Mailbag: Drew, Infante, Ubaldo, Playoff Roster

A Yankee Stadium farewell to Mariano Rivera
Adam Warren will start tonight, Sunday still TBA

Five questions and five answers this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything at any time, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

John asks: Hypothetically speaking (how else would we speak when speculating about the offseason?), if Robinson Cano were to get say $29M per year for nine years from the Dodgers, could the Yankees sign Brian McCann, Stephen Drew and Omar Infante for $29M combined? And, if so, might that be a better strategy for 2014 and beyond?

I don’t see how they could get those three for only $29M total. McCann is looking at Yadier Molina money on the open market ($15M annually) while neither Drew ($9.5M) nor Infante ($4M) have a reason to take a pay cut following their strong seasons. I think the best case scenario is something like $35M total, broken down into $15M (McCann) plus $12M (Drew) plus $8M (Infante). I’m probably underselling Drew and Infante given the dearth of quality middle infielders. It might be closer to $40M total than $35M when it’s all said and done.

If the Yankees can’t re-sign Cano — I would be stunned if they didn’t at this point — then spreading the wealth around is pretty much the only thing they can do. There’s no other superstar available this winter who is worth a nine-figure commitment. (Maybe Shin-Soo Choo. Maybe.) McCann plus Drew plus Infante would be a real good start, bhe Yankees need more pitching and outfield help though. This team isn’t one or two players away from getting back into contention. This roster has an awful lot holes.

Chris asks: Would you be in favor of reducing the time between signing and free agency? Teams today are forced to decide between players hitting their free agency years around age 28-30. Small market teams won’t pay for players past 30 and subsequently lose their players while big market teams continuously pay and pay. It hurts everyone. Isn’t the answer to make players free agents earlier? Cano would be worth millions and millions more if he was two or three years younger.

Oh yeah, absolutely. I am decidedly pro player when it comes to this stuff. Let them become free agents as soon as possible. Teams would never agree to it and, frankly, small market clubs would have no chance to contend if they didn’t get to control their young players for what is usually the most productive years of their career. If they knocked it down to five or even four years of team control before free agency, clubs like the Rays and Athletics would have no chance to contend. It would be a franchise killer. Baseball’s salary system is screwed up in that players earn the most when they’re on the decline, but it is what it is. The six years of team control are a necessarily evil.

Karl asks: How much amateur money is at stake over the possible variation in the final standings? Any chance a post-qualifying offer Hiroki Kuroda signs with the Dodgers to chase a ring and gets the Yankees a comp pick?

I’ll answer the second part first: yes I could definitely see Kuroda signing elsewhere in hope of winning a ring. The Dodgers are an obvious destination but the Tigers, Rangers, Nationals, and Cardinals could also be fits. Despite his ugly finish to the season, I’d have no trouble making Kuroda a $14M qualifying offer. It’s a no-brainer in my book.

As for the standings, the Yankees could finish with anything from the 12th through 16th best record in baseball. The Blue Jays have a compensation pick early in the first round, so that would give them the 16th through 21st overall pick. Right now they have the 17th overall pick and the only way they can move up to 16th is if they get swept by the Astros while the Diamondbacks sweep the Nationals this weekend. That’s the only possible way to move up at this point.

Based on last season’s slot values, that’s the difference between the 16th ($2.3M) and 21st ($1.97M) picks is kinda small. Nice chunk of change but not a game-changing amount. The 17th overall pick was slotted for $2.16M, but the values are expected to increase next summer. Based on historical data and all that, the difference in expected future value of the 16th pick and the 21st (or 25th or 30th, for that matter) pick is negligible. That’s all theoretical though, anything can happen in one given year. Obviously you’d like the higher pick.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Christopher asks: Would you be interested in the newly back on track Ubaldo Jimenez at around $13M? I think there’s great value there and he could be the steal that helps the Yankees get back on track.

Once upon a time I was in favor of trading Jesus Montero for Jimenez, and for a while there it looked like the Yankees dodged a serious bullet. Obviously that seems silly now because Michael Pineda still hasn’t thrown a single pitch for the team in the 20 months (!) since the trade. Seriously, he’s missed two years (and counting) with that shoulder injury. What a disaster.

Anyway, this is purely hypothetical because there is an $8M club option in Ubaldo’s contract for next season and the Indians will surely pick that up. The 29-year-old has a 3.38 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 176 innings this season but he’s been even better in the second half: 1.86 ERA and 2.39 FIP in 77.1 innings. Jimenez has been a big reason why the Tribe jumped over the Rangers in the wildcard race.

Update!: Turns out Jimenez’s club option became a mutual option after the trade. He’ll surely decline his half and become a free agent.

Now, as good as the second half has been, we have to remember Ubaldo was really bad just last season. Heck, he had a 4.56 ERA and 4.49 FIP in 98.2 innings of the first half this year. Last year it was a 5.40 ERA and 5.06 FIP in 176.2 innings. Jimenez would be worth a much deeper look if he was indeed going to be free agent — did he actually change anything? — but I’d be very skeptical about giving him $13M a year based on a good half-season. High reward but super duper high risk.

Donny asks: Since we might not actually get to see this come to fruition, I figured I would ask: What do you think the playoff roster might/should look like?

I’ve been saving this question for like, three weeks now. I didn’t want to answer it while the team still had a shot at the postseason because I figured there might be serious playoff roster talk at some point. Now that they’ve been eliminated, let’s have at it. Based on who is actually healthy and available right now, here’s the 25-man roster I would take into the wildcard play-in game/ALDS:

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
Chris Stewart Robinson Cano Curtis Granderson CC Sabathia Mariano Rivera
J.R. Murphy Lyle Overbay Ichiro Suzuki Hiroki Kuroda David Robertson
Eduardo Nunez Alfonso Soriano Andy Pettitte Boone Logan
Mark Reynolds Zoilo Almonte Ivan Nova Shawn Kelley
Designated Hitter David Adams Vernon Wells Phil Hughes David Phelps
Alex Rodriguez Adam Warren
Travis Hafner
David Huff

The opponent would dictate the bullpen to a certain degree. If the Yankees drew an opponent with a right-handed heavy lineup, I would probably take Phil Hughes Preston Claiborne over Huff. In this general case I’d take the second lefty.

The Yankees have an alarming shortage of useful position players. Brendan Ryan is not eligible for the postseason roster because he wasn’t in the organization on August 31st, so Nunez is the starting shortstop by default. That leaves Adams or Reynolds as the everyday third baseman if A-Rod‘s various leg injuries don’t heal up in time. Hafner is pretty useless, but I’d rather have the extra bench bat than the 12th pitcher. I’d trim the staff down to ten pitchers if there was another position player worth taking. That … is not an inspiring roster. Geez.

A Yankee Stadium farewell to Mariano Rivera
Adam Warren will start tonight, Sunday still TBA
  • Frank

    As long as Jeter is on the roster, there’s no way in the world the Yanks sign someone like Drew, or another potential starting, everyday SS. The exception would be for Jeter to accept he’s essentially the FT DH and only a part-time SS. And this would need to be established ASAP. I don’t see that happening. A player like Ryan is the best fit as he won’t cost a lot and will be willing to back up Jeter until he can’t go, which will surely happen.

  • Toki

    Ubaldo’s club option got voided when he was traded to Cleveland. He’ll be a free agent.

  • JB

    Jimenez is gonna be a free agent, he can void the team option for next year because he was traded.

  • WFAN Caller


  • Kramerica Industries

    That … is not an inspiring roster. Geez.

    Well, that might be why they won’t be in the playoffs.


  • LarryM Fl

    Great questions and equally great answers were offered this week. My response to question one is the following. The Yankees should stand firm with a small movement with the money. If the Yankees second offer was 7/161 then 7/170. Cano could then get qualifying offers if his value is such to the Yankees. I prefer to let Cano walk and rebuilt the team with multiple picks as mentioned in the question. We may not get all three but we can improve in three areas of the field.

    This is a team sport not a Broadway show with a marquee announcing Robbie Cano. It is still the NY Yankees.

    • Casey

      I would rather have Cano than any draft pick, but I agree that the yankees cannot afford to offer him much more than seven years. The tendency for these long deals is for a player to not remotely be worth the $20+ million/year after just a couple of years (or less). The Yankees need to rebuild, and the next couple of years of Cano greatness will not be enough to make them a world series contender. The contract could cripple them in five years. I hope they they take the compensation pick and openly publicize that they are rebuilding.

  • Improbable Island Guy on Another Computer

    I think you’re underselling us a little, though. If we have Tex, Grandy, and a healthy Jeter all year, and A-Rod for even half a year, then I don’t think we have as many holes as you say.

    Remember, as shitty as our year is, it’s only really shitty relatively to the Yankees. We’re over .500 and were competitive right up until the final two weeks of the season. Our biggest holes aren’t even in our offense – they’re in our pitching. We’re going to need a couple of starters at least to go with Kuroda.

    • viridiana

      I agree with Improbable Island Guy. Yanks figure to be better than often assumed, even without Cano.

      Gardner (notice how team fell apart when he got hurt?) Jeter Tex Soriano Grandy is not a bad 1-5. Yanks need a solid high BA hitter for 6 hole. That’s one thing they ;lacked all year. And the $25 mill a year they’d save by not signing Cano can at least fetch two pretty good players. Much will depend on length of A-Rod suspension. But if he’s suspended at least half a season they’re in pretty good shape, even with 189. They may not be able to get great value for $25 mill in Cano savings in 2014. But think what it will buy in 2015 and the five or six years beyond that.

      • forensic

        Well, Granderson is far from a sure thing to return, given that they already have 4 OFer’s under contract for next season. In my opinion, Soriano is a lesser version of Granderson with lower OBP and lower SLG, and the potential to really drop down to the .280’s-.290’s OBP which he’s done before. Hopefully it doesn’t work out that way, but I’m not overly high on him.

        Jeter and Tex are still huge question marks of what they will be coming back from these major injuries, and truthfully, whether they’ll even be ‘full’ strength come ST and opening day. Tex has already been showing decline for his last several years (just going by OPS+) and it’s possible that continues. As for Jeter, who knows what he’ll give. Will it be 2012 Jeter or 2010 Jeter, or somewhat in between at 2011 Jeter? It’s safe to say his defense won’t be inspiring though.

        Gardner certainly should be fine to return healthy and hopefully he can continue (or improve on his offense from this season to raise his OBP back to prior levels) to keep his offense up with his elite defense.

        That still leaves Wells/Ichiro in the OF, who knows at 2B, 3B is up in the air at this point, and C is still a concern. That doesn’t even mention the DH and the various utility guys that will inevitably get too much (in my opinion) playing time. Hopefully, as you say, they can reinvest their potential savings from A-Rod/Cano (should one/both not be on the payroll) in good ways, but they haven’t exactly distinguished themselves in that manner in recent years, as I see it.

        There’s also the pitching as previously mentioned.

        They’ve been playing well under-.500 baseball for more than four months now, and barely under-.500 baseball for more than five months now. There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about the next year and beyond for the franchise (I know you didn’t say there wasn’t, I was just finishing my point), despite their barely winning record this season.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      “Remember, as shitty as our year is, it’s only really shitty relatively to the Yankees.”


      We’re not talking about a 70 win club. We’re talking about what is still an above average team that needs to have about 10 win added to it.. not 20 or 30.

  • http://facebook Greg

    Does anyone believe the season would have turned out differently if the Yankees had signed Russell Martin?

    • Improbable Island Guy on Another Computer

      We might have won a couple of more games. Maybe we’re not eliminated yet. But I still don’t think we get in.

    • Cliff

      Since the difference between Martin and our catchers is like 6 WAR, yes I do.

    • Gil

      I think Nick Swisher would have made a big difference.

  • Mister D

    and, frankly, small market clubs would have no chance to contend if they didn’t get to control their young players for what is usually the most productive years of their career.

    Not really true, now that they’ve adopted a cap of sorts, especially if you look at the NFL. It would just take far more serious revenue sharing and serious disincentive to not spend.

    • I’m One

      and serious disincentive to not spend.

      That’s the real key. If these teams are profitable (and with better TV deals for a lot of clubs, most of them probably have a lot of money available), teams should be incentivised to spend in a way that puts the best possible team on the field.

  • Roy Rogers McFreely

    I don’t think CC quite counts as “healthy and available” right now, meaning that the 4th rotation spot in that hypothetical playoff roster would be Huff? That’s definitely uninspiring.

    • Mike Axisa

      I completely forgot Sabathia was hurt. My bad.

  • Eddard

    The last thing they need to do is go out and get a bunch of old players for multiple years. They need to get younger and healthier. No more relying on players in their upper 30s and 40s. Hell, Andy and Mo were two of their best players this year and they were 41 and 43 years old. Jeter should not be relied upon next year as a centerpiece in the lineup. He should be a role player, DH for the most part. If Cano wants more than 6 years let him go.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think we should go after Josh Johnson and Masahiro Tanaka. Josh Johnson could be a great bounce back candidate. So Brendan Ryan, Josh Johnson, Mark Reynolds, Omar Infante (if Cano signs elsewhere), Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Abreu, Raicel Iglesias, and Grant Balfour or Jesse Crain

    • Jonathan

      So you would seriously pay a complete unknown in Jose Abreu who is a 1B/DH on a team with several of those ahead of the best catcher FA since either Pudge in 2004 or Piazza all the way back in 1999? It seems many are pegging them both for a $75MM or so commitment. There is no better way to spend $75MM on this FA class (with Cano getting well over double that) for the Yankees. They need to try and trade Ichiro or Wells or both, bring back Grandy/Cano/Kuroda/Ryan and sign McCann. We’ll need another reliever and at least one more starter but this gives us a tenative:

      C McCann
      1B Tex
      2B Cano
      3B ARod or a replacement based of the size of suspension
      SS Ryan
      LF Soriano
      CF Gardner
      RF Granderson
      DH Jeter

      SP CC
      SP Kuroda
      SP Nova
      SP Pineda?Phelps?Nuno?Warren?
      SP FA/trade

      If they can iron out the pen and get one more above average starter that looks like a pretty good team worth wins in the low 90s. I’m guessing they re-sign Cano and scrimp everywhere else and botch the second offseason in a row. We should have kept Swish/Martin an probably gone after Greinke. More than 1 or 2 non disaster rotation spots and actual warm bodies in RF/C would have made a big difference.

      It’s very strange to watch the Yankees let productive players leave without even a decent replacement for them or to pass on the top players available that fit a pressing need. I wish I could just ask the Steinbrenners what they can’t afford now that this austerity budget will allow them to buy. They’re so freaking rich that besides things like their own island (actually probably not out of the question depending on size and how many of them were in) they have enough money to buy literally anything and everything they want and have a business that’s guaranteed to make them millions every year…as long as they don’t start letting most of our good players go so they can afford their 500th car or 7th summer home year after year. I’d also feel a lot better if I had ANY confidence in our FO to develop our own players or if I felt like they had ANY plan besides getting under $189MM at all costs.

      Think about how amazing Mariano’s final games and moments have been. Now imagine if the Steinbrenners had tried to even stay as good as they were the year before instead of replacing Martin with Stewart/Cervelli and Swish with Ichiro and accounting for their old roster naturally declining. It really is a shame they didn’t think sending Rivera out on top or at least the playoffs was more important than their precious $189MM plan. Imagine we keep Nick/Martin and sign Greinke and win the WS. What’s that like for Mo to close out the final game in Yankee Stadium instead of pitching part of the 8th and 9th in a game we were being shutout in and having already been eliminated? The man deserved better. They brought back Andy/Kuroda/Rivera on great deals and then traded for Kelley. That was it. The only good moves they made in the offseason. And I don’t give them a ton of credit for bringing those 3 back when 2 of them wouldn’t consider pitching elsewhere and Kuroda might have been the same way after last year. So they got a pretty good 6th/7th inning power righty. Hooray.

      I’m also a Packers fan and it’s always been completely weird to root for the team that basically can buy any player they want and dominate the financial landscape of their sport and then for one who essentially never goes into FA and develops pretty much all of their talent. They’re both fun to root for but the problem with the Yankees is they aren’t good enough to develop like the Packers so they need to spend. I’m deathly afraid of Cano getting $250MM and then having them basically use that mistake of a contract as proof they’re still the Yankees and buying premium players and putting the best possible team on the field for years. Ya know, like the garbage they tried to pass past a very savvy fan base this offseason as if nothing had changed.

      • Jonathan

        I forgot to put trade for Upton in there but they might not have had the prospects or Upton’s consent anyway.

  • Mister D

    You sort of have to let Cano walk at more than 5 years, right? We’re lamenting being too old and overpaid right now with guys like Teix and Alex and CC and etc … Cano isn’t going to freeze in time at 31. Just perpetuating a cycle that someday needs to be broken.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Obviously not. They’ve already offered like 7.

      • Mister D

        A lot of things I don’t consider logical happen every day. I’d rather go my way than the reported Yankees way, I guess?

  • FLYER7

    Who exactly on the current 40 man roster is NOT under contract in 2014?

  • FLYER7

    Who currently on the 40 man roster is NOT under contract in 2014?

  • http://Q Jason

    We have already made Cano a very strong offer. 7 yrs at 24 mil/yr. is a strong offer. He turned it down and its time to move on and use that money to fill 2-3 holes instead of overpaying for 1 player AGAIN. I THINK McCann is a good start, with JR Murphy backing him up. McCann can also DH as well maybe once/wk.

    It is time to bring in a full-time SS. ENOUGH HOLDING ON to Jeter until its too late and either Drew or Alexei Ramirez are no longer available. If Jeter has a problem not being starting SS, then move him to 3B and platoon him with Ryan/Reynolds. Or say sorry but we have to prepare for the future, Derek. Infante was my thought for 2B as well. Then I’d go for Pence/Choo for a corner OF spot, extend Gardner a few years for CF, and play Soriano in the other corner until we bring in/call up someone in 2015.

    Tanaka i’d go after. I’d also go after Garza too, especially since he was acquired mid season and will NOT require a draft pick. 2 solid rotation guys who will only cost money.

    I’d make qualifying offers to Granderson, Cano, Kuroda. At least 2 of them will reject and sign elsewhere, giving us 2 extra picks. We will forfeit one with McCann, but be able to fill multiple spots here, and accelerate our farm development/progression.

    SS-Ramirez or drew
    3B-Reynolds or Jeter(Jagielo in 2015)
    DH-Kendrys Morales

    Rotation–CC/Garza/Tanaka/phelps/nova or Pineda
    Bullpen–Claiborne/Robertson/Balfour/warren/Logan or Scott downs/2-3 young guys

    A Solid start for 2014.


      I like that you said but I don’t extend Gardner I cannot stand watching him. As you said for the future he’s going to be a FA next year and those legs are going to be getting slower and slower. If they do the right things this off season they can trade him away. Much better options for the OF this off season then some guy that hits like a tick and can’t stay healthy.



    Yankees should target these players for their lineup.

    Michael Young
    Hunter Pence
    Carlos Beltran
    Jacoby Ellsbury
    Shin-Soo Choo
    Robinson Cano
    Omar Infante
    Brian McCann
    Carlos Ruiz

    • Brian S.

      lol Ellsbury. He would probably only be healthy 3 of the 6 years he’s going to get. I’m down with Cano, Choo, McCann, and Drew though.

      CF-Brett Gardner
      DH-Derek Jeter
      2B-Robinson Cano
      LF-Alfonso Soriano
      RF-Shin-Soo Choo
      1B-Mark Teixeira
      C-Brian McCann
      3B-Mark Reynolds
      SS-Stephen Drew

      IF-Brendan Ryan
      OF-Ichiro Suzuki
      C-JR Murphy
      OF/IF-Zoilo Almonte/David Adams/Corban Broseph


        CF Ellsbury
        DH Jeter
        2B Cano
        LF Soriano
        RF Shin Soo Choo
        C Brian McCann
        3b Michael Young
        1b Mark Texteria
        SS ??

        Love to see Beltran in the lineup he can still rake.

        • NYPLATOONS

          LOL To Gardner when was the last time he played an entire season?

          • jedua

            LOL to Ellsbury he has played less full seasons than gardner

            • NYPLATOONS

              Have you even looked at any of the other outfielders I have mentioned or are you just stuck on Gardner and Ellsbury?

              Shin Soo Choo

              • NYPLATOONS

                Want more

                Kelly Johnson,
                Nate McLouth,
                Franklin Gutierrez
                Corey Heart
                Michael Morse

          • forensic

            Gardner will have played more games this season than Ellsbury.

            They both missed a ton of time last season, though Gardner did miss more.

            Gardner played more games in 2011 than Ellsbury.

            Gardner played more games in 2010 than Ellsbury.

            • NYPLATOONS

              I await the day we all stop having this convo about Gardner I don’t think he’s all what people think he’s cracked up to be. A number 9 hitter ….. it should be pretty easy to replace but it seems this Yankees front office can’t do it. Guy drove in 50 rbis struck out 157 times which is def not lead off status and hit .270. If you can’t find an upgrade beside Gardner it’s going to be 2013 all over again. Both Gardner and Ichrio combined 80 rbis. Onc guy should be driving in those runs not two fly’s in the outfield.

              Plenty of free agent out fielders this off season that can hit better then Gardner and drive in more then 50 rbi along with 20 home runs. Yankees scoring runs this season was a complete joke. A lot of changes need to be made and new players need to be brought in here. When are they going to start when they win 70 games next year?