It wasn’t long ago that Mike suggested that the Yankees sign reliever Juan Cruz. The reasoning: he’s a Type A free agent, which means teams will have to sacrifice a first round draft pick in order to sign him. The bottom 15 teams in the league would have to sacrifice a second rounder, but due to the signings of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees would only surrender a fourth rounder. Hence, he’s more attractive to them than other teams. Ken Rosenthal covers this in his latest column.
Also on the ledger is Ben Sheets. Rosenthal thinks he “could be the Yankees’ answer to Brad Penny and John Smoltz, both of whom signed with the Red Sox for relatively low base salaries with the chance to earn significantly more through incentives.” It doesn’t appear Sheets is ready to take an incentive-laded deal, however. Matt Cerrone from MetsBlog has noted that Sheets seeks a two year deal worth roughly $18 million. The chances of that aren’t likely, unless the Brewers deem it a worthy risk.
Rosenthal cites “one executive” saying that Sheets will likely get one year and between $6 to $8 million, with incentives bringing the potential deal past $14 million. That’s more like it. Even better, Rosenthal suggests a “lucrative club option,” which would make the deal more attractive to any acquiring team. That way, they can retain Sheets’s services, albeit at a high price, if he stays healthy through 2009. If we’re talking one year, $7 million with $7 million in incentives plus a $16 million team option for 2010, the Yanks would have to give that serious consideration.
Then again, that all hinges on Andy Pettitte. Tom Verducci mentions the lefty in his latest column: “…though a baseball source said he has been weighing a lesser offer to return to the Astros.” This doesn’t seem likely, as Rosenthal quotes Astros owner Drayton McLane: “I haven’t had any discussions with Andy or any of his representatives at all. We’re up against our (budget) number right now.” Also, why would Pettitte take less than $10 million from Houston? I thought the reason Pettitte rejected the Yanks offer is that he didn’t want to take a hefty pay cut.
Rosenthal tallies the Yanks’ current payroll at $187.975 million, which includes 17 players. Presumably, this covers Xavier Nady and Melky Cabrera, who both avoided arbitration yesterday. Brian Bruney could bring that figure close to $190 million, with seven more spots left to fill on the 25-man roster. If Sheets made the full $14 million, that would bring the Yanks north of $200 million, but still lower than their official payroll total last year of $222.2 million (which I believe is calculated on August 21). Their Opening Day payroll would also clock in at under the $209 million they spent in 2008.
Cruz is a bit of a different situation. WIth Kyle Farnsworth commanding two years and $9.25 million, you’d have to think that Cruz would want more than that. Would the Yanks be willing to go higher than that, in dollars and years, to sign a reliever? I’m not so sure that’s in the works. It makes sense on many levels, and perhaps the Yankees would get a better deal because of other teams’ unwillingness to sacrifice a first rounder for Cruz. I would guess, though, that signing both Cruz and Sheets isn’t a likely scenario.
Still, picking up one could help the Yankees shore up the pitching staff. Both Sheets and Cruz offer plenty of upside, and both will cost the Yankees less in terms of draft picks than other teams. If Andy Pettitte continues his quest to get another $16 million, the Yanks could do worse than singing Sheets to an incentive-laden deal.