Sunday, December 18, 2005

Just a Few Things

Yeah, it's been a thin week, with only one posting, and that not even about baseball! A quick apology would be simply to say that there has been too little Yankees news and spare time, and too many court appearances, backaches, and distractions to do a proper job of blogging this week. A few other factors have been my writing over at Baseball Prospectus, and my attempts at some long-form articles for this space.

But none of that has congealed yet, so here we are, another notes column. As the Chairman would say, Allez Cuisine!


The Yankees news of the week was the acquisition from the Immolation Trade Marlins of lefty reliever Ron Villone, obtained in exchange for Ben Julianel. Villone is...well-traveled. The Yanks will be the 10th team of his 11 year Major League career. The upside is that he's a swingman, who could make an emergency start when needed; he's tough on lefties, but doesn't completely fold the tent against righthanded batters; and he's maintained a good strikeout rate for his entire career.

On the other hand, Villone is 36 years old, his control is pretty crappy, and he hasn't posted an ERA below 4 since the Clinton Administration (1997, to be more precise). The control is the key issue, since Joe Torre is notoriously impatient with relievers who can't get the ball over the plate. In return for Villone, the Yanks give up Julianel--a guy who's a lot like Villone, just ten years younger. Julianel's a lefty with good stuff but bad control, who repeated AA in 2005, as a reliever. Some think that Julianel could make the jump to the majors in 2005, although a 3.90 ERA in Trenton usually isn't the fast track to the Bronx.

The key to this trade will be what use, if any, Torre finds for Villone. Stay tuned.


The other big news of the week is the Yankees not signing Nomar Garciaparra, just another outgrowth of the Fourth Estate's general discontent with the Yanks for not setting off their regular off-season fireworks. Mugs like Mike Lupica, who spend their lives slagging the Yanks for overspending and turning over the roster, are now slagging them for not spending on this winter's weak crop of free agents.

The Yankees didn't need Nomar, and actually didn't really have a place for him. The role that was discussed (in the media, not necessarily by the team) of Garciaparra as a four-or-five position superutility guy was a pipe dream. You just don't take a guy that had a catastrophic injury last year, and injury problems over the last 3-4 years, and then start playing him at numerous positions he hasn't played in years, if ever. That's pretty close to begging for the guy to get hurt.

Instead of going to the Yanks, Nomar goes to the Dodgers, where they're committed to playing him at first base, and where the owner, a New Englander, is attempting to rebuild the 2004 Red Sox roster, piece by discarded piece. Hopefully, Johnny Damon is next on their list.


In case anyone's interested in my BP work, I dropped a joint on the Pirates this week, discussing the huge turnover they've put in on their roster. Here's a taste:

The Pirates' off-season has settled into a near-bulimic binge-and-purge rhythm, so far.

The Pirates emptied their stomachs of all their outgoing free agents (Brian Meadows, Jose Mesa, Daryle Ward, and Rick White), offering none of them arbitration. They disgorged infielders Bobby Hill and Ty Wigginton, only getting a 23 year-old A ball righthander in exchange for Hill. Their Opening Day center fielder this past season, Tike Redman, was banished in exchange for a fistful of dollars. The other Redman, lefthanded starter Mark--whom the Pirates refused to sell off when he was riding high in the first half of 2005--was dealt to the Royals in exchange for a couple of relief prospects. Outfielder Michael Restovich? Waived. Utilityman extraordinaire Rob Mackowiak? A White Sock, and in exchange the Bucs re-acquire reliever-non-grata Damaso Marte.

That’s a quarter of the 2005 40-man roster, gone, with only one major league player (two, if you count Rule 5 pick Victor Santos) to show for it. Marte’s a worthwhile player, although the Pirates already had a younger version of him in Mike Gonzalez. Marte’s acquisition means John Grabow descends to the not-quite-coveted “third lefty in the bullpen” status, barring another move.

To put things back on Yankees=center-of-the-universe terms (not laudable, terms, but those of this space) a couple of the Pirates' discards are actually players the Yanks could've used this year, particularly Tike Redman, who had the look of a legit defensive centerfielder. The Mets got their hands on him, which is OK, since there isn't enough difference between Redman and Bubba Crosby to make Redman a clear target. Rick White has been mentioned as a possible target for the Bombers, to fill out the bullpen; Mike Restovich could actually be a good righthanded complement at the corners, if the Yanks don't bring back Bernie Williams.

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