the Yankees to capitalize on the current value of Cabrera or Gardner to fill other needs. What do you think Fackers?

(Gardner/Cabrera Photo, Cameron Photo)