RANDOM BITS FOR A RANDOM FRIDAY
… Because I definitely feel 13th after a very busy week.
? The Cubs signed Esteban German to a Minor League contract, so those that wrote suggesting he’d make a good depth addition for the Yankees and a possibly useful Alex Rodriguez substitute, forget it. I don’t think it’s a huge loss unless he’s going to go back to walking 50 times in half a season.
? Remember last week I said that A-Rod’s injury wasn’t the last injury, just the first, and the Yankees would have to survive the cumulative weight of those losses? Now, we have Robinson Cano’s sore shoulder and Damaso Marte’s pectoral muscle. In both cases, the injuries could be nothing or could be something. There’s no reason to worry too much about Marte because the Yankees have the pitching depth to get by without any one reliever, but Cano would force the Yankees to fall back on some pretty weak choices. For any team, as ever, the emphasis must be on the farm, the farm, the farm, the farm, or eventually you’re going to get hit and not be able to cope. Thank you, Uncle WBC!
? Has anyone who was lukewarm on the Mark Teixeira signing before the event yet conceded that in the absence of A-Rod that signing may very well save the offense, and thereby the season? By the way, Chase Utley had the full-on version of the surgery that Rodriguez is splitting in two back in November. He has yet to get into a game.
? A-Rod replacement speculation: the guy the Yankees should be looking to make a force majeure kind of move on is J.J. Hardy of the Brewers, who may lose his job to Alcides Escobar at some point in the near future. He can hit enough to play third and is young enough to play short after, just in case, you know, the Yankees ever have any defensive weakness at that position.
? Before someone asks about catcher Rob Bowen, who the A’s are shopping, there is no evidence he would out-hit Jose Molina. Yes, Molina is a better hitter than somebody.
? Big loss for the Rays in having Fernando Perez hit the bench for three months with a dislocated left wrist. Perez isn’t an impact player but is a nice complimentary part. Matt Joyce hasn’t played yet due to his own injuries, and B.J. Upton is still working his left shoulder back into shape. Gabe Kapler is going to end up playing a lot more than might be good … Too much of Justin Ruggiano and his amazing capacity to strike out, too.
? Transcript from today’s chat, with lots of Yankees questions, some politics, and scattered other baseball musings.
? Those of you in the District of Columbia, I’ll be making two appearances there next Wednesday, along with BP compadres, Clay Davenport and Jay Jaffe. First, I’ll be hosted by the Georgetown Lecture Fund at 4:30 p.m. (open to the public). Following closely on the heels of that talk will be one of my favorite yearly events, a trip to the Politics & Prose bookstore at 7 p.m. For address info, see this page.
NO SURGERY FOR A-ROD…FOR NOW
Remember how well no surgery for Hideki Matsui worked out? I hope the Yankees have received better advice this time. The Yankees will still need insurance for the position — even if Rodriguez can “play,” we’ve seen what this kind of injury did to Chase Utley and Mike Lowell last season.
Throughout the evening I’ll be spelunking through the world’s roster flotsam to see if there are any third base possibilities that could provide the Yankees with better depth than they currently possess. This is emphatically a non-systematic look, no better than guesses and random suggestions. I’m sticking with lower echelon guys, because the team is unlikely to try to deal for an All-Star type (if one is even available) until it has a better idea of how much Rodriguez it’s really going to get. Thus the trick is finding someone who will fit on the bench or in the minors if/when Rodriguez becomes available and is also demonstrably more potent than Angel Berroa and Cody Ransom. Fortunately, that group includes everyone. Here’s the first pile.
Ray Durham (Free Agent): Durham, 37, can still hit, having batted .289/.380/.453 for the Giants and Brewers last year. A legitimate switch-hitter at one time, his right-handed stroke seems to have died over the last couple of years. As a career second baseman, the last time he played third base in the majors was… never.
Esteban German (about to be a Free Agent): German was designated for assignment by the Royals a few days ago. He has played a little third base each of the last five years, though he’s not particularly good at it. German was once a useful offensive player, making up for his lack of punch with a high walk rate. Then he stopped walking.
Mark Grudzielanek (Free Agent): Grudz is a career .290 hitter but has never produced much because he doesn’t get on base or hit with any power. Over the last two seasons, he hit .301/.345/.415, though he missed about half of 2008 with injuries. He last played third base in 1995. This would be a desperation pick-up, but “desperate” describes the situation with a high degree of accuracy.
Jeff Keppinger, Danny Richar (Reds 40-Man): The Reds have a legion of infielders in camp and might not mind moving one. Richar will turn 26 this year. He’s a left-handed hitter with a little pop who has spent all but 72 games of his career in the minors, where he has been a .288/.338/.440. PECOTA has a weighted mean projection of .253/.318/.401 for Richar, but that’s as a Red — in another ballpark, that projection would presumably drop. Keppinger is a vet who can usually hit for average, though injuries prevented him from doing so in the second half last year. Keppinger has mostly played short in the majors, but he’s stretched there. Right now he seems to be behind Alex Gonzalez and Jerry Hairston, Jr. on the depth chart.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres 40-Man): This one is likely a reach unless the Yankees want to send a real prospect or two, but the Padres are a financial mess and have a bit of depth at this position as sophomore Chase Headley could take over the hot corner if Kouzmanoff were to leave town. No defensive whiz, Kouzmanoff does have a potent righty bat that has been camouflaged by Petco Park — last year he hit .226/.268/.390 at home, but .292/.329/.473 on the road. He’s impatient and strikes out quite a bit, but the road figures represent the real hitter.
Scott McClain (Giants NRI): The soon to be 37-year-old journeyman, once an expansion Ray, got the call from the Giants last fall and hit .273/.368/.485, which is probably the high upside of his hitting abilities. He’s been a pro since 1990 and has spent some time in Japan as well as the American minors. Including his time overseas, he has hit 405 pro home runs — we’re talking Crash Davis here. As a domestic Minor Leaguer, he’s hit .271/.357/.484, including .300/.388/.553 at Triple-A last season. He’s never been a great fielder, and an optimistic Major League projection would be .240/.320/.420, but that would far surpass the Berroa/Ransom combo.
Dallas McPherson (Marlins 40-man): The former Angels prospect, now 28. A left-handed power hitter, he led the minors in home runs last year, batting .275/.379/.618 with 42 home runs at Triple-A Albuquerque. He also struck out 168 times in 448 at-bats. He’s no fielder and would struggle to reach base 30 percent of the time, but he’d hit a few balls over the fences.
More to come…