Mailbag: Sheets, Burnett, O’Flaherty, Floyd

Update: Mariano Rivera will have surgery ...
Yankee starter ERAs through the years: A graphical look

Got five (really six) questions this week, the last mailbag before the madness of the winter meetings. Send in your questions via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Biggie asks: What is Ben Sheets’ status? I thought he was going to miss just one year. Could he be a buy low option for the Yanks? I haven’t heard about him since March of last year. Thanks!

Yeah, I haven’t heard anything about him recently either, and I spent entirely too much time digging through Google News archives to find an update. His August 2009 elbow surgery was more extensive than I realized, I thought it was regular old Tommy John surgery. Apparently he had the ligament replaced and also had his flexor tendon and pronator tendon repaired. It was his second time having the flexor tendon fixed. “I have no idea,” he replied when asked if he’d ever pitch again shortly after the surgery. “My arm will tell me.”

Sheets is 33 years old now and he hasn’t been an effective pitcher since 2008 (4.71 FIP with the Athletics in 2010), so it’s tough to expect anything from him at this point. Then again, we all saw what Bartolo Colon did last year. CC Sabathia and Sheets did play together for half-a-season in 2008, so there is a tiny bit of a connection there. Like I always say, I’d give pretty much anyone a minor league pact, but there’s no way you could offer him anything more than that.

Mark asks: Given the strengthening trend of teams locking up their young stars and the potential backlash to overpaying for non-premium players in their early-30s, do you think MLB will see a dramatic correction in free agent prices – similar to 2003-2005?

I think we’re starting to see it already with Jonathan Papelbon’s contract (four years and $50M) and all these sucky middle infielders getting two guaranteed years. Given the new restrictions on draft and international free agent spending, teams figure to start locking up their best young players even more than they are now because it will be tougher to replace them down the road. Simple supply and demand, there will be fewer quality free agents out there but still approximately the same number of holes to fill. I’m sure the agents are thrilled.

Craig asks: I don’t think the Yankees should take this drastic an approach to get rid of A.J. Burnett, but is there any precedent of teams packaging a bad contract and a prospect in order to entice another team to take on the dead weight?

The only thing close to thins that I can think of is the Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett swap. The Marlins insisted that Mike Lowell and the $18M left on his contract be included in any trade involving Beckett, but even then they still got a really good haul because Beckett was 25 years old and coming off a three pretty good years.

The Yankees aren’t exactly in the position to give away a starter at the moment, even one as miserable as Burnett has been for the last two years. He’s still good for innings every five days, and he buys the kids in Triple-A a little more time. I don’t see why they should eat a big chunk of his contract and trade a prospect just to get rid of him, it’s just a bad allocation of resources.

(Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Dustin asks: What are the chances the Yankees could get Eric O’Flaherty from the Braves for Eduardo Nunez? Also what do you think of potentially going after Gavin Floyd? Most seem interested in Garza and Danks, but Floyd is pretty good and would probably be significantly cheaper when compared to the other Chicago pitchers.

I don’t love Eduardo Nunez, but I’d want more for him than a lefty reliever, even a good one like O’Flaherty. The middle infield market tells us that he’s worth more than that, whether we want to believe it or not. O’Flaherty’s really really good, but the Yankees need bench help more than they need bullpen help.

As for Floyd, he’d be another fine pickup for the rotation. I don’t think he’ll be as good as Garza going forward, but he and Danks are pretty much on the same level in my eyes. Danks’ left-handedness is nice, but Floyd is under contractual control for two more seasons (assuming his 2013 option is exercised), not just one. I think the White Sox prefer to hang onto him for that reason, but I also don’t think he’s off limits. I do think it would also make him a little more expensive to acquire in a trade, but I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again.

Dan asks: If the 2012 season was starting tomorrow with no significant additions to the roster … player egos be damned, what would be your everyday batting order?

Against left-handed pitchers, I’d go…

  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Curtis Granderson, CF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  5. Nick Swisher, RF
  6. Andruw Jones, LF – pretty please re-sign
  7. Jesus Montero, DH
  8. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
  9. Russell Martin, C

The guys in the 2-3-4 sports are pretty interchangeable to me, I wouldn’t argue those three occupying those three spots in any order. A-Rod‘s struggles against southpaws is now a two-year thing rather than a possible one-year fluke, and there are simply too many other guys in the lineup that mash lefties. No disrespect, but that’s where he belongs. If Jones doesn’t come back, then just bump everyone up a notch and bat Gardner ninth. Against right-handers, it would be…

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Curtis Granderson, CF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
  5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  6. Nick Swisher, RF
  7. Jesus Montero, DH
  8. Derek Jeter, SS
  9. Russell Martin, C

Just like A-Rod can’t hit lefties, Jeter can’t hit righties. He did manage to post a .307/.362/.376 batting line against them after coming off the DL this past season, but I’m going to need to see a lot more (it’s only 223 at-bats) to forget about the year-and-a-half before that. It’s tempting to put Montero a spot or two higher, but he just doesn’t have to track record to justify it at the moment.

Update: Mariano Rivera will have surgery ...
Yankee starter ERAs through the years: A graphical look
  • Professor Longnose

    Has there ever been a platoon player who batted cleanup and 8th?

    • Mike Axisa

      Not sure, but I’m willing to bet there have been platoon players that batted cleanup and not at all.

    • Steve (different one)

      The better question is if this has ever happened to a reverse platoon player?

  • The Great Balboni

    On the lineup, why bat a 41HR/118RBI in Granderson 2nd? Shouldn’t that power potential be maximized in a more traditional 3 or 4 spot? I hate doing the fantasy lineup stuff, but, let’s do it anyway (no one’s going to like this either, but whatever)


    It just seems like a much longer and more potent lineup with no black holes in the 7-9 spot. My feeling on the yankees as currently constructed is that, barring a minor miracle in the pitching staff, they are built to make it to the playoffs but not built to win the playoffs (see every year since 2000 except ’09). Maximizing the talent on the lineup and doing some tweaks and changes may be the adjustment needed to wear down opposing starters and confound specialists in the pen more consistently. Granted I have no numbers to justify, but I am allowed to have ideas that no one will agree with. Basically, I just don’t think our lineup is intimidating anymore.

    • Mike Axisa

      Martin doesn’t get on base enough to bat second. You’d be much better off batting Swisher there if you want to move Granderson down, even against righties.

      • The Great Balboni

        Yeah I was thinking the same thing, but my basis in this is to just use Martin to move Gardner up a base or two.

        • Jose M. Vazquez..

          You don’t need anybody to move Gardner a base by giving up an out. Certainly a .230 hitter is never good batting second.

          • Soriano Is A Liar

            Yeah, the moving the runners thing is old school, most agree now that it isn’t as useful as simply batting a good hitter second.

      • JU

        Batting Martin is nonsensical, but I’d prefer to not bat the worst situational hitter in the lineup in the 2 hole. I’d rather use my time machine and bring 2001 Derek Jeter back to the future.

    • Ted Nelson

      Any way you want to order them, the Yankees have a sick line-up. Certainly there are different theories on who should bat where.

      An advantage of having Garnderson 2nd is not having to give more PAs to an inferior hitter like Martin, and fewer PAs to superior hitters like Tex, Montero, Swisher… and with the double lead-off of Gardner/Jeter one can argue that Granderson is the #3 hitter all but the first time through the line-up.

      “My feeling on the yankees as currently constructed is that, barring a minor miracle in the pitching staff, they are built to make it to the playoffs but not built to win the playoffs (see every year since 2000 except ’09).”

      Very few current Yankees were on the team from 2000-2008… Why are the new guys lumped in with the guys no longer on the team, some of them for over a decade?

      “Basically, I just don’t think our lineup is intimidating anymore.”

      “Intimidating” or not, the 2nd most regular season runs in baseball and 5.6 R/G in the post-season is very effective. I would take effective over intimidating any day.

      • Soriano Is A Liar

        Yeah, by any stat you look at there were only *maybe* two teams with more “intimidating” lineups.- Boston and Texas. And neither of them are hands down better. This lineup isn’t intimidating when it’s compared to a fan’s view of the perfect Yankee team, but it is pretty intimidating compared to pretty much every other team out there, and at least on par with the other elite offenses.

  • striker

    What would you offer for Floyd or Danks?

  • Ted Nelson

    “Given the new restrictions on draft and international free agent spending, teams figure to start locking up their best young players even more than they are now because it will be tougher to replace them down the road.”

    I don’t but this.

    It ahould be harder for certain teams, and easier for other teams. The talent pool as a whole should not suddenly dry up completely. The bad teams will now have more incentive to draft the best players earlier in the draft/round, and more leverage to sign them. The bad teams will not also have a greater advantage with IFAs. More young talent should now end up on bad teams, but that was always intended to be the point in the draft.

    The Newman nomaas interview is absolutely excellent on this subject. He basically says that the Yankees/good teams are now restricted further from bringing in amateur talent, so they have to be better at evaluating talent and strategically using their resources. He also says that this is basically what the Yankees have been doing already… that they are selective in signing bonus babies and that the reward isn’t there to give most IFAs multi-million dollar bonuses. They should be able to keep a similar approach (though new arbitrage opportunities may arise), just on a smaller scale with less $ to spend. Of course, I believe the goal is to bring down bonuses on the whole… so if that works it’s not a dollar-for-dollar comparison with past spending.

    “Simple supply and demand, there will be fewer quality free agents out there but still approximately the same number of holes to fill.”

    You’re relying on a big assumption here, that teams will lock up more young players.

    Supply and demand is at play in the amateur market in a way you don’t seem to recognize via your statement that all teams will be able to sign less IFAs. The supply still figures to be there. There might be a general flight away from baseball, but I think it will be somewhat marginal. The demand, however, is artificially depressed. With more supply than demand the prices should come down. (There might be some interesting short-term adjustment dynamics with more guys going to college or long-term with not sticking with baseball… but those college guys will come out eventually and most amateur baseball players still don’t have any better an alternative at, say, a $200,000 bonus than they did at, say, a $300,000 bonus.)

    • Ted Nelson

      “The bad teams will not also have a greater advantage with IFAs.”

      Not = now

    • Gonzo

      The bad teams will not also have a greater advantage with IFAs.

      So having more money to spend isn’t an advantage? Are you just speaking about this upcoming year?

      • Gonzo

        Oh, gotcha on the correction. That was confusing.

      • Ted Nelson

        That was a typo. I corrected it above. Meant to type “now.”

        Didn’t even think of this year, but that’s true.

        Basically I see it as a loose draft for IFAs. It’s an interesting concept and might even prove to be preferable to a draft, especially given the nature of MLB and Latin American amateur baseball. In theory teams have more control over how they want to allocate their resources than in a draft: can strategize more. As Newman said, there’s a lot of projection involved with amateur baseball players compared to NBA or NFL… where players are closer to making an impact and tend more to play in concentrated environments.

        So a “good” team like the Yankees can still have a strong talent stream from IFAs either by signing a relatively big money guy every year and sacrificing depth thereby hitting it big occasionally, or by bringing in a bunch of relatively lower money guys and hoping a few they emerge. Or probably a mix of both: tend to bring in a bunch of guys to sift through and occasionally going all-in on a somewhat big money guy (might be limited from the biggest money guys, to the guys with some perceived flaws they are higher on than others).

        I would imagine that it will hurt the Yankees overall, but that they’ll still be able to add solid IFA talent. Say, maybe, 3 or four out of Nova, Noesi, Cervelli, Nunez, and Banuelos… hoping that every 5 or 10 years one turns into a Mo/Cano or Wang flash-in-the-pan or at least Arodys/Tabata trade-chip.

        • Gonzo

          I think there was a baseball writer that recommended that very draft plan. Just give teams a sliding scale budget from highest/worst to lowest/best and let them “buy” whatever talent they want.

          That has the chance of being much more fun from a fan perspective, but we won’t find out anytime soon.

  • CJ

    I think it would be difficult to turn down O’Flaherty for Nunez and close to impossible to say no to Venters.
    If Gardner is a platoon player, trade him.
    In these trade proposals for top players, what about Robertson. I know how good he is but he has closer value. I’m talking about the Garza, Gio Gonzalez, McCutchen, Cain proposals. Who would you rather trade Banuelos or Robertson?

    • Ted Nelson

      “I think it would be difficult to turn down O’Flaherty for Nunez and close to impossible to say no to Venters.”

      If the Yankees believe Nunez can reduce his errors consistently and is a starting MLB SS long-term (though not necessarily a very good one), then I don’t think it’s impossible to turn down a reliever. The marginal value of a top reserve can be greater than of a reliever to an already stacked bullpen, and Nunez can bring a greater return with a stronger 2012 season.

      “If Gardner is a platoon player, trade him.”

      For what?

      “Who would you rather trade Banuelos or Robertson?”

      Tough to say… upside vs. probability. And after his first season above 1 fWAR with zero closing experience, I wouldn’t be 100% confident the market values him as a closer. Certainly could be a team or two out there, but the whole closer thing is weird.

    • Plank

      Who would you rather trade Banuelos or Robertson?

      That’s a really good question. The error bars are way huger on Banuelos but I would guess the smart money is on Robertson to be the better player going forward since he’s proven to be a top pitcher in the majors already.

      If I had to trade one or the other, I would trade Robertson. Not based on numbers, but if Robertson gets traded and pitches like he has, that’s fine, but if Banuelos gets traded and pitches like his upper projections, that would be painful to see in another uniform.

      I would guess for most people, Robertson has more trade value.

  • MannyGeee

    So here’s a chain reaction question for ya…

    So if the market moves to a place where teams lock up their young impact players at a more advanced rate…

    In turn there are less ‘quality’ Free Agents,

    Which in turn the Free Agent Market adjusts (i would assume in price)

    What impact does do you think that willl have on contract structures/perks and incentives?
    – Do we see increased use of Opt Out Clauses so players can have the option to hit the market again if the FA class in a particular season looks to be profitible for them?
    – Front loading of contracts to get guys paid sooner?
    – signing bonuses in leu of payroll obligations?
    – other funky stuff?

    Teams not named the Yankees/Red Sox are going to have to work harder in order to get top tier FAs

    • Plank

      I think the players are going to push hard for lowering the number of years of team control. I think they should have done it in this CBA. If teams have 5 years of control, and the games they play with delaying callups to gain another year of control get disallowed I think it will make free agency more common.

    • Ted Nelson

      I still don’t really see how much room there is for teams to lock up more young star players… most young star players seem to me to already get locked up.

      And I still don’t see how amateur talent on the aggregate is going to dry up. Maybe teenagers will stop playing baseball, and that would be a huge problem. In that case there should be a preference for older players from a more talented era. If the diaspora from baseball is more marginal, though, roughly the same amateurs will be available and there will just be a bit less money to spend.

      Newman was quoted on nomaas as saying he thinks the Yankees will get $4.5 million in their draft pool. They’ll probably adjust their strategy (maybe concentrating the talent more in the beginning of the draft), but if Newman is right they’d still have roughly 70% the money to spend in the draft that they have been recently. If bonuses on the whole go down and/or they get creative, that doesn’t have to mean 70% the talent.

  • Rich

    Ther’s no way I would trade Robertson unless I was overwhelmed. If he continues his dominance of last year and with Mo nearing retirement we have our closer at a very reasonable price. Top flight closers are hard to find and extremely expensive.

    • CJ

      That’s exactly the reason to consider trading Robertson, he has closer value. I’m sure Cashman has had several calls and offers for Robertson and I guess he hasn’t been “overwhelmed” yet but he is a top trading chip.

      • Ted Nelson

        I imagine Cashman will trade him if he’s overwhelmed… but Robertson also has value to the Yankees as a Yankee.

        And you haven’t shown that he’s got “closer value” on the market. He’s had one very good season. Can he repeat that next season? What’s a team willing to give up to find out? While the potential is there, this isn’t Papelbon or Bell in terms of probability.

  • Pat D

    Too bad Ben Sheets wasn’t with the A’s in 2002. At least from that picture he looks exactly like Andy from Parks and Recreation. Chris Pratt could have played Sheets instead of Scott Hatteberg.

  • Mike HC

    I definitely would rather have Nunez than a reliever for this Yankee team. Our pen seems pretty stacked and our minor league system also seems to be pretty stacked with arms to use if necessary. A talented utility guy and pinch runner like Nunez is going to be more valuable for us next year.

  • UncleArgyle

    If you were going to bat A-Rod 8th agaist Southpaws, why whould you bat Texeria 5th against a right hander?

    • Mike Axisa

      I have a lot more faith in Teixeira turning it around against righties than I do A-Rod against lefties.

      • UncleArgyle

        Fair enough. I actually feel the opposite, but I see where you’re coming from.

        • nsalem

          I think A-Rod’s issues are physical and Tex’s is mental. I have faith in both of them.

  • nsalem

    Mike You are burying A-Rod vs LHP due to his last 237 AB’s against them and at the same time you are saying you need to see more from Jeter because his improvement over his last 223 ABs is to small a sample for you. Why is it that you can form an opinion on A-Rod’s negative performance, but can’t do so on Jeter’s improvement even though the size of the samples are for all intents and purposes are the same.
    Personally I think both of their poor performances were due to injuries which players at that age are more suspect to. If they both have the good fortune for the entire 2012 season (which I seriously doubt will happen) their numbers would approach (but not be as good as) their peak seasons.

    • Plank

      Those 237 ABs are over 2 straight seasons. It’s a lot more likely a player gets hot for half a season than that a player gets cold for two straight years without a actual performance shift.

      • nsalem

        It’s also likely those 237 AB’s were so bad were due to injuries rather than A-Rod being cold. My point is that if he manages to stay healthy (which is a big if) you will probably see improved performance. Which is what you saw from Jeter in the second half of 2011. I seriously doubt there were any comments that can be found on this site in June of 2011 suggesting any likelihood that Jeter could possibly get hot for half a season.

        • Plank

          Why is it likely his batting line against lefties over the past two years is a reflection of injuries and not his skill level? Why only against lefties?

          I seriously doubt there were any comments that can be found on this site in June of 2011 suggesting any likelihood that Jeter could possibly get hot for half a season.

          Whether that is true or not, doesn’t that just show that his numbers in the second half probably aren’t representative of his true ability?

          It’s totally possible that Arod is way better than he has played the last 2 years and he will improve at his age. It’s also possible that Jeter set a new performance level in the last bit of last year and he will stay at that level at his age. I think both are doubtful.

          • nsalem

            Whether that is true or not, doesn’t that just show that his numbers in the second half probably aren’t representative of his true ability?

            I think it means that the people who made those judgements are clueless and have no idea what they were talking about

            I think both are doubtful.

            I said more or less the same thing when I stated that A-Rod’s performance as well as Jeter’s will hinge on their health which is a very big if at their age. I believe that your term “doubt’ and my term of “big if” are quite similar so we more or less agree.

            I believe both of our opinions are of the subjective nature and my original point in questioning Mike was that he was taking basically the same objective information and applying it in different subjective manners (unless he was just objectively considering the age of A-Rod and Jeter and noting else). Mike also stated that he had more “faith” in Tex than A-Rod coming back although they are both similar in the sense that both of their OPS’ have taken a significant dip over the last 4 years. Again he may feel that his calculation is objective based on age. I don’t know because he chose not to respond.

            • Plank

              I’m not going to get into a conversation of faith or anything like that. I also wasn’t talking about Teix. I was just saying that Arod struggling over a two year time frame even if it is the same number of PAs is more significant than Jeter excelling in a few months. I’m not saying or thinking anything beyond that.

              Looking at their numbers, it’s not ridiculous to weight Arod’s 2 year decline more heavily than Jeter’s 3 month incline.

              • nsalem

                I don’t think your opinion is ridiculous. Do you believe that A-Rod’s substantial drop in production can be attributed to his hip injury?

                • Ted Nelson

                  I would not waste your time.

                  • nsalem

                    Hey there Ted. How are you? Apparently he believes it’s “the decline” and not the hip injury that has negatively impacted A-rod’s hitting.

                • Plank

                  Of course it could be attributed to his hip injury. I also think players in their mid to late 30s who have nagging hip injuries for years on end don’t bounce back very well. It’s also possible that the hip injury has nothing to do with his decline. Either way, there is a real and multi-year level of play he has established.

                  I’m looking at his numbers and accepting his new established level of play. You said you have faith in him to play better, but your initial question was why Mike didn’t think he would bounce back. I’m not Mike, but I would assume he looked at his numbers and reached the same conclusion most would.

                  Having faith in a player is essentially disregarding their numbers and saying what you hope will happen. Everyone does it. If you ask me Carlos Zambrano is going to be an all-star next year. I also make that prediction every year. I want him to do well, but I realize my view of him is kinda out there. Saying you think A-rod is going to rebound is just as possible, maybe even more so, but there’s nothing to indicate it will happen other than your faith.

                  • nsalem

                    I have faith that A-Rod will do better because he is an excellent physical specimen and has a dedicated workout regiment. Unfortunately your narrow mind sees nothing but his age and therefore you conclude he is “in decline” (because all 37 year olds are the same) and you attempt to declare your conclusion as gospel. This is really incredibly weak shit that is so boring when repeated over and over again and void of any intellectual and creative thought. You use the same template over and over again Making contradictory statements in the same paragraph such as “of course it may be his hip” and then saying “it is possible that his hip injury has nothing to do with his decline” and then going ahead to state he is indeed in decline whether he is hurt or not does not leave for the possibility that he was hurt and getting healthy. You are so obsessed with convincing yourself that you are always correct that you find a way to start arguing with people that you agree with. You are also making a ridiculous ASSumption that because you and Mike agree with something that “most” would also agree.

                    • Plank

                      I’m saying I think his decline, which is seen in his numbers, will probably continue. I also say it’s possible that he could get better but probably won’t since he is so old. That doesn’t seem like I “attempt to declare your conclusion as gospel.”

                      How is it contradictory to say that it could or could not be his hip, but either way his performance over the last 2 years is lower than his career numbers?

                      I’m not convinced I’m always correct. I think I’m correct here that Arod’s performance trendline will go down from here to retirement, but that’s based on his stats, age, typical aging patterns (which every human who has ever played baseball has followed) and injury history. What’s your opinion based on? That he had hip surgery a year and a half ago? Most players are out of the league at 37, almost no hitters who are 37 are as good at that age as they were even a few years prior.

                      Arod’s decline is a typical aging pattern. I’m not knocking him. He’s my favorite player, but thinking he’s going to magically turn things around at this point isn’t a good bet. He had such a high peak that even during his decline, he will be a useful player for a while.

  • Wrecky

    I respectfully disagree with the assessment that Floyd and Danks are virtually equal. Danks is the better pitcher. He is younger with much more upside. You know what you are getting with Floyd, another pitcher who wins 10-12 with a mid-4.00 ERA. No need for another one of those. Danks has potential upside of a solid #2.

    Admittedly, Danks had a subpar season last year, but his stuff is better and he is a lefty. At this point in his carerr, Floyd would be an above average NL pitcher. If I’m the Yanks, I would stay away from Floyd. He is going down the same path as Burnett and will be hated by Yanks fans very shortly after he plays in pinstripes.

    The Yanks should go hard after Danks and slot him in the #3 hole to alleviate some of the pressure. I’m pretty sure he will end up pitching like a #2 by the end of next season.

    • DGrai

      Floyd xFIP since 2009: 3.69
      Danks xFIP since 2009: 4.07

      I would prefer Danks, but Floyd is not as bad as you make it sound.

    • Cuso

      “Danks is the better pitcher. He is younger with much more upside.”

      Think about that statement.

      So…better “trade target” or better “pitcher?”