Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brian Bruney: Bearded Optimist

Few tears were shed among Yankee fans when Brian Bruney was flipped to the Nationals in December in exchange for the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, which eventually became Jamie Hoffman. It seems that the feeling is mutual. Despite being traded to a team that has lost 100 games two years in a row, Bruney told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he's happy to be a National (via MLBTR):
MLB.com: What was your reaction when you found out that you were traded to the Nationals?

Brian Bruney: I feel good being a National. I think there is a better opportunity for me there. I'm going to enjoy helping a team that hasn't been a winning franchise. We are going to be the 25 guys that make it a winning franchise.
MLB.com: It sounds like you are excited to be a member of the Nationals. Why?

Bruney: It's a new journey. It's a new challenge. You have to continue to challenge yourself. It seems it's going to be a lot of fun. When you expect to win every night like we did in New York, I don't know if the winning is as fun as when nobody expects you to win. You are the underdogs every night and you prove people wrong. I think that is a lot more fun. That's the part I'm looking forward to --- being on a team where nobody expects us to do anything. Hopefully we'll put some wins together, get on a roll and play good baseball for six months. We'll see where it goes.
To be fair, Bruney's bit about the expectations of winning as it relates to being on the Yankees sounds pretty similar to something I wrote after the Vasquez trade, but let's see how much fun winning is when you only do it 60 or 70 times a year.
Bruney: I can finally grow some facial hair after four years. That's great. That was one of the first things I thought about. When I was traded, I said, "Wow, finally, I can grow a beard."
"Yeah, fuck winning World Series, I'm gonna grow a beard!" We kid Bruney because we love him. Actually, we don't. But the man is a renegade, and the fact that he is going to a terrible team is probably better for his career.

Later on in the interview he makes it clear that he wants to compete for the closer job with newly-acquired free agent Matt Capps. He clearly wouldn't never have been given the opportunity on the Yankees and if he can finagle his way into a set-up or closing job for the Nationals, it will help with his arbitration value and his price on the free agent market when he eventually gets there. He's shown some flashes of brilliance throughout his career, so maybe he could actually win the closer's role over Capps. And as Fernando Rodney proved last season, you don't need to be a good pitcher to save games.

Is Vazquez A One Year Rental?

Good morning Fackers. It's been a week now since the Javier Vazquez trade. Aside from the non-sensical talk of "he can't pitch in NY!!!11!1", "home run Javy", and the focus on the small role he played in a team wide failure that resulted in the greatest post-season collapse in baseball history, the post-trade talking point that I'm most tired of is the presumption that this is a one year pick-up.

Yes. Javier Vazquez is only signed through the 2010 season. Yes, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, and others are slated to hit the free agent market following the 2010 season. Heck, maybe the Mariners are willing to shop King Felix at that point, or the Royals Zack Greinke. But at this point there's no telling who will be shopped or who will sign an extension by this time next year.

What we do know is that by this time next year, Andy Pettitte will be 38, a free agent, and doing the will-he-or-won't-he retirement dance for the fifth consecutive off-seeason. CC Sabathia will have one year left before before he has the right to opt out of his contract, and A.J. Burnett will be nearly 34 years old and either coming off his third consecutive injury free season or facing health concerns for the umpteenth time in his career.

So why do we just assume that the Yankees are going to let Vazquez walk? Sure the draft picks would be nice, but so would a pitcher who could give you 200 above average innings each year. Maybe the club wouldn't want to commit even a three year deal to the then 34 year old Vazquez, especially considering that he'll have about 2,700 ML innings on his arm by then.

But presuming that 2010 is the last year of Andy Pettitte's career, allowing Vazquez to walk would leave the Yankees with two openings in their rotation. One would go to the loser of this coming spring's Joba/Hughes competition. The other? If the likes of Lee or Beckett fail to hit the market or land in the Bronx the next tier of free agent pitchers is no better than Vazquez, and the same is likely to hold true for any of the in-house options (McAllister, Nova, Bleich).

I'm not saying the Yankees should sign Vazquez at the conclusion of next season. But before we presume that this will be another one and done stint in the Bronx, I think should consider some of the pitching situations the Yankees may be facing at this time next year and let the 2010 season play out.