Mailbag: Robertson, Feliciano, Postseason DL

A thought on trading Phil Hughes
Looking Back. Looking Forward.

Four questions this week, but three of the four answers are kinda long. The Submit A Tip box is your friend, assuming you need a friend that can help you send in questions for future mailbags.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Chris asks: Do you think the Yankees would consider trying David Robertson out for the rotation? He seems to have good mechanics with his delivery and no obvious physical detriments that would inhibit his ability to start. Stuff-wise, I think few would doubt Robertson’s qualifications — especially now that he’s added a serviceable change-up to go along with his plus curveball and fastball. What do you think David Robertson’s ceiling as a starter would be? Is it high enough to justify a “Robertson-as-a-starter” experiment?

You know, I could have sworn Joe wrote a post about Robertson as a potential starter, but apparently he didn’t because I can’t find it in the archives anywhere. Oh well.

Stuff-wise, Robertson would be fine. He’d definitely lose some heat off the fastball, figure more 91-92 than the 94-95 he’s working with these days, but he’s got that great curveball and will show a changeup from time to time. He’s thrown that changeup just 1.7% of the time this year, so he’d have to be comfortable with using the pitch a lot more than he does now for it to work.

There’s two big hurdles here. First, Robertson hasn’t started a game since 2005, when he made three spot starts as a sophomore at Alabama. He also hasn’t thrown more than 61.1 IP in a season since 2008, when he topped out at a career high 84 IP (he threw 84.1 IP in 2007, so close enough). It’s not like they could just stick him in the rotation and expect 30 starts right out of the chute, it’ll take a year or two to get him safely stretched out. The second thing is his efficiency, or lack thereof. Because Robertson’s such a high-strikeout, high-walk guy, he ends up throwing a ton of pitches. In fact, his rate of 4.51 pitches per batter faced is the highest in baseball among relievers with at last 40 IP, and his 18.5 pitches per inning are the eleventh highest when you use that same criteria. He’d have to learn how to become more economical, which means pitching to contact a little more. If he can’t do that, he’d be a five and fly starter.

There’s also the element of the unknown here. We have no idea if Robertson can be successful the second and third time through the order. At least with Joba Chamberlain, you had his dominant college and (brief) minor league track record to fall back on. That’s not to say it can’t work (C.J. Wilson was very similar to Robertson when he was in the bullpen, and his transition was a smashing success), but that it won’t be easy. I can’t imagine the Yankees will entertain the thought of trying Robertson in the rotation, but it’s not a completely insane idea. Would take a lot of work on David’s part though, that’s for sure.

Brent asks: I was reading your article about Pedro Feliciano and got to wondering: How is the luxury tax, insurance payments, salaries effected by an injured player like this?  What $$ are the Yankees exactly on the hook for in this situation?

I can’t answer the insurance, we really don’t have any idea what kind of insurance teams have on their players. I imagine the extent of the coverage is a case-by-case thing, like every other insurance arrangement, and it’s basically impossible to find that info freely available somewhere. For all we know, the Yankees could have been reimbursed for every dime they paid Feliciano this year.

The luxury tax is a different story though. You can download the pdf of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement right here, then scroll down to Article XXIII for everything you need to know about the Competitive Balance Tax, the luxury tax’s fancy name. I’ll spare you the gory details, but in a nutshell, teams are taxed on their “Actual Club Payroll,” which is the average annual value of all the contracts on their 40-man roster. There’s almost some specifics about signing bonuses, benefits, etc., but a team is taxed for every player on the 40-man, and Feliciano has been on the 40-man all year. The Yankees will have to pay luxury tax on his contract even though he never pitched for them. Since they’re taxed the maximum 40%, that’s another $1.6M on top of his $4M average annual salary.

J.R. asks: If a player goes on the DL in the playoffs he is ineligible for the next round (ie Clemens in the ALDS). If the Yankees lost a player in the ALDS could they be off the roster for the ALCS but then put back on for the WS?

Yep, that’s exactly how it would work. The Braves lost Billy Wagner to injury in the NLDS last year, and replaced him on the roster with a new pitcher. Wagner was ineligible for the NLCS, but if Atlanta had made it to the World Series, he could have been re-added to the roster. If a player is replaced on the roster in the LCS, they’re off limits in the World Series, which kinda stinks.

Mike asks: Who are the minor leaguers who need to be added to the 40 man roster after the season to protect from the Rule 5 draft and who are the candidates to be cut from the 40 man to make room for them? I think you touched on this a couple of months ago but things have changed in Sept a little.

I trimmed Mike’s question down just for the sake of saving bandwidth, but you get the idea. I answered a question about who’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft a few weeks ago, but you’re right, things have changed. Both George Kontos and Austin Romine were added to the 40-man roster and called up while Steve Garrison and Pants Lendleton lost their spots. Here’s a quick recap of the 40-man situation heading into the offseason…

On 60-day DL (7): Feliciano, Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, Sergio Mitre, Reegie Corona, Colin Curtis, Justin Maxwell

Scheduled to become free agents (8): Marte, Mitre, Luis Ayala, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Jorge Posada

Non-tender/release candidates (4): Corona, Aaron Laffey, Scott Proctor, Raul Valdes

That’s eight spots definitely being opened up by departing free agents, but five of those spots will immediately be filled by 60-day DL guys (Marte and Mitre overlap). There’s no DL in the offseason, those guys have to be activated. Proctor’s as good as gone, so that’s another open spot. Pretty safe bet that Corona and at least one of Laffey/Valdes will go as well, so that’s two more spots. Right now, we’re at six open spots.

The outfield trio of Maxwell, Greg Golson, and Chris Dickerson will all be out of options next year, so something has to give. They could be released, traded for a marginal prospect (like what they did with Juan Miranda), or run through waivers just to see if they clear. All three could be gone next year, or all three could be back and off the 40-man roster. I have to imagine that at least one of those guys will be cut loose at some point, perhaps two. Either way, those are some flexible spots that can be dealt with as needed. The out-of-options thing really doesn’t become a problem until you actually want to send them to the minors, usually at the end of Spring Training.

With Romine and Kontos added to the 40-man, David Phelps is the only remaining lock to be added to the roster to prevent Rule 5 Draft exposure. David Adams and Pat Venditte are up in the air, as are a few others. Remember though, those open 40-man spots aren’t just for prospects. The Yankees have to replace Garcia and Colon in the rotation, add some bench players to replace Chavez and Andruw, and rebuild some bullpen depth. The 40-man roster can be a difficult thing to manage in the offseason, especially for a team like the Yankees, a team with so many players locked into long-term contracts.

A thought on trading Phil Hughes
Looking Back. Looking Forward.
  • crawdaddie

    Can’t they simply release Marte and Mitre this offseason instead of carrying them on their roster?

    • Mike Axisa

      They will be. They’re part of the eight that become free agents. Only five of the seven 60-day DL guys will actually end up back on the roster. The two missing are Mitre and Marte.

      • Dave

        If Feliciano is going to be out for the year anyway, can’t they just release him too?

        • Ted Nelson

          Yeah, I was also thinking they should DFA him… Maybe won’t if they think he could be back for the playoffs, but is another team really going to claim a $4 mill LOOGY in case he gets healthy for a month or two? And wouldn’t you just let them have him and pay him?

  • B-Rando

    I absolutely love David Robertson. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t. His ability to wiggle out of jams, and put out fires is uncanny. I’ve never seen a reliever outside of Mo with that type of ability.

    I think it may be something that you do not want to mess around with. The Yankees have the resources and prospects to add to the rotation, theyre not going to mess around with him, and I think thats the right call.

    • Frigidevil

      I’d imagine some people have issue with those jams he constantly gets himself into, it’s nerve-wracking.

    • gc

      Sooner or later, the law of averages will most likely catch up to him and he’s not going to succeed in wriggling out of those (often self-induced) jams with the kind of frequency we’ve come to expect. Your attitude, and the attitude of many Yankee fans around here, might change towards him as a result. Suddenly he could become a pariah, when the very thought of him coming into a close game will give everyone heartburn. He’s riding a very successful wave right now and I hope it continues for as long as possible, but everyone knows how short peoples’ memories can be about these players.

      • B-Rando

        I’m not saying he’s perfect, no player is. Obviously he needs to stop putting himself in jams, or making things worse when he comes in. However, his strikeout ability is something that makes him different from many other relievers. The “law of averages” will apply differently to someone with that type of ability versus someone without. Obviously he is ripe for regression, but I would be shocked if he got to a level where I would cringe about him coming into a game.

        • Ted Nelson

          Agreed. Would be ideal if he cuts BBs… but nibbling on the corners might be the only way to keep his K rate so high as well.

      • Dan

        I would agree that putting himself into jams does open up the possibility for those runners to score, but certain players and especially some closers tend to bear down more in those situations and leave the runners stranded. Closers like K-Rod, Hoffman, and Todd Jones I believe all had years where they would put runners on at a high rate and they all still did pretty well. So maybe if he is able to continue his success it is more of a case for him to be the next closer.

      • Ted Nelson

        He’s always struck a lot of people out, and that’s going to get any pitcher out of jams at a fairly high rate. Certainly any player is vulnerable to an erosion of skill and/or luck… but I would disagree with the extent to which you assert Robertson is getting lucky and the veracity with which you assert his luck may even out and leave him a pariah.

  • CountryClub

    Unless they don’t think he’s coming back healthy next yr (and obviously they have the medical reports and we don’t), I think Adams is a lock for the 40 man.

    • Mike Axisa

      I don’t think he is at all. Hasn’t played regularly in a year and a half now. I’d be pretty surprised if he could stick on an MLB roster all season.

      Sometimes the best way to keep a player is by leaving them unprotected. It’s exactly what they did with Nova. They didn’t think he was ready for MLB in 2009,so they left him unprotected, and he was back before the end of ST.

      • CountryClub

        Yeah, good point. He still has realistic MLB potential, but you’re right, he probably wouldn’t stick a full yr on someone’s roster.

  • OMG! Bagels!

    I read an article on Robertson last year (I think) where he said he was a reliever and that was the role he expected to play. I think that instead of trying to experiment with putting him into the rotation, the better bet would be to give him more games to close when Mo needs time off. No one is Mariano but until Robertson came along, no one could even fathom how to replace the greatest closer in baseball.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      no one could even fathom how to replace the greatest closer in baseball.

      Except when Joba first went to the ‘pen. Or when Soriano was signed. Or when the next big thing comes along. No one will ever be as great as Mo. Right now, there are people that Robertson will be the one to replace him. Next year it may be someone else if Robertson becomes more like a Wetteland (not bad, I guess I’d take that) or a Farnsworth (certainly hope not). There will be options. I hope Robertson learns a bit more control and can do the job. Time will tell.

  • A.D.

    I’ve more wondered if Robertson can be a solid closer in the league, and with what he’s done this year, I don’t see why not

    • Dan

      Robertson reminds me a little bit of K-Rod in that both are high strikeout pitchers that also tend to put themselves into jams that they get out of. I don’t know if he would be as good as K-Rod, I just see some similarities. K-Rod before he became a full-time closer was at a 1.82 ERA, 13.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9; Robertson this year has a 1.16 ERA, 13.8 K/9, 4.8 BB/9… Also, K-Rod had a .2 HR/9 and Robertson has a .1

      K-Rod’s walk total that year was near its lowerst its been for him, he had a high of 5 per nine while he was a closer. His stats I gave were for 2004, which was the year before he became a full-time closer. He also made his first all-star game and finished 4th in CYA voting, so some definite parallels to Robertson.

      • MannyGeee

        and they both have a killer right hook… ZING!

  • MannyGeee

    So gun to your head, of Maxwell/Golson/Dickerson, who would you keep/cut/trade for a marginal prospect?

    an ‘F/Marry/Kill’ of fringe outfielders if you would… they are all kinda sorta the same guy, right?

    • Mike Axisa

      Dickerson might be ahead of the pack because he’s shown the ability to hit RHP in the bigs, at least nominally. I think Maxwell would be first to go, and I think Golson can elect FA if he’s DFA’d. He’s been DFA’d before.

      • IRF

        Are you concerned that Dickerson success is entirely BABIP driven?

  • JD

    When can you put guys like Chamberlain and Feliciano on next year’s 60 day DL? I am assuming it is opening day.

    Also, couldn’t they just release Feliciano to open up a 40 man spot? They have to pay him anyway and he probably won’t be picked up by another team.

    • Mike Axisa

      Yep, it’s basically right at the end of Spring Training. They put Colin Curtis, Marte, and Reegie Corona on the 60-day at the end of ST for Chavez, Colon, and Garcia.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Robertson should stay right where he is and work on his changeup in high leverage counts. As for getting into jams, Mo hasn’t always had 1-2-3 innings over the years and has gotten out of plenty of his own jams. With Robertson and Wade throwing quality changeups in hitter’s counts, the need for an overpaid loogy would be diminished.

    Monteroisdinero but contemplating a handle change to GolsonisMolson if the Brewers pick him up.

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      Agreed. With both the overall point and the suggested handle change if the Brewers pick up your guy!

    • Dan

      I think the problem more with Robertson is the walks. Mo hardly ever walks batters, his jams are almost all due to weak contact that bloops in front of outfielders and behind infielders.

    • Russ has a last name

      “[Mo] has gotten out of plenty of his own jams.”

      Rivera has a historically low whip. It would be more accurate to say: “Mo has gotten in fewer jams than almost anyone is history.”

    • Russ has a last name

      ” [Mo] has gotten out of plenty of his own jams.”

      Rivera has a historically low whip. It would be more accurate to say: “Mo has gotten in fewer jams than almost anyone is history.”

    • SDM

      In Robertson’s defense his BB rate is really inflated by the fact that he had 15 walks in his first 19 appearances of the season. In the other 46 he has 18

    • Now Batting

      You want Robertson to throw his worse pitch in high leverage counts?

  • MikeD

    Feliciano’s out the entire year. They’re going to have to pay him regardless, so release him, and open up a 40-man spot.