Olney: Yankees tried a sign-and-trade for Balfour

RAB Live Chat
The RAB Radio Show: January 14, 2011

Via Buster Olney, the Yankees tried to work out a sign-and-trade scenario with an unknown team that would have netted them Grant Balfour. Joe covered this exact idea back in December, though it was framed around Rafael Soriano. Basically, some team with a protected pick would sign Balfour and them trade him to the Yankees for a prospect that is equal to or greater than the value of the pick they gave up. Balfour would have had to consent to the trade per MLB’s rules since it would have occurred so soon after he signed.

Obviously this all took place before the Yanks agreed to sign Soriano and Balfour went to the A’s. I’m guessing that once they couldn’t get a trade for Balfour worked out, they decided to sign Soriano. If you’re going to give up the pick for the reliever, at least make it the best one available.

RAB Live Chat
The RAB Radio Show: January 14, 2011
  • camilo Gerardo

    3/35 makes my penis soft

  • steve (different one)

    Olney also just confirmed that ownership went around Cash to make this deal.

    I don’t care what you think of Cashman or even what you think of this deal, this is a scary revelation.

    • The Three Amigos

      It is true. Hal does not seem like a guy to do that so maybe it was the sales faction of the front office, driven by Hank. Additionally, this could have ramifications since Cashman’s deal is up after this season.

    • Mike HC

      That is fine. One guy should not necessarily have control of every single move for the Yanks franchise. I’m happy ownership is willing to step up if they think there is a player they are willing to pay that the GM is weary about.

      I’m not saying this is happening, but another possibility is that the Yanks were playing some good cop/bad cop with Boras. Cashman being the bad cop (we are not giving up a pick, we are not paying a middle reliever this much, we have a budget) and then ownership as good cop (we want to make a signing, we like Soriano). This way, the Yanks can show interest without losing all of their leverage. Just a possibility.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, really unless we know exactly what’s going on there’s no reason to worry ourselves.

        And since it’s only money and a pick they might well recoup or double when Soriano leaves… I don’t mind ownership overruling Cashman. Worst case they lost $, a pick, and maybe a few games if Soriano stinks. But Soriano is good at what he does, so I don’t mind the risk really. If it were a trade involving prospects or ML players and we knew pretty conclusively that the ownership dismissed the baseball peoples’ opinion that the cost was way too high… then I’d be worried.

        • Mike HC

          I’m with you. I would be far more worried if they went over Cashman’s head to trade some of our top prospects. But for a free agency signing only, and for only three years, it is not a big deal even if it blows up in their face. And it is not even a Sheff vs. Vlad type scenario where ownership decided to grab one free agent over another. It was either we sign the guy, or get nobody. And I’m still not sure there was not some good cop bad cop to try to negotiate with Boras. Boras is a fucking Hawk and you have to play his same games right back at him.

  • Mike Myers

    Cant agree. I dont care what they pay. I just want the players. 3/35 is like 3/350 for the Pirates. The team is better, thats all that really matters. He will most likely opt out, so it will be 1/11.5

    • whozat

      See, no. The problem with running a team like that is this: sure, the team may be better in 2011, but there are good odds that in 2012 and 2013, Soriano will be injured or mediocre. They’ll have a harder time finding the cash to improve the team — oh, and there won’t be a wave of guys coming behind the killer B’s because every year they lose draft picks and have a harder time replenishing the farm.

      It’s amazing how short people’s memories are. The yanks were doing this from 2000 til about 2005, and it took through 2008 or so for them to begin to recover.

      • Mike HC

        I keep hearing how horrible the 2000’s were and it is simply not true. We made the WS in 2001 and 2003. Got to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004 and made the playoffs every year other than 2008. That 2000-2008 core was pretty damn good, just not good enough to win the big one. We also developed a young guy by the name of Cano during those years too, and drafted Phil Hughes. Then we re loaded with the new core of signings in 2009, and won the WS year one, and got to the ALCS in year 2. It is not like the signings killed our team and set us back, they just did not win the WS.

        • Ted Nelson

          Yeah, seriously… If 2 WS victories, 4 WS appearances, and 9 playoff appearances is a bad decade I’ll take nothing but bad decades please…

          And there are guys behind and besides the Killer Bs… Noesi, Phelps, Stoneburner, Warren, Jose Ramirez, Brett Marshall, DJ Mitchell… etc.

          Signing one relief pitcher is not evidence that the entire Yankees organization is crumbling. They were in the ALCS last season and return pretty much the same team this season.

          It’s amazing that some people really feel that the Yankees have failed if they don’t win it all every single season.

        • Mike M

          I agree with you Mike. The whole draft pick argument is silly to me. It’s not like the Yankees traded their ENTIRE draft for Soriano. The way they spend they can sign high upside picks in later rounds. Holding out on improving the team for a first round draft pick isn’t a good strategy. As long as the Yankees feel comfortable with the money, I feel great about this signing. It’s not my money, and the only way this deal is bad is if the money prevents us from signing someone down the road. Caveat there is this theoretical player we could sign with the money could also bust in pinstripes. Why play the theoretical game when you can go for the win now

          • Mike HC

            Exactly, and I don’t even see now Soriano’s money would prevent us from making a deal down the line. The key is that the deal is only a 3 year deal, and maybe only a 1 or 2 year deal. 3/5’s of our starting rotation is locked in for the next three years and we still have money in the budget to acquire another starter if one becomes available. Our infield is also set in stone. An outfielder seems to be the only spot where the Soriano money could come in handy in a couple of years, but Gardner, Swisher and Granderson can all be under team control until 2012 at the earliest, leaving only the last year of the Soriano deal, which he may opt out beforehand, as a possible hinderance to sign a big time outfielder in the off season after 2012. And at that point, Posada and Mo might both be off the books. And as we have seen, a good hitter, average to below average corner outfielders are no longer expensive (see Johnny Damon). I like the deal.

            Plus, the Yanks had a hole to fill in the bullpen if we didn’t sign Soriano (the hole that Kerry Wood left) so odds are we would have needed to trade for, or sign, another reliever anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    If the Yanks tried to do this sign/trade, doesn’t that kinda, assuming Cashman was behind that effort, lead us to believe the ‘I won’t give up my first-round pick for a reliever’ thing was bit of a smokescreen?

    • steve (different one)

      Not sure what you mean. I think it says the opposite. Cashman was doing whatever he could to save that draft pick.

      My guess is ownership told him if he could get Balfour, fine, but if he can’t they were overruling him and signing Soriano.

      What am I missing?

      • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Yeah he wasn’t going to give up the draft pick for Balfour, but he was going to deal a prospect who the trading partner believed to be of greater value than their draft pick. My point is that he was, if he was behind the attempted sign-and-trade, willing to give up the equivalent of that draft pick. That leads me to believe the ‘you’ll have to pry my first round pick out of my cold, dead hands’ thing wasn’t totally sincere.

        Although I guess he’d be giving up a pick believed to be better value than a second round pick, since the trading partner would presumably have a protected first-round pick and would be dealing a later pick.

        Whatevs… That was the thought behind it, at least. Just thougth it might have indicated that this unwillingness to give up the equivalent of a high draft pick was a bit overstated.

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Eh… Even the second round pick-equivalent isn’t too far off from the Yanks’ first round pick, though, right? Assuming the trading partner has a protected first round pick, their second round pick would be in the front-end of the second round.

          I missed the boat a bit on missing the protected pick detail, but I still think there’s something there. The difference between second round pick-equivalent talent (for a team with a pick at the front-end of the second round) and the Yanks’ first round pick isn’t really so great.

          Or maybe he was just overruled by ownership, who knows.

  • Shaun

    Is it just me or does this sound like the work work of idiot brother Hank aka “Fredo Corleone” Steinbrenner?

    • Mike Myers

      dont get all the anger. Is the team better? Yes. Did we have to pay out of our own pockets? No.

      • Shaun

        I’m not mad I do have a feeling hank did this. its too impulsive for it to be Hals doing.

        • radnom

          I didn’t realize you knew the Steinbrenners personally.

          People around here tend to frown on psychoanalyzing players, why does that not extend to the front office?

    • steve (different one)

      Both Olney and now Klapisch are reporting this wasn’t a Cashman deal. Am I in the wrong thread b/c I’m confused why everyone isn’t talking about this. To me, it’s the biggest Yankee story of the winter.

  • Ken

    Why spend 3/35 for Soriano when u could have kept Kerry Wood 1/1.5?

    • radnom

      Because ‘u’ couldn’t have. He took much less to go to the Cubs.

      I would rather have Soriano at 12 than Wood at 8 or 9 any day.

      • Mike Myers

        wood is a ticking time bomb. agreed.

        raffy is gonna opt out anyway. 1 for 11ish aint too bad.

        • FIPster Doofus

          How come everyone is so sure that Soriano will opt out? There are going to be a lot of closers available in free agency next offseason, thus increasing his competition to get another big contract.

          • radnom

            How come everyone is so sure that Soriano will opt out?

            Anything can happen of course but players opt out in the vast majority of cases. Sure things could break where his best move is to play out the contract in full but the chances of that are probably less than 50%. I wouldn’t count on either one at this point. One injury or down year and there goes any notion of opting out.

        • Mike HC

          There is a better chance of him opting out after year two than the first year. His next highest offer this year might have only been a 2 year deal, or a three year deal for like 25 million or so. And it is not like many teams go head over heals over a reliever. The two year, 24 million he has left after year one of this deal is likely to be the best he could get next off season. It is year two where the opt out becomes far more likely.

          • Tom Swift

            And after Year 2, there’s a good chance that Mariano will retire, so the Yanks might really need a closer, which would drive the price up.

            • Mike HC

              Yes, that too. Year 2 is when the opt out becomes more realistic. Of course, things can happen where the opt out is smart for Soriano after year one (Mo gets hurt/retires, another team decides to go crazy for Soriano,) but it is less likely.

    • Kevin

      Wood turned down more money from the Yanks to sign with the Cubs. He wanted to go back to Chicago

  • Ted Nelson

    There have been 4 #31 picks with more than 1 career WAR. 2 with more than 5 career WAR. #31 has an historically poor performance for that area of the draft. #30 picks have been more successful, but you’re looking at 10 with more than 5 career WAR. 8 at #32, but none since 1991. 9 at 29. 5 at 33. 8 at 28 with a couple more likely to get there soon.

    So, even if the Yankees never get a comp pick out of Soriano (and they might get 2 if he maintains his Type A status), if he can maintain 1.5 WAR for the next 3 years there’s an 80% chance he’s better than what they might have gotten with the pick they gave up.

    So, besides Cashman’s rhetoric, why is this pick so important again? The 20% chance he might be better than Soriano or the maybe 5% chance he’ll be significantly better? Or is it the chance that he doesn’t even sign with the Yankees and they get a comp pick instead?

    • whozat

      You’re ignoring the value such a player might bring in trade, but in general it’s not about the pick. It’s about assuming ALL the risk to bring in a player that was generating no buzz on the market and what that implies in terms of the Yankees being an organization that makes smart decisions…and then, on top of that, the pick. And that the pick goes to the Rays.

      • Mike HC

        The Yanks would have to overpay in order to get Soriano and accept a set up role. Shit, the Yanks have to basically pay more than every team for every single free agent signing. CC, Tex, AJ, ARod, Jeter, we offered more than any other team for all of them. Sometimes you need to compute the value of signing a player to your team independent of other teams.

        For the Yanks, it was either no Soriano, or Soriano for 3 years 35 mil with the opt outs. What other teams, without the Yanks budget and win at all cost attitude, were willing offer at one point becomes very ancillary.

        • Ted Nelson

          And with all of them besides AJ they were among the best and most consistently great at their positions. Guys like CC and Tex just don’t hit FA often, and when they do they are going to get PAID. The Yankees pay more in a lot of cases because they’re getting the best and most consistent. Guys like Cliff Lee, A-Rod (Rangers deal), Pujols, etc. etc. are signing huge, huge deals no matter where they sign them.

          That said, I don’t think you bid against yourself. If no one else is willing to offer Soriano more than, say, 2 years $16 mill, you don’t come out and offer 3 years 35 mill. For a frontline closer hitting FA, though, 3 years and 35 mill is not a huge overpay. Maybe I’d prefer 3 years $30 mill or something, but that becomes trivial on a $200 mill budget.

          • Ted Nelson

            Plus, the same people who are crying about giving him 3 years are crying about the opt outs. If he opts out after one season it was essentially a 1 year deal. And that’s what you wanted in the first place.

            I see that the Yankees are accepting the downside of him stinking and still playing him, while not capturing the upside of him rocking and sticking around. If he does leave, though, you get your wish of a 1 or 2 year deal. Even if he opts out the Yankees can re-sign him, and it probably will not be for the $14 mill he’s scheduled to make in 2013 on an annual basis. So, I don’t see a huge downside to him opting out.

            • Mike HC

              It seems like people are grasping for straws to dislike the deal. A three year deal is not a huge risk even if it does not work out at all. If he opts out earlier, then we still get him for that one or two years and we are right back where we were to begin with, and get picks in return. And his annual salary is not stopping the Yanks from looking for another starter and/or signing Pettitte. The only real downside I see is that the Yanks ownership will have to eat his salary if things don’t go well, basically affecting nothing else.

      • Ted Nelson

        Soriano had no buzz in the media… That says nothing about what real MLB teams were willing to pay him. It’s not like teams didn’t know who he was. They just weren’t willing to pay him top $. He was going to get $10 mill + from someone eventually. If Lee’s 220 expected innings are worth around $25 mill per (and on a shorter deal probably more per), then Soriano’s 220 being worth $35 mill is not some HUGE stretch. Maybe not the best move ever, but maybe the best move available to the Yankees.

        The pick is probably a wash, since if he’s a Type B when he leaves they basically get it back and if he’s a Type A they double it.

        I did not mention trade value of prospects, but I’m sure that a lot of those guys who never made the show or had negative WARs struggled in the low minors and never had much trade value. Soriano can be traded too, so that also makes it a bit of a push. If a team is looking for a closer and to dump an expensive starter… might be a great trade partner.

        “It’s about assuming ALL the risk”

        Ummm…. When you bring in a free agent that’s kind of what you do. The opt outs are as likely to help the Yankees double their picks as anything. And it’s ridiculous to be against signing him and also against him opting out… I don’t want him, but I also don’t want him to leave…

        “And that the pick goes to the Rays.”

        2 picks were going to the Rays any way it worked out besides his re-signing… in which case a good closer would have gone to the Rays.

        “what that implies in terms of the Yankees being an organization that makes smart decisions…”

        What does winning 90+ games a season and making the playoffs every season imply about the Yankees being an organization that makes smart decisions?

    • Oz

      These are just statistics for the sake of it, they don’t show anything at all – there is no possible way of determining the value of a draft pick by looking historically at every pick taken at the same position in the draft! Ludicrous.

      • Ted Nelson

        “there is no possible way of determining the value of a draft pick by looking historically at every pick taken at the same position in the draft!”

        Ummm… Yes there is. The historical returns around that pick (notice that I didn’t just list #31) will tell you the expected returns going forward.

        How else would you go about putting a value on a draft pick months before the draft?

        Or do you just think all picks are a crap shoot and there is no reason to put a value on them? Because that would be a really helpful attitude if you’re the one making the decision on whether to sacrifice that pick… If you expect a high enough value from that pick you don’t want to give it up. If your expected value is low enough you don’t mind it, even though you accept that 1/50 times or so you might have gotten a HOF player.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          No, they don’t. What happened in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s is irrelevant of what happens going forward. The draft has changed so much with the importance of young players and the amount of money being given to these kids.

          • Ted Nelson

            I disagree. As far as I can see the results haven’t gotten a whole lot better at those picks recently than they have been historically. For you point to contradict mine, the results at those picks would have to change significantly recently. Of course very recent picks are still mostly expected to be in the minors so it’s hard to judge them.

            Say we look from 2000 to 2005. #31: Aaron Heilman and JP Howell are the only 2 to make the show. #30: Noah Lowry is the only guy to accumulate over 1.6 WAR to date, and Mitch Maier the only other one with more than 0.1 WAR to date. #32: Only Matt Murton (3.3 WAR) and Zack Jackson (-0.7 WAR). #29: Adam Wainwright (20.4) and Carlos Quentin (5.6). #32: Dustin McGowan (1.7) and 2 guys with negative WARs. A lot of these guys are young and should improve going forward, but not too many 2001 picks who didn’t pan out can still catch lightning in a bottle.

            So, no great revolution in American baseball talent took place in Y2K. International players still aren’t in the draft. Until such time, I think historical results will still inform expectations with a given pick. You might get an Adam Wainwright, but it’s about a 1/30 (5 picks across 6 years) or 3.3% chance… Overall you’ve had like 3 or 4 (Wainwright, Lowry, Quentin, and maybe McGowan) of those guys develop into real impact players you’d take over Soriano. So, you’re looking at about a 10-15% chance that a #29-33 pick between 2000 and 2005 would yield a Soriano level major leaguer 5-10 years later. If young player development pushes that up to about 20%, it’s right in line with my historical findings.

            • Mike HC

              You analysis is obviously very sound. In fact, Axisa basically used your exact same analysis on the RAB podcast with the caveat that draft results from more recent years carry more predictive value, which should also be obvious. I think Axisa is in an argumentative mood with this Soriano signing, which we all get in sometimes.

              Keep up the great work guys, loved the podcasts and the Yankee passion either way.

          • CountZero

            There’s some truth to that — but it doesn’t totally negate Ted’s point: “How else would you go about putting a value on a draft pick months before the draft?”

            You’re saying we can only look at the last say — ten years, but that would be too small a sample to have meaning and too recent to have fully played out in terms of MLB WAR.

            In the end, his method is as good as any other provided you keep in mind that the historical data probably undervalues the pick slightly. All he’s quantifying is the odds of a #29 – 33 pick turning into a useful MLB player (which incidentally captures much of his potential trade value in MiLB).

            I actually found his analysis valuable and eye-opening as I would have expected higher numbers even in the crapshoot that is the MLB draft (vs. the NBA draft where a first rounder has a much better chance of being a valuable player).

  • Hughesus Christo

    Yankees 2010: HANK RETURNS

  • mike

    This is an absolute no-brainer.
    It weakens the Rays, brings a proven commodity to your team, was endorsed by the incumbant player, fits within the Yankees budget, improves the pen to almost what it was down the stretch when Wood arrived, provides insurance for a 41 year old player at a key position, and while it forefits a draft pick, the Yanks will likely get an equal or better pick in return if Soriano has a great year and gets signed as an FA elsehwere as that team will likely have a worse record than the Yanks anyway.
    Accumulating and holding drafts picks is great – having all-star caliber players at the major league level is better, and until picks can be traded Ill take the proven player eachtime.

    • Hughesus Christo

      How does it weaken the Rays to give them draft picks?

      • Monteroisdinero

        It weakens the Rays for next year and these two teams have different business models. Yankee fans expect to win/be at the top every year. Rays fans (all 6,000 at the Sept. games) do not.