Mailbag: Wells, Soriano, Giambi, Teixeira

Open Thread: 3/28 Camp Notes
The RAB Radio Show: March 29, 2013

Four questions and four answers this week, the final mailbag before Opening Day. Hooray for that. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ryan asks: The Vernon Wells trade … will essentially be the Yankees paying an above average one-year deal with help in the second year. My question is, where was this in the offseason, when they could have overpaid for one-year deals? Is this simply because they learned that Mark Teixeira‘s salary would be paid by the World Baseball Classic and freed up extra money?

I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost are the injuries — the Yankees probably didn’t think they needed any more help in the offseason because they were already good enough. That’s a dangerous way to think as we see now thanks to all the lost players and recent scrambling. Secondly is the WBC money, since it is a nice chunk of change they’re getting back. Then again, spending those savings (and potentially more) on Wells might not have been the brightest idea.

Brian Cashman made it pretty clear Wells will be the team’s everyday left fielder while Curtis Granderson is out — “So the rest of these guys are fighting for support positions,” said the GM to Chad Jennings — and I can’t help but think the team views him as a Granderson replacement for 2014. Maybe Wells will play his way out of that role, who knows. The Yankees have had a lot of success with these veteran scrap heap pickups in recent years, but dropping $13.9M on a player is beyond a scrap heap pickup to me. That’s a big commitment.

Matt asks: Hindsight being 20/20n, would you rather have Wells for the reported two years, $13.9 million or Alfonso Soriano for the same?

Soriano, no doubt about it. He was actually good last season, hitting .262/.322/.499 (116 wRC+) with 32 homers. Wells … hasn’t done anything close to that lately. There’s also some tangible evidence — switching to a lighter bat at in mid-May, at which point his production took off — suggesting Soriano’s revival was real and not a fluke. Even though he’s three years older than Wells, he’s much more productive.

The issue with Soriano is that the Cubs wanted a legitimate prospect in return. They didn’t consider it just a salary dump like the Angels did with Wells. It’s also unclear if they would have structured the money in such a way that Soriano would have counted as zero dollars towards the 2014 luxury tax threshold. I don’t want either player, but if I had to pick one I would rather give up an actual prospect to get the much better player. The Yankees obviously disagree.

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Mitch asks: Four years from now, which contract do you think will have been better for the Yankees — Mark Teixeira’s or Jason Giambi‘s?

It’s unfair to directly compare the contract terms — seven years, $120M vs. eight years, $180M — because of inflation and Collective Bargaining Agreement changes and all that. Let’s keep it to on-field performance.

Giambi hit .260/.404/.521 (145 wRC+) during his seven years in New York while Teixeira is at .263/.357/.506 (128 wRC+) after year four with four more to go. Forget the wrist injury, I don’t think there’s any way his offensive production would catch up to Giambi’s even if he was perfectly healthy. In terms of batting runs above average (wRAA), Tex is basically halfway to Giambi’s total in pinstripes in ~60% of the playing time (107.4 vs. 214.1).

The question now is whether Teixeira’s defense will be good enough to compensate for the offensive gap. Giambi was at -35 DRS and -22.4 UZR during those eight years with the Yankees while Teixeira is at +28 DRS and +19.6 UZR after year four. That’s a huge gap and that figures to only grow larger. Combining offense and defense, Giambi averaged +25.6 runs produced per year in pinstripes. Teixeira is at 33.9 per year. It’s a huge difference built largely on questionable defensive metrics. Giambi was a better hitter and I’m an offense first guy, so I’ll say his contract will go down as the better one for the Yankees with the obvious caveat that Tex still has four years to change things.

Fred asks: With six starting pitchers to start the season, and maybe seven if Michael Pineda actually returns at some point, doesn’t it make sense to employ a six-man rotation every two or three turns through the rotation? With CC Sabathia‘s innings load being an issue, plus the ages of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, doesn’t it make sense to insert whoever the sixth starter is a couple times a month to help soak up innings, keep the other guys fresh? It basically means the top five starters go about two or three less starts for the year and the sixth man gets about a dozen starts. Helps everyone no?

Well, let’s see all the starters get healthy at the same time before we start worrying about this. Phil Hughes has return from his bulging disk before anything can happen, and who knows how that will go. This also assumes all six (or seven) starters are actually effective and worthy of making starts. Someone is bound to disappoint, it’s just usually how it goes.

Now, that said, yeah I do think the Yankees should consider sliding in a sixth starter now and then just to take the load off Sabathia and, in particular, Pettitte. They could use off days to push them back a bit or even skip them entirely if fatigue becomes an issue. It’s a difficult thing to balance because the theoretical sixth starter has the remain stretched out, and if he’s the long man they’ll lose him out of the bullpen for a few days. If he’s in the minors they’ll have to make sure he’s lined up properly to pitch on whatever days. As I said, Pettitte is the big one for me since he hasn’t thrown a full season since 2009. The Yankees should monitor him carefully throughout the summer.

Open Thread: 3/28 Camp Notes
The RAB Radio Show: March 29, 2013
  • Countryclub

    I’m worried about Nova. I was expecting a bounce back yr for him. Maybe 170+ innings with a 3.50 – 4.00 era. I generally take little from ST results, but something about his performance is especially troubling. Does he have an option left? I can see him getting sent down when Hughes comes back.

    • trr

      I beieve he does, but I don’t think he’ll be sent dowm.
      However, if there’s any major dealing at the deadline, (and everyone else is healthy!) I wouldn’t be shocked to see him dealt.
      Then again, with the 2014 payoll limit looming, they may hold on to him mo matter what

      • Travis L.

        I’d rather see them deal Nova instead of Phelps. Not sure why, but I always thought more of Phelps. When they called up Nova in 2010, I was shocked to see him instead of Phelps. All told though, I’d like to see what a rotation of Sabathia, Phelps, Nova, Pineda and (Marshall, Nuno, Tracy) could be like. I’m sure it would be frightening for a while, but smooth out eventually.


        • Slugger27

          uhhh…. phelps is older than nova.

          • Travis L.

            Not to be shitty, but…what did that have to do with my post? Or am I missing something?

            • Slugger27

              i thought “toomuchfaithintheyoung” was an argument for phelps over nova.

              re-reading it in context, it was more likely directed at your proposed sabathia and 4 kids rotation. my bad.

              • Travis L.

                It was. Its all good! As much as I would love to see the young guys in the rotation, it just seems like it would also pain me. lol.

        • Scott

          Travis, next year you’ll get your wish (& I’m excited to see it for the same reason) of a rotation of Sabathia/Phelps/Nova/Pineda/RealityShowWinner. It’s fun to see young pitchers develop, and that’s a pretty solid rotation: Sabathia is a #1; Phelps/Nova have shown they’ll be at least solid/average, with some upside for both (a little more for Nova); Pineda could be anywhere from a #1 for the Yanks to starting for the Long Island Ducks.

          My guess is that if Phelps/Nova/Pineda are solid-to-good this year, the Yanks might actually feel comfortable giving the #5 spot to a rookie — but more likely (I fear) they’ll sign some 36 yr-old journeyman as “insurance,” then Girardi will give him the spot…

    • Eddard

      Nova and Phelps aren’t going anywhere when Hughes returns. Phelps will become the long man in the pen and will be an integral part of the bridge to Robertson and Mariano. Nova is the 5th starter. If he has an ERA in the 4s that’s what a 5th starter does.

  • jjyank

    Regarding the 6th starter thing, it should also be mentioned that pitchers are creatures of habit. Some guys don’t pitch well when they get knocked out of their normal rhythms. I don’t know if this would necessarily manifest itself in any real way in this scenario, but I think it’s worth bringing up. Balancing health, effectiveness, and fatigue will be a key part to this season, given that pitching is a strength.

    This is a problem we should want to have anyway. If the Yankees have 6 healthy, effective starters, that’s a good thing.

    • Travis L.

      Didnt Sabathia pitch worse when they employed the six man rotation back in 2011 (toward the end of the year)?

      • jjyank

        Yeah, I think so. That memory is why I thought about the rhythm thing. I’m sure it’s also true that some guys would pitch better with more rest, but I would be hesitant to employ a 6 man rotation on a regular or semi-regular basis.

  • Eddard

    Giving Wells $13 million tells you everything you need to know about the competency of this F.O.

    I’d rather have neither. Soriano and Wells are both past their prime has beens who make too much money so I guess both fit in well here.

    Teixera’s will be better. He contributed to a ring, Giambi didn’t.

    6 man rotation would be a good idea as long as it doesn’t interfere with CC’s routine. I doubt the other pitchers would be affected much and would probably welcome the additional rest.

    • Travis L.

      I’m sure Cashman kicked the tires on Soriano before the Wells signing, but knowing Epstein, he probably wanted to eat less and get more, simply based on:
      1. its the Yankees
      2. they are desperate
      Which is probably why they chose Wells.

      • Hoss

        The only thing Cashman kicked the tires on lately was his new Porsche.
        Funny how that ‘old’ article that was on RAB a few days ago about Cashman’s heroics in not making the Santana trade in 2008 just showed up on Major League Trade Rumors ( Now why would ‘old news’ keep showing up like that?
        Funny how Brian’s shit detector wasn’t working when he signed Feliciano to a 2-year $8 million deal. Pedro threw exactly 0 pitches for the Yankees and Brian later said that the Mets “abused” him. Or signing Nick Johnson to replace Hideki Matsui as DH. Nick lasted until May of 2010 before suffering yet another season-ending injury, which was entirely predictable given his history.
        Put blame where it belongs, on a garbage FO.

        • jjyank

          “The only thing Cashman kicked the tires on lately was his new Porsche.”

          Unless you’re actually stalking the man, I’m pretty sure you have no idea what you’re talking about. You must have really loved that dog that he ran over.

          • Hoss

            1. I’m not stalking the man
            2. I never had a dog
            3. He ran over the Yankees

            • jjyank

              If you say so.

            • pat

              Lol, yes it was HIS idea to get under the luxury tax. ALL HIS FAULT I SAY!

    • Steve (different one)

      No, it doesn’t tell you “everything” you need to know.

      What if, you know, Wells is actually very good this year? I don’t think that will happen, but if it does, it tells us something completely different than you think it does.

      I am frustrated by the way the money flowed this offseason. I could have accepted the fact that Hal put the clamps on the budget. But this last minute splurge is so bizarre.

      Ocham’s razor tells me that Cash didn’t have the go ahead to spend early in the offseason, and it was only because of the WBC money that he was allowed to spend. That doesn’t mean he should have spent it on Vernon Wells, but it was really too late at that point to do anything else. That’s the annoying part.

      As for Soriano, I need to know the name of this “actual prospect” before I know which scenario I would have preferred.

      • Slugger27

        an occams razor reference. wow.

        and here we thought RAB was getting dumber.

    • Vern Sneaker

      My take is that it’s all about signing Cano. They’re big-time hoping Wells produces,because they pay him next to nothing next year and thus all of Grandy’s salary is free for Cano (I think most agree Grandy won’t be back) and in ’15 they’re hoping one of the prospects can replace Wells if he’s not useful any more.

      • Scott

        Interesting – you’re probably right; it’s all about whatever saves the money for Cano.

  • Travis L.

    Non-mailbag related question about roster moves… Can anyone see Eppley and Demel being DFA’d, with maybe Rapada going to the 60-day? I know Rapada is under team control for a few years and he is truly excellant against lefties, but I almost would DFA him as well, considering we have Rondon on the 40-man, Cabral healing, and Cedeno and Nuno in the minors if we really need another lefty behind Logan. What are everyone’s thoughts on this?

    Sorry for going off topic.

    • Dan

      The problem is that at least with Nuno and Rondon, is that they both have greater value as starters and it appears the Yankees are going to give them every chance to let them succeed as a starter before turning them into a reliever. Also, Cabral and Logan both have injury concerns, so DFA’ing Rapada could leave them without a viable option. I could seem them DFA’ing Rapada once Cabral is ready to be called up, but I don’t think they will do it before then. Also, with the value of lefty specialists, I think they should be able to find a trading partner to at least get something back for him instead of just outright releasing him.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Agree that Nuno should be a starter. When Cleveland released him after his high ERA season in the low minors (though his other metrics were good), he had no changeup. That’s the pitch that made him into a prospect and I don’t think it translates well in the pen.

      • Travis L.

        I understand completely, although I think Rondon is better suited as a reliever (not LOOGY though). Has anything been said whether Rapada will get placed on the 15 or 60 day DL?

  • Steve (different one)

    Also don’t think it’s fair to compare Teixeira’s offense to Giambi’s since we know Giambi’s numbers are juiced by PEDs. Without PEDs, Giambi’s aging curve maybe looks more like Teixeira’s.

    • Vern Sneaker

      Or maybe more like Kevin Maas.

  • Jeff

    Whether it’s Trashman’s fault, or Hal’s, or a combination of both, the current state of the team is an utter embarrassment. Nevermind the injuries. Stuff happens and the Yankees just happened to run into a little more bad luck than what’s typical this spring. But this goes way beyond that. As Mike has succinctly said, the team willfully downgraded this year. Chris Stewart is in line to start 2 or 3 out of every 5 games. That had nothing to do with an injury. That was the organization choosing to roster a sub replacement level garbage player at a crucial position. Jayson Nix is expected to get regular playing time, possibly even a platoon role. That’s partly due to injuries but also partly due to bad planning. These are not the New York Yankees of the past 20 years. As a fan I’ll hope for the best no matter what but the decreased emphasis on trying to win it all is obvious. All of this would be more forgivable if the shortcomings weren’t so easily fixable by stretching the budget a little and dropping / delaying the189M plan. Be the Yankees again.

    • jjyank

      I’m sorry, but when the third word of your comment is “Trashman”, that’s a signal for a lot of people to just not read what you have to say.

      Just FYI.

      • Jeff

        Then by all means don’t read it. I’ll stop mocking his name when he stops rounding out the roster with other team’s garbage. Until then I think it suits him.

        • jjyank

          Well aren’t you just so mature.

    • Mike HC

      I assume when the season starts everyone will start blaming Girardi as well if the team gets off to a slow start.

      Bottom line is that the team got ravaged by injuries. But heads must roll. You see it all the time in sports.

  • mt

    As for Soriano, if we still paid about $14 million what if that trade return would have to be Slade H or someone like Phelps? I am not sure Cubs would accept crappy prospects (like the Wells trade) for Soriano if Cubs would have to still kick in $20-30 million (not sure of Soriano’s total cost).

    For $14 million dollars would Yankee fans prefer to have Al Soriano (less a Heathcott or a Phelps) or V Wells (less 2 crappy prospects)? Also whether we like it or not frontloading Yankee expense to 2013 (which was a perfect match for Angels who were looking to move further away from 2013 cap) was probably a critical factor in Vernon Wells’ favor. I am sure yankee fan response would be: neither.

    Soriano may be viewed as shaky but he was a 116+ RC last year.

    I just still wonder whether Yanks could have pieced together young non-star prospect AAA folks (Mesa, Mustellier) and other less expensive rejects (Riveras, Franciscos, Boeschs) together to get by without laying out so much for Wells. Wells is going to have to be really good to be $10-12 million better than that hodgepodge of alternatives.

    The real test will be when a Willingham, Morneau, Kubel or Cuddyer type (all present or former Minnesota Twins) becomes available later this year and our offense is struggling (possibly because Tex/Grandy/Arod not back or ineffective) – will we have a budget to go after any of these people or will Vernon Wells expenditure mean there are in effect no funds available for more help in 2013?

    On a related note that is only somewhat hindsight because I preferred him at the time, but especially with Tex injury, Mark Reynolds (who actually plays a really good 1st base) might have been a better choice for 3B. I had held out hope that since Youkilis was supposed to be far superior to Reynolds defensively at 3B that justified the extra cost for Youkilis (I think Reynolds makes $6 mm or so while Youkilis makes $12 million): however, after watching spring training Youkilis is not good either. Reynolds may be worse at 3B but does have plus power.

    • Slugger27

      are you implying heathcott would be worth more in a trade than phelps? im not so sure about that…

      anyway, i think either one of them is too good to give up for soriano if the yankees are paying $14M. maybe an adam warren, cojo package i guess.

  • Scott

    If the Cubs wanted a middling prospect for Soriano I wonder whether ADAMS could’ve been that prospect….

  • RobA

    Buster just tweeted hes “hearing rumblings of major news” with more to follow.

    Remember that thing buddy tweeted about PED’s? The guy who was 1for 1 on PED suspension calls? The one that most here didnt even want to discuss it because it was so ridiculous?

    Yeah Im sure its not that.

    • Mike Axisa


    • Havok9120

      You mean that thing that spawned a couple threads and several hundred comments over the course of 2 or 3 days that no one wanted to talk about?

      Just because we stopped responding to you repeating yourself doesn’t mean we refused to talk about it. It just means that there was no new information and we stopped talking about it.

  • mick taylor

    no way giambi was more valuable to yanks than tex. tex helped them win the world series in 2009 giambi may have been the prime reason we lost in 2003 world series and 2004 playoffs despite his 2 home run game against the sox in 2003. if he hits the way he should have yanks problably win another title.