Mailbag: Aramis, Cuddyer, CC, Brown, Darvish

The Steve is the thing
Dispelling the RISP Fail myth

Got six questions for you this week, covering a wide range of topics. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week, that’s the easiest way to do it.

(Photo Credit:

Chris asks: What kind of contract will Aramis Ramirez get? Is it too soon into the A-Rod deal to bring in someone like Ramirez to play 50 games at 3rd? As Alex declines in his ability to play every day when do the Yankees look to put more than a bench player at 3rd?

I don’t know what kind of deal Ramirez will get, but he’s not going to sign with the Yankees to be a part-time player. Even if you sell him on the idea of being a part-time third baseman and a part-time DH, then you’re blocking Jesus Montero with another guy past him prime. I thought Alex Rodriguez looked fine defensively late in the season and during the playoffs, plus he can still hit (fifth among third baseman in wOBA over the last two years), just not at the absurd level he once did. The problem is staying on the field. Going year-to-year with Eric Chavez types is perfectly fine right now, spending big bucks and locking yourself into more bad contracts is counterproductive.

John asks: Hey guys, I just wondered what you guys thought about signing Michael Cuddyer to a contract as the ultimate utility man? He could be the 4th outfielder, cover A-Rod at third, cover first (if the Yankees trade Nick Swisher) and also get a few at bats at DH. By covering all of those he could get 350-400 at-bats guaranteed. Also if someone went down injured he could get more. What would it take to sign him?

Again, it’s the same thing as Aramis. Cuddyer’s not going to settle for 350-400 at-bats with the Yankees when half the league is willing to play him everyday. Versatility is nice, but he’s nothing special with the glove (at any position) and nothing special against right-handed pitchers (.313 wOBA last two years). You’re again taking playing time from Montero, and again handing out a big contract to a player in his decline phase. Cuddyer’s the kind of guy that will get a three or four year deal, and a year from now the team that signs him will be asking themselves “what have gotten ourselves into?”

The idea of a super-sub has gotten out-of-hand in the last few years, going back to the obsession with Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa. There’s someone like this every winter. Just sign bench players to be bench players rather than sign an everyday player and pigeon-hole him into a reduced role. That’s better than locking yourself into someone that doesn’t really want to do the job.

John asks: Are you concerned by the new CC Sabathia contract? I am no expert on contracts but I found his contract very interesting in that the option vests once he avoid shoulder injuries over the years – Is this normal for an option? Has he had shoulder issues in the past? Or why would they put that in there? If they were putting conditions in there I would have figured issues with his weight or knee (past issue and weight) over his shoulder?

I’m not at all worried about it, frankly I think that contract was the best case scenario. They only had to add one more guaranteed year, and sixth year option does include some protection against major shoulder injury. Sabathia’s arm has been perfectly healthy throughout his career, with his only two DL stints resulting from oblique strains.

The Yankees probably just put that in there to protect themselves a bit. The guy’s thrown a ton of innings already and figures to throw a ton more during the life of the extension, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to worry about his health five years from now. Elbows are generally fixable, but shoulders can’t be much more problematic. I’m guessing the Yankees didn’t put any kind of weight clause in there because they feel comfortable about his work ethic and all that, plus his weight is theoretically controllable. The health of his shoulder is pretty much out of everyone’s hands. If it’s going to go, there’s not much they can do about it. I think both sides did very well with the contract, CC got his extra money and the Yankees kept their ace at a reasonable cost.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sam asks: Would it make sense to trade for Dom Brown and then have him try and re-discover his mojo in AAA? That way, when Swisher’s contract is up next year he could hopefully slot right in.

Oh definitely, I’m a big Domonic Brown fan, I just don’t think the Phillies will trade him. They need to add some cheap pieces around that expensive core, and Brown figures to step right in for the departed Raul Ibanez. He does have big left-handed pop though, and when those bonus Brown-for-Dellin Betances rumors popped up on Twitter before the trade deadline, I prematurely started drooling about Brown and Montero hitting three-four for the next decade.

Matt asks*: Why not play hardball with Yu Darvish? Why not use their best asset (money) while using the posting system to their advantage, i.e. bid $40-50 million for his rights then offer a 5-year $30 million dollar deal. The Yankees could just make it a take it or leave it offer, and if he rejects he heads back to Japan and the Yankees get their posting fee back. They could then do the same thing next year. 

* I had to do some major chopping to get this question down to a reasonable length, but this gets the point across.

As far as I know, there’s nothing actually stopping the Yankees (or any team, really) from doing this, though MLB and NPB can award the player’s negotiating rights to the second highest bidder if they feel the winning team did not act in good faith. This isn’t a video game however, there are reputations and business relationships at stake here. Darvish is represented by Arn Tellem, one of baseball’s most powerful agents. He represents guys like former Yankees Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi (so we know the two sides have a good working relationship already), as well as plenty of other clients, including some of the best players in the game. If the Yankees stonewall Tellem with Darvish, it doesn’t exactly set a good tone for their relationship going forward. I think their overall reputation within the game would take a hit as well.

Remember, negotiations aren’t a “Team vs. Player” situation. It should be two sides working together to make a deal happen, and there’s give and take on both sides. Play hardball with Darvish and coax him into signing an unfair deal, then you’re stuck with an unhappy player.

Dan asks: With the possibility that the Yankees bring back Freddy Garcia and the number of potential back of the rotation pitchers they have in AAA, how likely is it that the Yankees pass on making any major moves this offseason? They could plan to go into this season with a rotation of CC, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, and Garcia and try to get a pitcher like Cole Hamels next offseason to replace Garcia and then maybe Josh Johnson the following year when A.J. comes off the books?

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees didn’t do anything more to shore up the rotation beyond bringing Sweaty Freddy back. That would be a mistake in my opinion, because you can’t count on Garcia repeating what he did last year, nor can you count on Phil Hughes rebounding or A.J. Burnett not sucking. Nova’s not a given to do anything either. I like the depth in Triple-A, but I’d rather not see those guys on April 10th or something. This pitching staff wasn’t a problem in 2011, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in 2012.

Next winter’s crop of free agent pitching is crazy deep, and it’ll continue to be even if a few of those guys sign extensions between now and then. Can’t get Hamels? Then there’s John Danks. Can’t get Matt Cain? There’s Zack Greinke. Or Shaun Marcum. Or Francisco Liriano. The list goes on and on. The Yankees do want to win in 2011 obviously, but Brian Cashman showed tremendous restraint last offseason after losing out on Cliff Lee. I suspect he’ll do the same if nothing to his liking comes along this winter.

The Steve is the thing
Dispelling the RISP Fail myth
  • jjyank

    I agree with the thought about the status of our rotation. Still, I hope Cash does do something. I don’t want him to overpay for anyone, but I would feel pretty nervous going into the season with our current rotation.

    • MannyB ace2be

      The only thing I would like cash to do this offseason is sign Players that it would take just money to ink to a contract like a darvish/caspedes where no draft picks are given up and unless a ridiculous trade comes up for another ace id rather hold on to the prospects

  • Steve (different one)

    I do not believe that the Yankees will start the season without acquiring at least one more starter. This is just my opinion. Once they missed on Lee, patience was an acceptable strategy last winter and it also seems as if punting at the deadline was wise. Now, there are starters available via trade and they held all their assets last year for this purpose. I think they’ll do something. I know, I didn’t really say anything here…

    • Slugger27


    • Cris Pengiucci

      I think the Yankess will attempt to brin in one more starter, but again, it’ll hae to be a deal to their liking. If what the Yankees perceive to be a reasonable deal doen’t unfold, I think they bring back Garcia and roll the dice with what they’ve got in CC, Nova, Garcia, Hughes & AJ and mix-and-match as they need to with the AAA pitchers and look at the trade market as the deadline approaches. I could definitely see them not making a big splash (again) this offseason.

    • Ted Nelson

      Who knows what they’ll do, but I think patience (waiting for good value to emerge, whether through internal options or acquisitions) is still the way to go. Not that they shouldn’t acquire anyone, but that they should continue to look for value.

      We don’t really know who is available on the trade market at what price. We’re hearing mostly unsubstantiated rumors this off-season. A team might possibly, maybe be interested in moving their young ace because he’s nearing free agency. Most of these teams are in a position to just re-sign that pitcher if they so choose.

      The only hard one I can remember hearing is that the A’s might part with anyone, but no mention of price. They’ve gotten multiple top prospects for young SPs Mark Mulder and Dan Haren in the past, and I don’t see why they’d be expecting less now (relative to the talent they’re giving up, of course… they don’t have a Mulder, but some good young pitchers… they might be waiving these guys around just hoping to find a Mulder offer).

      Then there are the free agents. Intriguing names and maybe the Yankees go after one, but the tough part is if signing one (and thus having three expensive SPs) hurts their willingness to sign a 2012 free agent. Tough choice. Those guys may or may not even be available. I don’t agree with the notion that if you can’t sign Hamels or Danks… just sign the great Liriano to a fat long-term deal… So again I think they just need to look for value.

      • Craig Maduro

        One thing we should all keep in mind when discussing rumors/speculation:

        How many times has a trade been made and we think to ourselves “damn, I didn’t see that coming at all.” ?

        The same can be said for signings too to a lesser extent. The Yankees had a lot of people believing that they weren’t going to be in on Mark Teixeira.

        • Slugger27

          also, a lot of times i’ve seen trades and thought “damn, thats all they got??” haren trade, greinke trade, cliff lee trade (not the smoak one)

          • Ted Nelson

            Tyler Skaggs tore A+ and AA apart last season at 19: he was the crown jewel of that deal. Very possible the Diamondbacks valued him substantially higher than Banuelos. They also got a mediocre MLB LHSP and another LHP prospect who was a former 2nd round pick coming off a good season.
            Does Banuelos and Joba sound like a good deal for Haren, especially when he appeared to be declining?

            The Royals got one of the premier young players at THE premier position in baseball (not that I’m high on Escobar… but that’s what he was/is)… the #12 prospect according to BA one year earlier. They might well have valued him as highly as DH Montero (I would disagree, but they might have… especially since their farm had the power bats and not the up-the-middle talent). They got a top 100 SP prospect… comparable in value to Betances maybe, or at least in the BA rankings. They got a CF prospect who put up a .344 wOBA in 158 PAs. They got a strong relief prospect who was a former 1st rounder.
            Does Montero, Betances, Romine, and another pitching prospect sound like a great deal for Greinke, especially if the Yankees were in fact questioning his make-up?

            Indians got some solid prospects and were maybe going for a quantity over quality approach. Not a great return for Lee, but I suppose they were high on those guys.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      As the article said, there are better starters available next year in the FA market, plus an extra year of development for the two remaining B’s (and their less heralded friends.) I would rather suck it up for another year than be locked into a less flexible situation after next season. I’d be nervous but, ultimately, fine if they mostly stood pat.

      • Billion$Bullpen


  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Hey Mike, How about signing Albert Pujols has an “ultimate Utility Guy” ? He could play 50 games at 3B, 25 at 1B, 25 in the OF, 42 at SS, 63 at 2b, 26 at C and maybe another 110 at DH. He should get something like 800-900 AB’s a year. I’ll hang up now and listen to your response.

    • thenamestsam

      Your plan makes no sense. Why would you sign him and not have him pitch at all, at least during the interleague games? Can you imagine that lineup in an NL park with Pujols sitting in the pitchers slot?

      • CP

        I’m guessing he didn’t consider him pitching because of the issues with his elbow ligament. He played through a torn elbow ligament in 2010 (I believe) instead of getting TJS. It’s probably healthy now, but I’m not sure that it would hold up to pitching.

        • Soriano Is A Liar

          Nonsense, just sign Tim Wakefield as a coach to teach Pujols the knuckleball.

          • Slugger27

            i meant to ask you this on a previous thread this week, but what did soriano lie about? or are you referring to alfonso?

      • Secret Weapon

        He could be, like, a good-hitting Jose Oquendo.

  • Rich in NJ

    I would be surprised if the Yankees don’t add another starter, not necessarily a big splash (although I suspect that might happen), but I think they will at least add a veteran who can provide depth.

    • Slugger27

      hopefully with only 1 year left on his contract, allowing us to go all in next offseason

    • Ted Nelson

      With Garcia back, they’d have CC, Nova, Garcia, AJ, and Hughes. I question whether a half-decent veteran would sign to be the 6th starter. Perhaps if the Yankees announced publicly that Hughes is not a reliever. Otherwise they might be limited to minor league deals and swing-men.

      • Rich in NJ

        Although I am still high on Hughes (and Noesi, for that matter), is it likely a team whose owner has said that their mission statement is to win the WS every single year rely on that group without any upgrades? I don’t think so. Plus, AJ’s ERA has been historically bad (in term of Yankee full season starters) for two consecutive years.

        That’s why I think they will look to make a major acquisition, but will opt for depth if the price for that upgrade is unreasonable.

        • Ted Nelson

          Who do you propose they bring in?

          A major acquisition is very possible (though the supply is limited) and I’m sure they’re going to bring in some guys to camp on minor league deals… in the middle of those two extremes, though, I find it less likely. Garcia is basically that mid-rotation option. Maybe if Freddy signs elsewhere they’d replace him with another mid-rotation candidate. Aj and Hughes are those back-end veteran options, with Noesi, Phelps, Warren, Mitchell, Banuelos, and Betances right behind them.

          I just think it’s more likely that a mid-to-back-end starter free agent will choose a situation where they are more likely to get a rotation spot: the Yankees have 11 SP candidates in-house if Garcia is brought back… 9 until Banuelos and Betances are ready. Same for the top minor league deal candidates like Garcia was last season. I also think that situation is likely to pay them more than the Yankees, since that situation will be more desperate for SP.

          I don’t think it’s likely the Yankees will trade much of value for a 6th starter. Maybe they pick up a salary dump, but even eating salary for a 6th starter seems like a waste of resources.

          If they are willing to cast aside AJ or Hughes… this all changes.

          Yes, I do think they might go into the season with that group. They have 5 SP prospects who are MLB ready or right on the cusp. They can make a trade happen mid-season. Bite the bullet and just go for the 2012 Ubaldo or Fister or Bedard.

          • Rich in NJ

            I’m pro-Darvish.

            • Ted Nelson

              Yeah, I can see a major improvement.

              This was the part of your comment I was really responding to, though: “not necessarily a big splash (although I suspect that might happen), but I think they will at least add a veteran who can provide depth.”

              • Rich in NJ

                I said that because it seems to be Cash’s m.o. IOW, he seems to believe that stockpiling depth is the best to to deal with unforeseeable contingencies.

  • Ted Nelson

    re: Cuddyer question… if they traded Swisher, wouldn’t Cuddyer become the RF?

    Or is the question asker assuming Yoenis is the Yankees’ RF already?

  • Hal

    These are the free agents the Yankees must go after this offseason

    • Tampa Yankee

      (Bleacher Report:Didn’t Read)

  • Novas Super

    Thanks for the “no guarantees on Nova” line. Last year everyone (from casual fan to Cashman) assumed that Hughes would fall in line to be at least a 3, if not a 2. If Garcia and Colon hadn’t picked up the slack from Hughes the Yankess would have been in deep trouble.

    There are fewer ‘red flags’ with Nova entering 2012 than there were with Hughes entering 2011, but we cannot count on young pitchers with greatly increased workloads to be able to keep improving with no setbacks. There should be zero surprise if Nova has a setback in 2012.

    • Mike Axisa

      Nova didn’t have a big workload increase, though.

      2008 – 148.2
      2009 – 164.1
      2010 – 187
      2011 – 189.2

      That’s MiLB, MLB, playoffs, and winter ball.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      Nova was a red flag for last season, as Mike’s number showed. He past that hurdle already.

  • Rookie

    It may have been a best-case scenario for the Yankees, but I’m curious why they’re not worried about his knee (on which I understand he’s had two surgeries already). Maybe they figure he’ll still be able to pitch well on one leg.

  • Johnny O

    Last year nobody thought Garcia would even break spring training with the team. Then he far exceeded expectations and now everyone assumes he will definitely repeat his 2011 performance in 2012. He’s earned guaranteed money, but he’s still far from a sure thing.

    • Ted Nelson

      There was every reason to think he’d break camp with the team. The Yankees literally verbally committed to him. As I was saying everyday at the time, the belief he wouldn’t was born out of a misunderstanding of his injury history and the role velocity plays in MLB pitching.

      No MLB P is a sure thing and Garcia is unlikely to repeat his 3.62 ERA. His risk and performance levels will theoretically be priced into his next contract, though.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Everyone mentions the usual suspects with CC, Nova, Hughes, Garcia and Burnett. IMHO, Noesi has potential to fit in where Garcia could position himself if he returns. I like going with youth it indicates to the guys in AA and AAA, keep working.

    The above being said. I’d still hunt for a trade or FA. Wilson may not be the guy of choice but he would fit nicely behind CC. After number 1 they all slot in as 2’s in this rotation. No one scares most lineups but all are capable of winning consistently.

    • Ted Nelson

      “I like going with youth it indicates to the guys in AA and AAA, keep working.”

      I disagree. At best I would call it very, very marginal. I don’t think any relationship at all exists, though. If neither millions of dollars or the love of the game motivates a kid, I don’t think his org promoting some other guy will do the trick. Maybe one in a million times. I don’t think that’s the way to run an organization, though… hoping one in a million times you’ll strike some magic rather than just making all around good decisions (which will sometimes involve youth over veterans).

      In fact, handing out jobs to prospects whether they deserve them or not is probably a disincentive to other top prospects: “you’ve got a job waiting for you as long as you’re pretty decent.” Rather let them compete for a job and prove they deserve it.

      “IMHO, Noesi has potential to fit in where Garcia could position himself if he returns.”

      And he’ll get the chance to prove he’s a better pitcher. IMHO competition is a good thing and a better motivator of the average person than dreaming that maybe one day you’ll be the lucky boy to get handed a rotation spot you may or may not deserve.

      • LarryM.,Fl.

        Ted: Obviously Noesi should not be handed the job which was never indicated in my words. If Garcia comes back and Noesi is better then hell yeah he gets the job. If not the bullpen or AAA or Trade bait.

        I disagree that young guys being promoted on merit does not motivate the AA and AAA players. Especially based on often used older/veteran player as the better choice in years past. Its a turn around on Yankee philosophy.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      With guys like Noesi waiting in the wings and potentially having very solid showings during ST, I like chosing a guy like Garcia over a guy like Burhle. While Garcia will earn guaranteed money, it’s easier to put him aside, if you will, than it would be with a Burhle-type. Any of the 3 could excel or fail miserably, so I’d take my chances and go with the shorter-term/lower cost deal.

      That being said, the Yankess will probably make a big splash with Darvish or Wilson or someone else we don’t have on our radar yet. I’d be fine with Darvish, would have concerns with Wilson or Oswalt, don’t really care too much about Burhle but prefer a 2-year deal if he’s signed. It’s gonna be a long off-season.

      • Ted Nelson

        I’m about as big a Garcia supporter as there is here, but comparing him to Buerhle is nonsensical. Velocity is one part of pitching. Not the whole thing. Garcia had one sub-4 ERA season… Buerhle’s done it perennially for a decade. He hasn’t lost velocity, he just never had it. Anyone can decline, but why are hitters going to suddenly figure him out 12 years into his career?

        Pettitte, Mussina, and Wells all pitched in the high-80s for the Yankees. They did fine.

        Buerhle is one of the better pitchers in baseball. I am willing to bet he gets more than 2 year offers and the Yankees would have no reason to “cast aside” a healthy Buerhle. The guy would be their #2 starter in all likelihood. It would 4 better starters emerging, not one or two.

        • Craig Maduro

          I don’t think he was comparing Buehrle to Garcia. I just think he was saying it would be easier to cut ties with Garcia on a one year deal than it would be to cut ties with Buehrle on a multi-year deal.

  • DB

    If they sign a free agent starting pitcher this year, they are going to be locking him up for a minimum of 3-4 years and most likely more. So if you add one this year (lets say Darvish who will most likely want 4-5 years). Then you have CC, Nova, Darvish pretty much locked into the rotation for 4+ years, Hughes and Burnett for the next 2 years. So this locks in your rotation for two years (unless you trade Burnett, Nova, or Hughes) so it prevents you from signing one of the big name free agents next year and also blocks the path for players in the minors that might be ready in the next year or two like Banuelos or Betances. While I enjoyed the depth the Yankee rotation had this year, the Yankees might want to keep the rotation as it is and either use that depth to get a pitcher like Hamels or Greinke at the trade deadline, or try to get one of those players as free agents and let the prospects develop to overtake one of the rotation spots of Burnett and Hughes in a couple of years.

  • Cuso

    I agree with the state of the rotation assessment as well, but….

    Do we really want to take this rotation into what could be our last year of “Mo?”

    By the time we get to the stud off-season FA arms-market of 2013, Mo has said he’ll be retired by that point.

    • Tom Swift

      Mo is the greatest ever but he is still just the closer. The difference between Mo and someone like a David Robertson is significant, but is it enough to ruin a season? I doubt it.

  • J. Scott

    I think Nova’s workload increase between 2010 and 2011 is
    a legitimate concern. The bulk of Nova’s 2010 innings were in the minors. To a significant extent, I don’t think those “count” nearly as much as the major league variety, which are far more stressful.

    • Alibaba

      Nova’s innings went up only by 2.2 from 2010 to 2011. Even if we were to account for the so-called added stress due to MLB pitching, it is not a big jump. 2009 to 2010 was a sizable jump in comparison.