Mailbag: Murphy, Brewers, Betances, Thames

Jagielo makes pro debut in GCL Yanks win
Badler: Yankees looking to trade for international pool money

Another six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers relatively short. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Trenton Thunder)
(Trenton Thunder)

Andrew asks: How long do you think J.R. Murphy has to continue tearing the cover off the ball before he gets a shot? He can’t be worse than Austin Romine or Chris Stewart. Seriously, I think it’s statistically impossible.

Oh, it’s possible. David Adams tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A but has been worse than Jayson Nix. Thomas Neal was worse than Vernon Wells after his big Triple-A performance. The “he can’t be worse” idea is a terrible reason to make a move. They can almost always be worse.

With that said, I don’t think the Yankees should replace Murphy with Romine, not right now. The kid just got to Triple-A and is having his first real standout season since turning pro, and I wouldn’t risk screwing that up for the sake of upgrading the backup catcher spot. Not when Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach are freely available. Joe Girardi‘s not going to not play Chris Stewart, so I don’t see the point of calling him up to play twice a week. Let Murphy work on his catching and continue to rake in Triple-A. Rushing a prospect to plug a big league hole would only compound the problem.

Mitchell asks: MLBTR says Aramis Ramirez and maybe Jonathan Lucroy are available. Does one or both make sense for the Yanks? And what would it take, do you think, to get him/them?

Matt wrote about Ramirez the other day, so all I’m going to add to that is that I don’t like the idea of adding another aging veteran on the wrote side of 35 who is under contract through 2014. The Yankees have met their quota already. Ramirez would certainly help the team right now, but he’s battling continued knee problems while his strikeouts are up and his power is down. Classic signs of decline in a slugger, otherwise known as “The Kevin Youkilis.” Not a fan.

Lucroy, on the other hand, would be great for the Yankees. The 27-year-old has hit .274/.321/.443 (108 wRC+) this year and .285/.333/.443 (111 wRC+) since becoming the full-time catcher in 2011, plus he’s signed affordably ($9M through 2016 with a $5.25M club option for 2017). Lucroy isn’t all that good at throwing out attempted base-stealers but he grades out okay in the other defensive aspects of catching. Given his age and contract, I imagine it’ll take quite a haul to get him. At least two very good prospects, probably two plus a third piece.

Paul asks: Joe Girardi has stacked lefties recently. The criticism is that late in games you are likely to have the platoon disadvantage as the opposing manager will deploy a lefty reliever. My question is this: isn’t that a little negated by having the platoon advantage for the first 5-7 innings? What about neutralizing their righty relievers, or, better yet having them use a righty closer against your lefties?

Stacking the lefties isn’t ideal because of those late game matchups, but given the current Yankees roster, I’m perfectly fine with it. They don’t have many good hitters as it is, so the ones they do have need to bunched together if they want to generate any kind of rally. Breaking up Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano with Nix defeats the purpose, really. Those mid-to-late-inning lefty specialists are problematic, but stacking the left-handers is a net positive for New York right now given their personnel.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Ted asks: Can you guys please clarify injuries and insurance? If the Yankees are getting money back from insurance for Mark Teixeira‘s recent DL stint, then shouldn’t they also have boatloads of money if they have insurance policies on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (not to mention all the other injuries)? Thanks!

From what I understand, team don’t purchase insurance for everyone, nor do they fully insure the contract either. A lot of times teams will only get coverage for what is morbidly referred to as “total loss or death” because the premium are so damn high. For pitchers with huge contracts with CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, the premiums could wind up costing more than the actual contract. In that case, they just pass. The Yankees are apparently getting 80% of Teixeira’s salary back for this injury, but I have no idea what the case is for the other injured guys. I assume there’s some protection in place, but who knows how much.

Brad asks: Next season, as everyone moves up a rung in the bullpen, do you think Dellin Betances gets a shot in the show?

It depends entirely on how well he pitches the rest of the season. If he continues this strong run, then yeah I think they would find room for him in the bullpen next year. Not as a setup man or anything like that, just as the last arm for blowout games or whatever. At least at first, he could always pitch his way into more responsibility.

If Betances starts pitching like he did as a starter, he’d be a candidate to get taken off the 40-man roster over the winter. There would be no value there. Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera will all hit free agency after the season, so there figures to be some bullpen competition in Spring Training even if the Yankees sign a free agent reliever or two.

Steve asks: Any reason the Yanks wouldn’t go after Eric Thames?

Not really. I mean, he isn’t all that good. He’s a career .250/.296/.431 (97 wRC+) hitter in 684 career big league plate appearances with awful, awful defense, yet he continues to put up very good numbers at Triple-A (124 wRC+ before being designated for assignment last week). Thames hasn’t been resigned to Quad-A status yet, but he’s getting there.

That said, he’s 26 and a left-handed hitting outfielder with minor league options remaining. The Yankees also drafted Thames in the 39th round of the 2007 draft back in the day, so they liked him once upon a time. They have an open 40-man roster spot — Youkilis is prime 60-day DL bait as well — and an open outfield spot in Triple-A (for the time being), so it’s close to a no risk move. I don’t think it would be some great travesty if they passed, however.

Jagielo makes pro debut in GCL Yanks win
Badler: Yankees looking to trade for international pool money
  • Eddard

    They don’t have a RH bat to break up the lefties until Alex and Jeter return.


    You still have 3 lefties in a row in Grandy, Hafner and Ichiro but Ichiro has been hitting lefties pretty good.

  • trr

    RH bats are the priority; we have been absolutely putrid against LHP

    • nycsportzfan

      At this point, i’d take a shot on Randy Ruiz to break up the lefties and DH him against lefties and PH him in later innings. Hes a 277BA hitter as a ML’er and has big power. There is no way he’d be worse against lefties then guys like Hafner, Overbay, and the other dudes that look morbid against lefties.

  • Pat D

    Jonathan Lucroy is not worth two top prospects. Someone in the chat yesterday suggested Sanchez and Heathcott. No. I’m not giving up on Heathcott yet and I’m willing to let Sanchez continue developing. I think it would be silly to trade two of your best prospects to get a good, not even very good, player. Yea, he’s young with a great contract. So what? The guy is not a difference maker.

    • jjyank

      I tend to agree. He’d be a real nice player to have, but I feel like the asking price would be too high. I’m not in love with Lucroy, he’s not a guy I break the prospect piggy bank for.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      This. I’d throw Murphy and Heathcott or Austin, with maybe Turley, Mitchell or Greene to round it out, but not Sanchez.

      • Robinson Tilapia


        Since this year’s draft guys can’t be traded, this is who I hug. I admit that’s a bit on the extreme side, but I tend to err on the side of taking the risk that they all fail for us rather than succeed somewhere else.

        I feel slightly silly even having Hensley on there, but it is what it is.

        No to Lucroy unless something from other parts can be assembled for him.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Unless Cashmoney turns on “force trades,” getting 4+ years of a piece as good as Lucroy is going to hurt.

          The way I see it, Lucroy is basically the best possible outcome for Murphy. The Brewers aren’t going to just take Murphy on the chance that he might be as good as Lucroy someday. Lohse and Gallardo are their only league average pitchers, so they’ll probably want a relatively safe guy like Turley, Nova or even Phelps.

          If they ask for Phelps, the trade might get done without giving up Greene or Mitchell, but if it’s a guy like Turley or Nova the Yanks would have to throw one of them in.

        • Pat D

          I tend to agree with that list.

    • MannyGeee

      Yup, Lucroy is a nice player, a good player even, but not a game changer. Following the trend of the Yankees over recent memory we only see them trade big time prospects get moved for those game changer type players (Granderson is the prime example here…)

      Sure, make the argument about ‘teh Melky & IPKz’ all you want, but keep in mind Melky had NEGATIVE value when he got to Atlanta (which suspiciously he turned around 1.5 cycles seasons later) and IPK was on the cusp and undoubtedly the worse of the ‘big 3’ at the time…

    • Get Phelps Up

      But Sahcnez was already traded for Pedro Ciriaco…

      But really I agree as well. I can think of several other guys who I’d much rather trade Sanchez + Heathcott + for if given the option. Maybe if he was repeating 2012 again, but not now.

  • Bob Buttons

    Williams + Murphy + Banuelos/David Phelps for Lucroy!

    Wonder who hangs up first.

    • jsbrendog

      i hope the yankees never offer this.

      • Bob Buttons

        Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if that’s the Brewers’ asking price. Lucroy could probably fetch a back end starter + risky mid-high to high ceiling prospect, and a guy who might end up like Lucroy.

        • jsbrendog

          regardless, i hope the yankees dont offer that or anything like it.

          • Bob Buttons

            Don’t think Cash would do that deal, given the payroll but not sure if the upper brass would be so patient.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We’d tie you up before you could make the call.

  • jsbrendog

    but how do you knwo he isnt ready? do you know what he needs to work on in aaa? maybe murhpy is ready and if he is he should be brought up


    • jjyank

      Don’t poke the bear!

      • jsbrendog

        sorry you’re right hahaha

  • monekypants

    Was Thomas Neal really worse than Vernon Wells when he was here? I mean, first of all, the dude only got 13 plate appearances in four games stretched over about a week (June 14, 15, 19 and 19). Is such a small sample size valid to make such a claim? But let’s assume it is. Neal was pretty bad: .182/.308/.182/.490. But Wells was even worse over the same stretch. He played in four games (June 14, 16, 19 and 19) and got 15 plate appearances to the tune of .143/.133/.143/.276!

    Maybe in general it is dangerous to make moves based on the (il)logic that player B can’t possibly be worse than Player A. But when a player is stinking it up as badly as Vernon Wells has been since May 1 (.182/.205/.276/.481), the “can’t be worse” thinking makes a lot more sense.

    • mitch

      Not defending Wells because he’s been terrible, but Neal just didn’t look like an MLB player at the plate. It’s pretty clear the reason he hasn’t stuck is because he can’t hit breaking stuff.

      (I know the same can be said of Wells)

      • Bob Buttons

        i thought Wells is sucking because his name is Ver-non.

      • vox borealis

        I have no problem with them dumping Neal, though I might have given him a few more ABs. But at the same time, I have less of a problem with the “he can’t be worse-let’s give him a shot” reasoning than Axisa. As I wrote, in the case of Neal, he really *wasn’t* any worse than Wells, just equally horrible. So cut Neal loose and then drag up another stiff who can’t be any worse than Wells. And keep doing it until someone is better (as Almoste has been…so far).

        Generally, though, I agree with what you are saying.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    Romine seems to be stuck. The Yanks prob don’t want to send him down right now in favor of a ‘scrap heap’ catcher because Murphy has been so good this year. Instead, he’ll suck at the bigs.

    Really want them to pounce on Ruiz. What would his cost be?

    • Kosmo

      Ruiz is the way to go not Lucroy. Michael Young and Ruiz for Austin Romine + 1 other.

      IMO NY should be in on a deal for Alexei Ramirez. Yanks have no SS prospects and he´d at least give NY a 2 year stopgap.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        There’s no way in hell they’re taking Austin Romine as the headline in that package.

        • Kosmo

          Ruiz is 34 and Young is 36. Neither have a future with the Phils. NY will have to eat approx. the 5 million remaining on their contracts as of August 1st. 2 past their prime rentals for Romine + 1. Phils would say no to Joba. NY is not going to break up the bullpen mid season by trading 1 of Claiborne or Kelley. I could see Mitchell and Romine.
          You have to remember Victorino had more trade value given his age at the time and performance.

          • Cool Lester Smooth

            A) They can get much more than Austin Romine for Ruiz or Young, because they are useful pieces, while Romine is not.
            B) 5 million is nothing.
            C) They took Josh Lindblom, who had an identical FIP at the time to Joba’s one and was striking out more than 2 fewer batters per 9 innings.
            D) Victorino was a rental, so his age didn’t matter; at all.
            E) Victorino had a 94 wRC+ and the Dodgers were acquiring him as an LF, so his performance was not significantly better, unless you are assuming that the 84 PA Chooch has had this season are more representative of who he is as a player than the previous 3 seasons of well above average offense.

            So, in case you haven’t gotten it yet, I’m saying that it is utterly ridiculous to expect to get 2 rentals for a far cheaper price than the price of 1 from the same team last season. Especially when you consider that the Phillies are actually in much better position right now than they were at this point in 2012.

      • Matt :: Sec110

        Not sure that’s enough for Ruiz…but I wouldn’t hate a Ruiz/Young package.

        As for Alexei Ramierez…pump the breaks with that one. He’s good, and youngish (kinda), but he’s under contract through 2016. Not sure that makes sense unless they think Jeter is going to retire.

        Devils advocate…could he replace Cano at 2nd next season? hahaha.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          I think calling Alexei Ramirez “good” is a little excessive, haha.

          And he’s a year older than Cano, so I’m not sure how he’s even kinda youngish.

        • mitch

          His contract is reasonable, so they could definitely just trade him after the season if they thought Jeter was healthy enough to play short in 2014.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      They traded Victorino for Josh Lindblom, a mediocre reliever, and Ethan Martin, who’s a Bryan Mitchell type of guy, albeit one who was in AA instead of A+. So maybe Joba plus Mitchell or Nuding?

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        (You can replace Joba with Claiborne or Kelley, since Mitchell and Nuding are worse than Martin)

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Romine does seem stuck in a spot, even though he’s floundering.

      I’m still really surprised he’s looked this bad. I always expected some level of competency. I’m not even sure we can claim “competent” right now.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    He’s good, but as far as his age, it’s relative to his contract. You’d only be paying him through his age 34 season.

    Cano on the other hand, probably gets an 8 year deal, so you’re paying him through his age 38 season.

    Again, I wouldn’t do it, but you could build a case for it, in a round about, out of the box way.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      He’s a lot closer to Jayson Nix than to 2013 Ichiro offensively.

      He derives all of his value from his defense at SS.