I pretty much never look at RAB’s traffic. I’m not trying to be cool or anything, it’s the truth. I used to obsess over it but that has (thankfully) subsided. For the first time in months, I decided to check out today’s traffic for obvious reasons. Thanks to Robinson Cano‘s defection to the Mariners, we have set a new single-day traffic record at RAB. That’s what it took to beat the previous record set on July 9th, 2010, otherwise known as the day of the Cliff Lee non-trade. Believe it or not, the third highest-trafficked day in RAB history was just two days ago, when they agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury. I sincerely thank you for making RAB one of your stops for the latest on the Yankees.
Now that that’s out of the way, it is Friday and I did promise you links on Fridays a few weeks ago, so here are this week’s Friday links.
- If you’re wondering how the other half feels about the Cano stuff, I recommend by buddy Jeff Sullivan’s post over at USS Mariner. The common thread here is that regardless of whether the Yankees or Mariners would have signed Cano, that team still would have had more walk to do to get back into the postseason.
- In the wake of Ellsbury deal, here is Dave Cameron’s post about how speed players tend to age. It’s worth pointing out that of the speed guys who aged well, either they drew a lot of walks (Rickey Henderson, Kenny Lofton, Tim Raines) or hit for some power (Devon White, Steve Finley). The ones who did neither (Aaron Rowand, Marquis Grisson) either stunk as they got older or were a total freak like Ichiro Suzuki. Ellsbury’s walk rate is about league average and he’s a low power guy, which is part of the reason why I’m skeptical.
- Know how hitters always say it’s easier to hit once the knuckleballer is out of the game because you’re used to seeing 90+ mph fastballs and all that? Christopher Carruthers examined R.A. Dickey and the pitchers who follow him either in the same game or as the next day’s starter and found that as a whole, they perform a whole lot better following Dickey than they do in other situations. His value extends beyond his time on the mound because of the adjustments hitters have to make against his knuckleball.
- Jeff Passan, Charleson Robinson, and Rand Getlin have a story about what amounts to a human-trafficking ring involving Cuban baseball players. After they defect, some players are basically held for ransom and auctioned off to the highest bidder, with a portion of their big league earnings going to the people who held them and their families captive for months at a time. It’s pretty frightening stuff. The article focuses on Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, but he’s far from the only guy to go through this.
- For all of you who are hockey fans like me (what else am I supposed to watch all winter?), I really enjoyed this Seth Wickersham article about the life of an enforcer and fighting in the NHL in general. I enjoy watching a guy beat the crap out of another guy as much as anyone, but it’s only a matter of time before the league bans fighting all together. Has to be done.
- Les Carpenter wrote a feature on the legacy of Chuck Hughes, the only NFL player to die on the field during the game. He had a severely clogged artery and a blood clot broke loose during a hit, becoming trapped in the artery and cut off blood flow to his heart. The tackle essentially resulted in a heart attack. Really interesting story.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Devils and Knicks are playing and that’s pretty much it. Good night to go out and forget about Cano no longer being a Yankee. Talk about anything you like here. Go nuts.
The Yankees have officially signed Kelly Johnson to a one-year contract, the team announced. He will reportedly earn $3M. Worse case scenario has Johnson playing second base everyday, but chances are the Yankees will add someone else for the position and Johnson will be more of a super utility player. Nice little pickup, he should be quite useful in 2014. · (25) ·
For the second time this off-season the Yankees lost an irreplaceable player. In Mariano Rivera they lost not only the greatest closer the league has ever seen, but they lost a leader and a legend. Even if David Robertson steps up and holds down the closer role for the next five years, he will never measure up to Mariano — by no fault of his own, of course. There is simply no way to replace a player like Rivera.
In Robinson Cano, who signed with the Mariners, the Yankees lose the best second baseman in the league. His presence and legacy might not measure up to Rivera, but his on-field production accounted for a greater portion of the Yankees’ success in recent years. Being the best at his position means that he is necessarily irreplaceable. In order to improve the roster, the Yankees will have to find reinforcements at other positions.
The void at second base
At second base the Yankees can only stanch the bleeding. They do have Kelly Johnson in the fold, but he’s probably not an ideal option as an everyday second baseman. He can hit a little, but much of his value comes from his ability to play second, third, and maybe a little left field. If Alex Rodriguez is suspended — a huge if that will color the Yankees’ moves going forward — then acquiring another infielder becomes crucial.
On the free agent market, Omar Infante sits awaiting an offer. During the course of his 12-year career Infante has been pretty average with the bat, a 93 career OPS+. Since 2008 he’s been perfectly average with a 100 OPS+, balancing seasons in the 90 range with some in the 110 range, including a career-best 113 OPS+ last year. He’s no Cano; he’s not even a Neil Walker. But he’ll likely come on a short-term contract and provide a decent combination of offense and defense.
The Yankees have been connected to Stephen Drew as well, though he’ll cost more in salary and years than Infante. He’ll also cost the Yankees a draft pick, not a huge consideration considering how many they’ve already given up (and received back for Cano and Granderson). Last year Drew put together a nice comeback season for the Red Sox, a 111 OPS+. Like Infante, he’s been up and down, with the result right around league average. He also had enormous home/away splits last year (.859 OPS at Fenway, .687 on the road), though playing in Yankee Stadium could keep his production high at home.
On the trade market, Howie Kendrick’s name has come up a few times this off-season on MLBTR. With two years and just under $20 million remaining on his contract, Kendrick could be an enormous bargain — which is why the Angels probably won’t trade him without getting back a starting pitcher. The Yankees need starters themselves, so chances are they couldn’t send one to Anaheim.
Supplementing at third base
Chances are the Yankees won’t make any big moves at third base. With Johnson in the fold they can wait until the Alex Rodriguez outcome. But if the Padres make Chase Headley available at the winter meetings next week, the Yankees will have to listen. He’s a guy who can potentially make a big impact on the lineup.
A heralded prospect in the mid-00s, Headley has held his own at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, producing a 115 OPS+ in his six seasons. He hit a bump in the road in 2010, but bounced back with 120 and 145 OPS+ seasons in 2011 and 2012. Last year he fell off a bit, perhaps due to an injury that cost him about 20 games, but his numbers were still solid. San Diego is rumored to be listening on him, since he’ll reach free agency after the season.
There are two ways to look at this. The first is that any acquiring team will over pay in prospects. They’re getting just one year of Headley, though perhaps there is value in actually having him on the team, in that they might have an easier time re-signing him (obviously not guaranteed). The other side is that good third basemen are hard to find. The Yankees have a fine prospect in Eric Jagielo, and Headley could help bridge that gap.
Replacing offensive production
Even if the Yankees manage to trade for Headley and sign Infante, they’ll still be at a net loss on offense. Yes, adding Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury help, but the Yanks could still use a little more punch on offense. That’s where one of the remaining free agent outfielders comes into play.
Earlier in the week it appeared that Carlos Beltran was about to sign elsewhere. Rumor had it that a team had offered him three years and $45 or $48 million, which is beyond where the Yankees were willing to go. Yet he hasn’t made a move yet. He could still be a target for the Yankees, taking reps in the outfield and at DH.
Shin-Soo Choo could come into play as well. Even after the Yankees signed Ellsbury we heard that they weren’t out on Choo, likely as insurance in case Cano left. Acquiring Choo at this point would either push Alfonso Soriano to almost-full-time DH, or lead to a trade of Brett Gardner. Neither seems ideal, but both could help.
By the numbers, Choo looks like he belongs on the Yankees. He has a career .389 OBP, and has broken the .400 mark twice in the last four years. He’s had just one bad year in his six as a full-time player, and even then he was above average. He might require an Ellsbury contract, but there is perhaps no more effective move in replacing Cano’s offensive production.
As for what to do with the outfield surplus, either move could work. Keeping Gardner and Ellsbury atop the order and in the outfield will pay off greatly. Soriano has said that he prefers to play the field, though his defense is probably just average. There will be chances to sit Gardner, or even Choo, against lefties, so Soriano will still see time in the outfield.
Trading Gardner only works if they can fill another immediate need. That’s tough, since he’s a free agent after the season. But if they can use Gardner to pry Kendrick from the Angels, or combine him with prospects to get a No. 3 starter from another team (perhaps Cincinnati and Homer Bailey?) the trade could be worth exploring. It’s much easier to find a guy who can DH 50 or so games (Mark Reynolds?) than it is to find a mid-tier starting pitcher or second baseman.
Augmenting the pitching
Even if Cano had re-signed with the Yankees, they would have had to address the pitching situation. We’ve heard that they’ll be in heavily on Masahiro Tanaka, but the new posting system could complicate matters. Tanaka is still the Yankees best option, but they’ll have increased competition, since any team that bids the maximum $20 million will be able to offer him a contract. That makes the situation much less like Yu Darvish, where he could only negotiate with the Rangers. I’d expect Tanaka’s deal to call for more guaranteed money at fewer years — perhaps five years, $75 million, compared to Darvish’s six years and $60 million.
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda does help matters, but he’s not providing even half of the 400 innings Brian Cashman admits he needs this off-season. And, being realistic, the Yankees need more than that. Given CC Sabathia‘s poor 2013 and Ivan Nova‘s up-and-down career, they could use as many pitchers as possible. Again, with the signing of Choo they could shop Gardner for a starter. They could also take a flier on Brett Anderson, in whom they’ve expressed interest. Still, many more innings are required for a quality 2013 pitching staff.
As Mike and I have both outlined, the free agent crop doesn’t look particularly inspiring. Ubaldo Jimenez has produced a combined two good seasons to date, and has been middling to terrible the rest of the time. Matt Garza has been okay, and could work depending on what kind of contract he ends up signing. Bartolo Colon? That’s a pretty big risk, despite his recent success. Ervin Santana? I’m a bit worried about his homer tendencies in Yankee Stadium. Signing Tanaka and trading for a starter seems to make the most sense, but as outlined above they might prove difficult. The Yanks might have to choose from among these players.
In the bullpen, Grant Balfour seems like a logical target. He pitched well with the Rays before signing a successful free agent contract with the A’s. He’s a bit older now, but on a two-year deal could provide setup help, or even close. Few other free agent relievers make sense, since they’re not very good. The Yanks will just have to hope they have enough internal reinforcements.
(Plus, by augmenting the rotation, they can bump someone like David Phelps to the bullpen, where he might be more effective and valuable anyway.)
Clearly the Yankees have a lot left to accomplish this off-season. Finding ways to compensate for the loss of Cano will comprise a multifaceted plan that covers not only second base, but third base, the outfield, and the starting rotation. Given the pace at which this off-season has moved, don’t be surprised to see the Yankees start to make moves, perhaps by the time this post goes live.
1:55pm: Scratch that, Feinsand issued a correction. The Yankees will indeed forfeit the Cano and Granderson picks for free agent compensation. That’s what the CBA says. One is already gone for Ellsbury — or will be as soon as his deal is official — and the other will go if they sign another qualified free agent. So much for that.
1:48pm: Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees will keep the supplemental first round draft picks they receive as compensation for losing Robinson Cano (to the Mariners) and Curtis Granderson (to the Mets). The team will forfeit its second round pick for signing Jacoby Ellsbury after giving up its first rounder to sign Brian McCann. The Collective Bargaining Agreement says supplemental first rounders can be lost as free agent compensation pretty explicitly, but Feinsand is citing an MLB official. Pretty great news if true. · (15) ·
Via Joel Sherman: The Mets and Curtis Granderson have agreed to a four-year contract worth $60M. The Yankees would have received a supplemental first round draft pick, but it will be forfeited due to the Jacoby Ellsbury signing. Thanks for the dingers, Curtis. · (78) ·
For what is probably the first time in franchise history, a homegrown star is leaving the Yankees as a free agent because the team was outbid. Robinson Cano has agreed to a ten-year contract worth $240M with the Mariners, reports Enrique Rojas and Jon Heyman. The deal comes only a few hours after it was reported talks had fallen apart over excessive demands. He will take his physical on Monday. New York will receive a supplmental first round pick in return.
Cano, 31, receives the fourth largest contract in baseball history, behind Alex Rodriguez‘s two contracts (ten years, $252M and ten years, $275M) and Albert Pujols’ deal (ten years, $254M). It’s the tenth largest contract in history in terms of average annual value. The Yankees reportedly held a hard-line and topped out at seven years and $175M, and there’s just no way Cano could turn down an extra $65M. He’ll also keep a ton of extra money because Washington has no state income tax.
The Yankees have been adamant about not pushing their offer to ten years and rightfully so given the A-Rod nightmare. They take a huge hit in the short-term — Cano is irreplaceable, they’ll need to acquire about three players to make up the lost production — but will better off down the road, when they aren’t saddled with another albatross contract. I don’t blame them at all for meeting his asking price. It was excessive. This definitely has an A-Rod-to-Texas vibe, a great player joining a terrible team because they offered the most money. For his sake, I hope Robbie isn’t looking for a way out in three years.
Cano leaves the Yankees as a .309/.355/.504 (126 wRC+) career hitter with 1,649 hits and 204 homeruns. Over the last four seasons, he’s put up a .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) batting line while ranking first in baseball in bWAR (29.7) and second in fWAR (25.4). Robbie finished second in the 2005 Rookie of the Year voting (behind Huston Street) and is a five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glover. He has received MVP votes in six seasons and finished in the top six of the voting in each of the last four years, plus he’s missed a grand total of 14 games in the last seven years. There’s no denying he is one of the five best players in the world right now.
Among Yankees second baseman, Cano ranks third in hits (1,649), first in doubles (327), first in homers (204), fourth in games played (1,374), and third in bWAR (45.1). He is obviously in the conversation for greatest second baseman in Yankees history, along with Tony Lazzeri and the perpetually underrated Willie Randolph. Among all players, Cano is ninth in franchise history in batting average (.309), eighth in doubles (375), tenth in hit-by-pitches (54), 14th in homers (204), and 14th in bWAR. The Yankees have had a lot of really good players over the years.
So where do the Yankees go from here? I don’t really know. They’ve been connected to Omar Infante and he seems like a logical second base replacement. Mark Ellis is a lower cost alternative and they did just signed Kelly Johnson, after all. Dean Anna and Eduardo Nunez are the other in-house candidates. The Yankees have a nice chunk of change to spend now though, and I definitely expect them to spend it somehow. Adding pitching is a necessity and they definitely need to add another bat now, even after signing Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.
There’s no way to sugercoat it: the Yankees lost their best player and take a huge hit with the Cano’s defection to Seattle. They had an uphill climb this winter anyway after winning only 85 games in 2013 (79-win team by run differential) and now that climb will be much more difficult. Adding McCann and Ellsbury is a good start, but they need to do a lot more to get back to contention now. Cano was an elite player at a hard to fill position and he was a fan favorite. It’s tough to believe he’s actually leaving. The Mariners were nice enough to soften the blow with their huge offer; it’s a little earlier to say goodbye considering how much they bid.
10:53am: The Mariners and Cano are close to a deal worth “at least” $225M, reports Jon Heyman. Enrique Rojas says it’s a ten-year, $240M contract, for what it’s worth.
10:20am: Ken Rosenthal says talks between Cano and the Mariners are “still alive.” I get the sense that one side (Mariners) leaked the initial report of the snag and the other side (Cano) leaked the report that things were alive. Posturing!
8:26am: Via Mark Feinsand: The Mariners have broken off contract talks with Robinson Cano due to Jay-Z’s excessive demands. Feinsand says the team was led to believe the nine-year, $225M offer would get it done, but Jay-Z asked for ten years and $252M at the last second. CEO Howard Lincoln “exploded” and ended the meeting. Scott Boras must be loving this. · (165) ·
After landing two big position players in Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees have started to address their pitching staff. Joel Sherman reports the team finalized a one-year contract worth $16M with Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday night. He will earn an extra $250k for both 190 and 210 innings pitched, plus he gets an interpreter. The Yankees won’t receive a supplemental first round pick for re-signing their own player.
For the second time in three years, Kuroda is a complete afterthought on the day he signed with the Yankees because of the Mariners. When the team first brought him on board back before the 2012 season, he signed the same day they acquired Michael Pineda from Seattle. Today, Robinson Cano agreed to a ten-year, $240M contract to leave New York and join the Mariners. Flying under the radar is Kuroda’s thing, apparently. More to come.
In 32 starts this past season, the 38-year-old righty pitched to a 3.31 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 201.1 innings. He was in the Cy Young conversation as late as mid-August before crashing hard late in the season, allowing 38 runs in 46.2 innings in his final eight starts. Fatigue has been an issue for Kuroda in each of the last two years — he stopped throwing his usual between starts bullpen session in September in both 2012 and 2013 — so it’ll be interesting to see if the Yankees do anything to manage his workload early in 2014.
Brian Cashman said the Yankees were seeking two starters this winter and Kuroda is just one. He’ll join CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the rotation, plus someone like David Phelps or Adam Warren or Michael Pineda figures to fill the fifth spot. Masahiro Tanaka seems like a perfect fit for the other rotation spot, but he might not even be available this winter given the unfavorable posting system changes. The team has dropped big bucks on Kuroda, McCann, and Ellsbury already this offseason, but they they still have quite a bit work to do.
We got a frickin’ ton of mailbag questions this week, probably the most ever. It didn’t help that I skipped last week’s mailbag because of Thanksgiving either. So, to make up for it, here’s a massive 17-question rapid fire mailbag. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to the best way to send us anything, but based on this week, you knew that already.
Many asked: Why didn’t the Yankees get in on Doug Fister? What would have been a comparable package?
Here is a quote from Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, courtesy of Andrew Stoeten: “[Tigers GM Dave Dombrowsiki] was looking for very specific things. He said, look, for a deal like this, and what he was going to look to do, we didn’t necessarily have the right fit.”
The Tigers took what they took for Fister because that’s what they wanted, not because it was the best value. They’re obviously very high on Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. Eduardo Nunez is basically Steve Lombardozzi, but the Yankees don’t really have a Krol (big league ready shutdown lefty reliever) or a Ray (high-end lefty starting pitcher prospect at Double-A). Cesar Cabral and Nik Turley are several notches below Krol and Ray. Fister is awesome; if Brian Cashman could have gotten him for a comparable package — pretty much everyone agrees it was a very light return — I’m sure he would have pulled the trigger.
Biggie asks: With the Cubs still a few years away from contending could the Yanks try to pry Mike Olt loose from them to man third? The Yankee prospects of value seem like they might fit the Cubs timetable to contend better than other teams. If so, what package gets that done?
Olt, 25, hit a weak .197/.302/.368 in 104 Triple-A games this season while battling vision problems. He got pretty overrated last winter but is a quality prospect, with big right-handed power and plenty good enough defense to remain at third. I don’t love him as a long-term solution at the hot corner but I think he’d be a great piece to have during his pre-arbitration years. The Cubs reportedly seek pitching and prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen. Would David Phelps be enough? Does that make sense for the Yankees, who also need young pitching in the worst way?