Season Review: The Front Office

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Scott Hairston
Stark: Deal imminent between Yankees and Rivera
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Just as with the manager and coaching staff, it’s difficult to evaluate a front office from the outside. Yes we can see the moves they make and speculate on moves they didn’t make, but we’ll never know the inner workings and all of the factors involved. Things like opportunity cost and the club’s internal evaluation of players are beyond our scope. Remember, a move can both make perfect sense at the time and be laughably bad in hindsight.

The Yankees started the year by making a series of front office changes in January, most notably hiring former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout and promoting pro scouting director Billy Eppler to assistant GM. I’m a fan of having multiple voices in the front office and Hendry is well-regarded within the game, so I liked his hiring just as I liked the Kevin Towers hiring back in 2010. The Eppler promotion was significant because for the first time since Brian Cashman took over as GM, an obvious line of succession had been established. Eppler was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM job last winter and now appears to be in line to replace Cashman down the road.

On the field, the Yankees made a number of great, good, okay, poor, and disastrous moves like every other team. Signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract was a masterstroke while the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade went sour in less than three months. Low-cost, one-year stopgap solutions like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, and Clay Rapada worked out well while others like Chris Stewart and Andruw Jones did not. Minor league free agent signings like Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise contributed while midseason pickups like Chad Qualls, Casey McGehee, and Steve Pearce were non-factors. Derek Lowe worked out fine after being plucked off the scrap heap in August.

The Yankees made one significant midseason move, acquiring Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners for two young arms. The 39-year-old agreed to a set of conditions prior to joining the team, specifically that he would move over to left field, bat towards the bottom of the order, and sit against tough lefties. Ichiro performed so well (.322/.340/.454, 114 wRC+) that he forced his way into regular playing time and a higher spot in the lineup by the end of the season. Even Ichiro’s biggest detractors (i.e. me) have to admit he gave the team a big shot in the arm down the stretch.

At the same time, I do feel the Yankees dragged their fit a bit making in-season upgrades. Obviously Brett Gardner‘s three setbacks contributed to that, but the team also didn’t act swiftly when it was obvious bullpen help was needed. Both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson went down with injuries in May, then a few weeks later Cory Wade completely imploded. The only help they brought in before the deadline was Qualls, who predictably stunk. It appeared as though the Yankees were counting on Joba Chamberlain‘s return from elbow and ankle surgery to shore up the bullpen, whether that was actually the case or not.

The Yankees intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014, and the front office has major work to do these next 15 months or so to make that happen. The Pineda trade was, by far, the team’s most long-term move this year and so far the worst case scenario has played out. The right-hander’s ability to rebound following shoulder surgery may be the biggest factor in getting under the luxury tax threshold. The Kuroda signing and Ichiro trade worked out marvelously this year, but fair or not, the performance of the front office going forward will be heavily influenced by the results of that swap with the Mariners.

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Scouting The Free Agent Market: Scott Hairston
Stark: Deal imminent between Yankees and Rivera
  • Miked

    I agree, they did drag their fit a bit

  • BigJoe

    Cash made some very nice moves and Montero for Pineda is still “incomplete”. Montero was not great this year.

    I’m down on Damon Openheimer and their scouting department. Yanks have not drafted well in a long, long time. Look at some of their 1st, 2nd, 3rd round selections over the last 10 years. How many of these guys are major leaguers? They’ve done well scouting and signing foreign players but their drafts have been poor

    • Preston

      Well just looking at the first round Ian Kennnedy, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are all major league players. Their last five picks are still in the system and shouln’t be written off yet, although I don’t hold out much hope for Bleich or Culver. Hindsight shows that drafting Gerrit Cole was good scouting even though he didn’t sign. None of the second round picks are in the big leagues, but Romine, Murphy, Gumbs, Obrien and Aune are all nice prospects. In the third we drafted Zach Mcallister and Brett Gardner and David Adams and Jordan Cote are legit prospects. So while picks like Brackmanm, CJ Henry and Culver make management look like poor drafters, I just don’t think that’s the reality.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yep. I would also bet that some of the hits like IPK, AJax, Melancon, Kontos… being traded causes people to ding Opp (probably subconsciously), even though it has nothing to do with him drafting those guys. Guys like Cole and Fister not signing is somewhat on him, but like you say it wasn’t a scouting issue. The draft budget is also something that I doubt Opp has much control over. So while some people wanted to see the Yankees get Castellanos (say) and still sign everyone else, it might not have been possible for Opp.

    • Ted Nelson

      I totally disagree. I think that by any reasonable standard Opp does an excellent job.

      I’m not sure what your expectations are, but I get the feeling that they might be unrealistically high. About 20% of late first rounders make any real MLB impact, and it declines from there.

      Opp has been in his position since 2005. All the drafts from 2009 to date I think you have to give an incomplete at this point. A HS kid taken in 2009 is 3 years out of HS… just drafted JR or returning SR is he opts for college. Even 2008 is really early to judge.

      It’s so early that there’s not much value in judging, but 2010 and 2011 have some potential gems. 2010 was a banner year. Austin, Williams, and Gumbs were all taken in 2010. Gumbs in the 2nd round and Williams got 1st round money in the 4th. 2011 included Bichette, Cote, Bird, Cave, Montgomery, Rookie Davis, Pinder, Sharp, Camarena… lots of upside there, but only one full year, mostly in short-season.

      If you do want to include 2009… the first three were Slade, JR Murphy, and Adam Warren… really hard to complain about that haul at this point. 3 picks, 3 potential MLB players 3 years later. Later picks included Stoneburner and Bryan Mitchell.

      2008 included Adams (3rd), CoJo (4th), Marshall (6th), DJ Mitchell (10th), Phelps (14th), and Turley (50th). Both the first and second picks are basically DQs, as Cole didn’t sign and Bleich got injured. Both may have developed into MLB players for the Yankees, but things outside of their control prevented that.

      2007 they tried the strategy a lot of people on here seem to prefer, blowing their wad on Brackman and Suttle. Backfired. Romine could easily be a successful 2nd rounder, though. If you go 10 picks in either direction (arbitrary cutoff, but trying to give an idea of similarly valued picks) there are 3 other guys who have debuted, only one with a positive bWAR to date (Lucroy). Lucroy and Matt Harvey are the only 3rd rounders from 2007 with more than 0.7 bWAR to date (Romine was the last pick in the 2nd, so no one else in the 2nd was an option when the Yankees picked).

      2006 was another banner year. 3 picks in the first 3 rounds, 3 guys who have played in MLB: IPK, Joba, and McAllister. In fact, each of their top 5 picks has made an MLB appearance. Later picks include DRob, Betances, Melancon, Kontos, McCutchen.

      2005 Gardner was their 3rd rounder. Henry netted them Abreu, and Cox was an exciting prospect before injuries. Their later picks included AJax, Fister (unsigned 6th rounder, Kroenke, and Pendelton.

      All told that’s a pretty good hit rate in the top 3 rounds, and overall.

  • Miked

    Unfortunately the front office has to receive a poor grade based on the montero trade alone. I giving up you best prospect in the last couple years for someone who may never pitch for you? That’s about As bad as it gets.

    Calling in incomplete is laughable, take you blinders off. If you buy a stock at 100 and it drops to 4 you don’t get an incomplete because you have sold it and realized your loss yet.

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

      who MAY never pitch for you. So even by your own evaluation of the trade your stock comparison is flawed. A better/more complete comparison would be you bought a stock at a hundred and it unexpectedly dropped to 4 but there is still a real chance for it to come back even stronger in the next quarter or year.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I found the “best prospect in a couple of years” part really funny. That’s not exactly high praise.

        • Miked

          Yeah, feeling what a moron. Realistically the best since jeter

          • Robinson Tilapia

            That was certainly said by some. Robbie wasn’t as heralded, but here he still is.

      • Steve

        There’s a VERY real chance that he’s coming back stronger in the next year? The next year being 2013? That’s about as optimistic as it gets. Consider him pitching even league average “in the next year” as a major win

        • Steve

          And now realizing you didn’t say the word I capitalized. Point still stands though, I just look like an idiot

      • Miked

        Um, that was my point. The stock could run up to 200, but that’s highly unlikely and it was still a horrible stock trade. Disagreeing is like saying lottery tickets are a good value because it could be worth millions.

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

          The difference is though, we didn’t trade any known quantity for that stock, it’s almost like we traded an IPO for actual stock that then died (I wonder if you can either do that, because I’m a stocks newb) Also the odds of Pineda being league average are far better then the odds of winning the lottery.

          • Miked

            Yeah I hear what you’re saying. I just really hated that deal at the time and it’s doubly frustrating to see how it’s playing out

    • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

      Bold assumption that Montero was a $100 stock in the first place. He was great in 2011 in the SMALLEST of sample sizes and we sold high on him for a pitcher who had a phenomenal (full) rookie season

      I would say you swapped $50 stocks with the Mariners, Montero dropped to $20 and Pineda is down to $5. Neither team is ‘winning’ right now.

      Take YOU blinders off!

      • Miked

        Lol. I 100 or 50 makes no difference and doesn’t reflect the value of the company.

        And if you think Pineda had a great full year you must have stopped following baseball at the asb

        • jjyank

          ….or you must only focus on one statistic when evaluating a player.

        • http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/html/home/home.shtml The Big City of Dreams

          When it comes to Pineda the best thing to do is forget about him, let him rehab, and whatever they get over the next few yrs is a bonus

    • Ted Nelson

      Wrong on so many levels.

      For one thing Pineda is not at 4. If you look at guys with similar injuries, there’s a decent chance he recovers. I would ignorantly guess anywhere from 25-50% from the list of similar injuries. Anibal Sanchez is often cited as the most comparable injury.

      For another, if you’re holding what you feel is an undervalued stock… you don’t sell. The injury and recover

      You don’t judge trades in baseball in hindsight. You judge them based on the available info at the time. Certainly results have to come into play a little, but injury is the ultimate example of an uncontrollable variable.

      Finally, these are not established stocks. This is more like VC. Not a good analogy.

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

        “You don’t judge trades in baseball in hindsight. You judge them based on the available info at the time.”

        Totally disagree. Good intentions don’t mean a thing if the end result isn’t acceptable. The bottom line is what counts and how a GM should be judged ultimately.

        That being said, obviously Cashman can’t be held accountable for an injury that occurred after the trade was made and I was in favor of him trading for Pineda.

        In this case, based upon what has been reported about Pineda’s medical information at the time of the trade, Cashman was just the recipient of some really shitty bad luck.

        • Preston

          So you don’t fault him for the trade not working out, but you think the trade should be judged on results?

          It entirely depends on what you’re judging the trades for. If the point is just to follow the team and bitch when things go bad, cheer when they go good, I guess that’s fine. But at this point with Pineda it feels like everbody is beating a dead horse. If the point is to analyze your decision making process to make better trades going forward than it’s not useful to use information learned after the trade to judge it. It’s about coming up with the best process. I find no fault in the process that led them to trade for Pineda, so I can’t fault the trade. I hope Cashman pursues similar trades in the future.

        • Ted Nelson

          “The bottom line is what counts and how a GM should be judged ultimately.”

          Like I said, it plays into it. Over a large enough sample size, it could be everything. Few GMs get that sort of sample in a given stint in a job, though. They make one big move every few years. Luck can play into the results in a huge way. Even with a GM like Cashman, the “what have you done for me lately” results are largely luck. You should judge them on the quality of their moves (and the way they manage the organization), not the luck that’s out of their control.

          The comment I responded to, for example, specifically wanted to fry Cashman for an injury.

        • Laz

          I agree. I wasn’t sold that Montero would be the everyday catcher for the Yankees. They already had a 1B for a long time, and arod and jeter figure to get significant time at DH. Also if you can get a stud pitcher like that for a DH you do it.

          Who knows what will happen, but it didn’t look like there would be room for Montero and there still wouldn’t be. Ibanez was better than Montero last year anyways, Out of Montero’s first 6 years of control, we already know we did not lose anything on year 1 for either of them. Lets just hope the next 5 years are better.

          • Ted Nelson

            Montero was better than Ibanez’s overall line outside of Safeco and probably would have been better than that in YS3… while Ibanez was completely awful outside YS3… so Montero might have been considerably better than Ibanez in a full season with the Yankees. Of course, Ibanez played a lot of OF.

            There’s always room for a good hitter. Yankees had 360 PAs from Jones, Pearce, and McGehee, for example. Taking DH and 1B PAs from them plus Ibanez and maybe some C PAs from Stewart, I think Montero could have added plenty of value.

            And good hitters are far more consistent than good Ps, since Ps tend to get hurt.

      • YanksFanInBeantown

        The list of comparable injuries is: Anibal Sanchez, Jose Valverde, Roger Clemens and Wade Miller.

        Wade Miller is not a good comp because he was so much older at the time.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    It felt like mostly par for the course as roster management goes, with a thus-far major swing-and-a-miss with Pineda. If you love, or hate, how Cashman does things, 2012 wasn’t going to change your mind much either way. Ichiro felt like a classic stretch-run move, and I thought it paid off.

    While I’m no one to try to properly diagnose what, why, etc., I’m hopeful as to the transition with the minor league pitching team.

    I liked this year’s draft. Feeling hopeful about Hensley, Aune, and the DRob-like relievers.

    • Steve (different one)

      There is no sugar coating the results of the Montero trade so far, but the idea of the trade was rooted in Cashman’s directive from above to make the $189M. A million words have been typed on the merits of this idea, but I’m not sure Cashman makes that trade without that directive. Not saying he wouldn’t have traded Montero for a pitcher, but without the $189M, he likely targets a more proven pitcher and relies on deep pockets to get an extension done. That’s more his MO.

      So even evaluating a failed trade gets very complicated.

      I think Cashman is doing a pretty good job of keeping the team competitive while not being able to sign players past 2014. I think next year has some ugliness potential, but it’s clear that this is what his bosses have told him are his constraints.

      • Ted Nelson

        I tend to disagree. Having an equivalent cheap bat would be just as attractive under the $189 million plan. In fact, Pineda should hit arb in 2015… so he is less attractive if their talent is the same.

        I think Cashman necessarily thought Pineda was the more valuable player, whether for his production or just position.

        I also think you’re overblowing a 10% reduction in payroll. They’re not gutting the roster. This is not the Marlins. He’s facing one or two trade-offs. Not handcuffed.

        • Preston

          “I also think you’re overblowing a 10% reduction in payroll. They’re not gutting the roster. This is not the Marlins. He’s facing one or two trade-offs. Not handcuffed.”

          People talking about the 189 cap, usually seem to be under the impression that the Yankees have just been spending wildly for whatever they want and operate without a budget. They do have a budget, they always have, they are making a small reduction to their budget because of the new CBA. They aren’t going to drastically decrease spending and never sign another big FA again.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            Isn’t the actual number somewhere around 170-179?

            • Ted Nelson

              They were at $198 million this season. To $170 million that would be 14.1%, to 179 million it would be 9.6%.

              • http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/html/home/home.shtml The Big City of Dreams

                I understand but I’m saying everyone mentions the payroll limit being 189 when in reality it has to be around 170-179

        • The Big City of Dreams

          No they aren’t gutting the roster but they are in a shaking position. Number of players old or impending free agents.

  • Jersey Joe

    I think Cody Eppley deserves a say in this. He had a really good start to the season and it was a nice, sneaky pickup IMO.

    • Miked

      Yes an excellent pickup. Still overshadowed by the Pineda deal

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Mike, do we needle you for not mentioning Kontos/Stewart here now, or later? We know this was your favorite transaction of 2012.

  • Steve (different one)

    Serious question, what significant bullpen upgrades changed hands at the deadline? I will concede that I could be missing some obvious candidates, but I do not recall an active relief market. Brandon League? Who else should the Yankees have spent chips on?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I do slightly disagree with the feet-dragging part Mike stated. No, there were no significant additions, but the pieces that were in place held the fort well enough that, while we certainly got a scare from the O’s, the team won the division.

    • jjyank

      Dempster, off the top of my head. But that turned out to be a pretty good non-move.

      • jjyank

        Oh, you said bullpen. Nevermind.

    • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

      Bullpen? nah… no real bullpen moves this past July

  • BJZ1154

    Speaking of the front office, what type of package would Cashman have to put together to get Michael Morse away from the Nats with Span headed to town?

  • BJZ1154

    I do realize that Morse could slide to 1B if LaRoche doesn’t re-sign.

  • Adam

    I just read on Yanks LoHud that if the Yanks were to go 3 years for Russell Martin it would serve as a sign that Romine is not suited for Catcher.

    If thats the case, you’d have many catching prospects over the last few years that will have not panned out. Who is developing these guys? This guy should be fired. The catching prospects were a strength on the farm and now look at it.

    Yes Sanchez has potential, but if past performance is any indication, I’d be rushing to deal him.

    • jjyank

      I’m not sure I follow. Montero was never a good catcher, and it was pretty much always assumed he would have to move to 1B/DH at some point. Romine had back problems, but otherwise I haven’t heard why he isn’t suited to catch. And if that’s the reason…why would you fire someone because a player has a back problem?

      Is that it? Who am I missing that was so badly screwed up?

    • Ted Nelson

      FIRE EVERYONE!!!!

      Romine has serious back issues… that’s unlikely to have anything to do with the Yankees.

      Who else didn’t develop as expected? Cervelli and Montero developed almost exactly as expected. Going back further Dioner has had a nice career, and the Yankees dealt him pretty young anyway. Murphy’s defense has improved considerably. Sanchez is a stud prospect.

      So… zero prospects?

    • Steve (different one)

      Since your first sentence is not necessarily true (see Girardi and Posada 1997-1999), your premise is flawed.

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

      This is just further proof that the VAST majority of “prospects” at all positions usually flame out before making it to the majors.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      FIRE THE TEXAS RANGERS!

  • Thunder Road Runner

    This is a must! With such aging, fragile pitchers, it’s almost a given that they will be on the DL at some point this year

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    The 2008 draft had Bittle in the 3rd, who was hurt and didn’t sign, producing the Murphy comp pick. That draft has a lot of remaining potential, especially given what was spent.

  • dan gen

    189,189,189,189,189,189,189,189……………..are u sick of it….good….i will continue to remind you….