Jan
12

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

By

On Tuesday Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that the Phillies and Cole Hamels were not likely to reach a long-term extension before the start of the season and were more focused on inking Hamels to a one-year deal in 2012, which represents his final year of arbitration eligibility and team control. While assistant general manager Scott Proefrock insisted that there is plenty of time to reach a deal at a later date, this admission represented the strongest possibility yet that Hamels would reach free agency after the 2012 season and hit the open market as the best left-handed pitcher, if not best overall pitcher, available. Salisbury mentioned that Jered Weaver’s five-year, $85M extension with the Angels would be a reasonable comparable for the Phillies and Hamels, but Hamels may have something far more lucrative and long-term in mind.

A lot of digital ink has been spilled and a lot of hands have been wrung lately over the Yankees insistence on watching their payroll. At this point, no one knows whether they’re serious about a long-term reduction in payroll towards a $189M target, or whether they simply have disliked the prices on the free agent market thus far. In the past, the Yankees have always shown a willingness to pay a premium for what they deem to be premium talent. Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett are all beneficiaries of this approach, and Cliff Lee could easily have joined them. The operative turn of phrase though is “what they deem to be premium talent”. Their approach towards middle-of-the-road talent is far more mixed. The team has been slow this offseason to pursue current available pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson, and they avoided spending $80 or $100M on C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, respectively. Is this because they want to reduce payroll, or is it because they don’t deem them to be premium talent and want to keep their powder dry for bigger targets? No one seems to know.

If they’re keeping their powder dry for bigger targets, it would make sense why they haven’t been so eager to snap up one of the currently available pitchers. It would also explain their interest in a one-year deal with one of Kuroda or Oswalt, provided the salaries drop. It doesn’t mean that they’re cheap; it means they’re serious about getting good value for their dollars (A.J. Burnett laughs) and saving room for the players they deem to be truly worth a nine-figure investment. This is where Cole Hamels (or Zack Greinke or Matt Cain, if you prefer), come in. As pitchers go, Hamels would likely be the third best starting pitcher to hit the free agent market in the last decade, behind CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. As Joe noted to me, one Hamels will actually hit the market with a better track record than Cliff Lee. He would end the Yankees pursuit of a number two starter behind Sabathia. In fact, his career performance really makes him worthy of the title of co-ace with CC: 8.45 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 1.09 HR/9 and a 3.39 ERA. If you’re going to spend on premium talent, Cole Hamels is at the top of the list.

As the Yankees dance with Kuroda, Oswalt and Jackson over the next few weeks, it’s important to keep the long game in mind. If the team has no intention of moving the payroll permanently to the $225M+ range, then fans should root for them to preserve long-term payroll flexibility over the next ten months until Hamels becomes available. In fact, Joel Sherman noted that they appear to be doing just that and will be pursuing one year deals and one year deals only. If Kuroda or Oswalt can fit into this year’s budget as the team looks towards next winter’s bonanza, then great. If they sign elsewhere for $12M per year (an amount which would actually represent close to $16M to the Yankees with the luxury tax added in), then the team can make due with what they have now and retain the ability to add payroll in July or August via trade. Someone like Greinke or Cain could become available, or someone entirely unexpected such as Ubaldo Jimenez this past season. Regardless, there remains reason to be cautiously optimistic that this team’s rotation could see a temporary improvement this year and a serious long-term improvement next winter.

Categories : Hot Stove League

96 Comments»

  1. Mike Tomohawkxia says:

    Resist the bottom feeders, save the money for the big fish.

  2. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    The last time I was fitting someone for pinstripes ahead of time(lee), I ended up sorely disappointed.

    I’m not getting ahead of myself again. I think with all these teams getting TV deals and revenues and payrolls going up up up, there are more teams in recent history that can go toe to toe with the Yanks in FA bidding wars. The Yanks are hampered with so many big deals already, that they can’t really afford to significantly overpay anyone now.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      Hamels is good for at LEAST 5/$100, but I think more in the 6/$135 range. 5/$85 certainly ain’t getting it done. Phillie might simply NOT be able to afford him (without a giant hometown discount).

      • TheOneWhoKnocks says:

        I think he ends up w something like 7 years 155m, unless he gives a discount to some place he really wants to play.

        If he signs with the Yanks, it would probably take 8 years 180-185m

      • TheOneWhoKnocks says:

        I know he was begging out of NY in the world series in 2009. But the guys got some good playoff numbers and I don’t think it’s fair to question his big game ability based on a poorly worded sentence. I wonder if he just is one of those kind of guys that wouldn’t want to play in NY. (Remember, we heard the same about CC, money can fix everything if you blow the rest of the field away, they DIDN’T with lee. Wonder if they would for Hamels)

  3. Billion$Bullpen says:

    I have no pipe dream that what I said meant anything to him but I did my best to pitch Cole on the Yankees when I was talking to him this summer. He was at a theme park in front of me waiting for food for about a half hour. I said hold out one year and ditch the Phils who are getting old and are tied into big money deals that a team with no tv network will not be able to continue to stack on top of. I said the Yankees will present you with the most $ and a chance every year to win the WS, something you have grown accustom to but will not enjoy in the future with the Phils.

    The vibe I got from him if all things being equal he would go to one of the LA teams in a heartbeat if they offered even close to the same money the Phils, Yankees or Red Sox did. So lets hope our team outbids everybody by ten percent and he inks the deal.

    I also got the vibe that his wife would like to live in a big city as she was there as well as his kid.

    • Bo Knows says:

      I hope you got his autograph too.

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      The vibe you should’ve gotten from him and his wife: “Leave us alone. We’re at a theme park. We don’t need some creep giving us a sales pitch on his favorite team.”

      • Mister Delaware says:

        Laughed.

      • Billion$Bullpen says:

        ROFL, actually she spoke to me first. I am an adult and do not ask for autographs unless I am at a game and there is a kid around who is having trouble and getting ignored I have at times gotten players to notice the kid and hand the kids baseball to the player and get an auto for them. I did however break my rule one rainy night in Baltimore when I was watching the bullpen session of the M’s and I had a convo with the 1996 WS MVP and he told me to come back after the game so he could sign my hat. Did not even need to ask, he also screamed at a 6’8 all muscle crack head to watch his mouth when he was screaming and cussing left and right and the dude goes in the nerdiest voice ever “Im sorry coach, wont happen again sir”

        With that text diarrhea said, I have no qualms with chatting up a potential free agent about the Yanks. Did it with Bonds when he was with the Pirates, Big Unit, CC when he was with the Indians, and several other players who most likely did think STFU, but that wont stop me moving forward. Most elite players on other teams want to play in NYC and a good portion of them respect the fan base because in most cities nobody really cares all that much about baseball in comparison.

    • Yank The Frank says:

      At least you didn’t spit at them.

  4. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    Hamels should be worth his weight in gold if he hits free agency. I doubt that he will. He reminds me a lot of Steve Carlton in physique and terms of delivering the ball. It may happen that the Phils try to trade Halladay or Lee to the Yankees rather than let him go. The thing is would the Yankees be willing to trade for either who are in or near their mid thirties. The Phils would be asking for a big package. It’s not as if this were the time Doc was leaving Toronto when he was at his absolute peak. The Phils could also splurge and sign Hamels long term also.

    • Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

      When I wrote this comment earlier I was thinking that Halladay signed a 3 yr. contract thus 2012 would be the final year unless he has a vesting option. Thus I think that the Phils might want to keep the younger Hamels as opposed to Doc.

  5. Rainbow Connection says:

    Your fingers to god’s ears.

  6. Gonzo says:

    Since they traded Cliff Lee because he didn’t want to sign an extension with one year remaing on his contract, any chance they do that with Coal Hammels?

    I can’t imagine them doing that because it would be a tough sell to the fans (they snagged Halladay to replace Lee), but who knows with Amaro.

    • Kevin says:

      Not too far fetched..and the farm system has been gutted. Trading Cole Hamels could get you a lot back.

    • Rainbow Connection says:

      Would the fans care? Isn’t Hamels the one who said he didn’t care that they lost the WS to the Yanks?

      • Gonzo says:

        HAHA! I totally forgot about that.

      • Mike Axisa says:

        Wait, did he really say that? Hah.

        • Billion$Bullpen says:

          No, and I am in the Philly market and I watched him on TV when he said it live on Comcast Sports Net. He said “I cant wait for next year” I lost some respect for him when he said that but I think he meant his body was shot that year. Not a good choice of words and he is no tuff guy. It actually really made me mad as a baseball fan and gave me a lot of hope for that WS win as a Yankees fan because without him pitching well they had no shot to win the WS.

          Cole is not rocket scientist, and may not be cut out for the NY market the way he talks but his talent is huge and I think going through the ups and downs he has may have made him a better pitcher. With all that said he is going to be the best pitcher on the market in a long time if he indeed does become a free agent and we will need to sign him.

  7. Dan says:

    With potentially Swisher, Soriano, and Burnett’s contract coming off the books in the next couple of years, the Yankees still should be able to get under the luxury tax even with acquiring Hamels. Though, this would assume that they are not going to replace Swisher with an expensive bat. Combined those 3 account for about 40 million with Hamels and the potential minor league replacements and cheap outfield options they should be able to replace those three at about 23-26 million.

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      What cheap outfield options are you referring to?

      • Dan says:

        I am not sure what will be out there next year, but I would be fine with a platoon of Andruw Jones and Dickerson. That is just the in-house idea, I am not sure what is available on the FA market.

      • Billion$Bullpen says:

        You can not assume somebody would think that far ahead. Its like when you talk to a friend who “won money” in vegas or AC, they tell you about the 300 they won and do not tell you they lost 1400 but they make sure to tell you the few hands they won.

        Yeah everybody gets more expensive in a few years except Jeter, and we will have no RF. Cano will just play deeper and Jeter and Tex will have to shade towards the center of the infield.

  8. Bo Knows says:

    This is the whale we’ve been waiting for, the phils might not be able to handle another $20+ million dollar contract considering they have about $70 mil tied up in three players alone. Considering Worley is more than capable of taking Hamels slot, I think there might be a decent to good chance of seeing Hamels in real pinstripes next year. Hamels is a guy worth breaking the bank open in years and cash….he’s young (he just turned 27 3 weeks ago) outstanding pitcher who can get it done in big moments.

    • JMK says:

      Considering Worley is more than capable of taking Hamels slot, I think there might be a decent to good chance of seeing Hamels in real pinstripes next year.

      Worley? Really?

  9. stuart phillips says:

    Team is worth 1.5 billing. And they won’t spent any money!!!!

    • Roll Call says:

      They’re worth more than that when you include YES and the Stadium. More like $3 Billion.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      So true, the Yankees are not spending any money this year except for the $210m they already are spending. Oh, you mean BESIDES that $210m? I agree we should ignore that money, since it doesn’t come from new players it’s not real money.

  10. Roll Call says:

    Great post. Couldn’t agree more. But then if payroll flexibility were a concern, why did they sign Soriano?

  11. CJ says:

    You hit the nail on the head. It’s a matter of true “premium talent” vs middle of the road talent. Cole hamels is a true
    Premium talent. The contracts that hurt teams the most are for over paid middle of the road players (AJ Lowe Rafael Soriano) and overvaluing sub premium talent (Alfonso Soriano werth zito)

  12. Neon Dion James says:

    I worry that Cole Hammels will never reach free agency. And even if he does, why should be believe that the Yankees will bite? Darvish would have cost very little in their payroll structure and he was as good as it gets. If Hammels gets a CC/Lee contract that’s $180M to the Yankees, including the luxury tax. Darvish would have been half the yearly cost.

    • pat says:

      Darvish would have cost very little in their payroll structure and he was as good as it gets.

      Wait, what?

      • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

        You missed the fine print which listed the “for a guy who’s never faced American pitching on any level” disclaimer.

        Neon Dion James, though? Great name.

  13. Peter Gammons says:

    Here’s a link to Cole Hamels wanting the 2009 season to be over with.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/bl.....mlb,199423

    • Rainbow Connection says:

      Cool. I only found a shitty NYT article which puts other words in his mouth and apologizes for him. Great journalism on their part.

  14. DB says:

    Not sure if anyone has ever noticed this before, but the Sox put a clause in Crawford’s contract that if they trade him to any team, that team is unable to turn around and send him to the Yankees. I wonder if that was due to the great job Cashman did in making it seem like the Yankees wanted him.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      It’s genius. Make it unnecessarily slightly more difficult to move a player you might want to move!

      Almost as brilliant as the clause in Lackey’s contract that gives them a free year of pitching if he gets hurt….until you realize you’ve created a massive incentive for the guy to cover up an injury and he pitches hurt all year, effectively costing you a playoff spot.

  15. CJ says:

    Yankees baseball daily will have cashman in studio tonight.

  16. CJ says:

    I can see Hank and Hal get involved to bring in prince fielder or Felix Hernandez (Hamels Lincecum) like CC ARod extensions but they can’t negotiate with boras for Edwin Jackson. When boras spoke to them about Jackson, they should have told him, “call my GM”

  17. Reggie C. says:

    Hamels or Greinke. Greinke or Hamels.

    I really have no preference. One of those two won’t be able to pass on a mega offer.

  18. Mike HC says:

    Getting Hamels would be unbelievable. I’ll sign off on the budget increases for him, ha.

  19. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Not overpaying for someone this year should be independent of who is, or isn’t, going to available this year. If Kuroda or Jackson aren’t worth the asking price this year, they won’t retroactively become worth the price next year if Hamels gets extended or signs somewhere else.

    It’s also not always going to be as “shock and awe” as the Sabathia signing was. If you believe these pitchers aren’t worth it now, you need to believe they weren’t worth it now even if not a single one of the dream 2013 class winds up wearing pinstripes.

    I think Kuroda/Oswalt continue to be worth a year at about what their asking price is. I’d go two on Jackson just because he’s younger, but he’d be my fourth choice, right below “do absolutely nothing.”

  20. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Something appears busted with the reply function. A whole lot of reply failing going on.

  21. roadrider says:

    Well it sounds like he might hit the market but that’s no guarantee that the Yankees will get him. I humbly suggest a backup plan.

  22. CS Yankee says:

    My thoughts FWIW;
    1) Offer Oswalt 10/1 for 2012
    2) Offer Kuroda 8/1 for 2012
    3) Offer Ajax 7/1 for 2012
    4) Likely they all pass & they can adjust come June/July via trades if needbe while going with the 7-8 decent arms they currently employ (plus AJ).
    5) Offer Bart an invite to ST & a 1M$ deal if he breaks camp and another 1M$ for every 50 innings he pitches.

    Send a subordinate to Cole’s front porch telling him a 100+ deal will be offered after the Yankees win the 2012 WS.

  23. James says:

    This is why I didn’t want Darvish. Think if we got two of Cain, Hamels, and Greinke!? That is worth waiting for.

  24. E Mills says:

    Dear Cash,

    Please do not sign Cole Hamels next off-season. The brass, team, and fans wills regret it.

  25. Jake Sully says:

    This connection is worrisome. They’re hosted on the Yankee network’s site and one of the investors is featured prominently in the homepage. You can claim independence but a conflict of interest only requires the perception.

  26. Bo Knows says:

    So, talking about the yankee payroll is the danger zone?

    After all the posts questioning the team about the Joba situation, AJ Burnett, Derek Jeter being moved down, the Soriano signing, questioning a potential Edwin Jackson deal, and many other posts over the years about the general stupidity of Hank Steinbrenner and Randy Levine whenever they try to play gm…a post stating that Hal Steinbrenner is mulling the idea of expanding payroll is the straw that broke the camels back

    Makes a ton of sense

  27. Rainbow Connection says:

    Not following you on this…

  28. Rainbow Connection says:

    Not following you…

  29. thenamestsam says:

    Dude it’s a blog about a freaking sports team. We’re not exactly talking about the critical function of the 4th estate here.

  30. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    It’s a Yankee blog. What exactly are Mike, Ben, and Joe going to do here which constitutes a conflict of interest?

    BTW, thanks for the tip on that hedge fund, Mike.

  31. Steve (different one) says:

    Because there is so much at stake here. All this time I thought it was just a bunch of fans bs’ing about baseball. Have some perspective.

  32. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    So take your worries and go to a different site, DB.

  33. CS Yankee says:

    Did you return to your computer after the police kick you out of your park or just take a little break?

  34. Bo Knows says:

    ugh this should have been a reply to Jake Sully

  35. Rainbow Connection says:

    reply fail

  36. CS Yankee says:

    hey, my reply was to some legit loser who posted about an ad featured here.

    /notareplyfailbutareplycensorfail’d

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