‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Brian Cashman deserves strong praise for a number of smart-value off-season signings. None have been more vital than Thursday night’s hero Russell Martin. The Yankees’ backstop gained the go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning that led to the Bombers completing a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox and taking two games out of three at Fenway.
Martin hasn’t always been showered with praise for his contributions this season but maybe now fans will take notice just how important he is to the Yankees. Through 106 games, he has put up 17 home runs and 61 RBIs which respectively rank him 5th and 7th among major league catchers. Combining that with his excellent defense and MLB-leading 80 assists, Martin has been invaluable member of the Yankees.
He is set to earn a $4M base salary with a number of intricate small bonuses kicking in per games played. Even if the entire $1.4M in incentives kicks in for a total of $5.4M, Martin will have been one of the best bargains around baseball.
Picking up Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon off the ‘scrap heap’ has worked wonders for the Yankees. Garcia has been a dependable starter that Joe Girardi can count on to give a solid outing almost every time he takes the mound. Even with sub-average velocity, Garcia gets by on control, guile and mental strength. A win-loss of 11-7 to the tune of a 3.09 ERA and WHIP of 1.27 makes impressive reading. Signed for an original $1.5M, Garcia will earn additional per-start bonuses at the end of the year.
Bartolo Colon was considered in baseball circles as ‘the great experiment’ after undergoing a stem cell transplant to repair damaged tissue in his right shoulder. It was unclear how well the procedure would work out or how long Colon would last. Cashman decided to allow Colon to join the Yankees on a Spring Training invite and began to surprise the baseball world.
Originally set to be used out of the bullpen, Colon was able to make his way into the rotation after Phil Hughes suffered an inflamed shoulder. For a period of the season, Colon has pitched like one of the more dominant starters in the American League and his WHIP stands at a terrific 1.24. His velocity is near that of his youth and has registered 116 strikeouts in 138.2 innings pitched. Even if he suffered a season-ending injury in his next start, Cashman will have gotten unbelievable value from Colon at $900K.
Having Eric Chavez around has been particularly important with Alex Rodriguez missing most of July. Even as A-Rod inches closer to a return, Chavez will allow Rodriguez to ease himself back into the Yankees’ lineup and get the occasional rest to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Chavez also is able to spell Mark Teixeira at first base and makes a useful DH against right-handed pitching. As seen on Thursday night, Chavez has a knack for hitting in clutch situations and throughout the year he’s collected some noteworthy hits.
Even at 33, his defense is still reminiscent of six-time Gold Glove résumé and has been a bargain at a base salary of $1.5M. Chavez would earn a maximum of $4M in additional pay based upon playing time and days on the Yankees’ roster but injuries have limited him to 41 games thus far.
One signing I was very skeptical about was Andruw Jones. He was coming off three consecutive seasons full of injuries and short welcomes with the Dodgers, Rangers and White Sox. Jones has actually provided a valuable power bat against left-handed pitching. Over 106 at bats against LHPs, Jones contributed 8 home runs, 24 RBIs and a .538 slugging percentage. He will likely fall short of the 250 plate appearances needed to collect bonuses and will earn a total of $2M.
Despite his struggles of late, Luis Ayala has been a pleasant surprise as he’s given the Yankees an ERA of 1.97 and WHIP of 1.38 through 45.2 innings pitched. Same goes for Cory Wade who has registered a 2.17 ERA and a sparking WHIP of 0.97 through 29.0 IP. Both signed minor league contracts and Cashman and his scouting staff deserve a pat on the back for mining these gems.
Outside of season-ending injury victim Pedro Feliciano, Cashman should be given top marks for his acquisitions. When the Yankees were at their most dominant, their strong depth was an underrated factor in their success. Their ability to plug in quality replacements due to injuries or for use in certain match-ups was a key element in their championship run.
Whether it was Colon sliding into Hughes’ spot in the rotation early in the year, Chavez filling in admirably for A-Rod or the number of successful ‘scrap heap’ bullpen arms added, Cashman’s reassembling of the Yankees mirrors part of what allowed them to win their four championships between 1996-2000. Will it lead to a Word Series title in the 2011 playoffs? Only time will tell…
Yankee fans – how would grade Cashman’s acquisitions? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.