Mailbag: Tulo, Soriano, Gardner, Rivera, Damon

2014 Season Preview: Contract Years
Open Thread: 2/28 Camp Notes

Seven questions for this week’s mailbag. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Scott Cunningham/Getty)
(Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Anthony asks: After Derek Jeter retires at the end of the season, could you see the Yankees trying to swing a trade for Troy Tulowitzki? The Rockies could use some catching depth — what would a package headlined by Gary Sanchez look like? And given the length of his current contract, would such a trade make sense?

Well, the Yankees could try to swing a trade for Tulowitzki, but I’m not sure they have the pieces to get it done. This isn’t a Sanchez plus two or three okay prospects thing. Tulowitzki may be owed a ton of money ($118M from 2015-20) and he is injury prone, but he’s also the best all-around shortstop in baseball when he’s on the field. It ain’t particularly close either. It’s going to take an enormous package to land him.

Tulo will turn 30 after this season and given how much salaries have inflated the last year or two, his contract is actually something of a bargain. Don’t you think he’d get a lot more than six years and $118M if he hit free agency next winter? He’d blow right past that. Tulowitzki is so good that 120 games of him and 42 games of some replacement level shortstop is still arguably the best shortstop in the game.

I can’t think of a comparable player who was traded in recent years — maybe Prince Fielder? — but the Rockies would be right to ask for two top young players and another two pieces. If the Yankees offered me Sanchez, Ivan Nova, Eric Jagielo, and Jose Ramirez for Tulo, I’d probably say no because I can plug only one of those right into my big league roster. There’s way too much value in a shortstop who can hit*, play defense, and is signed to a below-market contract. The Yankees could try for Tulowitzki after the season and I hope they do, but their farm system would have to take a huge step forward in 2014 to get Colorado’s attention.

* Tulo has a 130 wRC+ at home and a 138 wRC+ on the road over the last three years, so he isn’t just a product of Coors Field.

Ryan asks: Any idea why Shinnosuke Abe never tried to make the jump to MLB? He appears to be a power-hitting catcher who also hits for average and gets on base well. Those are rarities in MLB (obviously why the Yankees went after Brian McCann so hard). Any idea why he was never posted? I know the Japanese league is more like AAAA, but it seems like he could’ve been a decent catcher in MLB looking at his statistics. He’s 34 now, so this is more of a question of the past, not about the future.

Abe (pronounced Ah-bay) turns 35 next month and he is one of the best catchers in Japanese baseball history, if not the best. Here are his career stats:

2001 22 Yomiuri 127 428 18 0 13 44 31 79 .225 .293 .373 .666
2002 23 Yomiuri 127 511 26 0 18 73 46 81 .298 .377 .478 .854
2003 24 Yomiuri 94 370 15 1 15 51 40 52 .303 .392 .500 .892
2004 25 Yomiuri 108 436 22 1 33 78 43 87 .301 .391 .625 1.016
2005 26 Yomiuri 130 534 16 0 26 86 51 78 .300 .365 .498 .863
2006 27 Yomiuri 129 497 26 2 10 56 35 76 .294 .349 .427 .776
2007 28 Yomiuri 140 580 20 0 33 101 57 76 .275 .355 .513 .868
2008 29 Yomiuri 125 484 27 0 24 67 44 66 .271 .350 .502 .852
2009 30 Yomiuri 123 462 20 2 32 76 34 87 .293 .357 .587 .943
2010 31 Yomiuri 140 569 27 2 44 92 58 91 .281 .368 .608 .976
2011 32 Yomiuri 114 437 21 0 20 61 35 66 .292 .363 .500 .863
2012 33 Yomiuri 138 555 22 1 27 104 69 47 .340 .429 .565 .994
2013 34 Yomiuri 135 529 17 0 32 91 86 59 .296 .427 .564 .991
13 Seasons 1630 6392 277 9 327 980 629 945 .290 .371 .520 .891
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

From what I understand, Abe wanted to play in MLB but the Yomiuri Giants were not willing to post him. They did the same thing to Hideki Matsui years ago. (Matsui signed with the Yankees after qualifying for international free agency.) Abe qualified for international free agency after 2009, but according to a report passed along by Yakyu Baka, he gave up on coming to MLB because his English was not good and his numbers had slipped in recent years (I assume he was referring to 2006-08). Obviously his performance rebounded.

Abe probably isn’t coming over to MLB at this point, so he’ll have to settle for being an NPB Hall of Famer and arguably the best catcher the country has ever produced. Oh, and he’s also the first (and so far only) man to ever hit two homeruns in one inning during the World Baseball Classic (video). That’s kinda neat. How many homers would he have hit in Yankee Stadium with that swing? All. He would have hit all the homers.

Kevin asks: As long as he’s productive doesn’t Alfonso Soriano seem like the next candidate for the Yankees to go year-to-year with on one-year deals? I’m sure they can continuously find 400+ at-bats for him as long as he’s still hitting it out of the park and isn’t terrible in the field.

(Ron Antonelli/Getty)
(Ron Antonelli/Getty)

I think so. Soriano just turned 38 but he can still hit, making up for his low OBP with power. If he adjusts well to being a DH regularly, he makes sense for a lot of teams as a year-to-year guy. (Red Sox, anyone?) The Yankees could use him as a part-time DH and part-time outfielder in the coming years, especially against left-handed pitchers.

What’s a reasonable salary? I don’t know, maybe something like $6-8M? That would be awesome. The team can definitely find a spot for Soriano on the roster in the coming years if he’s willing to go one year a time. He’s a real nice guy to have lying around at the right price.

Elliot asks: Because Brett Gardner received an extension vs. a new contract, is his salary for luxury tax purposes next year (189 is moot for 2014) calculated $11.72 million as 1/5 of $58.6 million, or is it $13 Million next year (12.5 + .5 for the guaranteed money from the buyout)?

I’m so happy the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold is kaput because trying to figure out “tax hits” was a pain in the ass. Anyway, Brian Cashman confirmed to Chad Jennings that the extension acts as a new contract that starts next season for luxury tax purposes. Gardner’s tax hit this year will be $5.6M (the one-year deal he signed to avoid arbitration last month) and then it’ll be $13M from 2015-18 (the guaranteed dollars spread across the guaranteed years of the new extension). Things will get complicated if the 2019 club option is exercised, but that’s a very long ways off. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires before then anyway and who knows what’ll happen to the luxury tax system. No point in thinking about it now.

Andrew asks: Do you think Gardner’s extension is a bit of a warning klaxon to the prospects?

Nah, I don’t think Gardner’s extension has anything to do with the prospects. I think the extension was simply about signing a productive player for the next few years rather than dealing with a potential bidding war after the season, when he was scheduled to become a free agent. None of the team’s top outfield prospects are close to making an impact and besides, there are three outfield spots. There’s always a way to squeeze someone in if they earn the playing time. Gardner is a good MLB player right now and those are the guys you keep regardless of who is coming up through the system.

John asks: Did Mariano Rivera set a record for most time as a player in the Yankees organization? I can’t think of anyone else under contract for 23+ years.

I don’t even know how to go about looking this up. The Play Index says Rivera and Derek Jeter currently hold the record for most seasons with at least one game played for the Yankees at 19, and Jeter will make it 20 in a few weeks. Mo spent parts of six years in the minors before making his MLB debut while Jeter was down for parts of only four seasons. (Remember, some of those MLB and MiLB seasons overlap.) Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra both played at least one game in 18 seasons with the team and they spent hardly any time in the minors. Jorge Posada played in 17 seasons with the Yankees and had another five or so years in the minors. Jeter, Mantle, Berra, and Posada seem like Rivera’s only real competition here, and since the Cap’n is retiring after the season, Mo’s spot is safe for the foreseeable future.

Sad Sally asks: Is Johnny Damon the most underrated player of our lifetime?

Was Damon ever underrated? I never thought so. He was obviously very good for a very long time, and in a few years he should garner some Hall of Fame votes. I don’t think he belongs in Cooperstown but voting for him would not be insane. Know who I think is more underrated than Damon? Mike Mussina. The guy had a career of almosts — almost won a Cy Young, almost threw a perfect game, almost won a World Series — until winning 20 games in his final season and I feel like he gets overlooked because of his lack of hardware. Moose is a Hall of Famer in my opinion and it sure seems like a lot of people don’t realize how great he was, maybe because he played at the same time as Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and other all-timers. Easy to get overlooked in that era.

2014 Season Preview: Contract Years
Open Thread: 2/28 Camp Notes
  • vicki

    hear, hear, moose. and when most underrated comes up don’t we yankee fans have to mention bernie?

    i also give honorable mention to bobby abreu.

    • jjyank

      Agreed on Moose and Bernie.

      *looks loftily at childhood poster of Bernie*

    • nycsportzfan

      Mike Stanley was pretty underrated as well. 90pct of the baseball world probably would think you meant to say “Bob Stanley” when talking about Mike Stanley, and yet Mike, as mainly a backstop during his career had a 270BA 21HR 79RBI 827OPS as AVG’s over the course of 162games.

  • Sayid

    Is it just me, or did those Shinnosuke Abe follow throughs on his HRs look EXACTLY like Matsui’s?

    • Dave

      Abe should really reconsider, very few have the opportunity to play in the bigs and it seems like he could be succesful. Don’t want to regret it later on.

  • pat

    I got Bobby Abreu as one of the most underrated players of this generation. Granted Damon played most of his career as a CF, so it’s not exactly a fair comparison but here it is;

    Johnny Damon 18 yr career: .284/.352/.433 235 HR 408 SB 2490 games
    Bonny Abreu 17 yr career: .292/.396/.477 287 HR 399 SB 2437 games.

    Damon obviously has the edge in perception. Multiple WS rings, all time clutch performer, generally liked around baseball. Bobby was always known as the tin man and had his famous wall aversion. Still a hell of a ballplayer though.

    • hogsmog

      I’ll throw Sheffield into the ring

    • I’m One

      Bernie Williams 16 yr career: .297/.381/.477 287 HR 147 SB 2076 games

      Gary Sheffield 21 yr career: .292/.393/.514 507 HR 253 SB 2510 games

      All really good players.

    • nycsportzfan

      Mike Stanley and Jimmy Key were pretty underrated players in there day.

  • JoeyA

    Underrated player of our lifetime? My opinion is Bernie williams

    • mitch

      Bernie’s 6 consecutive seasons accumulating between 4.8 and 5.1 fwar is one of my favorite stats. Unbelievably consistency.

    • blake

      Better numbers than Kirby Puckett…yet Kirby was a first ballot HOFer and Bernie is off the ballot. Shows how screwed up the voting is….

      • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

        Puckett “stood out” more in his era, was perceived to be the leader of that team, and got a ton of sympathy votes from those who assumed he’d get 3000 hits if he didn’t have to retire.

        Bernie was, unfortunately, just one of the guys on the dynasty teams. I mean, those dynasty teams are only going to end up with 2 HOF players (not counting Boggs being there in ’96), which is going to be so low for a team that won so much. But that’s because of how much bigger the league was/still is.

        • LK

          Well, to some extent we have to wait to determine how many HOFs the dynasty teams had; I agree it will probably only be 2, but Posada and Pettitte’s cases haven’t been heard yet.

          Also, Clemens would add a surefire 3rd HOFer for the 1999/2000 teams if it were based on performance.

    • jjyank

      His peak was great. From a CF, his wRC+’s from 1994 to 2002 were as follows:

      120, 133, 132, 149, 158, 149, 138, 141, and 146.

      Check out his line from his 1998 season: .339/.422/.575

      Even with four age related decline years at the end, his career line is at .297/.381/.477.

      I love him.

      • LK

        I think Bernie’s peak was HOF caliber for sure. It’s such a shame he fell off a cliff when he was relatively young.

        • jjyank

          Indeed. He was my childhood favorite player. He’s probably not HOF worthy, but he was an amazing player to watch.

          And who doesn’t miss these commercials?

          • vicki

            thank you so much for that link; what a nostalgia rush.

            and man, glasses and guitar do it for me.

    • nycsportzfan


    • nycsportzfan


  • Jeremy

    really looking forward to the next iteration of WFAN trade proposals featuring Gary Sanchez for world beaters (Tulo! Kipnis! Machado!)

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Russell Wilson! LeBron!

  • TWTR

    I would keep Sanchez.

  • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew) RIP Egon

    Don’t the Rockies have Wilson Rosario behind the plate? What need would they have for Sanchez? Literally everything for the Yankess farm system would have to break right for them to swing a trade for the Tulo. What a dumb idea.

    • TWTR

      The problem as I see it is that if the Yankees are ever going to be able to adjust to the decreasing number of youngish high-end players that become available as free agents, they have to keep more of their prospects in the hope that they should be able to develop at least some of them, if only as a result of regression to the mean.

      • nyyankfan_7

        Yeah – good thing we kept Hughes and Chamberlain.

        • TWTR

          So you’re saying that because some prospects failed none should be kept?

          • jjyank

            If only we had Johan Santana instead…

            Oh, wait.

            Kidding aside, you’re right. Prospects fail all the time. nyyankfan_7’s overly sarcastic comment has no point to it. Those two not working out has absolutely no bearing on prospect value going forward.

            • TWTR

              Right, and as I mentioned, the parity fostered by the current CBA has increased the importance of successful in-house development, even for deep-pocketed teams.

            • LK

              I wonder what we’d all think if Johan Santana had led the Yanks to the 2008 World Series championship during the last year of the original Yankee Stadium.

              • jjyank

                It would change the calculous, for sure, just like AJ’s bad years being offset by his role in the 2009 championship.

                I’m far from convinced Santana would have made that large of a difference in 2008 though.

                • LK

                  Oh, I’m not saying that’s what would’ve happened. I think there’s a decent chance they still don’t make the playoffs that year even with Santana.

            • nyyankfan_7

              Yes it was overly sarcastic; however the point is you shouldn’t hold on to prospects for the sake of holding on to prospects. If you can get a guy like Tulo for an unknown like Gary Sanchez you make that deal. Other teams hold onto prospects because they don’t want to spend money – that isn’t how the Yankees operate and it never will be.

              • jjyank

                Fair enough, but it would take a hell of a lot more than Gary Sanchez to get Tulo. Depending on the package, it might make more sense to keep the prospects. If you trade four guys, one or two might pan out.

                It’s not for the sake of hanging on to prospects. It’s for the sake of getting some cost controlled talent on a roster filled with guys who are expensive.

                • nyyankfan_7

                  That’s my point though – they’re the Yankees not the Royals. Cost controlled talent doesn’t matter because they have and will spend the money required to have the best talent, not cost controlled talent.

                  • jjyank

                    Are you that naive? The Yankees need cost controlled players, unless you actually think the team can have 25 players that make $10+ mil per year, all on the wrong side of 30. The Yankees can spend their way out of some problems, to be sure, but not all of them. There needs to be a mix, the Yankees will not have a $300 mil payroll. It can’t all be free agency.

                    • nyyankfan_7

                      Am I naive? No I am realistic.

                      They don’t need 25 players over 10 mil – they will continue to do exactly what they have been doing for the past 15 years. Go with a cheap bullpen and bench, overspend on free agency elsewhere and having a payroll on the north side of $200 million. You can want cost controlled players all you want but face it, these are the Yankees. League average guys like David Adams don’t get chances to play on the big league squad. The Yankees would rather over spend on guys like Ichiro than give Zolio Almonte a chance to play. It’s how the Yankees operate and are going to continue to operate whether you agree with it or not.

              • TWTR

                It’s not some mechanistic exercise. It’s about adapting to the new economic model of MLB.

                Saying they will never change how they do things is to ignore reality.

                It’s not like they spend $500m every offseason. They haven’t spent big in four years. That means that during many upcoming offseasons, their best source of reinforcements may well be from within the organization.

                That doesn’t mean never trading prospects, but on a team with the Yankees’ top heavy payroll, with some age on the roster, and important holes in the infield, it means understanding that they will be operating in a different way then they have in the past.

                It’s obviously something that Hal has prioritized based on his public statements and his recognition that at least process changes needed to occur in amateur talent acquisition and development.

                Whether or not the plan will come to fruition remains to be seen, but it is going to be attempted.

                • nyyankfan_7

                  How can we believe any of Hal’s public statements after all the 189 bullshit? You can all cry that they need to develop their own talent but you can’t develop talent that isn’t there. Face it, they have a weak farm and the Yankees are going to continue to operate the way they have always operated – spend big in free agency and trade away prospects that aren’t a sure thing like Jeter.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    I never knew Abreu was that good. I knew I liked him, and that he was a great player, but better offense than Damon? Crazy.

    So…edge: Damon

    He stole two bases at once. That was awesome.

    • vicki

      i never bought him as a yankee, bore the 2004 grudge for his entire yankee tenure. until that moment.

    • Jonathan

      So are you one of those people who wants Brandon Phillips at 2B? Because he did the same thing back in the day while they shifted for Dunn and he didn’t even slide and stop…just kept going. People act like he invented the double steal…amazing timing and everything but it’s not new.

      Also, that was sarcasm..don’t think I’m serious about anyone wanting Phillips..even if he did jack 2 at once.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Where is this Tulo stuff coming from? Is this simply a “He’s good and expensive and nothing else could replace Jeter” thing, or are there actual legs to this? It seems really unlikely there’d be legs to this. I don’t think there’s a SS white knight rushing to save the day at this time.

    • jjyank

      It’s not coming from anywhere. Your instincts are correct.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Well, fuck that. The only player who can replace Jeter is a 1996 Derek Jeter. Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez should get that done.

    • nyyankfan_7

      It’s coming from Jim Bowden mainly.

      Tulo grew up a die hard Yankee & Jeter fan and has let it be known that is why he wears #2 so naturally ESPN and MLB Network are making stories up that he wants to be traded to the Yankees so they have news stories for their programs.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Makes perfect sense.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Preston Claiborne on to pitch the bottom of the 9th. Yanks up 7-4, trying for their 1st win of the spring after opening up with 2 losses to the Bucs. We won’t count that Fla. St. game as a win.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Ground single up the middle. Leadoff man on. Blooper to right. 2 on, nobody out.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Claiborne runs the count full…and strikes him out swinging. 1 down.

  • CashmanNinja

    I couldn’t agree more about Moose. The guy is so underrated it’s baffling. I’ll never forgive Carl Everett. That was one of the worst things ever (albeit Moose was brilliant). Check out Moose’s win/loss % and it’s just insane. Ok, he may not be a 300 win pitcher, but there’s going to be less and less of those now that pitchers are babied more than they were in the past. The important thing, aside from still accumulating a lot of wins, is that he didn’t have that many losses. That proves that even if he didn’t WIN a game…he didn’t lose it either. That is an example of pitching vs. being bailed out by a good offense. Hell, if he had a better offense in the beginning of his career he could have had even more wins. He was a phenomenal pitcher and the guy flat out belongs in Cooperstown.

    • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

      I remember that hit well. It was sort of a soft fly that fell in, not really hit very well. Then as Everett rounded 1st the clown/thug started puffing his lips and nodding as if he’d really crushed one to break it up. Anyway, Moose was as dominating a pitcher as I had ever seen in that game.

      • CashmanNinja

        I remember how much that game made me hate Everett with a passion. His batting stance drove me freaking NUTS. He was so far back in the box. Moose was dominant that game and I think it’s a toss up between him and Bernie in terms of being underrated. Bernie did slow down at the end of his career and didn’t finish on the high note that Moose did, but he was amazing as well.

    • LK

      Yeah if Moose doesn’t get in after the career he had with no PED allegations, the whole thing is kind of a joke, to the extent it’s not one already.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Westlake lines to right. 2 down.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Count full….and Preston fans him swinging. Game over. The Yankees win, ttttttthhhhheeeee YANKEES WIN!!!! Uh…sorry.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      You are a one-man game thread. Thank you.

      • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

        My pleasure. I was hoping I wasn’t irritating anybody.

        • jjyank

          Nah. I think we’re all just happy to see actual game updates again.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          You’ll only know if you did if they troll you at 2:00 AM.

    • cooolbreeez

      how about a post game recap?

      • nycsportzfan

        Alot of HR’s. Solarte, Gary Sanchez, and Brian McCann clubbed em today.

  • Kevin

    Tulo is a pipe dream, and anyway trading for a player like that is a losing proposition from a GM’s perspective since the downside (paid too much and then he gets injured and is never the same) is so much greater than the upside (You get what you paid for). I suppose you could argue there is upside as far as the prospects you trade don’t pan out to anything, but I don’t think there is any way that Tulo exceeds expectations so it’ll almost certainly be a bad trade.

    I’m still pulling for a deal for Chris Owings or Gregorius from the DBacks, or trying to buy low on Starlin Castro from the Cubs if they decide to make room for Baez. Castro still has that MVP upside and it would be great to buy low on him and see some profit on the deal.

    • LK

      In today’s market, you’re way understating Tulo’s upside. If he stays healthy he’s a *massive* bargain.

      • Kevin

        Not if we gut the farm system. It would take Sanchez, Banuelos after a strong return, Williams after a bounceback, Severino after a breakout season, and Judge looking like he’ll hit his potential. Those players have value to us too, either to play for us or to be traded for other pieces with more certainty. You’ll pay for him as though he will hit his ceiling. I’m not saying that his salary is too high, I’m saying that at some point we could get more by trading them for lower ranked targets.

  • KeithK

    Rivera first played in the Yankee system in 1990, so he finishes with 24 seasons. Jeter’s start was in 1992, so he will be one behind at 23. Posada and Mantle both come in at 21 seasons. Berra was only 19 because he missed two early years to military service. Bernie Williams also played 21 years – he finished at a slightly younger age (37) but he was playing in the Yankees system way back in 1986 when he was just 17.

  • OldYanksFan

    In 2001, Clemems won the CY, going 20 and 3, with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.257 WHIP. The same year, Mussina has a 3.15 ERA and a 1.067 WHIP. For those that watched games that year, Moose was obviously the better pitcher.

    HE WAS ROBBED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • LK

      I think if those 2 seasons happen today, Moose would win it. It would just be nice if people took that into account in the HOF voting.

    • Greg c

      Plus, maybe if Moose finished 2nd it would be a little better- but IIRC there were 3 other guys with obviously worse performances ahead of him, including a weak 20-win Jamie Moyer season.

      Which brings up another thing- seeing how obsessed people are with wins still, I am very happy Moyer wasn’t able to accumulate a couple more wins. If he passed Moose I would be pissed, and it would probably open up Moose-HOF detractors to say things like “If Mussina is a HOFer so is Jamie Moyer.” or “How can you vote for Mussina- he has fewer wins than Jamie Moyer?”

  • gageagainstthemachine

    Abe looked like Babe Ruth in that second homer clip! Get that man a beer and a hot dog!! Thanks for answering my question.

    • Scully

      Holy Schnikes Shinnosuke Abe’s swing is one of the most tailored made Yankee stadium swings I’ve ever seen going back to films of old days of yore stuff.

  • Greg c

    This Tulo guy is smiling and tossing his bat. Not sure if he plays the game the right way.