Mailbag: Lee, Johnson, Wang, Waivers, Montero

Oppenheimer in consideration for D-Backs' GM job
Yankees add Moseley, option Logan

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…

Coming Off The Books ($62.35M): Chad Gaudin ($1M), Derek Jeter ($21M), Chan Ho Park ($1.2M), Andy Pettitte ($11.75), Mariano Rivera ($15M), Marcus Thames ($900,000), Javy Vazquez ($11.5M)

Contractual Raises ($7.5M): Robbie Cano ($1M), Curtis Granderson ($2.75M), Alex Rodriguez (-$1M, yes his salary goes down), Nick Swisher ($2.25M), Mark Teixeira ($2.5M)

Arbitration Eligible: Joba Chamberlain (first time), Phil Hughes (first time), Boone Logan (second time), Sergio Mitre (third time)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

Oppenheimer in consideration for D-Backs' GM job
Yankees add Moseley, option Logan
  • JGS

    Why don’t the Mets outright Oliver Perez? No one would claim him and his ridiculous contract, and he wouldn’t want to lose it by rejecting the assignment (I imagine once you have a certain amount of service time you can reject an outright assignment even if it’s your first time). He gets his money, and the Mets get rid of him. Win-win.

    • Jose the Satirist

      Answer: They’re the Mets.

    • Mike Axisa

      Eating $20M is quite a hit to take.

      • JGS

        They are taking it anyway though. I guess the 60 day DL works too

      • Ross in Jersey

        Plus you know the Cardinals would pick him up and Duncan would turn him into a 25 game winner, going on to beat the Mets thrice in the 2012 NLDS.

  • Across the pond

    Are you assuming Pettitte won’t be coming back when figuring that we would have around 11 mill for Lee?

    • Mike Axisa


      • Across the pond

        Has he given any indication he’d be into coming back?

        • Mike Axisa

          Not really, hasn’t indicated anything either way. I just assumed he’ll retire for the purposes of this post.

          • kimonizer

            That’s nice of him to retire so the post stays correct. Pettitte always was a stand up guy :)

          • nsalem

            My subjective take on Andy is that he will stay as long as he is healthy and productive. I believe that for every Mussina type personality who can just walk on top there are ten others who are unable to. I believe Andy like the rest of us humans is prone to say one thing but want another(it’s not a bad thing). Also if the Yankees go all the way again this year there is the potential for Andy to be part of 2 dynasties a decade apart. If it happens (being involved in 2 dynasties 10 years apart) the Core 4 will be in a rarified atmosphere of performing a feat that has never happened and would probably never happen again.

            • Andy_C_23

              Is winning back-to-back WS really a dynasty? Nasty yes, but dynasty I’m not so sure.

              • Tom Zig


                Back-to-back by itself is not a dynasty. But it is a prerequisite.

                • nsalem

                  I said “Also if the Yankees go all the way again this year there is the potential for Andy to be part of 2 dynasties”


                  • Tom Zig

                    No I know what you meant. I was just giving my opinion.

                    • nsalem

                      I’m just dreaming optimistic dreams. I could also see a very ugly scenario of the Yankees signing Lee and not wanting Andy back unless it was really on the cheap,

              • nsalem

                Correct 2 is not a dynasty, but I was stating that if the Yankees go all the way this year it would be another reason to come back for a third.

        • bexarama

          Andy is never leaving us ;_;

  • Tampa Yankee

    I think the FO knew that they would have to “expand” the budget next year to get Lee so they tried to keep this year’s budget in check. Expanding the budget for a #1 LHP SP next year >>>>>>>>>>> Expanding the budget for a LF/Other OF possibilities this year(IMHO). Plus it allowed the FO to get a good look at what Grit Grutner could do thus (if he continues) allows us to save more $ by not going after Crawford next year as well (further expanding the budget).

  • Jose the Satirist

    This mailbag idea is fantastic. Great addition to the site guys.

    • JGS


      • jsbrendog (returns)


  • pat

    I doubt WDLR gets released. I think they’re sticking with him as a starter just to make sure he can’t so it before putting him in the pen fulltime. When he can stick with just the FB and changeup for an inning at a time he’ll see an uptick in velo and should improve.

    • Accent Shallow

      This is true, but wouldn’t a fastball/changeup lefty have trouble as a LOOGY?

      • forensicnucchem

        Exactly, remember Chris Hammond? Seemed like Torre took months to figure that out.

    • T-Dubs

      You think he’s worthy of a spot on the 40man though? If we were to trade for a bench piece or a reliever, I’d be fine with waiving him.

  • Randy A.

    I wonder how much they consider having a payroll of above $200M next year (assuming they go after Cliff Lee) with the foresight that Jorge’s contract runs out the following year. With another $13.5M coming off the books in 2011 that wont be replaced with a catcher who makes even clost to that amount, I’m sure they would make some concessions and expand the payroll for one year to land the top FA pitcher. It would be a dream scenario if Lee would only sign a 3 year deal but that definitely wont happen.

    • Brad Toughy

      I think there’s something to this. Maybe they’ll construct Lee’s deal similar to the way they did CC’s, where he got $14 million in his first year, but was also paid something like an $8 million signing bonus. I think I saw somewhere that the Yankees figure their payroll solely on per-year salary, and not bonuses or incentives.

      Giving Lee a deal with a nice up-front signing bonus with a lower annual first year salary and then slotting him into the $18-19MM range the next year makes sense. Because I don’t foresee Posada coming back for another contract. Unless of course he has another contract year like he did last time in which case all bets are off.

  • Tom Zig

    Aside from in between what AJ and CC makes, what do you think Cliff Lee signs for? I’m thinking 90mil over 5yrs…

    Too little?

    • nsalem

      Depend if the Sox get involved. Don’t know who else would pay that kind of money? I think RSN will be hurting in a couple of years from the Lackey, Beckett signings. Then again Dice K might be coming off this year.

      • Brad Toughy

        I doubt the Sox do more than poke around Cliff Lee this offseason. Dice-K is owed $10 million both in 2011 and in 2012 and I doubt they cut ties with him. They’ll also pay Beckett and Lackey over $64 million in 2011-12. With Jon Lester locked up long term too, I can’t see them throwing nearly $100 million for another starter.

        After all, the small market they play in prevents them from spending that much money. After all, this is their “rebuilding” year in which their payroll is $25 million higher than it’s ever been.

        • nsalem

          Who else would be in the mix at 90 for five?

          • Brad Toughy

            The Mets could probably get involved if they wanted to. Teams like Baltimore and Washington have made big pitches to free agents recently. $90MM is not undoable for every team but the Yankees.

        • Pete

          agreed. The only starter they could financially afford to cut would be Buccholz, and he’s their second best starter

  • http://Idon'thaveawebsite Can do!

    I would trade this Jesus Montero guy for Cliff Lee. We can win now. The future catcher can be someone else. I don’t care if Montero is a HOFer. If Cliff Lee can get us a couple of rings, get him!

    • pat

      A HOF catcher would be >>>> 32 yr old Cliff Lee. Not saying Montero is even remotely close to HOF but if that were the case you’d be crazy to make that trade.

    • Pete

      1. You’d trade a 20 year old catcher who nobody outside the yankees organization seems to think (publicly, anyway) can stick at catcher, who has had a rough go of it this year in AAA, and who, for all his contact and power ability, doesn’t take many walks, for Cliff Lee, straight-up? That’d be pretty damn impressive.

      2. Aaaand it would still be dumb. Jesus Montero is exactly the kind of player that could potentially allow us to sign guys like Cliff Lee in free agency. It’s not worth trading him for two months of Lee.

      • AndrewYF

        You’re crazy if you think Seattle wouldn’t immediately jump at the chance to acquire Montero for Lee. He’s not having the greatest year, but don’t try and pretend he’s some sort of bust that can’t headline any trade package.

        • Brad Toughy

          Even with his struggles this year, he’s nearly a unanimous Top 10 prospect. Imagine where he’d be if he was killing the ball in AAA.

        • MikeD

          Seattle would make that deal right now. The Yankees won’t. They know they can get Lee next year if they want him. They would like to have him now, too, but not at the cost of a Montero, who is the best hitting prospect (potential wise) they’ve developed since Jeter. I’m sure there were many Yankee who would have been happy to trade Jeter for two months of a top pitcher back in the early 90s. Thankfully that never happened. Thankfully they also never traded away Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano. They came close on all of them. (Not sure if Posada was ever mentioned in a deal when he was still in the minors).

          Montero has been the youngest player at each level he’s played at in the Yankee organization. He’s still only 20 at AAA and doesn’t turn 21 until November.

  • http://deleted How Ya Doin

    I’ll never forget the back-and-forth I had with a bunch of nitpickers on this site about how crappy Nick Johnson really is. Keep defending that spectacular OBP while he sits on the DL for the umpteenth time in his career!

    • Brad Toughy

      He’s a valuable bat, but you’re right. He can only be a valuable bat when he’s playing.

    • Ross in Jersey

      Yeah, because people were totally unjustified in thinking that a guy who is an undeniable professional hitter signing with the Yankees for a bargain contract would be a good move. And the fact that his injury history was largely a laundry list of freak injuries. Yeah, he got hurt, so can anyone. Let me guess, you knew Granderson would hurt himself in May, right?

      • Pete