Mailbag: Figgins, Morse, 2014, Tools

Heyman: Pettitte expected to decide on 2013 by next week
Marchand: Kuroda left money on the table to re-sign with Yankees

Five post-Thanksgiving questions for you this week, but a few of them are really short. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Many asked: What about Chone Figgins?

The Mariners finally cut ties with Figgins earlier this week, tying a bow on one of the biggest free agent busts in baseball history. Seattle paid him $26M over the last three years to hit .277/.302/.283 (69 wRC+) in over 1,200 plate appearances (-0.9 fWAR and -1.6 bWAR), and they still owe him $8M next season. Just brutal.

Lots of people still view the 34-year-old Figgins as some kind of supersub, but he’s played primarily third base for the last six years while dabbling at second in the corner outfield (fewer than 500 innings). That’s it. He’s played 14 innings at shortstop in the last eight years and none in the last six years. He’s a third baseman who can fake second and left but rates no better than average anywhere. Figgins has just stopped hitting and it’s not just a Safeco Field thing, he’s got a 71 wRC+ on the road as a Mariner. I’d give him a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training and nothing more. If he doesn’t show signs of being useful in camp, just release him. Don’t even waste the Triple-A roster spot.

Joe asks: What do you think of Michael Morse? Nationals cold make him available if they sign Michael Bourn.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

I’m not much of a Morse fan but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player. The 30-year-old right-handed hitter has posted a .296/.345/.516 (133 wRC+) batting line with 67 homers in just shy of 1,300 plate appearances over the last three years, which is damn impressive. He never walks (5.7 BB% since 2010) and is very BABIP-reliant (.339), and when those guys go south, it tends to happen in a hurry. It’s not like Morse is old though, there’s no obvious reason he can’t keep up this kind of production for another few years.

The Nationals are reportedly looking to re-sign Adam LaRoche as well as add a long-term center fielder, and acquiring both would leave Morse without a defensive home. He’s owed $6.75M next year and will become a free agent after the season, so they should have no trouble trading him if they bring LaRoche back and sign Bourn or B.J. Upton or someone like that. Morse can obviously hit but he’s a terrible defensive player regardless of position, yet he would still make sense for New York since they need some pop to replace Nick Swisher. I really have no idea what the Nationals are looking for in a trade, I suppose just more pitching, which the Yankees don’t really have much to offer. I don’t love Morse but he would be a fit for the Yankees.

David asks: There has been a lot of talk about signing players this year to a one-year deals because of the $189 million dollar limit. How does that help them next year? Are the Yankees going to be in the same situation for the next two years or is there a few large contracts coming off the books?

By signing all these guys to one-year contracts, the Yankees are going to have to replace all of ’em next winter as well as Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Phil Hughes. That’s just scary. They’ll have to replace half the roster. Then again, they’ll also have the flexibility needed to get the payroll down. Still, having to potentially replace two outfielders, three starting pitchers, the second baseman, and various relievers/bench players all in one offseason will be very difficult to do. Not impossible, just difficult.

Tucker asks: When does the payroll in 2014 need to be below $189 million? Is it just the Opening Day payroll, or do the Yankees need to stay under that mark for the entire season?

They basically have to stay under the entire season. The luxury tax is based on the final club payroll, which includes everything paid to players from salary to performance bonuses to benefits. That includes pro-rated portions of salary paid to players called up, traded/acquired in the middle of the season, etc. The Yankees won’t be able to get under on Opening Day then add payroll, they’ll have to maintain it all year.

Anonymous asks: We always talk about the “five-tool player,” but it seems that when evaluating players we look for the following tools: Can he get on-base? Can he field his position? Can he hit for power? And can he run? In your opinion, are those the four most important tools and how would you rank them?

Yeah, I think those are my four most important skills (let’s not call them tools just to avoid confusion with the usual five-tool stuff). Getting on-base either through batting average or drawing walks or getting hit by pitches is the single most important thing a position player can do. It would be nice if a hitter did all three of those things, but those guys are rare. Not making outs at the plate is the easiest way a player can contribute to his team.

I’d rank hitting for power second ahead of defense just because I’m an offense-first guy. That doesn’t mean I’m cool with having a team of butchers out there, I certainly understand the important of turning batted balls into outs, but power is becoming harder to find these days and I value it more. The ability to run the bases — not necessarily speed, just the ability to be a smart base-runner and make good decisions — lags behind everything else for me. Health is also a skill to a certain extent and frankly I would rank that right before defense and ahead of running. A player isn’t any good to you if he’s hurt.

Heyman: Pettitte expected to decide on 2013 by next week
Marchand: Kuroda left money on the table to re-sign with Yankees
  • Robinson Tilapia

    I think there’s a collective Yankee fan/ Chone Figgins PTSD in which we’re traumatized to think Figgins will always be the guy whipping the team’s ass, even if its 2056.

  • Andrew J.

    Lots of players can play the field like damon and ellsbury but u forget tool #5. Throwing rocket arm in outfield is worth more than we realize in runners thrown out and in a fact that cant b quantified: keeping runners from advancing. Its the pitcher equivalent of the Pettitte pick off move .

    • Mike Axisa

      You don’t need a rocket arm to prevent runners from advancing, you just need to get to the ball quickly.

      • Mike Axisa

        Let me amend that: get to the ball *and* get rid of it quickly. Obviously arm strength helps, but it’s often overrated because it’s flashy.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      It can be quantified.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    The benefit of 1-year deals for 2013 is that it gives time for Pineda, Gardner, Nova, Adams, Joseph, Romine and maybe Mesa or the Almontes to show what they are. Also moves Austin, Williams, Heathcott, Sanchez and the other high-end guys a year closer (increased trade value).

    Also, allows team to ‘go for it’ with Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte if 2014 ends up being a bridge year. What about trying a run prevention strategy? I think there could be a market inefficiency there to exploit.

    • Preston

      So did Seattle, but the Jack Wilson’s and Brendan Ryan’s of the world just guarantee you a bad hitting team. A players bat should always be the first reason to acquire him.

      • The Moral Majority is Neither

        I was joking about the ‘run prevention market inefficiency’ tactic – that was Boston’s idea when they signed Mike Cameron, shifted Ellsbury and otherwise messed up their team.

        • Preston

          Yeah, I think the problem is we are way to far away from accurately measuring defense, and it seems to fluctuate a lot from year to year.

  • Rey22

    So basically there’s absolutely no reinforcements coming in the 2014 trade deadline, even if the team needs them or someone gets hurt. Great. That season is going to be so frustrating to watch.

    • RetroRob

      I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the July 2014 trade deadline.

      • Gonzo

        That’s right. The July 2017 trade deadline is the one to worry about.

        • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

          2 A prospects for Bryce Harper and dreams of teaming him up with Mike Trout come the off season…I can not wait. Plus Stanton might be due to be a free agent around then too…that would be a fun outfield to watch, even if they’re all in their 30’s.

    • Steve (different one)

      Why are you assuming the payroll will be exactly $189M on opening day? Maybe they will leave room for mid season trades? Or maybe the other team picks up salary? A million things are possible, no need to worry about it 21 months in advance.

    • Ted Nelson

      Besides not necessarily being right up against the limit, reinforcements can also come from the minors. Austin, Sanchez, Williams, or any number of other prospects might be knocking on the door around that time.

  • Drew

    Want zero part of Chone Figgens.

    Also I still cant understand how Chone = Shawn

    • Herby

      I’d only take a chance on a minor league deal…see if anything is left, but that’s highly doubtful.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, a minor league deal has very little downside.

  • Neil

    Soto and Steward might get non-tendered next week by their respective clubs. Do they fit with the yankees? Which one would the yankees prefer? Any chance Boston non-tenders Saltalamachia?

    I don’t think signing Martin to a 3 yr deal is wise. He already has a lot of wear on him. I think Romine can shine in AAA if healthy this year. That should put him in a position to be called up in August and then take over full-time next year.

  • Ted Nelson

    Again, I disagree with your view on health. Very difficult to evaluate a priori. An “injury prone” player is usually only such because he’s been injured in the past. Before a player ever has an injury or once he’s recovered it is very difficult to project health going forward. You are basically lumping most guys together, only differetiating guys with an obvious injury problem or veterans who have proven durable. And differentiating between Ps who will probably get hurt and position players who probably won’t. Furthermore, a guy who misses 20 games to a replacement level replacement can contribute a lot more to his team than a lesser player who plays 162 games.

    Even with the 189 budget the Yankees should have a lot of money to play with next offseason.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    The Yankees seem to love Martin’s pitch framing and leadership, so if they use $8 or $9MM of the 2014 money on him, I won’t be upset. With more rest I think he’ll hit a bit better.

  • Andrew J.

    So how do u quantify a flashy clemente arm?

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    Mike I disagree. It’s a layup to replace half the roster. Hell, it’d be easy to replace the entire roster. The trick is doing it while not sucking.