Mailbag: Diaz, 5th Starter, A-Rod, Contact Rates

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(Photo via Dodgers Nation)
Diaz. (Photo via Dodgers Nation)

Many people asked: What about Aledmys Diaz?

Diaz, 23, will be eligible to sign next Wednesday after being suspended for a year because he lied about his age. Believe it or not, he tried to pass himself off as older than his actual age so the international spending restrictions wouldn’t apply to him, allowing him to receive a much larger bonus. How about that? A Cuban player trying to trick people into thinking he was older than he really is.

Anyway, the suspension ends next week and he can indeed sign for any amount now that he is 23. The Yankees had a “large presence” at one of his workouts last year and they were among the teams to scout him just yesterday, says Jon Morosi. Their interest level is unknown but if they’re still on him, they probably like him. Here’s a scouting report from Ben Badler, dated last January:

Age questions and unblocking issues aside, scouting reports on Diaz’s talent remain modest. Though Diaz has played shortstop in Cuba, scouts have said he doesn’t have the lateral range, quickness or footwork to stay at the position. Diaz has shown some ability with the bat, hitting .315/.404/.500 in 313 plate appearances for Villa Clara in his final season in Cuba, albeit in a high-offensive environment in which he ranked 30th in the league in OBP and tied for 20th in slugging.

That’s everything I know about Diaz right there. I don’t know if he is ready to step right into the big leagues but I assume he will need some time in the minors. Most guys do. (Yoenis Cespedes is the only big name Cuban player to jump straight into MLB in recent years). The Yankees need long-term help at both second base and shortstop, and Diaz is as good a candidate to plug one of those holes as anyone. As always, his asking price will be a factor.

Jamie asks: 5th starter competition: of Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, David Phelps and Michael Pineda, none of these guys threw more than 86 IP last year. Can we really expect 150 innings out of any of these guys in 2014? Isn’t that kind of an IP jump from one season to the next a big stretch?

Pineda is the one I worry about the most because of his injury. The Yankees will have to watch him very carefully. I’m not worried about the other guys at all though. For starters, they aren’t particularly young. Warren is the youngest and he’ll turn 27 in August, so these aren’t 22 or 23-year-old kids. Secondly, all three threw at least 120 innings (postseason included) in both 2011 and 2012, plus both Warren (2011, 2012) and Phelps (2009, 2010) have multiple 150+ inning seasons to their credit. I don’t know if the Yankees can run these guys out there for 200+ innings this summer, but I wouldn’t sweat 150 innings at all.

Dominik asks: Now that Alex Rodriguez has been suspended, will he be drug tested during his suspension? Are there still increased testing protocols for once he gets reinstated and do they apply during the suspension if he is tested? Thanks!

Oh yes, he will absolutely continue to be drug tested. In fact, he will be tested even more now that he’s been suspended for violating the Joint Drug Agreement. That continues even after he is reinstated. Even if the Yankees plan to release A-Rod at some point, they won’t do it during the suspension because he could potentially fail a test and be suspended again, saving them an even bigger chunk of his contract.

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

Christopher asks: Should the Yankees pass on Stephen Drew this year and look to replace Derek Jeter with next year’s bountiful crop of Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera?

They could do that but it would be really risky, not to mention it doesn’t help the 2014 team at all. There is no guarantee those guys will actually hit free agency, and Hardy is the only true shortstop of the bunch. The other three are terrible defenders and that figures to be even more evident after another season. Hanley’s bat makes his defense less of an issue, but he recently said he wants to be a Dodger for life. The Yankees could, conceivably, sign Drew now and still add Ramirez (third base) or Lowrie (second) next winter. (Asdrubal is pretty bad and has been trending down for several years now.)

Gilbert asks: Instead of just basing how good of a contact hitter someone is by their batting average, is there a stat like keeps track of the percentage of pitches a batter sees that he makes contact with (in play or foul)? This way we can say “He makes contact 47.1% of the time.”

Definitely. Thanks to PitchFX we have all sorts of neat information and most of it is easily available. Here is the contact rate leaderboard from 2011-13, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Contact Rate Leaderboard 2011-13

So, over the last three years, Marco Scutaro has made contact on 95.2% of his swings, the most in baseball. O-Contact% is contact rate on pitches out of the zone, Z-Contact% is contact rate on pitches in the zone. Pretty simple, right?

Ichiro is 15th in baseball with a 89.6% contact rate since 2011 while Brett Gardner is 18th at 88.9%. On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Reynolds is dead last with a 66.7% contact rate over the last three years. Ryan Howard (67.0%) and Giancarlo Stanton (67.3%) are second and third worst. Batting average can fluctuate wildly from year-to-year — Robinson Cano is a career .309 hitter, but he hit .342 one year and .271 another — but contact rates tend to be very steady. It is important to remember that not all contact is created equal though. Some guys simply hit the ball harder than others.

Matt asks: If teams usually sign Japanese players from the posting system for six years, since they would be under team control for six years anyway, and would be only arbitration eligible at the end of the contract if they only signed for say, four years. Why is this working differently for Masahiro Tanaka‘s opt-out clause? It seems if he opts out, of the contract, he should still be under team control for the remainder of the six years.

This is just a courtesy MLB extends to veterans of the Japanese leagues. Rather than maintain the full six years of team control, they’re treated as regular free agents, guys who have already accrued that much service time. Hideki Matsui became a free agent when his original three year contract expired following the 2006 season, for example. Yu Darvish’s contract works the same way as Tanaka’s. He can opt-out after the fifth year and become a free agent. I think it’s fair and a good thing. Those guys have served their time.

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  • jason

    “scouts have said he doesn’t have the lateral range, [or] quickness…”

    He may just fit right in…

  • blake

    pretty dead on answer for the Drew question. The Yankees need 3 infielders going forward….so even if you can find a better SS option for 2015 than Drew….Drew could still play somewhere. He’d be a better 2B option than they could find otherwise most likely.

    If you sign him now then at least you have a decent SS option already in place for 2015….and if something better comes along fine….play him somewhere else. Drew helps and 2014 and he fills a spot for 2015 as well…..they really don’t want to be in a position where they need to fill 3/4 of the infield next winter…..that’s a recipe for disaster

    • I’m One

      at least you have a decent SS option already in place for 2015….

      … if he backs off from his desire for an opt-out clause after one season. Otherwise, you’re in the same boat next year as you are now.

      I agree, it would be nice to have Drew, but I think his desire for an op-out clause complicates things. Not sure I’d want the team to overpay to avoid it either. I do hope they are having quiet discussions with him, however.

      • mitch

        I honestly wouldn’t get hung up on the opt out. If he has a good season an opts out you end up in the same situation as if you never signed him in the first place.

        • stuckey

          If he does NOT, is the issue.

          And given whatever market exists for him seems to be very limited (pitchers and catchers are reporting and he’s unemployed) you dont’ cave on giving him the option that offers you no long-term upside.

          • blake

            There are no bad 1 year deals….if he opts out it’s a 1 year deal. They need him for 2014 so there is the value….

            • TWTR

              The tangible negative to a one year deal is the loss of yet another pick, but my preferences aside, they have already given up so many that the draft pick rebuilding model is the one they have chosen to pursue (yet another reason to sign Diaz).

              On the positive side, Drew gets to experience life as a Yankee, which could make an extension more likely, all other things being equal.

              • blake

                Sure but if he opts out they can make him the QO and get a better pick back than the one they’d lose by signing him…..I really see no downside to the opt out personally….actually the biggest risk in signing him is that he’d get hurt and then not opt out.

                3/36 with an opt out after year 1 sounds good to me…

            • stuckey

              There are bad multi-year deals, is the point.

              If he’s bad and/or unhealthy, Yankees lose in int he first year, and then lose in the subsequent years he opts into.

              • blake

                we aren’t talking about Ellsbury money here though….I don’t see the risk as that significant.

                • stuckey

                  i don’t see the virtue in throwing out reasonable criteria in evaluating talent and cost.

                  2 or 3 unwise ‘insignificant’ deals could add up to 1 significant one, not even mentioning the 25-40 man roster issues, which 2 or 3 bad insignificant deals are in fact worse than 1 significant one.

                  Do we want to a front office that evaluates talent, assesses risk, and spends wisely, or one that just throws things into a shopping cart without looking at the ingredients, nutritional value, and price tag on the premise they’re hungry?

                  • TWTR

                    Ideally, we want one that understands that sometimes the most effective path is to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. That mindset is a quintessential aspect of risk assessment, as a team’s fortunes ebb and flow with the life cycle of their talent.

                    An example of such would have been to trade off veterans last season, including Cano, in order to jumpstart the reloading/rebuilding process. Instead, they doubled-down on making the playoffs even though their chances of making them and then advancing were slim.

                    So any useful suggestion of the right way forward should be mindful of how ownership conceives of the franchise. In the Yankees’ present world view, continually pursuing useful veteran talent in a shopping care makes sense.

                    • stuckey

                      Litigating the past isn’t really the point.

                      Question, is, what should the Yankees do today>

                      Your description of what you view as the Yankees strategy is this case would mean Stephen Drew would already be in the brown bag in the trunk of the car on the way to Tampa.

                      But he’s still on the shelves, so apparently the Yankees present world view isn’t quite how you perceive it.

                      Its February 14, Stephen Drew isn’t a Yankee.

                      Sometimes logic is entirely self-evident.

                    • TWTR

                      So wait, they’re done? Then why are they scouting Diaz so heavily?

                      We really don’t know what their ultimate intention is, just as Hal’s $189m “goal” proved to be illusory, so might their present shopping plans.

                      Like any good shopper, they are permitted to see if prices drop over time, right?

                      So yes, exactly, about logic being self-evident.

                    • stuckey

                      Let’s be careful calling the $189m goal “illusioinary”.

                      They have to be under $189m in September, NOT February.

                      I imagine they’re scouting Diaz because that’s what teams are supposed to do. Shouldn’t they be scouting Diaz regardless of their current ML infield options/depth? Yes or no?

                      But again, you can’t remove context in order to rebut.

                      You continue citing the Yankees only advantage given their organizational aspirations and make-up is spending, in response to calls to “shop” responsibly for Drew.

                      I don’t think there is a person here against him at a team friendly price and term.

                      So some of us are advocating team friendly or bust (no multi-year with player opt out most obviously).

                      You seem to be advocating spending what it takes at this moment to secure his services.

                      Is that a fair assessment, yes or no? If you believe the Yankees should wait on Drew until such (any) a time he comes on NYY-friendly terms, and pass if he never does, then we agree.

                      I though you’re advocating giving Boras what he’s asking for right now.

      • blake

        well if he does that then you had him on a 1 year deal….and while it wouldn’t help for 2015 he hopefully would have for 2014….

    • TWTR

      Drew wants an opt-out after this season, so they could still have to scramble for infielders, which is why it makes sense to sign him and Diaz.

      • steve (different one)

        Provided Diaz is actually good, of course.

        That is still up in the air, it seems.

        • TWTR

          Sure, but as Mike said: “Their interest level is unknown but if they’re still on him, they probably like him.”

          So I am going from that as well as their infield talent deficit in both the major and minor leagues.

          Their “win every single season” mindset coupled with an inability to develop talent has put them in a situation where they really need to exploit their spending tool.

  • Yankees rules

    I will love to see Hanley with the Yankees.

    I was wondering what kind of contract will he get?

    • blake

      Lots….I’d says 150+ range if he has a good 2014…

    • Bavarian Yankee

      I guess he won’t get less than Choo or Ellsbury. So something around 7/175?

  • TWTR

    The Yankees need to add infield talent. If Hal is still into using the franchise’s primary advantage, signing Diaz would be a really wise move.

    I hope that Tanaka pitches well enough to make opting out an issue.

  • stuckey

    “Diaz has shown some ability with the bat, hitting .315/.404/.500 in 313 plate appearances for Villa Clara in his final season in Cuba, albeit in a high-offensive environment in which he ranked 30th in the league in OBP and tied for 20th in slugging.”

    The latter half of that sentence isn’t exactly awe-inspiring.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Sounds like a guy you scout but don’t go nuts on unless you’re awfully sure.

      • Kevin

        If they can get him on a minor league deal I think they ought to sign him. There is just so little depth in the high minors…I mean seriously, even if he has to move to third or second who is he competing with? Jagielo, Refsnyder, maybe O’Brien or Austin if their defense comes around at third?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I don’t think there’s much of a chance this kid signs an MiLB deal.

          I’m fine with an MLB deal, but nothing I’m reading screams a kid you pay a premium for.

  • mustang

    Still like Diaz over Drew, but with the Jeter announce I have move a bit closer to the “lets sign Drew camp”.
    I just think that if they wait their will be better options out there then Drew for the price. Then again those options are not here now and Drew is. Really they should sign both Diaz and Drew.

    • I’m One

      I’d like to believe that, but I’m not sure who they would be. Seems that everyone that’s better is likely to get re-signed before hitting the FA market. I’m hoping there’s a young guy lurking just our of our line-of-sight that shows up early in 2015. As a precaution, I can agree with the signing of Drew at the right price/terms and going for Diaz isn’t a bad idea.

    • CashmanNinja

      If Drew would drop the opt-out deal and sign a more team friendly deal then maybe I’d agree with getting him. I just don’t think he’s worth the current price tag. I realize shortstops are valuable, but there is literally no market for him and Boras is still going to get a player friendly contract for him. This is one of those scenarios where a team will bid against themselves and I don’t want that to be us. I’ll take him for the right price, but I just don’t see him as a guarantee. Drew is good, but not great. I think Diaz could be plugged in from day 1 (whether it’s at SS or 2B) and put up decent #’s, and that doesn’t include him reaching his level of potential — I’m talking about what he’ll give right off the bat. When you add in the potential I think he could be a very smart investment and well worth the risk. So I’ll be happy taking Diaz over Drew. I’ll take both if Drew would lower his demands. I suppose there’s always a chance J.J. Hardy and co. become available next year, but I doubt it. Shortstops don’t usually hit the market.

  • Kosmo

    I´d hold off on Drew. Sign Diaz. Maybe 2013 was just a down year for Asdrubal, hopefully he rebounds in 2014 and the Yanks sign him. He´s a switchhitter who hits well from both sides and he´s a decent clutch hitter. He´s OK defensively and would certainly be an upgrade over Jeter. Eventually he could shift to 2B if the need arises.

    • Kosmo

      I´m also for signing Despaigne.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        this. I mean they really don’t need an outfielder (and he’s pretty bad in the field too) but if he comes cheap, why not?

        I’m a bit surprised that there’s almost no buzz about Despaigne, he’s been one of the very best (if not THE best) hitter in Cuba for years.

    • LK

      I don’t really get the Asdrubal love. He’s basically an average player, which don’t get me wrong, given the current IF would be very useful. But it seems like he’s essentially the same as Drew, except he’s not available for 2014 and will probably cost more.

      • Kosmo

        I´d give the edge to Asdrubal, he´s younger by 2 yrs and can handle LHP which Drew struggles against. Drew has difficulty staying healthy.
        I´m not concerned about the cost. IMO if Asdrubal has a good 2014 NY should give serious thought to signing him.

  • Dalek Jeter

    While it’s pretty cool, idk how much contact % really tells us. Like Mike said, not all contact is created equal, and Darwin Barney is 10th on the list. Darwin Barney, who makes Brendan Ryan look competent at the plate.

  • Hawkeye

    Has Drew ever said he would be willing to change positions? I am against giving a contract where the team assumes all the risk. The Yanks have already had two of those contracts backfire on them- Arod’s first and CC’s that both ended up lengthening stays into longer periods of decline. I hope I am wrong about CC, but those extra years he got after the opt out aren’t looking good right now.

    • LK

      I think the Drew opt-out would be much more comparable to the one they gave Soriano (which actually worked out pretty well) as opposed to the ones given to A-Rod, Sabathia, and Tanaka. If Drew opts out after 1 year, they’re not giving him a 9-figure deal that goes deep into his decline phase.

      As an aside, that Tanaka opt-out makes me skeptical of that deal. They basically either paid 4/108 for a good pitcher, or 7/175 for a bad pitcher. You have to be pretty sure of Tanaka to like that bet.



  • Dalek Jeter

    Also, I cannot wait till Drew signs (eslewhere or here) so we can deal with the few days of aftermath and finally stop talking about a dude who is one year removed from being below replacement value every single day.

    • LK

      “finally stop talking about a dude who is one year removed from being below replacement value every single day.”

      Brian Roberts was worth -1.2 WAR in 2012.
      Derek Jeter was worth -.6 WAR in 2013.
      Mark Teixeira was worth -.2 WAR in 2013.
      Scott Sizemore was worth -.2 WAR in 2013.
      Brendan Ryan was worth -.6 WAR in 2013.
      Even Kelly Johnson was worth only .4 WAR in 2012.

      We might get to stop talking about Drew, but we’re going to be talking about players fitting your description a whooooole bunch.

      • Dalek Jeter

        …Fair enough.

      • I

        We’re talking about 1 freaking season, man. Let Jeter have his moment and we have plenty of suitable depth. What, the suggestion is to go sign another player, that at best, might add a single win, just because? That’s the reality here, because anyone who is going to add 4-5 or more wins about Jeter isn’t currently available and might be a season from now, so signing Drew only creates roster issues going forward.

        • TWTR

          What players comprise that (quality) depth?

          • I

            Dude, seriously. You people need to stop. Ryan is more than good enough to man the position for a period of time if necessary. I’m growing tired of this All-Star at every position nonsense. Ok, great, lets go find a player better than Ryan, who plays are higher level only to push aside the most important player in baseball for a single season. Brilliant, only for a for an extra win or two. When you dig down and really think about it, that’s the actual result.

            • TWTR

              Dude, seriously, we don’t.

              Ryan had a 54 OPS+ last season. Since 2010, he has had one season above a 60 OPS+.

              We don’t know if Jeter’s body will hold up; same with Roberts.

              All-Star at every position? How about a little better than league average both offensively and defensively?

              This team, according to the owner, has championship aspirations. The vulnerability of the current infielders is not consistent with that goal.

              Apparently, your definition of brilliant is different than the dictionary definition.

              • I

                “We don’t know if Jeter’s body will hold up; same with Roberts”

                Yeah, we’ll lets give them a shot, especially Jeter. I think he’s earned it, no?

                There will be more and better options as the season moves forward. There is absolutely zero need or reason to sign Drew right now. ZERO!

                • LK

                  “There is absolutely zero need or reason to sign Drew right now. ZERO!”

                  See, it’s comments like this that are why we can’t stop talking about Drew.

                  The Yankees are projected to get the 23rd most WAR from 2B, the 25th most WAR from SS, and the 28th most WAR from 3B. Drew isn’t some fantastic option; if he were, he’d have signed a 9-figure contract by now. But he clearly would help the current roster. Can’t we just agree on that and wait and see what he actually signs for before deciding if he would’ve been worth it or not?

                  • Havok9120

                    Yeah. I’m as tired of the “he’s worthless” brigade as I am of the handful of commenters that see him as a savior. There are good reasons both ways.

              • stuckey

                Its really time to stop with the rhetorical device of “This team, according to the owner, has championship aspirations…”

                You cite that (often) in a seemingly sarcastic manner but at the same time use it to justify throwing money at marginal upgrades with risk of little upside at all.

                So let me ask you directly – are you mocking Hal Steinbrenner’s and the organization’s expressed aspirations or are you endorsing them?

                Because your opinion on Drew and others seem to support the latter, which means YOU believe the moves are justifiable, making your rhetorical device irrelevant and superfulous.

                Why not be clear on whether YOU think the Yankees can compete or not and whether YOU fully endorse the debated transactions based on that belief.

                • I

                  Thank you. You said what I want to in a much more eloquent and intelligent manor, but yes, that’s the point. The Yankee as it currently is, I like very much.
                  There will be much MUCH better players than Drew available mid year or next season who at that time, actually fill a conclusive role for the “team.”

                  • I

                    * The Yankee roster, I like very much

            • LK

              “Ryan is more than good enough to man the position for a period of time if necessary.”

              Ryan was below replacement level last year. “Good enough” is the best case scenario with him.

              • I

                So the alternative is to give another guy, who also was “barely replacement level” and often hurt a 3 year deal for $35+mm to sit on the bench ready for Jeter to “not be able to play” or plan for next year right now. Did I miss anything? Well, that’s the reality. Sure, go ahead, knock yourself out. Pick up Drew for $5mm or $6mm for a single season to “sit on the bench waiting for Jeter to not be able to play”, but anything beyond that is just stupid and I’ll stand behind my views on this. Everyday I’ve reading about it.

                • LK

                  You missed more or less everything.

                  Drew was below replacement level in 2012 while recovering from his ankle injury, but was an above average player in 2013 as well as prior to the injury.

                  I don’t know what it would take to sign Drew; I’m not sure where you get the idea that it would definitely take 35+.

                  Drew would not be sitting on the bench regardless of Jeter’s situation, since he would also likely be the Yankees’ best option at both 2B and 3B.

    • I

      Thank you. I just said something to a similar effect below. Jesus, we have the most influential sports player in modern day sports who says he’s going to retire and we have relatively decent to good back-ups – Ryan, Nunez and others and people are clamoring to sign Drew, who actually sucks and is hurt often, so we can push all of this aside, just for a single season. 12 months from now, there will be an entire different crop of infield options to discuss. To lock up Drew now “looking forward” is about as stupid a logic that I can remember.

      • Dalek Jeter

        You actually miss my point entirely. I don’t think Drew is terrible, or a terrible fit. I also do NOT think Ryan, Nunez, et al. outside of maybe Sizemore is anything but a back up. I’m just bored of the whole situation, since Tanaka all we’ve talked about here is Drew.

        • I

          “finally stop talking about a dude who is one year removed from being below replacement value every single day”


          • Dalek Jeter

            That was to only underscore my annoyance with the continuous Drew talks. We’ve argued this ad nauseum and its just getting boring. He’s a good fit at the right price, that is the end result of every single discussion about him.

  • I

    Everyone really needs to cool it with the SS thing. Drew isn’t happening and for good reason, so let’s just turn the page, finally, please. As for the rational in the post and by most of the commenters, I couldn’t possibly disagree more. For the love of god, lets give Jeter the benefit of a doubt and at least pencil the man in for the season or at least the start. We have Ryan as a back-up and while he isn’t a huge bat, he’s defensive more than makes up for it, for a single season. We have a lot of other depth, regardless of its quality (Nunez), so I don’t see the need to commit big money to a guy like Drew when it’s likely an overpay and over reactionary when the entire makeup of players available next year will be different. Who’s not to say Tulo doesn’t become available or others. There are actually a lot of quality young SS in the game right now. It was a few down years, but a lot of teams have stud young SS. Who’s not to say the Manny B has a tremendous year in AAA and all of the sudden is a top prospect again and can be swapped for one of these young SS.

    The point is, who knows, where things can go in 12 month and signing Drew isn’t only stupid now, its stupid for later. A guy who has a relatively poor health track record to boot. I see absolutely minus zero reason to sign Drew at this point.

  • jason

    Posters here are overlooking one thing when they claim Drew will not sign with the Yankees: Mike Frencessa said it absolutely will not happen. That means it’s an absolute lock to happen.

  • I Shot Stephen Drew

    I had to. It was for all your own good.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’m basically O:Sing the name “Stephen Drew” until he signs somewhere.