Thursday Night Open Thread

Use this as your open thread for the night. The Thursday NFL game is Titans-Jaguars, plus the Knicks are playing and there’s college basketball. Talk about anything and everything right here.

Report: Kenta Maeda will not be posted this offseason

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

The Hiroshima Carp have decided not to post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason, according to a report in Kyodo. The team has informed the player he will not be posted. Back in October, Carp owner Hajime Matsuda said “we would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult.”

Maeda, 26, has made it no secret that he wants to play in MLB, though he will not qualify for international free agency until after the 2017 season. He reportedly told the media in Japan he wanted to play for either the Yankees or Red Sox next season. Speculation had him receiving a five or six-year contract in the $100M to $120M range, on the top of the release fee that would be owed to the Carp.

Maeda is arguably the best pitcher in Japan, though his 2014 season was not as good as his 2010-13 efforts. I guess the team was worried the down year wouldn’t allow them to get the maximum $20M release fee. Hiroshima supposedly has a good club, so they can keep their ace, try to win with him in 2015, then post him again next year. Here are Maeda’s career stats (via Baseball-Reference):

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 K/BB
2008 20 Hiroshima 9 2 3.20 19 18 1 1 109.2 103 43 39 10 35 55 3 462 1.258 8.5 0.8 2.9 4.5 1.57
2009 21 Hiroshima 8 14 3.36 29 29 3 1 193.0 194 82 72 22 29 147 3 795 1.155 9.0 1.0 1.4 6.9 5.07
2010 22 Hiroshima 15 8 2.21 28 28 6 2 215.2 166 55 53 15 46 174 7 848 0.983 6.9 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.78
2011 23 Hiroshima 10 12 2.46 31 31 4 2 216.0 178 61 59 14 43 192 6 864 1.023 7.4 0.6 1.8 8.0 4.47
2012 24 Hiroshima 14 7 1.53 29 29 5 2 206.1 161 46 35 6 44 171 9 820 0.994 7.0 0.3 1.9 7.5 3.89
2013 25 Hiroshima 15 7 2.10 26 26 3 1 175.2 129 46 41 13 40 158 2 690 0.962 6.6 0.7 2.0 8.1 3.95
2014 26 Hiroshima 11 9 2.60 27 27 1 1 187.0 164 61 54 12 41 161 2 746 1.096 7.9 0.6 2.0 7.7 3.93
7 Seasons 82 59 2.44 189 188 23 10 1303.1 1095 394 353 92 278 1058 32 5225 1.053 7.6 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.81

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) gave a scouting report on Maeda back in October, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video.

The Yankees were never connected to Maeda this offseason, though they need pitching and he figured to be someone they might explore, especially now that almost all of the mid-range starters are off the board. The reported $100M+ price tag seems pretty steep though, especially since Maeda is not considered an elite pitcher along the lines of Tanaka and Darvish. There’s always next offseason, I guess.

Yankees no longer interested in Jason Grilli

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are no longer interested in free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, his agent Gary Sheffield confirmed to George King. (Yes, that Gary Sheffield.) “We talked to (Brian Cashman) and he said ‘not at the moment.’ We will sit back with the offers we have and wait,” said Sheff. “I don’t see a reason why he isn’t a fit. He can close and pitch the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.”

A few weeks ago we heard the Yankees had some interest in Grilli, though that was before they signed Andrew Miller. They could have been discussing Grilli out of due diligence in case the worst case scenario played out and they failed to sign either Miller or David Robertson. Now with Miller signed and both Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers re-signed, adding a bullpen arm isn’t as high a priority.

Out of the crop of veteran late-inning relievers, Grilli will probably be the cheapest because he’s old (38) and didn’t have a great 2014 season (4.00 ERA and 3.37 FIP). Sergio Romo re-signed for two years and $15M just yesterday, which helps set the market for Rafael Soriano. Casey Janssen will probably come in a little lower than that, and Francisco Rodriguez even lower than that. The rest of the free agent bullpen market is journeymen.

The best way for the Yankees to improve their bullpen right now is to improve their rotation, and I don’t necessarily mean get more innings out of the starters or anything like that. Adding someone to the rotation pushed David Phelps into the bullpen, where he’s been pretty good throughout his career. He’d join Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, and Justin Wilson to form a fine complement to Miller and Dellin Betances. Another reliever would be nice. Another starter would be even better.

2015 Payroll Breakdown: Part Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Although the Yankees didn’t do anything of note at the Winter Meetings last week, they have been busy this offseason and especially this month. Most of the moves have been on the smaller side, at least relative to last offseason, though the club has remade the left side of the infield, added some pitching, and improved the bench. As a result, the 2015 payroll situation has changed quite a bit since our last update in early-October.

The Yankees insist they will not give Max Scherzer the kind of ginormous contract it will take to bring him to New York, and when you see their current contract commitments, it’s easy to understand why. They have a lot of big contracts gone bad and next year’s payroll is already well beyond the $189M luxury tax threshold. Unless ownership decides to push payroll to a place it’s never been, Scherzer (or James Shields, for that matter) isn’t happening. Here’s where the 2015 payroll sits right now.

UNDER CONTRACT (16 players signed for $206.56M)
Players: A-Rod ($27.5M), CC Sabathia ($24.4M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Masahiro Tanaka ($22.14M), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.86M), Brian McCann ($17M), Carlos Beltran ($15M), Brett Gardner ($13M), Chase Headley ($13M), Martin Prado ($10M), Andrew Miller ($9M), Chris Capuano ($5M), Chris Young ($2.5M), Brendan Ryan ($1.67M), Esmil Rogers ($1.48M), Jose DePaula ($510k)

Those are each player’s luxury tax “hit,” not their actual take home salary for the 2015 season. The Yankees seem to operate in terms of luxury tax salary because that’s the most important number to them. Those 16 players already soak up over $206M of payroll on their own and that’s just incredible. It’s nearly $13M per player. The scary part is that no one really knows what to expect from the four highest paid players next year due to injuries and other factors.

DePaula is a special case here because the only one of those 16 players who isn’t locked into an MLB roster spot heading into next season. The Yankees signed him to a split one-year contract back in November, so he’ll earn $510k while in MLB and only $175k in the minors. For luxury tax purposes, his salary will be based on his time at each level. If, for example, he spends half the year in MLB and half in Triple-A, his luxury tax hit will be a little more than $342k — half of $510k plus half of $175k. Got it? Good. The other 15 players here are pretty straight forward. They’re all expected to be on the roster.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE (four players projected for $9.2M)
Players: Ivan Nova ($3.3M), Shawn Kelley ($2.5M), Michael Pineda ($2.1M), David Phelps ($1.3M)

The Yankees started the offseason with seven arbitration-eligible players and now they’re down to four. Francisco Cervelli was traded, David Huff was non-tendered, and Rogers agreed to a contract to avoid arbitration on non-tender deadline day. The Yankees cut his salary the maximum amount, so it seems like they said either take the offer or we’re going to non-tender you. Harsh, but not a bad strategy.

MLBTR’s arbitration projections are generally very accurate but there are always some outliers, so these salaries could be high or low. For now they work as good estimates. None of those four players stands out as a contract extension candidate. Pineda and Nova would have if not for all the injuries — Nova is hurt right now and Pineda’s made 13 starts in the last three years. Then again, neither guy received a huge signing bonus as amateurs, so maybe they’d jump at the chance to get a guaranteed payday and the Yankees could low-ball them. I don’t see that happening though. Adding these four to the under contract guys gives us $215.76M on 20 players.

PRE-ARBITRATION (19 players)
Players: Tyler Austin, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Danny Burawa, Preston Claiborne, Ramon Flores, Didi Gregorius, Bryan Mitchell, John Ryan Murphy, Eury Perez, Branden Pinder, Jose Pirela, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, Adam Warren, Chase Whitley, Mason Williams, Justin Wilson

As with DePaula earlier, these 19 players will sign split contracts for the 2015 season, so they’ll earn something close to the league minimum in MLB and something considerably less in the minors. Again, their luxury tax hit depends on how much time they spend at each level. At this point, Betances, Gregorius, Warren, either Murphy or Romine, and probably Wilson are the only guys here we can safely say will spend all of next season in the show. Everyone else figures to either ride the bus up and down or simply spend most of the season in the minors.

Conservatively assuming $600k each for Betances, Gregorius, Warren, Wilson, and one of the backup catchers — the MLB minimum is $507,500 next year, but these guys all have big league time and will earn more than that — brings us to $218.76M for 25 roster spots, including DePaula, who’s probably going to start the year in Triple-A. The remaining pre-arbitration players are usually estimated at $2M or so for the season, bringing us to $220.76M for 39 roster spots. (The Yankees have one open 40-man spot right now.) Good gravy that’s a lot of money.

BONUSES (up to $10.825M)
Players: Alex Rodriguez ($6M with six more homers), Chris Young (up to $3.825M based on plate appearances), Chase Headley (up to $1M based on plate appearances)

Bonuses do count towards the luxury tax and A-Rod’s homer milestone bonus is the big one. He’s six away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time homerun list and that triggers the first of five milestone bonuses. (The next milestone kicks in at 714 homers and he’s 60 away from that, so it won’t happen this year if at all.) A-Rod hasn’t hit fewer than seven homers during a season in which he actually played a game since he was a 19-year-old kid in 1995. Even with two surgically repaired hips and almost two full years away from the game, six homers seems doable for Alex as long as he stays on the field.

Young’s and Headley’s bonuses are all based on plate appearance totals. Headley gets $250k each for his 475th, 500th, 525th, and 550th plate appearance of the season. Young’s bonuses are much more complicated — he gets $150k for his 250th plate appearance and that gradually climbs to $550k for his 600th plate appearances. In a perfect world Headley gets his full $1M and Young gets maybe less than half that $3.825M. (He’d have to hit 400 plate appearances to get roughly half.) I’m not going to include the bonuses in our running payroll total because they aren’t guaranteed, but they are something to keep in mind and something the Yankees have to plan for.

CURRENT 25-MAN ROSTER
There’s still a lot of offseason left and a lot can change, yadda yadda yadda, but here’s the Yankees’ 25-man roster as it stands right now:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
McCann 1B Teixeira LF Gardner Sabathia Betances
2B Prado CF Ellsbury Tanaka Miller
DH SS Gregorius RF Beltran Pineda Warren
A-Rod! 3B Headley Capuano Kelley
Phelps Wilson
Bench Disabled List Rogers
C Murphy or Romine OF Young Nova ?
IF Ryan ?

The bench question mark would likely be Pirela if the season started today, but maybe he gets beaten out by a non-roster invitee or something in Spring Training. Either way, that spot figures to cost right around the league minimum. The Yankees could go in a lot of different directions for the bullpen question mark, including putting Phelps in the ‘pen and letting Mitchell or Banuelos or DePaula start. Whitley, Claiborne, Burawa … lots of cheap internal options for the final pitching question mark.

Of course, I don’t know many people who want that spot filled with a cheap internal option. Lots of people want Scherzer or Shields or a big trade for Jordan Zimmermann, someone like that. A legitimate top notch starter to improve the rotation. The Yankees already have approximately $220M in luxury tax hits committed to their 40-man roster as it is right now though. Oh, you know what? I totally forgot to add the $12M or so each team has to pay in benefits each season, which counts towards the luxury tax. The Yankees are really at $232M or so for those 39 roster spots. The team finished the 2013 season — meaning after midseason trades — with $236.2M in payroll for the luxury tax, their all-time record. They’re approaching that number now before doing anything in season.

Yes, this is just an estimate and there’s still a lot of wiggle room with the bonuses and arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players, but not a ton. I’d guess we’re within $10M of the real payroll number, which is a lot and a little at the same time. Point is, the Yankees are at the very least in the ballpark of setting a new franchise record payroll. Adding someone like Scherzer or Shields would make it all but guaranteed. The Yankees have a ton of money and can afford this — at least I think they can, I haven’t seen their books — but Hal Steinbrenner seems disinclined to go any higher, at least right now. They do always seem to take on money in midseason trades, of course.

Given the numbers and where the payroll sits right now, I think the only player the Yankees would sign for substantial money this offseason would be Hiroki Kuroda, and that’s only because he’ll take a one-year contract and they’re very comfortable with him. If he doesn’t return, bottom feeding for more Capuano types is likely in the cards. That doesn’t mean the Yankees can’t make a significant move, they could always make a big trade where the dollars are even or they shed payroll, but those are hard to do. Aside from Kuroda, I would be very surprised if the Yankees took on any more big money contracts this winter.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I don’t want to get too political, but earlier today President Obama announced the United States will seek to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, so I wrote about what could mean for baseball down the road over the CBS. You should read it. Hopefully one day it will be easier for Cuban players to come over to MLB, and I don’t say that because I want the Yankees to sign all of them (I do!), but because MLB is the best league in the world and this is where the best players should be.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the evening. The Devils and Nets are playing, plus there’s college basketball on somewhere. Please don’t talk about politics or anything like that. This isn’t the place for it. If you want to talk about the Cuba stuff, please keep it to baseball. Thanks in advance.

Eddy: Yankees sign infielder Cole Figueroa to minor league deal

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The Yankees have signed infielder Cole Figueroa to a minor league contract, reports Matt Eddy. No word on whether he received an invitation to Spring Training but I assume that is the case. The Rays designated Figueroa for assignment in November and released him a few days later. They originally acquired him from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade way back in December 2010.

Figueroa, 27, made his MLB debut this past season and had a 74 wRC+ in only 49 plate appearances. He hit .282/.371/.389 (114 wRC+) with three homers and four steals in 71 Triple-A Games this year, his third season at the level. Figueroa is a career .285/.359/.378 (108 wRC+) hitter with eight homers and 17 steals in nearly 1,200 career Triple-A plate appearances now. He’s obviously not much of a power hitter or base-stealer.

Pretty much the only reasons Figueroa is interesting are his incredible strikeout and walk rates. He’s struck out only 81 times (6.8%) while drawing 119 walks (10.0%) during all the time in Triple-A. Figueroa has walked more than he’s struck out at every minor league stop since a 21-game stint in High-A back in 2009. His career rates in the minors are 11.8 BB% and 8.8 K%. That’s pretty incredible. Like Dean Anna but even more extreme.

Figueroa has spent most of his time at second and third bases but has also played some shortstop and a tiny little bit in the corner outfield. He’s the son of ex-big leaguer Bien Figueroa and has grown up around the game, which is why friend of RAB R.J. Anderson says Figueroa is really smart on the field. With Chase Headley re-signed, the best Figueroa can hope to do is beat out Jose Pirela for a bench job in Spring Training. Otherwise he’s just an extra body for Triple-A Scranton.

Reports: Yanks were among runners-up for Brett Anderson

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

According to Jeff Passan and Buster Olney, the Yankees were among the runners-up for left-hander Brett Anderson, who signed with the Dodgers earlier this week. The Braves, Royals, and Athletics were also after him. The Dodgers gave Anderson a one-year contract worth $10M with a bunch of incentives a few days ago.

As noted in our Scouting The Market post a few weeks ago, the Yankees tried to acquire Anderson several times in the past, so their interest in him as a free agent this winter is no surprise. They tried to get him from the Athletics last offseason and again from the Rockies at the trade deadline this past season. Anderson, who will turn 27 in February, was the youngest free agent on the market this winter.

I’d love to know what the Yankees were willing to offer Anderson — chances are we’ll never find out, of course — because that $10M deal seems a little crazy for a guy with his injury history. (Anderson has thrown only 206.1 innings since 2011.) Most contract estimates pegged him for a $7M salary on a one-year deal coming into the winter. I guess $10M isn’t all that crazy then. Reclamation projects don’t cost $1M or $2M anymore.

The Yankees re-signed Chris Capuano yesterday and I suppose that could be a direct result of losing out on Anderson. Once they realized they weren’t getting Anderson, they turned around and gave the money to Capuano. That sort of thing. The Yankees do need multiple starters this winter though, so maybe they would have signed Capuano even if they had landed Anderson. Who knows.

Anderson is still really young and has upside remaining — the upside being he continues to pitch exactly like he has but actually stays healthy all year — but there is no shortage of reclamation project arms still available. Chad Billingsley, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Josh Johnson, and Alexi Ogando have all had a bunch of injury problems in recent years and remain on the market. Still plenty of opportunity for the Yankees to add even more injury risk to the rotation.