Mailbag: Gardner, Gonzalez, Freese, Aune

Yankees finish off sweep of Jays behind Pettitte and Rivera-less bullpen
SPECULATION!: Metallica may play at Mariano Rivera tribute night

Just four questions this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week. Mailbag questions, links, comments, whatever.

(Layne Murdoch/Getty)
(Layne Murdoch/Getty)

Travis asks: Is there a case to be made for trading Brett Gardner in the offseason? His calling card is his speed and once that goes, I believe his production for the team will be severely limited. The Yankees will have Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte and Slade Heathcott (presumably) on the roster for 2014, which could make Gardner expendable. He may or may not get the Yankees a draft pick after 2014, depending on his production and if his legs hold up and he doesn’t get hurt. Add in his age (30, 31 after next season) and you have the makings for a trap contract (if an extension is given). What are your thoughts?

There’s no one on the roster I wouldn’t trade right now. The Yankees don’t have a Mike Trout or a Clayton Kershaw, that untouchable player you can build around for the next half-decade. I very much agree Gardner will be close to useless once his speed slips, which is why I wouldn’t bother trying to sign him to an extension. He’s not all that young, like you said. Based on what we know right now, I’d be completely fine with letting him walk as a free agent after next season. Let someone else pay for his decline years.

Trading Gardner has more to do with the possible return than anything. What can one year of an above-average but not elite center fielder get you on the open market? Is last winter’s Shin-Soo Choo trade comparable? He was a much better hitter but a fraction of the defender and completely unproven in center. The Indians turned him into a top 20 pitching prospect (Trevor Bauer). One year of David DeJesus — a much more comparable player to Gardner than Choo — brought back absolutely nothing (Vin Mazzaro!) a few years ago. Coco Crisp fetched a then above-average big league reliever (Ramon Ramirez) and is probably the best comparison. Teams have done a better job of valuing defense since then, however.

Trading Gardner makes sense in a vacuum, but who would the Yankees play in center in his place? Sign Jacoby Ellsbury? Re-sign Curtis Granderson? I don’t think Ichiro can do it full-time and Wells sure as hell can’t. Mesa will be out of options next year and likely cut from the roster before the end of the Spring Training. Heathcott won’t be ready either. There’s a lot of variables here, it’s not like trading Gardner would be dealing from a position of depth. If some team wants to overpay, sure, move him. If not, he’s more valuable to them next year than anything they’ll probably get back in a deal.

Andrew asks: Whatever happened to the Cuban pitcher the Phillies supposedly signed but then never agreed to a contract with? He’s still out there, any idea why and if the Yankees could get him to fill in next year?

Andrew’s talking about 26-year-old Miguel Alberto Gonzalez, who agreed to a six-year contract worth more than $50M with Philadelphia back in July. The contract fell apart a few weeks later over concerns about his elbow, specifically bone spurs. He had some removed two years ago and is said to have made a full recovery, but apparently there was enough of a concern on the Phillies’ part to call off the agreement. The two sides could always work out a new deal. I have no idea if Gonzalez could step into the rotation and help the Yankees next year, but he’s still out there if they want to sign him. Six years and $50M is a ton of money though.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Travis asks: Could the Yankees make a play for David Freese if Alex Rodriguez is suspended for all or most of 2014?

Get ready for a winter full of Freese-to-New York rumors, ’cause they’re coming. Ken Rosenthal (video link) recently said the Cardinals are expected to shift Matt Carpenter to third base (his natural position) with top infield prospect Kolten Wong taking over at second (his natural position) next season, making Freese available in what figures to be a thin third base market. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? As long as Wong doesn’t expect, I suppose.

Freese, 30, is hitting .266/.342/.380 (106 wRC+) with six homers in 412 plate appearances this year, his worst season as a big leaguer. He missed a few weeks with a back strain earlier this summer and has a long injury history, including heel (2009), right ankle (2010), left ankle (2010), and hand (2011) surgeries. Freese will earn $3.15M this year and is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2015, so he’ll be relatively affordable. Given his age and injury history, this isn’t someone you look to sign long-term. Ideally he’d be a two-year stopgap between A-Rod and Eric Jagielo, right? We can dream.

I’m not quite sure how to value Freese in a trade at this point. He’s not particularly young, his hot corner defense is just okay (awful this year by the various metrics), his power has vanished (.114), he’s injury prone, and he’s touted as a clutch god because of his work in the postseason two years ago. That last part is why a ton of people will overvalue him, kinda like Andre Ethier. Ethier hit some walk-off homers a few years ago and suddenly he became a star when the actual production said otherwise. Yes, the Yankees should look into acquiring Freese if he becomes available, I just don’t know what an appropriate package would be. He’s a solid regular at a hard-to-fill position, not a star or a true impact player.

Jeb asks: Austin Aune’s season has been … interesting. I’m assuming he has a decent arm because he started at SS and had a chance to play QB. Is there a chance that he could be converted to a pitcher?

Interesting is a nice way to put it. The 19-year-old Aune is hitting .177/.209/.234 (~25 wRC+) with a ridiculous 67 strikeouts (!) in 148 plate appearances. That’s a 45.3% strikeout rate (!!!). Remember, the Yankees gave this kid a double-slot $1M bonus as their second round pick (89th overall) just last summer. He was raw because he was a top quarterback recruit who split time between the two sports in high school, but raw doesn’t explain that. I hope the Yankees have Aune working on some swing adjustments because that would at least explain the extreme contact problems. I wouldn’t pull the plug on him as a hitter yet, he is still just a teenager with only 311 pro plate appearances to his credit, but yeah. This isn’t exactly encouraging.

Yankees finish off sweep of Jays behind Pettitte and Rivera-less bullpen
SPECULATION!: Metallica may play at Mariano Rivera tribute night
  • Fezz

    aune and the over-valuing of HS players always has me wringing my hands. every year there’s a whole crop of man-childs who dominate a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds, only to get slathered with millions of dollars in the draft. then they never are heard from again. they hardly ever work out, pretty close to never. more often the few times they do work out, they were cut a couple times and bounced around and then became adequate major leaguers in the late careers but not for the team they were drafted by and definitely not worth the draft money paid. yet every single june not only the Yankees, but every other team will be sitting by the phone with a big bag of money waiting to pick the next HS kid.

    for the love of god why won’t scouts and front offices focus on college an international players who trend older and have more of a statistical body of work, as well as have played against higher levels of competition.

    it’s not hard to dominate in HS, especially if you’re from a league that isn’t exactly competative – think Cito Culver in my hometown of Rochester, NY – it’s a baseball town as far as passion for the game goes, but with only about 15 weeks of “baseball” weather between april and august, it’s not exactly an elite area of the country for talent.

    with the games renewed focus on development, the Yankees can’t afford to suck so hard at drafting properly and fail all over again at developing the players they have in their system. it’s been a catastrophic failure the past 2 decades in both of these very important areas.

    Cashman is heinous at the draft and at the development side of the game. there’s no other way to say it. the game appears to be moving towards this which really compounds the issue. the days of signing free agents for boats of money as they reach their decline is coming to an end and that’s really where Cashman excels thanks to the Steinbrenner money, but even that is going away to some extent thanks to Hal and Hank not sharing their father’s passion for putting a World Series calibur team on the field and focusing on finance and luxury tax and being cheap.

    the entire organization needs a major shake-up and a new direction

    • Steve (different one)


      The Yankees certainly have player development issues, but not for the reasons you think….

    • Chris In Maine

      Mike Trout laughs at your assertion that good players in the notheast can’t thrive in the bigs.

      • The Reaper

        Derek Jeter too. Kalamazoo isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed.

        This guy is right on the idiocy of the org, dead wrong on the particulars. Talent knows no geography.

    • Laz

      But often much of the elite talent is getting drafted out of HS. Aune is a big risk/reward kind of guy. College guy is more sure of, but for same slot rank, the college pitcher will usually have a lower ceiling.

  • trr

    Can’t see trading Gardner. He has his limits offensively, isn’t the greatest lead-off hitter, but his defense is invaulable.

    Freese? The best I can say is we could do worse. Would prefer more of a power presence there, and his injury history scares me. (I might be gun shy after all the injuries this year) Right now it sure looks like we’re gonna need a 3rd baseman next year. Reynolds for a year?

    Can’t see the Yanks spending that money on Gonzalez….

    Aune? Horrible so far, but yes he has time. I wonder if he’ll stick with baseball if he continues to under perform?

  • Il Cugino

    You should have lumped Headley in with the Freese question. I’m not due he’d be available since they’d be selling low and shown interest in extending him, but worth the words IMO. What are they going to do with Gyorko anyway.

    • Il Cugino

      sure =due

  • FLYER7

    Having coached at the HS age level, I am amazed to see what college coaches prefer in players and what scouts perceive. All alot of these scouts measure is speed on a stop watch or a radar gun but miss things like baseball IQ and heart. Also the adjustment to wood bat causes some adjustments.

    • MannyGeee
    • Preston

      Without talent heart and baseball IQ are meaningless, and physical talent is easier to see in a scouting trip than intangibles.

    • Laz

      I suppose the thinking is that even if you have the heart that if you can’t get the bat on the ball what is the point?

  • Robert

    A friend got me a ticket to BLUECLAW game tonite so I looked at there roster,THey have 2 players J.Crawford SS and Mark Lieter Pitcher who were drafted this year and have moved up to the Sally League .

    This is one of the Yankee problem,they baby there prospects.

    There a few SI players who could have moved up as well as several GCL players who also should of been promoted….

    Find out about these players sooner than later.

    • MannyGeee

      Until… BOOM!

      “The Yankees rushed these prospects and now they’re ROOOOOOOOOOIN’D! Cashman failed!”

      • The Reaper

        Who have they rushed? The last was Joba and his treatment was so appalling it’s like they’ve never developed a pitcher before.

        Oh, right, this current GM hasn’t.

        Otherwise, they are sloooooooooow when it comes to promotions and they do baby their players. The way they slowly brought along Hughes is hilarious now. Meanwhile guys that could contribute and with upside are passed over for the likes of Sidney Ponson and Vernon Wells.

      • Robinson Tilapia


  • Adonis Garcia

    In the first part it said the yankees will probably cut melky Mesa. No they wouldn’t dumba*s they love him he’ll be a bench player or at least get traded.

    • TCMiller30

      Exactly! Which is why he’s been the starter over struggling players like Wells/Ichiro all year. It’s because the enamored front office/coaching staff of the Yankees are so high on this kid they’ve given him 1,000,000 opportunities to take playing time away from those two.

      Wait.. Mesa only has 13 ABs this year for the Yankees?

  • hmelawyer

    The thing that is confusing with Aune is that he actually did fairly well last year. He was .273/.358/.410. He had 19BB and 45K in 163PA. That is a very decent 11.66% walk rate, and a high but not outrageous 27.61% K rate. Also the .137 ISO showed some pop. That was as an 18 year old straight out of HS.
    This year with a year of development and a year older at the same level he is .177/.209/.234, with 6 BB and 67K in 148 PA. His rates are now, 4.05% BB, 45.27%K, and only a .057 ISO.

    This all hints at some greater problem other than that the kid just doesn’t have the skill. The drop in the walk and contact rate make you wonder if a problem has cropped up with eyesight, or if in his development they have attempted to make some changes to his swing that have totally messed up his rhythm and mechanics.

    • I’m a looser baby, so why don’t you kill me? (Formerly not the droids you’re looking for…)

      So……..Cashman failed, right? (Sorry couldn’t resist).

  • qwerty

    The yankees didn’t trade Swisher, Granderson, Hughes, Joba, etc. and they’re not going to trade Gardner, that’s simply not how they operate.

    • The Reaper

      No, they operate by spending dumb money on names and failing to develop true talent. ANd it’s only getting worse since Ca$hman finally got “control”.

  • Gio

    Now that they’ve crept back in, would the season be considered much more disappointing if the team missed the postseason as compared to a month ago?

    • Wheels

      I don’t think so, it’s good just to be back in the hunt.

      • The Reaper

        I hate that they are anywhere close. It now gives the greedy President and family a reason to line their pockets every year.

        Worse, the organization is a mess without decent prospects. And they’ve yet to show they know how to develop talent, especially pitching.

        Staying in the hunt is great for their profits, but it’s very bad for long-term success.

        • Wheels

          You know, once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. Just saying.

        • pinch hitter

          What could be worse than making the playoffs? They should fail so that they’ll realize all their methods are wrong and so they can work out some realistic plan to… make the playoffs.

  • CountryClub

    I’m not saying you guys are totally off base with concerns about Gardner’s speed, but I do think it’s overblown. He doesn’t bunt for hits, he doesn’t get many infield hits and he’s never been the greatest base stealer (Despite putting up pretty good numbers for a couple of years). I think he’s pretty much going to be the same player he is now for the next four or five years.

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      Maybe true on offense, but a lot of his value is in his defense. Even if he slows, he will still be decent defensively, but not nearly as valuable as he has been.

  • The Reaper

    Cut Mesa? In favor of Ichiro and Wells.

    Are you high or just dumb?

    This team regularly cuts guys that could add something in favor of slop that adds little to nothing. Maxwell and Dickerson are the two most recent examples. They might be no great shakes, but they’ve been as good as the “Names” and at a fraction of the cost.

    Worse, that slop prevent the opportunity to even evaluate Mesa. He’s no great shakes either. But he need only top a .700 OPS to be better than Ichiro and Wells. Contact problems or not, the Yankees get burned by ignoring players with upside. Mesa is ready for a chance and in the ABs he’s gotten he certainly deserves more.

    How you write about baseball for a living and fail to grasp opportunity costs, I have no idea. Playing and paying vets is exact why this is a fourth place team.

    • CountryClub

      Mesa pulled a hamstring last night. According to Donne Collins he couldn’t even move in the locker room last night. You most likely won’t be seeing him for the rest of this year.

      • The Reaper

        Any why exactly wasn’t he playing for the Yankees rather than the suckfest that is Vernon Wells?

        Awful. And now Mike is advocating just cutting him for nothing. I suppose after the utter embarrassment that was “Save the Big Three!!111!!!” he’s just safer, intellectually, touting vets. Too bad that makes him completely myopic. Mesa can’t do better than Wells line from the last three years – .229/.268/.398?


        • Mike Axisa

          You have an awful lot of faith in a guy whose hit .252/.288/.473 with a 33.3% strikeout rate in two years Triple-A. So hard to replace that guy. lol upside!

        • Mike Axisa


          And now Mike is advocating just cutting him for nothing.

          You should work on your reading comprehension, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • mitch

      I agree they shouldn’t just pencil Ichiro and Wells into the 2014 lineup, but Mesa isn’t the guy to force them out of a job. How much upside does he really have? He’s 26 and has yet to conquer AAA.

      Everybody loves to say “[insert name of AAA player] can’t be any worse than [insert name of decling MLB player]”. May through July of this season is proof that they definitely can be worse.

      • The Reaper

        No, why not? Neither have topped a .675 OPS in their last three years combined.

        At 26, Mesa at least has some upside. Those turds have none. Mesa hasn’t conquered anything, but he’s been pretty good for what he is, shows some pop, steals some bases, has decent defense.

        Shudder the thought of actually giving him a chance…

        • Cuso

          Yes, if you base your knowledge on a couple of Spring Training games you watched in March.

          “…he’s been pretty good for what he is, shows some pop, steals some bases, has decent defense.” That can only be based on a few games you saw when he had a small hot streak right after he decided not to play in the WBC because he wanted to try and ” win a spot” after Granderson got hit by Happ.

          Nothing, NOTHING he had done before that gave a reason to think he’s a viable option. His only exposure in the MLB regular season left one impression – he needs to remember to touch the bases as he’s running.

          If he impressed AT ALL this year In the minors, he would’ve been given a chance. You think they just decided to give Zoilo an actual chance, but not Melky? There’s a reason for that.

          It’s way too easy to use confirmation bias as the reason Melky hasn’t “gotten a chance.”

          It’s way too stupid to claim that he deserves more than he’s gotten because of a couple decent games against any pitcher in March.

      • Oy

        Wells hits lefites well. Mesa just sucks overall. 26 year old who has a 104 wrc+ after two years of AAA?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Nice to see you, DI.

  • Robert

    Slade Healthcott is another Gardner,he has speed,great defensive skills and bunts,never regained the power after a shoulder injury.

    Only Problem is he always finds his way to the DL List….

  • Andrew Brotherton

    If you could get a Denard Span like package then I don’t see why you wouldn’t trade Gardner, I’m thinking a top 50 arm. I would love to see a trade worked out with the Reds, Robert Stephenson would be a great get and they need an outfielder and PTBNL of Michael Lorenzen

    • TheBadOwl

      There is absolutely no way you’re getting a top-15 prospect for Gardner.

  • FLYER7

    Yankees hype their propsects so much that an outfielder who potentially bats .275/.280 with decent power never gets a chance because they are looking for .300/30 HR/ 100 RBIs potential prospects…

    Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada would never have seen the Bronx with this line of thinkig…

    I am sure Yankees have players in their system perhaps not as good but decent to prospects that have made it to Tampa or Boston if given a chance.

  • FLYER7

    Why the love for Maxwell and Dickerson still? Dickerson has become a journeyman and Maxwell bounced to Houston and then KC…

  • Patryk

    Gardner is still a bargain. Trading him and signing Ellsbury for huge $$$ would be a huge mistake. I say keep Gardner for another year, then re-evaluate his worth. And Girardi seems to love him.

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    Big misconception going on about “speed guys”. Barring injury, a fast player will be more than “fast enough” into their middle thirties to even forty. Yes “barring injury”=”big if”, but that’s how it works…..