Mailbag: Peavy, Mustelier, Jeter, Teixeira, Mo

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Kind of a long mailbag this week, with five questions that cover everything from trade candidates to prospects to historical comparisons. Remember to use the Submit a Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Peter asks: Mike, you wrote up Jake Peavy as a trade candidate on MLBTR a few weeks ago. Do you see the Yanks possibly targeting him in July? If so, what’s a fair price?

Here’s the link to that MLBTR post. Peavy, 30, has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball this season, pitching to a 1.89 ERA (2.22 FIP) with 7.57 K/9 (22.6 K%) and 1.20 BB/9 (3.6 BB%) in 52.1 IP across seven starts. He’s been absolutely phenomenal, no doubt about it, but there are still some red flags.

For one, Peavy’s recent injury history is quite scary. He’s been on the DL five times in the last four years, including lengthy stints for an elbow strain (2009), an ankle strain (2009), shoulder surgery (2010), and shoulder inflammation (2011). The shoulder surgery was not a typical labrum or rotator cuff issue, he torn his right lat muscle right off the bone. The injury is  rare and the medical procedure so unique that the recovery timetable was completely unknown. Peavy is showing now that he’s healthy, but the injury stuff has to be in the back of everyone’s mind.

Statistically there’s not much to worry about. He’s always been a fly ball pitcher but now he’s taken it to the extreme, with a 28.7% ground ball rate on the season. That explains his .234 BABIP to a certain extent and even though not every fly ball is hit deep, you have to assume his 2.8% HF/FB rate is going to correct at some point. That’s insanely low. Peavy’s salary — $17M this year with a $22M option for 2012 ($4M buyout) — is quite high as well.. I mentioned Erik Bedard as a trade comp in the MLBTR post, meaning one top-ten prospect (in a farm system, not all of baseball) and another Grade-C secondary piece could work as a trade bounty. The Yankees could have interest, and thankfully we have a few months to see if Peavy holds up physically and can maintain his performance before the deadline.

Willie and many others asked: Is it time to start getting a little excited about Ronnie Mustelier?

(Rudy C. Jones/MiLB.com)

I was surprised by how many people asked about Mustelier following his promotion to Triple-A earlier this week. We must have gotten at least ten questions about him, but I guess that’s what happens when a player hits .351/.397/.550 in 295 plate appearances since signing last summer.

Just some real quick background info: Mustelier is 27 years old (28 in August), short (5-foot-10), kinda fat (210 lbs.), a right-handed hitter, and versatile (has played second, third, and the outfield corners). He spent a number of years playing in Cuba before defecting, and as a hitter he makes consistent contact (13.2 K%) but doesn’t walk much (6.4 BB%) or steal bases (12-for-18). The Yankees like Mustelier enough that they sent him to the Arizona Fall League last year, where he hit .344/.354/.516 in 16 games while missing time with injury. Here’s some video.

The most important thing to understand is that Mustelier has been very old for his level since signing. This is an older guy pounding young pitchers and that can skew the results. The Yankees have done a good job getting him to Triple-A quickly so they can evaluate him against the best pitching in the minors, though I wouldn’t expect to see him in the big leagues anytime soon. Baseball America didn’t even have Mustelier on their 80-player Yankees prospect depth chart in the 2012 Prospect Handbook, so there’s a whole lot of unknown here. His versatility is a plus, but we need to see another few hundred minor league at-bats to know if there’s anything worthwhile here.

Arad asks: Had this argument with my brother, who is the better player over their careers using everything, Jeter or Honus Wagner? Thanks Mike!

Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history and it’s not all that close. Obviously it was a much different era, but he hit .325/.392/.462 during his 16-year career despite not officially joining the big leagues until age-27. That’s worth 110.0 bWAR and only one other shortstop is over even 75 career bWAR (Cal Ripken Jr. at 90.9). Jeter is at 69.4 bWAR and counting. No version of WAR is perfect, but the gap between Wagner and everyone else is impossible to ignore.

Jeter is very clearly the best shortstop in Yankees history and is in the conversation for a top five spot all-time with Wagner, Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Arky Vaughan, and Luke Appling. Robin Yount and Alex Rodriguez deserve acknowledgement as well, though they both spent significant portions of their careers at other positions. Wagner’s the best shortstop ever though, very hard to dispute that.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Alex asks: Mike, I read all the pieces you wrote about Mark Teixeira. One thing, which you addressed, slightly still interests me. Since Tex is a switch hitter, it seems like hitting righties from the right side is out of the question. But isn’t everyone a “switch hitter” to a degree? I bet A-Rod could turn around and produce a poor line from the left as well. Has any switch hitter ever became a one-side hitter? Will it hurt to try?

Here are those three posts on Teixeira (part one, two, three, four). I don’t know of any players who successfully dropped switch-hitting this late in their careers. Lots of guys stop switch-hitting in the minors, including Frankie Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez, but that’s very early in their careers. A lot of players mess around with switch-hitting in batting practice and may be able to survive on athleticism in a game situation, but I’d put money against it.

Teixeira’s been switch-hitting his entire life, going all the way back to high school. The guy has never been at the platoon disadvantage at a high level and he’s never seen a breaking ball that breaks away from him. If he were to stop hitting from the left side, he wouldn’t magically replicate his performance against lefties as a righty (.397 wOBA) as a righty against righties. If Teixeira’s offensive problems become so severe that dropping switch-hitting is being seriously discussed, it’s a transition that would have occur during the offseason and in Spring Training. I don’t see any way you could ask him to do that midseason and be productive. You’re setting him up for failure both short and long-term that way.

Jon asks: I literally got physically ill when I heard about Mariano Rivera‘s torn ACL. The question is does Mo fit into the new budget? Do they bring him back next year at $10-15 million if it costs them Cole Hamels?

Well the new budget doesn’t kick in until 2014 unless ownership decides to implement next season. That would suck. I can’t imagine any scenario in which Rivera gets a two-year contract after this season, not at his age and not coming off a major injury. In that sense they could pay him whatever and still sign Hamels knowing that Rivera and his salary will be gone in 2014, when the payroll tightens up. It would be a major surprise if Mo’s next contract somehow extends beyond next season.

I am curious to see how negotiations with Rivera play out this winter. Are the Yankees going to pay him the $15M+ next year just because he’s Mariano Rivera? Or will they try to scale it back a bit, maybe $10-12M given his age and injury? Considering that they offered Andy Pettitte eight figures this past December after he sat at home for a year, I’m willing to bet they’ll have no problem paying Mo something similar to, if not in excess of his current salary.

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  • Dave M

    “short (5-foot-10), kinda fat (210 lbs.)”

    That hurts man! I’m the same height and 2 lbs lighter.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Fat for a professional athlete I mean!

    • Reggie C.

      Swisher is only an inch taller and probably 10-12 pounds lighter. If Mustelier can keep hitting, there’s always a chance he can turn into a serviceable 4th outfielder.

    • A.D.

      I think we would all prefer “big boned”

  • JohnC

    This kid Adonis Garcia they just signed is pretty similar in build. Guess he’ll just be an organizational filler as well

  • http://Twitter.com/aradmarkowitz Arad

    Thanks for answering my question mike! Obviously I was on Wagners side, but just wanted your input. Thanks.

  • Kosmo

    Mustelier´s MILB career at 4 levels:
    67 games
    271 ABS
    42 runs
    95 hits
    21 D
    9 HR
    51 RBI
    12 SB
    obp .398
    SLG .550
    ops .948
    Ave. .351

    if anything it shows Mustelier can steal an occasional base. I don´t see an ounce of fat on his body . Stocky yes. Another way of evaluating Mustelier is he´s being rushed thru the system because he´s shown he can handle any level of pitching he´s faced. I would consider that a positive. NY must know they have a fine 27 yr old talent from Cuba .

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Between Cespedes, Mustelier and Garcia I would say that Cuba must have some pretty good trainers. All three of those guys are ripped.

      • Kosmo

        Cubans take their baseball seriously.

  • Kosmo

    Wagner played for Louisville as a 23 yr old and I do believe it was considered the NL.
    Wagner made 60 Errors in 1905 ! Makes Nunez look like Ozzie Smith.
    Of course the argument would be the fields in which he played on were not these manicured ones we see today.

    • Owen Two

      Baseball-Reference.com supports your claim that the Louisville Colonels were indeed in the National League.

    • CP

      Also, the glove he played with was probably no better than wearing an oven mitt.

    • Genghis

      Wagner was fourth in fielding %, and first in range factor, for shortstops that year. Two other shortstops made more errors, and the fewest among everyday shortstops was 44. He was at least an average fielder, probably better than average.

  • A.D.

    Had the same thought about Tex dropping switch hitting, I believe JT Snow stopped switch hitting at the end of his career and just hit left handed, though he was also become a platoon guy

  • Anthony

    Wagner shouldn’t be compared to shortstops in the live ball era. Yes, his numbers were extraordinary in comparison to the players of his time, but he never played in an integrated game. He played when players wore tiny gloves that were more like actual gloves. He played when there were no Latino players. You get the point, he’s just not comparable because we have no idea what he might have been like in the matured version of the game.

    And Ozzie Smith? Please back this up. All the defense and cartwheels in the world doesn’t make up for his pitiful offense. In a 19 year career, he was league average a total of four times — each just barely. He hit a total of 28 homers in his entire career. He hit .300 once and that year was also one of about three where he had even a decent OBP. Barry Larkin and Pee Wee Reese were both far better.

    • Kosmo

      I forgot about Larkin a great all around SS . I wonder what his career numbers would look like if he wasn´t so often injured.

    • ahinds

      thank god you said this. more people need to acknowledge this. this is the reason I’m picking randy johnson over walter johnson every single time.

      • Thomas

        That argument doesn’t show all the facts though. You could easily argue that past players were disadvantaged, because they had worse training, no tape, poorer health facilities, offseason jobs over training, year round playing, poorer equipment, etc.

        Randy Johnson may never have made in Walter Johnson’s time. He may have had to get a real job, because of the initial time it took to develop. Also, he may not have been able to play as long with his bad back without modern medicine.

        • Now Batting

          That’s all circumstantial. The league consciously excluded black players

  • CJ

    Mustelier could be the new Luis Sojo

  • Kosmo

    Ernie Banks gets honorable mention as a SS.
    IMO if Arod had continued on as a SS no doubt without question the greatest SS of all time.
    Arky Vaughn and Luke Appling were terrible fielding SS. They would be DHing in today´s game.
    Ripken started playing 3b sometime around the age of 36. So his accumulative WAR was at 2 positions.
    No doubt Ozzie was the greatest D SS of all-time that would be hard to dispute.
    IMO Jeter is the all around greatest SS and he more than likely will retire a SS.

    • CP

      Ripken started playing 3b sometime around the age of 36. So his accumulative WAR was at 2 positions.

      Ripken played about 80% of his career games at SS. Wagner played about 2/3 of his career games at SS. Jeter has played about 90% of his career games at SS.

      I don’t know that this makes him the best SS of all time, but there’s a difference between ‘best player to play most of his career at SS’ and ‘best SS’. Based on how he’s playing now, it’s reasonably likely that Jeter will end his career with the most games played by a SS in baseball history.

  • forensic

    How are Mustelier’s hands/arm? Throw him at SS for a few games and see what happens. His range can’t be that much worse than Jeter’s, even with his size. If he can make the throws, then poof, you have a different utility guy. He’s already pretty old (for the minors), it’s not like you’re potentially ruining a guy’s possible long MLB career.

  • thenamestsam

    I think we’ve all had the same thoughts about Tex dropping switch hitting, but I still think it’s premature. As recently as 2009 the guy had the 15th highest wOBA against right-handers in the major leagues. His continued success as a right-handed hitter makes it hard to accept the idea that the talent to do that has evaporated because it’s hard to see what sort of hitting talent loss could only effect one side of the plate. If it was seeing the ball, that would affect both sides. If it was deteriorating hand-eye coordination, that would affect both sides, etc.

    It still seems like more of a mechanical issue to me, and as long as that’s the case it seems like it’s always worth trying to fix it rather than dropping it entirely, since you’d be making an even bigger adjustment, and it’s hard to see the upside being as high as we know Tex’s lefty swing can be.

    • forensic

      2009 is 3 seasons ago. You’re really stretching the definition of ‘recently’.

      And for all the talk of him still being good as a righty, he’s OPS’ing .630 as a lefty and .638 as a righty.

      Imagine how bad his numbers would look if you took out the apparently fluke 6 game good streak against Minnesota and Boston. Heck, even just take out the one 2 HR/6 RBI game against Boston and suddenly he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt anymore. How he’s not getting booed at home I don’t know. And yet, they’ll be sure to boo A-Rod the next time he pops out.

      • Jim Is Bored

        You can’t do stats that way. Taking out 6 games is ~18% of the season right now.

        • forensic

          I didn’t take them out, just said imagine if he didn’t hit absurdly out of line with the rest of the season in them. It just shows how horrid he’s been the rest of the year, hitting well under .200. I didn’t bother doing the math, but his OBP is probably near .200 too.

          • forensic

            Just for the hell of it, here goes (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS obviously):

            Overall line now: .212/.269/.364/.633
            Outside the one BOS game: .196/.258/.295/.553
            Outside 3 cons. games vs. BOS and MIN: .192/.259/.295/.528
            Outside 4 cons. games vs. BOS and MIN: .182/.252/.263/.515
            Outside 5 cons. games vs. BOS and MIN: .168/.243/.232/.475
            Outside 6 cons. games vs. BOS/MIN/LAA: .154/.225/.231/.456

            He’s been so amazingly bad this season I actually think it’s been well under-reported, certainly by media and announcers.

            • #28 in 2012

              I agree with you 100%. The Bronx Boo-birds are not catching Tex on their radar yet. His defense is sweet and he is a likable fella (unlike A-rod, whom most fans couldn’t stomach).
              Even though its just May, being one good game away from below the Mendoza line is not a good look. The worst thing about it is that the hope for improvement is going away quickly. Klong does not think he can go the other way. Mark thinks the shift isnt there.
              Soon enough the boos will come and how Mark is going to respond is to be seen. I wonder if his skin is as think as Alex’s. Good points, forensic. Thanks for the math, man!

              • Tomm

                He’s a nice guy, so don’t boo him. But dump him. He has no answer to righties that takes advantage of his need to pull. What’s the difference between him and Russell Branyan against righties? Defense, and the fact that Branyan has more power.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    I’d be really wary of trading for Peavy. He hasn’t thrown more than 111 innings in a season since 2008 and he’s already thrown 50+ by the first week of May.

    He’s hurt pretty much every year and now all of a sudden in his walk year, he’s healthy and pitching well.

    In my mind, the 2 most likely outcomes for Peavy in the 2nd half are a lengthy trip to the DL or ineffectiveness after he runs out of gas.

  • Darren

    To flat out say that Honus Wagner is better than Jeter is ridiculous. The eras were so different as to almost be incomprable.

    Jeter wouldn’t even have been allowed to play, right? Or were there any mixed race players back then?

    Just like Cy Young’s 511 wins, I mean, he was undoubtedly an amazing pitcher, but it’s impossible to say if he was better than Koufax, Johnson, Pedro, or Maddux.

  • Tyler

    There is zero chance Mo gets a raise next year.

  • #28 in 2012

    Mo comes back and plays for free in 2013. Gods don’t need money.

  • TomH

    “…knowing that Rivera and his salary will be gone in 2014, when the payroll tightens up.

    IF the payroll tightens.

  • OMG! Bagels!

    I don’t see the Yankees haggling with Mo. I think he’ll get as close to a blank check as anyone is ever going to get with them.

  • Fin

    I assume the Yankees will bring Mo back on a 1 yr deal at the same money he made the last 3 years, just because hes Mo. However, with Joba and Ardsma possibly in the mix next year the bullpen could be very full. If say Robertson becomes a shut down closer and all the other bullpen guys are healthy, it could be hard to justify 15m for another bullpen arm, even if it is Mo.

  • Tomm

    The Yankees should see if they can boost Teixeira’s value and then dump him while they still can. This man is lost at the plate, below league average against righties like Felix Hernandez tonight. (Watch, he’ll get a hit tonight). They can get rid of him, save at least some money, and get a better (at least offensive) first baseman elsewhere. Teixeira is offensive, but in the wrong sort of way.