Mailbag: Kimbrel, Robertson, Infield, Key, Wells


Got six questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything throughout the week.

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

Bill asks: Does Craig Kimbrel’s new extension with the Braves give us a better idea at what it would take to lock up David Robertson to an extension?

No, I don’t think so. This is an apples to oranges comparison. The Braves signed Kimbrel to a four-year, $42M deal earlier this week and it is the largest contract ever given to a pitcher in his first year of arbitration eligibility, starter or reliever. Even if they went to an arbitration hearing and Kimbrel had lost, he still would have made more in his first year of arbitration ($6.55M) than Robertson will earn in his final year this season ($5.215M). These two are at very different places in their careers.

Not only do saves pay very well, but Kimbrel is just flat out better than Robertson. Don’t get me wrong, Robertson is awesome, but Kimbrel is in his own little world right now. He’s clearly the best reliever in baseball at the moment. I looked at a potential extension for Robertson months ago and wound up at three years and $21M, which is basically high-end setup man money. Robertson will be a free agent after the season and if he has a typical Robertson year but with say, 35+ saves, then something like three years and $35M (Rafael Soriano money) or four years and $46M (Francisco Cordero money) might more appropriate. I guess that is Kimbrel money, we just got there in a roundabout away.

Anonymous: Let’s say the Yankees sign Stephen Drew and he indeed opts out after the first year. Is there any way they can get a supplemental pick from whoever signs him? Is it guaranteed, a property of the specific contract they agree upon, or impossible?

Yep, they can get definitely get a pick. If they were to sign Drew to a multi-year deal with an opt-out after the first year, they can make him the qualifying offer if he uses the opt out. They’d then get a pick if he declined. It’s exactly what happened with Soriano — when he opted out a year ago, the team made the qualifying offer and received a draft pick when he declined. Because they would only surrender a second rounder to sign him, the Yankees could conceivably “trade” their 2014 second rounder for a 2015 supplemental first rounder by signing Drew.

Dan asks: If I told the Yankees they could get 200 combined games out of Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts, do you think they’d sign up for that? If they’d even think hard about it, they should be calling up Boras right now to sign Drew.

Against my better judgement, I think I would say no to 200 combined games from those two. I think it’s possible they’ll combine for 240-250 games or so — 100 from Roberts, 140-150 from Jeter — but that’s basically the best case scenario. The Yankees haven’t exactly done a good job of keeping people healthy over the alst few years. The thing is that, even if he plays 100+ games, will Roberts even be any good? He’s 36 and has hit .246/.310/.359 (82 OPS+) when healthy over the last four years (192 games).

AJ asks: With the one infield spot open, would their be any thought of keeping three catchers on the roster? Someone will have to backup firstst base and Frankie Cervelli has proven versatile in the past backing up second base. John Ryan Murphy has played third and Brian McCann could backup Mark Teixeira at first.

Well, Cervelli hasn’t really proven himself to be versatile. He’s played five innings at third base and three innings at second base in his career, plus he spent one game in left field in the minors nine years ago. Those are emergency assignments, nothing more. Murphy has only played 14 total games at third base in his career as well, so it’s not like he has a ton of experience at the hot corner either. Both guys are catchers, that’s all. Given their roster, that last bench spot absolutely has to go to a real infielder. Carrying a third catcher rarely makes sense and it certainly doesn’t for this squad.

Jacob asks: Do you think the Yankees will re-sign Brett Gardner and should they?

I think the Jacoby Ellsbury signing pushed Gardner right out the door. I’m not sure how many no power, defense first outfielders one team can carry on expensive free agent contracts. It’s fine now while Gardner is playing for relative peanuts, but he’s looking at $10M+ per year as a free agent. Would they really commit $30M+ annually for the next three or four (or five) years for these two guys? Should they even want to do that? I don’t think so. One such player is enough. Besides, I’m guessing Gardner wants to play center field and bat leadoff, two things that won’t happen with the Yankees now.

(AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

Key. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

Anonymous asks: Better FA pickup in your opinion, Jimmy Key or David Wells (first time)?

Without looking, I’m thinking Wells.

The Yankees gave Key a four-year, $17M deal during the 1992-93 offseason and he pitched to a 3.68 ERA (13.5 bWAR) in 604.1 innings during the life of the contract. He was also limited to five starts during the 1995 season due to a torn rotator cuff. Key was a big part of the 1996 team though, including beating Greg Maddux in the deciding Game Six of the World Series.

Wells, on the other hand, signed a three-year deal worth $13.5M during the 1996-97 offseason, replacing Key. He pitched to a 3.85 ERA (9.1 bWAR) in 432.1 innings across the first two years of the contract and finished third in the 1998 AL Cy Young voting. Wells helped the team to the 1998 World Series title and was then the center piece of the Roger Clemens trade after the season.

On a rate basis, Key and Wells (first stint) were very similar with the Yankees. Key missed almost an entire season to injury and Wells was traded away mid-contract, plus both guys were key parts of a World Series winner. Without going ridiculously in depth (this is only a mailbag, after all), I’d say Wells was the better pickup because he was more durable and then flipped for arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the time. Not sure there’s a wrong answer here, both were very good in pinstripes.

Categories : Mailbag
  • CountryClub

    I think you need to take into account that Key was the first big name FA the Yanks were able to get to come over in a while. Players were shunning them left and right because of how bad they had been. I don’t know if he was the better pitcher, it’s close, but he was the more important pick up.

    • Darren

      Bingo. And we hadn’t had a true ace since Guidry in ’85 (or so), so Key was a hugely stabilizing influence on the rotation.

      • Pablos Ham Sammich

        Bingo. And we hadn’t had a true ace since Guidry in ’85 (or so), so Key was a hugely stabilizing erection on the rotation

        • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

          Bingo, because bingo

      • Lets go Yankees

        I might be mistaken, but wasnt Jack McDowel the ace the year Key cam on board?

    • http://www.Twitter.com/TheWallBreakers Scully


      Jimmy Key definitely swung the balance of power in the AL East even if it took two full seasons. He was my first favorite player growing up, so perhaps I am biased, but the Jimmy Key in 1996 that we saw wasn’t the same pitcher as he was in 93 – 94 prior to the rotator cuff injury. He also stepped it up a notch one final time for the 97 Orioles team that absolutely destroyed the Yankees that season (8-4 vs NY), giving the Orioles the division title.

    • nycsportzfan

      Key was also the FA most associated with the yanks turn around. Even though alot of the FA signings we had in the dreaded 80′s and early 90′s kinda did there jobs as far as producing, it was opposite for the pitching. Seemed like we just coulden’t get the pitching right. Key was the 1st in the turn around for that. After Key, we really started getting are pitching right. He was kinda the face of that.

      Still, David Wells was signed as a middle starter, who was coming off a losing season and had been up and down most his career. Then he put it all together, for the yanks. You would expect Key to pitch how he did, more then Wells how he did. So that’s why I coulden’t decide, and asked Mike what he thought. I just kept coming up tied.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Yeah, I agree. The yankees had a pretty terrible time with the pitching PHA market in the 80s and early 90s.

        • nycsportzfan

          And we tried just about everything. We were such a mess with the pitching, and desperate to figure it out, we kept getting rid of guys who could’ve helped had we kept em. Tewksbury, Drabek, and AL Leiter, all come to mind..

        • Dalek Jeter

          Phuck. You win Jim. You win.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Everyone go home, Jim just won the Internets.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I was a big Phuck Cary fan.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Yes, however I’d argue that Wells pitched more meaningful innings for more meaningful teams.

      Don’t get me wrong. I loved Key, and he was a very bright spot on this team while they were beginning to dig out of one of the worst periods in its history, but Wells was simply part of making history.

    • nycsportzfan

      When you think about Melido Perez was pretty much the best the yanks had to offer over a stretch and there biggest hope for a ace before Jimmy Key came along, kinda tells ya the way the yanks pitching had been going before Jimmy Key.

      • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

        Never mention that name on this blog again! hehe.. I was 8 and even I dreaded whenever Melido Perez took the ball.

        I do, however have cherished memories of Dion James slapping singles and Mike Gallego making plays a guy who was 4ft 11 shouldn’t have made.

      • Jimmy

        John Montefusco begs to differ.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          He was gone by this point

  • CashmanNinja

    Key and Wells were both definitely examples of money well spent. I think Wells gets a little more love because of his perfect game, but Key was no slouch. I don’t think we’d have had the dynasty without him because he was a main part of getting this team off the ground after a few years of, uh…misery haha.

    • Bats

      Let’s not forget, the Yankees really didn’t want Key from the start. They got him because Greg Maddux spurned them for Atlanta and David Cone made that colossal mistake by signing with the Royals. Key was pick #3. As for Wells, the Yankees signed him simply because they lost Jimmy Key to the Orioles and they needed to replace him.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead


        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Deduct style pointz.

      • Havok9120

        Meaning what, exactly?

      • Tanakapalooza Floozy

        Honestly I think all three of you guys are being unnecessarily douchey here in your responses to Bats. He brought up an interesting point about both signings. Context matters, remember? It’s entirely relevant when evaluating the signings to look at what their respective expectations were for those signings. Whether they were plan A, B, or C speaks directly to expectations. A plan C guy could easily be a better relative signing than the guy who was a Plan A guy even if the Plan A guy performed better in absolute terms.

        You guys can be really off putting sometimes. Dial back the douche please. It’s getting tiresome.

  • Darren

    I don’t think you can fairly judge Roberts’ productivity over the last four years “when healthy”. You have to think that even when he was on the field, he was still suffering the after-effects of being injured, plus he had no rhythm or consistency.

    But honestly, if Jeter plays 140 games and has a great final year, I don’t care what happens to Roberts.

    • mitch

      Agreed. I think you play Roberts 4 or 5 times a week until he gets injured or is ineffective. Then you replace him with someone in house or make a trade. It’s not the hardest position to fill. If Roberts doesn’t work out then you move on.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Totally agree with that last sentence.

      I have to imagine if Jeter plays 140 games, we’ll find some combination of Ryan/KJ/Anna/Sizemore that would be a fine fascimile of Roberts.

      • Dalek Jeter

        The Sizemore love is weak in this comment.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead


          Forgive me Sizemore, for I have sinned against you and against the Yankees.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            That’ll be three “Hail Sizemore”‘s from you.

  • Lets go Yankees

    On D-Rob, lets wait to see how he fares as a closer before locking him up to an elite closers contract.

    Wells and Key, Cant help but notice how much contracts have changed in only a decade or two. Those guys would be earning 16 per for 4 years at the least I would think.

  • Joel

    “Apples to oranges” means two things are essentially the same, Mike. You used the expression as if it meant Robertson and Kimbrel are different, with one being notably better. The whole point of the saying is that it’s two different things, neither better.

    • mitch

      pretty sure he was referring to the fact the Robertson will be signing his deal as a free agent and not being locked up early like Kimbrel

  • Bats

    Between Key and Wells, Axisa picked Wells as the better of the FA pickups.

    Without question, I have to disagree.

    Jimmy Key was so much a “difference maker” you could even call him a “Game Changer.” Jimmy Key, literally, kept the Yankees in contention throughout the 1993 season to the point where it was rumored that Buck Showalter would pitch Jimmy Key after 3 days rest for the entire month of September just to catch the Blue Jays for the AL EAST crown. Remember, there was no Wild Card then. Key, continued being a pitching force for the Yankees in 1994 before the strike happened. Not only was Jimmy Key such a great pickup for the Yankees in terms of pitching, but he also mentored a young Andy Pettitte as MSG cameras often shot the two of them constantly talking in the bullpen and dugout.

    • nycsportzfan

      Good post. I guess, if I had to pick, with gun to my head, I’d take Key. But with no gun to my head, its just incredibly hard to decide. Like I said, Wells was coming off a losing yr when we signed him. Wells was 33yrs old, and coming off a over 5.00ERA. Many more would think he was more on his way out, rather then about to pitch the 2nd part of his career, ten fold better then the 1st. So in those regards, its just so hard to decide. Plus Wells has the perfect game to his belt, and was part of arguably the best team in history.

  • Jessica’s Yankees

    Does anyone know how to submit your questions to the authors (like Mike Axisa) for the mail bag?

    • Dax J.

      Go to the Contact Us section. There’s a small form there that will allow you to submit your questions.

      • Jessica’s Yankees

        Thank you.

    • CashmanNinja

      On the top right under “RAB Info”, email links.

    • Dalek Jeter

      Right side of the screen, just to the left of the count down to opening day there’s a “contact us” thing that says “submit a tip” under it, just put your name and question and if Mike feels it’s worthy to answer in a mail bag he will.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Just say you loved the Ellsbury and Ichiro signings… you’ll get his attention right quick.

  • Bats

    In regards to Gardner, I don’t that the signing of Ellsbury pushed Gardner out the door. If it did, he would’ve been on the outside already for that 2nd baseman from the Reds.

    Axisa likes ballplayers with power. However power doesn’t do squat, if they have a hard time hitting the ball over the head of a defensive position player.

    Also let me add, “Power hitters” today should throw an instant red flag over the head of all Yankee fans. For all we know, their power came in the form of a container labeled “Tony Bosch VIP client.”

    Axisa has been wrong so many times in his analysis with a number of issues regarding the Yankees. This is just another one.

    • jjyank

      “If it did, he would’ve been on the outside already for that 2nd baseman from the Reds.”

      …or, maybe the Yankees just think that Gardner provides more value to the 2014 Yankees than Brandon Phillips would. Maybe they like that OF depth with Soriano and Beltran being older and Ellsbury having an injury history. Believing that signing Ellsbury means that Gardner is out the door next year absolutely does not mean that he has to be traded this year.

      “Axisa likes ballplayers with power. However power doesn’t do squat, if they have a hard time hitting the ball over the head of a defensive position player.”

      What? I would think that power, by definition, would mean that they can hit the ball over the heads of the defense. I would be power if they couldn’t.

      “Also let me add, “Power hitters” today should throw an instant red flag over the head of all Yankee fans. For all we know, their power came in the form of a container labeled “Tony Bosch VIP client.””

      So the Yankees should never target power hitters again because in the past, other, completely unrelated power hitters have used PEDs? That’s awful logic.

      • Dalek Jeter

        Well done jj, there was just too much flawed logic here for me to even try. I commend you.

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

      However power doesn’t do squat, if they have a hard time hitting the ball over the head of a defensive position player.


    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Don’t confuse analysis with opinion.

      I also heard he likes redheads.

  • nycsportzfan

    Hey Mike, was wondering how come when you use my question, it comes up anonymous? I put my name in the name spot each time. Its no biggie, just wondering what I was doing wrong? Its the 2nd time it happened. I asked the Key/Wells question.

    I also agree, that there is no wrong answer. I came up the same way, its why I asked you.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Phor real, Axisa.

      • nycsportzfan


    • Dalek Jeter

      do you put your name or your handle? Because I think once I used my handle at the time and he put it in as anonymous, and another I put my actual first name and he used it.

      • jjyank

        Bullshit. I’ve never seen a question from a “Plouffy” in a mailbag post before.

        • Dalek Jeter

          Plouffy is dead. Like dead, buried and decayed.

          • jjyank

            Plouffy will live on in our hearts forever.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            So you think.

          • The Great Gonzo

            Plouffy lives on to fight….

            FOR PRUSSIA!!!


            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              We can say whatever the damn hell we want.

      • nycsportzfan

        Yeah, I was just putting my name in the name spot, but its actually supposed to go in the part where the actual question goes. Thanks for the feedback.

  • LitFig

    1. Robertson might end up with a Kimbrel esque contract given the fact he’ll be a true free agent and has a great track record as a reliever.

    2. They might get a pick for Drew, assuming he has a better year than he had in 2013. Given the fact he’s scrounging around in late February for a deal, what makes us think someone would be willing to give him a contract and give up a pick in 2014? Especially given the potentially deeper INF market?

    3. It may work out this way in the end due to injury history, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to just have Nunez/Joseph/Anna battle for 2B this spring and let the top two guys make the squad? Roberts lack of health/production over the past 4 seasons really made me wonder why they went this route.

    4. Given roster construction, a 3rd catcher with almost no infield experience is a waste.

    5.Good question regarding Key vs. Wells. Key probably meant more in terms of changing the perception, but Wells was better on a per year basis.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Adding Roberts for peanuts was a pretty low risk move. At worst it’s added depth, if oft-injured depth. I see no problem throwing in an extra name into the 2B ring.

      • jjyank

        Right. It’s not like they have a lot invested in Roberts. If he doesn’t work out, it should be pretty easy to cut ties there.

      • 28 this year

        Completely agree. Without Roberts, you rely on Nunez/Joseph/Anna. With Roberts, they are at least Plan B. That means the Yankees are one more injury from shit hitting the fan than they would be without Roberts. Not the greatest addition but certainly a useful one.

    • Dalek Jeter

      I find your lack of Sizemore in point 3 disturbing. No, but in all seriousness, it’s not like they signed Roberts (or Sizemore) to long term deals. Sure Roberts is the “starting 2nd baseman” now, but remember when Bubba Crosby was the starting centerfielder? I think this is a case where if either Roberts can’t stay healthy or Sizemore/Nunez/Anna outperform him and/or Johnson one will either find themselves on the bench or both will find themselves as part of a platoon.

      • LitFig

        Yeah, I mean it’s not a hude deal either way, I just think it would’ve been more exciting to see the battle play out than basically hope Roberts doesn’t die before Memorial Day.

    • LitFig

      In regards to 1., I meant to add that if Robertson has a great year as a closer and gets a high enough save %, then he’d get a Kimbrel esque contract.

  • Dalek Jeter

    If we sign power guys at non-power positions next offseason ( a guy like Jed Lowrie for 2nd, Hanley at short [I know he's not good defensively, but I've never seen good defensive shortstop work by a Yankee in my life anyway], to go with the power at catcher we already have, I’d be okay with a defense first LF’er.

    • Dan G

      The more I think about the infield, I’m terrified for next year.

      Assuming A-Roid isn’t bought out (which I think they will), he’ll be a presumably “clean” 39 year old who will have played in 34% of possible games since 2012. And even then he’d see a healthy amount of DHing. Not to mention we’re in wait-and-see mode on Tex’s health, so the entire infield is potentially a big fat question mark.

      They might just have to bring in HanRam, Lowrie AND Drew and hope for a healthy Tex.

      Here’s to 2014 MVP Brian Roberts! (I kid…)

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        The infield may not be where we’re used to it being anytime soon either. Too many parts to fix simultaneously. I’d love for a couple of unexpected positives to come through. Perhaps the Yanks do sign this Diaz kid and he turns out to be as some hope. Perhaps Jagelio does become that fast riser some want him to be.

        I knew we’d have to replace Jeter around the middle of decade. Never expected having to replace Robbie. Hoped we’d at least be able to run some form of Alex out there a bit longer. Some of this was predictable. Some they did to themselves. Some is getting the shit end of the stick.

        • W.B. Mason Williams

          “You know in certain baseball cultures, that end of the stick is regarded as having the best grip for when you’re at the plate. We really think it’ll help Mark Teixeira rebound to his former self.” – Brian Cashman

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    Too bad you did not get a chance to see Rizzuto, Kubek, and Dent. Maybe they weren’t Ozzie Smith, but they were fun to watch.

  • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

    Hey, I poke out-a my head!

    • Tanuki Tanaka (Formerly Bob Buttons)


  • vicki

    if not gritner, who? have you seen the group of next year’s free agent outfielders? brett is the class of it.