Mailbag: Axford, Qualifying Offers, Judge, Aoki

Lillibridge & Ruiz homer again in SWB win
Injury Updates: Jeter, Grandy, Kuroda, Pineda

Six questions and six answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up questions, comments, links, or anything else throughout the week.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
Axford. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Mat asks: What are your thoughts on acquiring John Axford? With the need of another arm down the stretch wouldn’t it make sense to acquire him?

Axford, 30, has pitched to a 3.86 ERA and 4.46 FIP this year, losing his closer’s job to Jim Henderson. He struggled last year as well (4.67 ERA and 4.06 FIP), mostly because he was walking everyone (5.06 BB/9 and 12.6 BB%). Axford has cut back on the free passes this year (3.60 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), but instead he’s crazy homer prone (1.54 HR/9 and 15.8% HR/FB). The homers have been trending in the wrong direction for years now.

The problem with Axford isn’t so much his performance — he does still miss a ton of bats even though his 9.51 K/9 and 24.2 K% are career-lows — but his salary. He’s earning $5M this year in the first of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two, so his salary is only going higher and higher. Saves pay, and he had a ton of them early in his career. Axford is going to be an $8M+ reliever as soon as next year, at which point he might be a non-tender candidate. I do like him as a buy-low guy in terms of what he can do on the mound, but there’s no way I’d be okay with the Yankees paying him that much. Way too risky.

John asks: Which free agents can the Yankees provide a qualifying offer to at the end of the season? I’m assuming Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson would be eligible? Joba Chamberlain wouldn’t be? Are Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda?

Any player with more than six full years of service time is eligible for a qualifying offer, so all of those guys you named plus Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Boone Logan, Mariano Rivera, and Kevin Youkilis can receive one. Tim Dierkes has estimated the qualifying offer at $14M for this coming offseason, so right off the bat we can rule out offers for Joba, Hafner, Logan, and Youkilis.

Cano is absolutely getting one if he does reach free agency, there’s no doubt about that. Rivera is retiring, so there’s no sense in making him an offer and risk having him complicate the payroll situation by surprisingly accepting. Pettitte is the same boat since it’s Yankees or retirement for him, plus at this point it’s debatable if he’s even worth that salary. If Kuroda continues to pitch has he has this year (and last), I think he’d get an offer. I think they’d welcome him back with open arms at that salary in 2014, especially since it’s a pay cut.

Hughes is very much up in the air and right now I lean towards no offer. That could change in a hurry if he pitches well in the second half though. Some team will give him Edwin Jackson money this winter (four years, $52M), but even if he surprises and accepts a qualifying offer, he’d be tradeable. The Yankees might have to eat some salary, but it’s doable. Hughes is definitely a wait-and-see thing, no sense in giving a definitive yes or no in early-July.

Thomas asks: What seems to be the holdup on signing the supplemental first round pick Aaron Judge?

Judge. (Presswire)

Earlier this week, both Jon Heyman and K. Levine-Flandrup reported there has been no change in negotiations. The Yankees offered him slot money (~$1.68M) and they’re waiting for him to accept. As our Draft Pool page shows, the team has more than $300k in pool money saved, so they could offer him roughly $2M before next Friday’s signing deadline if push comes to shove.

Jim Callis recently said every unsigned first round pick will sign before the deadline — Judge and four others remain unsigned at this point — so I’ll defer to the expert and say it’s only a matter of time. It would be very tough for Judge to return to school and come out as a senior next year with improved stock and earning potential, though it is certainly possible. He and his advisor are presumably holding out for every last penny, which is understandable.

Tom asks: What about Norichika Aoki of the Brewers as a trade target? Looks like he has an option for ’14 so he could contribute in the OF now as well as next year.

Aoki, 31, is one of the very best bargains in baseball. He’s hit .289/.354/.410 (112 wRC+) since signing a two-year, $2.25M contract prior to last season, and this year’s at .292/.364/.373 (108 wRC+) in 360 plate appearances. That dirt cheap contract includes a $1.5M (!) club options for 2014, which will be picked up no questions asked.

The Yankees need to add some on-base skills to their lineup, and Aoki is basically a better (and cheaper) version of Ichiro Suzuki at this point. He doesn’t strike out (7.6%) but will walk (7.7%), steal bases (39-for-55, 71%), and play strong defense in right. Aoki is a big-time ground ball hitter (58.4%), so Yankee Stadium won’t automatically boost his power output. I don’t know what the trade cost will be, but it won’t be cheap given his salary and production. If the price is right and the Yankees could somehow unload Ichiro, they should absolutely go for it. I just don’t see it happening.

Hard to believe he made it to MLB despite being so afraid of the ball. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Hard to believe he made it to MLB despite being so afraid of the ball. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Winter asks: Is Chris Carter a potential trade target? He’s better than Lyle Overbay, has some OF experience, is a good young player under team control until 2019 (not arb-eligible until 2015), and plays for a non-contender who’ll be a seller at the deadline.

The 26-year-old Carter is a classic three-true outcomes slugger. He strikes out a ton (36.7%), walks a ton (11.6%), and hits for plenty of power (17 homers and a .235 ISO). It’s any park power — hitter’s park, pitcher’s park, you name it and he can clear the fence. As you said, he’s still in his pre-arbitration years and has plenty of team control left.

People hate strikeouts, but there’s nothing wrong with having one high-strikeout masher in the lineup. It’s a problem when you have three or four in the lineup. Granderson is almost certainly a goner after the season, which would leave Carter as the team’s lone grip-it and rip-it hitter. At the very least, he could platoon with Overbay at first and Travis Hafner at DH while spot starting in left field despite his awful defense.

I don’t know what the Astros want in return, but they did give up Jed Lowrie to get him, so I doubt he’d be cheap. The Yankees need power in the worst way, especially from the right side, so Carter would be a very good fit despite his obvious flaws. As we’ve seen this year, it’s very tough to win in the AL East when you can’t hit the ball out of the park.

Paul asks: What have you replaced Google Reader with?

Consider this the rare non-baseball-related public service question. Though I guess it is baseball-related if you read a lot of baseball blogs.

Anyway, I’ve settled on Feedly after toying around with Hive Reader and The Old Reader. Feedly just added a GReader-esque web app — previously it was a browser plug-in, which was annoying — and I think their Android app is top notch. Joe and (I think) Ben are using Digg Reader with positive reviews. I haven’t tried it yet. Pretty much everyone I know is using one of those four services at this point. Hope that helps.

Lillibridge & Ruiz homer again in SWB win
Injury Updates: Jeter, Grandy, Kuroda, Pineda
  • Tonga Boy

    I’ve never used GReader and i read a lot on the internet. Can someone tell me how to use the other ones?

    Also, Axford has been nails since mid/early May. Arbitrary endpoints but something might have happened.

    • Mike Axisa

      Just sign up for one of the services (they’re all free), then add the websites you read. It’s a piece of cake. It’ll bring all the content to you in one place so you don’t have to check every site multiple times to see if something new has been posted.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        wow, didn’t even know stuff like this exists. I guess I have to use that asap.

      • Tonga Boy

        Sounds pretty cool. Can’t believe I’ve never used it before. And it’s Axford’s last 19.1 innings.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Is it better or worse than Outlook’s RSS feed?

  • trr

    I think Carter would be a great acquisition, but Houston would undoubtedly bend us over to get him. Aoki is a more realistic and I sure the penurious Steinblusters would jump at that contact!

  • DERP

    I have an irrational want for Drew Storen. They should pounce now while he is struggling.

    • Drew Storen

      *shifts uncomfortably in chair* An irrational want? I’m flattered I guess…

      • Tyler Clippard

        *weeps silently*

  • mick taylor

    is eric hinske worth picking up

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Aoki can become a free agent this offseason which is the reason he most likely will be available.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      Brewers have a $1.5M team option for him next year, which they (or any team trading for him) would surely exercise.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Drew Storen or Ryan Perry would be great buy low relief candidates.

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    I don’t understand the sentiment in letting Granderson go. You do that when you have someone better to replace him. Who are the Yankees “LIKELY” to take his place that is better? If they can give Ichiro a tw year contract……. Hell Granderson is worth four Ichiros………

    • OhioYanks

      It’s not just a replacement for next season, but over the life of his deal.

      That’s not to say that there isn’t an argument for keeping him. Just that if you frame the argument the way you did you are going to lose a lot of the picture.

    • RetroRob

      I agree. The assumption he’s gone is most likely based on what he’ll get on the open market, which the Yankees won’t match. Yet we don’t know know what the market will offer yet, so to me it should be an open question, just as offering Phil Hughes a qualfying offer is open. If the Yankees have no intion of giving four and five year deals to most players 30 or over (think Swisher and Granderson), then I’ll be interested to see what plan they do have to replace that level of production.

  • Joe

    We could have 3 first round picks again next year (regular first round pick plus compensation for Granderson & Hughes). It could be even more if Cano signs with another team and/or they fail to sign Judge.

    • RetroRob

      …and that could very well be part of their strategy as they are faced with an aging team and a farm system lacking.

      Hughes is an interesting question. I am inclined to give him the QO since it’s very likely he won’t accept it. Very, very likely he won’t accept it as he’ll want a multi-year deal. His AAV will be below 14M, but that’s secondary. Yet how he does the second half will play strongly into that. My guess is he’ll be league average, yet the fact he’s in his 20s and teams will reconize the value of moving away from Yankee Stadium will lead to solid interest. If they don’t intend to sign him longterm, then I would be disappointed if they don’t turn him into a draft pick at the least.

      • OhioYanks

        A farm system lacking what? It’s not a top farm system, but it’s perfectly respectable.

  • yooboo

    I think Yankees will offer the qualifying offer to Phil Hughes. The deadline is 2 weeks after World Series concludes. He won’t take a time and ponder the double money opportunity. He will decline it so he can go anywhere for a change without getting a threat to be demoted out of the rotation. He is young and many teams will sign him.

    Granderson, Cano, Hughes and maybe Kuroda should be at least getting the offer.

    I figure that 14.5 is the most expensive possible and Jeter plays up to full deal (17m), 3 out of 4 offers accepted will get us to 170ish so the rest of the 40 roster to be added will be a little bit challenge.

  • Johnny Callison

    Unload Ichiro? Have you lost your mind? Have you been paying attention this past month?

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      He has, but he’s also paid attention to his performance over the rest of the last 3 years.

      • Lazzari Scooter

        Nope, Johnny. Axisa has declared it settled scientific law that Ichiro is done, therefore he is the constant whipping boy of this blog for the remainder of his Yankee tenure. Despite playing relatively well considering his recent hot streak Combined with his excellent, and regular season saving, performance last year down the stretch- Mr. Suzuki is a bum according to this blog.

        Axisa continues to disappoint to be blind to the true worth of this legend as he continues to provide to be a rare bright spot in an overall embarrassing lineup. Still, he can’t let go his preconceived notions that “Ichiro is done” narrative that he established before the trade was ever complete.

        After last year’s essential performance in saving the 2012 season from ending in another historic collapse for the franchise, I had hope Mike would be reasonable but his position is absolute and not enough of his dissenters are allowed to speak freely without immediate ridicule.

        Still, he is quietly proving the haters wrong as the season progresses, there are no signs Mike will cease his anti- Ichiro agenda. Because the source of all the Yankee woes are located at this bad contract, apparently.

        Strangely, I would think it be better to have a blog’s anger for the team’s eternal financial woes directed at the actual perpetrators of the suffering- Alex Rodriguez. The man lied to the organization about his PED use and busted body is his fault. Hank’s offer was obviously a mistake but it has become our Cross because of Alex’s deceit and treachery. Why not direct any of your vitriol toward him? Instead, whenever I happen at this blog, there some post defended this lying cheater who has besmirch the honor of the New York Yankees time and time again.

        In conclusion, I just wished Mike would give Suzuki a chance to succeed before burying him as a failure. The reality is his hitting performance is below average, while the rest of his game is still above average. At best he’s a third best outfielder on a good team and maybe a fourth outfielder on a championship caliber team. Still, if Grandy & Teix were okay, would there really be such an outcry over this offense woes? Heck if only Curtis was healthy, we would have arguably a top-tier outfield trio in the Show.