Pole Results as voted on by you!

Pole Results as voted on by you!
Team that will have the worst record in 2012: Houston Astros (67%)
Second player that should have been voted into the HOF in 2012: Jeff Bagwell (75%)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rounding The Bases – Week Ending 1/29/12

Sorry for this article being a day late baseball fans! Sometimes when you travel to visit family it’s next to impossible to keep up with a blog. You know how that is! Anyway, here are a few of the smaller but tastier bits of baseball news and activity over the past week:

Trainer’s Table:

Justin Morneau has told the media he is healthy and right on target for the beginning of spring training. Without Morneau and teammate Joe Mauer being healthy the Minnesota Twins do not have much of a chance competing in the American League West Division. Morneau has battled a variety of injuries the past two years and only played 150 games over that span. He admitted that he still has some recurring headaches from his severe concussion, which is something you DON’T want to hear if you are a Twins fan!
Kangaroo Court:

The Cleveland Indians have not abandoned Roberto Hernandez Heredia (Fausto Carmona) and are actively trying to help him with his false identity/age issues in his native Dominican Republic. They have, how ever, placed him on the restricted list, which basically means he doesn’t get paid but the Indians still have his rights. It is not known how far the judicial process will pursue him there and when/if he will be allowed to play in the United States again. The Indians have made it clear that the 31 year old would be welcomed back to pitch this year.

Arbitration News:

Tim Lincecum avoided arbitration by reaching a two year deal with the San Francisco Giants for a reported $40.5 mil total. This will cover his last two arbitration years and Lincecum will be a free agent after the 2013 season. The 27 year old, two time Cy Young winner, has avoided signing a long term contract and seems destined to test free agency in a couple of years.

Russell Martin and the New York Yankees avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one year deal worth $7.5 mil. The deal also includes performance bonuses. The 28 year old catcher played great defense and surprised the Yankees organization with great game calling. His offensive numbers may have slipped very badly the second half of the season but the Yankees would be happy if he just duplicates his season in 2012.

Robert Andino and the Baltimore Orioles greed to a one year deal, worth $1.3 mil, avoiding arbitration. The versatile 27 year old infielder played games at 2nd, short, 3rd, and even leftfield last season. As often happens, the team and the player just evenly split the difference between their two submitted figures.

Brandon Morrow signed a three year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to avoid arbitration. The deal is worth a reported $21 million and also includes a team option for 2015. The 27 year old righty fireballer is your prototypical starter who strikes out a ton of batters but can’t always find the strike zone when needed. Morrow was 7th in the AL last year for K’s. His 2011 season: 30 GS, 179.1 IP, 203 K, 11-11 record, 1.29 WHIP, 4.72 ERA, .237 Avg against.

Arbitration Signings:

Hunter Pence (OF) – Philadelphia Phillies – 1 yr/$10.4 mil

Cuban Player News:

Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban outfielder, has just established legal residency in the Dominican Republic. This was the first step needed for Cespedes to become a free agent and sign with a major league team. Once the MLB goes over the paperwork they will confirm his free agency and the bidding can begin. There is a wide variance in opinions about his being major league ready, at least as a hitter.  The 26 year old’s speed, arm and outfield defense are all supposedly well above average.

Old Man River:

Soon to be 45 year old Omar Vizquel signed a one year minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that includes an invite to spring training. Vizquel will compete for a utility infielder role and if he makes the team, it would be his 24th major league season! He has been a playing “coach” for the past several years mentoring young shortstops along the way (Elvis Andrus and Alexei Ramirez for examples). Last year he played in 58 games for the Chicago White Sox while making appearances at all 4 infield positions.
Free Agent Signings:

Cody Ross signed a one year deal with the Boston Red Sox for $3 mil. The deal includes bonus incentives based on plate appearances. The right handed pull hitter should be a nice fit at Fenway, and will probably be part of a right field platoon with Ryan Sweeney. The 31 year old Ross is also extra insurance if leftfielder Carl Crawford isn’t ready to start the season after having wrist surgery. Ross had a poor offensive season in 2011, and is only a career .261 hitter, but with some pop in his bat. He is hoping to come to spring training and convince manager Bobby Valentine that he deserves the right field spot fulltime.

Francisco Cordero signed a 1 year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for a reported $4.5 mil. The 36 year old closer was the odd man out in this off-season and settled for a deal where he could find one. Cordero was 7th in the NL last year with 37 saves while closing for the Cincinnati Reds. He also had a 1.02 WHIP and a 2.45 ERA, both figures were much better than his career figures of 1.33 WHIP and 3.17 ERA. The Reds didn’t think Cordero, at his age, could reproduce such a good season again and instead signed Ryan Madson to close for them.

Wilson Betemit, the well-traveled infielder, signed a two year contract with the Baltimore Orioles worth a reported $3.25 mil total. There is a third year option that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 700 plate appearances the next two seasons. The 30 year old is well traveled, to say the least, as Baltimore will be his seventh organization in his tenth season! Last year Betemit hit .285 in 323 at bats while playing games at second base, first base, and third base.

Kevin Millwood has agreed to a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners that includes an invite to spring training. Millwood will earn a cool $1 million if he makes the team along with possible performance bonuses. The 37 year old pitcher has a career record of 163-140, 1.32 WHIP and 4.10 ERA.

Juan Pierre agreed to a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 34 year old outfielder also is invited to spring training to try and make the team. The details of the contract have not been disclosed as of yet. Pierre’s speed and defense have been declining the past couple of years, but the Phillies are only looking to strengthen their bench, not start Pierre.

American League Here We Come:

The Houston Astros organization is slated to change leagues after the 2012 season. But it turns out just switching leagues isn’t the only thing they are considering changing. The new owner Jim Crane announced that they are considering also changing the team name and it’s uniforms to coincide with the switch. This would not be the first time the Houston organization changed its name. The original team name was the Colt 45’s when the organization was established in 1962. The team changed names in 1965 when they moved into the infamous Astrodome Ballpark.

2012 All-Star Game:

Tony LaRussa, who recently retired, announced he would manage the National League all-stars in the All-Star game. The two managers from the World Series are the ones who normally manage the two sides during the All-Star game, but with LaRussa retiring after the World Series it wasn’t certain he would be the one to manage the NL side. LaRussa will be only the second retired manager to manage in the All-Star game, the first being HOF manager John McGraw way back in 1933.

Los Angeles Dodgers For Sale:

There are officially ten groups that have passed the hurdle and are going to be allowed to bid on the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Former Dodger Greats Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey headed one group that was already cut out of the process. MLB has been tightlipped (to say the least) about most of the process and the information received is usually leaked out several days after the fact. I’m, personally, still holding out hope that a solid baseball man fronts the winning group.

Labor Agreement News:

One of the points with the new labor agreement is the adding of an additional playoff round. It has not been made official yet, but commissioner Bud Selig is making a huge push to have that start this season instead of in 2013. I would hope that announcement is made before the start of the season! A few teams would make different decisions based on that information.

Now that Prince Fielder has signed, many teams and their rosters are starting to take shape. Spring training is right around the corner… see you guys for next week’s edition of ROUNDING THE BASES!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jorge Posada Retires – Thanks For The Memories!

After an incredibly solid 17 year career as the catcher for the New York Yankees, Jorge Posada finally hung up his face mask and catching gear for the last time. I can honestly say I am very sad, as Jorge was definitely one of my favorite Yankees. Maybe it was just some delusional wish, but after the Yankees recently traded Jesus Montero freeing up some designated hitter at bats, I thought there might have been a chance they bring him back for one more season.
But, I admit, it was more than obvious during the season that it was Posada’s last year with the Yankees, as he and the manager Joe Girardi had basically hit a wall. And I am very glad, perhaps selfishly as a fan, that he didn’t sign on for one more year with another team. There is a certain honor with a player only playing for one team in their career, especially as a Yankee (and yes I am a bit biased). And I remember, though many have forgotten, Jorge was once actually offered more by the New York Mets to play for them and he turned them down (4 years ago). He wanted to be a Yankee and that means a lot.

The 40 year old Posada helped the Yankees win four championships (1998, ’99, ’00 and 2009), just missing a 5th one in 1996 (while he played 8 games for the Yankees at the end of the year he was not involved in the post season). He was an integral part of the Yankee’s late 90’s dominance, one that sometimes went unnoticed by many. But that was OK with Posada. Being surrounded by the likes of Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neil, David Wells, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Andy Pettitte and Tino Martinez (amongst many others), Posada knew that he would be regularly overshadowed game to game by a different teammate. But those same teammates were the ones that have always recognized what he brought day in and day out, and that was all the notice Posada needed.

Many people talk about how blessed the Yankees are to have the greatest reliever staying healthy and closing for them for 17 years. Well on a quieter level the same also applies to Jorge and catching. It is physically the most demanding position on the field, a position where many players get recognized just for surviving much less excelling. After catching 8 straight seasons of at least 137 games (2000 through 2007), Posada finally went on the DL for the first time in his career in April of 2008! An incredible feat of durability for a catcher.

A little early history…
Posada was Drafted in 1990 as the 24th round pick, and as an infielder! In high school he was an all-star shortstop and in college he was a middle infielder. Posada mostly played 2nd base his first year in the minors with the Yankees (64 games versus 11 as a catcher). It wasn’t until his second minor league year in 1992 that it was suggested he try becoming a full-time catcher. Jorge’s development as a catcher was great considering his lack of experience at the position. He would have made it to the big leagues faster if not for a horrific leg break and ankle dislocation in 1994 while blocking the plate at Triple-A. Many detractors of Posada don’t realize that, after this incident, the Yankees organization told Posada to avoid directly blocking the plate as much as possible. There was always a fear he could easily hurt that ankle again from another collision.

Remembering some of my favorite moments…
The image of Posada standing on 2nd base with his arms raised in exultation after tying the game against Pedro Martinez in 2003 is one of the best Yankee images I have. Another great memory was when his itsy, bitsy son Jorge Jr. ran out for him in the 2002 All-Star game ceremonies. Another one will be his catching in his one and only game last year in September. He came into the game (in an emergency with Russell Martin getting hurt by a foul tip) and without any practice all season nor in spring training, the only base runner that tried to steal against him he threw out. Cold arm and all, just a BB to second base. The look on Posada’s face said it all. Like the old western sheriff still making his presence known to the bad guys. Just fantastic!
Posada came up at the time that Mike Piazza was showing that he is arguably the best hitting catcher in history. And with Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez strutting his stuff (he was the AL MVP in 1999) it was tough for Posada to get noticed, but he was content with helping the Yankees win some championships. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that Posada came into his own offensively, and with Pudge starting to decline, Posada started to become recognized (this also coincided with Joe Girardi leaving the Yankees after the 1999 season). He was a 5 time All-Star, the same years he won his 5 Silver Slugger Awards (2000, ’01, ’02, ’03. ’07). Posada easily led all catchers for the 2000’s in driving runs in with 819 ribbies in total (next closest was surprisingly Bengie Molina with 665?!).

Jorge Posada’s Career Stats – 17 seasons (1995 – 2011):
1,829 GP, 6,092 at bats, 900 Runs, 1,664 hits, 379 doubles, 275 HR, 1,065 RBI, 936 BB, 1,453 K,  .273 Avg, .374 OBP, .474 SLG, .848 OPS

Only 5 catchers in history have ever amassed: 1,500 hits, 350 doubles, 275 homers and 1,000 ribbies. To me that speaks volumes about how underrated Posada has been through out most of his career (playing under Mike Piazza’s and Ivan Rodriguez’ shadows the first part of his career). Not only was he solid as a hitter, but also he was able to play through many bumps and bruises and still produce. I understand that baseball stats can be manipulated to bring out the best in a player. It can be a simple matter of perspective. For example, Posada is the only catcher to ever hit .330 or better with 40 doubles, 20 home runs and 90 ribbies in a single season. And to show you how tough it is for a catcher to regularly get a double, only two catchers in history have two seasons of 40 or more doubles! Posada and Pudge. You can look it up, I did!

His best offensive season was 2003 when he was third in MVP voting. You have to realize how tough it is to have an OPS (on base plus slugging) over .900 while playing everyday as a catcher. That’s near impossible! Then throw in catching some of the biggest pitching egos in the game at the same time. Ouch! (Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Jeff Weaver, Jeff Nelson, Armando Benitez and Mariano Rivera just to name a few)

Jorge Posada’s 2003 season:
142 GP, 83 R, 30 HR, 101 RBI, 93 BB, .281 Avg, .405 OBP, .518 SLG

Posada played 1,574 games at catcher, 42 at first base, 1 at second base and the rest as a DH (or pinch hitter).

Jorge continues the long line of great Yankee catchers: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. Great company to say the least!
Some special moments or oddities in Posada’s career…
He was originally drafted in the 43rd round by the Yankees the previous year (in 1989), but declined to sign because he still hadn’t finished getting his community college degree.
He led the major leagues in pinch hits with 20 in 2006.
He only had one sac bunt ever… way back in September 11, 1997. With 7,150 official plate appearances that is as amazing as anything!
He caught David Wells’ perfect game on May 17, 1998.
He and teammate Bernie Williams became the first pair of switch-hitting teammates to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. (April 23rd, 2000)
He hit the first ever home run at the New Yankee Stadium. (April 16th, 2009)
Jorge was a rock behind the plate and a class act. When asked what his greatest single baseball moment was, he answered in typical catcher fashion “catching David Well’s perfect game”. I can’t explain how much I will miss his presence while following the Yankees. I watched the recent press conference where Jorge announced his official retirement, and seeing the late Thurman Munson’s widow Diana pay tribute to Jorge really did hit home. She compared Jorge to Munson, both as a person and their style of play. No other measure of respect could have been greater.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yu Know Yu Are Excited To See Yu Pitch!

(OK, I promise no more “Yu” puns the rest of the article!)

It took just about every minute of the 30 day deadline the Texas Rangers had to finalize a deal with Japanese Pitcher Yu Darvish. The Rangers signed Darvish to a 6 year deal worth $56 million guaranteed with additional incentives. This signing means the Rangers will send their $51.7 million posting fee to the Hokkaido Nippon Fighters, bringing the actual guaranteed total they are paying for Yu to $107.7 mil before any incentives kick in! That breaks down to $17.95 mil a season, so it’s obvious the Rangers are confident he will produce.
I know that figure of $17.95 million doesn’t specifically count as his yearly salary (and it probably will end up being a different figure at some point), but for fun let’s see where it would land on the 2012 pitcher’s salary list.

2012 Top Nine Pitcher’s Salaries:
1) Johan Santana $24 mil
2) CC Sabathia $23 mil
3) Cliff Lee $21.5 mil
4) Justin Verlander $20 mil
5) Roy Halladay $20 mil
6) Barry Zito $19 mil
7) Carlos Zambrano $18 mil
Yu Darvish $17.95 mil
8) Jake Peavy $17 mil
9) AJ Burnett $16.5 mil

Oh man… how many people would take Darvish right now over Zito, Zambrano, Peavy or Burnett? OK, you can all put your hands down! I know it’s unanimous, we all agree, there are some ridiculously stupid contracts out there.

With that said, do the Rangers know what they are doing? Well, they were the only organization that consistently scouted Darvish over the past 5 years. They also stepped up the scouting the past two seasons and also developed a direct relationship with Darvish and his family. The Rangers made sure Darvish understood that if he ever wanted to come to America, they really wanted him. In 2011 they had 12 different members of their organization go to Japan to watch him in action. It sounds like the Rangers were confident about him as a person and a player. So much so that they were willing to let their current ace CJ Wilson depart with the idea that they would replace him with Darvish all along. Many will say this was risky, but the Rangers are convinced of the reward. And it's hard to bet against Nolan Ryan recognizing pitching greatness!
Many will also say that paying that much for a player who has never pitched an inning in the majors is insanity, but Darvish has already been in involved many top-notch pressure situations. He has pitched in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, pitched for the 2009 World Baseball Classic Japanese Championship team and three different pennant-winning teams in Japan.

So what motivated Darvish to come to the US and play here? If he is to be believed, he says it’s the simple desire to be the best and beat the best in the world. Darvish has nothing left to prove in Japan, and even at such a young age he realizes he needs new challenges. As he just stated recently in an interview “I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say ‘Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world’.” Pretty lofty goal, but he does have a chance to achieve it. Perhaps realistically a small chance, but still a chance!

Yu is only 25 years old and has already had 7 seasons in the Japanese league under his belt. His numbers are out of sight, so much so that comparing him to any other Japanese pitcher that has come over to the Majors is just plain silly. Many baseball people like to point to Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Dice-K) as examples of pitchers who dominated in Japan, but were ultimately not close to being an Ace here in the States. And they did dominate in Japan, don’t get me wrong, and both also had some really good seasons here too. But Yu is another level above those two.

Nomo had erratic mechanics that he couldn’t always repeat, while Dice-K had several different issues: injuries, confidence and lack of faith in his stuff, but both pitchers had the same result. Both pitchers could become uncontrollably wild and walk just about every batter they faced. And once their mechanics were off they were very hard to correct. Darvish has shown that his mechanics are very smooth and has what several scouts describe as a near flawless delivery. Then again we once heard the same exact thing about another phenom fireballer named Mark Prior and he would get hurt every year like clockwork.

If we looked at their Japanese stats as if all three players were prospects pitching in triple-A here in the States, everyone would agree Yu is going to be an Ace hands down. While Nomo and Dice-K both will probably be a number 2 or 3 type pitcher with a chance to develop into an Ace.

Yu Darvish’s average season over the last 5 years in Japan, ages 20-24 (ignoring his first two seasons at ages 18 and 19):
25 starts, 15 Wins, 10 CG, 205 IP, 138 Hits, 8 HR, 44 BB (1.9 per 9 innings), 217 K (9.5 per 9 innings), 0.89 WHIP, 1.72 ERA, .192 Avg against

Not too shabby! Darvish’s worst ERA in the past 5 years (1.88) is lower than Nomo’s or Dice-K’s best ever. Darvish’s walks to strikeout ratios are miles better than Nomo’s or Dice-K’s. Darvish is also a physical specimen who, unlike many of the pitchers from Japan, is a gym rat. No owner will ever be calling him a fat toad, that’s for sure! When Darvish made his debut as an 18 year old in the Japanese league, he weighed all of 175 pounds. Well, at 25, he is up to 225 pounds now.

How quick will he be an ace? That is the question in my mind. Not if, but when. You have to be fair with Darvish, though. I think his first year will be a huge learning curve experience for him. Not just new batters, but new parks, new catchers, a new ball, new umpires, new manager who handles pitchers differently from anything he has ever experienced before, new home, new language, new food, new culture… and all this from a 25 year old. You have to give the kid several months, maybe even his first full year to get his bearings. How long would it take you to adapt?

But how long will the Texas Ranger fans actually give him? When does he need to show some signs of dominance? I predict he gets stronger as the year goes on and that he wins 13 or 14 games for the Rangers. But with some early bumps, bumps that make many people think he wasn’t worth the fuss. Bumps that will make some people stop watching him, but I will be watching him closely. And If the Rangers make the playoffs (and they really should) then the whole nation will be closely watching him too. October is where you really see what a pitcher has! I can hardly wait!

Just like the young fireballer prospect that comes up from the minors, I am very excited to see Darvish pitch! It’s on the same level as a Stephen Strasburg or a Matt Moore. Young fireball pitchers who have yet to pitch a full season in the majors, but still feel like they have unlimited potential. There is something just so tantalizing about those young fireballers. They have yet to throw a stinker, a really bad game. They have yet to disappoint us, to become an AJ Burnett or John Lackey… or any of a number of pitchers who have disappointed us.

Darvish is that gift yet unopened, that birth of a newborn baby where anything is still possible, and I am excited to watch him pitch! Are Yu?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rounding The Bases – Week Ending 1/22/12

With so many player signings this week and lots of arbitration news, I created a separate article just for those. Here are a few of the smaller but tastier bits of non-arbitration baseball news and activity over the past week:

Trainer’s Table:

Carl Crawford had surgery on his ailing left wrist, a move that comes as a shock to those expecting a bounce back year from him. After the worst year of his career, trying to live up to a monster contract from the Red Sox, many baseball analysts were expecting a return to his normally solid production. The Red Sox have to be upset with the course of events leading to Crawford’s surgery. His wrist has been an on again/off again issues the past several years, including being very sore during the last month of the season. So why wasn’t there an immediate battery of tests and proper diagnosis right after the season ended? Why does it take the player ramping up his off-season workouts to admit to himself he is really injured? The Red Sox do not have a real timetable for his return yet, but hopefully he will not miss more than 2 or 3 weeks of the start to the 2012 season.
Mike Napoli has finally started to do some light running on his injured left ankle, which occurred while running the bases in the World Series. While he will be ready to start spring training on time, there is concern he will not be able to properly squat and actually catch by the start of the season. Last year the 30 year old slugger caught 76 games, played 37 at first and DH’d for another 20. Napoli’s bat helps lengthen the Texas Rangers lineup considerably and he was as big a reason as any that they returned to the World Series last year. (.320 Avg, .414 OBP, .631 SLG in 369 at bats)
Kangaroo Court:

The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs still can’t come to an agreement over the compensation for Theo Epstein leaving the Red Sox with one year left on his contract. Usually, such moves throughout baseball in the past have been quietly settled with a low or medium ranked minor league prospect, but there are still some hard feelings with the Red Sox and their former GM (so what else is new?). The matter has been turned over to the commissioner Bud Selig who will “mediate” the compensation. Looks like Selig will be earning his over $20 million dollar salary after all!

Japanese Player Postings:

Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki signed a two year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers worth a reported $2.25 mil total, with incentives. The club has an option for the third year. The Brewers had won the rights to negotiate with Aoki for a sum of $2.5 mil. Aoki wanted to play in the majors and was willing to take a significant pay cut from what he was earning in Japan to do so (last year Aoki earned $4.2 mil). The 30 year old Aoki won the rookie of the year in 2005, is a 3 time batting champ and a 6 time Gold glove winner in his 7 year career in the Japanese league. Since there is a great possibility of the Brewers losing Ryan Braun for 50 games at the beginning of the season, there is a solid chance Aoki will be able to show what he can do in the majors this year.

Free Agent Signings:

Bartolo Colon signed a 1 year deal with the Oakland Athletics with a yet unreported salary (rumors are that it is for $2 mil). The 39 year old Colon had a great first half last year for the NY Yankees, but slowed down considerably in the second half. Part of the second half slide was attributed to knee issues which Colon says he is over. The A’s needed to fill out their rotation after making multiple trades this off-season.

Carlos Pena signed a 1 year deal with his old team the Tampa Bay Rays. It is worth a reported $7.25 mil, down from his $10 mil salary last year with the Cubs. But the 33 year old slugger and his agent, had probably decided they couldn’t wait any longer, what with many teams having already filled their DH/1B needs. Pena had his typical year last year, one where he hit his weight (.225), banged out close to 30 homers (28) and walked/struck out a ton (101/161).

Trade Talks:

The Indians, in reaction to the news on Roberto Hernandez Heredia (AKA “Fausto Carmona”), traded for starting pitcher Kevin Slowey from the Colorado Rockies. With the uncertainty of Heredia’s (Carmona’s) return to the Indians this year, they decided to trade for an experienced arm that can give them some innings in the rotation if needed. The Indians sent minor league reliever Zach Putnum and some cash back to the Rockies. Though he was called up for 8 games late in the season, the 24 year old Putnam spent most of 2011 in triple-A with a 6-3 record, 1.22 WHIP and a 3.65 ERA. The Rockies probably aren’t going to compete this season, so getting a young arm for Slowey had to make them happy.

The Red Sox traded their shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Clayton Mortensen. It is almost weird seeing the Red Sox making a trade to free up money in order to make another move. But the Red Sox and Yankees have been very frugal this off-season, and this move continues the trend. I am assuming by freeing Scutaro’s contract (he was slated to make $6 mil this year) they will now pursue a one year deal with Roy Oswalt. The Red Sox have plenty of options at short with Mike Aviles, Nick Punto and their young 22 year old prospect Jose Iglesias. Clayton Mortensen is a 26 year old former first round pick that hasn’t been able to crack the majors quite yet. The Rockies will be his 4th organization!

Out To Pasture:

Craig Counsell announced his official retirement as an active player. The 41 year old Counsell had a long 16 year career that included 2 World Series Championships. The first one with the Marlins in 1997 and the second one with the Diamondbacks in 2001. Counsell, the scrappiest of players, somehow was able to stay around in the majors year after year, the continuous underdog. Most people who played with Counsell loved him and his attitude. He was considered a winner and always seemed to step up in the post-season, including being named the NLCS MVP in 2001. Counsell will continue working with the Milwaukee Brewers as a special assistant to the general manager Doug Melvin. Counsell ended with career stats of: 1,624 games played, 647 R, 42 HR, 390 RBI, 103 SB, .255 Avg, .342 OBP, .344 SLG

Old Man River:

Jamie Moyer, the aged 49 year old veteran pitcher, is trying to catch on for yet another year. He has signed a minor league deal, with an invite to training camp, with the Colorado Rockies. He surprisingly under went Tommy John surgery and entirely missed last year. Moyer’s first season was way back in 1986 with the Chicago Cubs. Man how time flies! He has 267 career wins and has aspirations of one day reaching the magical 300 plateau.

Our Prayers Go Out:

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter has been fighting brain cancer since May and, unfortunately, a new round of brain tumors have been discovered. The Kid, as he is affectionately known, provided many happy memories for New Yorkers when he played for the NY Mets in the late 80’s, including the magical 1986 World Series victory. He was deservedly inducted into the HOF in 2003.

Los Angeles Dodgers For Sale:

With the ongoing saga of the Dodgers and their owner dragging on, the team was allowed to file a bankruptcy reorganization plan. This basically is designed to protect and satisfy all the parties involved that if the Dodgers owe them money; they will get paid (even if it takes quite a while). The sale of the Dodgers organization is now officially scheduled for April 30th, the same date that Frank McCourt (the current embattled owner) owes a monstrous sum to his ex-wife as part of their divorce settlement. The deadline for initial bids is tomorrow, so we will have a better picture on potential buyers shortly.

It’s getting close to spring training! Hopefully the arbitration eligible player signings finish next week… see you guys for next week’s edition of ROUNDING THE BASES!

Rounding The Bases (Arbitration Edition) – Week Ending 1/22/12

The arbitration news is too overwhelming to include with anything else, so I am doing a separate article this week for just the arbitration. Some of this news is just pure boredom, how much did player A get? How much did player B get? There are just too many players signing to properly analyze most of them. Arbitration means the team has the player’s rights this coming year, no matter what, so the player will be getting paid from that team, no matter what. It’s just a matter of exactly how much. Here are some of the tastier arbitration moves made over the past week:

Arbitration news:

Tim Lincecum, the two time Cy Young award winner, filed a request for $21.5 million in arbitration. His team, the San Francisco Giants filed a counter offer of $17 million (Which is a new record for a team). The Giants would obviously like to lock up their 27 year old Ace to a long-term contract (instead of going through the arbitration process), but the two sides reportedly can’t agree on the length. There are rumors that Lincecum’s agent is asking for an 8 year, $200 million dollar deal! Can the Giants actually afford that amount for just one player, especially a pitcher? I highly doubt it.
It would seem the Boston Red Sox and slugger David Ortiz are destined to end up in arbitration as the two sides are far apart in their contract talks. Ortiz filed for $16.5 mil for the upcoming season, while the Red Sox have only offered a two year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $9 or $10 mil a season. The 36 year old Ortiz has been the face of the Boston franchise the past decade and had a strong 2011 season. (.309 Avg, .398 OBP, 29 HR and 96 RBI)
Signing to avoid arbitration, Part I:

Gio Gonzalez and his new team, the Washington Nationals, signed a 5 year deal with 2 additional option years. This contract bypasses all the arbitration years for Gonzalez. The amount of the 5 guaranteed years is for $42 million. The 26 year old Gonzalez was traded to the Nats, from the Oakland A’s, in December for a truckload of prospects. The Nats priority since trading for him was to wrap him up for the long term, which they have nicely succeeded in doing, since they now have him for at least through the 2016 season.

Colby Rasmus and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a 1 year deal to avoid arbitration. The 25 year old outfielder will receive $2.7 mil. Rasmus is coming off of a disappointing season, batting .253 with 14 homeruns and 53 runs batted in. The Blue Jays are still expecting great things from the young Rasmus, but time is running out for him.

Seth Smith and the Colorado Rockies signed a 1 year contract avoiding arbitration. The deal is worth over $2.4 million total. The corner outfielder has been shopped this off-season by the Rockies with no takers so far. (Note: he was since traded to the Oakland Athletics!) The Rockies are trying to move him since he will probably only be a 4th OF for them. The 29 year old Smith hit .284 last season with 15 homeruns and 59 runs batted in.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Boston Red Sox agree to a 1 year deal for $2.5 mil, avoiding arbitration. Salty, as he is affectionately known, caught 101 games for the Red Sox last year, throwing out 31 percent of would be base stealers. The 26 year old will probably catch just as many games in 2012, while sharing catching duties with the rookie Ryan Lavarnway. Salty batted .235 with 16 homeruns and 56 runs batted in last year.

Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants agreed to a three year deal worth $17.15 million total. This deal avoids his 3 years of arbitration. Panda, as Sandoval is playfully called, impressed the Giants by losing some 40 pounds of weight last off-season after the team demanded it. Even though he did get hurt last year, the 25 year old produced at an All-Star level (he did make the All-Star team). In 117 games last year, he hit .315 with 23 homeruns and 70 RBI’s. Very smart move by the Giants in my opinion.

Michael Morse signed a two year contract with the Washington Nationals avoiding arbitration. The deal is worth a reported $10.5 mil (a bargain!). The 29 year old Morse had a great year for the Nats leading them in the triple crown categories; .303 Avg, 31 HR and 95 RBI. Morse was also 4th in the NL with a strong .550 SLG. He split his time in 2011 between first base and the outfield, making it easier for the Nationals if they wanted to splurge on Prince Fielder.

Signing to avoid arbitration, Part II:

Every year, after the deadline for players and teams to submit their salaries, there is a wave of pre-arbitration signings (the deadline was last week). Once the team and player know what figures they are officially dealing with, many times it is easier to split the difference and sign a deal. This helps bypass any possible hard feelings that may develop by going through the arbitration process, which can get very heated to say the least. Here is a list of players (it’s huge!) who signed this week to avoid going through arbitration. I may have missed a few players, please forgive me! Also, many different sites list the salaries slightly different, so some of these salaries may be off by a smidge. In general, salaries are a very boring part of baseball to me, I am much more concerned with who signed for what team, but for completeness I looked up as many salaries as I could. Enjoy…

2012 signings to avoid arbitration this week:
Cole Hamels (SP) – Philadelphia Phillies - $15 mil
Andre Ethier (OF) – Los Angeles Dodgers - $10.95 mil
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF) – Boston Red Sox - $8.05 mil
Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez (RP) – Milwaukee Brewers - $8 mil
Carlos Quentin (OF) – San Diego Padres - $7.03 mil
BJ Upton (OF) – Tampa Bay Rays - $7 mil
Michael Bourn (OF) – Atlanta Braves - $6.85 mil
Delmon Young (OF) – Detroit Tigers - $6.75 mil
James Loney (1B) – Los Angeles Dodgers - $6.38 mil
Kelly Johnson (2B/OF) – Toronto Blue Jays - $6.38 mil
Melky Cabrera (OF) – San Francisco Giants - $6 mil
Joe Saunders (SP) – Arizona Diamondbacks - $6 mil
Juan Oviedo (Leo Nunez) (RP) – Miami Marlins - $6 mil
Mike Pelfrey (SP) – New York Mets - $5.68 mil
Jonathan Sanchez (SP) – Kansas City Royals - $5.6 mil
Jair Jurrjens (SP) – Atlanta Braves - $5.5 mil
Francisco Liriano (SP) – Minnesota Twins - $5.5 mil
Eric Aybar (SS) – Los Angeles Angels - $5.08 mil
Brandon League (CL) – Seattle Mariners - $5 mil
Shin-Soo Choo (OF) – Cleveland Indians - $4.9 mil
Angel Pagan (OF) – San Francisco Giants - $4.85 mil
Jason Vargas (SP) – Seattle Mariners - $4.85 mil
Chris Perez (CL) – Cleveland Indians - $4.5 mil
Mike Adams (RP) – Texas Rangers - $4.4 mil
David Price (SP) – Tampa Bay Rays - $4.35 mil
Geovany Soto (C) – Chicago Cubs - $4.3 mil
Brandon McCarthy (SP) – Oakland Athletics - $4.28 mil
Joel Hanrahan (RP) – Pittsburgh Pirates - $4.1 mil
Justin Masterson (SP) – Cleveland Indians - $3.83 mil
Max Scherzer (SP) – Detroit Tigers - $3.75 mil
David Murphy (OF) – Texas Rangers - $3.63 mil
Luke Hochevar (SP) – Kansas City Royals - $3.51 mil
Chase Headley (3B/OF) – San Diego Padres - $3.48 mil
Phil Hughes (SP) – New York Yankees - $3.2 mil
Rick Porcello (SP) – Detroit Tigers - $3.1 mil
Tom Gorzelanny (SP/RP) – Washington Nationals - $3 mil
Matt Harrison (SP) – Texas Rangers - $2.95 mil
Brett Gardner (OF) – New York Yankees - $2.8 mil
Andres Torres (OF) – New York Mets - $2.7 mil
Chris Volstad (SP) – Chicago Cubs - $2.66 mil
Jim Johnson (SP) – Baltimore Orioles - $2.63 mil
Kyle McClellan (SP/RP) – St Louis Cardinals - $2.5 mil
Eric O’Flaherty (RP) – Atlanta Braves - $2.49 mil
Charlie Morton (SP) – Pittsburgh Pirates - $2.45 mil
Homer Bailey (SP) – Cincinnati Reds - $2.425 mil
Dexter Fowler (OF) – Colorado Rockies - $2.35 mil
JA Happ (RP) – Houston Astros - $2.35 mil
Nyger Morgan (OF) – Milwaukee Brewers - $2.35 mil
Jordan Zimmermann (SP) – Washington Nationals - $2.3 mil
Edison Volquez (SP) – San Diego Padres - $2.24 mil
Ian Stewart (Inf) – Chicago Cubs - $2.24 mil
Nick Hundley (C) – San Diego Padres - $2 mil
Joba Chamberlain (RP) – New York Yankees - $1.68 mil
Tyler Clippard (RP) – Washington Nationals - $1.65 mil
Daniel Bard (SP) – Boston Red Sox - $1.61 mil
David Robertson (RP) – New York Yankees - $1.6 mil
Sergio Romo (RP) – San Francisco Giants - $1.575 mil
Glen Perkins (RP) – Minnesota Twins - $1.55 mil
Ben Francisco (OF) – Toronto Blue Jays - $1.54 mil
Will Venable (OF) – San Diego Padres - $1.48 mil
Jeff Baker (Inf) – Chicago Cubs - $1.38 mil
Darren O’Day (RP) – Baltimore Orioles - $1.35 mil
Nate Schierholtz (OF) – San Francisco Giants - $1.3 mil
Mike Aviles (Inf) – Boston Red Sox - $1.2 mil
Phil Coke (RP) – Detroit Tigers - $1.1 mil
Chris Getz (Inf) – Kansas City Royals - $0.968 mil
Wilson Valdez (Inf) – Philadelphia Phillies - $0.93 mil
Manny Acosta (RP) – New York Mets - $0.875 mil
Paul Janish (Inf) – Cincinnati Reds - $0.85 mil
Jesus Flores (C) – Washington Nationals - $0.815 mil

As you can plainly see, it turns out this was a very crazy week for player signings. I hope there aren’t as many next week so I won’t have to go through this again (LOL!)… See you guys for next week’s edition of ROUNDING THE BASES!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fausto Carmona, If That Is Your Real Name!

Another year, another Latin American player caught falsifying their name and age. The latest player caught was Cleveland Indians starting pitcher “Fausto Carmona” who is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia. And his age is actually 31 not 28! This is a huge blow for the Indians, who were counting heavily on Heredia to not only help this year but for next several years. He was arrested Thursday outside the US Consulate in his native Dominican Republic when he was trying to renew his Visa.
In recent years, the Indians have not had much luck with their hitters developing to the next level and/or staying healthy. But they do have a recent history of developing solid starting pitching. (Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia are Cy Young Examples) This year the Indians were planning to lean hard on their pitching once again to be competitive, and will still have to try to with or without Carmona… er… Heredia.

Heredia was scheduled to make $7 million this year with the team holding options on him the next two year ($9 mil for 2013 and $12 mil for 2014). The Indians will have to really think hard if they want to work with him or if they want to sever ties with him. Most starting pitchers hit their prime years between 28 and 32. The Indians probably would not have signed him to the same contract they did if they knew his real age was 3 years older. At 31 instead of 28 years old, there is a lot to be concerned about with Heredia (Carmona).

Heredia (Carmona) has been unbelievably inconsistent year to year, having some very good years along with some dreadful years. His best season was in 2007 when he won 19 games with a 1.21 WHIP and a 3.06 ERA. Last year he lost 15 games, with a 1.40 WHIP and a 5.25 ERA.

Now without Heredia (Carmona), the Indians are looking at a rotation that includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Kevin Slowey (They just traded for him to eat up some of the missing innings).IP and a

It is way too early to even know if he will be available this year at any point. The Indians will obviously monitor what is happening with him in his home Dominican Republic very closely, but if I were them I would cut ties and just move on. It’s hard enough for teams to work with the correct facts and make proper decisions without this kind of nonsense happening!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Victor Martinez Injured

Victor Martinez may miss the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. The ACL, for those that don’t know, is the main ligament that stabilizes the knee when making lateral movements. This, obviously, is a huge blow for the Detroit Tigers! I always hate hearing about these types of injuries before spring training even starts; it puts a big damper on both the regular season and fantasy baseball. In fantasy rankings, V-Mart was arguably the best catcher last year.
This is going to be the 33 year old Martinez’s second year on a 4 year, $50 million dollar deal. The Tigers have to be greatly disappointed that he hurt himself while working out. In today’s age the athletes in all sports really never take any time off. They do some sort of regiment all year round, but it’s always sad to hear of a player over doing it and severely hurting themselves. The very best scenarios, with or without the surgery, are his returning in 6-7 months time. Ouch!

The Tigers signed Martinez knowing how solid a hitter he is and they realize that someone needs to bat behind their big gun Miguel Cabrera and protect him. In 2010, without Martinez batting behind him, Cabrera led the AL in intentional walks with 32. In 2011 that number dropped to 22 with V-Mart behind him. And it’s not just those numbers alone, with a real solid RBI man behind Cabrera he just isn’t pitched around as much. Now the Tigers have to figure out how to do this without Martinez for one year.

Martinez, when on the field, has always been a great hitter and RBI man. He does get hurt A LOT, especially when catching. But Martinez is often able to play through some of his injuries and still produce, just like last year. When he signed, Martinez was expected to play a third of the games behind the plate, backup Cabrera at first when needed and play the rest of the time at DH. But he battled various issues all season, a severe groin pull that landed him on the DL and he never totally recovered from during the season. He also tweaked a knee the second half of the season and finally badly pulled a ribcage muscle in the playoffs. But, Martinez was still able to play most of the season, and while the groin issues hurt his power some, he produced a great season.

Victor Martinez 2011 season:
145 GP, 76 R, 40 2B, 12 HR, 103 RBI, .330 Avg, .380 OBP, .470 SLG

The good news is that the Tigers handily won their division last year by a whopping 15 game margin. Thanks mostly to the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox having very disappointing seasons, it became a cakewalk the second half of the season for the Tigers. This season the Tigers are still the favorite to win the AL Central division, even with Martinez out. But the Twins could always finally get healthy (hello Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau), the White Sox could have a rebound year (hello Adam Dunn and Alex Rios) and the Kansas City Royals could always take that next step (they have some great young talent). Finally, the Cleveland Indians pitching could come together and surprise (Fausto Carmona, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin).

Throw in the fact that you have to expect Justin Verlander, the American league MVP, to come back to Earth a bit and the division suddenly seems to be a lot tighter. The Tigers still have some decent options to explore though. Smartly, one of the few moves the Tigers already made this off-season was signing another catcher, Gerald Laird. With Alex Avila having a breakout season last year, he was really overworked the second half of the season when Martinez was only able to DH with his injuries. The Tigers didn’t want that to happen again and, I think, they also realize V-Mart should not be anything but an emergency catcher going forward.

Victor Martinez was one of the few left-handers in their lineup (he is a switch hitter), so my 2-cents would be for them to get a short one year deal with a replacement left-handed batting DH. The available free agent list is actually still pretty decent; Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Carlos Pena are all solid. Even lighter options like Casey Kotchman could work, where you can actually improve the Tigers’ defense by playing him at first and DH’ing Cabrera. Prince Fielder is NOT an option, in my opinion, since Martinez still has two expensive years remaining after this one on his contract.

Another option is getting another true outfielder and instead DH’ing Delmon Young who isn’t exactly what you would call a great defensive player. This brings up the idea of the Tigers going after a Cuban outfielder (there will soon be two of them as free agents). There are also several cheap left-handed outfielders available: Rick Ankiel, JD Drew, Willie Harris, Raul Ibenez, Corey Patterson and even Juan Pierre.

What does this mean fantasy baseball-wise? Well every other decent option at catcher just became that much more valuable. Catcher is always a “scarce” position in fantasy baseball to begin with. Losing Martinez and the retirement of Jorge Posada makes it that much scarcer! Players like Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Matt Weiters, Joe Mauer and Brian McCann all have to move up in your personal rankings.

If I were in charge of the Tigers, I would sign Carlos Pena ASAP to a 1 year deal, that makes the most sense to me. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers deal with this situation, but it sucks for my fantasy plans! I was going to target drafting V-Mart for my teams… I guess the Tigers aren’t the only one that will have to go with a plan B.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The NY Yankees Build A Rotation

After a fairly quiet off-season, the New York Yankees suddenly awoke to make two major moves in one day. Of all days, it was a Friday the 13th to boot! Both moves were designed to deepen and strengthen their starting rotation, arguably the most unstable part of the team. Some people might say the Yankees made a huge move re-signing CC Sabathia earlier in the post-season, but I think that was a forgone conclusion, just a formality really. He wasn’t actually going anywhere else. But the two separate moves just made by the Yankees were serious decisions that were designed to deepen their starting rotation.

The first move was a trade with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees received starting pitcher Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos for their highly touted catching prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. The second move was the signing of Hiroki Kuroda, a 36 year old Japanese pitcher, to a one year deal worth $10 million base with additional incentives.

Let’s break down each move…

The Yankees have long been discussing possibilities with the Seattle Mariners, but many baseball people always assumed it was Felix Hernandez they were targeting. And that probably has been the case, but the Mariners have rebuffed all teams and their inquiries regarding King Felix. So that led the Yankees to inquire about the young Pineda instead…
Last year the soon to be 23 year old Pineda burst onto the scene. The 6 foot 7 giant had an incredible first half of the season, winning 8 games before the All-Star game with a 3.03 ERA, and an average against below .200! But the rookie fireballer hit a few bumps the second half of the season and wasn’t the same pitcher, only winning 1 game and having an ERA over 5. Although Pineda did keep up his strong strikeout per inning pace.

A rookie fading the 2nd half of a season is nothing new. Many times when the league sees a pitcher for the second and third time, the league starts to figure the pitcher out. Also, the major league season is much longer than any minor league or amateur league, so fatigue is always normal for younger players who aren’t used to the long grind. The Yankees, obviously, feel Pineda’s going to get better and will be a big part of the team’s future success.

The Yankees also received Jose Campos, a 19 year old blue chip prospect who hasn’t pitched higher than single-A. While Campos had a great 2011 year in his 14 starts, (85 K’s in 81 IP, 0.97 WHIP, 2.32 ERA) the Yankees don’t think highly enough to place him on their 40 man roster quite just yet. It is too easy to get overly excited about a kid who can regularly throw his fastball 95 mph. There is a long way to go between single-A and the majors!

The Yankees, in return, traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners. The Mariners had a very rough 2011 season (and that is being kind). Among many of their issues was a record breaking lowest average ever (.233) for an AL team during the designated hitter era (the DH started in 1973). They are hoping Montero keeps developing offensively as the Mariners finished last in the majors in batting average, slugging percentage (.348) and runs scored (556). I mean, really… a team slugging of .348?! Oh man that is seriously odious…
By moving Jesus Montero, the Yankees have freed up their DH slot which allows them to rotate AROD, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Andrew Jones and anyone else they feel needs to have a “half day off”. Something that is very important for their aging hitters, especially Alex Rodriguez and his ailing hip. The Yankees also had serious doubts Montero was ever going to be defensively able to catch in the majors. With his hitting there is no doubt, and because of that alone the Mariners are very happy (in Montero’s limited 61 at bats last year, he had an amazing .996 OPS). The Yankees have excellent depth at catching with Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli, and the young trio Austin Romine (23), Gary Sanchez (19) and JR Murphy (20).

With Montero, the Mariners also received solid value in Noesi, a 24 year old major league ready pitcher. Noesi was obviously not going to get any major league playing time this year with the crowded Yankees staff, so he was more than expendable for them. Plus, the Yankees don’t feel Noesi has what it takes to be a more than an average pitcher at best. Noesi has a good chance of making the Mariners rotation, so we will see in a year or two if the Yankees are right about him. I, personally, liked what I saw of Noesi and think he would make a great long reliever or setup man instead of a starting pitcher.

Hiroki Kuroda’s signing adds nice veteran depth to the rotation for the coming year. With only a 1 year deal the Yankees aren’t worried about Kuroda being 36 years old. All they care about was how he did last year and he was very solid. Kuroda won 13 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers while throwing 202 innings. He also had 161 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.21 and an ERA of 3.07. His career WHIP of 1.19 is very solid indeed! This also allows the development of Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, the two young minor league pitchers of the future. Very importantly, they can continue their growth in 2012 without any emergency call-ups to the big league club.
With the Yankees already having CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova there is obviously going to be battle over who is in the rotation this coming year. With 5 spots available for 7 starters it means there will be a serious competition this spring. And this is a good thing! Competition can only be healthy; nothing should be a forgone conclusion. Only Sabathia and Kuroda should have guaranteed rotation spots.

I predict Nova, Pineda and Hughes are the favorites to win the other spots in spring training, though the competition should be fierce. Burnett is proud and he will not go quietly. Garcia didn’t sign with any other expectation but to be included in the starting rotation. Obviously, if Garcia knew what the Yankees would do later on down the road, he would never have signed with them. I think there is a chance that, if it happens, Burnett could make a very solid long relief man. Not exactly what the Yankees wanted for their remaining $33 mil on Burnett’s contract, but it’s better than getting nothing. Also, Hughes has already shown he can be an excellent set up man, but at his age you still want to give him every opportunity to get it together as a starting pitcher.

If I had to pick a starting rotation, here is my choice (along with their 2011 stats):

1) CC Sabathia, (L) Age 31, 6 foot 7, 290lbs
33 GS, 19 wins, 237.1 IP, 61 BB, 230 K, 1.23 WHIP, 3.00 ERA
2) Ivan Nova (R) Age 25, 6 foot 4, 225lbs
27 GS, 16 wins, 165.1 IP, 57 BB, 98 K, 1.33 WHIP, 3.70 ERA
3) Micheal Pineda (R) Age 23, 6 foot 7, 260lbs (for the Mariners)
28 GS, 9 wins, 171 IP, 55 BB, 173 K, 1.10 WHIP, 3.74 ERA
4) Hiroki Huroda (R) Age 36, 6 foot 1, 190lbs (for the Dodgers)
32 GS, 13 wins, 202 IP, 49 BB, 161 K, 1.21 WHIP, 3.07 ERA
5) Phil Hughes (R) Age 25, 6 foot 5, 240lbs
14 GS, 5 wins, 74.2 IP, 27 BB, 47 K, 1.49 WHIP, 5.79 ERA

Here are the remaining Yankee possible starters stats:
AJ Burnett (R) Age 35, 6 foot 4, 230lbs
32 GS, 11 wins, 190.1 IP, 83 BB, 173 K, 1.43 WHIP, 5.15 ERA
Freddy Garcia (R) Age 35, 6 foot 4, 250lbs
25 GS, 12 wins, 146.2 IP, 45 BB, 96 K, 1.34 WHIP, 3.62 ERA
Dellin Batances (R) Age 23, 6 foot 8, 260lbs (AA and AAA combined)
25 GS, 4 wins, 126.1 IP, 70 BB, 142 K, 1.36 WHIP, 3.70 ERA
Manny Banuelos (L) Age 20, 5 foot 11, 155lbs (AA and AAA combined)
27 GS, 6 wins, 129.2 IP, 71 BB, 125 K, 1.55 WHIP, 3.75 ERA

If there is one thing that jumps out at me immediately, it’s just how physically LARGE this staff is. Banuelos had better learn to move fast to get any of the pre-game buffet spread! And if it wasn’t enough, even the young Jose Campos is 6 foot 4.

But seriously, I don’t necessarily see a true number 2 pitcher to follow CC jump out at me. Nova and Pineda could both be capable and may develop to be aces in the next few years. But instead of a true number 2 for the 2012 season, the Yankees have an amazingly deep staff of number 3’s. And, of course, they have all season to see who steps up and will become their all-important second starter in the playoffs.

The next thing I notice is just how young the Yankees staff has become! To think that the Yankees could have such a strong pitching staff that might even get better as they gain experience is scary. Scary for the rest of the league that is. One can still envision the Yankees signing another ace pitcher over the next couple of years. A Matt Cain or Cole Hamels type. Especially when Burnett comes off the books.

These two moves also make sense for another reason. One thing most people don’t realize, but I have tried to point out several times recently, is that the Yankees are serious about ducking under the Luxury Tax threshold in the next couple of years. The Luxury Tax is cumulative, that is, it’s percentage increases exponentially for teams as they go over the threshold each consecutive year. Since the inception of the Luxury Tax system in 2003, the Yankees have gone over the threshold each and every time.

Right now, their current percentage is roughly around an incredible 40 percent. Basically, that means they are really paying $14 million to have Kuroda pitch for them instead of $10 million. But if the team payroll can duck under the threshold for one year, it resets. The Luxury Tax threshold for 2012 and 2013 is $178 million. It increases to $189 starting in 2014, which is the year I believe the Yankees are targeting to slip under. That is the year Burnett and Rafael Soriano come off the books and you have to believe that Mariano Rivera will have retired by then (man will that be a sad day!).

I love trades like this that can help both teams. I believe the Yankees made a couple of solid moves and if they weren’t the clear favorites to win the AL East division before, they certainly are now. I think Brian Cashman (the Yankees’ general manager) has done a great job improving the depth of the staff while keeping with the plan of going below the Luxury Tax threshold. A balancing act that he and the Yankees’ organization isn’t used to!