Mailbag: Sabathia, Drew, Leads, Headley, Diaz

GIFs: Michael Pineda's First Spring Start
Spring Training Game Thread: You Again

Got eight questions for you this week, so most of the answers are short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions, comments, links, whatever.

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

Matt asks: There has been much made, so far this spring and in the past, about CC Sabathia‘s decrease in velocity, which got me to thinking: What kind of contract do you think he would have received, had he been on the open market this past off-season?

This question came in a few days ago, so I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and … I have no idea. On one hand, Sabathia’s velocity is down and the chances of him being in a permanent decline are rather high. On the other hand, the dude is still a workhorse of the first order and his track record is as good as it gets. Sabathia is also super accountable and good in the community, making him the type of person teams want on their roster.

Given his age and workload and all that, I think Sabathia would have wound up with a shorter term deal for big dollars this winter. Not a four or five-year contract or anything like that. Something more along the lines of how the Giants handled Tim Lincecum. Would two years and $40M with a vesting option for a third year have worked? There are three years (plus a vesting option) and $71M left on Sabathia’s contract right now, so 2/40 wouldn’t be a huge step down. Just a pretty big one.

Brad asks: Most analysis at this point indicates that Michael Pineda (if healthy) will win the 5th starter job, while David Phelps and Adam Warren are favorites for bullpen spots. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to keep one of the latter two candidates stretched out in the AAA rotation?

I think that will be Vidal Nuno’s role, the sixth starter in Triple-A. If both Warren and Phelps are in the bullpen, I assume one would be a traditional long reliever (likely Warren), and going from long relief to a starter isn’t too tough. Considering the state of the bullpen, I think the Yankees have to focus on taking the best arms north at the end of camp. Nuno will be in Triple-A as the extra starter, giving the team some freedom with Phelps and Warren.

Paul asks: What is the market for Stephen Drew at this point? Am I being a typical unrealistic greedy Yankee fan when I’m hoping/expecting him to join us soon?

There have not been many updates on Drew recently, other than his former Red Sox teammates speculating he wishes he had accepted the qualifying offer. The Yankees could obviously still use him on the infield, but the longer he goes unsigned, the less likely it is I think the Yankees will sign him. Drew would have to change positions — I’m guessed he’d move to third, not second — and that’s something he’d need to work on in Spring Training since he’s never played anywhere other than short. There is only about two weeks left in camp, so he’s running out of time to prepare for the position change. I’d love to see the Yankees sign him, but it’s clear it’s a long shot at this point.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Warren asks: So I was wondering how lead size effects base stealing. I feel like Brett Gardner in particular takes enormous leads compared to people of equal or lesser speed who steal more. I was wondering if there was a way to measure if he was taking such a large lead that it results in too much attention. He almost has to constantly be leaning back towards first. Is there any way to measure if other base stealers like Jacoby Ellsbury have more success by giving up a foot or two of lead to get a better jump?

Lead size definitely affects base-stealing. The bigger the lead, the more likely it is the pitcher will throw over. The more the pitcher throws over, the more the runner has to hurry back to the bag. The more he does that, the more tired he gets. The more tired he gets, the less likely he is to steal or steal successfully. The size of a player’s lead definitely plays a role in his base-stealing success.

How can we measure this? Other than going back and watching video of everytime a player was on base and taking a lead, I’m not sure. Hopefully this is something that MLBAM’s new player’s tracker system will cover because it is definitely a part of the game we don’t know a whole lot about. What’s the relationship between lead size and likelihood of a pickoff attempt? Is there such a thing as an optimal lead? Probably, I just have no idea what it is.

Eric asks: You can either have a starting pitcher who is guaranteed to strike everyone out once every five days, or a hitter who is guaranteed to hit a home run every time up. Which one would you choose?

I’ll take the hitter, no doubt about it. You can bat him as low as third and still guarantee he’d get no fewer than four at-bats in every game, so that’s at least four runs right there. I think that, over the course of the 162-game season, you would win more games scoring at least four runs every time out than you would by getting a guaranteed shutout (perfect game, really) every fifth day. Just my opinion. Not sure if there’s a way to test this mathematically.

Andrew asks: Do you think MLB will ever make and enforce a rule requiring identical field dimensions across baseball?

I do not think MLB would do it and I sure hope they don’t. One of my favorite things about baseball are the unique parks and dimensions. No other sport has that. MLB has minimum standards and things like that, but otherwise the shape and size of the field is up to the individual teams. It’s great, I love it.

Tucker asks: How strong of a push do you the think the Yankees will make next winter to sign Chase Headley? It seems inevitable to me.

Headley would be a really good fit as a switch-hitter with power, patience, and good defense at third base, there’s no doubt about it. I wonder if the Yankees will be open to signing another huge contract so soon though. Maybe if they somehow get rid of Alex Rodriguez and the money he’s owed, but otherwise if they were to sign Headley to something along the lines of six years and $108M (total guess), they’d have seven players making at least $17M in both 2015 and 2016. It works out to $146M for seven players each year. Unless the team increases payroll by quite a bit or their farm system suddenly starts cranking out players, I’m not sure if they would go for that. On paper, yeah Headley makes a ton of sense.

Jon asks: Given the relatively small contract for which he signed, do you think Aledmys Diaz would have been worth taking a flier on? The Yankees certainly have a bigger need for a young middle-infielder than the Cards. Maybe the guy isn’t that great but I’ll place my faith in the Cards scouting over the Yanks.

It seems pretty obvious Diaz just isn’t all that good, or at least teams don’t expect him to be all that good given his contract. The scouting reports said he might end up a utility infielder and that’s what he wound up with, utility man dollars. Just $2M annually. The Cardinals are obviously very well run by they aren’t infallible. The Yankees had him in for a workout and that’s more than they’ve done for any international player in a long time. It’s not like they didn’t do their homework.

GIFs: Michael Pineda's First Spring Start
Spring Training Game Thread: You Again
  • OB/GYN Kenobi

    We should refer to CC as C from now on. Man is he skinny.

  • Eddardo Nuney

    1. CC is done as an ace. Kuroda, Tanaka and even Nova are better pitchers than him right now. CC would have been considered a 6th starter last year with his numbers, except that job was already taken by Phil Hughes.

    2. Pineda will be the starter, Phelps should be a set up man and Warren the long man.

    3. Stephen Drew Stephen Drew Stephen Drew. Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice. It ain’t happening.

    4. Arbitrary question.

    5. Arbitrary question.

    6. They should not make any sort of rule regarding the Stadium dimensions. That’s what makes baseball unique from NFL and NBA.

    7. They will not sign Headley. They are stuck with A-Rod thanks to ownership.

    8. No.

    • nyyankfan_7

      Thank God you aren’t in charge of answering the RAB mailbag. Most boring read ever.

    • lightSABR

      Even if A-Rod’s in the lineup, I’m not sure they can count on him to be the everyday third baseman. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m hoping that if they don’t release him, they’ll sign Headley and let A-Rod back him up and DH a lot.

      Though I guess that does clutter their roster quite a bit with Beltran and McCann also needing days at DH… Meh. Whatever.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner


        Like the Flip video camera my wife bought me about a month before the IPhone’s video capability became just as good, Alex Rodriguez is a sunk cost. Just because you’re stuck paying him doesn’t mean you have to go through the charade of wheeling him out there every day.

  • Jay D

    I would want the all Ks every fifth day, just for the novelty of the eventual loss from a dropped 3rd strike rally to lose a game.

    • lightSABR

      Ha – that’s awesome. The pitcher strikes out seven guys in an inning but gives up a run and loses the game.

      Don’t you love the pitcher wins stat?

      Or wait – does the pitcher take the loss if the winning run reached base on an error? At some point, I should figure out how that stat works. If only to mock it more effectively.

      • Jay D

        If they reach on an error, I really don’t know. It wouldn’t make sense for a loss from an error – if you lose 1-0 and the only baserunner is from an error, is there no losing pitcher?

        The only way for the 3rd strike rally to really backfire would be if this happened Game 7 of the WS. That would be heartbreaking.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Andy Hawkins just tossed something heavy through his monitor.

          • nyyankfan_7

            (In an impeccable Morgan Freeman imitation) “Oh Andy”

          • Jay D

            He already lost the game, why rub salt in the wound and change the definition of a no hitter so dramatically. Poor guy.

  • lightSABR

    If you had a hitter guaranteed to hit a home run every time up, pretty soon you’d have a hitter guaranteed to get intentionally walked every time up. Having one guy with 1.000 OBP is mighty nice, but I’m not sure it’s better than a guy who gives you a shutout every five games.

    • nyyankfan_7

      But if he is guaranteed to hit the home run it technically doesn’t matter where the pitch is thrown because it’s going out of the park whether it bounces or is aimed at the dugout.

      • lightSABR

        Ha. I guess he throws the bat in the path of the ball?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          He can fucking blow on it and it’ll be over the porch. Yes.

          In other words, his name is Scott Sizemore. He’s just saving it for Opening Day.

          • jjyank

            No, Scott Sizemore would hit two home runs per at bat.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              And another on the way back to the dugout.

              • nyyankfan_7

                Scott Sizemore farts home runs.

  • TWTR

    Unless they trade for a young infielder who can SLG, I don’t see how they can avoid adding someone like Headley.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I am VERY interested in seeing what Chase Headley’s 2014 looks like. VERY. That is going to make a difference between a mega-payday and a medium-sized one.

    As for the St. Louis Cardinals, I feel like channelling a 2001 Kurt Angle here every time someone brings up their supposedly superiority. Where are your WS trophies?

    I’ll take the hitter. Thanks.

    I think you’re spot-on with the CC number. I’d have said 2/40 with the vesting third as well.

    • jjyank

      Agreed regarding Headley. He’s definitely one of the non-Yankee players I will be paying closest attention to this year.

    • Dalek Jeter

      It’s interesting how everybody looks at Headley as some sort of enigma. I’m not going to lie, I like him more than most, and because of his solid D and switch-hitting ability I think he is the best position player available next year. The guy has put up at least 3.5fWAR every year except 1 since 2010, and I remember reading recently that one win is worth about $7mil, so say he puts up 3.0 wins (which I think is modest) he’s looking at being valued by the sabermetrics community at $21AAV and given his age probably over 5 or so years…that’s still a pretty mega-payday in my eyes.

  • TWTR

    I am optimistic about CC’s chances of a resurgence this season, but if 2/40 was the price, I would look elsewhere.

  • @rational_sports

    I think CC could have gotten a longer term deal than 2 years last year. His track record is much longer than Lincecum’s was.

    As for Drew, the MLB really needs to solve this draft pick compensation problem. The MLB should never really be a disincentive to spend money on quality players.

    • adjusts batting gloves

      “the MLB really needs to solve this draft pick compensation problem.”

      Yes! Marvin Miller is rolling in his grave. Not sure how or why the MLBPA agreed to this. Basically, it massively increases the risks involved in any free-agent signings…if the FA fails or succumbs to contract complacency, the team who signed him is screwed three or four ways (waste of money, higher payroll contributes to taxes/revenue sharing penalties etc., on field performance sucks, team loses its future). In this system, why would any team roll the dice with any FA who isn’t of Pujols’s or Cano’s caliber? And those contracts already look terrible to us.

    • Dan G

      I agree with changing compensation too.

      I think MLB should move toward an NFL style compensation where the quality of your additions/losses impacts the value and quantity of awarded draft picks.

      In the current system, losing Cano and signing Beltran is a push. It also hinders borderline guys like Drew or Lohse whose price gets driven down because no one wants to give up a pick, or their previous teams get nothing because they don’t want to risk a $15M bust.

      In an NFL style system, maybe the Yankees get a supplemental 1st rounder for Cano and St Louis gets a supp 2nd rounder for Beltran (pretending for the sake of this example that no other FAs were signed).

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I agree wholeheartedly with your point on Lohse and Drew. This is making some free agents a bit less freer than others. It shouldn’t be.

  • Derek Jeter

    2/40 for CC, NO WAY!! Maybe at 14-16mil a year.

  • Dan G


    I’m confused about all the Headley Hype. What kind of contract would you give the following players?

    PLAYER A – .269/.350/.416, 62 R, 134 H, 13 HR, 62 RBI, 55 BB, 12 SB in 137 games
    PLAYER B – .248/.317/.436, 73 R, 119 H, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 47 BB, 5 SB in 138 games

    Player A is Chase Headley, and B is Colby Rasmus who is 2 years younger and generally a considered a “failure” and both players were even drafted 38 picks apart in the 2005 draft. [Side note: I’m amazed at how comparable these 2 are actually, and wasted WAY too much time doing this research]. Obviously the major caveat being Headley is a 3B so his numbers are much more valuable whereas Rasmus’ are relatively pedestrian for an OF.

    Headley will be 30 in May and has a huge injury history, has had 1 year where he hit more than 16 HR’s, 2 years hitting above .270, and take out his monster 2012 season and his season high in RBI is 64 back in 2009. And the 31 HR + 115 RBI in 161 games in 2012 was preceded by 4 HR + 44 RBI in 113 games in 2008. I just don’t see the 6 years/ $108M proposed in the article being worth it.

    • Mr. Roth

      You’re ignoring defense. Defense matters too.

    • Dalek Jeter

      Sure, they’re similar, but Every stat there except homers points to Headley being the better player. Plus he plays much better defense and delivers those numbers in the least hitter-friendly park in baseball.

  • NZ Yankee Fan

    A minor point but as a fan of cricket as well I should point out that having different sized and shaped grounds is not unique to baseball.