Mailbag: Lee, Johnson, Wang, Waivers, MonteroBy
Welcome to the first of what is hopefully many editions of the RAB Mailbag. If you want to submit a question, just email one or all of us using the links to the right, but the easiest thing to do is use the Submit A Tip box under The Montero Watch. This week’s topics include Cliff Lee, injury updates, and one crazy call-up idea.
There is a lot of talk about signing Cliff Lee in the offseason. I was wondering what salary is coming off the books besides Andy and Javy? Will there really be that much room to sign Lee to a long term deal at the money he will command? -John
Let’s cut right to the chase and break this down…
Randy Winn‘s $1.1M salary is coming off the books after the season as well, ditto the $500,000 the Yanks sent to Atlanta in the Vazquez trade (for Melky Cabrera). I assume they’ll buyout Nick Johnson‘s $5.5M mutual option for $250,000, which puts the total amount of money coming off the books this offseason at roughly $56.2M. That does not include arbitration raises and raises to pre-arbitration players, but I’m guessing those will total less than $6M. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it an even $50M coming off the books.
So assuming that the budget doesn’t change next year, that $50M will go towards re-signing Jeter and Mo first and foremost, then adding at the very least one starting pitcher. Thames, CHoP, and Gaudin can be replaced for $3M or less, theoretically. If Jeter and Mo do not take discounts, you’re looking at $11M left over. That’s not enough to buy you Cliff Lee, I can guarantee it, but remember that the Yanks are likely to bring in some players via trade between now and the offseason, which will change things here. Not necessarily for the worst either.
From the looks of things, the Yankees will have to expand the budget next year to afford Cliff Lee, or hope that Jeter and Mo take big discounts. And even that leaves you with a rookie fifth starter (Zach McAllister? Ivan Nova?) making the league minimum and the same Ramiro Pena led bench.
Any updates on how NJ’s wrist is doing? Also are there any updates on our dear old friend CMW? Any plans to bring back the RAB radio show? -Tom
The last thing we heard about Nick Johnson’s rehab came from one of Will Carroll’s Under The Knife columns a few weeks ago (sorry, I can’t find the link). All it said was that Johnson’s surgically repaired wrist was healing slowly and that there was no firm timetable for his return, which is exactly what the Yankees expected. Haven’t heard a thing since, which, depending on your worldview, can be either good (no setbacks) or bad (no progress).
As for Chien-Ming Wang, he’s still a month away from returning to a big league mound. He’s throwing simulated innings every few days at the Nationals’ complex in Florida, and right now the plan is for him to debut at the end of July or early August. Clearly, Wang’s agent Alan Nero grossly undershot his prediction of a May return.
The Radio Show will be back at some point, I promise. You’d be surprised at how hard it is for two of us to find some common free time to record the thing.
If a player on the 40-man (say, WDLR) gets waived, does a team that claims him have to put him on their 40-man? Also, if he clears waivers, does he then become a minor league free agent? -Tyler
Yes, if a team claims a player off waivers he remains on that new team’s 40-man roster. The entire point of the waiver process is to keep a player as close to the big leagues as possible, therefore allowing him to reap all the rewards that come with it (killer medical benefits, higher salary, etc.).
As for what happens when a player clears, well it depends. There are several kinds of waivers that are each designed to do different things. I recommend reading this post for an in-depth explanation, but there are two ways for a player to become a free agent after he clears waivers.
- He’s placed on release waivers, which are self explanatory. The entire reason he’s on these in the first place is because the team doesn’t want him anymore and they want him out of the organization.
- He is placed on outright waivers after having been outrighted to the minors at least once before in his career. If a guy has been outrighted before, he can elect to become a free agent instead of going to a new team (as part of a claim) or down to the minors. If a player does choose free agency, he forfeits the rest of his contract. Josh Towers accepted his outright assignment from the Blue Jays a few years ago because he still had something like $5M coming to him.
Minor league free agency is a different animal all together. That’s when a guy has spent six years in the minors without being on the 40-man roster, then he becomes a free agent.
Let’s use Wilkin DeLaRosa as an example. He’s been dreadful this year (5.68 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 31-24 K/BB ratio in 44.1 Double-A IP), and frankly he hasn’t made any progress since being added to the 40-man roster after the 2008 season. He’s an obvious candidate to go whenever a 40-man spot is needed. If/when the Yankees designate him for assignment, he’ll go on outright waivers, and if someone claims him he’ll go to that team and stay on their 40-man. If he clears, he has to accept the minor league assignment because this is his first time being outrighted. He would have become a minor league free agent if they didn’t add him to the 40-man after 2008 because he had spent six years in the minors, the first four as a no hit outfielder.
I’ve always wondered why you don’t see more moves where a team claims a player off waivers, then immediately DFA’s him. Take Cla Meredith for example, a somewhat useful righty reliever. The Orioles DFA’s him about a week ago, but he went unclaimed and was sent to the minors. Why wouldn’t a team like say, the Diamondbacks, put a claim in, get him in the organization, then immediately DFA him to remove him from the 40-man? Chances are he would have cleared waivers anyway, so you’re basically adding a piece that may have value to you in the future for almost no cost (there’s a fee for making a waiver claim). Of course, this only makes sense if the player doesn’t have a ridiculous contract.
Which is funnier: The calls for a Shelley Duncan return to the bench or Joel Sherman writing a column advocating calling up Jesus Montero? -Harrison
Gotta vote for Shelley here. We know what that guy is, and the Yanks know him better than anyone. What does he offer that Marcus Thames doesn’t? Sure, he’s hit four homers in limited action for the Indians, but he’s struck out in just shy of 40% of his at-bats. The grass is always greener on the other side, I guess.
Here’s Sherman’s article on Montero. The idea of calling up a top prospect from Triple-A to bolster the big league team is nothing new, so I can’t fault him for that. As cliche as it’s become, turning to Montero to help the Yanks’ offense is a very Mets’ like move – just changing the development plan as they go. The 20-year-old backstop didn’t perform at all until last month, and he still needs to work on managing at-bats and working the count a little bit more. Calling him up and asking him to fix an inconsistent offense is just asking for trouble.
Keep Montero in the minors the rest of the year and let him smack Triple-A pitchers around and build confidence. The kid’s got 467 plate appearances above A-ball, not even a full season’s worth. What’s the rush?