Mailbag: Cliff Lee, Nick Hundley, Rob Refsnyder

Yankees acquire Alberto Gonzalez
5/10-5/12 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Only three questions this week, but the answers are kinda long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)
(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

John asks: With all the talk of the Phillies trading people like Cliff Lee at the deadline, do you think the Yankees would be interested? Right now next year’s rotation is CC Sabathia and every one else is a question mark.

I think that depends entirely on whether the team tries to go through with the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax limit in 2014 in beyond. If they want to give it a shot, forget about Lee. If they scrap the whole plan — as has been rumored already — then yeah, I do think they would be interested. Brian Cashman & Co. seem to be enamored with the lefty, first trying to trade for him then trying to sign him as a free agent.

Lee, 34, is not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but he’s still outstanding. Easily one of the top 15-20 starters in the game. His strikeout (7.25 K/9 and 20.1 K%) and ground ball (39.3%) rates have both been trending downward since he rejoined the Phillies, though he still doesn’t walk anyone (1.27 BB/9 and 3.5 BB%). Lee will earn $25M this year and in each of the next two years, plus his $27.5M vesting option for 2016 includes a $12.5M (!) buyout. Since we’re roughly one-fifth of the way through this year, that’s approximately $82.5M left on his contract if the option doesn’t vest.

If the Phillies eat say, $20-30M of that $82.5M, I think it would take a three- or four-player package to acquire Lee, and at least two of those players would have to be studs. He may be expensive, but he’s also really good. You won’t get him for free just because. Would Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Brett Marshall, and a fourth guy be enough? Maybe. Would I do it? Sure, especially if the Yankees plan on scrapping the 2014 payroll plan. The upgrade from Ivan Nova/David Phelps to Lee is legitimately four or five wins over a full season, and that’s the difference between baseball and golf and October given the rest of the AL East.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Mike asks: What would it take to acquire Nick Hundley? Seems to be Joe Girardi type of catcher, someone who does everything okay but nothing great.

I’m not sure if the Girardi comparison is accurate, but Hundley is a solid all-around catcher. He’s rebounded well this year (109 wRC+) after hitting miserably a year ago (29 wRC+), and he’s been close to a league average hitter overall (95 wRC+) since getting the job full-time in 2009. His defensive reputation is strong and he’s thrown out close to 32% of attempted base-stealers the last three years.

Hundley, 29, is under contract for just $7M between this year and next, which works out pretty well for the Yankees. Yasmani Grandal is the catcher of the future in San Diego, which could land Hundley on the trade block. Interestingly enough, Hundley recently called out Grandal — “You want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a good couple months on steroids, go ahead,” he said — which is kind of a jerk thing to do. Quality catchers are very hard to find, so two quality (but not elite) prospects seems like a reasonable asking price. Marshall and Ramon Flores for Hundley? I’d think hard about it.


Andrew asks: Can I get a scouting report (and your personal opinion) on Rob Refsnyder? The kid is absolutely mashing, and it’s been long enough this season to call it more than a fluke.

The Yankees gave Refsnyder a little less than $206k as their fifth round pick last summer, and all he’s done this year is mash. I’m talking .391/.490/.523 (~184 wRC+) in 153 plate appearances between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa prior to last night’s game. Here’s a snippet of what Baseball America (subs. req’d) had to say before the draft:

Scouts like his bat and think he could be an average hitter. He’s always hitting — he holds his high school record for the highest career batting average and is a career .341 hitter over his three years with the Wildcats. The problem scouts have is that Refsnyder just doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder in pro ball because he has a flat swing that’s geared more for doubles than home runs. He’s an average runner with an average arm, so scouts who like the bat are interested in getting Refsnyder to move back to second base, a position he played in high school.

After playing the outfield during his pro debut last year, Refsnyder has played second base this year and he’s very much a work in progress at the position. He committed 12 errors in 29 games prior to last night, and although errors are hardly the best way to measure defensive competence, it’s an indication he’s a little rough around the edges. That’s not surprising, he didn’t play the position at all in college. He’ll need some time to adjust.

I see Refsnyder as a (very) rich man’s Mitch Hilligoss. He can hit and he knows what he’s doing at the plate, but he doesn’t offer a ton of power and doesn’t have a set position. Maybe that means he winds up a very good utility man who can play second, third, and both corner outfield spots, who knows. Obviously they should give him to time to work on things at second. Refsnyder is mashing so far, but he also came from a big-time college program and should mash Single-A pitchers. I’ll get more excited about the performance if he maintains it at the Double-A level. His season to date has been very exciting though.

Yankees acquire Alberto Gonzalez
5/10-5/12 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals
  • Eddard

    I’d pass on Lee. Too many prospects to give up and costs too much money. Hughes is pitching his heart out right now. Phelps gave us a good performance in Colorado. Kuroda, Andy and CC will be fine.

    I’d also pass on Nick Hundley. We don’t need an upgrade at C with Cervelli due back in a month.

    This ballclub is in first place and reinforcements will start trickling in after the road trip. Why is everyone so quick to trade the farm for replacements? They complain about the lack of prospects and then want to trade them away on a whim. I just don’t understand it.

    • mike

      I would take on Lee specifically of Hughes– its going to cost $15mm a year for Hughes for 4-5 years once he hits FA, so the difference for the few years while Lee is still under contract is ~ 10mm a year, and its clear Lee is more than worth the difference.

      Worse yet, if the Yanks don’t persue Hughes, they will likely have 2 or 3 issues in their rotation next year ( Andy, Kuroda, Hughes) and will certainly have to overpay to fill one or two of those slots – even if Pineda comes back.

      Also, if the Yanks don’t disrupt the big-league roster, it will certainly add to their momentum for this year as well.

      Something to seriously consider if the $189 goes south.

      • MC

        While I understand why you state “Hughes will cost $15mm a year,” I somewhat disagree. He’s been inconsistent and we’re going through a good stretch with him now. I don’t know yet how to peg his value in this coming offseason, considering the free agent pitching options seems to get worse by the day. Based on that alone, Hughes is likely a little more valuable than he was at the start of the season. I could see him getting a 3 year deal for $12mm per year. I don’t see the Yanks resigning him, however. Although he is keeping the ball in the park more often, he is a fly ball pitcher and I just don’t know long term, if his stuff really translates all that well at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks have 3 options with Hughes. He continues to pitch very well into June and they trade him (which seems the least likely if they continue winning). With his value getting better, the Yanks might be able to net a nice prospect in return from a contending team. 2) they make him a qualifying offer. I wouldn’t be opposed to them doing this. If he accepts, which I don’t think he will have too, they get a good pick in next years draft. 3) They resign him. My feeling is that Hughes isn’t playing on the Yanks next season, but we’ll see.

        In terms of rotation, I agree, it’s going to be interesting next year. They have CC and that’s really it as of now. We’d all like to think Pineda might be an option to fill the 3/4 spot. Maybe Andy or Kuroda give it one more go around, but we can’t plan on that. I don’t think Nova is a real option. Phelps or Warren could take the back spot. Basically what the Yanks need is another ace caliber pitcher; a #2 who could be a #1. That’s not Hughes. Lee is that guy, but my feeling is that ship has sailed. I don’t see him coming here in a trade, plus the cost, both in dollars and talent will be too great for the Yanks.

        • LK

          Hughes will likely be the best free agent pitcher on the market this coming offseason, assuming he doesn’t crater this year. The game is so flush with cash that he’ll get $15M whether he deserves it or not.

        • MannyGeee

          I would assume the Yankees make a play on Hughes if he comes at a team friendly price (which would be less than the aforementioned $12M per, IMO).

          However, Cliff Lee (if Philly eats the $30M) is not a bad play at $52.5M for 2.5 seasons. not GREAT, but not bad.

          Does Cliff Lee have a NTC though? You just assume that most all contracts at that price have some sort of protection for the player.

          I would bet a significant part of my paycheck that he would not waive the NTC, considering his choice to not come play here before and the infamous “wife getting hit by batteries in the stands” story of 2009.

          • BOESCH!!!!!! & …nix

            He’s got a no-trade to the 20 some odd teams that he identifies prior to each season.

        • PFOJ

          Barring injury or meltdown, there is a zero percent chance Hughes signs for 3/36. The Sanchez 5/80 MM deal seems like a decent baseline.

          • jjyank

            I’ve been thinking the Edwin Jackson 4/48 deal myself. Not sure if that would get it done, but I’d sign Hughes to that.

            • PFOJ

              If they’re scrapping the austerity plan, then I’d do that in a heartbeat. This is a very, very weak FA pitcher class, as long as Hughes eats innings at a league average rate he is going to get paid big time.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      Agree on passing on Lee. The Yankee’s obsession with him reminds me of Randy Johnson. We’ll get him far too long into his career.

  • jjyank

    “Why is everyone so quick to trade the farm for replacements?”

    I’m not supporting any of these moves necessarily, but being in first place on May 10 does not mean the team shouldn’t get looking for upgrades. And very nice start to the season aside, there are a lot of players on the current roster that can be upgraded.

    • jjyank

      Reply fail to Eddard.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        EddardWorld deflector shields were up.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Yes on Hundley. I like Flores, but not all the OF prospects are going to remain in the system. I’m not a huge Marshall believer, but you never know. Perhaps I’d be more enthused with a lesser package, but I’d see myself pulling the trigger on that deal and giving the team a better bridge to Gary.

    Cervelli isn’t due back in a month, Eddard, unless it’s to one of your weird Nuney/Big Game Phelpsy parties.

    I’d say no to Lee, believe it or not. Seems like too big a package for a team that’s going to have to do some retooling from within, celery cap or not. I’m also not sold that he’s going to continue offering the value Mike is pointing out.

    Instead of a poor man’s Mitch Hilligoss, how about a modern-day Tony Phillips?

    • Andrew Brotherton

      I think Hundley would be a great match as a bridge to Sanchez, and I think we should look into resigning Hughes before he prices himself out of our range.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’d co-sign on that.

        • trr

          Me too

        • ROBTEN

          I’d co-sign that idea too, but a Hughes contract would probably be a steep investment for me to take on right now given my student loan debt.

          /finance jokes, funny because they’re sad!

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I still owe 20K, and I’ve been out of school thirteen years!

      • Jim Is Bored

        Especially since at this point we know that a healthy Hughes is at worst a 4/5 pitcher in the AL East, and there’s definitely value there if we can get him now rather than at the end of what could be his best year as a starter.

    • Pat

      IMO waay too early to be “giving up” on Flores. He’s still only 21 and if he develops some power he will be a very, very exciting prospect. I’d trade him as part of a package for a young cornerstone type player but def not a salary dump like Lee or a marginal upgrade like Hundley.

      • LK

        I like Flores as much as the next guy, but Mike had him 5th on his list and he’s higher on him than anyone. If you’re not willing to trade your 5th best prospect for anything but a “young cornerstone player”, you’re overvaluing your prospects.

  • greg

    what about Dan Fiorito hes a ss in high A thats hitting 380. i know its only 50 at bats but it would be nice if he got a call up to AA midseason on got on the radar alittle. then again he could fall off a cliff in the next week so i guess we wait and see, but does anyone know anything about him?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I think we’ve heard already what we’re going to here. Undrafter guy out of Manhattanville, etc.

      He’s a good story and certainly very much worth rooting for. Seems like a guy with the odds against him, but much stranger things happen in baseball every year.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        “going to hear.”


    • Virginia Yankee

      Here’s more infomation on Fiorito:

      Definitely more a human interest story than a scouting report.

  • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

    fwiw, Hundley graded out very poorly in the Mike Fast framing study. He doesn’t seem to fit with the Yankees current priorities in catching. My guess is unless Cervelli has a setback that would keep him out longer that expected, or Stewart gets hurt, the Yankees might just stand pat with the catching situation. Maybe they look for a temporary, low cost of acquisition, back up type if they are going to just bury Romine on the bench, so that he can get regular PT in AAA.

    • BOESCH!!!!!! & …nix

      not to mention he hit 29 wrc+ last year, and after starting the year hot, he’s something like 1 for his last 25.

  • blake

    I think the Yankees can and will make the playoffs without Cliff Lee….as their rotation and pen are pretty good now. Lee wouldn’t guarantee them a title either so I’m not dealing the the best two prospects in the system to add an expensive pitcher in his 30’s. That’s a short sighted plan IMO…..if I knew they’d win the 2013 WS by doing it then fine….but there are no guarantees in baseball.

    • BOESCH!!!!!! & …nix

      There are no guarantees in baseball, therefore, never do anything.

  • entonces

    No to trading half the farm for Lee, who will soon follow Halladay to the rusted out old hurler’s scrap heap. Probably one– at best two years – left as his decline acclerates. I’d sooner re-up Kuroda and/or Pettitte and keep the young hitters. Otherwise, we’ll be mulling more four-for-one deals for offense very soon.

    • LK

      I think most people would prefer 1-year deals with Kuroda and Pettitte to a multi-year contract with Lee, but they have to want to come back first.

  • entonces


  • Kosmo

    I would rather NY pursue McCann, with Gattis playing well and Bethancourt in the pipeline Atlanta might listen if the price is right. Or NY could wait until McCann becomes a FA after this season.
    If Refsnyder has gap power and he can hit 30-40 doubles a season and hit over .300, he´d fit into the 2 hole just fine.

    • blake

      I don’t think the Braves will trade McCann….they are a legit title contender this year. As a FA though I would certainly have interest….he’d be awesome in YS.

      • MannyGeee

        My moneyt is on McCann being a target both in July and December.

        • jjyank

          I think it depends on what Gattis does. I think they’re trying to work him into the OF situation while Heyward is on the DL to keep his bat in the lineup, and if he’s still hitting in July, maybe the Braves do market McCann.

          • blake

            I’m not sure they see Gattis as an every day guy behind the plate…if they have title aspirations for this year then they probably need McCann to do it so I just can’t see them trading him.

            • FEED.ME.MORE!

              Yeah, I can’t see them trading McCann if they are a playoff bound team (which it def looks like they are).

              Gattis might take over full time next year.

              McCann as a Yank would be good, given that they could DH him some days and have Cervy/Romine catch the other days. Almost have a McCann/Alex/Jeter DH rotation.

  • mitch

    I don’t think i’d give up two top prospects for Lee. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding an extra arm, but i don’t think their need for a top starting pitcher is that great. If they’re going to move a couple top prospects, i’d rather see it for a position player.

  • JRod

    Lee has clearly and notoriously shown that he doesn’t want to be a Yankee. Doesn’t that count for something? That ship sailed a LONG time ago.

  • mt

    In looking at resigning Phil in lieu of thsi Lee idea, you have to look at that it is almost a perfect storm for Hughes going into free agency with his age and recent performance – compare him to last year’s mid range starter contracts – Edwin Jackson who got 4 years at $52 million and Anibal Sanchez who got 5 years at $80 million – both were older than the 27.5 years old Phil will be in December 2013.

    Many of big FA pitchers all have issues – Josh Johnson, Halladay, and Garza with injuries and Tim Hudson, Haren, Burnett have a lot of mileage on them – in addition, Garza, Hammel, Maholm, Santana may intrigue teams but they are all older (early 30’s) than Phil.

    Also Phil has 2 problems which may be seen as correctable by a new teams – getting him to refine cutter or whatever pitch so he can get some early outs and keep his pitch count down and more importantly he could move to the bigger ball parks in NL West to decrease his homer percentage.

    I don’t see Phil making less than $14-$15 million a year for 4 or 5 years.I also don’t see Yanks paying that with the $189 mm mandate. If they punt that goal, then it is a possibility but I still am not sure Yanks will want to go that high.

    I may have missed it but I have never seen a beat reporter question Phil about his impending free agency this year (I saw Swisher questioned last year and Cano this year). In any case, I don’t see any reason he would offer the Yanks any type of hometown discount.

    We will have to probably sign a short one or two year contract with somebody (Haren, Maholm?) to try to be a #3 – not sure where we are getting a #2 next year unless Kuroda miraculously extends another year.

    • hoshi

      I’m not sure why you’re looking at Jackson and Sanchez as comparables – they’re clearly better than Hughes in the 4 years previous to FA. The difference is pretty substantial according to fwar and that’s discounting that they were healthier than Phranchise prior to their FA. If you want better comparisons in terms of performance prior to hitting FA you’d have to look at Nolasco and from this past year Guthrie. Even adjusting for inflation w/respect to how much teams are paying and the poor market this year you’d really have to be betting on the age/entering prime factor to get Hughes in the ranges you’re mentioning.

      The injuries to the big names in this year’s market is probably a boon to the yankees – potential pillow contracts mixed in w/promotions are probably the way to go if they want to get to 189.

  • Jacob the OG

    I would have to say that refsnyder sounds a lot like Jeff kepinger to me, and judging by the Yankees history of trying to acquire him the comp is probably no coincidence. Pure opinion though


    1) Cliff Lee has become this decade’s Randy Johnson. We are just dying to add him, that we’ll trade top prospects for his 34-year old, very expensive self. He could’ve signed here, didn’t. We’ve tried to trade for him, couldn’t. Maybe it’s a sign that we should move on from this fantasy/nightmare waiting to happen.

    2) Not a fan of trading FOR a catcher, when organizationally that is our position of strength. It would be one thing to trade a younger catcher for Hundley, but then why would San Diego do that, given they have catching prospects too?

    3) Refsnyder is a contact hitter who is getting back in the groove of second base. Can’t get too down about the errors at this point. It’s harder to go from OF to IF than the other way around. The bat does intrigue me. Obviously we are years away from this, but it would make sense to start grooming a 2B in A and AA now. Cano, even if he re-signs, won’t be a 2B forever. Eventually he will move to a corner IF spot (as Tiex and Alex’s contracts expire when Cano’s prime years end). Having a decent glove who can hit for a strong average (and maybe develop some power) would be great.

  • Ghost of Joe Dugan

    Trade Sanchez,Williams plus to pay $20 mil a year for 3-4 years of Lee’s decline phase? Somebody call a priest, Mike’s possessed by the ghost of George Steinbrenner!