Mailbag: Nunez, Arneson, Cards, Venditte, IFAs

Bats back Sabathia in win over Twins
Looking Back. Looking Forward.

Five questions this week, and four are farm system-related in one way or another. You can use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in a question.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Matt asks: Would you agree that an off-season strategy could be to include E. Nunez in a package for something the Yankees want, while giving his role for 2012 to Corban Joseph?

I would not agree with that, mainly because Joseph can’t play shortstop. I assume he played it in high school, but he’s been a second baseman almost exclusively as a pro. I’m willing to bet that CoJo could fake short in an emergency, but Derek Jeter‘s getting up there in age, and the Yankees need someone capable of playing there for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that, but I’m not sure Joseph can. I think if anything, he could step into Eric Chavez‘s shoes as the lefty bat/corner infielder, but I can understand wanting a veteran in that role.

The CoJo situation will be interesting to watch, because I’m not really sure where he fits in. He’s obviously not going to unseat Robinson Cano at second, so maybe it’s best to turn into some kind of utility guy that can play first, second, third, and maybe left. Of course, they could always use him as trade bait. I would have no trouble trading Nunez in the right package, but I wouldn’t count on Joseph replacing him, at least not in 2012.

Jeff asks: Hey Mike, I read that Zachary Arneson signed for a 20k bonus. Any idea why it was so low compared to other picks before and after his round? Cheers.

Arneson, this year’s ninth rounder, was a college senior out of Lewis-Clark State, and college seniors don’t have much leverage at all. Their options are either sign or go back to school as a fifth year senior and come out next year with even less leverage. Very rarely do they improve their stock. Seniors definitely get the shaft in the draft game, but that’s life. Some other notable college seniors the Yankees have drafted in recent years: Adam Warren ($195k), Tim Norton ($85k), Kyle Roller ($45k), Sam Elam ($40k), T.J. Beam ($20k), and Chris Malec ($1k). Yep, Malec got a grand, that’s it.

Update: One thing I forgot to mention … the signing deadline does not apply to college seniors. They are free to sign at any point before the next year’s draft.

Sean asks: With St. Louis about to (presumably) tie up a lot of money in Pujols, do you think there is a chance to snag a piece of their rotation in the off-season? Assuming they do not exercise their options for Wainwright or Carpenter, can you see the Yankees pursuing either of them or Edwin Jackson? And if so, what kind of contract would Wainwright be looking for?

Despite the Tommy John surgery, I can’t see why the Cardinals would decline Adam Wainwright’s options after the season. The team has to pick up both at the same time, and they’ll pay him $9M next season and $12M the season after. Even if he comes back and is two-thirds of what he was before (so 4+ WAR instead of 6+ WAR), that’s a bargain. They’d be foolish not to pick them up, but if they didn’t for whatever reason, I’d want the Yankees to be all over him. Wainwright’s a legit ace when healthy, with a fastball-curveball combo that will play anywhere, NL Central or AL East. There’s no real precedent for an ace-caliber pitcher hitting the open market after missing the year due to injury, so I have no idea what kind of contract would be appropriate. Maybe one-year, $10M plus incentives and a huge option for 2012 ($18M?) to let him rebuild his value than cash in shortly thereafter? I have no idea, just spitballin’.

Chris Carpenter is a much different story. We’ve written about him a number of times here, and his option is for $15M next year. That’s pricey for a 36-year-old who’s still very good (3.10 FIP), but maybe not truly elite anymore. He’d be an ideal stopgap number two type for the Yankees, allowing them to avoid the C.J. Wilsons of the world before going nuts on the 2012 free agent class (Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, all of them and more will be free agents after next season). Edwin Jackson … meh. I loved him as a rental for this year, but signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent? I’d rather pass on that.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

JCK asks: Pat Venditte has been great since mid-June in Trenton. Everyone says his stuff doesn’t play to major league hitters, but he’s adjusted to every level so far. Do you think the Yankees protect him this winter?

Venditte’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and no, I don’t think the Yankees will protect him. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and George Kontos are all going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, and there’s only so much room for pitchers on that thing. Venditte’s done a great job in the minors, but he doesn’t really have an out pitch from either side and it shows in his strikeout rate this year (8.74 K/9 this year vs. 11+ in previous years). He’s a great org arm, but there wouldn’t be much attention paid to Venditte if he only threw with one arm.  I’m pretty sure some team will grab him in the Rule 5 just to give him a look in Spring Training, the novelty is too tempting, but I can’t imagine him sticking in the big leagues for all of 2012. I have to think he’d be offered back at some point.

Alex asks: How involved have the Yankees been in IFA this year? What have been their major signings? It seems as though they’ve been more quiet on this front than in years past.

The Yankees have only signed one player so far (that we know of), Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750k. The top guys (Victor Sanchez, Elier Hernandez, and Ronald Guzman) have all signed somewhere, but there is still plenty of talent out there for taking, namely Roberto Osuna, who the Yankees have their eyes on. The entire international market seems to have slowed down recently because MLB has really stepped up their age and identity verification process, but remember that the signing period never ends. There’s no deadline, but a new crop of players is added every July 2nd. In fact, the Yankees’ two biggest signings last year – Rafael DePaula and Juan Carlos Paniagua – didn’t agree to terms until December and March, respectively. You can question their drafting strategies, but there’s no way to question the work the Yankees do in Latin America. They consistently produce quality players and prospects year after year, and I see no reason to believe this year will be any different.

Bats back Sabathia in win over Twins
Looking Back. Looking Forward.
  • MattG

    What happens if Malec didn’t take the $1K? Does he immediately become a free agent, or does he have to sit out a year?

    I imagine he has to sit out a year, meaning the system is really stacked against graduating college. That’s not a good system.

    • Mike Axisa

      The signing deadline doesn’t apply to college seniors. He could have signed anytime before the next year’s draft, and if he didn’t, he could be an undrafted free agent.

      • Melky

        Would you agree that it’s not a good system for college seniors?

        • Mike Axisa

          Yes, but the draft itself generally isn’t good. Why do junior college players get to come out as freshman and sophomores, but not players in four-year schools?

          • MattG

            basically, everything is designed to make a kid choose between baseball and an education. Want to go to a four year school? Smaller bonus. Want to graduate that school? Even smaller bonus.

            Bizarre, as you would think teams would like better educated, more mature players, and have the burden of maturation taken away from MLB.

            It works SO WELL in the other sports, right?

  • DERP

    Would Carpenter sign a one year deal?

    • Mike Axisa

      I’d hope so. I have no interest in giving multiple years to a guy that will 37 just after Opening Day.

  • Nuke Ladoosh

    Any insight on how Yankee prospects are doing in the DSL?

  • infernoscurse

    Um Roberto Osuna is already in an agreement with the bluejays :P

  • China Joe

    It’d have to the right package for Nunez. He’s shown he can be pretty valuable to the Yankees next year, and neither Jeter nor ARod are 162-game players at this point…the thought of Ramiro Pena maybe getting 300 ABs next year should scare the hell out of people.

    • jsbrendog

      nunez is an extremely desirable commodity. a ss who can hit. there are what, like, 6 of those?

      • MattG

        That’s a reason to keep him AND trade him. If he’s really just a tweener that is masquerading as a shortstop that can hit, that would be an exclusive reason to trade him to someone that will give him a starting role.

        So, Matt Cain is one year from free agency, and SF needs a shortstop. Maybe there is foundation for a trade right there?

        • Ted Nelson

          “If he’s really just a tweener that is masquerading as a shortstop that can hit, that would be an exclusive reason to trade him to someone that will give him a starting role.”

          I don’t think there’s any chance of him being a “tweener,” assuming you mean between SS and 3B. Guy has SS range, he just can’t consistently throw the ball to 1B for some mental and/or physical reason. That’s not necessarily going to change at 3B or 2B. It doesn’t appear to be arm strength, just airmailing throws.

          If you can trade your utility IF for a legit #2 starter… that’s a pretty good reason for a trade. My gut is that Cain has a lot more value than Nunez, but what do I know? Would be great if Nunez has really lifted his value that high.

          • MattG

            No, he hasn’t, and I wasn’t suggesting he had, but 4 years (I think) of a cost-controlled shortstop, + 5 years of Nova + other C-level prospect for 1 year of of a very good pitcher making $15M might be a conversation.

            As I try and be Brian Sabean, though, I am laughing at myself. The Giants are contenders, they’re going a maybe top-ten NL starter for a package headlined by a guy that might be a quality starting shortstop and a third starter?

            • David, Jr.

              I don’t see that as laughable, Matt. If we gave Nunez plus their choice of Nova, Betances or Noesi, that could bring Cain back.

              That being said, Nunez is a great fit for the Yankees. His speed is a perfect fit with what we have, as is his ability to play both SS and 3B without being a black hole offensively. Also, I don’t see anybody else in the system that has those qualities. CoJo and Adams seem to be pure second basemen, which also could make them ideal trade bait.

      • MattG

        Oh, and that’s a shot at Jeter.

    • Slu

      It just scared the hell out of me.

  • JohnC

    I would really like to see them give Noesi a shot next Spring. He is being wasted in the bullpen

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It all depends on how Nova and Hughes do for the rest of this year, and what kind of contract offers Colon and Garcia get over the winter.

      We can probably say that CC-AJ-Hughes-Nova are presumptive locks for four of the five rotation slots (unless Nova gets used in a trade for another starter, which is possible), so that fifth rotation spot will either be an established, veteran starter (like C.J. Wilson or Chris Carpenter if Hughes and Nova don’t inspire supreme confidence for 2012) or a cheaper, easier to displace short-term option like one of Colon or Garcia or some similar low-risk/high-reward candidate (if Hughes and Nova both look like solid #2/#3 pitchers for 2012).

      Noesi needs to be rooting for Nova and Hughes to pitch great down the stretch and during this playoffs to give the front office more confidence to gamble on a mix of youngsters/lottery tickets for that 5th spot.

  • A.D.

    Is Tim Norton ever coming back?

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    The Yankees need someone capable of playing [shortstop] for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that.

    I laughed.

    • CP

      That never gets old.

    • jsbrendog


  • Gonzo

    Mike Aviles got a $1k bonus out of college too.

    • RRRRandy

      It’s just all that grit in him. He gets it from the Red Sox.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I always thought Mike Aviles was a scrub bust of a horribly worthless player, but over the past few weeks, I’ve changed my opinion of him totally. Mike Aviles is one of the best ballplayers in the game. Does all the little things you need to win.

        A great hustling scrapper, and good to his mother. The kind of guy who will look you in the eye.

        • jsbrendog

          diamond cutters.

    • Rick in Boston

      And he was a 7th rounder, which is waaaay below expectations. Of course, he was a senior from a D2 school.

  • Gonzo

    Speaking of Paniagua and Depaula, I haven’t heard if they were cleared yet.

    • pat

      I think Paniagua was suspended by MLB. He’ll probably never make it stateside and be any kind of prospect.

  • Ted Nelson

    “You can question their drafting strategies”

    Come on… that was a conspiracy theory article… two drafts is not a trend. It’s too small a sample. It’s like A-Rod going 0-10 for two games and me declaring he’s done. You may be absolutely right, but at this time there is not enough evidence to support your theory. Especially since Brackman was rolling when they drafted Culver, and you were singing his praises as much as anyone. Let’s not revise history.

    You’re assuming they wouldn’t have given Stafford another $500K-1MM+ on top of what they spent on other prospects. And that they didn’t just win negotiating battles with guys they would have spent more to sign. You’re looking at a $2 mill difference like it’s more than it is. If the Yankees had the same class but spent $2-3 mill more to get the exact same guys signed… would that make you happier?

    I disagree with your take that not spending the most money late in the first means not getting the best prospects. Very early, sure. But once a Josh Bell (just as an example) has been passed on 50 times… it’s usually because he’s demanding obscene top 3 $ that does not match his talent level (signed for $5 mill). That is not necessarily an efficient investment. You have to, you know, actually scout the kid and not just read was BA says to know. Which, you know, the Yankees do. If the consensus was that Bell was worth $5 mill, he’d have been off the board early.

    No team is going to consciously start the bidding for a guy above what he’s asking for. You are putting the cart ahead of the horse. The best prospects tend to get the most money, and work out better long-term. That does not mean that simply paying more money means you get better prospects. If the Yankees felt Bichette was as good as or better than Bell, should they have drafted Bell because he wanted more money and was less likely to sign?

    I really think it’s just a case by case thing. Sometimes the Cole-type slips for you and you think he’s the best pick on the board. Sometimes you see that slight diamond in the rough you are more bullish on than others. Like the Yankees were with Joey Votto until the Reds took him before they had the chance… if the Reds don’t take Votto and he’s a Yankee right now I doubt you’re writing this article at all. Votto got a $600,000 signing bonus and the Yankees saw him as one of the best players on the board.

    There may be some strategy involved in feeling like there is a relative glut of talent around early, so you can get a similar talent while saving your money to go over slot later when there is less talent available… Again, this is not a bad thing.

    Drafting may be the most efficient way to add talent, until you start handing out obscene $4-5 mill bonuses to guys no one thought were really worth that money like Castellanos and Bell. Then it suddenly becomes the least efficient way to add talent. Spending $5 mill for a prospect with maybe a 20% chance of making it is not necessarily a better strategy than spending $1 mill on a guy with maybe an 18% chance and what you consider to be similar talent. Again it comes down to the actual scouting report and perceived value. Again the Yankees don’t just go to Baseball America’s website to scout these players.

    Once everyone else is spending on the draft is not the time you want to start spending more on the draft. The higher demand is going to drive prices up to the point where they are not efficient. Think Warren Buffet. When the market zigs, you zag.

    • jsbrendog

      have you considered blogging? not a knock, just an observation. you always have longer comments with substance.

      • Walrus Eater

        I think stating it has substance is a matter of opinion.

        • Sayid J.

          An opinion I’d agree with.

      • Ted Nelson

        I have a lot of admiration for the RAB guys, especially Mike, for taking the time and effort to consistently stay on top of everything and consistently update the site to make it probably the best blog for one of the most popular teams in the US. I don’t know if I have that in me, especially as more of a hobby or part-time job.

    • Walrus Eater

      If you are saying the Yankees went by their draft board fine, but you have exactly no proof of that. You are basically doing exactly what you are accusing Mike of doing. If you have inside information or back up information, please share it.

      The draft is still the most cost efficient way of getting talent. I think you are bastardizing Buffett’s wisdom. Even he would say that when you can spend little relative to the return, you should do it. That’s exactly what the draft is.

      • Slugger27

        Ive always wondered what a walrus tastes like

      • Ted Nelson

        “If you are saying the Yankees went by their draft board fine”

        Where did I say that? I didn’t mean to if I did. I was saying they **might** have done that, as a counter-argument to Mike’s point. I specifically started by saying there is a chance Mike is 100% right, I just said it’s too small a sample to draw conclusions. What I am saying is exactly that we have to wait and see how things play out. Of course then we still might not know exactly what strategy went into the decisions outside of some media leaks from insiders, but we’ll know how they played out.

        The only point where I said anything close to definitive definitive was when I stated my opinion and labeled it as such… that **I think** they go case-by-case. Which would be the logical way to do things, so that’s why **I assume** that’s what they do. Maybe they say we should *always* spend the most money on the prospect that wants the most money or we should *always* spend the least money on the prospect that wants the least money… but I assume they weigh their options in each case based on their own scouting of each player. Obviously having to do so quickly as the draft develops.

        “The draft is still the most cost efficient way of getting talent.”

        Based on what evidence?
        I said it may be, because I have not made a study of the subject.

        “I think you are bastardizing Buffett’s wisdom.”

        I don’t think so. When teams start paying more money and thereby increasing the demand and raising the price for certain prospects above the efficient price, that’s when you zag. When everyone sells finance stocks, that’s when Buffet bought a major stake in Goldman (just as one high profile example). Especially **if** you see what you believe are undervalued prospects elsewhere. I believe this is very much in the spirit of Buffet’s investing philosophy.

        On a more macro-level, when teams start spending more on amateur prospects in general… that might create an arbitrage opportunity to spend your money elsewhere. Or when they start paying more for BA Top Prospect types and not others… simply to look for those prospects that are being overlooked because they play in cold-weather climates or countries off the beaten track. Or they are lacking one tool but have others in spades.

        “Even he would say that when you can spend little relative to the return, you should do it. That’s exactly what the draft is.”

        The question is not whether or not you draft players. It’s whether you draft the Josh Bell and pay him $5 mill because other people like him, or you draft the Bichette and give him $750k because you like him.

        • Walrus Eater

          I said “if” for a reason. If you are simply saying that it’s possible, sure, it’s possible. I guess I took your defense of Yankees’ drafting as a defense of their draft board. My bad.

          The draft is the most efficient way of acquiring talent. The CBA rules that state a team has control of a players first full 6 years of MLB service time ensures that. The rules that govern how those 6 years are paid ensure a great cost benefit to the team.

          Then, how do you acquire those excellent cost beneficial years? The cheapest and easiest way is the MLB draft. There are other ways to acquire talent, sure. Are you arguing that there is a more efficient way to acquire talent? I’d love to hear what you think is more efficient.

          As for Buffett, let me ask you this. What do you think is market efficiency for a Cole, Bell, etc…? That is, what do you think they would receive in a free agency model? If you truly believe they would receive less, then yes, the draft is inneficient. However, I ghonestly believe that Bell, Cole, etc…, would have received more in the actual market efficient free agent model. That means, I believe teams pay less than they should under “free” market condidtions. That means, I think they got a bargain.

          Do you think they would receive less in a free agency system?

  • Ethan

    Do you think the Yankees will pursue Yu Darvish at the end of the season? His numbers are incredible in Japan this year and have been for several years. He’s only 25 with almost a thousand strikeouts already (!). I know his IP might be a concern for someone so young but I’d like to see the Yankees make a strong push for him.