Mailbag: Masterson, Ichiro, Hunter, Soria, Adams

Front office defections: Marlins hire Tino, Pirates hire Livesey
Baseball America's Top Ten Yankees Prospects

Just four questions this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us your questions throughout the week. A word of advice: I tend to write these things Thursday evening, so get your question in before then if you want me to answer it that week.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Nostradamus asks: I like the idea of Justin Masterson in pinstripes with his ground ball tendencies. If he can pitch close to his 2011 numbers he’d be a great pick-up. What would it take to get him? Maybe we can get Shin-Soo Choo in a package deal?

Masterson, 27, was awesome last year (3.21 ERA and 3.28 FIP) and kinda crappy this year (4.93 ERA and 4.16 FIP). In fact, if you look at his last four seasons, 2011 is the outlier, not 2012 — he pitched to a 4.63 ERA and 3.98 FIP from 2009-2010. The success last year came from a drop in walk rate (2.71 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and a big drop in HR/FB (6.3%). Those two rates bounced right back up to his career norms — 3.58 BB/9 (9.2 BB%) and 9.9% HR/FB — this year, hence the 2009-2010-esque performance.

I think there’s a disconnect between what people think Masterson is and what he really is, but he’s still on the right side of 30 and has been pretty durable in recent years. His sinker is ridiculous (career 56.0% grounders), but he doesn’t have a changeup and lefties tend to hit him pretty hard (career .351 wOBA against). I can’t think of many pitchers like Masterson who have been traded two years prior to free agency, but he’s not someone I think the Yankees should go out of their way to acquire. I think the price will be inflated relative to his actual production. Add Choo on top of that and I’m not even sure the Yankees have to pieces to get it done. The Indians want pitching, pitching, and more pitching, and the Yankees don’t have enough to spare.

Jeff asks: With Ichiro Suzuki interested in coming back next year and the Yanks seemingly interested in Torii Hunter, could you see both on the Yanks next year? Hunter could play RF with Ichiro as the righty-hitting DH (like Raul Ibanez). Or would you rather see a DH who’s a infielder?

Well, in that case I would recommend playing Brett Gardner in center, Hunter in right, Ichiro in left, and Curtis Granderson at DH. I don’t think the Yankees would sign both guys though unless Ichiro came really cheap, like true fourth outfielder money. A million bucks or two, that’s it. Even then it would still be tough to squeeze all four of these guys into the lineup since Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter need semi-regular reps at DH. I’m not sure how Ichiro or Hunter would adjust to part-time work like that, so I’d prefer signing a DH who is used to being platoon bat and sitting on the bench for a while. It’s not an easy adjustment. Infielder or outfielder depends on whether or not Eric Chavez returns, really.

Patrick asks: So its been reported to Joakim Soria would be willing to set up his idol Mariano Rivera. Awesomeness. How much would you be willing to spend and are you overly concerned that he’s had to have TJ twice?

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Yes, the second Tommy John surgery is a big concern. Tons of guys have it and the procedure is relatively routine, but only the first time around. The second time is much different. We culled together some data on two-time TJS guys at FanGraphs over the summer, and only pitchers we dug up who threw at least 300 innings after the second surgery were Doug Brocail, Chris Capuano, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jason Frasor. Many other two-time TJS guys had more arm problems afterward, likely because there was something wrong (bad genes? bad mechanics?) that caused them to need the two elbow reconstructions in the first place. It’s also worth noting that a bunch of guys had the second procedure near the end of their careers, so they weren’t going to reach that 300-inning level anyway.

That said, Soria is a special pitcher because his track record is elite and he’s only 28 years old. He’s reportedly seeking a multi-year contract and that’s no surprise, but I don’t want to see the Yankees go more than one guaranteed year with him, especially if they’re serious about the 2014 payroll plan. A one-year deal ($4-6M?) with a club or even vesting option (based on appearances) would be ideal since it gives the club some protection in case he gets hurt again or just doesn’t pitch well. You can make the argument that it should be preferable for Soria since he’d be able to rebuild value and go back out on the market in search of a big contract next winter. If they guarantee him like $8M (salary plus buyout) and keep the deal to one guaranteed year, that would be perfect. Anything more would make me nervous.

Travis asks: So if A-Rod winds up having to DH a lot sooner than expected, is David Adams a legitimate internal option to play third base? My gut says no. Do you see the Yankees going after any free agent in particular to back up at third? Do they go after Chavez again? I’m worried about his durability if he sees increased workloads like he did last year.

Outside of Eduardo Nunez, who the Yankees say will stick to shortstop and only shortstop going forward, Adams is by far the team’s best internal hope for a third baseman. At least in the near future since guys like Dante Bichette Jr. and Miguel Andujar are way down in the low minors. It’s unlikely Corban Joseph can handle the position at the big league level and not because of his range or instincts or anything like that, he just doesn’t have the arm for it. That’s not an easy throw to make.

Adams could always hit, that was never really a question, but the injuries have been a problem these last three years. He missed an awful lot of time with the ankle problem and still hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2009. I think there’s enough patience and bat control there for him to be a .280/.340 guy with doubles power in the show, maybe 10-15 dingers at his peak. Obviously that’s someone you’d rather have at second than at the hot corner, where teams typically expect more offensively. I think the Yankees will break him in as a utility man down the line, but for next year the plan probably involves bringing Chavez (or a similar player) back if he’s open to it.

Front office defections: Marlins hire Tino, Pirates hire Livesey
Baseball America's Top Ten Yankees Prospects
  • MannyGeee

    Yeah to Soria. I have to think he’s aware he’s in a position where he’ll only get a 1yr deal to prove he’s still got the chops considering the work he’s had done.

    1/6.5 with team option and 1.5M buyout? Hells yeah, that feels about right. A “right” Soria coming into camp at under 7M in 2014 competing for the closer job is what I’d call a “good problem”…

  • The Real Eddard

    Masterson is a no go. With Tito running that team they’re building a winner and won’t trade a guy like that.

    I can see Ichiro as the everyday right fielder with an occasional rest vs a LHP. He’s cheap, he hits for contact, he has speed and he’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s a hall of famer, too.

    These guys like Soria and Haren are a trainwreck waiting to happen. They’re going to fall apart like Pavano did and you’ll get nothing out of them. Go with Joba and Robertson. Yankee fans need to realize that we can’t afford luxuries anymore. Soriano was a luxury. Clinton was right, the era of big government is over.

    Nuney and Chavy can handle backup 3rd, SS and 2B next year. Chavy thrives as a bench player. Nuney is going to be a big part of the future with the left side of the infield quickly approaching 40.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Without going into the rest of this disaster of a post, I’d just like to mention that the 2004 Pavano is in no way similar to the 2012 Soria or Haren.

      • MannyGeee


        • jjyank

          That place might be even scarier.

          • The Real Eddard’s Pants

            It’s not that bad. He makes me cookies.

            • jjyank

              What kind?

              • The Real Eddard’s Pants

                Chocolate chip, with nuts (of course), yet laced with a tinge of sadness.

                • Robinson Tilapia (IS Nate Silver)

                  Let the record reflect that Eddard’s Pants is NOT me. I don’t want to go anywhere near Eddard’s pants…..nor do I want near anyone’s pants on here.

    • Drew

      Chavy, Nuney? Giardi is that you?

      How do you feel about Jete, Hughesy, and CC-ey going forward.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    One thing I like about the 2014 austerity plan is that it makes Teixeira, ARod and Sabathia realize just how much they are getting paid and what expectations come from that level of compensation.

    Psychologically, it has to have an impact when you see the team openly passing on players that would help the team. I understand that the team wasn’t forced into giving out these contracts, but it seems like before the underacheiving could just be dismissed with a shrug as ‘free agent risk’ with more spent to fix it. Now there are actual consequences.

    • The Moral Majority is Neither

      Just to be clear, Sabathia hasn’t underacheived and definitely holds himself accountable. His contract does impact the budget for others, but he’s been worth it.

    • LK

      Unless you think that the issues with A-Rod and Tex stem from them not working hard enough, I can’t see any tangible benefit to them realizing what kind of expectations come with their contracts (and I personally think they were well aware of those expectations with or without the austerity plan).

      • The Moral Majority is Neither

        I think its an organizational accountability issue. I think Teixeira and ARod work hard, but this will frame it in a way that may provide extra motivation. They are not just part of a team of stars, they are taking a big chunk of limited funds and need to do more.

        Its human nature to work harder/perform better when personal accountability is made open and visible.

        • LK

          I still don’t really buy it. If A-Rod constantly getting booed/berated by the media/benched doesn’t motivate him, the Yankees imposing a budget doesn’t seem likely to. You’re entitled to your opinion of course.

        • Ted Nelson

          Both guys are known for having ridiculously good work ethics.

  • Jersey Joe

    Could Drew Stubbs work as a buy-low candidate? Either he needs a change of scenery; we may never know. Yankee Stadium could work for him. Not sure what it would take to acquire him but a tandem of him and Ichiro in right field might work well. Thoughts?

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      He’s above average defensively in CF, should be well above average in a corner and he has power and speed.

      He’s pretty brutal against right handed pitching though but I’d love him as 4th outfielder or as part of a platoon.

      • Jersey Joe

        Well yes he would play against like 25% of righties, all of lefties, getting 5/8 of playing time with Ichiro vs. tough righties.

      • Ted Nelson

        Stubbs doesn’t have the bat for a corner. His career wRC+ is 88. It’s been above average one season, and that was only 105 (well below average for a corner).

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    I’d say yes on Soria for 1 year maximum, no on Masterson since the Yankees infield defense is poor and I agree 2011 was a career year, yes on either Ichiro or Hunter but not both unless the Yankees trade Granderson and don’t get an outfielder back.

    As for David Adams, Keith Law recently replied in a chat that he projected him to a bench player at best for whatever that’s worth.

  • Tcmiller30

    Is Soria okay with setting up for Joba/Logan setting up for DRob setting up for Mo?

  • Robert

    2014 austerity lineup 1b TEX,2b Joseph,ss Jeter/ Nunez,3B Adams,c Romine,RF Tyler Austin,LF Slade,CF, Mason Williams, DH Arod

    This is Hal’s dream….

    He will not sign Cano to a 10yr 250mil contract which is Scott Boras’s Price!!!

    • Yankee Fan

      I’d rather play 2014 with your lineup than give $250 million to Cano. Let someone else overpay him for his mid-30’s decline in performance.

    • Drew

      I don’t think it is realistic to believe all (or even most) of those guys are going to pan out and become capable major leaguers, but it would be awesome if that happened.

    • DC

      When did Boras stated 10/$250M?

    • Robinson Tilapia (IS Nate Silver)

      Introducing #RobertWorld

    • your mom

      Oh, so the Yankees will win the WS in 2014. Alrighty then.

  • Ryan

    How about trading for Shin Soo Choo. Good gap to gap power, re-sign Ichiro, and trade Granderson. Then fill in the bench with yout to bring energy to the team. Dickerson and Nunez to start. Dickerson is very good in the field and I feel if given an opportunity in yankee stadium can do “some” damage as a lefty.

    • Ted Nelson

      Dickerson is not particularly young. He’s be 31 next season.


    Anyone know the deal with Jeff Keppinger? I wanted him very badly the yr he got traded from HOUSTON and think he’d be a awesme fit as insurance to AROD and maybe 2 give cano a day off here and there against a tough lefty and also as a righty DH..

    He obviousl upgrades the biggest need which is “pure hittng” in the lineup..

    Hes probably gonna start somewhere though, ey?