CHASED, YANKEES INTO 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.
WHERE MY FEET ARE
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.
Jlevy1112 asks: What about the Yankees two highly rated catching prospects in the Minor Leagues, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine? If Posada can’t make his full complement of starts, could one of these two be called up to join the team? I seem to remember they both have nice offensive numbers in the minors. If the Yankees traded for a Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, or Miguel Montero where would that put the aforementioned catching prospects?
Both Montero and Romine are both very far away. As you probably know, Montero may never arrive as a catcher, as he’s a hulking giant of a kid who doesn’t fit very well behind the plate. He has sufficient talent as a hitter that he should be able to make the transfer to first base — I keep thinking of Carlos Delgado, who actually made it to the majors as a catcher before everyone said, “Whoa, that’s not going to work,” and he went over to first base (after a brief stop in left field) and proceeded to hit (to date) 469 home runs. I’m not saying that Montero is going to be a borderline Hall of Famer — that would be premature — but that his career so far has echoes of the Delgado story.
In contrast to Montero, Romine seems to have the defensive tools to remain behind the dish, and he had a terrific finish to his season, punching out eight of his 10 home runs in the final two months of the season. Now, both of these guys are very young. Neither can legally buy a beer, with Montero having turned 19 around Thanksgiving and Romine reaching 20 less than a week earlier. Both finished the year at Low-A Charleston, which means they’re a big three levels from the majors, including the hard jump to Double-A, which many catchers do not survive.
If the Yankees traded for one of the players you mentioned, it wouldn’t harm these players at all given that they seem to be at least two years away, more likely three. As the younger players started to become expensive, the Yankees would have the option of moving them out and starting over. And, of course, Montero might not be a catcher anyway. We’ll soon see what the presence of Mark Teixeira means for his future.
Now, a lot of writers would ignore or ban the following crank, but you know, I find guys like this “42Yankee” kind of amusing.
THIS PORKY SO CALLED SPORTS WRITER NEEDS TO RETIRE AND GO AWAY, FAR,FAR AWAY. THE YANKS SHOULD HAVE NEVER GIVEN POSADA THE BIG CONTRACT, AS ALL HE HAD WAS A LUCKY YEAR AT BAT IN 2007. HE COULDN’T THROW OUT ANYBODY. AS FAR AS MOLINA IS CONCERNED, TELL US US CHUBBO GOLDMAN:::: HOW MANY GAMES DID MOLINA WIN BY THROWING OUT BASE RUNNERS? MORE THAN A MORON LIKE YOU CAN COUNT!!!!! NOW PLEASE RETIRE AND GO AWAY, FAR, FAR AWAY. MAYBE THEN THE YANKEES WILL FIND A REAL SPORTS REPORTER, OR BETTER YET GO JOIN THE REDUX WRITERS TEAM, AS YOU WOULD FIT RIGHT IN AT FENWAY!!!!!
1. “Retire?” Dude, I’m 38 years old. I have a mortgage to pay, two kids to put through college, and most importantly, I’m having way too much fun.
2. “Porky.” Well, that’s not a charitable description, but it’s not unfair. I’ve been working on it, including hiring a personal trainer to develop a workout program for me. Weight has been a thing I’ve fought my whole life. I can show you pictures where I’m kind of svelte and then others that are like, well, now. There are exculpatory medical factors, but they don’t really change the big picture, pun intentional. Anyway, it’s something that bothers me, but unlike “42Yankee” I’m not seven years old. Taunting my physical appearance as a way of attacking my ideas doesn’t really register as anything more than a pathetic, helpless gesture, an Internet wuss’s version of emotional terrorism. Nice try.
Back about my sophomore year of high school I guess I was having one of my heavier seasons. At this time, some friends and I were in the habit of scraping together teams of for pick-up softball or baseball games. We were in a fairly large school, so it wasn’t too difficult to come up with 18 or 20 kids who could show up at the park on a Saturday or Sunday morning and play six innings or so (the scores were usually too lopsided to go nine). One of my best friends threw very hard for a 15-year-old, and he and I made up the battery.
One day after school, he and I went out to a neighborhood park to practice. I was squatting down, catching his fastball. Parenthetically, I never was very good at catching his offspeed stuff, and one day a year or two later he crossed me up and unexpectedly threw something that broke sharply downward, ticking off my mitt and hitting me on the foot, mildly fracturing it. One of our class idiots wandered by — I would like to call him the class idiot, but as I said it was a large class and we had several — and came over to see what we were doing. After a few minutes of watching, for no particular reason he started aiming a series of very weak fat jokes at me, lines that even a third grader, or “42Yankee” here, might find too childish to use.
This was more irritating than effective. The guy had taken up a position a few yards behind me and was endlessly chattering as I caught the ball and flipped it back to my pal, the pitcher. I wasn’t bothered, but my friend was deeply offended on my behalf. He warned Class Idiot, but the babble continued. I remember what happened next vividly. My pal wound up and fired with something extra on the ball. “Sssss” went the ball as it went over my head. Behind me, the Idiot said something like, “Hey, are you an elephant or — aaagh!” I turned around. There was another “Sssss” sound going past me. I ducked, but not before seeing a fastball come within a hair of hitting the idiot in the head.
I’ve rarely been more moved in my life. Here was my friend about to turn this guy into Ray Chapman because he had attacked me. Simultaneously, I also knew that if I cared at all about my friend, that I couldn’t really just watch it happen, because friends don’t let friends go to jail for murder. I shouted that it wasn’t worth it, that the Idiot should be allowed to live, but before the message could sink in, one more fastball lazered just past the bridge of Idiot’s nose, at which point he fled, threatening to tell his mom. How can I be bothered by weight jokes when I have friends like that?
3. “42Yankee” is correct that in an ideal world the Yankees should not have given Posada a four-year deal after 2007, because his age and position made him even riskier than would be typical when you’re booking a player for seasons 36 through 39. That’s the only argument against it, however, and if the deal had been for only two years there wouldn’t be any grounds for criticism at all. However, even the four-year deal has to be excused because Posada had all the leverage in the situation. The Yankees weren’t about to get Joe Mauer away from the Twins, so if they didn’t want to take a big, giant hit at catcher, they had to cater to Posada’s demands. I wrote at the time that they were paying for four years to get two good ones, and perhaps that will still be the case.
4. “42Yankee” is, however, spectacularly wrong when he implies that the Yankees were solely overreacting to Posada’s 2007 season. Yes, he had an unusually belated peak and an uncharacteristically high batting average that season, but he was also a player who had had three other seasons with an OBP above .400, was a five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner as the best hitter at his position. Among catchers with 5000 or more career plate appearances, Posada ranks fifth in OPS, trailing only Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, and Gabby Hartnett; fifth in on-base percentage (Cochrane, Wally Schang, Dickey, and Piazza are ahead of him); f
ourth in isolated power (behind Piazza, Johnny Bench, Javy Lopez). He even ranks 17th in batting average. If he can hit at all this year, he’ll break into the top 10 in home runs by a catcher, and if he plays something like two more full seasons he’s going to have drawn more walks than any catcher to play the game. Posada may or may not be a Hall of Famer, but as a hitter his peers are all guys with plaques.
I think the most amazing thing about “42Yankee” having written that the Yankees should not have re-signed Posada is that he did so despite having the evidence of what a Posada-less Yankees team looks like. We call it the 2008 Yankees, and they don’t make the playoffs. There you go, “42” — thanks to Posada’s shoulder, they did it your way. Look how it wound up. Congratulations.
5. How many games did Molina win by throwing out baserunners? The easy answer is, not as many as he lost by making outs. First, The Yankees went 43-38 in Molina’s starts, which is a .531 percentage. They were actually a game better with other catchers in the lineup, which says something given how miserable some of the other guys were. Now, I see that one of our correspondents ran through some very simple math for you in the comments, but let me try taking it from a different angle. Last year, Molina caught 44 percent of attempting basestealers, or 33 in 42 attempts. The average stolen base success rate was 27 percent, so in a similar number of attempts, we should have expected the average catcher to catch 20 or 21 baserunners. Right away we have a problem with your valuation of Molina, because his real defensive worth becomes 13 dead baserunners. On average, four or five of those would have scored. That’s what you’re touting here, a defensive benefit of five runs. Given that a generous estimate of his offense would have him worth something like 20 runs less than the average player and 15 runs less than the average catcher, Molina is still deep in the hole. The Yankees didn’t get back to even on those ex-baserunners. Surely, “42,” you can recognize that games won and lost are a matter of those scored and allowed, and that had the Yankees scored 20 more runs in Molina’s plate appearances, but allowed five more, they still would have been close to two wins better off?
6. “Chubbo,” “Moron.” I don’t mind debating with third-graders, Hall of Fame voters, and members of Congress.
7. Here’s that “retire” stuff again. You know, my boss at YES told me that the current caricature on the site made me look too old. Now I believe him. Fortunately, the great Rich Faber will soon be supplying us with some new art. By the way, I’ve never claimed to be a “sports reporter.” Nowadays people tend to call me a blogger, but having opened the Pinstriped Bible in the days before blogs, I’ve always thought of myself as a columnist, although the content here has always been blog-like. My BP colleague likes to use the term “analyst,” and maybe that works too, but in the final analysis I’m just proud to be a writer and happy that I get to engage the public on a regular basis. For now, Chubbo the Columnist is going to retire to the kitchen for some pasta and then do some sit-ups. Thanks for writing, “42.” I look forward to your next note on how Melky Cabrera is more valuable than Mickey Mantle, or perhaps something on how much the team misses Tony Womack’s baserunning capabilities.