Mailbag: Phillips, Logan, Wilson, Butler

Thursday Night Open Thread
Heyman: Yankees have interest in Shin-Soo Choo

Five questions this week, including some long-ish ones. By know you should know how to contact us, but if not, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go. Send us mailbag questions or anything else that way.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Many asked: What about Brandon Phillips?

Lots of questions about Phillips this week after it was reported the Reds are looking to move him and get out from under his contract. Apparently he’s run his mouth — he called his recent contract extension a “slap in the face” in light of Joey Votto’s extension — a few too many times and has worn out his welcome.

Anyway, the 32-year-old Phillips hit .261/.310/.396 (91 wRC+) with 18 homers and five stolen bases this summer, his worst offensive season in five years. His defense at second base remains very good, among the best in baseball, but the bat is starting to slow down just a bit. Here is a rather troubling graph:

Source: FanGraphsBrandon Phillips

That is what amounts to a seven-year decline in ISO. Yeah, he did rebound a whole two points from 2010 to 2011, but that’s negligible in my opinion. Two points of ISO is one extra base every 500 at-bats, so yeah, negligible. Phillips has hit 18 homers in four straight years — I mean exactly 18 homers, kinda weird — but his doubles and triples are coming down. So are his stolen bases — this was the first full season in his career he didn’t swipe at least 14 bags — so maybe the power drop isn’t so much as a “not hitting the ball hard” thing as it is a “not fast enough to take that extra base on balls hit into the gap anymore” thing.

Either way, Phillips is 32 years old and he has another $50M coming to him over the next four years. That’s a lot of money for a player with very clear signs of decline. If Robinson Cano were to leave as a free agent — pretty much the only scenario in which I would even entertain the idea of acquiring Phillips — I’d still scour the trade market for a short-term stopgap than take on that contract. Phillips is more name than production right now and the Yankees have too much of that as it is.

Wilbur asks: What kind of contract would it take to keep Boone Logan in pinstripes? He’s made it clear he wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’ll be coming off surgery to remove bone spurs, which’ll drive the price down (but also raises the question of do the Yankees even want him?).

Logan had surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to start throwing in January and be ready in time for the Spring Training. It sounds like a minor procedure but there’s really no such thing. There’s risk anytime you cut into pitcher’s elbow. CC Sabathia had a similar surgery last winter and after the awful season he just had, it’s fair to wonder if the elbow cleanup had something to do with it.

As for Logan, the market for top left-handed relievers if pretty well established. On the low-end you’ve got Sean Burnett (two years, $8M), on the high-end you’ve got Scott Downs (three years, $15M), and in the middle you have Damaso Marte (two years, $12M). Logan is several years younger than Marte and Downs were when they got their contracts and roughly the same age as Burnett when he got his. Burnett had much greater injury concerns though, much much greater. In this free agent-friendly market, I think Logan should be able to pull down Marte’s contract without much of a problem and maybe even land Downs’. Do the Yankees want him back? I don’t know. Lefty specialist seems like an easy spot to save money with payroll coming down though.

PitchFX clocked that at 95.7 mph, by the way.

Patrick asks: The only reliever I have any interest in is Brian Wilson. How many years and millions do you think he’ll get?

Wilson, 31, joined the Dodgers in August and quickly became their setup man, allowing just one run on twelve hits and six walks in 19.2 innings between the regular season and postseason. He struck out 21 (28.8%) and got 28 ground balls (60.9%). Wilson showed his usual pre-injury stuff — a nasty mid-90s two-seamer and an upper-80s slider — so that was one hell of a late season audition following elbow surgery. He was damn impressive with Los Angeles.

With Wilson, it’s necessary to look beyond the ridiculous beard and (intentionally?) insufferable personality. The Yankees need to add a late-inning arm to replace Mariano Rivera — they’re losing an elite reliever either way, regardless of whether David Robertson takes over as closer or stays in the eighth — and Wilson is close to the perfect candidate. He’s got power stuff and he misses bats, he’s got big game and World Series experience, and he’s an off the charts competitor. This is a guy who pitched through a torn elbow ligament for a while and worked his way back from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries. You don’t do that without being a determined and generally tough dude, both mentally and physically.

It’s tough to figure out what kind of contract Wilson will get this winter given his situation. He’s a not all that old formerly elite closer who has thrown fewer than 20 innings following his second elbow reconstruction. I’d call that unique. The Rangers gave Joakim Soria two years and$8M last winter as he was coming off his second Tommy John surgery, but he was not expected back until midseason. Wilson is obviously ready to go. Joe Nathan got two years and $14.5M one year removed from Tommy John surgery after 2011. If the Yankees could get Wilson for something between those two deals, say two years and $12M, I’d definitely do it. Forget the beard and the Taco Bell commercials, he’s a great fit for New York’s bullpen needs if the medicals check out and they can get him at a reasonable price.

Dan asks: MLBTR is reporting that the Royals might make Billy Butler available. He’s owed $8M in 2014 with a $12.5M club option in 2015. I know the last thing the Yankee need is a 1B/DH but would you consider him to DH and provide backup in case Mark Teixeira re-injures the wrist?

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

First things first: If the Royals are indeed making Butler available, they probably want something big in return. I doubt they’re going to trade their second best hitter for a prospect or two after having the franchise’s best season in 19 years. If they trade him, it’ll be a win now type of move, perhaps for a starting pitcher. The Yankees don’t really match up well with Kansas City. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume they do.

I am not all that interested in seeing the team spend even a moderate amount of bucks on the DH spot, and that’s what Butler is. He can fake first base during interleague play and that’s pretty much it. He’s awful defensively and he doesn’t hit for much power either. After hitting 29 homers in 2012, he dropped back down to 15 this year, in line with his 2008-2011 totals. He is a high-average, high-on-base guy and that’s very valuable, but the Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring David Ortiz here.

Spending $8M (and then $12.5M in 2014) for position-less, just-okay-power DH isn’t something they need to do in my opinion. They have so many other holes — more important holes like catcher and the left side of the infield and the rotation — that using a good amount of resources (both into terms of players traded away and then salary) to go after Butler doesn’t make much sense to me. He would make the team better next year, no doubt, but at a high cost that would limit their ability to make moves elsewhere. The Yankees could use a hitter like Butler, but they can’t ignore positional needs.

Kevin asks: If there is a weak draft and the next draft is projected to be loaded, do teams intentionally draft somebody they know they aren’t going to sign to essentially trade the pick in the weaker draft for another pick next year?

No, never. The only team who has something of a history of not signing top picks since the compensation system was put in place is the Blue Jays and that obviously hasn’t gotten them very far. Most scouting directors (and GMs) know they might not be around to make that pick next year if they intentionally do not sign a first rounder. The prospect now is always more valuable than the pick later. Always. Plus it’s impossible to judge the quality of the draft class a year in advance, so very much can change. Every club would rather make the pick now and get the player into their system as soon as possible. Waiting a year delays everything, including the ability to use that player in a trade to improve the big league. It’s a very, very risky strategy. There is always high-end talent available in the first round, you just have to find it.

Thursday Night Open Thread
Heyman: Yankees have interest in Shin-Soo Choo
  • Pinkie Pie

    Brian Wilson actually intrigues me. The Yankees could really use his arm in the bullpen. But methinks he’d never sign with the Yankees at the expense of his beard.

  • vin

    I’m very curious to see how the FO approaches the bullpen. Do they get a Proven Closer(c) and keep DRob in the 8th? Which would most likely hurt their chances to sign him long-term. A guy like Brian Wilson, for example, will probably get a job (and the corresponding $) to close somewhere. The Yanks wouldn’t bring in a Proven Closer(c) and make him compete for the job with DRob. I’m guessing they’re trying to avoid circuses.

    My guess is they promote DRob, try to find another Shawn Kelley, get an Asian import, pluck a few guys off the scrap heap (minor league deals), and maybe make a selection in the Rule V.

    If they’re going to field a competitive team and stay below 189, saving 8+ million on one reliever is probably the best place to start.

    • jjyank

      Yeah, I think you’re probably right. And if the budget is for real, it doesn’t make much sense to me to spend big on a reliever.

      That said, I’d want someone like Wilson, especially if the budget goes away. I just don’t think the Yankees would do it. I see Robertson getting a real crack at it (you know, not the uber small sample in 2012) and finding guys to build the bridge to him.

  • JLC 776


  • Grover

    I see the pen being treated much like the left handed dh slot this offseason while Cashman continues the revolving door in search of this year’s Ayala. Who is on par as a setup guy with David Murphy without the notorious slow starts? For all of the talk about position players, starters are needed and Phelps, Nuno and Warren might warrant revolving in the fifth slot. Zimmerman’s piece on starters’ salary projections in mlbtr was interesting but I found myself coming away with sticking to one year deals for Burnett, Colon and Hudson as opposed to $15/season for number twos and threes with injury histories. Everything is moot without reference to the salary ceiling and I realize Mike is tired of addressing it and always waits until the series concludes before the arguments for and against our own free agents but I think there are legitimate arguments for playing hard ball with Cano and potentially spending the money elsewhere along with not offering QOs to Granderson and Kuroda in fear they might accept. I realize it might be blasphemy and I feel like a Teabagger fiscal hawk but it’s time to rebuild this team and take the hit and some chances on some bold moves. I’m hoping Cashman isn’t gun shy and Levine goes on vacation but the math just does not add up.

  • Nathan

    From Mo to Wilson? Talk about from one extreme to the next.

  • Baked McBride

    If Brian Wilson agreed to neuter his stache and beard, he’d look like the WB Mason guy

  • Mr. Roth

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson signed with the Red Sox and said that it’s because his beard wanted to be around its brothers.

  • Dalek Jeter

    I have an unreasonable hate for Phillips and will be incredibly disappointed if Cano leaves and is replaced in a blockbuster trade for Phillips, most likely including losing any 3 of Williams, Austin, Phelps, Nova, Murphy, Sanchez, and Heathcott at the very least.

    • jjyank

      I don’t hate Phillips, but yeah, he’s a definite pass for me. No thank you.

    • CashmanNinja

      I’m not a fan of Phillips either. He has good defense — I actually feel it’s a tad underrated for the most part. His offense is still good in some aspects. His power is around where it’s been, save for the outlier season where he hit 30 HR. He averages about 20 HR so he’s on par for that. The main offensive problem is that he doesn’t hit for average and doesn’t get on base. So he’s basically an all-or-nothing type player. Sure he’ll drive in some runs, but not at a consistent rate. So he’ll be paid a ton to play good defense and alright offense, yet he still has the nerve to complain about not getting enough money. He got paid more than I believe he was worth. I’ll take Cano’s higher OBP, RBI, AVG, and everything in between over what Phillips provides.

    • Slu

      I am not in favor of Phillips, but it is likely that of the guys you listed (except Nova), none of them ever add as much value to the team (or any team) as Nova already has.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Very roughly, if you subract A-Rod for the entire season and add the guys under contract, the projected arbitration results, Jeter’s option, and estimated contracts for Cano, Granderson, and Kuroda, you would have 15 players (CC, Kuroda, Robertson, Nova, Kelley, Stewart, Cervelli, Tex, Cano, Jeter, Granderson, Soriano, Ichiro, Gardner, and Wells) and approximately $50M-$60M left for the other 25 roster spots at a $189 limit with big weaknesses/holes at C, 3B, DH — and that assumes Jeter and Tex can stay uninjured and play well. Some pretty interesting decisions for Cashman, et. al.

  • Gonzo

    RE: Brandon Phillips
    Teh RBIs though!

    I remember slapping a Billy Butler comp on Jesus Montero back in the day and even suggested that a Montero for Butler swap might make sense. This was a while ago obviously.

  • mt

    How much money does Wilson lose in endorsements (not to mention self-worth) if he has to shave his beard? Interesting player to fill a Yankee need but don’t see it happening.

    I only see Logan back if he accepts not cashing in with a long-term deal. I do not want a 3 year contract to a lefty releiver coming off major use and bone spurs (no Feliciano/Marte territory). One year could work but again feel he will have better options.

    regardless of decline, I can totally see Yankees trading for Brandon Philips if Cano walks – “NAME VALUE”

  • BigheadKay

    Prediction…Cano walks to the DODGERS. he has eyes….he sees the Yanks in decline and wants some rings before his career ends, and at this stage, I think the Yanks have to unload some worthless contracts and change their scouting staff before they become contenders again. Sure…they may make the playoffs….but short of a major overhaul this offseason, they aren’t going ANYWHERE in October past the 1st round.

    Listen…I am a DIEHARD Yankee fan..and it pains me to say these things. But facts are facts. Cano is not stupid. They Yanks will have to offer a king’s ransom to keep him here…but if they do it will be a foolish move…because it will be a repeat of STUPIDITY as they have exhibited with the ARod contract and the Teixiera contract.

    The Yanks front office wants to field a contender year after year. Well..they should take a CLOSE look at what fueled the Dynasty they had from 1996 through 2009….It was a core group of HOMEGROWN talent, with jeter being the lone leftover now. You build a TEAM from the ground up. Not by injecting a bunch of high priced players…many of who have pumped up their numbers ‘artificially’ (which to me is FRAUD and should be grounds to VOID a contract).

    We need SCOUTS who can replenish the farm system with bonafide TALENT. Where have we been with the Mike Trouts…the Mike Waccha’s?? Out scouting system needs to be revamped. We need to GROW the next dynasty just as we did this one. Add the supporting players as we did in 96…O’Neill, Martinez, Brosius…but the CORE has to be our own. And if you check…just about EVERY Yankee championship team has been built just that way.

  • Tom

    I could not have said it better bigheadkay