Mailbag: Tanaka, Mayberry, Betemit, Setup Man

Third base option off the board: Michael Young retires
RAB Live Chat

Got 12 questions for you this week, but some of the answers are really short. Like two sentences short. I also trimmed some questions a bit. A few were pretty long. Send us anything via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar at any time.

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Paul asks: Does Masahiro Tanaka have a legit shot at Rookie of the Year this year? I’m still bitter about Hideki Matsui getting robbed.

Hey, you can make a case Matsui wasn’t robbed. He hit .287/.353/.435 (109 wRC+) with 16 homers as a bad fielding left fielder while Angel Berroa hit .287/.338/.451 (101 wRC+) with 17 homers as an average fielding shortstop. If you want to take fWAR/bWAR at face value (fine for something like this), Berroa edges Godzilla out (Berroa: 2.7/2.5, Matsui: 0.2/2.2).

Anyway, yes Tanaka has a legitimate shot at RoY this season. The last three RoY starting pitchers (Jose Fernandez, Jeremy Hellickson, Justin Verlander) averaged a 14-8 record with a 2.94 ERA (~143 ERA+) and 4.7 bWAR in 180-ish innings, if you want a performance benchmark. That’s doable but a sub-3.00 ERA in the AL East and at Yankee Stadium will probably take some luck. Tanaka is going to have some stiff competition in Xander Bogaerts and Jose Abreu (my early RoY pick), plus the voting has been skewed heavily in favor of position players these last ten years (13 position players, four closers, three starters).

Craig asks: How about John Mayberry Jr.? He could double as the fourth/fifth outfielder and first base back-up. If they are looking for a lefty we could eat Ichiro Suzuki‘s contract or send Brett Gardner and get some bullpen help.

Mayberry, 30, had that huge season in 2011, hitting .306/.358/.595 (157 wRC+) against lefties with a 132 wRC+ overall. He hasn’t hit much since then, just .259/.309/.481 (111 wRC+) against lefties and an 86 wRC+ overall. There was talk the Phillies might non-tender him earlier this winter, but they kept him for $1.59M instead. Mayberry can play first and the two outfield corners, but he’s a net negative on defense. His only redeeming quality is his power against lefties. There’s no way I’d trade Gardner for him — the Phillies have been looking for bullpen help all winter, so I doubt they’d kick in a reliever, and I’d need a great reliever to even out a Gardner-for-Mayberry swap — but a straight up Ichiro-for-Mayberry deal would make some sense given the current roster. You’d wind up the same replacement level-ish extra outfielder, just instead of doing it with defense, he’d do it with power.

Billy asks: What are your thoughts on Brendan Ryan coming in for Derek Jeter defensively in save situations? Obviously it should be done but does Joe Girardi actually do it?

Should this happen? Yes, absolutely. Will it? I don’t think there’s any chance unless Jeter shows he is completely immobile following the leg injuries. If that happens, the team will have a bigger problem to worry about other than simply replacing Jeter for defense in the late innings. If he’s not used a defensive replacement, I’m not sure how the team will use Ryan this year aside from giving Jeter and Brian Roberts the occasional day off.

Can't find a Betemit. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Can’t find a Betemit. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Roy asks: Should the Yankees take a look at Wilson Betemit as insurance for Mark Teixeira? Can Betemit stabilize the infield better than Scott Sizemore, Russ Canzler or Eduardo Nunez?

Did you know Betemit is still only 32 years old? He just turned 32 in November too. I figured he would 35 or 36 by now. Anyway, he missed almost the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury, and he only has 81 games and 515.1 innings worth of experience at first base in his career. Betemit has played a ton of third but the defensive stats crush him there, and he’s a switch-hitter who should be a platoon bat because he punishes righties (127 wRC+ since 2011) but can’t touch lefties (36 wRC+). As a bench bat who backs up first and plays third base in an emergency, the 24th or 25th man on the roster, yeah it might work. It would be worth bringing Betemit to camp as a non-roster player, but I’m not sure he’s clearly better than Sizemore, Nunez, Canzler, or whoever else at this point.

UPDATE: Betemit agreed to a minor league contract with the Rays this morning, according to Jon Heyman. So scratch that idea.

Eric asks: Can and should the Yankees employ a six-man rotation this year or at least for part of it? You can lighten the load on Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia, help Tanaka transition from pitching every seven days in Japan, and give the young arms a better look other than just Spring Training.

I feel like the six-man rotation idea comes up every offseason around this time. The obvious question is this: do the Yankees even have six starters worthy of a rotation spot? Do they even have four at this point? No one really knows what to expect out of Sabathia, Tanaka, and Ivan Nova in 2014. Taking starts away from your top guys for someone like Vidal Nuno isn’t a luxury a team like the Yankees can afford. They’re going to have to fight for a playoff spot, remember. Kuroda’s and Tanaka’s (and Michael Pineda‘s) workloads are going to have to be monitored, no doubt about it, but I don’t think a straight six-man rotation is the answer. It sounds so good on the paper, but successfully pulling it off is so difficult.

Michael asks: I’m trying to find out what Tanaka’s nickname “Ma-kun” translates to English as, but i’m not having any luck. Do you know what it means?

According to Jim Baumbach, “Ma” is simply short for Masahiro while “kun” is a familiar way to address an equal. Wikipedia says it is an old high school nickname that stuck.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jason asks: If I remember correctly, prior to being injured, there was an advantage to keeping Pineda in Triple-A until at least mid-May to push back his arbitration clock. Does that benefit still exist if the Yankees did that this year?

Pineda was the on the DL until the team activated him and sent him to Triple-A in early-July last year. He was down long enough to both delay his free agency and arbitration clock one year. Pineda will be a Super Two now (four years of arbitration rather than three), but they get to keep him for another season (through 2017) and that’s the important thing. They’ve already received the benefit and would have to keep him in the minors pretty much all season to push things back another year. If Pineda goes yet another year without pitching in the big leagues, it would be close to time to write him off completely.

Adam asks: When a player gets a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, what compensation does he receive?

Non-roster players don’t get paid anything during Spring Training. They get meal money and some kind of housing arrangement/allowance. That’s all. Guys on minor league contracts get paid a salary during the regular season only.

Dylan asks: Can you give an explanation for why pre-arbitration players don’t get exactly league minimum (i.e. J.R. Murphy‘s extra $2,700 on top of $500,000)? Thanks!

Most teams have a sliding salary scale based on service time for pre-arbitration players. Murphy was in the big leagues for a month, hence the extra $2,700. Teams can simply renew a pre-arb player’s contract for any salary as long as it is at least 80% of the previous year’s salary, but that’s a good way to get your players to hate you. A sliding scale based on service time (with adjustments for awards, All-Star Games, etc.) makes it nice and easy.

Anonymous asks: Would you guess Shawn Kelley is Opening Day setup man on this current Yankee roster?

Yeah, that’s the safe bet, but I wouldn’t count on him holding the job all summer. We’ve been spoiled these last few years by David Robertson. Here’s a quick recap of the team’s primary eighth inning guys from 2007-11, the five years before Robertson emerged.

Opening Day Setup Man End of Season Setup Man
2011 Rafael Soriano David Robertson
2010 Joba Chamberlain Kerry Wood
2009 Brian Bruney Phil Hughes
2008 Joba Chamberlain Joba Chamberlain
2007 Kyle Farnsworth Joba Chamberlain

Remember, Joba moved into the rotation at midseason in 2008. He only wound up in the bullpen late in the season after hurting his shoulder. Farnsworth took over as the primary setup man when Joba gave the starting thing a shot. Point is: don’t sweat who holds what bullpen role on Opening Day. They’ll all change. They almost always do.

Mike asks: Assuming it was allowed, how would you look at a Robinson CanoJacoby Ellsbury trade before the season starts? Would Ellsbury fit better with Seattle and would Cano fit better with NY than the way things stand now? Would either NY or Seattle have to throw in a player or pay part of a contract?

I completely understand why the Yankees didn’t match the Mariners’ offer to Cano, but there’s no doubt Robbie makes more sense for the current roster than Ellsbury. The team could go with an Alfonso Soriano-Gardner-Carlos Beltran outfield with Cano at second and a low-cost DH (or an expensive one like Kendrys Morales). The Mariners are going to let Dustin Ackley sink or swim in center this year while Nick Franklin slides into a utility role thanks to Cano, so they need the outfielder and not the infielder. Cano makes more sense for the Yankees, Ellsbury makes more sense for Seattle. I assume the Yankees would have to add another player to facilitate a trade (despite the salary difference) because Cano is the considerably better player.

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Third base option off the board: Michael Young retires
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  • David

    “Ma-kun”

    So “Ma-Dude” is a good translation?

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

      Ma-MAN!

      • The Great Gonzo

        Denzel Meme, anyone?

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I always loved the fact that Wilson Betemit played his first year in the GCL as a 15-year old.

    • Havok9120

      Wait, what?

      Holy crap.

  • CashmanNinja

    Betemit just signed a minor league deal with the Rays. No loss there in my opinion.

    • I’m One

      Agree.

  • TWTR

    Why do some Yankee fans still underrate Gardner?

    • CS Yankee

      You likely could say that about any player in the last 50 years; except Mo, Munson and Mickey.

      Kid needs to change his name to Grit Mardner.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      The grass is always greener. They’d like him a ton if he was wearing someone else’s uniform and would ask why we don’t develop players like him.

  • Bill

    my favorite pearl jam song… she lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a Betemit

  • jim

    Why not just go get drew get another starter lane Santana for the #5 slot and Casey kotchman to back up tex. And get bullpen help. You went over189 already lets get what we need abd end it.

    • I’m One

      Because, ya know, they do actually have a budget limit. Probably saving some money now to allow them to fill some needs at the trade deadline. And besides, the players you mention may not want to sign with the Yankees. We don’t know.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Casey Kotchman does not count as “what we need”.

      • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

        +1

      • lightSABR

        Last year he put up -0.5 fWAR in 21 plate appearances. Think about that. How is it possible to suck so badly that you lose your team half a game when you only play six?

        Short answer: 2/3 grounders and 1/3 pop-ups, leading to a .000/.048/.000 batting line. Small sample size, sure, but he’s had negative fWAR three out of the last four years.

        And I thought Vernon Wells was bad…

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          That’s actually incredibly impressive.

          • lightSABR

            I know, right? Dude was on pace for like -14 fWAR over a full year. Makes me wonder what the worst individual fWAR season in history is.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Throw in an order of fries as well. What about dessert?

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    Is it me or the Cano signing somewhere else is still so baffling? I would feel so much better about the team if Cano was manning 2B and Ellsbury was in CF for Seattle. Garder, Jeter, Cano, Beltran, McCann, Soriano, Teixeria, Johnson, Ryan. (Jeter obviously the DH) There is such a hole at 2B now that no matter who how many people you try to fill that hole with (giggity) it just doesn’t compare. Yeah Ellsbury and Gardner are going to make a dynamic 9-1 but, man, it is going to be weird looking at the lineup for a while.

    • TWTR

      My guess is that they weren’t going over 8 years and they weren’t going over $200m. Once Cano received an offer that exceeded those benchmarks he was gone, especially since he reportedly told teammates he was going to sign wherever he got the most money.

      I don’t like Jeter as the DH, especially vs RHP.

    • The Great Gonzo

      In fairness, most teams have a hole of sorts at 2B. They can’t all be Cano or Pedroia

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      The only constant is change.

      I agree, though. Hard to get used to.

    • JohnC

      Why is it so baffling? He wanted a 10 year contract and the Yanks made it clear they were not going 10 years with anyone over 30 anymore? Yanks offered him a very fair deal, 7 years, 175 mill. Thats 25 mill per. The day before he signed, he told the Yanks if they weren’t willing to go to at least 235 mill, dont bother makign an offer. Sorry, but Yanks made the right decision there.

      • CS Yankee

        +1

  • LK

    That Cano/Ellsbury answer is depressing, but I can’t disagree.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    When we ha Betemit, we seemed to invent ways to get him in games. The world’s worst defensive replacement, the world’s slowest pinch runner, and just not a very good hitter. I was so happy when they traded him for a real life person. It wound up being one of the best trades they ever made.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Wilson Betemit, True Yankee

  • jim

    Kotchman is the best 1b left. Morales can’t field anymore. He is only a backup. Yes I know they have a limlt but this is the Yankees no more hearing lux tax. Hal Steinbrenner said he would do whatever it took to field a championship team. So lets do it. Get a legitimate 5th starter go get drew to help in infield. And their is no one to back up tex. If needed go get someone. And wait till the trade deadline why it approaches .

    • Mr. Roth

      “Hal Steinbrenner said he would do whatever it took to field a championship team.”

      Yes, he did, which explains why he hasn’t signed Kotchman.

      “Morales can’t field anymore. He is only a backup”

      I’m not advocating the signing of Morales, but isn’t a backup exactly what we would be looking for if we signed a 1B?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Your laundry list approach aside, there is something much more tangible than a luxury tax limit. It’s called a 25-man roster limit.

      You’re advocating for Casey Kotchman, who can play only one position (albeit defensively well) while not hitting on a roster in which infield flexibility is going to be paramount. He’s not an ideal use of a roster space.

      I honestly really hope Scott Sizemore shows enough in ST. It may allow him, or Johnson, to float around a bit more and potentially fake first base if needed.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      If Kotchman is the best 1B left, then clearly backup 1B is not a position we should be seeking out via free agency.

  • Dicka24

    I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by what Ellsbury will bring to the team. Being from Boston, I’ve seen the guy play a lot, and he’s a real difference maker in games. Be it with defensive plays in center, key hits, or his speed on the bases, I honestly think he could potentially be more of a factor than Cano was. Obviously the biggest issue with Ellsbury is his health. That’s no small issue either. The guy always finds a way to miss significant time with an injury. Whether its from fragility, or a fluke play where a second baseman falls on you during a DP, he always seems to get hurt. If he can stay healthy though (huge if I know), we’re talking elite player. A .300 hitter, who should easily score 100+ runs, hit 15-20 homers in YS, and steal 50+ bags, all with terrific defense in CF. Contract aside, I think Yankee fans will really appreciate Ellsbury’s skills before too long. I love Cano, and there is no denying his skills as a player, but is there really a lasting memory, from his tenure here? With Jeter we can run off a number of defensive plays, or hits, in key situations that will last forever. With Cano I can’t really think of one. Obviously replacing hit bat at 2B is impossible. His numbers are insane. I just think that Ellsbury’s skillset is something this team has needed. Especially if they make it to the playoffs. The playoffs are about getting on base, putting the ball in play, taking extra bases, and manufacturing runs. Ellsbury is truly a double if you put him on first. I hope he stays healthy is all.

    • BronxBomber98

      I agree with everything you said except for Ellsbury’s homerun totals. I’m thinking around 8-12, other than that it is spot on. I can’t wait to watch him play (and hit a homerun off Lester in his first at bat back in Fenway). People are also underestimating the difference from Stewart to McCann, honestly that is the biggest upgrade this team could have made and it will be a bigger upgrade than most think. Also switching Granderson’s strikeouts with Beltran’s base hits will be a huge addition as well.

    • ALZ

      I agree. It’s not like Cano is arod in his prime either, he is good but not like they have to replace arod/miggy/pujols prime bats. To me the real boost is that Ellsbury is 1 year younger, and he is signed for 3 years less. There is a real case where he isn’t as good as Cano for the next 5 years, but that will be 4 years less that Yankees would have to trot out an over 35 2B. Just for reference Arod’s age 35 season was 2011, the first time he played less than 100 games since he established himself. If you go by WAR ellsbury could be close to Cano now too.

  • mike

    as much as I appreciate the stats, I do believe there is a certain thing some players ( with their skills) bring to a game that its hard to quantify, but ultimately help the team win.

    I look at how Bobby Richardson was consistently voted an all-star/MVP candidate by his peers/managers (let’s assume that these guys appreciate what it takes to win an appreciate the intangibles not shown in stats as they see its impact every game), yet statistically it would appear he is a super-limited player on both sides of the ball and a horrible choice to bat lead-off.

    I cant believe a few clutch playoff games made all the difference in the league’s opinion of him with 10 years in the league.

    In this way, im hoping Ells can provide similar value in non-measurable situations ( pitcher concentrating on him, infield positional defense when he is on base, calls made by the catcher etc..)more than his numbers show

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    Enough with Casey Kotchman. He’s terrible. Beyond terrible. He should be paying someone to let him play, not vice versa. He would be a worse 1B backup than any number of people already on the Yankees roster.

  • jim

    Ok Jim bored packers fan who should we get to back up tex that has first base experience you can’t just throw anyone there if you have a better suggestion lets hear it. U sound like the expert if not Kotchman or Morales then who. He needs a backup if his wrist doesn’t last. And I know you say he can’t hit he no worse then overbay was last year. Lets get Simi e to back him up

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      No one. No one is actually the answer. Stop looking for a 1B. Look for a guy who’s already on the team, someone like Sizemore, who might be able to fake it at 1B but can hit too.

      Kotchman is terrible. Really, absolutely, freaking terrible. By SABR or classic stats. He absolutely can and would hit worse than Overbay did last year. It’s hardly even worth talking about, yet here you are beating the drum.

      And use the reply button.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      How about replying to the suggestions given above?

  • YanksFan

    I think the problem with Matsui not winning the ROY was not stats per the writers. IIRC there were a number of writers who left him off their lists completely and if they had put him in at 10, than he would have won the award.

    These are the same writers who said Matsui was not a rookie but Ichiro was.

  • jim

    Sizemore are u stoned you just can’t say hey go over and play first base and fake it. If u think that then u know absolutely nothing about playing baseball. You can’t just throw someone their and say yea go play their. Hey in that case let sabathia play there or tanaka that’s even better. And you think Sizemore is going to hit your nuts.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      “You can’t just throw someone their and say yea go play their”

      I feel like a lesser human being just for sitting and reading this.

      • YanksFan

        How said that I enjoyed your comment more than the comment you were commenting on. Yours made sense too.

    • Mr. Roth

      “And you think Sizemore is going to hit your nuts.”

      Sizemore better not try to hit my nuts.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I’d take my chances on Grady getting hurt attempting it and never actually getting to the nuts.

        • Mr. Roth

          Well if he tries to go for my nuts, I’ll punch his stupid looking baby face.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I’m not sure why Sizemore would want to hit my nuts.

      And way to ignore every other suggestion, peckerhead.

  • nycsportzfan

    Hey Mike, thanks for answering my question about Shawn Kelley being the 8th inn man on this current roster. I thought i put my name on the question, my bad.lol