Mailbag: A-Rod, Rotation, Morales, 100+ RBI

The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 12
2014 Draft Open Thread: Day Two

Got six questions for you this week. Feels like a light mailbag. Anyway, remember to send us anything through the Submit A Tip box in a sidebar.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Noel asks: Looking at the way this team is constructed and the offensive woes … A-Rod? Is he welcomed back with open arms next year? None of the kids will be ready, Derek Jeter will be gone, do they go another year with him and hope he can help with some thump?

They might welcome Alex Rodriguez back, but it sure won’t be with open arms. It’ll be reluctantly, if anything. He’ll be back only because he’s still under contract too, not because the Yankees think he can help the team. They’ve have made it pretty clear they want nothing to do with A-Rod and would like it if he just went away forever. Can you blame them at this point?

I’ve said I do not expect Alex to ever play in MLB again and I’m going to stick to it. Might as well at this point. He’ll turn 39 years old next month, and once the suspension is over, he will have played 59 games over the last 24 months. That’s both majors and minors. Rodriguez also had the hip surgery last year, remember. So he’s got close to two years of rust and a breaking/broken down body. Can he come back to hit MLB pitching? I very much doubt it, but I suppose it’s not impossible. I am very anxious to see how this all plays out.

T.J. asks: Could you see the Yankees moving Yangervis Solarte to second base, full time, and going with Scott Sizemore at third? Brian Roberts isn’t too bad, but he seems more like a bench player.

Solarte has played mostly third base for the Yankees, but he’s actually played second base primarily throughout his minor league career. Last season he played 88 games at second and 46 at other positions. The year before it was 91 games at second and 35 at other positions. Solarte is actually on pace to play nearly as many games at third base this season (131) as he did in his entire minor league career (135). He’s a second baseman playing the hot corner, basically.

If the Yankees are going to shuffle things around to find some more production, second and third bases are the spots to do it. Roberts has been alright the last few weeks but he’s still the obvious guy to replace. Stick Solarte at second full-time and platoon Sizemore (who was sent to Triple-A yesterday) and Kelly Johnson at third? That could actually be pretty productive. I don’t like Johnson being a guy who plays once or twice a week out of position at first base. Play him fairly regularly at third (or second) and he’ll hit some dingers and steal some bases. That plan works for me. The Yankees seem committed to Roberts because he gives veteran presents though.

Scott asks: Do you think that if CC Sabathia misses a significant chunk of the season (until August or so), and when he does pitch is as ineffective as he has been, that the front office would try to make a big free agent splash a la Jon Lester/Max Scherzer? Or would it disincentivize them even further from signing a big contract despite the needs on the field?

With Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka both on the books, I would be surprised if they went out and added another huge pitching contract. Scherzer’s going to wind up with $200M or so and Lester won’t be too far behind him, so we’re talking about potentially three $22M+ pear year pitching contracts, one of which looks like a total albatross at this point. Obviously both Scherzer and Lester would make the Yankees substantially better, but they are both already 30 (Scherzer will be next month) with lots of regular season and postseason innings on their arms. Remember, Sabathia was 28 when he signed with New York. I’m not sure another huge dollar starter is in the cards.

I’m One asks: I understand why some are calling for the Yankees to sign Kendrys Morales, yet I don’t agree. To much positional inflexibility, despite the added offense. If he does get signed and Carlos Beltran doesn’t need surgery, what would you expect to be the corresponding 25-man move?

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

It would have to be cutting ties with Alfonso Soriano at this point, wouldn’t it? He’s been terrible so far and I don’t think the leash should be any longer. His at-bats are flat out non-competitive. The problem with cutting Soriano is that the Yankees would be stuck playing Beltran in right field regularly, something they said they want to avoid. They don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur by having him throw. I can’t imagine Morales will sign up for a job where he rotations between first base and DH and might only play two-thirds of the time, so this is all probably just a moot point.

Stephen asks: Here’s a crazy hypothetical. Game 7, World Series. Your starting pitcher must be either Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux, as they are today. Whoever you choose can have a month to prepare. Who do you go with?

When I first read this question, I thought Stephen was asking if I would rather have Johnson or Maddux start a Game 7. I would go with Johnson because he dominated. Maddux was awesome, obviously, but in one game where anything can happen, I want the guy who can miss bats and put the ball by hitters. We’ve seen what Johnson can do in big game situations firsthand unfortunately, and that’s the guy I’d want on my side.

Then I realize the question was asking which one I would rather have right now, as in today with both guys pushing 50. (Johnson is 50, Maddux is 48.) Johnson had back problems later in his career and relied more on the quality of his stuff, so I’d be concerned about what he has left in the tank. Can he finish his pitches and break off those nasty sliders? Maddux was all command. I feel like he could wake up in the dead of winter at 48 years old, repeat his mechanics, and paint the corners on both sides of the plate. At their peak, I’d take Johnson for a Game 7. In 2014, give me Maddux.

gehrig27 asks: Because of the injuries and bad performance there is a good possibility that no Yankee player will have at least 100 RBIs at the ends of the season. When was the last time it happened?

Mark Teixeira leads the team with 27 RBI at the moment, a rate of 0.69 RBI per healthy team game. That puts him on pace for 98 RBI over the full season when you adjust for the time he missed due to injury and all that. They had one 100+ RBI guy in both 2012 (Curtis Granderson, 106) and 2013 (Robinson Cano, 107), and before that they had at least two 100+ RBI guys from 2002-11. How times have changed, eh?

The last time the Yankees did not have a 100+ RBI guy in a non-strike season was way back in 1992. Don Mattingly led the team with 86 RBI that year. They didn’t have a 100+ RBI guy in 1990 or 1991 either. Unless Teixeira stays healthy, it doesn’t look like the Yankees will have someone hit the century mark this season. Solarte is second on the team with 26 RBI and he is on pace for only 71 RBI over the full season. With Teixeira’s wrist figuring to be on ongoing problem, it looks like the team won’t have a 100+ RBI for the first time in more than two decades.

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The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 12
2014 Draft Open Thread: Day Two
  • TWTR

    I don’t understand why Johnson doesn’t get an opportunity to at least play against all RHP at 2B. He offers one of the only internal options they have for a real upgrade to a hideous offense.

    Mike,

    How far away is Refsnyder?

    • I’m One

      “How far away is Refsnyder?

      The easy answer is 2 levels. :-) The kid is hitting great. I hope his D is improving as well. I’d love to see him get bumped up to AAA, continue to improve, and have a shot at being a league average player at the MLB level next season, but it’s all hope on my part right now. I’ve never seen him play nor am I a top-notch talent evaluator.

      Regarding Johnson, I prefer the Sizemore/Johnson platoon option at 3B and cutting ties with Roberts. That gives you Solarte at 3B and see where things stand next season. Perhaps A-Rod/Solarte at 3B & Refsnyder/Solarte at 2B? Keeps Solarte playing regularly, allows A-Rod to rest and also allows Refsnyder to adjust to the bigs. All this is of course dependent on Solarte continuing to be productive next season, Refsnyder developing enough and A-Rod being able to come back at all.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      KJ actually doesn’t have much of a platoon split. He’s a slightly below average hitter against both handed pitchers.

      But considering what he does offer is power, and that’s basically the team’s biggest need right now, I also have no idea why he’s getting so few opportunities.

  • I’m One

    I’m not an A-Rod fan, but with the construction of this team and the holes that need to be filled next season, I find myself actually looking forward to him coming back. He was a monster during his peak years, and while we can’t expect that, I think I’d take league average at 3B on this team (I hope that’s possible from him). Never thought I’d actually look forward to a league average A-Rod, but what are the other possibilities? He’s going to get paid anyway, so I at least hope he can provide some value.

    • RkyMtnYank

      Not an A-Rod fan either but he does still seems like our best 3b option. If there is anyone who can comeback after all this and have a monster year to give a big F U to everybody, it has to be ARod!

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    I agree with Mike. I think that it is unrealistic to think that at age 39, with his injury history, and with so few games played in the previous two years that Rodriguez can be a productive player. If he could, I am sure that all would be forgiven, but I don’t see it happening.

    • trr

      In reality though, what other option does the team have but to put him out there and hope for some return? I’m not a big A-Rod supporter, but I can certainly divorce my distaste for his off-field deeds in hopes of some positive production for this team, which almost certainly be scrounging around for offense again next year.

      However, he will be 40 next year, coming off recent inactivity and injury, with DH the optimal landing spot. What then to do with Beltran?

  • Mike

    I can see Lester or Scherzer taking a discount to play for one of the best teams in the league and a chance at the World Series.

    • Pedro

      I lol’d

    • John C

      Not Scherzer. He is a Scott Boras client and has already turned down a very significant extension offer from the Tigers

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      The effects of the drugs should wear off in a few hours.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      The A’s?

  • Darren

    With the lack of names and continuity coming up next year, I bet there will be big weird desire to have A-Rod back in the fold.Kind of like missing an old girlfriend you used to fight with all the time who threatened to call the cops on you, sold your rare Zeppelin imports, peed in the bed and got drunk at Thanksgiving.

  • Yangeddard Solarte

    1. A-Rod should be abolished from the clubhouse and they should sever any times they had with him. He is a cancer and a distraction. Without the Captain keeping the ship steady next season A-Rod will prey on the week and bring the whole team down with him.

    2. I’ve been saying this for weeks. Solarte is better at 2nd. Sizemore made some great plays the other day at 3rd and he was rewarded with a DFA. It should be Sizemore and Kelly platooning at 3rd. Roberts is expendable.

    3. They never should have given CC that extension. Now they’re stuck with that albatross contract for 4 more years. That velocity ain’t never coming back and CC just doesn’t seem to want to learn how to pitch without it like Andy and Moose did.

    4. I would DFA Soriano and pick up Morales. Soriano swings and misses at crap and lets the FB’s down the middle go by.

    5. Give me Hiro Tanaka

    6. Soley will have the best chance at 100. He puts the ball in play, he just needs people to get on base ahead of him. He hasn’t had much help.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Eddard, can you teach me how to sever times?

      • Farewell Mo

        I’d also like to see how someone prays on the week

      • mitch

        I think you can do it with a DeLorean

    • Darren

      Distraction, maybe, but cancer? Preying on the weak? From al accounts, ARod is a good teammate, or at the least, he’s very helpful to the younger players and loves talking shop.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        Don’t listen to Al’s accounts…of course he isn’t going to tell you the whole story.

  • bill

    when the suspension was handed down I thought “wow, Arod has played his last game in pinstripes” I assumed the Yankees would release him at some point between then and the start of next year’s spring training and eat what’s left of his contract and let him sign elsewhere. now, knowing that Jeter is going to retire and seeing the offensive woes this year I see the Yankees bringing him back – they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If we have to pay him anyway, might as well use him. If he returns to somewhat decent form he would be at least an upgrade over Scott Sizemore or Kelly Johnson at 3B. If he finds another supplier of the stuff that doesn’t show up on tests taht he was taking (and that I still believe a few other major leaguers are) even better. Plus, if he gets hurt they can collect insurance money and if he fails another drug test then that’s more of the contract he won’t be paid. I don’t know if they’ll welcome him back with “open arms” but since he’s going to be paid no matter what (unless he inexplicably retires or gets suspended again) might as well make the best of it. Kind of like when you go to a party and they have a case of crappy beer. You sulk for a little bit and then drink it anyway.

    • I’m One

      That’s a much better anaolgy/visual than the old girl friend getting drunk and peeing in your bed ….

      • Mister D

        She’s probably doing that while you’re at the bad party.

        • Kenny

          Ha ha! Bravo.

        • I’m One

          And getting rid of my Zeppelin imports? There’s no coming back from that.

      • trr

        hope you’re not speaking from experience!

    • mcgatman

      What, you don’t like Meister Brau? Shoprite had a sale!

    • Kenny

      I don’t know what ARod’s abilities on the field will be, although I agree with another poster who said that if anyone could come back decently from the absences, injuries, etc., he’s the guy. But you’d have to be comatose not to see one major attraction he has for Hal: as they used to say at Variety, he’d be boffo at the box office. Those who like him still (me, for ex.) would buy tickets, and those who hate him will buy tickets. The networks would fall all over themselves for rights to Yankee games, etc. Distractions? Sure nuff. But there were distractions to the 1970s teams and they won pennants, distractions to the 1950s teams (Martin!), and they won pennants. It wouldn’t be boring. Ain’t no distractions from this team (except Meredith’s daily hospital reports), and they’re terminally boring to watch.

      Of course, it would mean endless digressions by Kay, from his play-by-play job: tiresome and shallow moralistic digressions, psychobabble, etc.

  • Mister D

    My first thought on Maddux vs RJ (when I misread it as prime too) was “easy Maddux, I’ll take consistently great over unbeatable or maybe bad” but I have no idea if RJ really did have playoff busts with his booms. And I don’t feel like looking it up right now.

  • mitch

    Arod had a wRC+ of 113 and played below average defense from 2012-13, so that’s probably the best case scenario. It’s better than what they have, but we’re still not talking about anything more than a solid regular.

    Factor in that he has to come back from an injury and a year layoff without the assistance of his favorite PEDs. The risk is not worth the reward.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    That Maddux/Johnson question may have been the best mailbag question of all time, and agreed.

    • Mike HC

      Great question but it was a bit of a gimme though.

      • Mike HC

        If they had to pitch against other 50 year old former ball players though, I would probably go with Johnson. I would trust he still has enough in that arm to blow those old geezers away, rather than putting my faith in Maddox’s control after all those years off, with far lesser stuff.

        • Ed

          Randy Johnson’s career ended with a torn rotator cuff. Towards the end of his career he talked about having a knee replacement after he retired.

          If he tried to pitch again, I think it’s quite likely that he gets taken to the emergency room before the first inning is over.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Yes, excellent “hypothetical” question, Cash–I mean, “Stephen.” (wink)

    • ropeadope

      Here’s another head scratcher along the same lines. Who would you rather have as your starting catcher as they are today? McCann or Yogi?

  • Mike HC

    The Yanks might actually welcome the circus act ARod will bring because it may be the most interesting part of next year’s team.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      You’re predicting that in early June of the previous season.

      • Mike HC

        Have you seen all the “this team is boring” comments? The generally down attendance and empty seats? I’m just saying maybe the Yanks are secretly not all that adamant about ARod never coming back. Not making any grande predictions here.

        • Tom K

          Attendance is actually up a tad this year. And although I don’t find the team terribly exciting at the moment, you aren’t going to base keeping A-Rod based on a few boring comments on message boards.

    • TWTR

      One word: Tanaka

      • Mike HC

        Of course. Goes without saying.

  • ropeadope

    The Yankees seem committed to Roberts because he gives veteran presents though.

    Could someone enlighten me on the type of presents veterans give (other than the Jeter parting gift basket, please)? How do they differ from rookie presents?

    • I’m One

      Veterans can affort more expensive presents.

      • I’m One

        *afford

        • ropeadope

          Did Jorge come through with the promised cotton candy during your New Years stay in New York? I’m still waiting. :(

    • the other Steve S.

      It’s an old meme. The club is perceived to value a veteran presence. It was misspelled once and took.

      • ropeadope

        Ah, my bad. Probably before my time here. Appreciate the explanation.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          How did you not know that?

          O A K T A G

          Just kidding. See also, celery cap.

  • fred robbins

    I agree with I’m One about the A-Rod scenario and I think we all have to laugh at the words– the way this team is constructed—because it’s impossible to go around both leagues to find any less construction on an actual team, as compared to the continual buying of pieces that rarely fit for more than a short period of time-if that philosophy was also producing championships no one could argue. But I had to relate to that column about the A’s coming to town with their 75 million payroll and show up as one of the two or three best teams in all of baseball while making a mockery of what Cash does with all his resources.
    Tanaka may be the best move he ever made in his life.

  • fred robbins

    Based on some of the astute remarks and ideas for trades and drafts right here, I wonder if the next GM could be found right here at Mike’s blog:)

  • Ken

    Ichiro still plays a decent right field. And he sure can get hits when they are needed. Oops, that’s heresy at RAB!

  • Jersey Joe

    Considering all the offers that Morales already has lined up to sign after the draft, I really don’t see him deciding to sign with a team that doesn’t have a clearly defined role right now.

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    I thought Arod was coming back all along. I think he will at least get Soriano treatment this year. They need to at least try him, that’s too much money to cut. If it was $10MM I could see it, but not $75MM. They get nothing if he is cut. If he gets suspended, or career ending injury they can save some. He is still an above average hitter in his most recent history. Even if he can do that for 300 PA over the year then he is better than what they have now, and cheaper, because you have to pay his salary regardless. If you cut him you then have to spend more on most likely an inferior replacement.