Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Watch out for Yankees on Bay and Holliday

Well, there it is.

In acquiring bat-missing specialist Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves, the Yankees parted with young outfielder Melky Cabrera. In doing so, they cleared room on the roster -- if not necessarily on the payroll -- for either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, the two marquee bats on the market this winter. Both Bay and Holliday have been reluctant to accept the standing offers from the Mets and Cardinals, respectively, and it doesn't take much of an imagination to speculate that they've both been waiting for the Yankees to get into the fray.

The Yankees are in the fray. The Yankees officially have need for a left fielder.

Now, Brian Cashman's team has made clear all offseason that it's not interested either in Bay or Holliday. Both Joel Sherman of the Post and Buster Olney of ESPN.com have portrayed the Yankees as have no interest in either Bay or Holliday, let alone free agent Johnny Damon. Sherman wrote today that the Yankees are looking for a "bargain bin" left fielder. Olney had previously reported that the Yankees were planning to cut payroll this offseason.

Right. OK.

The Yankees' modus operandi always has been to lay low and wait until everyone else has finished shopping. They waited on Mark Teixeira and pounced at the last minute. They came out of nowhere to trade for Alex Rodriguez before the 2004 season, just two weeks after the Rangers had called off trade talks with the Red Sox and named Rodriguez their team captain.

Neither the Cardinals nor the Mets have been all that motivated to improve the offers they have on the table for Holliday and Bay, respectively. Neither player has seemed all that motivated to accept.

The Yankees won't be in on either Bay or Holliday if they're still trying to cut payroll.

But if you believe they're going to choose to cut payroll with the chance to add a middle-of-the-lineup bat still out there -- and keep in mind the Yankees have no clear No. 5 hitter at this point -- you're kidding yourself.

(The argument out there is that the Yankees are waiting on next season's free-agent class. Carl Crawford, though, is the only elite outfielder in that group -- and it's not like the Yankees to put all their eggs in one basket.)

This is the way the Yankees operate. A World Series title last season isn't going to change that. It would be a stunning departure from the Yankees' traditional policy if they let Holliday go back to St. Louis without at least matching the offer the Cardinals have on the table.


For those who haven't paid much attention to Javier Vazquez since his relief appearance against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004: The Yankees just acquired themselves as good of a strikeout pitcher as there was in the major leagues last season. Only four ptichers averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than Vazquez last season -- Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester and Yovani Gallardo -- and only Roy Halladay and Dan Haren had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Vazquez.

Vazquez, in fact, became the first pitcher since Johan Santana in 2006 to strike out more than a hitter an inning while still posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 5.0. Only Vazquez, Santana, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Ben Sheets have accomplished the feat this decade.

It's no lock Vazquez will duplicate those numbers next season. But if your knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss the move as one in which the Yankees added a back-of-the-rotation starter, you'd be well advised to consider that the numbers Vazquez posted for the Braves last season probably would have earned him a Game 2 start in the playoffs for the Yankees.

It's not as if his career numbers are dramatically inflated by his years in the National League, either. His ERA is only a half-run better -- 4.52 in the NL to 4.02 in the AL -- and his career strikeout rates (8.1/8.1) and walk rates (2.3/2.5) are virtually identical.

Oh, and in his one start against the Red Sox last season, Vazquez allowed one earned run in 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight in the process.

1 comment:

The Bottom Line said...

The one edge we had on the Yanks was pitching... not anymore.

I don't think the Sox are going to make another bog move this offseason, but if the Yanks sign Holliday or Bay, they might have to.

They better at leats pretend to be interested and jack the price up on the Yanks...