New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman didn't land the the two big studs he had hoped for in the off-season and had to settle for a mish-mosh of cast-offs, over-priced players and more old guys. One-third through the 2011 season and it's time to grade Cashman's big winter pick-ups.
The Yankees missed out on landing the class valedictorians Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford and ended up settling for the Sweathogs. The Yankees still have a slim lead in the AL East and can attribute some of their success to a couple players in this unlikely group.
Both pitchers were picked up for bargain-basement minor-league contracts and looked like they were headed down to the farm until no young arms rose to the occasion in spring training and Phil Hughes later went down with "dead arm."
Colon, coming off a a season-and-a-half layoff has been sensational for the most part. He is coming off a complete game shutout against the Oakland A's and has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career. The hefty rightie has a 3-3 record with a 3.26 ERA and 62 KO's against only 15 walks. Colon's remarkable recovery from arm troubles is being scrutinized by MLB because of the controversial stem-cell procedure he underwent last year. That's one demerit. He still hits 96 mph on the radar gun and has become the Yankees #2 starter. Gets extra credit for comeback of the early season.
Bartolo Colon: Grade B-plus.
Garcia won the fifth spot in the rotation, but hasn't been as over powering as Colon. He came over from the Chicago White Sox where he was 12-6 last year. Garcia threatened to dump his contract if he went to the minors but has been a capable #5. He didn't get his first start until the third week of the season, but has gone 4-4 with a respectable 3.34 ERA and 41 strikeouts.
Freddy Garcia: Grade B-minus.
Catcher Russell Martin was coveted by the Red Sox but chose the Yankees because he said they seemed to want him more in the Bronx. The Yankees are glad he is in pinstripes. The 28 year-old Martin has been hot and cold but has made fans forgetting about Jorge Posada being behind the plate a little easier. The former Los Angeles Dodger All-Star has showed no signs of last year's bum hip and performed capably behind the plate and beside it. He is only batting .242 but has hit 9 home-runs and knocked in 26 RBI's--typical Posada numbers when he was in his prime. Martin also has stolen 6 bases. Martin is also a nice catching bridge until the team can bring up Jesus Montero--if he's not traded.
Russell Martin: Grade B.
Andruw Jones has seen limited time in the outfield and at DH, but has shown he still possesses the power he wielded at the plate. The 34 year-old slugger has less than 60 at-bats, and with Nick Swisher finally starting to show some pop in his bat, it looks like Jones will only be replacing Posada against lefties most of the time. Jones has gotten his few hits in critical situations and has 4 HR's and 10 RBI's which makes his .230 average a push.
Andruw Jones: Grade C.
Utility infielder, Eric Chavez, has seen limited time and is more valuable to the Yankees as Alex Rodriguez's replacement when he tweaks a hammy or hits in the DH spot. The 34 year-old veteran is batting .303 and has knocked in 6 RBI's. He gets extra credit for understanding his place on the team.
Eric Chavez: Grade C.
The moody pitcher is currently on the DL for 6-8 weeks but not after blowing crucial saves, avoiding the press and, when he does utter something, says such bon-mots like "I don't think the bullpen is the problem right now. I think it's the hitters," after he self-destructed on the mound.
Until Soriano gets over his elbow and mouth issues, he gets detention for joining a long list of Yankee newbies unable to handle the New York media.
Rafael Soriano: Grade Incomplete.
All-in-all, Cashman did a respectable job filling in the pieces with questionable and recovering players. It's a passable class with a lot of repeat seniors. More like the scrappy vocational guys in auto shop than the academics concentrating on their SAT's. It remains to be seen how long Colon and Garcia hold out.
For the record, so far this year, Carl Crawford is spotting a C and Cliff Lee is looking at a soft C-plus for being the teacher's pet.