Mailbag: Thornton, Hamels, Montero, CC, DanksBy
It’s been a pretty busy week around these parts and we have quite a few mailbag questions to answer. I’m going to try to answer these as possible because we all know our attention spans aren’t what they once where. If you ever want to send in a question in the future, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar…
Bubba asks: What would it take to pry power lefty Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox to be our set-up man?
Probably more than it’s worth, really. The ChiSox don’t have a defined closer after non-tendering Bobby Jenks, and right now Thornton is in line for the job. He’s dirt cheap ($3M) and highly effective (2.14 FIP, 12.02 K/9 in 2010), and I can’t even remember the last time a reliever that valuable was traded with one year left on his deal. Maybe the best comparison is Mike Gonzalez, when he went to the Braves from the Pirates. He fetched a 28-year-old Adam LaRoche coming off a .379 wOBA season with 32 homers, and Gonzalez wasn’t as good then as Thornton is now. There were some incidental prospects involved, but no one major. Needless to say, it’s going to take an arm and leg to fetch Thornton, most likely more than I’d be willing to pay for a setup man, albeit a great one.
SNS asks: This may be jumping to far ahead. In light of the lack of availability of starting pitching out there, the one guy who jumps to mind is Cole Hamels. I know he is arb eligible after this year but given the fact that Hamels actually had a better bWAR last year than Lee and is significantly younger, what could he get in arbitration and how likely would the Phillies be to move him? I know they aren’t poor, but can they really afford Halladay, Lee, Howard (and even Oswalt)? While Hamels wouldn’t be available this year, could he be available next winter and how would he play in the Bronx/AL East?
You kinda sorta read my mind, I was thinking about Hamels when he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season. I can’t imagine the Phillies will trade him now, they’re clearly going all in before their core hits the inevitable decline, and I think it’s very reasonable to assume they’ll be going for it again in 2012. Philadelphia has $82.3M committed to just four players (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, with some misc. buyouts mixed in) in 2013, but they’re also going to re-sign Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge between now and then. Hamels will still be just 29 at that time, and will surely be the best available pitcher on the free agent market.
Hamels is a fastball-cutter-curveball guy with arguably the best changeup on the planet, and I have no issues about him in the AL East. He’s like CC Sabathia in that he’s the kind of guy that can dominate any lineup at any time. He’s already got a World Series MVP and plenty of playoff experience to his credit, so I have no concern about his ability to deal with pressure. I would be stunned if the Phillies look to deal him before he’s eligible for free agency given the construction of their team, but if I was the Yankees I’d be licking my chops in advance of his free agency.
Harrison asks: A quick question with regards to Montero. Aside from the obvious benefit of giving him a little extra seasoning down in AAA, what other benefit might there be for keeping him down there for the first few months? I remember how a bunch of teams in recent years have kept their rookies down in AAA until May or June in order to prevent the arbitration clock from running (Longoria, Price, Posey, etc.). How would that work with Montero for instance?
A player can only accrue service time while in the big leagues or while on the major league disabled list, so teams have been keeping their top prospects in the minor leagues just long enough to delay their arbitration years and/or free agency by a year. It only takes about two weeks to delay a player’s free agency (so they can call the player up in mid-April and then control him for the next six-plus seasons), and about two months to avoid Super Two status (meaning the player goes to arbitration four times instead of three).
If the Yankees were to keep Montero in the minors until the first week of June or so, they could then retain him at close to the league minimum for the rest of the season as well as the 2012, 2014, and 2013 seasons. After that he would get three years of arbitration eligibility. If they called him up right away, they would only control him from 2011 through 2016 (first three years at the league minimum, next three via arbitration). The Yankees have more money than they know what to do with, but they can still benefit from delaying Montero’s call up by just two months. Getting production at a below market salary can only help.
Rafi asks: Mailbag: Given the Yankees’ (Cashman’s?) stance of not negotiating with personnel under contract, as well as what happened with A-Rod‘s opt-out, how do you see the Yankees handling [CC's] situation? They obviously can’t say that if he opts out they won’t pursue him, or they have a rotation on par with Pittsburgh.
The other day Buster Olney said that the Yanks should explore a contract extension with Sabathia now to avoid what will surely be a messy situation when he opts out, but that struck me as completely crazy. I don’t see any reason to assume that risk at all. I fully expect Cashman to stick to his policy of not negotiating with a player until the contract expires, like he’s done with everyone else, himself included.
What they do at that point really depends on their situation. A lot can change in the next eleven months, and that will dictate their course of action. If they’re happy with him and are willing to sign him for another six years or something, they’ll do it. If they’re wary about his workload and ability to be productive going forward, they might let him walk. It’s too early to know for sure, but I wouldn’t expect them to discuss a new contract with CC before he actually opts out.
Junior asks: What is John Danks availability and prospect cost? He is really good and as a lefty can dominate the lefty Red Sox.
Danks isn’t on par with Felix Hernandez or Josh Johnson, but he’s in the next tier. He’s going to earn close to $6M through arbitration next year and then about $9-10M in 2012 before becoming a free agent, so he’s cheap. The club tried to sign him to a long-term extension (they offered him and Gavin Floyd the same four-year, $15.5M deal before the 2009 season, but only of them took it), but Danks was a Scott Boras client at the time and those guys never sign away free agent years (he’s no longer with Boras, however).
I suspect that Danks will be the most costly of Chicago’s starters to acquire, since he’s excellent, young, and pretty damn cheap. He’s the future of their rotation with Mark Buehrle getting up there in years and Jake Peavy starting to rack up the trips to the disabled list, making him even more difficult to attain. A package headlined by Montero is not an unreasonable request, but I’m not sure if that’ll work on Chicago’s end since they just locked up a first baseman and designated hitter for the next three and four years, respectively. If they believe he can catch, well then we’re on to the something.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that it’ll cost an arm and a leg to pry Danks away from the White Sox. It absolutely makes sense for the Yankees to at least inquire, but like I said when I looked at Buehrle and Floyd, these two teams just don’t seem to match up well in the trade. The demands and supplies do not line up.