Taking a flyer on Fryer



Today the Yankees consummated a minor deal, in at least two
senses of the word minor, swapping lefty Chase Wright, who had been designated
in the aftermath of Andy Pettitte’s re-signing, in return for
catcher-outfielder Eric Fryer, formerly of the Brewers.

Initially this might look kind of exciting because Wright
was a low-strikeout type who was unlikely to live down the historic 2007 game
against the Red Sox in which he allowed consecutive home runs to Jim Rice,
Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Felix Mantilla and Don Buddin,
whereas Fryer batted .355/.407/.506 in the Sally League last season. Steal,
right? Wrong. You don’t get a major prospect for Chase Wright unless the
general manager on the other side of the table has a serious drinking problem
and no oversight. Fryer was 22 last year and had spent three years in college,
so he was a bit experienced for Low-A ball. He had a great year, but we should
expect the pitching to catch up to him in a big way as he moves up. According
to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, Fryer’s swing is also very
complicated, which makes scouts skeptical about his future.

The other problem with Fryer, and it’s odd to call it a
problem, is that when we say catcher-outfielder, we really mean “former
outfielder.” That, at least, is how the Brewers viewed him, increasingly
playing him behind the dish as the season wore on. If the Yankees also view him
as a catcher, it’s difficult to see how he’s going to get any playing time in, as
he’s at the same level as the two best prospects in the Yankees organization,
Austin Romine and Jesus Montero, both of whom happen to be catchers. They can’t
all go up to Tampa
this year, be rotating catchers and sing in three-part harmony. The assumption
here is that Fryer gets pushed back to an outfield corner, which puts pressure
on him to keep hitting — assuming he showed decent defensive abilities
as a catcher, he wouldn’t have to post another 900 OPS to make it. A much
greater level of skepticism greets an outfielder’s bat.

All of that said, given that the Yankees had no plans for
Wright, a fringe part, getting someone for him that at least looks good isn’t a
bad thing, particularly since said someone is a position player. The Yankees’
system needs more bats. Adding prospects through trades is something that Brian
Cashman will need to prioritize to the best of his ability in the near future,
as last year’s draft, which eschewed a number-one or number-two pick, was a
disaster, and this year’s draft, which has been stripped of picks by all the
free agent action, promises to be thin as well. You can’t feed the farm system
scraps for two seasons and not have it hurt you, regardless of how many free
agents you sign.

It should be noted that one of the reasons that Mark
Teixeira is such a great signing for the Yankees is that next year’s free-agent
class is largely devoid of Teixeira types, twentysomethings at the top of their
games. Top position players likely to hit the market include Carlos Delgado,
Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa, Brian Roberts, Chipper Jones, Jason Bay
(bet on the Red Sox tying him up before then), Vlad Guerrero, Matt Holliday…
and Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees offense looks like a light
offensive unit now. With little help coming from the farm (Austin Jackson
doesn’t look like an impact player at this stage), little on the free agent
market beyond declining vets and re-signing Damon and Matsui, probably an
multimillion-dollar act of wishful thinking, the unit could achieve a helium-like
quality by 2010…

…Which is to say that Mr. Cashman should keep trading those
extra pitchers for bodies with bats, as many as he possibly can.


I neglected to mention yesterday that I have a new edition
of my history
column up
at Baseball Prospectus, this one talking about the current
free-agent crop and the decline in attendance during the Great Depression.  At the same site, my colleague Christina
Kahrl revives  the
Jeter-to-center debate
. If you’re not a BP subscriber but are an ESPN
insider, then the same piece on Jeter can
be read here

Finally, for those that would like to ask me a question or
ten, I’ll be doing a live chat at BP this Friday, February 6, at 1 p.m., EST. I hope to see you
then, but if you can’t make it, you can still get your questions in ahead of
time at the URL above.


  1. richinnj

    This year’s draft will be supplemented by the 1st and 2nd round picks they got for not signing Cole and Bittle; in effect, they have only lost their 3rd round pick. So there’s no reason they can’t find amateur (hopefully position) players who slip due to signability or injury concerns. They should be taken to task if they don’t.

    That said, yes, they need to trade their surplus pitching prospects for young position players/prospects (Marquez for Swisher sort of followed that model). A good way to facilitate the process would be by rehabilitating Kennedy’s value.

    If Damon remains healthy and can put up an OPS+ of close to the 118 he put up this season (tying his career best), they should consider a two year extension, depending on what they do with Jeter, position-wise.

  2. bocco50@hotmail.com

    Jeter to CF is an interesting thought. The skill he has on pops might suggest he can handle the position. I have not seen many go back on pops better then Jeter. As he ages he is loosing a few steps at SS. Before they signed Teixeira I kept telling my wife Yanks should ask Jeter to move to 1st if they could sign a good young SS. But that’s out now. CF worked for Yount it might allow Jeter to play a very prestigious position in Yankees History. No shame in that move. Question is who is the SS out there that replaces him?

  3. bocco50@hotmail.com

    Ok let’s go crazy how about this…. a package of young pitchers Kennedy, Hughes… to Texas maybe throw in Nady if they need an OF bat or Austin Jackson if they prefer a rookie (don’t need him if Jeter moves to CF) for Michael Young. Jeter to CF and resign Abreu for right. Swisher is a bat off the bench and a backup for 1B and corner positions. He’ll get enough playing time. Now the only thing I am unsure of is Youngs fielding. May be ok I just have not seen him enough. Ok I am bracing myself…. šŸ™‚

    Have fun!

  4. jlevy1112@gmail.com

    I thought one of the problems with the Yankees drafting process of late was the propensity to draft mainly pitchers and neglect the position players. In the case of Joba that was good, and we have yet to see what happens with Hughes and Kennedy. I wonder whether a pick like Brackman was really worth it. I know he is a highly rated pitching prospect, but the TJ surgery delayed his development. To me it is best to sign a pitcher that can perform and get to the big leagues quickly like Joba did or Huston Street or other hurlers who didn’t spend much time in their respective organization’s farm system.

    Steve, could you at explain how international signings of players works. For example, when they signed Wang and one of the catchers, either Montero or Romine at 16, don’t remember which one, but what did that involve. Are those signings part of the draft pick process or is that separate?

  5. richinnj

    No offense, but trading Hughes OR A-Jack for Young is a beyond terrible idea.


    Career OPS+ = 102
    Last year’s OPS+ = 96
    Career UZR and UZR/150 at SS = -65.1 and -12

    Jeter (same fielding stats) = -37.5 and -6.0

    So he’s worse than Jeter defensively, and obviously can’t hit nearly as well.

    I don’t want Young for free.

  6. jlevy1112@gmail.com

    Haha and Young got the Gold Glove this past season. Shows what the voters know. Now I want to know who really deserved the Gold Glove at SS.

    I don’t want to just trade away Hughes for nothing. If he is the real deal we wont see it until the 2010 season as long as the staff stays healthy this year. Remember he is still young, there are plenty of starting pitchers that haven’t had instant success. If they did decide to trade him, then they need to replace Pettitte’s vacated spot with someone like Rich Harden, John Lackey, or Justin Duchscherer before the 2010 season begins.

  7. kkbaseball

    I don’t see any problem with stockpiling pitching. I’ve always been of the opinion that by the time a pitcher actually hits Free Agency, his best years are behind him, while with hitters, they can get better by studying as they get older (so it makes more sense to throw money at hitters).

    Though it seems that the league smartened up by starting to lock up position players into long contracts (Evan Longoria style).

    Jeter to Center seems like a good idea, but his arm and range aren’t even particularly good for short, so how they’re going to play in the field is a question…

  8. pscopell@stny.rr.com

    So, Jeter is slipping at short and won’t over to the outfield. OK, then how about moving A-Rod to center field and Jeter to third? Jeter’s current skills should translate to third without much problem, and A-Rod hits like an outfielder. Bring in Paul Blair as a spring instructor to work with him. Then you can go get a better fielding shortstop by packaging perhaps Nady and Kennedy.

  9. richinnj

    A-Rod’s primary defensive weakness is flyballs. Conversely, that’s Jeter’s strength. So it makes more sense to move Jeter to the OF, whether he likes it or not.

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