So, Cliff Lee is a Ranger… now what?


To be honest, I was a bit ambivalent about all the news yesterday of Cliff Lee possibly going to the Yankees.  The key piece of that trade would have been Jesus Montero and it’s a near-lock his bat will be special but with scouts predicting a move to 1B in his future.  Montero is essentially a man without a position on the Yankees.

The other piece of that near-trade was 2B David Adams, another prospect essentially blocked as Robinson Cano figures to be a Yankee at least until 2013 as club options will be surely exercised. 

Honestly, to acquire a pitcher of Lee’s caliber moving Montero would have been a necessity.  As we move forward this season with Aceves out, Hughes approaching his innings limit and Mitre going back and forth on the DL, having another capable starter will be a major need as we move into late August and onward.

Since Lee is out of the picture, I’ve decided to post a few other options that the Yankees should look into along with the reality of acquiring of them:

Roy Oswalt: he has been on the trading block pretty much since May.  He has performed exceptionally well this season and he is on the hook until 2011 with a club option in 2012.  The Astros will demand a major package and GM Ed Wade is known to have a fetish for fire-baller’s (I’m sure Joba’s name would be one of the first words out of his mouth) but expect Montero’s name to be mentioned, as well. 

I think releasing Montero for Oswalt would be foolish despite his rise in K’s (8.46 K/9 this season compared to 6.85 in ’09) since I’m still concerned about his previous trends and his recent back problems that hampered him last season and this spring.  Based on his previous history and a move from the NL central to the AL East it would be foolish for the Yankees to offer a #1 starter trade package comparable to the one we were willing to give the M’s for Lee. 

Dan Haren: immediately after the firing of Dbacks GM and manager I sensed that a major fire sale was coming but over the past few days that perception has cooled down.  Obviously to make a major move like this the Dbacks will have to trust their current interim GM and with many Dback executives wanting a say in all organizational moves through the remainder of 2010; moving their number one starter could be a challenge.  Haren has been rather unlucky this season and with his K/BB rate sitting at a very healthy 4.81 (8.65 K/9; 1.80 BB/9), his major problems have been an elevated BABIP and a HR/FB rate higher than his usual average.  So far this season Haren’s flyball numbers are slightly up but it isn’t too extreme at 38.9%. 

For the Dbacks to trade Haren to the Yanks I would expect a package quite similar to the one offered for Lee: Montero, Adams, Zach McAllister.  Adams growing power numbers would be attractive to the Dbacks since they are a bit bare in terms of 2B prospects and Tony Abreu is seen, really, as nothing more than a utility option.  I’m not sure if the current AZ brass have fully scouted Montero but if they believe he could stay as catcher – this deal is immediately done.  If he becomes a 1B, the Dbacks will have some sorting to do since their key offensive prospects are a bit 1B-heavy.  Montero’s bat would be an upgrade over Brandon Allen, Ryan Wheeler, Paul Goldschimdt, Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering (the last two I see as future 1B since both have been graded as below average defenders in the OF (Krauss) and at 3B (Borchering)), but this would pose more player development nightmares.

The Yankees could and should make the argument that Haren’s numbers despite his FIP and xFIP are not in the same class as Lee.  However, Haren’s age and contract (under team control till 2012 with a club option in 2013) makes him quite valuable. 

Edwin Jackson: 10 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 5 K’s, 6 BB.  That has been his total line in two starts since his 150 pitch no-hit spectacle against the Rays.  Having a pitcher throw that many pitches could have a lasting effect for the rest of the season (look at Carl Pavano after he threw 135 pitches for the Yanks on May 17, 2005 – he would go on the DL a month later and was ineffective afterwards).  Jackson’s walks are up (4.0 BB/9) but he has shown some positive trends concerning groundballs (up to 49% this season after averaging 39% prior).

Jackson is signed through 2011 and if healthy would be an effective #3-4 starter.  The Dbacks, despite what they say, would like to trim payroll this season and next.  I’m sure they would take a prospect like Zach McAllister for him but how wise would that be?  However, McAllister’s groundball output has reduced since his promotion to AAA.  In 97 IP, his GB’s are at 38% down from his career average of 48.5%.  McAllister is at best a #3 starter and his solid command does point to a future MLB pitcher but his low K’s and pitch-to-contact style does limit him.

If Jackson is healthy and able perform to his usual standards, he would be worth McAllister and spare parts but I would give him a few more starts till then.

Matt Cain: the Giants are tough to pinpoint, are they buyers or sellers?  I’m sure if they were going to move a pitcher they would want it to be Barry Zito (although Zito has come back down to earth since his productive April).  Cain is a pitcher, I think, the Giants should still look to sell high but it would be foolish for the Yankees to give in to their probable asking price.  Since 2006, Cain’s K rate has been steadily declining and with a BB rate in the 3’s, that’s not good.  Cain has also been incredibly lucky in terms of flyballs allowed (48%) compared to his low HR/FB rate of 5%.  If he comes to the AL East and pitches against lefties in Yankee Stadium with our short RF – that number is going up.

Randy Wolf: the numbers seemed to have evened out for Wolf this season.  After experiencing some luck in terms of BABIP last year.  His K rate has been shrinking even further to a low 5.63.  He’ll be 34 in August and the money he is owed until 2013 makes him nothing more than Milwaukee’s headache.

Dave Bush: he’ll be a free agent after this season.  Milwaukee would have done better trading him last year at this time.  This season he is underperforming like most Brewers and with a fastball averaging 86 mph and no changeup to speak of; no wonder lefties are giving him fits this season.  Pass.

Ricky Nolasco: with his strikeouts down (7.64 K/9 this season; 9.49 last season) he has been able to put together a decent season by showcasing excellent command despite a very high HR rate (his flyball percentage comes in at 42% this season, nothing out of the ordinary).  Nolasco is under team control until after the 2012 season and could be a good buy low candidate.  The Marlins have no real reason to ask for too much and with him scheduled for arb after this season and next, the Marlins would love to cut his payroll.  Nolasco has the capacity to be very good, it’s just that his inconsistencies can be worrisome and could cause him trouble in New York.  Proceed with caution.

Ervin Santana: Lee going to Rangers does represent a bit of a “nail in the coffin” for the Angels.  I’m sure they aren’t sellers quite yet but it may begin to look that way.  Santana is a pitcher the Angels should look to sell high.  His elbow will be a concern but he has been pitching much better than expected this season (fueled by his decrease in BB’s).  Besides the possibility of his elbow blowing up is his decreased GB rate (32%) and how that correlates with his lowish HR/FB percentage (9.2%).  Santana is allowing a lot more linedrives than usual (23.2%) and his FIP and xFIP (4.17, 4.39) comes in higher than his ERA of 3.76.  Santana pretty much lives and dies by his slider and the Yankees should approach him that way.

Ted Lilly: his underwhelming stats as an AL East pitcher probably shouldn’t excite too many Yankee fans.  This season, Lilly’s walks are up and his K’s are down.  He has proven to be better suited for the NL and I figure it’s better to let the Mets have him anyway.  Pass.

Kevin Millwood: a free agent after this season, his GB’s are way down which have helped spike his HR/9 a bit.  I was always confused as to why the Orioles traded for him at the start of the season but he hasn’t pitched all that bad considering he is in the AL East.  I know his W/L record stinks and his ERA is high at 5.77 (4.34 xFIP, btw) but his K’s are up (7.0) and his BB’s are down (2.7) and he does pitch in front of one of the worst defenses in baseball ( this season the Orioles are 3rd from the bottom according to UZR scores).  Millwood does give up hits (11.3 Hits per 9) but an improvement defensively could help.

The major problems I see, however, are 1.) how other teams in the AL East will view this and 2.) since the O’s can’t ask for too much would he better serve them in the offseason by getting arb. and declining and going somewhere else and netting the O’s another early draft pick?  He’d be a great buy low candidate but too many factors will derail this.

Carlos Zambrano: I know he can be a head-case and his contract is a bit out of line (the Cubs would have to offer to eat some of this money (close to $20M per until 2012 with a player option in 2013).  His K rate is still solid and his BB’s are still high but he didn’t pitch bad in his last start with the Cubs on June 20th.  I’m not sure what has caused this recent temper tantrum (clubhouse chemistry, being yoyo’d from rotation to bullpen or he’s just wired to blow up regardless of the situation; I’m not sure).  I remember reading rumors that the Yankees were “interested” in Zambrano last offseason before they traded for Javy, so I’m sure if the price is right they may listen… but as of now, he is should be seen as nothing more than a steal and no significant prospects should be shipped out – even if the Cubs offer to pay the entire remainder of his contract.

Pedro Martinez:  it worked a bit for the Phillies last season but that was when Pedro had nine or ten days of rest before a start.  His name will always be mentioned this mid-season but he is more of a novelty and I think the Yankees are more creative than this.  Pass.

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