Mailbag: Yoon, Aramis, Papelbon, Chacin, Maeda

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Huge mailbag this week. Twelve questions and not a single one about Alex Rodriguez, thankfully. I tried to keep the answers short since there are so many of ‘em. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send us anything.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Jeff asks: What happened to Brian Roberts besides his problems with concussions and post-concussion sickness? I distinctly remember him being one of the best offensive second basemen in the mid-2000s. Is there even a minuscule chance he repeats anything close to it?

Roberts was awesome from 2005-09, hitting .294/.369/.451 (116 wRC+) while averaging 68 extra-base hits, 39 steals and 4.9 fWAR per 162 games. He missed more than three months with an abdominal strain in 2010 then suffered his first concussion later that year after whacking his helmet with his bat out of frustration. True story. He suffered his second concussion in May 2011 after hitting his head sliding into first base, and he dealt with post-concussion symptoms for several months after that. Roberts had surgery to repair his hip labrum in July 2012 and then missed three months last year after tearing his hamstring. That’s a lot of serious injuries, especially the two concussions. Roberts was decent after returning from the hammy in late June (93 wRC+ in the second half) and that’s probably the best we could reasonably expect out of him at age 36 and with all those recent injuries.

Manny asks: Suk-Min Yoon is planning on signing somewhere soon. Is Boras putting the cart before the Masahiro Tanaka-horse going to screw him here, or are they different markets for a guy like Yoon? Also, should the Yankees take note? From the little we’ve heard, he can start, he can close, he’s useful and sounds like he could project something similar to a non-criminal Ace Aceves.

Everything you need to know about Yoon is in this post. The Yankees have had interest in the 27-year-old and he’s a true free agent — there are no posting process hoops to jump through. Yoon is no Tanaka and he might not even be another Wei-Yin Chen — even Boras admitted he is “not an overpowering arm” — and the consensus is that he’s more of a swingman/reliever than a big league starter. In fact, shoulder problems limited him to the bullpen for most of last year. Yoon will have no impact on the Tanaka sweepstakes whatsoever. I don’t really have a grasp on what it would take to sign him and I’m not sure if he’s an upgrade over in-house options like David Phelps and Adam Warren. The Yankees need relievers though, and if he’s affordable, he might be an outside the box option to shore up the bullpen.

Ethan asks: The Giants would never do it because they don’t have any other options at third, but would you do Brett Gardner for Pablo Sandoval in a vacuum?

Yes, I would. In fact, I wrote about Sandoval as a possible trade target earlier this offseason. He’s a switch-hitter with power and surprisingly good defense, but weight and conditioning issues have hampered him his entire career. Both guys are due to become free agents next winter and given the team’s needs, a Gardner for Sandoval trade would make a lot of sense for the Yankees. It would be risky — the one they call Kung Fu Panda has shed 42 points this winter (photo!) — but I think the potential reward is mighty big. It just doesn’t make sense for San Francisco. Their outfield is full and they need Sandoval at the hot corner.

Dylan asks: Could we please have an update on Michael Pineda? I don’t see too much about him recently in the news.

(Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News)
(Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News)

There is no real update on Pineda. At his annual end-of-season press conference, Brian Cashman said they shut him down late last year because he needed to rest after pitching and rehabbing for 15 months straight. “He is on a throwing program and healthy,” said the GM to George King last month. “He is coming to Spring Training to win a spot in the rotation. He is a viable option.” That’s the update, I guess. No news is good news.

Mike asks: Given this story from MLB Trade Rumors: “Minor League Free Agents Finding Major League Deals” which highlights Jose Quintana, David Adams and others, could not “hating their own minor leaguers” be a new market inefficiency that the Yankees could exploit?

Heh. Letting Quintana walk was a massive blunder in hindsight. He could blow out his arm tomorrow and it still would have been a huge mistake. I would be surprised if the Yankees regret letting Adams go, especially since they’ve already replaced him with almost exactly the same player in Scott Sizemore. Those guys are a dime a dozen. Just about every team has given away an Adams or a Tyler Clippard or a Zach McAllister at some point, so the Bombers aren’t all that different in that regard. None of their non-Warren minor leaguers impressed when called upon last year, so maybe they’re right not to trust their own kids right now. The farm system isn’t in great shape, especially when talking about MLB ready talent. Quintana was a huge mistake but I don’t that’s enough of a reason to give absolutely everyone a chance. He’s an extreme outlier.

Billy asks: Ideally how many roster spots on the 40-man should be allocated towards players who will be of absolutely no help for the current season (Gary Sanchez, Jose Campos, etc.)?

I don’t think there is an answer to this. It varies team by team and depends on a number of things, like the strength of their farm system and whether or not they are legitimate contenders. Every club is going to need to use a few spots on extra players, like extra bullpen arms and bench players. Guys you can send up and down without worrying about their long-term development. Is there a point where having a bunch of guys like Campos, who isn’t expected to contribute to MLB at all in 2014, counterproductive? Sure. But that point is different for say, the Dodgers than it is the Astros.

Jeff asks: In the event that the Yankees don’t sign Tanaka, would they be interested in Josh Beckett or Chad Billingsley if they’re healthy and made available by the Dodgers?

I think the answer is no on Beckett but yes on Billingsley. Beckett was showing serious signs of decline — fading fastball and inability to put away lefties, mostly — before getting hurt and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is no joke. It ended Chris Carpenter’s career. Billingsley is still only 29, he’s been rock solid for years (3.79 ERA and 3.42 FIP from 2010-12), and his contract includes an affordable ($14M) club option for 2014. He “only” had Tommy John surgery and is due back sometime around May. Billingsley is someone I think the Yankees should pursue with or without Tanaka. He makes sense for them both this year and next.

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Dustin asks: Would you trade for Aramis Ramirez if he were available?

I said no back before the trade deadline but at this point, after seeing how the offseason has played out, I think I’d say yes. Ramirez would have to come cheap though, either in a pure salary dump trade (he’s owed $20M in 2014 between his salary and the buyout of his 2015 option) or a deal involving one or two Grade-C prospects with the Brewers eating some salary. Grade-C prospects coming from the 21-30 range of a top 30 list, for example. Aramis is 35 with bad knees but he can still hit (12 HR and 132 wRC+ in 351 plate appearances in 2013) and his right-handed thump would fit the lineup well. It would be risky but even a half-season of Ramirez would be a big upgrade at the hot corner.

Ben asks: What do you think about the Yankees possibly trading for Jonathan Papelbon? Personality aside, I think he’d be a great addition to the bullpen, which is one of the last areas NY can throw money at to improve. What would it take to get him, a couple non- prospects (assuming NYY takes on the whole contract)?

I am anti-Papelbon and it has nothing to do with his personality or anything like that. He comes with a lot of red flags — I highly recommend this post by Jason Collette detailing those red flags — and he’s owed $13M in each of the next two seasons with a vesting option for another $13M in 2017. I have no problem with paying big dollars for elite relievers, but I’m not very confident in Papelbon being elite or even comfortably above-average these next two years. The Yankees definitely need bullpen help, but I’d be careful about getting caught up in the name here. He’s not the Red Sox version of Papelbon anymore. Read the linked Collette post, he breaks it down very well.

T.J. asks: Do you think the Yankees should go after Tommy Hanson? He had his best years in Atlanta with Brian McCann as his catcher. Of course, he could also be Phil Hughes 2.0.

There has been close to zero interest in Hanson this winter and I think that’s very telling. We’re talking about a 27-year-old who was one of the best prospects in baseball and an above-average starter as recently as 2010-11, yet no one wants him. Hanson has had a bunch of injury problems (with his shoulder, specifically) and it shows in the velocity in each of his pitches (via Brooks Baseball):

Tommy Hanson velocity

Don’t get too excited about that uptick in velocity at the end of last year. Hanson made exactly two appearances in July, August, and September, and he was working out of the bullpen by the end of the year. It’s not like he was making a start every five days and showing that velocity. Hanson was not been the same guy since his shoulder started acting up (4.76 ERA and 4.59 FIP from 2012-13) and I’m not sure throwing to his old batterymate McCann can help. I’d give him a minor league contract, sure. But I wouldn’t count on him for anything. You’d have to treat him almost like you’d treat Johan Santana. Anything he gives you is a bonus.

John asks: What would it take for a team (not necessarily the Yankees) to land Jhoulys Chacin?

A lot. Chacin very quietly broke out last season, pitching to a 3.47 ERA (3.47 FIP!) in 197.1 innings while allowing only 11 homers despite pitching half his games in Coors Field. His bowling ball sinker explains that. Chacin turned 26 earlier this month and he’s under team control through 2015. He’s on the cusp of becoming the next dominant sinkerballer, a Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe type. Given the price of pitching, it’ll take a boatload to get him. Two or three very good prospects/young minor leaguers at least. If I were the Rockies and the Yankees offered me Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, and someone like Phelps, I’d say no. Easily. Chacin’s very young and very good.

Joe asks: I watched the 2013 World Baseball Classic, is there any chance that Kenta Maeda a right-hander will be posted?

Maeda, 25, has been the second best pitcher in Japan these last two years behind Tanaka. It’s a big gap though — Ben Badler (no subs. req’d) says scouts view Maeda as a back-end starter while one international scouting director said “he could be a fourth starter at the big league level … he’ll keep you in games.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. It’s unclear if Maeda will be posted this winter but it is more and more unlikely with each week that passes. (The latest a player can be posted under the new system is February 1st.) More than anything, the takeaway from Maeda is that there won’t be another Tanaka or Yu Darvish for at least a few years.

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  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    “He’s an extreme outlier.” and “Quintana was a huge mistake”

    Those thoughts make me believe you’re only judging mistakes or successes based on outcome. If letting him go was truly a mistake, then we should hold on to every potential single A arm we have, because of the .0001% change they turn into something.

    To me, it wasn’t a “mistake” so much as, “Shit happens”, because minor leaguers are so volatile and unpredictable, especially in the lower levels. It was only a mistake if there was a real, tangible, discoverable reason that the Yankees didn’t identify that portended a successful ML career.

    • Slugger27

      i had the same reaction reading the column. if mike thinks it was a huge mistake, why didnt he state it was a huge mistake at the time it happened?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        I’m not saying that you can’t identify mistakes using hindsight, but there needs to be something more than “well, the outcome sucked”

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Because I didn’t think it was a huge mistake at the time and said so on the site. That’s why this post says “in hindsight.”

    • DDPea

      Because he’s a left handed starter for one. They are not a dime a dozen. Name me a left handed starter that the Yankees have gotten to the show since Andy Pettitte made his debut.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        That’s not the point. The point is I could name you a bazillion that have not, despite holding on to them.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Brad Halsey, Alex Graman, and Vidal Nuno off the top of my head.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          Not to mention Ted Lilly, who’s better than any of those.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            Or not. Got him in a trade. Forgot the Expos existed.

        • DDPea

          Worthless, Worthless, and TBD. I hope Nuno can turn into something useful, just as I’m hopeful he will be given a legitimate chance to do so this spring. Thanks for the write up, Mike. Always enjoy reading the Q&A.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            So lets even use your logic here.

            If we’ve been so terrible at getting LHP, or SP in general, to the majors, what makes you think Quintana would have had the same success with the Yankees system?

            • DDPea

              I’m not talking about SP in general, even though that can be debated. I’m talking about starting left handed pitching. The dearth of starting left handed talent to come out of the organization speaks volumes. How many opportunities was Quintana given? You’re talking about perceiving success or failure in regard to a guy that was given the same slow roll that so many pitchers in the team’s minor league system seemingly experience. It took them four seasons to get him to Tampa. Look at the numbers. Do they warrant that slow of an advancement? Maybe the abilities of their scouting and development team isn’t what it should be.

              • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

                My point speaks to your last point though. I don’t know, was there real reason to think he should have been promoted faster? No one, and I mean no one, blinked an eye when he was released.

                It’s possible someone made an error somewhere along the line, but the only proof we have is the outcome, which alone is not sufficient evidence. And to pretend that luck plays no part in player development, I think, is silly. Is it a mistake if you get unlucky? Is it a brilliant move if you get lucky? I’d say no, in the absence of more evidence.

                If someone has that evidence, I’d be happy to change my mind though.

              • Havok9120

                You realize that that isn’t what happened at all, development-wise, right? He threw less that 40 innings in 2010, split between rookie ball and Low A. Then threw 102 innings in Tampa in 2011. A rules problem caused an issue where he either had to be released or put on the 40 man.

                He did not take 4 years to make it to Tampa.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Ah, Jose Quintana. Other than Farewell Mo, the apparent poster child for Cashman Failed.

                You say “look at the numbers.” it’d be great if we could look at what he was showing out there and see what went wrong. There’s a good reason why we can’t, and that’s because no one gave a flip about Jose Quintana at the time he wasn’t retained. Every single complaint is done in retrospect here.

                Now, “in retrospect” doesn’t necessaily mean “invalid.” He made the majors less than a season after stalling in A ball in our system. Obviously, something went wrong here. It’s hard to get more specific is to that “what” is because we simply don’t have the information, as laymen, as to every guy in A-ball right now.

                He is still an extreme outlier, and calls for the Yankees to hog every A-ball pitcher because of Jose Quintana’s success elsewhere is downright silly….and let me tell you, that sentiment, with only the tiniest embellishment from me, is expressed on here at least once every other day.

                I regret losing Jose Quintana. I don’t lose much sleep over it because, nine times out of ten, that MiLB FA that topped out in A ball because he didn’t seem to put his good stuff together isn’t going to suddenly put it together somewhere else.

              • Havok9120

                And while his numbers in Tampa were good/promising, it’s not as if the guy owned the level.

                • Kosmo

                  Nova at A+ was far worse. Yanks blew the pooch on Quintana plain and simple. Hey when you can retain Ramiro Pena on your 40 man you do it.
                  I say it´s time to move on.
                  Quintana, McAllister, Clippard. Yanks can´t develop pitchers ? Hmmm.

                  • Jorge Steinbrenner

                    Go back to Jim’s point, though. He’s asking if process matters.

                    The easiest thing in the world to do here is to point and say “Cashman Failed.” I mean, Farewell Mo did it and he’s the second dumbest commenter on here.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                I also read Mike perfectly loud and clear when he’s able to hold both sides of this.

                • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

                  I concede.

                  Although I still would like someone to explain the “why it was a mistake” part; even if the answer is “Because he’s a good MLB pitcher now”.

                  • Jorge Steinbrenner

                    And it’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong. Maybe we can compare video. There’s probably not a lot out there to draw upon from his former coaches.

                    I did read the Chicago jumped on him because they thought he was a cut above that sort of fodder but, come on, did they really expect this from him? Anyone who says “yes” is lying to you.

                    Result bad. Not sure that, provided the information the team had at the time, process could have been any different. It’s a results-oriented business, but that doesn’t mean you ignore process.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Alex Graman. Now there’s a name I’d forgotten.

          • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

            Thanks for reminding me of it.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            I have zero, literally zero, idea of who that is. That names, in all honesty, means nothing to me.

            I had to look him up to even realize he was real.

      • Havok9120

        I think you may have just made his point for him.

        If the best argument anyone can come up with for why releasing him should never have happened and that the Yanks should have known there was something there without the benefit of hindsight is “Because he’s a left-hander who was starting in single A,” then I’m not sure we can really decry the Yankees negligence there.

        It sucks that it happened, but it isn’t something that should have or could have been expected. And the roster crunch is a very real thing right now.

    • Farewell Mo

      Bullshit.

      That was a huge mistake, pure and simple. If the coaches and scouts had no idea he was this good, they should find another line of work.

      Be a realist, not an apologist!!

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Clockwork.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        But since I’m bored, I’ll humor you. You know who else “needs to find another line of work” then? Everyone who works for any other team in baseball besides the White Sox.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        How did jerking off on your keyboard just feel?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        You also missed out on a prime “Teh Cashman failed!” opportunity, so in addition to being a conceited insufferable jackass, you lose 5 internet points.

        Yes, I am the arbiter of internet points.

        • Steve

          You calling somebody a conceited jackass is pretty damn ironic.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Hey, look! Steve just showed up for an opportunity to play hanger-on when someone is arguing with regulars.

            • Steve

              If I did this as regularly as you pretend I do, would that not make me a regular? Or do I need to use more memes and spelling jokes to get that label? TEH CASHMAN SUXOR111! I’m in now, right?

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Sigh.

      • The Great Gonzo

        There he is!

        OK, I’ll bite. Where is your post the week Quintana got released denouncing his being cut? I mean, you know so goddam much about the situation and how big a mistake it was, the least you could have done is share it with us.

  • mitch

    I’ve been on the A-Ram train for a while. I’m a sucker for salary dumps. I could probably even be talked into taking Rickie Weeks as well.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      If we could combine Rickie Weeks, Scott Sizemore and Dean Anna into Deackottie Weezemorenna, we might have a reasonable infielder.

      • The Great Gonzo

        FREE Deackottie!

    • mike

      I just dont see the brewers trading Ramirez unless they have an internal option ( unles they lie o their fans and believe Nunez can play 3b)- i don’t think they are folding on the season already, and he might be a logical pick-up at the AS break

  • Roy Munson

    RE: Pineda

    Set the expectations LOW…. It’d be foolish to expect any more than 100-120 professional innings from him this year

  • steves

    How soon they forget. Roberts was named in the Mitchell Report and also admitted that he used steroids in the past; health problems and performance drop no surprise here.

  • The Great Gonzo

    We don’t hear about interest in Hanson, but is that no interest in Hanson the pitcher or Tommy Hanson the Starting Pitcher?

    I would roll the dice with him on a low budget deal as a bullpen candidate… meanwhile, I think he will be available in March still, so no rush there.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      That’s true, probably nothing to be lost by having him compete for a bullpen spot if no one offers him anything better.

    • Reggie C.

      +1

  • Algernon Blackwood

    “has been the second best pitcher in Japan”

    I’m having bad Kei Igawa flashbacks…

  • Deuces Wild

    I think we should definetly give tommy Hansons agent a call. He has a lot of potential and he’s still really young. He could be a big sleeper

    • Ed

      The problem is that potential now exists in the form of a million tiny pieces scattered around inside his shoulder. If you can figure out how to stitch those pieces back together, yeah, he’d be great.

  • Kosmo

    I would roll the dice on Maeda if he can be a #4 in a #5 role why not if the price is right? He´d be alot less expensive than most of the current FA pitchers and perhaps just as good. I wonder what “pro scouts“ were saying about Kuroda and Iwakuma ?
    He could step right into the rotation and give NY innings.
    He´s not Igawa.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I just think we’ve got enough pitchers that profile as 4/5 types without getting into the unknown that’s profiled to do just the same. Not the kind of pitcher we need. Easier routes to “you can’t have enough pitching.”

  • Yankeefan91

    Wouldn’t mind seen Hanson as a bullpen arm.