The final day of the lamest Winter Meetings I can remember is upon us. The Rule 5 Draft starts the day — J.J. Cooper has a preview, including notes on several Yankees farmhands who figure to be selected — but the Yankees do not have an open 40-man roster, so they won’t be able to make a pick. Clubs and their executives tend to leave around midday Thursday, so don’t expect there to be many rumors or transactions in the afternoon. For shame.
Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. Late last night we learned the Yankees rejected a Brett Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips trade offer from the Reds, who are looking to unload their second baseman and the $50M left on his contract. We’re going to keep track of Thursday’s worthwhile rumors right here. All times are ET.
- 9:26pm: The Yankees were involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before he was dealt to the Rockies. [Susan Slusser]
- 5:31pm: While talking to Johan Santana’s agent, Brian Cashman showed some interest in hard-throwing but not-always-strike-throwing reliever Henry Rodriguez. [David Waldstein]
- 5:28pm: The Yankees made their offer to Infante after Robinson Cano agreed to sign with the Mariners and before the Winter Meetings, which basically means last weekend. [Olney]
- 2:49pm: Apparently there was a three way trade being discussed involving Gardner, Justin Masterson, and Didi Gregorius. Gardner would have wound up with the Indians, Masterson with the Diamondbacks, and Gregorius with the Yankees. Huh. [Sweeny Murti]
- 1:10pm: Mark Ellis is “on the radar” as an Infante alternative for the Yankees. I looked at him as a possible target yesterday. [Ken Rosenthal]
- 12:20pm: The team’s offer to Infante is in the three-year, $24M range. He’s seeking four years and $40M. [Sherman]
- 12:09pm: The Yankees have offered Omar Infante a three-year contract. He is still holding out for a fourth year. The Royals are in the mix as well. [Jon Heyman]
- 9:00am: Future talks about Gardner and Phillips could be expanded to include other players, but the Yankees have essentially told teams they will only trade Gardner for a starting pitcher. They listened on Phillips out of due diligence. [C. Trent Rosecrans & Joel Sherman]
- Masahiro Tanaka remains the team’s top pitching priority. The new posting system is expected to be ratified soon but it’ll probably be another week or so before we find out whether Tanaka will actually be posted. Maybe longer. [George King]
- The Yankees are one of Joaquin Benoit’s likeliest destinations along with the Indians, Padres, Mariners, and Cubs. He’s seeking $7-10M annually across multiple years. Matt looked at Benoit as a free agent target earlier this week. [Jeff Passan & Buster Olney]
- While talking to reporters yesterday, Brian Cashman said the pool of available of second baseman is “deeper” than it is at third. He also said he has not spoken to a bullpen candidate who demanded the closer’s job. [Chad Jennings]
Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.
The 2013 Winter Meetings are over. The Yankees didn’t make any moves these last few days but there were a bunch of rumors, most involving Brett Gardner. I’m glad the team values him as much as they apparently do and have set a high price. It would have been very easy to pull the trigger on that Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips offer, and heck, it sounds exactly like something they would have done about ten years ago. The countdown in the sidebar says we’re two months and two days away from pitchers and catchers reporting. Lots of time to fix that pitching staff and the infield.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Lions and Broncos are the Thursday NFL game, plus the Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing. Talk about those games, the Winter Meetings, or anything else right here. Enjoy.
(Not ashamed to admit I can’t wait to see the (latest) Godzilla remake.)
During a recent appearance on the YES Network (video link), Mark Teixeira laid out his rehab plan as he works his way back from season-ending wrist surgery. He’ll be performing strengthening exercises through the end of the month, start swinging a bat in January, start hitting 90+ mph pitches in February, then resume full workouts when Spring Training begins. He will be a bit behind the other position players in camp but hopes to get into his first Grapefruit League game during the first week of March.
“That first game, against Justin Verlander in Lakeland, he throws me a 95-mph fastball on the inside part of the plate, I want to drop the head (of the bat) on the ball. Even if I don’t get a hit or get a homerun off it, I want to know that I can make a really strong, quick move on an inside fastball at 95 mph, and have no pain, no tightness. Once I do that, then I’ll know that I’ll be fine for the season,” said Teixeira. The 33-year-old missed all but 15 games of this past season with wrist problems. Jose Bautista rebounded well from the same wrist surgery, which is a positive sign, but the Yankees need Teixeira to come back and have an impact in the middle of their lineup this season. The upgrade he represents over Lyle Overbay is significant but not guaranteed until he’s actually healthy and out on the field. · (17) ·
It appears that Phil Hughes and Johan Santana simply couldn’t be in the Bronx at the same time. In 2007 the Yankees declined to include Hughes in a trade for the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner. Now that they’re both free agents, could Hughes and Santana effectively make that swap? Hughes has already signed with the Twins. According to ESPN NY, the Yankees have interest in signing Santana.
Any potential deal would come towards the end of the off-season, as the Yankees fill out their non-roster invitee list. Santana might be a household name, but at this point he doesn’t warrant a guaranteed contract. After missing all of last season, and all of 2011, with shoulder injuries. Those have been the kiss of death for so many pitchers that any amount of guaranteed money could be essentially flushed down the toilet. The only way to justify a rotation spot for Santana is to watch him first-hand in spring training.
While shoulder injuries spell trouble for all pitchers, Santana at least has one mitigating factor: he’s pitched reasonably well with diminished velocity. Through his first 16 starts in 2011 he threw 98 innings to a 2.76 ERA, holding opponents to a .618 OPS. While the narrative is that he fell apart after he threw the first no-hitter in Mets history, he did have quite a few good starts after that (12 ER in 30 IP) before completely falling apart in July. It’s not much of a stretch to speculate that his shoulder started becoming a problem right around that time.
The Yankees aren’t the only team with interest in a potential Santana resurgence. Both his former teams, the Twins and Mets, have expressed interest, as have the Rays, Orioles, Royals, Brewers, and Pirates. With that many teams in the hunt, there’s a non-zero chance that one team makes the crazy move of giving Santana a guaranteed contract. His agent, Peter Greenberg, has indicated that if a team does offer a guarantee, Santana could sign now. Absent one, he’ll throw in January for interested teams. At that point teams will get a better idea, and one could certainly offer a guaranteed contract.
The Johan Santana who dazzled the league for years with his devastating changeup is long gone. He started his fade in 2009, and by 2011 he was completely gone. This is a different Santana, one dealing with physical limitations. Yet he has shown, for at least half a season in 2011, that he has the ability to succeed even with diminished stuff. A second shoulder surgery certainly changes things, but Santana is still worth a peek, at least. I wouldn’t bet on the Yankees coming away with him, but in a search for low-cost, potentially valuable assets, they could do a lot worse.
Just in case you were hoping things would fall apart at the last moment, the Mariners have officially announced the signing of Robinson Cano. The press conference is later this evening and will probably be on MLB Network, if you’re interested. Here’s a photo of him in Mariners garb. “I want to thank all my fans in New York for an amazing nine years. It was truly an honor to play for you,” said Cano is a statement.
The Yankees receive a supplemental first round pick for Cano, but it will be forfeited once the Carlos Beltran deal is official. It’s been real, Robbie. · (76) ·
The Yankees have done most of their offseason heavy lifting and are now left with a very specific set of needs: second or third baseman, starting pitcher, and a reliever or two. Those are the most pressing items and rightfully so. The Yankees also need to improve their overall depth — we saw how important that is this past season thanks to all the injuries — and they’ve started doing that with the recent Dean Anna, Russ Canzler, Yamaico Navarro, and Brian Gordon pickups.
Late last night, Bob Nightengale reported the Mariners have made both Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero available in trades following their two first base/DH additions (Corey Hart and Logan Morrison). Smoak has been pretty awful in parts of four seasons now, with almost 500 games and 2,000 plate appearances telling us he’s a replacement level first baseman. Montero has been awful in the show as well, but the sample size is way smaller (182 games and 732 plate appearances) and he’s three years younger than Smoak. Does a reunion make sense? Let’s look, starting with the negatives.
- Montero, who turned 24 last month, just hasn’t hit these last two years with Seattle. He put up a .260/.298/.386 (90 wRC+) line with 15 homers in 553 plate appearances last season and a .208/.264/.327 (62 wRC+) line with three homers in 110 plate appearances this year. The Mariners sent back to Triple-A this summer, where he hit .247/.317/.425 (93 wRC+) in 19 games. His batted ball distance plot isn’t encouraging and he doesn’t draw walks (6.0%) or lay off pitches out of the zone (36.7% chase rate).
- Big league righties have eaten Montero up. He hit just .227/.263/.347 (68 wRC+) with a 19.9% strikeout rate and a 44.4% ground ball rate against same-side pitchers with the Mariners these last two seasons. That’s terrible.
- Montero is not a catcher, as we heard time and time again over the years. He threw out only 13 of 94 (13.8%) base-stealers from 2012-2013 and rated as a terrible pitch-framer. Montero ranked as one of the game’s overall worst defensive catchers in 2012 and 2013.
- Montero can’t run at all. He has never stolen a base in the big leagues (been caught in all three attempts) and he’s taken the extra-base just 20% of the time. That’s basically half the league average. Molina-esque speed.
- Injuries have been a problem. He missed close to two months this year after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, and back during his minor league days he missed time with a broken finger (2009) and an ankle debridement (2010).
- Montero was suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis back in August and performance-enhancing drugs raise questions. The Yankees always had concerns about his makeup and work ethic, benching him several times for lack of hustle and insubordination throughout his minor league career.
- Montero, a right-handed batter, has done very well against big league lefties. Over the last two seasons with Seattle, he hit .300/.351/.435 (119 wRC+) against southpaws with a 14.7% strikeout rate. Montero doesn’t strike out a ton in general, just 18.7%, slightly better than the league average rate.
- He still has the opposite field swing that was seemingly made for Yankee Stadium (spray chart). Almost three-quarters (73.0% to be exact) of Montero’s balls in play over the last two years have been hit to center and right field. That’ll play in the Bronx.
- The Mariners shifted Montero to first base when they sent him to Triple-A at midseason and he has played the position on occasion in the past, mostly during winter ball workouts. He can’t catch but the transition to first is underway.
- Montero has at least one and likely two minor league options remaining, so sending him down to Triple-A won’t be an issue. He will not be arbitration-eligible until after 2015 and a free agent until after 2018 at the earliest.
- Montero made it no secret he wanted to play for the Yankees and was reportedly pretty torn up when he was traded away. I guess wanting to wear pinstripes is a positive.
The trade has been a disaster for both the Yankees and Mariners so far, and let’s not kid ourselves here, there isn’t much to like about Montero at this point. He hasn’t hit since September 2011 and he doesn’t really have a position, plus there are long-standing questions about his work ethic. And he just got popped for PEDs. You’ve really gotta squint your eyes to find some positives. If it wasn’t for the “he’s Jesus Montero and he used to be an awesome prospect for my favorite team” aspect, we probably wouldn’t think twice about him.
The Yankees don’t have a first base prospect at Triple-A (or Double-A, for that matter) and Montero is basically a reclamation project. Maybe getting him away from the Mariners — they’ve seen nearly all of their top position player prospects fall short of expectations (Kyle Seager is the obvious exception) in recent years — and back with the minor league coaches and instructors who helped make him one of the game’s very best prospects back in the day can get his career back on track. It’s a long shot obviously, and remember, we’re talking about a guy who is likely nothing more than a part-time first baseman, part-time DH if it comes together.
I don’t know what it would take to acquire Montero, but it’s clear the Mariners have soured on him. How could they not? The Yankees know him as well as anyone and that may not necessarily lead to the trade, in fact it could lead to the exact opposite. They might steer clear entirely. The fanboy in me says hell yes, go get him and let’s rock. The rest of me says if he comes cheap enough, maybe for a similar post-hype broken prospect (Eduardo Nunez? Austin Romine?), then sure, go for it. I couldn’t give up much more than that, not for a guy with so many red flags and no real position. The Yankees would have the flexibility to send Montero to minors to work on things, but he simply might not be salvageable at this point.
The Yankees lost five total players in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, most notably Double-A RHP Tommy Kahnle. He was taken by the Rockies with the fourth overall selection. In a nutshell, New York receives a $50k fee and Kahnle must now stick on Colorado’s active 25-man roster all of next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to place him on waivers and then offer him back to the Yankees before being able to send him to the minors.
Kahnle, 24, was the team’s fifth round pick in the 2010 draft, out of Lynn University in Florida. They gave him $150k to turn pro. Kahnle had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (11.10 K/9 and 28.8 K%) and a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9 and 17.5 BB%) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton this summer. He throws very hard, regularly running his fastball up to 97-98, but he lacks a good offspeed pitch and his control is shaky at best. The Yankees offered him in trades for Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young before the deadline earlier this year.
The four players the Yankees lost in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft are OF Ravel Santana (Astros), RHP Mikey O’Brien (Reds), RHP Felipe Gonzalez (Pirates), and converted infielder RHP Kelvin Castro (Marlins). Santana is the big name here because he was once one of the team’s very best prospects. Injuries — most notably a shattered ankle in 2011 and a broken arm in 2013 — have hampered his development. The 21-year-old had a 157 wRC+ with the Rookie GCL Yankees in 2011, an 83 wRC+ with Short Season Staten Island in 2012, and then did not play in 2013.
The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. The players do not have to stick on a certain roster all year, they simply become their new team’s properly. The Astros essentially purchased Santana from the Yankees for the $12k fee. Same applies to the other three guys taken in the minor league portion.
The Yankee left several other interesting relief arms — RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Fred Lewis, specifically — exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but none were selected. The Bombers have a full 40-man roster and were not able to make a pick themselves. The full Rule 5 Draft results can be seen here.
It appears there will be at least one more mention of Brandon Phillips. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Yankees rejected a Cincinnati Reds offer of Phillips for Brett Gardner. By itself that makes enough sense. While Gardner and Phillips produce their offensive value in different ways, it amounts to a similar run value. The only advantage Phillips holds is that he plays a position the Yankees need, which hardly seems to make up for the $46 million difference in salaries owed ($7 million in 2014).
The difference in salary would have actually been far greater in any potential grade. Heyman goes onto say that, when the Reds approached him about a deal, Phillips asked them to re-open his contract and add money. That’s quite a bold move after the kind of season Phillips had in 2013. It also comes as little surprise. From Day 1 it seems Phillips was unhappy with his contract, especially since it came just after teammate Joey Votto signed a $225 million deal. He got a no-trade clause in his deal, and apparently intends to leverage it.
Heyman says that Philips’s request came before the Yankees rejected the offer, so perhaps that was the kicker. Still, even a one-for-one swap seems a bit odd. The Yankees seemingly have a surplus in the outfield and a deficit at second base, but the issue is a bit more complex than that. For instance, are they really going to either 1) count on Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran full-time in the outfield corners or 2) go out and sign or trade for a fourth outfielder? Neither of those scenarios seems ideal. While Gardner doesn’t profile as a typical left fielder, he’s performed well there in the past. His bat isn’t as bad as people think — it’s in the top two-thirds of outfielders since the 2010 season.
There’s plenty of off-season left, and the Yankees, as Cashman says, are ready to rock n roll. This likely isn’t the last we’ll hear about a Gardner-for-Phillips swap. Hopefully any further overtures end with the same rejection.
While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Brian Cashman confirmed Dellin Betances qualified for a fourth minor league option for the 2014 season. I have no idea why he was granted one at this point of his career; the rules are complicated. “I’m sure he’s not all that pumped about it, but it’s a good thing for us,” said the GM.
Betances, 25, was thought to be out of options — he burned his three options from 2011-2013 — following this past season, meaning he could not be sent to the minors next year without first passing through waivers. He was expected to win a bullpen spot out of camp for that very reason. Betances found a niche in relief last summer, but having the flexibility to send him down next year is obviously pretty big. Now they won’t have to keep him in the big leagues almost by default. · (12) ·
Via NY Post: River Ave. at 161st St. will be renamed Rivera Ave. in honor of Mariano Rivera following a City Council vote on Tuesday. The vote passed 47-0. “It’s an honor to have a street named after me,” said Mo. “ I have a lot of great memories driving down that street. My family and I are extremely grateful for this.”
Council member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, whose district includes Yankee Stadium, filed the paperwork after being persuaded by a fan. The Post and Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant led the campaign to get the street renamed. I’m guessing just the stretch of River Ave. alongside Yankee Stadium will be renamed, but either way this is pretty cool. Rivera is being honored for his charity work in the community as much as his playing career. (No, we’re not changing the name of the site.) · (30) ·