Mailbag: Cain, Hamels, Hunter, Rotations, Joba

Open Thread: 3/8 Camp Notes
2012 Season Preview: Saving Runs

Six questions and five answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar for all your contacting RAB needs.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Mark asks: Does the new payroll austerity plan all but eliminate the chance of the Yanks signing either Hamels or Cain after this season? I never personally thought the team would ever be in on either, unless Nova, Phelps, Warren, Banuelos, Betances and Hughes all regress in 2012, though signing either Hamels or Cain seems to be the long-term hope of Yankee fans – thoughts?

If they really wanted to, the Yankees could still add one $20M a year player and fit under that $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. They’ll have to cut costs in a big way elsewhere — namely replacing Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Mariano Rivera, and Rafael Soriano with guys making no money — but it can be done.

I’m certain Matt Cain will sign an extension with the Giants soon, maybe even before the start of the season. Cole Hamels is a bit more of a question mark; I could see him signing an extension or testing the free agent waters. I don’t think the Yankees will heavily pursue either guy as free agents after the season, but they’ll surely remain in touch just to see what happens. That’s pretty much what they did with C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish this past offseason, if they fall into their laps at a lower than expected rate, great. If not, then no big deal. I love Hamels as much as the next guy, but it would be cool if the Yankees didn’t need to add another $20M a year pitcher after the season.

Jonathan asks: Torii Hunter is in the last year of his contract and stated that “I made money now I want a ring.” What would you think of letting Swish walk and getting Torii on the cheap 2/16m?

Peter asks: If the Yanks let Nick Swisher walk at the end of the season, would a Andruw Jones/Chris Dickerson RF platoon make sense as an alternative, with an eye on 2014?

Well, there’s nothing cheap about Torii Hunter for two years and $16M. His power and overall offensive production has been declining for years now, and his defense was never as great as it was cracked up to be. He’s also close to a dead pull right-handed hitter, and those guys don’t have great success at Yankee Stadium unless we’re talking A-Rod or Andruw type power. I’m the president of the Torii Hunter Haters Club, but there is some merit to looking at him as a stopgap solution if Swisher is allowed to walk after the season. Two years is one too many, however.

As for Andruw and Dickerson, I actually thought about that this offseason back when there was some talk that the Yankees might try to trade Swisher for a pitcher. That platoon wouldn’t be great but it would get the job done, probably a bit below average offensively (since Jones is on the short-end of the platoon stick) and a bit above average defensively (because Dickerson would get more time). I’d rather go with those two next season rather than Hunter, but I do think the Yankees could do better. They’re basically a solid Plan B in my book, nothing more.

(J. Meric/Getty)

Cameron asks: If you were given the opportunity to swap rotations with another team in the league, 5 guys for 5 guys, which team would it be?  The Rays, the Phillies?  Someone else?  I guess on the surface it could be an easy question, like ‘oh yeah, I’d take the Phillies rotation for sure’ but obviously there are a lot of factors like pitching in the AL, and the East specifically, etc.  Just curious what you think.  Thanks!

Just five-for-five, I would definitely trade rotations with the Phillies, Rays, Giants, and Angels. If I knew Chris Carpenter (career high in innings last year and his elbow was barking in the playoffs) and Adam Wainwright (coming off elbow surgery) were going to be their usual selves, I would include them as well. Given the uncertainty, they’re on the outside looking in right now.

With Philadelphia, the reasons are obvious. Three guys who are legitimate aces right now plus two more serviceable back-end arms. That same logic applies to the Giants, who have three aces (Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner) and two other serviceable arms. The Rays have two ace-caliber guys in David Price and Jamie Shields, plus another huge upside guy in Matt Moore. Jeremy Hellickson and either Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis are fine at the end of the staff. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana, and a potted plant is a pretty dynamite rotation as well. You can make arguments for the Brewers, Tigers, Nationals (if you knew Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann were going to get 200 IP each),  and White Sox (if Jake Peavy was healthy) as well, but I think those are up for debate.

Shaun asks: I was just wondering if Joba Chamberlain had any options left and if there was a way to delay his free agency by a year or so. I supposed this is irrelevant now that he will be back sometime in June but could the Yankees have saved anything from sending Joba down prior to him going on the DL? Still trying to wrap my ahead around the potential 2014 Yankees! Thanks!

Joba was called up in August 2007 and has never gone back to the minors, so he has all three options left. If they want to delay his free agency by a year, he’ll have to spend approximately two months in the minors between now and the end of the 2013 season. He will collect service time while on the DL and on a minor league rehab assignment, so that won’t help the team’s cause.

Unless he comes back from Tommy John surgery a shell of his former self, there’s no reason for the Yankees to send Joba to the minors. The union would flip out because his performance doesn’t warrant a demotion, and it’s not worth the hassle. If they would have sent him down and then put him on the DL, he would have filed a grievance and won. Glen Perkins and Tony Abreu have won grievances for this exact situation; their teams sent them down injured and tried to stash them on the minor league DL rather than allow them to accrue service time on the big league DL.

Tom asks: With caps on draft and international spending, is there any punishment for teams who do not use up their cap money? It seems that if teams only used part of their allotted amount, it’s a waste to the game as a whole because that’s money that other teams could have used to help bring more players into the game.

There’s no punishment, and teams won’t be able to save that money and use it on players the next year or anything like that. These draft and international spending restrictions are in place for one reason: to keep costs down. The less teams spend on amateurs, the happier the owners and union will be. It’s completely stupid, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, MLB and the 30 clubs are still for-profit organizations and the new Collective Bargaining Agreements reflect that.

Open Thread: 3/8 Camp Notes
2012 Season Preview: Saving Runs
  • JohnC

    With Swisher set to hit FA this becomes a very important year for Zolio Almonte. If he has a good year, he could possibly get a shot next year as the Yanks begin to look to 2014 and I would think keeping Cano and Granderson will be their main focus. Neve considered Cain or Hamels a serious option for the Yanks.

  • Dan

    The Yankees will also be saving some money by replacing any acquired pitcher with the money coming off the books from Kuroda’s contract. So the 20 million really only adds like 10.

  • JoeyA

    How about the Yankees ask Eli Manning to give Alex a pep-talk and show him the benefits of re-structuring contract for the good of the team.

    I’d love if the Yankees could get creative in deferring a port of Alex’s contract after the 2017 season. Having a 21-25M DH, especially at 38-41 is going to KILL our ability to sign/keep our other more productive stars if the organization is intent on getting under $189M for 2014.

    I would HATE to see the Yankees let a guy like Cano or Granderson walk bc of Alex’s contract and the need to get under 189M.

    come on Alex, you say winning is the most important thing, you’re still the highest paid player and have the record for the 2 highest contracts of all time, let’s give a little back!

    • JoeyA

      PS – obviously Alex reads this comment section, hence my direct statement to him.

    • Reggie C.

      Pretty sure the players’ union wouldn’t go along with a restructuring. I dont know MLB labor law, but the players union is always a factor and would jump all over this if ownership is getting cut a “break”.

      • JohnC

        Alex tried that back in 2004 when the Rangers were origianlly trying to deal him to the Red Sox. As part of the deal, Alex wanted to restructurer his contraact to fit into the Red Sox budget. The union stepped in however and vetoed the idea, thus the deal fell through and he was later dealt to the Yanks

    • Monterowasdinero

      Alex the Albatross is going to be painful in 2014-17. There is no escape except to DH him and pray for good health. Swish is puzzling to me. I think he will have a big year but we may be forced to let him go. We can take solace in the fact that he had his best years with us and we didn’t overpay him for his decline as we will do with Alex.

      • jay destro

        This “Alex the Albatross” nonsense is so reminiscent of the high and mighty nonsense people put out there in Jason Giambi’s later years. Simply remind yourself that the great years you got out of the player came at a cost associated with future salary commitments. The same will be eventually leveled at CC Sabathia if he loses a tick on his fastball.

        People have short memories with players on long term deals, the fact of the matter is, the Yankees had very little options when Alex opt’ed out of his deal. These are the situations you wind up in. Calling the guy an albatross is just a reminder how very much fans disregard what the team has tried to do in getting players at any cost. While the new CBA hurts this ideology, I am almost certain you weren’t moaning about salary constraints after the 09 parade.

        Have a little fun with it, it makes the game worth watching.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          That really needed to be said. Thank you, Jay.

        • Sayid J.

          “The Yankees had very little options when Alex opt’ed out of his deal”

          Firstly, opted is a word, no need for an apostrophe. Secondly, the Yankees could have offered him less money and less years. If i remember correctly, nobody else bid on A-Rod. The Angels were rumored to be interested, but they never offered A-Rod a contract, and if they did offer A-Rod a contract, it certainly did not compete with the Yankees offer. The Yankees most likely would have gotten A-Rod with another 10/250, saving them 50 million dollars. They also could have tried an 8/240 deal, which would have increased his AAV in exchange for a shorter deal. It’s tough for us to say that the Yankees didn’t have many options when he opted out of his deal because the Yankees bid so high, all other options for A-Rod were immediately taken off the table. They likely could have got him for much less.

          • Rookie

            The Yankees could have almost certainly gotten him for MUCH less and significantly fewer years. But that wasn’t ARod’s fault. That was an idiotic decision that was obviously idiotic even then by a new, inexperienced ownership against the better judgement and advice of their GM.

            And by the way, even if Sayid and I are wrong about being able to get him for much less (which I don’t believe we are at all) there would have been nothing wrong with letting another team overpay him and have the albatross contract around their necks for years to come.

            I think the stats heads have proven that MOST free agents are overpaid relative to their contributions — even when their contracts aren’t obviously outrageous like ARod’s was from the beginning.

            Of course, ownership had no such excuse when they did a variation of the same thing with Jeter.

            And I don’t understand why I’ve heard absolutely NO one utter a peep about extending CC given his multiple knee surgeries.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Even if he deferred money, it would still count the same against the luxury tax cap. So there’s no difference there.

      As to restructuring, that’s out of the question. Remember when A-Rod was almost traded to the Red Sox? He did agree to restructure his deal then and take less money. But the league nixed that idea.

      • CP

        Wasn’t it like $5M that he was going to give up?

        I still can’t believe that the Red Sox let him get away over such little money…

    • jay destro

      this isn’t the NFL. this is a different union. there are different rules. you can’t just say, “pay me less”

      • RkyMtnYank

        Well, it’s a different league with a different CBA, the union is irrelevant. If the league had approved it then Alex could have done whatever he wanted regardless of what the Union thought. Unions are essentially powerless/useless entities.

        • Plank

          Are you talking about A-Rod to the Red Sox? The league approved the deal and the PA stopped it. The MLBPA is definitely not powerless.

          I can tell you want to rail against unions. I won’t take the bait.

  • Gonzo

    Isn’t there a minimum offer a team has to make to a draft pick? Like a % of the slot?

    • Gonzo

      To cover Barrett Loux situations. No?

      • Plank

        Yeah, I think it’s 50% or something. If they aren’t offered that percentage, they can become free agents, like Barrett Loux.

  • Jimmy McNulty
    • Don W

      Papelbum has thrown a grand total of 4 2/3 innings in Philly. I guess that qualifies him to do a comparison of the two fan bases.

  • Cam

    Thanks for using my question!

  • Spiff

    Good call on the Angels, I hear Potted Plant’s got a sick sinker.

    • nedro

      Actually, I heard Plant’s real go-to out pitch is a PALM BALL!!!! Right? Get it? Palm?

      (cue crickets)

  • m1kew

    With regard to teams NOT spending their allotted cap money … I suggest that MLB allow those teams to sell those unspent dollars (as funds legally above the cap limitation) to teams that want to have more funds available for amateurs without being penalized for going over their cap. There could also be some sort of incentive/penalty to teams receiving the funds to spend them on operations (i.e. – free agents, player development, scouting, etc.).

    • Tcmiller30

      Their big problem is LEAFING pitches out over the plate. That’s really the root of their problems. Everything else just seems to stem off of that.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I like the questions submitted and the answers equally as well. On the theme of the Yankees and Swisher in addition to Cain and Hamels being signed as FA’s. These are questions that will have to wait and see how the 2012 40 man roster performs. If we make the playoffs or win the WS or even advance to the WS. The ability of our senior players performance and amount of games played. When this is put in the hopper than decisions about FA’s and Swisher etc. can be made.

    If our young pitchers perform as the Rays young pitchers perform then we can go with status quo and look to keep Cano and Granderson splitting the money up in a nice three/four year package or so for the two of them. If Almonte progresses and can be eased into the lineup at 500-600K as opposed to Swisher’s 11 million than Swisher will go into FA unless he’ll give the Yanks a hometown discount for 3 more years of a limited trade contract. But my thoughts are keeping Cano ad Granderson to electric players and going young with an internal option in RF. As far as pitching I would love for the young guys to progress.

  • GardnergoesYardner

    I think Hunter would be an excellent addition to the club in 2013 if we let Swish walk. He’s an entertaining player who brings a solid bat to the order, and should succeed in NYC. I wouldn’t be opposed to 2 years, but if the price ends up being over 7 or 8 million, the deal starts to look bad.

    The Yankees need to be exploring all possible options for RF, as Swish will likely command a 3 year deal at least on the open makret, and I wouldn’t bank on 3 more years of quality production from him.

    Almonte for 2014! It’s a thing!

    • Don W

      You really think a 37 year old Tori Hunter is an excellent addition for 2013? Over the last two years he’s OPS’d under 800 an he’s not going to be better a year from now. The Yanks can do better than that.

      • GardnergoesYardner

        Really? Can they? Hamilton and Upton wil likely bag long term deals, as will Swisher. Almonte will not be ready to make an impact in 2013, and there are not other outfield prospects of note who will be ready. After that, you really are looking at a lot of similar players. At least Tori Hunter has had relative success in recent years, more than you can say for other options like Grady Sizemore, Carlos Lee, and Cody, wwhich is what you are looking at.

        Under the circumstances, Tori Hunter is an excellent stopgap option for 2013.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Out of the following:

          1) Zoilo Almonte will not be MLB-ready in 2013
          2) Nick Swisher will command a long-term deal
          3) 38 year-old Torii Hunter will look slower than 37 year-old Torii Hunter and less like an everyday player

          If I had to place money on one of those three, it would be on #3 first.

          I’m not saying I know the answer. I’m just saying I don’t think your answer is it.

          • GardnergoesYardner

            What about Nick Swisher’s past 3 seasons has done anything to discount his chance of earning a long term deal? Aside from points in 2009 and the first months of last year, he’s been an extremely consistent hitter since his issues in Chicago. By long term, I was thinking 3 years. Something a bit above what Cuddyer and Willingham got this year.

            I’d rank your list with 2 being the most likely, followed by 3 and 1. I’m a big Almonte fan, and he could end up being ready in 2013, but the Yankees should not rush him.

            Honestly, I think Hunter’s one of the better options considering the potential market.Unless he drops off a cliff this year, his bat is about average, and his defense is above average. He might not be the best we can get, but with the 2014 austerity plan, we have to get used to making some cost saving desicions.

  • Mike Myers

    If they were to extend A-Rods contract another 3 years a 1MM per year, wouldnt that be a sneaky way to reduce the AAV of the contract?

    • GardnergoesYardner

      I guess so but 1. I don’t think they want him around at age 45. and 2. He’d probably just retire rather than accept that extension.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      And wouldn’t that make Arod about 45 and the 25th man on the roster who’s usefulness would surely be questioned. It is what it is. The Yankees will work it out

  • RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    I’d love to see some amateur player from a family of lawyers challenge this “cap” nonsense.

  • mike_h

    if all goes according to plan I think the 2013 rotation would be CC, Nova, Pineda, Hughes (or 1 yr FA pitcher), Banuelos so no we wouldnt need Hamels or Cain. But this only works if Hughes returns to 2010 form, Pineda posts better numbers, and Banuelos is truly ML ready

    • Robinson Tilapia

      ….or David Phelps, Adam Warren, DJ Mitchell, and Dellin Betances. It’s not just the sexiest name that can come through.

      • Ted Nelson

        Agreed. If everything goes according to the Yankees’ plans I think Dellin is back to 2010 BB/9 and one of the most anticipated rookies in MLB for 2013.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I agree with your general premise, though. The best way to not need a Hamels or Cain is to develop your own version.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        Basically they need 2 pitchers from the ManBan/Betances/Hughes/Warren/Phelps group to show that they’re ready and able to be quality starters and they won’t need Hamels, also assuming Nova and Pineda continue to progress.

        • Ted Nelson

          If two of Pineda/Nova/Banuelos/Dellin/Phelps/Warren/Mitchell/etc. can slot in #2 and #3 behind CC it’s really not hard to find acceptable #4 and #5 starters to fill in at a reasonable cost. Yankees have won a lot of games the last few years with disasters like AJ, Javy, Gaudin, Moseley, Mitre, 2011 Hughes, 2009 Wang getting a good chunk of starts. It’s not ideal, but with a strong 1-3 in the rotation, a strong line-up, and a strong bullpen you can seriously contend with your #4 and #5 starters in the mid-4s to low-5s ERA range.

  • Boomer’s Boy

    I don’t get the fascination with Hamels. Besides his 2nd season, he is pretty much a .500 pitcher. Sure he gets a lot of K’s. One season under a 3 ERA which was last year. Bringing him to the Yankees, his Era will jump atleast a run. Not to mention he is pushing 30. I say let him pass.

    • Ted Nelson

      I’m really confused by your comment. If Wins is an important stat to you… might want to look into it a bit. Hamels is 15th in MLB in Ws over the last 5 seasons. In terms of W% the last 5 years he’s right there with the likes of Dan Haren, Jared Weaver, Felix, above James Shields.

      Wins is a team stat though, not an individual one. If you watch him pitch and analyze his stats rather than glancing at W-L you’ll probably get it pretty quickly. You can throw a 1 ER CG and get a loss if your offense doesn’t score. You can throw a great game and have a few blown plays on defense give up the extra run(s) that lose the game. You can throw an 8 inning shutout and have your BP blow the game.

      It’s also a bit arbitrary to set a 3.00 ERA as a cut-off when he has seasons at 3.06 and 3.09.

      A lot of SPs peak in their 30s.

      • Boomer’s Boy

        I was just stating the obvious numbers. He is a number 3 starter on the most talented team in the NL. Last year he was arguably the number 4. From what I have seen of him, I am not impressed at all. With the Yankees track record of NL Starters transitioning, I still would have to say NO.

  • Liam in NY

    That 5 for 5 swap would be a pretty good deal with Miami as well. Johnson, Buehrle, Animal Sanchez. Not bad at all

  • 42isNotMortal

    Sorry for going off topic, but Mike A’s comment about the dead pull tendencies of Hunter got me thinking. Why is Yankee Stadium put in the same ballpark as Cellular or Citizens? A 399 LC power alley would seem to benefit a fly ball pitcher like Pineda.