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Memo from HR
2006-04-17 21:19
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

For those who missed it, erstwhile Yankee third catcher Wil Nieves cleared waivers this past Thursday and was reassigned to Columbus. Having retained Nieves, the Yankees immediately designated Koyie Hill for assignment (who has since cleared waivers himself) in order to promote Matt Smith to the major league bullpen in anticipation of Jaret Wright's Saturday start. As a result the Yankee bench is down to four men and one catcher, while the Yankee pitching staff has swelled to twelve men.

Twelve pitchers are unnecessary, even if one of them is trapped in limbo between the infrequently required fifth starters spot (next appearance: Saturday April 29) and long relief. Still, the promotion of Smith is to be applauded. A 26-year-old lefty drafted by the Yankees in 2000, Smith excelled after being converted to relief last year, posting a 2.70 ERA and striking out 9.94 men per nine innings between Trenton and Columbus, though with a few too many walks. Smith made his major league debut on Friday night retiring his only batter, lefty Joe Mauer, on a groundout to second.

Further bullpen moves are on the horizon as Aaron Small and Octavio Dotel have both started pitching in extended spring training games. Small threw four innings yesterday in his third game of the extended spring posting this line: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 48 pitches. Dotel will make his extended spring debut with one inning today. Small is reportedly just building up arm strength and could return by the end of the month. Dotel is still projected for early June, but appears to be ahead of that schedule, though the Yankees plan to take things slowly with him as he's coming off Tommy John surgery.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have signed first baseman Carlos Peña and reliever Jesus Colome to minor league deals. Colome was released by the Devil Rays on Thursday after just one appearance in which he faced two batters, walking one and retiring the other. Colome lost his roster spot to minor league journeyman Scott Dunn, which is an indication of his talents. Now 27, Colome pitched in part of five seasons with the Devil Rays, his best being 2004 when he posted a 3.27 ERA in 41 1/3 innings striking out 8.71 men per nine innings and walking 3.92 per nine. Last year, however, things went to pot as his hit and homer rates nearly doubled, while his strikeout rate dropped by more than three Ks per nine and his ERA swelled by more than a run and a quarter. Given the arms they already have on hand in Columbus and due back from the DL, things will have to go awfully awry for Colome to penetrate the Yankee bullpen.

Peña, meanwhile, is a very poor man's answer to Hee Seop Choi. A slick-fielding, lefty-hitting first baseman, the 27-year-old Peña has power and patience, but has been unable to put them together after more than 1650 major league at-bats. Once a top prospect in the Rangers system, Peña was snagged by the A's prior to the 2002 season in a six-player deal that netted Texas Gerald Laird and Ryan Ludwick, but after just a half season of disappointing production with Oakland, Peña became one of the key players in the three-team trade that sent Ted Lilly to the A's, Jeremy Bonderman to the Tigers and Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. Peña did slightly better with the Tigers over the remainder of the 2002 season, but failed to show improvement as the Tiger's full-time first baseman over the next two seasons. After hitting just .181/.307/.283 over the first two months of 2005, the Tigers lost patience with Peña, sending him down to triple-A Toledo, where he caught fire, hitting .311/.424/.525. Back with the big club, he hit seven home runs in his first eight games before settling back down to hit just .235/.284/.490 for the remaining month of the season, finishing the season with 95 strikeouts in 295 plate appearances. With Chris Shelton and Dmitri Young on hand and a full outfield of Ordoñez, Granderson and Monroe, the Tigers needed little more than Peña's dismal spring showing to give him his release just before the 2006 season began.

I don't really see how Peña would be an improvement over what Andy Phillips could give the Yankees. Certainly Peña has a lot more big league experience, but that has only allowed him to establish a level of performance (career: .243/.330/.459) that I'm confident Phillips could surpass if given proper playing time. The only upside I see here is that Peña is left-handed and could work his way into a DH platoon with Phillips should Joe Torre ever decide that would like to get an extra base hit or two out of the position. But that's a long ways off, as Peña will have to first work his way back into shape, then prove himself worthy of a roster spot. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Peña's presence in Columbus affects Eric Duncan, who is learning first base with the Clippers, but struggling at the plate. Could Peña's arrival at Columbus bounce the Yankees' #2 prospect back down to Trenton (which is probably where he should have started the season anyway)? And if so, what might that do to the confidence Duncan built up between winning the Arizona Fall League MVP and the J.P. Dawson Award for best Yankee rookie in camp this spring?

Stay tuned . . .

Comments
2006-04-17 23:47:25
1.   fgasparini
Isn't it all about potential--Pena seemed at one point like he might mash, while Phillips seems like he might only, um, mash-ette? Plus, potential or not, and TORRE BASHING ASIDE, it simply doesn't look like A. Phil will get many PA's at DH this year. Perhaps Pena will, who can say.
2006-04-18 05:22:58
2.   Rob Gee
2 I'll repeat Cliff's constant refrain - Andy's never gotten a chance. All he's done is mash minor league hitting (Columbus -2005: .300 .379 .573; 2004: .318 .388 .569). It's not that we've adopted him a a pet cause or anything - it that he deserves a legit shot.

For reference:

In his career (scattered appearances over two seasons) Andy has gotten 48 AB's (very scattered).

In just this season, Bernie (or the Ghost of Bernie for you newcomers) has gotten 38 AB's.

The reality is the breaking point for GOB should come soon. He's producing at Womackian levels (.263 .300 .289). The Yanks need to decide when the benching/PH duty will begin for GOB or they could wind end up with by far the worst DH numbers in the league.

Now once said benching begins (which it will have to), Andy deserves his shot - even if just for two or three solid weeks.

1 Pena still needs to play himself into shape - that gives him one month.

After that - calling Reggie Sanders - sometime in June.

2006-04-18 05:53:10
3.   Sliced Bread
NY Daily News reports Pena went 2-for-5 yesterday, with two diving stops at 1st in the game pitched by Aaron Small.

For what it's worth, according to Pena's profile page at baseballreference.com, Tino Martinez is listed as one the top 3 most similar players by age 27.

Among the other players listed as similar to Pena at this point in his career: Nick Johnson, Bubba Trammell, and Jay Buhner.

If Joe has knowledge of this, and Pena exhibits a little more patience in the minors, he could be be fast-tracked to the Yankees bench (AKA the Donald Arthur Mattingly Hitting Academy) faster than you can say "Give Andy Phillips a chance."

2006-04-18 05:54:21
4.   tommyl
2, couldn't have said it better myself (wow, agreeing with Rob Gee!). Maybe we can track how many PA it takes to convince the coaching staff someone who used to be great isn't anymore? How many did it take Womack?

We can do the same for pitchers, as coming off today's Times article it appears that Torre will stick with Wright for the time being.

2006-04-18 06:14:07
5.   Levy2020
2 Rob, I can't tell if you WANT Reggie Sanders or EXPECT to get Reggie Sanders.

For me, it doesn't make any sense. The Yankees agreed that prospects were more important than trading for a Center Fielder and they would rather spend money. Cashman's continuous minor league waivers pickups demonstrate that he is still trying to improve the team by signing "free agents" and waiting for Cox, Hughes, Duncan, Tabata, etc.

The last thing I'd want them to do is reverse course and have two half loafs. . . . Plus, it really doesn't seem like offense is a problem for this team If the team scores 1000 runs, is the the DH to blame that the runs are unevenly distributed across games?

2006-04-18 06:36:47
6.   NetShrine
Why does everyone say that Pena is slick with the glove?

http://tinyurl.com/hkopc

2006-04-18 06:39:32
7.   Rob Gee
5 You throw away outs, you throw away chances to score runs, you throw away chances to win ballgames - Womack, Bernie, Bubba - it doesn't matter. You want to score as many runs as possible in every game. A black hole at DH doesn't increase the chances of that happening.

If Sanders would be an upgrade, and can be had for two Bronx never-will-be's, then you do it. If June rolls around and we're getting the same production at DH, you can expect lots of Sanders rumors. But first Andy needs his shot. And then maybe Pena too. And if Melky keeps tearing up Columbus maybe him too. The ideal solution, given the splits, is a DH platoon - the Andy and Carlos show. Of course, then we have three 1B's. You can't win them all...

2006-04-18 06:57:42
8.   Shawn Clap
Netshrine,
I wouldn't get too caught up in crazy stats. Anyone who's seen Pena in the field (rather than on a spreadsheet) will tell you he's stella! He'll make a fine late inning defensive replacement over Giambi.

I think the reason the Yanks want to go this way (and Torre in particular)is just old-fashioned fundamental baseball. Pena is a tall lefthander, while Phillips is a shorter righthander.

It must make an old-schooler like Torre cringe to see a right-handed 1st baseman's mitt.

2006-04-18 07:04:29
9.   Fred Vincy
Pena is a year younger than Phillips, the scouts like him more, and PECOTA likes him more. Sure, I'd rather have Choi, but that wasn't an option. This was a good pick up.
2006-04-18 07:14:48
10.   NetShrine
Shawn Clap - FWIW, the data in The Fielding Bible is based on what people see when they watch Pena in the field - - and how many plays he makes vs. what an average player makes, etc.
2006-04-18 07:29:19
11.   JohnnyC
Steve, this is no excuse and results are after all results but I think some of Pena's difficulties in the field may be tied to his offensive ups and (mostly) downs. My impression of him is that he's pretty slick around the bag (as was Nick Johnson you might recall although, there too, stats didn't paint a nice picture). Now, this might be something that is never remedied but, potentially, Pena is a better than average fielder. I'm not sure intermittent playing time under Torre's surreal platoon(?) will give him any more confidence. But, he might have a nice stretch of several weeks if we're lucky. And he's a lefty in Yankee Stadium (traditional values are politically correct these days, Steve).
2006-04-18 07:56:57
12.   Cliff Corcoran
3 Pena's top PECOTA comparable is Dan Pasqua. That sounds right. Anyone other than Murphy excited by that?
2006-04-18 08:37:49
13.   Sliced Bread
12 Nothing like evoking the memory of Dan Pasqua to douse any Pena optimism.
2006-04-18 08:43:03
14.   Rob Gee
I loved Dan Pasqua. The second coming! Wahoo!
2006-04-18 09:06:12
15.   Sliced Bread
Being a hometown kid, Pasqua was an easy guy to root for, especially whenever Mattingly was injured, but he was hard to watch at the plate.

Funny, whenever somebody brings up his name, Pasqua, I think of Piniella stewing in the Yankee dugout, gnawing on his finger nails.

2006-04-18 09:44:19
16.   brockdc
Rob Gee -

As you might say, Reggie Sanders is definitely PP without the O. Trading for him in July wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but, if the Yanks have to sacrifice a mid-range prospect (a la Kevin Thompson) to get him, I'm against it.

2006-04-18 09:48:51
17.   fgasparini
I shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss Andy Phillips. He may well be a pretty good hitter in the bigs. But I just don't think we're going to find out while he's with the Yankees. Pena's numbers are not super for a 1B, but they're decent...better than Miguel Cairo, anyway. If Pena gives Torre a reason never to use Miguel Cairo at first base, isn't that an upgrade? As for Phillips, I hope he gets a shot with another organization.
2006-04-18 09:51:46
18.   fgasparini
Also, last night on another thread I wrote that Phillips stinks. I'd like to retract that and apologize. It was ill considered.
2006-04-18 10:00:10
19.   Rob Gee
16 You bet - Thompson might be too much. I'm not sure though. Hopefully they give Thompson or Reese or Melky another shot before trading anyone for Reggie. I mean the GM made a whole big to-do about relying on youth to fill holes this year (see Phillips, Andy and Crosby, Bubba). Unfortunately the manager doesn't seem to know of that plan. It will be interesting to see who folds first.

May 10th:
BC: We're not getting alot out of the DH slot.
JT: Yeah, Bernie's not getting it done. But we don't have any other options.
BC: What about Phillips?
JT: Oh, he's just a kid. He can't be expected to get it done everyday.

2006-04-18 10:07:00
20.   Rob Gee
17 No worries - it's amazing to realize how much popular opinion is drive by limited sample sizes. I've never been high on Phillips myself (I just don't think he'll get it d-u-n in the Bronx), but Cliff convinced me he deserves a legit chance.

Here's hoping that's right around the corner - esp. with two left-handers in two days then Chen this weekend.

2006-04-18 10:24:38
21.   Alex Belth
Cliff, Not excited but happy that you brought up Dan Pasqua's name. I really liked that guy when he was in New York.
2006-04-18 10:24:43
22.   Sliced Bread
20 Despite facing consecutive lefties in Toronto, Bernie's .429 avg. vs Chacin, Giambi's scorching .543 OBP, and Cairo's effectiveness against southpaws will likely diminish Phillips' chances, as if his odds of getting at-bats could get worse.

The only thing I know for sure is the Yanks schedule is ridiculous this week:

Travel/wait 48 hours, play two games in Toronto over the course of 20 hours, travel/wait approx. 51 hours til Friday night home game.

Well, at least they'll be well rested going into the Orioles series.

2006-04-18 10:44:35
23.   jayd
Andy Phillips looks so different from last year. He looks like he can hit. I am more impressed with him this year than I was with Cano last year. There is no way he's getting 150 at bats, though. How many AB's do you call a legit shot?

And how far in the future do you hold on to him for? Giambi is just 34 or so, isn't he? He can put together 3 or 4 more awesome years.

Giambi is back big time -- I won't go as far to say he will overshadow AROD but those two will stop the Big Pappi/Manny "best 3-4 in the AL" blather in its tracks this year.

2006-04-18 10:50:36
24.   jayd
PS
The Marlin's 1st baseman is hitting only .200; I say let Andy establish himself enough and package him for Dontrelle. he can join Hanley Ramirez and lead the fish to another world series.
2006-04-18 10:56:49
25.   Rob Gee
23 50 ab's in two-three weeks would be a good start. I think 100-150 Ab's would be legit. Think of how much we put up with Womack last year and by the time Bernie finds his permanent seat on the bench he'll be over 100 ab's. A legit shot would seem to require at least that.

But unless Cash and Tea have a real heart-to-heart, I just don't see Andy gettting a chance 22. Then in June/July I'm really curious if the GM bites and gets some PP but hopefully not OPP.

2006-04-18 11:11:47
26.   jonnystrongleg
Has anyone else noticed the amount of space there is between Andy Phillips' bat, mid-swing, and the ball thrown by the pithcer? I think that Torre notices, and the sheer ugliness of his K's hurts his chances. I'm not saying Phillips could not be good with a real shot, or is not good right now, I'm just saying it's hard to impress Joe when you miss the ball by as much as Andy did versus Liriano in Minnesota. He took Santana to the wall, though, and I hope that is closer to his real skill level than the ugly whiffs.
2006-04-18 12:22:47
27.   wsporter
26 I was content to stay on the sidelines today until I read that. Nobody looked good against Liriano. IMHO If you give Phillips a legitimate chance he will produce. If he ever gets 300 - 500 MLB ab's under his belt he will be a legit ML hitter. I watched this kid (hi Cliff) for a couple of years on his Minor League visits to the Commonwealth and he can hit, he's got good hands and a quick bat and he can hit RH breaking balls. What we have seen so far is not a legit sample at the ML level. Rob's comments at 25 are I think spot on.
2006-04-18 12:26:00
28.   David
23 Jayd - ARod and Giambi might be the best 3-4 hitters in basebaall, but only if Torre bats them 3-4. It seems obvious to most that Giambi and Sheffield should switch places in the batting order, but so far, not to Torre.
2006-04-18 12:47:37
29.   Nick from Washington Heights
I was pretty young when he first came up, but didn't Pasqua hit the scene with a bang? I seem to recall that his first games with theclub he was slugging homers left and right. I think I was 8, so memory might be failing me here.
2006-04-18 13:02:09
30.   Shaun P
I am all for having depth around in the form of Carlos Pena, and that's why I like the move. Say Giambi gets hurt, a real possibility - Will Carroll's THR system gave him a red light. I'd rather have the choices be Phillips/Pena than Cairo/Phillips. That said, I'm not sure I'd want to see Pena up in the bigs right now.

The fact remains that Andy Phillips has not gotten a legit shot and deserves one, as so many have pointed out. The Yanks have done well recently in giving some of their minor leaguers a chance - 'bout time! - I'd like to see it continue with Phillips.

2006-04-18 13:07:37
31.   Andre
Anyone know why the Yanks are not on Extra Innings tonight? I am in Boston and it sucks whenever there's a blackout. That usually happens on Friday nights when the game is on WWOR, but I don't understand the blackout tonight?
2006-04-18 13:11:14
32.   jonnystrongleg
27 I agree with you to give him a shot, I think he's got some thinder in that bat. But he misses badly and swings wildly, and my guess is that Torre is reluctant based on the actual evidence (scant and insufficient as it is). In his few at bats, he has not looked good and that hurts his chances with Joe.
2006-04-18 13:12:49
33.   Fred Vincy
Andre,

directtv.com is listing the game as on 622. Do you have a reason to think it's blacked out (or do you use something other than directtv)?

I was really looking forward to the game tonight....

2006-04-18 13:24:00
34.   wsporter
MFD 30 I think you're right on the Phillips/Cairo choice. I'm not so down on Cairo as many of our fellow bloggers here are. He can play effectively anywhere on the infield and he does come up with the occasional timely hit. Having a lefty 1b option with some power who has ML experience in the system is a good thing (i.e. Pena). I don't think we need to bring him up unless there is an emergency if we are going to stick with a 12 man staff, which means we keep both Cairo and Phillips around. Unfortunately with the contract he signed (an escape clause if he's not brought up in a couple of weeks) it appears to me that Pena's coming to the Bronx sooner rather than later.

When Small, Dotel and Pavano are ready to come off the DL who gets shipped out? Proctor, Smith and somebody I would imagine. It's too bad on Smith I wish they could find a way to give him some innings, he might make himself valuable.

32 He looks that way now a little, I hadn't seen that before, he may be pressing a little which doesn't help. Admittedly it's 6 or 7 games over the last 2 years so my sample is hardly huge either.

2006-04-18 13:32:33
35.   jonnystrongleg
34 Totally. I think those 48 ABs and 14 Ks are all Torre thinks about when it comes to Andy. It's unfair, because bad timing and looking bad when you miss are common problmes for young players who don't have regular PT. He's kind of set up to look bad, but I think looking bad is what's keeping him in the doghouse. But that's just a guess.
2006-04-18 13:47:01
36.   Andre
33

Fred,
I have Adelphia digital cable - the game is not listed in their directory, and it's not listed in the ExtraInnings schedule.

2006-04-18 14:05:47
37.   tommyl
36, ditto for me on Comcast. Its on YES and its a Tuesday night. WTF?
2006-04-18 14:13:43
38.   tommyl
Well I just sent inDemand an email which will never get a reply? Who is in charge of scheduling? Its absurd to pay nearly $200 for Extra Innings when your cable company doesn't offer YES and then be unable to watch games based on scheduling whims. There is no reason for a blackout tonight. Cliff, Alex do you guys know about this?
2006-04-18 15:21:49
39.   brockdc
I thought Phillips looked stout in his limited time last year. He had one terrible game (o-4, 4 K's, I believe), which summarily put him in the Joe Torre Witness Protection Plan for Twenty-somethings.

The fact of the matter is, he's not going to get any significant playing time unless Giambi goes on the D.L., so let's just stop it.

2006-04-18 15:23:15
40.   brockdc
Extra Innings and their freaking bogus blackouts can go to hell.
2006-04-18 15:47:04
41.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Per Phillips:

The Chicago Trib had a stat this weekend regarding two of the better players to play here in Chicago the last 20 years.

Of the top of my head, they noted that Robin Ventura started his major league career 0 for his first 40, and Ryne Sandberg was something equally ridiculous. Ventura and the Sox hitting coach at the time had to beg the manager and gm to keep him in the majors.

Lucky Torre wasn't managing the Cubs or Sox when those two were breakng in, huh.

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