Mailbag: Castellanos, Cuddyer, Pacheco, Maxwell

MLB announces in-season blood testing for HGH
Jennings: Yankees have "nothing alive" in Morse talks

Got five questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box (in the sidebar) is the best way to send us stuff.

(Jamie Squire/Getty)

Conor asks: Would trading one of Tyler Austin, Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott for Nick Castellanos make sense for both teams? The Tigers are going to have him move to right field since they have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the infield corners. Seems that trading him for a player whose already demonstrated he can play the outfield is a better idea.

Now that’s interesting. Castellanos is a one of the best prospects in baseball — Baseball America ranked him 11th overall while Keith Law ranked him 18th in their midseason updates — thanks to a career .316/.367/.443 batting line with 17 homers in 276 minor league games. Baseball America recently ranked him as Detroit’s top prospect, saying he’s “[o]ne of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues” in their subscriber-only scouting report. Since Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez are clogging the infield corners and DH spot, the Tigers shifted Castellanos from third base to right field this past July. Baseball America said “he could be an average outfielder” with experience.

The Yankees have plenty of high-end outfield prospects as you mentioned, as both Williams (#28) and Austin (#39) cracked Baseball America’s midseason update (Williams made Law’s, which was only 25 players deep). New York would probably have to kick in a little something extra, but a Castellanos-for-Williams trade (for example) isn’t outrageous at all. Both have their own red flags (Williams is coming off shoulder surgery, Castellanos strikes out a lot for a guy who hasn’t shown much power yet), but Castellanos doesn’t have an obvious spot with the Tigers while Williams would be coming from a position of depth. Prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen because every team loves their prospects more than everyone else’s, but I do think a swap like this makes some sense for both clubs.

Jason asks: Just wondering what you would think of a possible Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, or David Phelps trade to the Rockies for either Michael Cuddyer or Jordan Pacheco. I think Pacheco fits perfectly with NYYs needs. Right-handed outfielder and third basemen and can even fake catcher at times. The Rockies need starting pitching badly.

I wouldn’t touch Cuddyer. He’s 33 years old and he was just barely a league average hitter (102 wRC+) in Coors Field last season. Plus he spent nearly half the year on the DL and isn’t anything special on defense despite the supposed versatility. The Rockies can have fun with that $21M he’s owed over the next two seasons, no way would I want the Yankees to give up something of value for that.

Pacheco, on the other hand, makes some sense. He turns 27 later this month and is a .306/.338/.413 career hitter in 593 plate appearances. Don’t get too excited, that’s only a 91 wRC+ because Coors has turned back into a launching pad. Pacheco always had strong walk rates in the minors (10%+), but it’s dipped to just 4.2% in the show. I’m not sure what that’s about. He can play the three non-shortstop infield spots adequately and catch in an emergency, plus he’s under team control for another five years. I’m not giving up Hughes, Nova, or Phelps for a bench player though, Colorado would have to be willing to take something less.

(Bob Levey/Getty)

John asks: Since the Yankees need a cost controlled right-handed outfield bat for 2013 (and 2014) does it makes sense to target someone like Justin Maxwell? He has power and is slightly above average defensively. Sure he doesn’t take a walk and his contact rate isn’t that good but a relatively young, arbitration-eligible (until 2017) 4th outfielder/platoon bat with some decent speed, defense and power doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me…your thoughts?

The Yankees had the 29-year-old Maxwell in camp last season, but he was out of minor league options and they lost him on waivers to the Astros at the end of Spring Training. He put together a 107 wRC+ overall with Houston, but was especially tough on southpaws: .272/.387/.505 (144 wRC+). Maxwell has some Andruw Jones in him (the old version, not the Braves version) because he hits for big power (.232 ISO), will draw a walk (9.1%), and can strike out with the best of ’em (32.4%). Andruw actually has more favorable rates, but Maxwell will steal the occasional base and is better on defense.

Clearly the Yankees should have dumped Jones and kept Maxwell last year, but that’s a pure hindsight statement. Maxwell is a platoon player on the short-end of the playing time stick and should be treated as such. The Yankees shouldn’t have to overpay to get him back just because. If the Astros will take a Grade-B prospect, sure. I wouldn’t go much higher, we’re not talking about Mike Trout here. Maxwell is under team control for another few years and that’s nice, but I don’t focus too much on years of control when talking about bench guys (and relievers). They rarely stick around that long anyway.

Anonymous asks: Given that college baseballs apparently travel less in the air and have higher seams (which make breaking balls more effective), how would you evaluate college players in light of this? Would you downgrade fly ball pitchers and/or pitchers with less velocity (i.e., more reliant on breaking balls)? Would you give extra credit to hitters who had success against breaking balls?

It’s not just college balls, the balls they use in the minors are different than the ones they use in the big leagues as well. Craig Hansen and Bryce Cox were two guys who threw vicious breaking balls in school but couldn’t get the ball to move the same way as a professional, so they flamed out. Teams are obviously aware of this and I don’t really know how they address it. I’m guessing each club does it a different way. Preferably you’d see a pitcher several times (high school, college, summer league, private workout, etc.) before the draft, giving you plenty of chances (with different balls) to evaluate him. Hitters who can hit breaking balls tend to grade out well anyway, but I’m not sure if you’d give him extra credit for doing it against a college ball. I don’t really know the answer to this question, but the difference in balls (this applies to Japan and Korea as well) is something teams must consider when evaluating a player.

Chris asks: Would you consider new aged sabermetrics a “performance-enhancer”? 25 years ago players were judged based on simple stats which were visible and tangible to the fan. RBI, HR, AVG etc. Now advanced metrics allow us to judge players on a whole new level. Wouldn’t you agree that certain platoon players would have not found jobs 25 years ago but do today because certain metrics say they can still hit lefties or are victims of bad ball in play luck?

“Performance-enchancer” implies that they’re helping the player perform better than they normally would. A player getting a job because some front office executive used stats to determine he was being undervalued doesn’t really qualify to me. Maybe if the player was using stats to improve his performance they would be considered a “performance-enhancer,” but I’m not sure how that would work. It’s not like a pitcher could independently focus on lowering his HR/FB% or something. Looking at stats is the same as looking at scouting reports for me.

Just as an aside: The term “performance-enhancer” itself bugs me because it carries far too many connotations. I wish they’d just stick to calling them banned substances. No need to automatically tag them as performance-enchancing when we don’t know how much they really help. Trust me, there have been plenty of players who improperly used PEDs and wound up hurting themselves more than they helped.

MLB announces in-season blood testing for HGH
Jennings: Yankees have "nothing alive" in Morse talks
  • Jim Is Bored

    I think I know where the comments in this thread are going to end up.

    Also, having read through and commented too late on yesterday’s trollfest, I have to say I’m glad I wasn’t there at the time. It’s a pity good conversations like the one between jj and LK can’t be the norm.

    • jjyank

      It could have been worse, I think. I may have gotten a bit of a frustrated tone in some of my comments myself, I’m just so damn tired of talking about the budget.

      • thenamestsam

        You don’t think it’s a little weird that you’d post 18 comments in a thread on the budget if you’re “just so damn tired of talking about the budget?” It would seem that one solution would be that you could just stop talking about it.

        • jjyank

          I don’t really have anything better to do at work sometimes. Don’t judge me.

          • jjyank

            You went back and looked up how many times I posted to make that point? I find that a little weird, to be honest.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              18.5, actually.

            • thenamestsam

              Takes 2 seconds using control+f. And I’m not judging you. Believe me I definitely find myself in the same boat from time to time. Just pointing out that it’s not entirely truthful to suggest that it’s only the people pissed off about the budget who are driving the constant conversation on the subject.

              • jjyank

                I never claimed it was.

          • Jim Is Bored


  • trr

    Am firmly against trading young, developing talent for aging players whose best days (which in reality weren’t really that great) are long behind them. That, and ridiculous long term contracts in which the Yanks seeningly only bid against themselves, are why we are in the mess we are today.

    • YanksFanInBeantown

      Good for you.

      What does that have to do with the article, though?

      • MannyGeee

        I see what he did there… I think he’s trying to qualify a AAAA outfielder in Justin Maxwell as young developing talent.

  • James

    Trade Dickerson for Maxwell

  • A.D.

    Let the Cito Culver pick bashing begin!

    • LK

      Everyone’s going to be eating their words when Culver wins the Cy Young in 2018.

    • jjyank

      Heh, that was one of my first thoughts as well.

    • rick

      when everyone passed on Castellanos and it was our pick and we picked unknown cito culver. I think most people that followed the Draft spit out what ever was in their mouth. That Brackman pick really scared of the Yankees going after anyone with a high ceiling/high money demands.

  • Mr. Pappageorgio

    What would the Yankees have to offer to equal what the Mariners offered for Upton?

    Do the Yankees even have the prospects to put together an equal package? If so, would you do it?

    • blake

      I’d guess: 2 of the top 4 prospects (Sanchez, Heathcott, Williams, Austin), plus either Nova or Phelps, Montgomery, and then maybe another player like Adams or Nunez.

      Its a tough comp because the Yankees don’t have a Walker or Hultzen to offer right now… they’d have to make up the value in other areas….and if Towers just wants a front line pitching prospect then the Yanks can’t really match that……Braves might be an easier fit as they have Teheran to deal.

      • LK

        It seems like what the D-Backs want is middle infield help and stud pitching prospects, so the Yanks aren’t really a great match. Arizona has too many OF already, so Austin/Williams/Heathcott might not have a ton of appeal. At this point a trade seems inevitable though, so maybe the price will come down.

        • Jim Is Bored

          I wonder if they’d consider Gumbs as an IF prospect?

        • jjyank

          I wonder how they value Nunez. I don’t claim to know much about other teams’ farm systems, so I don’t know how they match up really.

          • LK

            Yeah I was just going off of what was reported as the SEA package. I think the time to trade Nunez has probably passed – he’s likely too risky to bring back much value in a trade at this point, so you might as well hang on to him and hope he can figure out his defense.

            • Preston

              The Diambondbacks traded Chris Young for Cliff Pennington, I think they’re willing to roll the dice on a risky SS.

  • jjyank

    Question, and maybe a dumb one, but I don’t know the answer. Why do colleges use different balls anyway? I get that you should expect some differences in other countries, but it seems to make sense to use a standardized MLB ball in U.S. college programs, no? The again, they don’t use wood bats either.

    • Scully

      Well i’d also keep in mind that colleges don’t consider themselves a feeder system for MLB. It’s why many college pitchers get overworked and have arm troubles at a young age after being drafted.

      • jjyank

        True, I guess they don’t have any incentive to conform to MLB standards for equipment. Maybe they have those balls for the same reason they use aluminum bats, to make it more exciting? I dunno.

        • Mike HC

          If they are going to give hitters an advantage with aluminum bats, I guess it makes sense to give something to pitchers too, like a ball that breaks more easily. ???

          • Gonzo

            I think one of the reasons (justified or not) they give for aluminum bats is cost.

            • Mike HC

              True. No broken bats.

            • Preston

              MLB should offer to pay for all wood bats and balls in college. Sure it would probably cost millions, but it seems like a good way to make the transition easier, and they could say they are donating to charity (universities).

  • blake

    The Castellanos for Mason deal does make some sense for both sides….Tigers have Austin Jackson in CF though and you just rarely see these prospect for prospect deals happen.

    • Mike HC

      Yea, I didn’t think Williams would be a great fit for the Tigers because they already have our last stud CF prospect in Jackson. Maybe Tyler Austin and Boone “Melky+IPK” Logan (just kidding) would make more sense for them.

      • blake

        it’d be worth calling and asking….the Yanks need a long term solution at 3B pretty bad.

        • Mike HC

          I’m too busy negotiating the Nats down in order to get Morse. Maybe you can handle this one.

          • Gonzo


            Who’s working on the King Felix deal? WTF guys!!!

            • Mike HC

              Hal cut my fucking budget! I’m short staffed over here!

              • Robinson Tilapia

                I’ve got this dead old guy who rolled right over his grave on top of me!

  • pat

    Just throwing it out there, but Castellanos by himself ($3.45 mil) was signed for more than the price of Cito Culver (954k), Angelo Gumbs (750k), Tyler Austin (135k) and Mason Williams (1.45 mil) combined.

    Obviously we all agree that it’s ridiculous the Yankees gave themselves such a low budget during a time there was no limitations to how much they could spend. However, at this point it was out of Cashman and Oppenheimer’s hands and they had to operate under the constraints put in place by ownership. That being said I’d rather they spread it around and take a shot on 4 guys with high upsides rather than blowing it all on one.

    • LK

      Excellent point. Williams, Gumbs, and Austin is definitely preferable.

      I’ve also never really understood the whole draft budget thing under the old CBA. Any analysis you could do showed that drafted players were much cheaper than FAs. Shifting more cash to the draft seemed like a no-brainer. I wonder if there was something going on where the team was worried if they spent too much, it would generate motivation to change the system in CBA negotiations by the cheaper owners (which is of course what eventually happened anyway).

    • Reggie C.

      At the end of the day, we’ve all got to give Cito Culver a full 2013 before saying that the pick was a total waste. If Culver can hit league average at Low-A and demonstrate further improvement of his defensive play, then we’re talking about a potentially valuable cheap utility player in the farm.

      The boat has sailed on whether Culver will be good enough to be a ML regular, but it hasn’t sailed yet on whether he can improve his game just enough to play a utility role in a few years.

      But yes … the young man must show improvement from his 2012 season.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Kudos to Conor for at least coming up with a pretty novel idea with the Williams/Castellanos trade proposal. Certainly something we hadn’t seen pop up in the comment section at all.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Yeah, this was a rarity. A trade porposal that doesn’t suck!

  • Cofuzz

    Pete Rose mentioned Tracy Jones as a possible PED user who lost bat speed as a result of added bulk.
    Interesting point.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    I agree about the PED term.

    They should also come up with a new name for assault rifles. Many of them are used for recreational hunting.

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

      What could you possibly need an assault rifle to hunt, a sabre tooth tiger or maybe a T Rex?