Mailbag: Tanaka, Sabathia, Solarte, Moustakas

The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 7
Cafardo: Yankees may consider Stephen Drew after the draft

Got eight questions for you this week, some with long-ish answers and some with short answers. If you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
MFIKY. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

JoeyA asks: How much would TANAK get on the open market RIGHT NOW. My guess: more than 7/155.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure Masahiro Tanaka would fetch more than seven years and $155M right now. He’s legitimately pitching like an ace (2.17 ERA and 2.81 FIP) because he doesn’t walk anyone (1.09 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) and he misses a ton of bats (10.24 K/9 and 29.5 K%). Tanaka’s been durable throughout his career, he’s adjusted to the different ball and five-day schedule just fine, and he’s only 25 years old. Plus he’s a stone cold killer on the mound. Absolutely nothing rattles him. He would be a seriously hot commodity on the open market now that he’s shown he can handle MLB.

Tanaka’s contract (not counting the release fee) is already the fourth largest pitching contract in baseball history. I don’t think he’d get Clayton Kershaw money (seven years, $215M) if he was a free agent right now, but Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175M) and Justin Verlander (seven years, $180M) money seems very doable. That said, none of those three were free agents, they all signed extensions. Tanaka would be able to create a bidding war, so maybe $200M isn’t out of the question. I think Max Scherzer’s headed for $200M this winter and he turns 30 in July. Wouldn’t you rather have Tanaka’s age 25-31 seasons over Scherzer’s age 30-36 seasons?

Stephen asks: CC Sabathia‘s xFIP is 3.14, good for 21st in the bigs. Since the purpose of xFIP is to normalize home run rates, do you see a large regression coming for the big guy? How is it possible for a guy with his peripherals to be this bad? Tanaka is actually leading the xFIP leaderboard, due to his bloated HR rate. Is it possible that he’s going to get even better as the season progresses?

I am absolutely not a fan of xFIP because it does normalize homer rates to the league average. Why are we doing that, exactly? We know pitchers give up homers at different rates so why would we expect them to regress back to the rest of the league? You’re better off comparing a pitcher’s homer rate to his recent performance.

For example, Sabathia has a 23.3% HR/FB rate this year, which is way higher than last season (13.0%) and the last three seasons (11.3% from 2011-13). At the same time, he’s given up some serious bombs this year — Hit Tracker says eight of Sabathia’s ten homers allowed were “no doubters” or had “plenty,” basically meaning they were crushed. One was “just enough” and barely got over the wall. The other was Wil Myers’ inside the park homer — and that indicates hitters are squaring him up well. The 23.3% HR/FB rate is insane (would be the highest in MLB history by a mile) and I would expect it come down some, but given the swings hitters are taking against him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a true talent 15-16% HR/FB guy now, especially in Yankee Stadium. The AL average is 9.4% this year and it feels like it would take a miracle for Sabathia to get his homer rate down that far at this point of his career. Long story short: I’m not an xFIP fan at all.


Spencer asks: I know it’s a tad premature, but how does the contract Yangervis Solarte has work? Does he become a free agent this year? Also, suppose he has the same slash line as he has now at the end of the season what would you sign him for?

This is the first time Solarte has been in the big leagues, so the Yankees still have his full six years of team control. Assuming he never goes back to the minors, he’ll earn something close to the league minimum from 2014-16, then go through arbitration from 2017-19. Solarte can not qualify for free agency until after the 2019 season at the earliest, when he will be 32 years old.

As for signing him long-term … I think it might be too early for that. Solarte’s been awesome, don’t get me wrong, but given his out of nowhere emergence from mediocre minor league journeyman to impact big leaguer, I think you need to see if he does it again next season before committing real money to him. If he’d agree to something like five years and $10M after the season (say $550k, $750k, $1.5M, $2.9M, $4.3M from 2015-19), then hell yeah, do it. He might jump at the guaranteed payday after toiling in the minors so long. At worst he’d be an expensive bench player four years down the line. The Yankees have a ton of money and can roll the dice by waiting a year to see if this is the real Solarte though.

Chris asks: Any thoughts at a run at Mike Moustakas? He’s off to an awful start and they are talking of sending him back to the minors.

I think the Yankees should call and ask, sure. Moustakas is off to a dreadful start (53 wRC+ going into last night’s game) and he simply can’t hit lefties, either this year (.198 wOBA) or throughout his relatively short big league career (.267 wOBA), so he’s basically a platoon player. He does have left-handed pop and he’s made himself into a strong defender at the hot corner, plus he is only 25 and it wasn’t that long ago that he was considered one of the ten best prospects in baseball. Maybe hitting coach Kevin Long can help him take him to the next level like he did Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson (and Solarte?).

The Royals are not the cellar-dwellers they once were, or at least they aren’t acting like that anymore. They’re trying to win right now, this year, before James Shields leaves as a free agent. I don’t think they’ll trade their starting third baseman — they have some internal candidates to replace him, so trading Moustakas is not necessarily a crazy idea — for a handful of prospects. They’ll want help for the big league team in return. Kansas City could probably use another outfielder and another starting pitcher. There’s no way I’d give up Brett Gardner for Moose Tacos and I doubt Zoilo Almonte or Ichiro Suzuki would cut it. As for the pitching, hah. The Yankees have zero to spare. He’s worth a phone call but I’m not sure there’s a good trade fit at this moment.

Mike P. asks: Under the new replay system, let’s say the HQ in New York tells the umpires a batter is safe at first, but the umpires watch the scoreboard replay and think he’s out. Do they have to follow the call from NYC or can they make their own judgment?

It’s all done in the Midtown office, the reviews and the decision. They just relay the call through the headsets. I don’t believe the on-field umpires have the authority to make the call either once it goes to review, that would defeat the purpose.

(Nick Laham/Getty)
(Nick Laham/Getty)

Daniel asks: You mentioned being sort of iffy on the decision to give Tino Martinez a plaque. Are there any of the other plaques or retired numbers that you disagree with or that at least are strange to you?

Here’s the list of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers. None of them stand out to me as odd but most of those guys played or managed or whatever long before my time. I think there’s a “feel” element to this stuff. You can’t just set some arbitrary WAR threshold and say guys over this number get a plaque, guys over this number get their number retired, so on and so forth. The guy has to feel like he belongs in Monument Park. You know I mean. Tino was awesome for the Yankees for six years, but was he an all-time great Yankee? Not a chance. I think others like Willie Randolph, Bobby Murcer, and Joe Gordon (Hall of Famer!) are more deserving of plaques. That’s just my opinion though. Everyone is welcome to feel differently.

Dan asks: Do you think Peter O’Brien has reached his top level this season? He got a quick promotion. If he keeps hitting like he did in High-A could he make it to AAA this year?  

O’Brien was promoted quickly because he spent the second half of last season in High-A as well, it wasn’t just a few weeks early this year. That said, yes I definitely think another promotion may come later this season. Not right away, O’Brien needs some time to catch his breath and get comfortable in Double-A, but in August or so? Sure, bump him up if he’s still raking. Guys like him — drafted as a college senior, ton of power, lots of strikeouts, never walks, still trying to find a position — are the ones teams should promote aggressively because you’re not going to know what you have until he gets to the highest levels of the minors. He’s not someone like, say, Luis Torrens, who is trying to learn to catch high-end velocity and get through the grind of a full season. Give O’Brien like two months in Double-A then see where he’s at.

Kevin asks: Why not try Gary Sanchez at third at least part-time? They seem pretty set with Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy behind the plate. 

Sanchez still needs to work on his catching and I mean just about everything. Footwork, receiving, throwing, the whole nine. I think they should let him focus on improving behind the plate because that is where he’s most valuable. Who’s to say McCann won’t be a full-time DH and Murphy won’t be a bust by time Sanchez is ready? We’re still a long way away from worrying how he fits onto the roster and I think the odds of him being traded are much higher than the odds of him wearing pinstripes for more than a few weeks. When he gets to Triple-A and it looks like he might be ready to help the MLB team, that’s when I’d worry about his position. For now, leave him behind the plate and let him learn.

The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 7
Cafardo: Yankees may consider Stephen Drew after the draft
  • Yangeddard Solarte

    1. He would command top dollar. Yankees got a good deal comparing to the other deals for top flight pitchers. And those deals, like CC, are usually signed when the pitcher is already 30+

    2. Me either, Mike. CC is just bad and it’s time for people to realize that. This is over a season’s worth of starts now he’s pitched to a 5 ERA. Don’t compare it to his time in the NL when he was 26 and throwing 96 cause he ain’t that pitcher anymore. He’s an 89-90 finesse lefty in a HR hitter’s AL East park.

    3. Solarte’s the real deal. Everyone said he fell off a cliff after one slump and now he’s leading the league in hitting. He’s also hit 4 HR’s, which puts him up near the middle of the order hitters. Over a .400 OBP, leads the club in RBI’s. I think he should be hitting 2nd and not 7th or 8th because of how he gets on base, works counts, makes contact and is tougher to match up than Jeter because he’s a switch hitter.

    4. No

    5. And that’s the way it should be. The Ump made the call so he will protect himself. Someone independent should make the review decision.

    6. Tino deserves a plaque because he was a big part of that late 90s dynasty. I’d give a plaque to all the notables in that group – Coney, Wells, Core 4(Jeter and Mo get monuments), Bernie, El Duque, Rocket, Torre. And for the 00’s era I’d give a plaque to Hideki.

    • The Other Matt

      F*ck it. Give Chuck Knoblauch, Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledee, and Chad Curtis a plaque too, huh?

      • Yangeddard Solarte

        You can’t compare those guys to Tino and the others. Curtis is a pedophile and should be in jail for life. That’s just ridiculous.

        • The Other Matt

          Clearly, I was being sarcastic. Maybe not so clear.

          • Yan Solo

            No. It was perfectly clear you were being sarcastic. That’s the problem :)

          • Manager without Braces

            1 (Billy Martin), 9 (Maris,) 10 (Scooter) shouldn’t have been retired. 44 (Jackson) had a great short run but that was questionable too. Tino shouldn’t get a plaque but at least they’re not retiring his number. Only Jeter should have his number retired among those who played on the last championship era since Mariano’s was done last year.

      • Preston

        I’m fine with them giving out more plaques, as long as they’re not retiring the numbers too. But rather than give it to mediocre guys, start giving them out to some historical guys who didn’t get recognition. Much rather see Willie Randolph and Greg Nettles or Joe Gordon, Tony Lazerri and Earl Combs get plaques then give it to a mercenary like Clemens.

  • mick taylor

    is klye roller a major league hitting prospect

    • The Other Matt

      I had submitted this as a question, and Mike slighted me. :( LOL
      Hopefully there is a chat today, I’ll try and ask him then.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        The answer is no, not really. Shelley Duncan status, if he’s lucky.

        • The Other Matt

          Hey, you never know? I’m sure if you asked people about Solarte coming into this season, they wouldn’t have even been able to give you a comparison. Not saying he will turn to be the next Solarte, or even Shelly Duncan, but sometimes all it takes is one opportunity.

          • Cool Lester Smooth

            Solarte never strikes out, though. Give him any luck on balls in play, and he’ll be a good hitter. A guy like Roller, with huge K problems, will need exceptional luck on balls in play to approach being an average hitter.

            Also, Solarte and Roller are the same age in baseball years. Solarte put up a 130 wRC+ in AA at age 23. Roller put up a 117 wRC+ in AA at age 25.

            • The Other Matt

              I see your point, and respect your opinion. The Double A comparison does provide nice foundation to begin with. But Solarte also hit below league average at Triple A the past two years, so its not like he consistently raked throughout his minor league career. What is honestly kind of amazing to me, is that while he didn’t strike out much in the minors, Solarte never had a high walk rate, as well. Now in the majors he has a BB% of 11.8, which is above league average. And I honestly can say from seeing the majority of his ABs, he does have to seem to truly have decent plate discipline.

              Roller has had a consistently high K% throughout his career, but he also normally has a decent walk rate, also.

              • Cool Lester Smooth

                I think the PCL offensive inflation leads us to underrate gap power guys like Solarte. All he does is hit line drives, so he doesn’t benefit from the PCL environment to TE same extent as other players, knocking down his wRC+, even though he likely would have put up a similar wOBA in the IL, which would have been good for a 105-110 wRC+.

  • Nick

    Is there going to be a chat today?

  • emac2

    Obrien and Bird would both be players I would promote as fast as they adjust.

    If you’re hitting 400 with a good so/bb ratio and league leading power you don’t have anything else to learn and once you sustain that for a month you can move along.

    • The Other Matt

      I would like to see them promoted, too. But only Bird has a good strikeout to walk ratio, O’Brien rarely walks. Yet, I see your point, and I’m a big fan of O’Brien. I hope he can turn out to be of some decency in RF or 1B.

      • emac2

        Yeah, I should have checked that. :)

        In his case I promote anyone that is head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Walks also get tricky as an indicator when someone hits that well.

    • ALZ

      There isn’t really anything to be gained by just pushing them along like that though. Give them the time they need, so when they come up they are actually ready to produce.

      • emac2

        The time to what?

        How much would you learn about professional boxing by beating up little kids?

        I can see having a player learn before getting to the majors but when you’re hitting over 400 in the minors you aren’t being challenged enough to learn how to hit and probably end up picking up bad habits.

        Bump them up to keep them challenged. Not with the idea of getting anywhere but with the idea that to develop as a hitter you have to be facing pitchers you find challenging.

  • Dick M

    Here’s some nice BP tape on O-B. I love his load/leg kick. Supposedly he’s workin on cuttin back on it just a bit to allow him to wait/stay back.

    • Dick M

      Anyone know what happened to the 3B experiment? I’d gladly settle for RF though. He should be athletic enough?

  • LK

    “I am absolutely not a fan of xFIP because it does normalize homer rates to the league average. Why are we doing that, exactly?”

    xFIP predicts future ERA better than ERA itself or FIP. You don’t have to like it as a measurement of the past (and in fact I don’t), but in terms of predicting what’s going to happen it might be the best tool there is.

    • Mister D

      I always took it as normalization tool as well to compare pitchers across the league. Take the same RHP doing the exact same things and move him from YS3 to SD and you’re going to see that HR/9 plummet, right?

  • The Other Matt

    Regarding the plaques in Monument Park, I have to side with Mike to a certain degree, when it comes to overlooking certain former players. Particularly, for me, Bobby Murcer. Murcer, stats aside, meant a lot to the fans of the Yankees, and to the people within the organization. I’m in my early 20s, so obviously I never got a chance to see Murcer play, but I’m fortunate to know a little bit about the history of the Yankees and former players of the organization. Before I even mention his numbers, Murcer was just beloved by the fans as an announcer, myself included. I honestly remember crying tears after he died, and I’m not the emotional type to cry over things, certainly not athletes passing away – not to sound heartless, but truth. I remember when he first came back to the booth after having being diagnosed with cancer, and the ovation he received from fans, and how Jorge Posada came out to dugout to salute him. And it wasn’t just one of those “sympathetic,ho-hum recognize the poor guy” cheers. You could tell it was truly heartfelt.

    Now to him as a player: The guy wasn’t some regular that just happened to play for the Yankees for a few years. Granted he never ended up being the “next Mickey Mantle”, but the guy did appear in five all star games, four with the Yankees. He won a gold glove, also with the Yankees. He spent 12 1/2 years with the Yankees, out of his 17 years in the major leagues. Although he only played 9 games in his last season before he retired mid-season. In 1972, he had 33 HR 96 RBI, with 102 runs scored, and a slash of 292/361/537. And for his career he had a 124 WRC+. Not to mention he had two years taken off of his career to serve in the military. The only knock is he was unfortunate to not be able to play on any great, championship Yankee teams. Coming a few years after there World Series Championship in 1961, and he was with the Cubs when they won in 1977.

    If he isn’t deserving of a plaque, then I don’t know what to else to say. It’s not like they have to retire his number, just show the man some deserved respect, honor. It would be nice if the organization would present a plaque in his honor on Old Timers Day when they have the widows of the former players come on the field. And don’t take this as me bashing the Yankees, because to their credit they normally do a tremendous job of honoring individuals with class and dignity.

    • Yankee$

      I had the same reaction when I read Mike’s response. Murcer stands out to me as far more deserving than Tino.

      • The Other Matt

        I wouldn’t have a problem with Tino receiving recognition, because he was a good player on some very good, great teams. But I think with this whole announcement the organization is overlooking some guys who were good players that may have not been on the best of teams. Randolph, too. Even though he was on a few playoff teams, and a World Series team. But its almost guys like guys that didn’t play weren’t apart Murderers Row or the most recent dynasty aren’t deserved to be recognized.

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    I won’t stand idly by and take these nasty words about Tino.

    Tino 4eva. Peckerhead and Tino 4 lyfe. Tino is my homeboy.

  • Looser trader droids FotD™

    If Tanaka’s performance the second time around the league is anywhere near what it is currently he’d get 10/$250mm+ as a FA.

  • Yank4Life

    Personally, Jeter and Torre are the only Yankees from this era that deserve their numbers retired. If you really want to honor the rest with a number retired – retire 98 to honor the last great Yankee team that Jorge, Andy, Bernie, Tino and Paul were part of.

    • mitch

      No Mariano?

      Tino, etc are getting plaques…not having their numbers retired

  • yanks61

    I can understand the desire to give plaques to our current favorites. But if we look back a little to players that were great contributors during an earlier era of dominance, why don’t they also consider plaques for Gil McDougald, Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron? Further back would be guys like Joe Gordon and King Kong Keller (I don’t think they have plaques, do they?)

    I’m afraid this is really just a marketing gimmick geared toward younger fans. In fairness, if you’re going to add some of these guys, you need to extend the honor to players of comparable or greater value from an earlier era.

    Retiring numbers has also gone way too far and in the not too distant future we’re going to have players wearing triple digit numbers. It’s really getting ridiculous.

    I know this idea will be shot down as soon as it appears, but why not throw ALL the numbers back in play and have the player who gets the recirculated number wear a large sleeve patch with the name of the player for whom the number was once retired? They could at least do that after a given period of time has lapsed from the time the number has been retired (say it remains retired for 25 years before it goes back in circulation, for example)? Then Hal can make some more money by having a night for the player for whom the number had been retired, as it goes back in circulation with the arm patch.

    • bpdelia

      That is an excellent idea. It would also allow for a lot of fun discussions when they decided to give out #7. Or #2. It would be a great honor to wear those jerseys. And the patch idea does more to keep the memory of those players alive than does a retired number. How many young fans know what number 37 is retired for? How many know which players number 8 is retired for. It would also allow for different levels of retirement. #2 gets the full 20 years (that’s a better max I think). Number 51 gets 10 years. They can keep 3,4,5,7,8 retired permanently I suppose.

  • Kiko Jones

    Tino was awesome for the Yankees for six years, but was he an all-time great Yankee? Not a chance. I think others like Willie Randolph, Bobby Murcer, and Joe Gordon (Hall of Famer!) are more deserving of plaques. That’s just my opinion though.

    Mine, too.

  • vicki

    never noticed before, but tino could play hal in the movie.