After two Tommy Johns, what then?


As the winter wears on — yesterday’s burst of warm weather made me pine for baseball — one free agent name keeps circling around the Yankees as a vulture does to its dying prey. He might not, in the words of Keith Law, represent much of an improvement, if any, over Brett Gardner, but Xavier Nady just won’t go away. Maybe the Yanks really are interested in him, as Joe wrote in his Closing Arguments post; maybe the fans just won’t let him go because of the one good month he had in pinstripes in 2008. Either way, the allure of Nady just won’t die.

As free agents go, Nady is an interesting case. After landing in the Bronx in the middle of 2008, he finished the year with an overall .305/.357/.510, and the 127 OPS+ was the best mark of his career. Entering his final pre-free agency year in 2009, Nady was primed for a payout this winter. Over the last four seasons, he had hit .284/.339/.474, and while the .339 OBP is lower than most would prefer, his 112 OPS+ had him as a player to watch in 2009.

We know all too well what happened though. Nady injured himself on a throw in Tampa Bay in mid-April, and he never recovered. He tried a series of Platelet Rich Plasma injections but eventually had to go under the knife for his second Tommy John surgery. Multiple Tommy John procedures are a rare occurrence in baseball, and many Yankee fans have wondered about the impact a second surgery would have on an outfielder. Unfortunately, baseball history shows us with just one position player — catcher Vance Wilson — who had the procedure twice. Wilson hasn’t played since.

Nady is different. He’s younger by a few years than Wilson was and is a better player than Wilson, a journeyman back-up catcher, was. That doesn’t help us understand what Nady might be. For that, we turn to Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll for guidance. When Nady underwent the surgery in late June, Carroll offered up his take. Unfortunately, it’s light on the future outlook:

The idea that second surgeries are less successful is unfounded. First, there are no major league position players that have had a re-do. Most that had a re-do have done something to screw it up in the first place, assuming it’s a short-term situation. Nady has been through this, and that gives us more information than we’d have with most. Position players come back from this surgery in about six months, though the arm isn’t 100 percent at that stage. Unless we find out after surgery that something more has happened in the elbow, even the worst-case scenario would have him back at the end of spring training.

Note how Carroll phrases it. The idea that second surgeries are less successful is unfounded simply because we don’t have the data from position players. Some pitchers have had the procedure twice, and many have come back. Nady, though, is the outfield guinea pig. If he can come back and play the outfield, then we don’t have to worry as much about future position players who undergo two surgeries. If he can’t return to form defensively or offensively, I wouldn’t be surprised.

In late September, Carroll offered up a brief update on Nady. “Six months is enough time for him to be healed enough to DH, but he’ll have to be careful on outfield throws,” Carroll noted. In other words, no team should expect him to be a full-time left fielder out of the game.

As far as Nady’s projections go, the 2010 PECOTA cards have not been published yet, but prior to 2009, Nady projected to .271/.324/.448 for 2010. That line is sure to look worse, and as it stands now, those interested teams ? the Yankees, the Cubs and the Braves have all been connected to the X-Man ? won’t count on Nady for more than a fourth outfielder slot. If he can do more than that, some team will have a bargain on their hands.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Categories : Analysis


  1. The Evil Empire says:

    Only if he can be ready to start on opening day

    • Boras claims he’ll be ready for the start of Spring Training. So I guess that means he’ll be ready to play on Opening Day; he just won’t be ready to play the OF regularly on Opening Day. That wasn’t in the cards anyway.

  2. Charlie says:

    i still think he’s worth a shot

    • mustang says:

      I agree.

    • SM says:

      Why? If Nady was not a former Yankee would people have this fascination with him?
      Ben uses numbers above to try and make the case but I think it does a flawed job of projecting how Nady is likely to do moving forward as OPS overweights his power and underweights his crappy getting on base skills. Nadys best years were in the national league and his best year he posted a 337 babip at his age 29 season. Throw in age and surgery and what skills should those affect the most. I am not optimistic for a guy who walks at about a 6% rate. He most likely brings you nothing on the defensive end.

  3. mustang says:

    Damn Ben your a man of your word.

    List of the guys who had it twice:
    Chris Capuano
    Scott Mathieson
    Mike Lincoln
    Hong-Chih Kuo
    Shawn Hill
    Denny Stark
    no (twice)
    Jeff Zimmerman
    Víctor Zambrano
    Tyler Yates
    The last one I find the most interesting Dave Eiland I wonder if they are asking him how he is doing.
    Thank you Ben very informative thread.

  4. RollingWave says:

    Hong Chih Kuo had two TJ, and he’s been pitching quiet well, of course, that doesn’t mean people have a lot of faith in his arm not falling off anytime soon, and the Dodger also no longer consider him to start even though he’s had some pretty good starts in the past.

  5. mike c says:

    if not damon, i’d settle for x-man as backup

  6. Peter says:

    i like Xavier Nady…the players on the yankees seem to like him aswell.

    He’s not flashy…doesn’t put up big numbers….but he is (NERDS GASP)a gamer…hard nosed…plays the game the right way.

    Very good numbers vs LHP: .308/.388/.471 and even posts a slight above average UZR in LF in his career.

    • It’s funny how you say “Nerds gasp” and then cite numbers as the exact reason why he would be a great RH platoon bat for the Yanks (that is, if he can play LF still). I laughed at the irony.

      • Peter says:

        my “nerd gasp” comment has little to do with numbers and more to do with them hating the words “gamer” and “hard nosed”

        • pat says:

          Hah, I got u Peter. You post as if the “games” are “played” “on” a “field”.

        • Salty Buggah says:

          See, this is where people get incorrect perceptions of baseball “nerds.” I don’t think anyone hates those words being used to describe a player. People hate it when those are the main reasons cited to acquire/sign a player. The stats are the most important things but being a gamer and being hard-nosed are welcomed and are the cherry on the top.

          • Salty Buggah says:

            Peter, for example, said it correctly. He said Nay has good numbers against LHP and decent UZR numbers, which are the main things we want from the player in this certain scenario. But, hey, Nady being a gamer is really great too.

            Just don’t weigh being a gamer more than skill.

          • mustang says:

            We are all baseball ” nerds”. Think about it right we are discussing the second TJ on a possible 4th outfielder candidate on a completely stacked 2010 defending world champ NY Yankees at 1:24am.

            You need numbers.


            • Salty Buggah says:

              Pfft, that isn’t called being a nerd, that’s called being an aficionado. We have more passion for baseball than the casual fan.

              I’m here because this is a way to keep putting off a department letter I have to write. I use RAB at night as an excuse to procrastinate. Oh, and I also like discussing my favorite team with other intelligent and dedicated fans.

  7. RKelly39 says:

    I’d pass on the X-Man. If he can’t throw he’d basically be a bench bat and a back-up DH to Nick Johnson on a team that will likely rotate veteran players in that role. We can find a better chip to add with that money.

  8. Chops says:

    If Nady is going to post worse than a 271/.324/.448 line this year, don’t we already have someone who can do that and actually make throws from LF also known as Jamie Hoffmann?

    • DP says:

      How did you arbitrarily decide Jamie Hoffmann can do that? Because that would be a better OPS than his career in the minors.

      • Chops says:

        I didn’t say he could do that, I said he could do worse than that, which Ben said is a very real possibility for Nady to do worse too.

        • Chops says:

          Plus, I don’t think its fair to base it on his career minor league numbers. He spent 3 years between the A-A_adv level before his offense really matured. He hasn’t had an OPS under .800 since 2007…Obviously, no one really knows how well this going to translate in the majors, but I think he deserves his fair shot as a platoon player just from his work in the minors.

    • Slugger27 says:

      other than a dip in slugging, id imagine brett gardner could replicate that triple slash even if he stayed in the lineup against lefties

      gardner getting on base at .330 >>> nady getting on base at .335

      • Doug says:

        a dip?

        nady slugging at .450 >>>>>>>>>>>>>> gardner slugging at .350

        oh, fyi, i’m all for going with garnder in LF because of his defense and speed. but just had to comment on the slugging thing.

    • Bo says:

      Now we’re comparing Hoffmann a career minor leaguer and a rule 5 pick up to Nady???

      Hoffmann should feel blessed.

      • Chris says:

        Calling Hoffman a career minor leaguer is not accurate. Sure, he’s spent his entire career in the minors, but he’s still only 25. For comparison, Nady’s first significant playing time in the majors came in his age 24 season (he had 1 PA in the majors before ever playing in the minors).

  9. mustang says:

    Xavier Nady (31) – Type B, not offered arb

    Is that right ? Would a team that signs Nady have to give the Yankees a pick?

    I know that it might not be much, but wouldn’t that keep teams away a bit?

  10. radnom says:

    So when everyone (including you Ben) has been mentioning “the track record of position players with two TJ surgeries” this whole time it was completely made up/unfounded?

    hmmm, why did I have that suspicion all along….

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      I never understood why coming back from a second TJ surgery is any more difficult than coming back from one, anyways?

    • mustang says:

      Good call you and Chris on the “Quick updates: Hairston, Damon, Nady” thread were the first people i saw actually question it.

    • Well, it’s not completely unfounded because the one position player who had two Tommy John surgeries has yet to play again in the Majors. But one doesn’t make for much of a track record.

      I’ll admit that I thought I had read a BP article discussing how position players who had multiple TJs had problems coming back, but when I looked for that article, it did not exist.

      • radnom says:

        Well, it’s not completely unfounded because the one position player who had two Tommy John surgeries has yet to play again in the Majors. But one doesn’t make for much of a track record.

        Dude, one player is not a track record. Don’t pretend like everyone talking about the “track record” knew that it was only one player and just made a poor choice of words. Just yesterday you were suggesting a percentage decline for Nady using said track record, and you were still under the impression that you would have found a number of players when putting together this article.

        Some misinformation got loose. It happens.

        • mustang says:

          Game, set, match.

        • Dude, one player is not a track record.

          I know. That part of my comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. As I said, I thought I had seen an article about position players coming back from second TJS. I hadn’t. End of story. Now we’re all better educated.

          • radnom says:

            That part of my comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.

            Ok, I didn’t read it that way.

            I hadn’t. End of story.

            Thats fine, I didn’t question your explanation. The thing is you were about 1 of a million people with the misconception. I wasn’t just directing this towards you.

        • mustang says:

          To: radnom

          Albert Einstein: The important thing is not to stop questioning. …

  11. mustang says:

    Thank you remember it’s what you do with John Heyman, MikeFrancesa and others and what makes you guys the best.

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