Nov
26

With first rounder gone, Yankees in position to add more qualified free agents at reduced cost

By
(Harry How/Getty)

(Harry How/Getty)

As soon as Brian McCann passes his physical and his five-year contract becomes official, the Yankees will forfeit their first round pick (18th overall) in next summer’s draft. It will be only the third time in the last eight drafts that New York has surrendered its first rounder as free agent compensation, believe it or not. That surprised me. They used to give away their top pick every year, it seemed.

Young players reign supreme in baseball these days. Everyone wants them because they’re cheap and tend to be on the upswing of their careers. As a result, prospects and draft picks have become highly valued. I’d argue overvalued. Either way, they are important. Most teams do not want to give up their first rounder to sign a free agent, but the Yankees were cool with it and now they have one of the five best catchers in baseball.

Now that McCann is on board, the offseason dynamic has changed for New York. Most teams are trying to figure out ways to improve their team without surrendering a draft pick. The Yankees don’t have that problem anymore. They’ve already committed. While other clubs wrestle with the decision about whether to forfeit a first round pick to sign a qualified free agent, the Yankees only have to consider giving up a less valuable pick later in the draft, either their second rounder of one of the compensation picks they’ll receive for losing one of their own qualified free agents, depending how things play out. (Yes, you can lose those picks now.)

“It’s like buying the buffet instead of ordering off the menu. You might as well go back for seconds and thirds,” said one executive to Buster Olney (subs. req’d) recently, referring to giving up a draft pick. The first rounder is the big one, the one teams don’t want to lose. But once you’ve crossed that line, you might as well go all-in and get the players you need. Giving up a first and second rounder this year is better than giving up a first rounder both this year and next. Catch my drift? The cost of signing free agents has dropped for New York with the McCann deal. Not in terms of contract size but in terms of the draft pick they’d have to give up.

This changes the Curtis Granderson vs. Carlos Beltran debate, for one thing. Before it was “Granderson and the 18th overall pick” vs. “Beltran and a supplemental first rounder.” With McCann signed, both Granderson and Beltran would cost the same pick*. Like I said, much different dynamic now. Next year’s free agent class is really bad and it’ll only get worse as a few of the high-end guys sign extensions. Pass on Granderson or Beltran this year because you want to keep the pick? Fine, but the best available outfielder next winter is … Colby Rasmus? Nate Schierholtz? Nick Markakis? The Yankees need long-term help in the outfield and it appears they’d be better off surrendering another draft pick to get it right now rather than roll the dice and wait for a future free agent class. Salaries are only going up and it seems like the quality of the free agent class only gets worse.

* No, Granderson wouldn’t technically cost a draft pick to sign, but the Yankees would not get the compensation pick if they re-signed him. That pick is gone either way as soon as they sign another qualified free agent.

With their first rounder gone and losing later picks not being enough of reason to pass on adding additional qualified free agents, I think the Yankees could benefit the most later in the offseason, near Spring Training. Remember, Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse didn’t sign until camp had already opened last season because teams didn’t want to forfeit a pick. The Brewers stepped forward and gave up their first rounder for Lohse, and they were rewarded with a really good pitcher at a relative bargain. If, say, Granderson or Ubaldo Jimenez is still sitting out there when spring rolls around, New York will be in a position to pounce because giving up a later pick isn’t a big concern. Needless to say, giving up a third draft pick to sign a third qualified free agent would be an even easier decision than doing it the second time.

Five years ago, the Yankees forfeited their first, second, and third round draft picks to sign CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. They did all of their shopping at once and had fewer needs to fill in subsequent years. The draft pick cost was high, but only in that one year. They didn’t spread it out over multiple years and lose multiple first rounders, which would have hurt both the big league roster and several drafts. They can do the same thing now, only on a smaller financial scale. Giving up that first round pick is the step no team seems to want to take, but giving up second and third rounders after that is a much easier pill to swallow.

Categories : Hot Stove League

89 Comments»

  1. Theonewhoknocks says:

    I hope this offseason looks like 2009′s offseason.

    Sure big deals are regrettable by the 3rd or 4th year often(as we saw with arod, tex, aj, etc) but we got a ring to show for it.
    I get how the rays and a’s operate and it’s great for them, but it hasn’t been an approach that’s worked for us. We haven’t excelled with drafting and player development, even though it’s been a major priority for the past decade. What we do excel at is having a lot of money to spend, more than anyone else. So let’s stop ignoring our biggest advantage and go back to what works, make it rain baby.

    Cano, Tanaka, Mccann sign em all up. Heck maybe even Beltran/grandy too

    • jjyank says:

      Indeed. Hell, Tanaka doesn’t even lose us a pick. I won’t lie, the McCann signing has me real greedy right now.

    • Vincent Vega says:

      The Rays have never won a WS and the A’s haven’t since the 80′s. Their method doesn’t apply to teams who’s ultimate goal is a WS.

      • Ed says:

        The Rays have only been good for 6 years, and they’ve got a World Series appearance and three other playoff berths in that time. I wouldn’t knock them. Most teams would be thrilled to do that well.

        • jjyank says:

          Judging by the comments section here over the last year or so, most Yankee fans wouldn’t be.

          I agree that they’ve done well, and are set up to continue to do well. But they don’t have a ring yet, so I’m not putting them on any sort of pedestal.

        • Vincent Vega says:

          That’s not a knock but I refuse to champion a method of team building that doesn’t produce champions.

          The Yankees aren’t most teams.

          • qwerty says:

            The Rays and As are limited in what they can do due to funds, but their method of team building is precisely how you build championship teams. Spending as much money as you can is not a sound method, and is only used by the most desperate and dumbest of organizations because they are clueless.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’ve been all over this from the start. We either forgot what it was like to have a good-great player at every position or got too used to seeing replacement and below-replacement level players last year. I wanted McCann/Tanaka/two of Beltran, Granderson or Choo although 1 is just fine/wanted 1 of Peralta or Drew/1 late inning reliever/Re-sign Cano/Kuroda. That leaves you with:

      C McCann
      1B Tex
      2B Cano
      3B ARod unless suspended and then Peralta/Drew
      SS Jeter or Ryan (i can live with Ryan at SS if we’re stacked everywhere else as his defense alone will be worth it
      LF Granderson
      CF Gardner
      RF Beltran/Choo
      DH Soriano

      SP Sabathia
      SP Kuroda
      SP Tanaka
      SP Nova
      SP Phelps/Warren/Pineda/Nuno/relcamation project

      RP Robertson
      RP Kelley
      RP late inning guy
      RP Betances most likeley and the rest would be depended upon the 5th starter job and other minor leaguers.

      • Poconos Adam says:

        It doesn’t seem like people “forgot” — more likely many people are assuming 189 is a real factor that is in play.

        Can’t imagine anyone knocking the lineup you have there, but no way does it come close to being under 189.

        • Jonathan says:

          Most responses are people saying we can’t afford it even without the $189MM. I’m guessing that team has a payroll of almost the same as last year since we’ve lost so much payroll. No one has been against it, so far, in regard to talent but they’ve basically said it’s a fantasy baseball roster and asking too much and we’d have an absurdly high payroll. Ideally we’d have 2 bullpen arms, another SP on top of that but I think basically our best case scenario for this offseason is:

          C McCann
          1B Tex
          2B Cano
          3B ARod comes back (f’ the payroll plan he’s our best 3B and probably the best on the market)
          SS Ryan
          LF Soriano
          CF Gardner
          RF Beltran/Granderson/Choo
          DH Jeter

  2. Question Mike:

    Lets say the Yankees sign Beltran first, they would lose their second round pick. Lets say that Granderson signs with another team after the Yankees sign Beltran, would the Yankees still lose their second round pick or would they lose their compensation round pick?

  3. jjyank says:

    Agreed, Mike. I like the idea of going big one year, get all the pick-losing out of the way, rather than lose several first rounders over the course of several years.

  4. nycsportzfan says:

    Good read and well said. I also like the idea of going big in a yr and then having ur picks for the next serveral yrs and see where ur at when the 3-5yrs is up and do it again, and possibly to a lesser scale if the guys your drafting are doing well and ready/or contributing.

  5. CashmanNinja says:

    I agree with this. It does suck to lose the pick, but the Yankees haven’t really been developing those picks anyway. At least they’re getting a surefire guy in McCann. I’ve always liked Beltran. I’d love him more on a 2 year deal. Perhaps they could do a vesting option with him as well to protect themselves in case he gets a little too banged up to play in the final year. I’d definitely prefer Beltran over Granderson simply because I like Beltran’s ability to make contact/hit for average. I’d rather lose a few lower picks now that we’ve spent our 1st than lose our 1st next year as well for someone who REALLY isn’t worth it.

  6. Leg-End says:

    McCann, Beltran, and Tanaka would go a long way in making this team somewhat exciting again, maybe not the strongest contendor but it would atleast give us a foothold again. I’ll take that over getting the 18th pick and supplemental rounds any day of the week.

    If we can get Cano on a reasonably sensible contract even better.

  7. TWTR says:

    I hate losing the pick, but I accept that Hal doesn’t appreciate the benefits of a full rebuild, and since the pick was surrendered for McCann rather than a player well over 30, it is easier to take, especially if they continue to spend smartly, unlike last offseason when they just burned checks on washed up players.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Perhaps Hal appreciates the dangers of a full rebuild?

      And, besides the Ichiro contract, what contract last offseason bothered you so much? The signings often didn’t work, but we needed the bodies and that was the going rate for those bodies.

      • Mr. Roth says:

        Don’t you know? Full rebuilds only take one year, they are always successful, and they result in a championship the following season (look at the Red Sox if you don’t believe me).

        Furthermore, players drafted after an owner declares the team to be in “full rebuild mode” are guaranteed to be all stars within 1-2 seasons as long as everyone that was in the scouting and player development departments prior to “full rebuild activation” are fired.

  8. Vern Sneaker says:

    Beltran(and pray for good health) way better than the next draft pick. If not Beltran, Grandy over Ellsbury and Choo. The idea of watching Ichiro/Wells/Almonte, et. al. another season has me coughing up my cookies.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Yeah, I’m at Beltran > Granderson @ a 3-4 year deal >>> Choo at his likely contract >>>>>>> Ellsbury at his likely contract.

  9. GN says:

    2yrs for Beltran is preferrable, but maybe a 3rd year option that vests with 1,100 PA’s in the first 2yrs gets it done. I could live with that.

    • Havok9120 says:

      I think it’d need to be more attainable than that considering how many DHs and OFs we have on the roster this season, but a good vesting option for a third year would get my vote.

      • GN says:

        Perhaps, but he had 1,219 PA’s and 1,101 AB’s the last 2 years w/o the benefit of playing DH for a half day off. I am sure he and his agent would want it to be more attainable, but the last 2 yrs proves it already would be.

      • I'm a looser baby so why don't you kill me? says:

        I’d be happy to throw in vesting for a top 5 finish in MVP voting in year 2 :)

  10. Greg says:

    I like this take on giving up all your picks in one year instead of losing the first rounder every year. By that token, why not get the better player and more long-term solution in Choo rather than Beltran?

  11. mitch says:

    I agree with the premise and definitely think they should sign an outfielder this year, but next year’s class isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.

    Hanley, Headley, and Sandoval make a pretty strong 3B class which will likely still be a need. There are also some good starters like Masterson, Homer Bailey, Lester, Shields, Scherzer, and Kershaw. Of course the premier guys in that group are likely to get locked up, but a few interesting guys will hit the market.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Yeah, but most of the other positions are totally barren. Like, depressingly so. I stopped reading the list once I got to the relievers, but OF, SS, 2B were all pretty awful.

  12. Mr. Pappageorgio says:

    Can someone please explain why Beltran is a better option than Granderson, regardless of the pick?

    If we’re talking about a three year deal, I think the Yankees would be stupid to give one to Beltran over Granderson.

    Granderson is 32 as opposed to Beltran being 36. Granderson hits for more power and plays better defense. He’s a better base runner and more likely to stay on the field (last year’s injuries were fluke HBP’s).

    *Obviously this requires the assumption or hope that Granderson will return close to his ’11-’12 form the farther he gets removed from those injuries. But it’s not like Beltran doesn’t come with risk as well.

    I’d rather have Granderson

    • Mike HC says:

      I prefer Granderson too but maybe Granderson is asking for 4-5 years. As Mike just wrote, next years free agent class is extremely weak so guys like Granderson and Beltran might be able to have a little extra leverage.

    • mitch says:

      I’d prefer Granderson as well but only on a 3 year deal or less. I don’t think i’d go more than 2 for Beltran.

      • jjyank says:

        Agreed. A third year for Beltran would give me pause. Honestly, I go back and forth on which one I prefer seemingly every day. I preferred Grandy when it was a first round pick we were talking about for Beltran, but now the calculus has changed a bit.

    • TWTR says:

      Beltran is a better contact hitter than Granderson with comparable SLG, but I think giving him three years would be a big mistake.

    • jsbrendog says:

      because despite age, the past 4 years beltran >>>>> granderson overall offensively.

      • jsbrendog says:

        but i dont go more than 2 yrs on beltran and no more than 4 on grandy (and id much rather go 3 but being realistic i doubt he gets less than 4…)

    • Havok9120 says:

      I’d be happy with either. I prefer the guy who makes more contact with comparable power and might be gotten for 2 years or a vesting 3rd year. Grandy is likely to command a major contract in this market, like 4-6 years major. Power pays. I prefer the contract flexibility to a longish deal for Granderson.

  13. Mike HC says:

    Nice write up.

  14. Dars says:

    Beltran has a higher OBP and batting average than Granderson.
    He does not strike out as much as Granderson and he is a switch hitter that just by itself makes him more valuable than Granderson. Beltran plays good defense, he is a former CF.

    This is not the NFL, picks are overrated. The majority of picks never amount to anything.

    • TWTR says:

      The converse is that the more picks you have, the more likely it is that you will find a good player, which makes them more valuable.

      • jjyank says:

        Yes, when we’re talking about lottery tickets, more is better than less. Nobody will argue that.

        I would argue that it is far more likely that Brian McCann provides more value to the Yankees than whoever that pick would have been, though. Dars is right, in that this isn’t the NFL. Unless you’re drafting a Strasberg or a Harper, you’re not going to get any kind of immediate shot in the arm, and the likelihood of the pick being a productive big leaguer even several years later is pretty slim.

        Now that we’ve already lost the first round pick and are climbing further down the ladder, the odds are even less in favor of the pick working out. At this point, I say go for broke and lose a couple more picks.

        • TWTR says:

          But they aren’t lottery tickets (iow, something based on pure randomness).

          They are (or should be) educated assessments based on the recommendations of experts.

          Whether or not McCann (or a similar player of a comparable age) is more valuable requires a multi-factor analysis. For example, it is not just McCann in isolation, but the $17m spent every season, and what players that money could be spent on if the farm system had developed a cost-controlled player at a given position.

          Then there is the issue of potential decline. Will a player of McCann’s age (and in his case position) lose value precipitously as a result of the passage time or wear and tear?

          Now, I am not against free agent signings per se, or even the McCann signing in particular.

          My point is larger. Most well-run teams need a blend of in-house solutions and free agents in order to compete at the highest level for the longest period of time.

          The Yankees’ problem, especially given their resource advantage, is the inability to develop talent to fully exploit that resource advantage.

          So every time they lose a high pick that becomes even more difficult.

          To say that no pick is valuable unless it is a Strasburg/Harper type is to overlook the fact that so many good players are drafted later on, and that some teams are able to develop talent with regularity.

          • jjyank says:

            I never said there was no value in a pick. Just that it’s more likely that a top free agent will likely be more beneficial to the team than the pick would.

            Picks being “lottery tickets” isn’t meant to be a perfect analogy, but there’s a lot of randomness that factors into a player’s development as well. I just used the phrase to illustrate that most draft picks are long shots, and have definitely got overrated of late.

            • TWTR says:

              Granted, of course the FA is more likely to be more valuable early on, but again, in the larger context, continually relying on FA over in-house options imposes costs, both on the field and with regard to expenditures.

              We wouldn’t likely be hearing about $189m if they were successful at development.

              So anyone pick may be overrated, but picks in general aren’t.

              • jjyank says:

                Very much disagree. Picks have gotten extremely overrated, given the high attrition rate of prospects.

                “Granted, of course the FA is more likely to be more valuable early on”

                And in the long run too. There’s a good chance the guy you draft doesn’t even make the majors. Banking on that is a huge gamble. Fans need to chill out a bit about the draft picks when we’re talking about signing top shelf FA’s, in my opinion.

                I’d love the next home grown star, trust me. But I’m pretty confident in saying that whoever gets picked at #18 next year will provide less value than what 5 years of McCann can do for you.

                • TWTR says:

                  Overrated by whom?

                  And there is a good chance that highly paid players over 30 will greatly underperform their contracts before it is half completed.

                  I thought Tex was a good signing. I was wrong. The pick might have been much more valuable.

                  • jjyank says:

                    Overrated by fans in general, and I think you might be included in that.

                    Were you wrong about Tex? Even he may have contributed to more wins (and helped win a championship, mind you) than the pick may have. The pick could have blown his arm out in AA.

                    If you don’t want to give up a pick for a mid-tier player who probably shouldn’t have gotten a QO to begin with, I agree with you. But I shed no tears for losing a pick for guys like McCann, CC, Tex, etc.

                    • TWTR says:

                      I am highly rating the importance of a strategy that emphasizes drafting as an important, although not an exclusive, aspect of player acquisition because it has so many positive knock-on effects (cost-savings, assets for trades, etc.).

                      I am not necessarily arguing in favor of keeping any particular pick.

                      There was a time when Cashman adopted that strategy, for example, when he said in around 2007 that because of their improved farm system he would no longer have to overpay for expensive free agent pitchers.

                      Tex blew out his ability to hit RHP at his prior level after the 2009 season; he had nagging injuries over several seasons, and then he blew out his wrist.

                      That would be $23m to spend in a lot of better places.

                    • jjyank says:

                      You’re making two different arguments. I’m not talking about where else they could spend that money. Presumably, it would be for another FA. That’s not what I’m talking about.

                      I think the Yankees are doing exactly what you just said. They haven’t given up too many first rounders in awhile. I agree that they shouldn’t do this every year, but they haven’t lost too many picks in recent years, and I’m not crying over some kid who may never make it to the show when we have McCann, who will likely provide more on-field value than some unnamed, unproven 18 year old.

                      I’m not even sure what you’re argument is, to be honest. Your comment kinda seems all over the place.

                    • Robinson Tilapia says:

                      Don’t have time to truly comment, but this is an amazing amount of goalpost-moving.

          • Revan says:

            Please stay. Don’t let these horrid comments compel to leave.

  15. Bubba says:

    I don’t think you can say I don’t care about draft picks and then complain about a middle of the road farm system. Would it surprise anyone to learn that the Red Sox have had 10 more picks in the top 50 over the last 11 drafts than we have? Arbitrary endpoints aside, that’s a pretty big difference. The Yankees have definitely made some blunders when it comes to drafting and developing but having more lottery tickets could at least give you a cushion.

    McCann was a great signing. I am not so sure about Beltran. A great player but at 37 the pumpkin factor is pretty high.

    • qwerty says:

      Right, but it seems the yankees probably wouldn’t even know what to do with those extra draft picks anyway. They’re a complete mess from top to bottom.

  16. RetroRob says:

    The Yankees supposed plan to go in “big” for this year’s international free agents is probably driven by the understanding they are going to lost their top picks in the amateur draft this June by signing multiple free agents, so their plan is to compensate those lost picks with increased picks on the international side.

    Teams’ strategies driven by the new CBA are evolving, and we might see the Yankees becoming clearer. An argument can be made the Yankees should sign Beltran and Granderson and ship Ichiro off to the bench or another team with a few million thrown in.

  17. Dr. TJ Eckelberg says:

    I think this is going to be the kind of offseason for the Yankees that will draw ire from non-Yankee fans for the next couple of years. I guess I’m an optimist, but I sort of believe that they are going to add Tanaka, Beltran/Granderson, and still resign Cano. Then the arbitrator will hold up the ’14 suspension.

  18. BamBamMusings says:

    Part of the rationale for giving up draft picks is that our farm system / draft selections have produced nothing but bagels the last 3 years!

  19. gageagainstthemachine says:

    “Salaries are only going up and it seems like the quality of the free agent class only gets worse.” I know this is the nature of the game, capitalism, inflation, cost of living, and free market business. But it still irks me that more and more money gets dealt out for weaker and weaker returns.

  20. Havok9120 says:

    One thing that got driven home by looking at the 2015 FA class:

    All currently signed Yankee outfielders will be FAs next season. Every single one. Egads.

    • jjyank says:

      Ouch. All the more reason to sign one now, then. Or maybe even two.

    • Dr. TJ Eckelberg says:

      Yeah, that class is awful. Gotta pray that Slade can keep his limbs from falling off and do something in ’15. Even after that, and assuming we sign another outfielder this offseason, there’s still one more hole in the outfield.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        Hopefully between Slade, Austin, and Almonte, the farm can produce one starting OF by 2015.

        Hopefully.

        • Wicomico Pinstripes says:

          It’s gonna be a stretch for Slade or Austin to be ready by the start of 2015. It’s an even bigger stretch to think the FO will hand them over a starting job.

          I’m not so much a fan of Almonte starting.

        • qwerty says:

          I guess Williams has all been dismissed already. That didn’t last long did it? :)

  21. Nathan says:

    Jeez, that was five years ago already?

    I remember being elated at the signing of CC and cool with AJ and then, getting off from work and getting gas, seeing the signing of Tex and nearly flipping my lid.

    Repeat, please, Yankees FO? Please and thank you.

  22. TWTR says:

    ESPN NY

    But they’re only willing to go far. A source I spoke with this morning, who is involved in the negotiations but requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said that while the Yankees might be willing to go as high as $14 million a year for Beltran, they are unlikely to offer him three years. It has been reported that Beltran and his agent, Dan Lozano, are seeking a three-year deal.

    “I think that would probably be a deal-breaker,” said the source. “The guy would be 40 years old (Beltran would turn 40 in April of a third season), and the Yankees have enough 40-year-olds now.”

    Two years or move on.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      I agree.
      No way I’d give Beltran 3 years.

    • I'm a looser baby so why don't you kill me? says:

      I am heartened to hear this although as I posted earlier I’d be happy to have a third year option vest with a top 5 MVP finish in the second year. Hell make it top 10.

  23. PunkPpitch says:

    PLEASE REPOST THIS IN AUGUST – You may wish you had not written it. MCcann is overrated.

  24. Breck says:

    still do not understand the lack of love for Curtis?, He is younger than Beltran can play all 3 outfield positions quality clubhouse and community guy. Hits 30-40 hr good defender take away last years freak accidents and he is durable. I would have loved Carlos 4-6 yrs ago not now with bad knees and to old to add to an already old team.

    • Anthony says:

      Granderson is a very limited player. It was fun seeing him hit dingers but, personally, I’m tired of seeing all or nothing hitters. Grandy strikes out a ton, doesn’t walk enough, doesn’t play overwhelming defense.

      I’d rather take the risk of 2 or 3 seasons with Beltran than 4 or 5 with Grandy.

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