Mailbag: Smyly, Kemp, Beckett, Braun, Lowrie

Cotillo: Yankees re-sign Jim Miller to minor league contract
The Latest on Alex Rodriguez and Biogenesis

Nine questions this week, so it’s another rapid fire mailbag with short-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Peter asks: Should the Yankees speak to the Tigers about trading for Drew Smyly and turn him back into a starter? How well do they match up and what would you give up?

To answer the question, yes, I think the Yankees should look to trade for Smyly so they can convert him back into a starter. Jon Morosi says the Tigers are fielding offers for Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello as a way to plug other roster holes and clear payroll with Smyly taking over the vacated rotation spot. The Yankees should have interest in all of those guys — slightly less interest in Porcello, who needs a good infield defense to be effective — including Smyly. I looked at the 24-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate last winter and everything still holds true, except he now has a season as elite reliever (2.37 ERA and 2.31 FIP) under his belt and one fewer year of team control. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t trade for prospects (he trades them away), he’ll want big league pieces in return. Detroit needs bullpen help and I’d give them David Robertson (free agent after 2014) for Smyly (free agent after 2018) in a heartbeat, but I suspect it’ll cost a bit more than that.

Ross asks: With the focus on the $189 million goal this off-season, what’s the likelihood the Yankees give extra years to free agents with a lower average annual value to separate their offers from other bidders?

An example of this would be signing Brian McCann for eight years and $81M ($10.125M luxury tax hit) instead of five years and $75M ($15M tax hit). The extra years lower the average annual value and thus the luxury tax hit while putting a little more money in McCann’s pocket for his cooperation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement covers potential luxury tax circumvention, and this type of maneuver would fall under that. The league would flag it and probably void the deal. It’s a good idea in theory — I’ve seen people suggest giving Alex Rodriguez a multi-year extension worth $1M a year to lower his tax hit — but I don’t think it would fly in reality. MLB doesn’t take too kindly to teams trying to game the system.

Mark asks: How do you like Chris Iannetta as a consolation prize for losing out on McCann? Would add a little bit more power to the bottom of the order.

Iannetta, 30, hit .225/.358/.372 (111 wRC+) this past season and has a 100 wRC+ with a 15.5% walk rate over the last three seasons. He’s also usually good for double digit homers. Iannetta isn’t a good defensive catcher these days (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s owed $10.225M through 2015 ($5.1125M tax hit). The Angels are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold themselves and one way they’ve discussed doing that is by dealing Iannetta and giving the catching reigns to young Hank Conger. Iannetta is better than the guys the Yankees have in-house and if they don’t bring in another catcher via free agency, he makes sense as a trade target. The Halos want pitching, so maybe something like Adam Warren for Iannetta makes sense for both sides. Not sure if that’s enough though. Just spit-balling here.

Glen asks: The White Sox are open to trading Alexei Ramirez. What would it take to get him and should the Yankees do it?

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Well, according to Mark Gonzales, the White Sox turned Carlos Martinez when the Cardinals offered the one-for-one swap prior to the trade deadline. Jon Heyman shot that down, which makes sense because I can’t imagine Chicago would decline an offer like that. They’d be crazy. The 32-year-old Ramirez is basically Eduardo Nunez with a better glove and a much more expensive contract ($10.25M tax hit through 2015). He’s a total hacker (3.2% walk rate last two years) with no power (.098). I would prefer simply signing Brendan Ryan, who will play similar (if not better) defense and hit for a lower average but come far, far cheaper. I know good shortstops are hard to find, but I am not a Ramirez fan at all.

Bill asks: Any interest in Matt Kemp as a trade target?

Yes, but two things need to happen first. For starters, the Dodgers would have to eat a whole bunch of money. Kemp is owed $128M through 2019 ($21.3M tax hit) and I’d be willing to take him on at $16M or so annually. That means Los Angeles would have to kick in about $32M or so, a lot in the real world but little relative to the contract. Secondly, Kemp would have to go through a very thorough physical. The guy had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and left shoulder (labrum) surgery last winter, plus he’s missed a bunch of time with hamstring problems the last two years. There is evidence that hitters who have their front shoulder surgically repaired (like Kemp last winter) can lose bat speed and power for a long time and perhaps permanently. Adrian Gonzalez is a very good example — his power isn’t nearly what it was pre-2010 shoulder surgery. It has to do with the mechanics (and biomechanics, I suppose) of the swing and everything like that. Click the link, it’s interesting stuff. Kemp just turned 29 in September and his upside (MVP level performance fro, 2011-2012) is so very high that it’s hard to ignore. The salary needs to be offset and the body (especially the shoulder) needs to be checked out first, but yes, I’m interested.

Aaron asks: Any interest in Gordon Beckham for 3B? I know its been a few years but I think he’s still young enough to handle the switch back over.

Not anymore. I liked Beckham a few years ago and thought he was salvageable, but we’re going on nearly 2,500 career plate appearances with an 86 wRC+ now (88 wRC+ in 2013). Yes, he is only 27 and a breakout could be right around the corner, but Matt Swartz projects him to earn $3.5M next year and that’s a little pricey for a reclamation project in my opinion. I don’t think the transition from second base over to third will be much of a problem — hell, he still might be an option at shortstop — but it’s everything else that comes along with it, namely the price tag and noodle bat.

Travis asks: I’m thinking outside the box and more than likely this is one of the stupidest things you’ve heard in a while, but what if a team traded for Josh Beckett and made him a closer? He’s a former Red Sock, so I wouldn’t suggest Yankees, but someone?

That is stupid outside the box. (Kidding!) Beckett, 33, made only eight starts this year before needing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is what effectively ended Chris Carpenter’s career. It’s serious stuff but not always a career-ender. Dillon Gee and Matt Harrison have both dealt with it recently and come back perfectly fine. Beckett’s stuff has been fading in recent years and he was only sitting 90-91 with his fastball before getting hurt this year, and he’s a very different pitcher at 90-91 than he was was 95-96 a few years ago. Maybe a move to relief will bring back some velocity. If he can’t hold up as a starter anymore following the surgery, the bullpen would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to trade for him and try it, though.

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

Mark asks: Assume the Yankees part ways with Robinson Cano, any chance you see them trying to acquire Ryan Braun? Or does he have too much baggage with his PED suspension? Not sure the Brewers are open to dealing him, but I suspect they are given how bad the team is. Assuming he is available, he could fill the void in RF or 3B (can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera), is just 29 and is signed to a super team-friendly deal through 2021 (when he turns 37) at $16.5 million per year.

Believe it or not, Braun is still pretty popular in Milwaukee. This isn’t an A-Rod situation where pretty much everyone hates him. Braun is beloved by fans and his team (again, unlike A-R0d) and there’s no real desire to get rid of him. He’s the franchise cornerstone and they’re going to move forward with him as the centerpiece despite the PED stuff. Even if they wanted to get rid of him, I don’t think the Yankees don’t have the pieces to get a player of that caliber. It’s not like the Brewers would just give him away to save face and money. It’s a nice idea — he’d fit wonderfully in right field (third base isn’t happening, I don’t think “can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera” is a good enough reason to play him there) — and in the middle of the lineup, but it ain’t happening.

Mike asks: Would Jed Lowrie make sense as a possible trade target? He’s in his last year of arbitration this season before becoming a free agent in 2015. He’s a SS who has played 3B and 2B in the past, and he had a good year where he stayed healthy (finally) in 2013. If Billy Beane was inclined to deal him (would he be?), what kind of package would the Yankees have to give up?

Yes, he definitely makes sense. The 29-year-old Lowrie managed to stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career this past summer, hitting 15 homers with a 121 wRC+ in a pitcher’s park. He can play shortstop but his defense is spotty, though he does make up for it with the stick. Matt Swartz projects him to earn $4.8M in 2014 and there’s a decent chance he’ll be worth a qualifying offer after the season, meaning he’ll net a draft pick if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. Again, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for a player of Lowrie’s caliber — for what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears the Athletics aren’t looking to trade him in the wake of the Nick Punto signing — but he’s a definite fit at this point in time.

Cotillo: Yankees re-sign Jim Miller to minor league contract
The Latest on Alex Rodriguez and Biogenesis
  • CountryClub

    I know you were just pulling a number out of the air, but MLB wouldn’t stop the Yanks from giving McCann 8/81. It’s a respectable contract. But McCann would never sign that deal. Why would he? If someone was offering him 5/75, I can’t see an extra 6 mil over three years from the yanks making sense. He’ll easily make more than that in a new deal after his 5/75 deal runs out.

    The Yanks would have to do something like 8/104 to get him to take less money annually. That would be a 13 mil luxury tax hit. But I can’t imagine fans would be excited about that type of deal considering the position he plays.

    • mitch

      I think player options are included in the AAV, so you could structure it like 5/75 plus 3 years of 2mil player options. Obviously it’s unrealistic and blatant circumvention of the rules.

      • CountryClub

        Yeah, I could see them shooting that down. But a straight 8/81? I don’t think they would.

        • mitch

          I agree…that’s not unreasonable at all.

    • Mac

      I tend to agree. The argument for why he would take it is that he might be injured/done by 35, but I agree that not many players who would already have that much money in the bank are going to be that worried about their own decline to potentially leave that much money on the table. You’d have to be really risk averse. While he plays C, Cs of McCann’s caliber have tended to age relatively well. Maybe Mike was referring to options, but that wasn’t at all clear.

    • Ed

      Exactly, MLB and the Union wouldn’t care. The deal isn’t a blatant tax manipulation scheme. It’s just a weak deal compared to what he’s likely to find elsewhere, so he probably wouldn’t accept it unless he really preferred playing here.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    In regards to the McCann situation you described above and the league voiding out sketchy deals, when do they draw the line and it obviously stops at buyouts and such.

    Bobby Banilla was owed $5.5 million or something and the Mets are giving him INFINITELY more than that until 2035 or something ridiculous to do this very thing. It wasn’t blocked. Which makes me feel the rule is arbitrary and therefore pointless.

    If a team and a player agree on a contract, I still don’t understand how a 3rd party can prevent them from making a mutual deal…

    Yes, I understand it’s in pages of a bargaining agreement, I still think it’s stupid haha

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Different eras. Different CBAs. Bonilla was a lifetime ago, at this point.

      Besides, “because the Mets did it” is the worst excuse for anything other than “because mick taylor said so” on here.

      • Dr. Grenaldine

        I see what you’re saying but my view wasn’t really “because the Mets did it”, I just find 3rd parties breaking up mutual agreements between two parties ridiculous.

        That’s like if you were selling your car for $4500 and I am willing to and agree to pay $4500 for your car – and then some 3rd party comes in and says “No, you can’t do that” – it’s frustrating to say the least haha – but that’s what you get with unions I guess.

    • Ed

      I believe the luxury tax was created in 2003, and the Bonilla buyout happened in 2000.

      The Bonilla deal looks horrible now, but it actually made sense when they had their money invested in Madoff. They were getting something like 18% interest off money invested with him, so it basically meant if they stuck a portion of the money Bonilla was due in 2000 into an investment account, the interest they’d earn would easily pay off the new deal along with a profit for the team.

      Obviously once the Madoff scandal happened, the deal looked horrible.

      • Dr. Grenaldine

        Thanks Ed. That makes sense now.

        • qwerty

          The Mets saved nearly 6 million dollars at the time so that’s why they did it. They were not able to move forward with Bonilla’s contract on the books. The agreement was that they would only have to pay Bonilla 1.2 million a year till 2035.

          • Laz

            Inflation adjusted it isn’t nearly as bad as it looks, although it still isn’t ideal. 1.2M in 2035 is worth quite a bit less in present value, less in 1999 value.

            • Mac

              It still seems pretty terrible when accounting for the time value of money (discounting the future cash flows to present value). If you set the discount rate at 10% they basically paid him twice as much money in present value through the pay-outs than just handing him $6 mill on the spot.

              The only explanation that makes much sense to me is basically the Madoff explanation Ed laid out: over time the returns on the investment you make with the money are greater than the payments. Might have been putting money with Madoff. Might have been reinvesting it into the team. I have no idea, but the tradeoff doesn’t seem to work (based on the numbers listed here) until you get to a discount rate of around 20%.

  • Mike HC

    I don’t see why giving McCann an 8 year deal for 81 million would be illegal. McCann obviously wouldn’t want to do that deal, but it wouldn’t be circumventing the luxury tax if for some reason he wanted to give the Yanks an extra 3 years for a total of 6 more mil. His agent should maybe be fired and sued though.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I will admit to being oddly intrigued by the Beckett question. He always got a pass from me due to loving him as a Marlins prospect.

    Drew Smyly would be a good fit for any team in baseball.

    Wouldn’t be opposed to Beckham, but he’s certainly not Plan A as a starting 3B. I’ll assume Lowrie still carries some sort of price tag he’s probably not worth.

  • Rough Destoyer

    If Tigers made Max Max Scherzer available Yankees should jump all over this. Scherzer is an ace and exactly what Yankees need because CC is a shell of his former self. I think David Robertson, Eduardo Nunez, David Adams and David Phelps is a good starting point. Following the departures of Benoit, Infante and Peralta, Tigers have 3 empty holes that Cashman can plug. Phelps would just be an added bonus.

    • jjyank

      Hint: Your trade proposal sucks.

      Detroit hangs up the phone laughing there.

    • Pee Wee Herman Ruth

      You want the Tigers to accept a relief pitcher whose team won’t even commit to him as a closer, a utility infielder, a question mark, and a back-end SP who has never thrown over 100 innings in the major leagues for the current Cy Young award winner? Oh, and you think Phelps would be an added bonus? Come on.

      Dombrowski is one of the best GMs in baseball…and has executed the most successful trades in all of baseball over the course of the last few years. A fool he is not.

      I like Scherzer…but we will have to wait for him to become a FA, if at all.

      • jjyank

        “a relief pitcher whose team won’t even commit to him as a closer”

        I agree with your overall premise, but that’s really not fair to Robertson. He’s one of the best relievers in baseball over the last several years, and the team not making a public announcement and crowning him the closer in November means absolutely nothing. That’s my nitpick. Otherwise, yes, such a trade proposal doesn’t even get Dombrowski to return the phone call.

        • Pee Wee Herman Ruth

          I believe in Robertson and I think the Yankees do as well.

          But if I’m Dombrowski (in this inane hypothetical)…I’m using the fact that Robertson has not been a closer for any significant period of time, and has not even been named the closer yet, as leverage, once again, in this inane hypo.

          • jjyank

            Fair enough.

    • qwerty

      Is this even a remotely serious post?

    • Mike Axisa

      Throw in Verlander and we have a deal.

      • Chris in Maine

        I was going to say Miggy, but Verlander works.

        • qwerty

          Scherzer, Verlander and Miggy? You do realize that the yankees would need to give up Dellin Betances and Slade Heathcott along with all the other names mentioned in the OP’s post don’t you?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        I think Cabrera would level it out.

  • Mac

    -I don’t think MLB is what you have to worry about with McCann taking that second deal, but McCann himself. MLB would have a really hard time messing with the contract if the AAV is constant. Free agents are allowed to choose what team they want to play for and what financial offer makes the most sense to them. You can’t tell McCann that he has to take more money to play in, say, Texas than NY. Maybe he wants the security, but I’d be willing to bet it’s McCann who turns down what is effectively a 3 year, $6 million extension. Elite offensive Cs are rare to begin with, but the ones who have made it to 35 are often making over $6 million in one year around age 36: AJP right now, Jorge, Pudge, Varitek, and Piazza (Oakland) for example.

    -Ramirez is Nunez who plays elite D… so he’s not Nunez at all. I’m not that interested in him due to the cost, but the Nunez comparison doesn’t make much sense. Ramirez has been worth an average of 3 WAR per the last three seasons while Nunez has a negative career WAR. Either WAR has to be complete garbage or you have to think one’s fortunes are going to change dramatically for them to be comparable players.

    -If you describe someone as having played the first full healthy season of their six season career (1st time he’s played 100 and 2nd time he’s played 90), you almost definitely don’t want to give up serious assets to acquire him. What are the odds he makes it two years in a row? I don’t see how you can talk about health as a 6th tool and then constantly ignore it in your player valuations (having Slade #2 on the top prospect list is another example). (Of course, it’s not a tool at all… but it should in a sense trump tools when you know a guy has terrible health as not being on the field eliminates your ability to use any of your real tools.)

    • Kosmo

      The only noticable downside to Ramirez´ game is that he doesn´t walk. Overall he´s a very good SS. He also stays on the field something Nunez has failed to do.

  • Jonnie


    • BFDeal

      1B Bugs Bunny
      2B Bugs Bunny
      3B Bugs Bunny
      SS Bugs Bunny
      C. Bugs Bunny
      LF Bugs Bunny
      RF Bugs Bunny
      CF Bugs Bunny
      DH Bugs Bunny

      • Havok9120

        He needs to be on the mound, too. He’s got that one pitch that can strike out the side on a single throw.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Bricka bracka firecracka sis boom ba!

        • Kosmo

          Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits

  • blake

    Kemp is really interesting….even though it’s risky I’d love to try to get him because he’s so talented and the reward would be so high if he could get healthy and bounce back.

    The other thing though about taking him off the Dodgers hands is that they could just turn around and give all that money saved plus more to Cano…..which would make the Yanks cheaper but kinda defeat the purpose of actually getting Kemp.

  • Bob Buttons

    MLBTR says something about Javier Lopez and the Yanks. Frankly I’d rather have Boone back because Lopez is MUCH older and probably goes at the same price, if not more. Plus he’s almost always giving up hits to righties at a pretty high pace, over 2011-2013 and career. Logan at least is more stingy to righties in 2011-2013.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Is it safe to say we’re all in favor of trying to acquire Guy Smyly?

  • nycsportzfan

    I’m pretty excited that the yanks seem to have intrest in Javier Lopez and he also does with the yanks. Sign Grant Balfour, and u got a nice nucleus of a pen with Robertson, Balfour, Kelley, and Lopez.