Mailbag: Bailey, Giambi, Johan, Relievers

King: Yankees "are going to be serious players" for Masahiro Tanaka
What Went Right: Shawn Kelley

Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Nate asks: If Homer Bailey is indeed being dangled, what kind of package would it take to land him? Should the Yankees go after him?

There has been speculation the Reds could trade Bailey in an effort to create payroll space, perhaps to sign Shin-Soo Choo long-term. Matt Swartz’s insanely accurate arbitration model projects the right-hander to earn $9.3M next season, his last before qualifying for free agency. Bailey reportedly hasn’t shown much interest in signing a long-term contract and presumably has his eye on a massive contract a year from now. Hard to blame him.

Bailey, 27, has emerged maybe not as an ace these last two years, but something damn close to an ace. He had a 3.49 ERA and 3.31 FIP in 209 innings this season after posting a 3.68 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 208 innings last year. Bailey was once one of the very best pitching prospects in the game — he was one spot behind Phil Hughes on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list after the 2006 season — and now he’s coming into his own as he enters his peak years.

Even though he only has one more year of team control left, I do think the Yankees should pursue Bailey if the Reds are indeed open to moving him. Not only would they be acquiring a really good pitcher –they could definitely use one or two of those, you know — but they would get a year to evaluate him in their league and ballpark before deciding whether to commit to him long-term. If not, they’ll get a draft pick. Kind of a win-win situation, I suppose.

Not too many pitchers of Bailey’s caliber have been traded one year from free agency in recent years, so we don’t have a good idea of what it would take to acquire him. Javy Vazquez (Expos to Yankees) and Cliff Lee (Phillies to Mariners) kinda fit the bill, but they were both better and more established than Bailey at the time of those trades. I’m guessing three prospects — one stud and two lesser pieces — is in the ballpark. The Reds don’t have any urgency to trade him though, so they won’t give him away. I don’t even think they will trade him. He’s a guy a win-now team keeps.

Andrew asks: With Jason Giambi looking to play one more year (according to Ken Rosenthal), would a reunion on a cheap one-year deal make sense? Cheap power designed for Yankee Stadium off the bench to hit for offensively challenged Yankees late in games (i.e., Brendan Ryan types should they re-sign him).

Giambi, who turns 43 in January, hit .183/.282/.371 (85 wRC+) with nine homers in 216 plate appearances for the Indians this year. That includes some really memorable walk-off homers as the Tribe made their push for a wildcard spot. I think it’s safe to assume moving into Yankee Stadium would help his power output, but how much? An extra five homers? Eight? Ten? The concerns I have are a) Giambi can’t play the field, and b) Derek Jeter figures to eat up a lot of DH time next season. The Yankees had an inflexible DH-only type on the roster this year (Travis Hafner) and it was a problem at times. I love Giambi as much as the next guy, but I don’t think he’s a fit for the current roster.

Michael asks: I wanted to know your thoughts about seeing Johan Santana in pinstripes for next year? He has a $25 million player and a $5.5 million buyout option. Can you picture Brian Cashman offering him a one-year, league minimum contract?

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)
(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

The Mets are obviously going to buy Santana out, but no, I can’t see the Yankees giving him a one-year contract at any salary. There’s no way they would (or should) guarantee him anything coming off his second (!) torn shoulder capsule. Torn capsules are the kiss of death; no one has ever had one and come back the same pitcher. The victim list includes Santana, Rich Harden, Mark Prior, Chien-Ming Wang, John Maine, John Danks, and Dallas Braden, among others.

That said, I do think the Yankees would be open to giving him a minor league contract a la Wang this year or Bartolo Colon in 2011. Santana came back from the first torn capsule and had a 4.85 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 117 innings last season, and that was in a big ballpark in the easier league. I’m not sure how anyone could expect anything out of him after another capsule injury, nevermind moving into Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Santana has been adamant that he wants to continue pitching, so if he wants to take a minor league deal to prove himself in Spring Training (and likely Triple-A early in the season), great. If not, no biggie.

Donny asks: After reading your “What Went Right: One-Run Games” post, I came to the conclusion that the team should keep David Robertson in the eighth and find someone else for the ninth. I came to this conclusion based on how Robertson reacted to his first introduction to closing (not good). My worry is that changing his role might have similar effects that it had on Joba Chamberlain and, to a lesser extent, Phil Hughes. Do you agree with this thought and if so, who should top the wish list (reasonably) if you are Brian Cashman?

Two things here. One, why is everyone freaking out about Robertson as the closer? How long as he actually been the team’s closer? A week, maybe, before getting hurt? That’s not enough to tell us anything about anything. Mariano Rivera blew three saves in the first two weeks of the 1997 season, remember. Robertson is one of the absolute best non-closer relievers in baseball. If you aren’t comfortable sticking him in the ninth inning, then who? He’s the perfect candidate. Two, moving Robertson from setup man to closer is not at all similar to moving Joba and Hughes back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. All you’re changing is the inning Robertson throws. The other two guys had to change their preparation, off-day routines, the way they pitched, everything. Huge, huge difference. Huge.

Now, all of that said, yeah the Yankees definitely need to bring in a good late-inning reliever this offseason in my opinion. With Rivera retiring, they’re losing an elite reliever. That’s 60 or so elite innings gone.Off the roster. Doesn’t matter what inning or role they came from, that’s a lot of production to replace. Free agent relievers are always risky investments, but the Yankees don’t really have a choice. A bullpen full of kids scares the crap out of me. Looking at the list of free agents, potential bullpen targets include Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom (if his option is declined), Edward Mujica, and the perpetually underrated Jamey Wright. I had my eye on Grant Balfour earlier this year, but he had a great season and won’t come cheap.

King: Yankees "are going to be serious players" for Masahiro Tanaka
What Went Right: Shawn Kelley
  • Kosmo

    Reds will probably not re-sign Arroyo so holding onto Bailey would make sense. Reds could not afford to lose 2 rotation mainstays this offseason.
    just what NY needs a 43 year old has been in Giambi.

    Crain would be great, Mujica slightly less so. No on the soon to be 39 yr old Wright.

  • RetroRob

    I suspect Balfour will only sign to be the closer. Talk about polar personality types going from Mo to Balfour.

  • MannyGeee

    I love the Giambino for what he was a decade ago, but I think he’s more a mascot than an asset at this point.

  • MannyGeee

    I would give Mujica a look. I think he could be a very solid 8th inning to DRob’s 9th.

  • ropeadope

    Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones.

    I haven’t gone through the archives, but it seems to me when the mailbag article opens with the sentence, only x questions this week (where x is a smallish number), the words but they’re good ones usually follow. I can’t recall ever seeing (for example) only three questions this week, and they all suck ass!

    So I’m wondering if this is just coincidence, or something about the mechanics of the world that dictates if a limited number of questions are submitted in a given week, they’ll all be good?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Some political websites open up the mail trash bag once a week or so and post the best doozies of the week. That’d be fun.

      • ropeadope

        Seconded! C’mon Mike, let’s have a column of the not ready for prime time submissions.

        • I’m One

          Could definitely be interesting during the slow times this off-season.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        There’s next week’s post:

        10 questions this week, and boy, were they DUMB.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I’ll start submitting my request that Ichiro bat cleanup now.

          • Mannygeee

            asks: Hey Mike: Should the Yankees try and lure Barry Bonds out of retirement? I mean, they need offense, Amirite???

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Mike, why are the Yankees being so slow with Rookie Davis? Dude should be pitching in the rotation right now!

  • Phil

    Homer Bailey and James Shields Free agents after next year……

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Don’t see why a team that looks to contend next year in Cincy would look to trade a fine young pitcher, no matter what his contract situation is. It’s a continued pipe dream that teams in strong market, who have a chance at winning, are going to choose to go the other direction just because a player is approaching free agency. Everyone would love for their team to be the Rays. There’s enough empty seats at the Trop to accomodate all the closet fans, and then some.

    Giambi can play in as many OTDs as he wants, sit in the booth, and maybe interview for a coaching job one day. We don’t need him on the field unless shit’s getting real.

    Johan’s MiLB deal with an invite material. Agreed on signing a reliever to soften the transition blow and pitch some high-leverags innings and just let Robertson take his goddamn lumps on the job. He throws too many pitches? Yes, and so do most closers not named Mariano Rivera.

  •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

    What would the stud in a Bailey trade be? I’d think someone like Mason Willaims wouldn’t nearly fit that bill.

    • Mannygeee

      My guess would be Banuelos (should he prove to be healthy) or Sanchez.

  • Donny

    Part of my thinking as to why I am not so sold on Robertson in the closer role is also due to the fact that he has always been the “escape artist”. To have a carnival like that in the ninth is definitely something Yankee fans won’t be used to (myself included). Most fans with a decent eye for the game notice an obvious sense of urgency by the team trailing in a save situation; you can clearly see that outs 25-27 are way more intense than outs 22-24. For that reason, a guy who has always had higher walk rates don’t make the best closers (then again, not too many teams have closers that have low walk rates). It is kinda hard not to feel this way after 17 years with a sure thing at the end of the game. Maybe this is the reason why Yankee fans have this feeling.

    Perhaps this led to a little overreaction on my part, but the fact still remains: the team should definitely put some bullpen help on their wish list.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      John Wetteland.

      I understand there’s fans for whom that’s an early part of their childhood who are now grown adults, and that’s certainly valid. The Yankees have been there, though, and they even won the first WS of their dynasty with a guy who was a Houdini act every night of the week.

      • I’m One

        Ugggh! Those were trying times. It did all turn out well, though.

        There are few closers that even have one season as confidence inspiring as Mo had for 19 years. We all just need to get ready for some uncertainty during the 9th in the upcoming seasons. Even R. Soriano, as good as he was, was unsettling at times in ’12.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          We were spoiled. Very spoiled.

          There’s a ton more Wettelands out there than there are going to be even 2012 Sorianos.

          • gc

            On the night when Wetteland got the save in game 4 of the 1996 ALDS vs Texas to clinch the Yanks’ first trip to the ALCS since 1981, the tension was so tight in that 9th inning with so much on the line (and the memory of losing to Seattle in the ’95 ALDS still fresh in everyone’s mind) I could barely stand it.

            The Yanks were up 6-4 and Wetteland walked the first batter. He got a line-out to center for the first out, then walked the next guy. It was killing me! He gave up a deep fly ball for an out where I think I actually crapped my pants a little, and then FINALLY (and mercifully) he struck the last batter out for the save. It was grueling. That’s when I decided to give up living and dying with every pitch and just go with the whole Zen baseball approach. I’ve been a happier fan ever since (though having Rivera pitch those 9th innings in the years since has made Zen baseball a whoooole lot easier, for sure!) :)

            • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?


      • Donny

        30 years old, so you pretty much nailed your assessment. I remember the Wetteland nights and I agree that he was a roller coaster.

        I mentioned the term “carnival” before. If Wetteland was James Anthony Bailey, then Robertson is certainly P.T. Barnum.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I’m turning 40 next year. It’s amazing what a decade means in Yankee fandom. We’ve grown up with very different phases of this franchise.

          What was Steve Howe, then?

          • Darren

            Steve Howe was a bright light of “good stuff” (no pun intended, I swear), after years of janky bullpens.

            Steve Farr didn’t have as good stuff, but was pretty solid. Our first real closer since Rags, I think. I would love ’91 Steve Farr on the ’14 Yankees.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I liked Farr. It was just a numbing time in history.

              Howe really did have moments of awesomeness sprinkled throughout his career. If he could have conquered those demons….

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          Wettelend sucked. We should have gotten the guy that set up for him…that guy was awesome.

          • Robinson Tilapia


  • Billy

    How about signing Joe Smith? His numbers have been very good. He can challenge Kelley for the 8th with the “loser” taking the 7th. I also think he’ll come much cheaper than the alternatives named in this post. Can I get a Amen????

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Somewhat off-topic, but Chad’s overall system write-ups on LoHud these past few days have been fantastic. Good stuff again today on several prospects.

    • Psycho Trish

      My comments are what keeps that place going. I have great perspicacity. HMMPH!!

      • Robinson Tilapia

        You wish you were that Tricia.


        • Psycho Trish

          Oh Robinson, I would love to have a dialogue with you, but you have the ilk of a 3rd grader. Sorry LITTLE MAN!!

          Plus Pat M. is the only one who can call me that. Oh how I wish he would let me be one of his pool girls. Sigh….

          Now Buzz Off, you have been BENCHED!!!!

  • mt

    1) Hard to think of Bailey being traded when Arroyo is not coming back probably but if so, he would be a perfect #2 (assuming CC regains #1 form).

    2) Just say no to Jason Giambi – our roster needs to be more flexible next year.

    3) Johan Santana as a Yankee has always intrigued me so a Milb contract would be great – don’t you think atleast one team will give him a major league low base contract with high incentives?

    4) Move of Robertson to closer cannot be looked at in a vacuum. I have (minor) concerns about Robertson too but they pale in comparison to the numerous other problems in our roster that may have to be solved with dollars and/or trading pieces, whether re-signing Cano, re-signing or replacing Granderson, getting a high quality starter in here (Kuroda at a minimum), and upgrading offensive holes at catcher and/or outfield.

    If we cannot move the elite non-closer Robertson to a closer role in 2014 so that we only have to supplement our younger relievers like Kelley and Betances with a veteran like Joe Smith or Matt Lidstrom type (as opposed to a closer like Balfour who will expect and get major dollars because of his 2013 saves totals), Yanks have no shot at $189 million “goal”. (Also even though I have watched him for years I never focused in that Balfour is so intense and curses audibly on mound – I don’t care about that but would the buttoned up Yankees care about his behavior?)

    In any case Balfour is a great addition but at what cost to the needs of the rest of the roster? We are not going to be able to “free agent” our way out of every possible problem or issue with Yankees. I look on Robertson transition as the least of our worries – we may have to just adjust during the season next year if it really goes poorly (which I don’t expect to happen). This may have to happen as opposed to getting a closer this off-season to protect us from the uncertainty.

  • WhittakerWalt

    RE: the Giambino (worst nickname ever, BTW)
    It’s amazing what a couple of walk-off homers will do for your perceived value. The guy is essentially useless at this point.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Agreed. I always partial to “The ‘Stache” as a nickname.

      • WhittakerWalt

        How about “Goldthonger” for a nickname?

      •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        My personal favorite was when he referred to himself in the third person as “The Big G”.

  • Nathan

    Am I the only one who thinks that Bailey looks like Batman (Bale)?

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    After further consideration, get Johan to close.

  • natcol

    Johan Santana went through the second shoulder operation on April 3, 2013. It will be less than a year when the season begins. It took 18 months for him to pitch again in the major league after the first shoulder operation.

    If such a big question mark still warrant a Triple-A contract, how about Chien-Ming Wang who had been healthy for the entire 2013(in fact, an much extended season if you consider WBC) and pitched well with Triple-A league leading ERA and WHIP?

    CMW’s 2013 MLB ERA is terrible at 7.67, but the 4.07 xFIP and 4.25 SIERA suggest something more than pitching went wrong.

  • mikelf

    A bullpen of kids scares you? I’m just happy as hell there is one part of the roster that doesn’t look like the over-the-hill gang.

  • qwerty

    The yankees may have to give up Betances in order to get Bailey.