Mailbag: Pineda, McCann, V-Mart, Draft Picks

Rivera having second thoughts about returning in 2013
What Went Wrong: Alex Rodriguez

Got six questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us any questions, comments, links, whatever. Someone actually sent us a note the other day saying we should start a premium cheese line called River Ave. Bleus, so yeah. Anything is welcome.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Patrick asks: I know Michael Pineda‘s out until at least June and will have to build arm strength and yadda yadda, but could I be optimistic about him because his surgery was arthroscopic? I’m not expecting much in 2013, but what about the following years?

The fact that Pineda’s shoulder only needed to be scoped rather than the traditional, cut-me-open type of incision is encouraging. It was also an anterior tear only, meaning just the front of his shoulder. The typical kiss of death labrum tear is usually all the way around, front and back. That said, don’t trick yourself into thinking this is not a significant injury. There’s a chance — I don’t know what it is, but it definitely exists — he’ll never again be the guy he was prior to the injury.

Anyway, I expect the Yankees to send Pineda back to Triple-A for a few weeks next season once his 30-day rehab window is up just to delay his free agency. They already lost a full year of control to the injury, so they might as well get that back at this point. I don’t think they’ll worry too much about his arbitration status (Super Two), just the free agency. I’m hoping Pineda can provide about 80-100 league average innings next year, which would make me feel better about his long-term outlook. If he shows the same mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider as he did pre-injury, there’s would be a lot of reasons to be optimistic about 2014 and beyond.

David asks: What is the point of “mutual options?” Seems to me that if the player has a good year he’ll decline his side, if he has a crappy year the team will decline their side. Do any current Yankees have mutual options on their contracts and what is likely to happen to them?

The only time I can remember both sides picking up their half of a mutual option was Jason Giambi and the Rockies last offseason. That’s it. Mutual options serve little purpose as far as retaining a player go, so teams typically use them to push some money onto next year’s payroll (in the form of buyouts). If a club is up against its payroll limit, mutual options create a little extra flexibility. I actually wrote an MLBTR post about these things two years ago because they suddenly started popping up everywhere. The Yankees currently do not have a player under contract with a mutual option, either for next year or any point in the future.

Anonymous asks: Saw on MLBTR that the Braves might decline the option on Brian McCann. I know he had shoulder surgery but do you see any interest from the Yankees? If so, what kind of contract do you see him getting?

Yeah, I think the Yankees would have definite interest in McCann if he hit the open market because he’s a left-handed hitter with power and patience. He was the best hitting catcher in baseball for a few years, at least until Joe Mauer got healthy and started going bonkers. The shoulder surgery is a major red flag however, especially since it might keep him on the shelf for the first few weeks of next season. If the Braves decline what is essentially a one-year, $12M deal for McCann, I’d be very worried about the state of his shoulder. It wouldn’t stop me from looking into signing him, but the review of his medicals would have to be very thorough. It’s the whole “what do they know that I don’t?” thing.

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

Mike asks: If the Yankees don’t re-sign Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones for platoon DH how about trading for Victor Martinez? He’s got 2 years/ $25 million left on his deal, if the Tigers give him away (since with Miggy Cabrera and Prince Fielder they have no fit for him, and he’s coming off injury) and eat a little salary would you be in favor?

Martinez missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in an offseason workout, which somewhat prompted the Tigers to sign Fielder. I think they would have signed him anyway, but that doesn’t matter now. V-Mart has actually hit more homers (nine) at the new Yankee Stadium than any other visiting player, but that shouldn’t be the reason to acquire him.

I think the Tigers would eat some of the money to move him, but the problem is that Martinez is a first baseman and a DH only at this point. He hasn’t been a big league caliber catcher for about three years now, and I can’t imagine the knee injury helped his cause any. As much as I dislike it, the Yankees will continue to rotate their DH to rest their older players, which means acquiring a big money set DH probably isn’t a realistic option. Martinez definitely fits as a switch-hitter with patience, power, and contact skills though. I like the idea — obviously depends on how much money Detroit is willing to eat — but I don’t think the Yankees would go for it

John asks: How good is next year’s draft? If they get picks from Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, and Hiroki Kuroda and don’t surrender any via free agency, would it be a chance to get loads of fresh young high-end talent into the system? Also would they consider trading draft picks for players now like they do in NBA, etc?

I’ll answer the second question first: I love the idea of teams being able to trade draft picks but MLB does not allow it. Well, small market teams can trade their competitive balance picks, but that’s a crazy animal the Yankees won’t be involved in.

As for the actually draft class, it’s too early to know how strong it is. I’ve seen it written in a few places — by Keith Law, Baseball America, etc. — that his year’s draft is weaker than last year’s, but I feel like we hear that every year. Once the college and high school seasons open in the spring and guys start popping up because they’ve added velocity or a new pitch or learned how to hit a curveball, the quality of the draft class will change dramatically. I’ll stick with my default draft answer — there are always good players available regardless of round, it’s just up to the team to find them.

Jamal asks: The Yankees got 20-plus-HR seasons from their catcher, second baseman and center fielder – how rare of a feat is that?

My initial reaction when reading this question was that it probably doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s not some kind of historic feat. Maybe a team does it once every three or four years, something like that. Instead…

Rk Year Tm Lg #Matching
1 2012 New York Yankees AL 3 Robinson Cano / Curtis Granderson / Russell Martin
2 2010 Toronto Blue Jays AL 3 John Buck / Aaron Hill / Vernon Wells
3 2003 Atlanta Braves NL 3 Marcus Giles / Andruw Jones / Javy Lopez
4 1996 Baltimore Orioles AL 3 Roberto Alomar / Brady Anderson / Chris Hoiles
5 1965 Milwaukee Braves NL 3 Mack Jones / Gene Oliver / Joe Torre
6 1939 New York Yankees AL 3 Bill Dickey / Joe DiMaggio / Joe Gordon
7 1938 New York Yankees AL 3 Bill Dickey / Joe DiMaggio / Joe Gordon
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2012.

That’s it. Seven times in history. I only used a 50% playing time requirement as well (meaning the players had to play at least 50% of their games at the positions). Bump it up to 75% and those 1965 Braves disappear. A handful of teams get 20+ homers from two of those three positions each year, but getting them from all three is certainly a rare feat throughout history, even recently.

Joe Girardi spoke the other day about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power positions like … well … center, second, and catcher, which is why they can carry a non-power guy like Brett Gardner in left. The old saying is that you build a team up the middle and the late-90s Yankees following that model perfectly, with elite players in center, at short, second, and once Jorge Posada took over, behind the plate as well. The Yankees still get a ton of production from their up the middle spots and it’s a big reason why they contend every year.

Rivera having second thoughts about returning in 2013
What Went Wrong: Alex Rodriguez
  • djyank

    so i want to make sure i have this straight: pineda is under team control for an extra year (same amount as pre-injury) if we keep him in the traveling circus for 3 weeks, but those years will be more expensive because of his arbitration status?

    • Mike Axisa

      Yep. They lost a pre-arbitration year (basically the minimum salary) and will replace it with an arbitration year (millions and millions).

  • bpdelia

    wait. bobby richardson played 2b for the 61 yankees. blanchard roatated around lf and 1b. if he played some games there sure. but he was no 2bman

  • bpdelia

    yeah. richardsob played every game. blanchard caught, played lf, and some 1b. so the 61 yankees arent on that list

    • Mike Axisa

      Ah I see, Blanchard started 50% of his games behind the plate that year, not 50% of the team’s games. I’ll fix it.

      • nsalem

        You can change it to the 1965 Braves also.

  • Austin Aunelowitzky

    What a great question on 2B/C/CF homers !

    • LK

      That ’96 Orioles team got over 20 HR from Ripken at SS, too. Now that’s some up-the-middle power.

      • vin

        I’m shocked there weren’t more teams from the 90s on that list. 20 HRs was extremely common during that period.

  • Mister D

    McCann could be an intriguing, everybody wins exercise-and-trade pickup. Braves get some value in return, Yankees get a catcher on a short term deal, McCann plays in a great offensive park before hitting free agency.

    • LK

      This is a fantastic idea that I hadn’t thought of before. I’d have to think the front office would be on board since it wouldn’t affect the 2014 payroll. The Braves may want to keep McCann though since Ross is a free agent. I’m not sure I’d want to give up too much in prospects for him since he is a pretty big risk with the shoulder injury.

    • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

      Yeah, if there’s any REAL indication of Atlanta declining that option, it may cost the Yankees NOTHING… like a B or C Prospect nothing. My question is, if the Yankees initiate that conversation, is that tampering?

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Good idea. If Atlanta thinks his shoulder is bad enough that they’d rather not pay the $12 mil though, should the Yanks? Maybe they let Atlanta decline and try to get him on a cheaper one year deal. I dunno, just thinking out loud.

    • jjyank

      Definitely intriguing. Gotta be wary of that shoulder though, but I would be all for giving him a shot if he comes cheap enough.

    • Mister D

      I win the comments section!

  • Athenian

    Ever think that had the Yankees maintained their roster building plan as they had in the 90’s they would still be in the playoffs? Instead they chose to sign big names, under performing aging vets, and saddled with huge huge huge contract obligations.

    2013 is going to be more painful then 2012.

    • Mike Axisa

      How many overpaid and underperforming vets are actually on the team? A-Rod and Teixeira, maybe Jeter if he doesn’t repeat this year. Who else?

    • jjyank

      If they could produce guys like Jeter, Williams, Pettitte, Posada, etc. every year, sure. But that’s wildly unrealistic.

      • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

        They could always finish dead last, or close to it, for about four straight season, like they did in the years that preceded the dynasty. I’m sure the microwaved burrito crowd here would greatly enjoy the 2013 versions of Jeff Johnson and Chuck Cary on the mound.

        • jjyank

          I see you’re having quite a bit of fun with altering your handle lately.

          • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

            I’m probably tired of the handle, but have come too far with it to go back now. I should have just named myself after Raul Ibanez.

            • jjyank

              I’m sure there will be another random vet who does something heroic in 2013. Gonna have to be quicker than Plouffy this time, though.

              • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

                …or Swisher will release another album of classic rock oldies.

                • jjyank

                  Heh that’s right, you used to be Jumpin’ Jack Swisher, right?

                  • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

                    Yeah. That was kinda awkward.

                    • jjyank

                      A customer this morning was raving about the grilled tilapia he had for dinner last night. I thought of you.

              • gc

                But the underperforming aging vets are one of the reasons why the team isn’t still playing in the post-season! ;)

                •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

                  Boom. Count it.

    • vin

      Any idea how hard it is to develop players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Nick Johnson, Alfonso Soriano? As well as legit trade bait in Mike Lowell, Ruben Rivera, Juan Rivera, Sterling Hitchcock, Ricky Ledee, and Jake Westbrook? … and to do that all in a 10 year period (with most of the guys hitting the bigs within a 5 year window)?

      Of course, Free Agency is NOT the most efficient tool for team building, so I agree there. However, it’s really hard to ask a franchise to crank out a couple of HOFers, and a bunch of all-stars every few years.

      •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Exactly. Those 90’s teams spoiled some people who just don’t understand how difficult it is to build a team like that.

        • jjyank

          And how much luck is involved, given the rate prospects flame out.

          •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

            Yup. So much had to go right during that era for them to have that kind of success.

      • thenamestsam

        Exactly this. Calling developing 2 All-time greats and 3 other borderline hall-of-famers as well as a nunber of other useful players within five years a “strategy” is just ridiculous. If that was a strategy I’m pretty sure the Yankees and every other team would be employing it. The Yankees hit a once in a 100 years jackpot and fans are outraged when it doesn’t happen every 5 years.

  • blake

    “He was the best hitting catcher in baseball for a few years, at least until Joe Mauer got healthy and started going bonkers. ”

    and until some guy named Buster Posey showed up

  • Robinson Tilapia

    All about the shoulder with McCann. I’m sure the Yankees’ medical staff would do their due dilligence, and I’m also sure we wouldn’t believe whatever conclusion they would come to anyway.

  • Jamey

    Wow, Chris Hoiles. Totally forgot about that guy.

    • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

      Me too. The great Oriole hope, part 456.

  • Mike

    What about the Yanks offering Martin arbitration? I know this could be a potentially risky move paying him $13 Mill for one year. However, he might choose to not accept in favor of a longer term deal. Its essentially the same deal the Braves would be offering McCann, and wouldn’t affect the 2014 payroll. The Yanks could potentially get a draft pick.

    • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

      Not far-fetched at all. I’ve lived through must worse Yankee catchers in my lifetime than Russell Martin. Much worse.

      • WhittakerWalt

        We won 3 championships with Georgia Roddy as our catcher (though he split time with Posada towards the end), and he was friggin’ terrible.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      I was thinking that they’d offer that all along. I think they should anyway.

      • jjyank

        Agreed. Payroll isn’t much of an issue for 2013 anyway.

        •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          Whether or not he’d accept it is another story though. I’m sure he’ll be in search of a longer deal. I believe Mike had mentioned 3/$27 mil, which becomes a bit steep.

          • jjyank

            I like Martin, but I don’t think I’d be down for 3 years.

            •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

              Yeah. I’m a fan of him too, but not at that price.

              • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

                It all depends on whether Sanchez continues to develop as we’d like him to, whether he sticks behind the plate, and when he’s ready.

                If anything between middle of the road and best case scenario is what we’re waiting for with him, I’m willing to have Russell as stopgap for a couple of more years. It would seem to be difficult to spend 3/4 of the year hitting under .200 anyway. ;)

                • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

                  Also, Chuck Cary.

  • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

    Agreed on V-Mart, by the way. I think the “DH slop” position would need some better flexibility from the guy filling it, such as the ability to actually stand out there in LF every now and then.

    Too bad, though. That’s a bat that would look nice in rotation.

  • Drew

    A Yankee lineup with McCann and Victor Martinez makes my imagination all giggly. Thinking out loud:

    Jeter 6
    Granderson 8
    Cano 4
    Teix 3
    McCann 2
    Martinez 0
    Rodriguez 5
    Ichiro 9
    Gardner 7

    That lineup has a ton of age in it, but some speed at the bottom, with Cashmans “hairy monsters” occupying the top/middle of the lineup.

    • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

      I still think you need some better production from your corner outfielders than that. Ichiro AND Gardner starting isn’t my favorite thing in the world.

      • bpdelia

        ok then just put gardner where he blongs in cf and put granderson where he belongs in lf and BAM 40 hr production from lf 9 from right. that lineup there is a winner to me. im down as long as sanchez, campos, williams, and austin dont go in those eeals. that still leaves plenty of nice prospects to deal including, gumbs, adams, joseph, etc. both guys coming off lost seasons means the price shoild be reasonable

        • Robinson Tilapia (brings up the name “Chuck Cary” whenever possible)

          OK. Then I’m not fine with the production from 2/3 of the outfield. Any other configurations you care to suggest?

          A guy like Justin Upton, who gets brought up is going to cost you at least one of those guys. Sanchez would hurt more than others, to me, but the chances of all these guys succeeding is something no one should bank on.

        • jjyank

          I don’t see why flipping them would make a difference offensively in terms of where the home runs are coming from.

          I do agree that Gardner should absolutely be in CF next year though.

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    there are always good players available regardless of round, it’s just up to the team to find and develop them.

  • Bo Knows

    Mike I know you prefer to be on the pessimistic side of things concerning Pineda but I want to offer up an explanation on why it is possible to have more than a little hope concerning him.

    While shoulder injuries are usually seen as the kiss of death when it comes to pitching, it’s good to delve deeper into why it usually ends up that way. (This is just a very basic and very general overview, if I went into specifics or went into technicalities this would be significantly longer)

    As many (hopefully all) know, the shoulder has a full 360 degree range of motion; the elbow by contrast, is mostly limited to 180 degrees. Now due to this incredible range of motion, when a pitcher undergoes shoulder surgery, the scar tissue that develops afterwards severely restrains the ability to move (think of scar tissue like a pair of pants with too much starch, the fibers are so constricted that very little flexibility is possible). Now pitching requires those fibers to be supple so the pitcher can get full range of his motion before slinging the ball.

    Now Pineda’s injury and surgery is an interesting case, arthroscopic surgery only requires a very small incision; this by nature greatly diminishes the amount of overall development of scar tissue. Now you already mentioned the location as well as the tear being small, so I won’t go into that but we also need to make note that the rehab is just as important if not more so than initial surgery. Prior to the DUI, the few words that we were hearing concerning his rehab were positive, if we can believe these reports then that greatly improves Pineda’s chances of regaining the majority of his range of motion in addition to his future shoulder health.

    I seriously doubt he’ll average 95 mph ever again, but if Pineda does what he is supposed to do, and works hard I think he has a decent chance of averaging sitting somewhere close to 92.5-93 mph with the and still being able to touch higher (although it won’t ever be able to hit 99-100 like he did with the Mariners)

    • jjyank

      Thanks for the detail. I prefer to be optimistic myself, because I’m just a glass-half-full sort of guy. We’ll see how it plays out.