Stark: Yankees called about Jimmy Rollins, moved on because price was too high

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees called the Phillies to inquire about the availability of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but they moved on because the price was so high, reports Jayson Stark. Phils GM Ruben Amaro confirmed Rollins was not asked to waive his no-trade clause and called him “one of best shortstops in baseball still” and “somebody we want on our club.”

Rollins, who turns 36 tomorrow, hit .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers and 28 steals in 34 attempts (82% success rate) this past season. His defense at short continues to rate as a bit above-average. Rollins is under contract for $11M next year and will become a free agent after the season, so he’s a pure rental. He’s expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause in the past, so that might not be much of an obstacle.

Amaro has reportedly annoyed his fellow GMs with high asking prices and an unwillingness to negotiate — he also blamed other teams for his inactivity at the trade deadline — so there’s no guarantee the asking price for Rollins will come down later in the winter. Rollins does make sense as a one-year shortstop stopgap though — he’s better than Stephen Drew and can contribute on both sides of the ball — but not at any price. Maybe Amaro will come to his senses in a few weeks.

Update: For what it’s worth, ZiPS projects a .248/.314/.386 (92 OPS+) batting line and 2.4 WAR for Rollins in 2015. That represents like a four-win upgrade over what the Yankees got from the shortstop position this past season. It was that bad.

Heyman: Yankees only willing to give Chase Headley three years

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are not willing to give third baseman Chase Headley anything longer than a three-year contract. Obviously this could all be posturing at this point. Heyman says the Giants have contacted Headley after losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox earlier this week, and supposedly the Indians, Blue Jays, and Padres have shown some level of interest as well.

If the Yankees are truly only willing to go three years for Headley, then in all likelihood they’ll be playing Martin Prado at third base in 2015. Heyman says Headley rejected a three-year, $39M extension from San Diego back in the spring, so you know he’s aiming higher. Sandoval, who is a comparable player, just got five years with an option for a sixth. Headley’s probably going to get a bunch of three years offer and wind up signing with the first team to step forward and offer that fourth guaranteed year.

Playing Prado at third base is not bad in and of itself, but I see Headley at third and Prado at second as a way better plan than Prado at third and either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder at second. The more Major League caliber players, the better. Whenever someone inevitably gets hurt, Prado can change positions to cover for the injury and then either Pirela or Refsnyder can take over at second. The Yankees can’t count on Alex Rodriguez to play third at all. At least not until he shows he can do it in camp.

The best third baseman scheduled to hit free agency next year is David Freese. The best the year after that will be 37-year-old Adrian Beltre. Headley is the best third basemen who will be available for nothing but money for the foreseeable future. If the Yankees aren’t comfortable with going more than three years for him, fine, but the only way they’ll get a better player in the next two or three years is by dipping into their farm system and making a trade.

Should the Yankees give Chase Headley more than three years?

On the Yankees and the prospect of a $500M payroll

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

As you’ve surely seen by now, Kiley McDaniel recently wrote about the ways the Yankees use their financial might to secure top minor league free agents, such as Yangervis Solarte last year. Buried deep within that story was this little nugget about the team’s finances:

A Yankees source told me they could break even financially with a $500 million payroll expenditure (including luxury tax) …

Whoa! That’s one hell of a buried lede. McDaniel used to work for the Yankees back in the day so I’m sure he still has connections in the front office and whatnot. That’s not something you can just make up and drop in a story, not if you want to be taken seriously.

Anyway, I can’t even wrap my head around a $500M payroll. That’s $20M per 25-man roster spot or $12.5M per 40-man roster spot. Since the $500M would include luxury tax, the actual team payroll would be $396.3M plus a $103.7M luxury tax bill. That’s over $100M for nothing, just washed away into MLB’s central fund. The Yankees could do that and break even, supposedly.

Now, that said, I’m not totally sure I buy the Yankees being able to support a $500M payroll, at least not on an annual basis. Maybe they could do it once and get away with it, but year after year? At this point, with attendance and ratings on the decline and the postseason far from a given, the revenue streams aren’t what they were a few years ago. I don’t have access to the team’s books, so what the hell do I know, but a $500M payroll seems a little outrageous at the moment.

The Yankees hit the point of diminishing returns a few years ago — every additional dollar they spent on the roster was bringing fewer actual wins in the standings. Baseball is a zero-sum game, there are only so many wins to go around each year. Spend $500M on players and you’d presumably have a great lineup with a great rotation and a great bullpen. That makes you … the 1998 Yankees in the best case scenario? The best teams still only win something like 105-110 games a year at the most. That’s baseball.

But let’s have fun with this for a second. Say the Yankees were going to up payroll to $500M next year. That gives them roughly $190M to spend this winter when you consider their existing commitments and the luxury tax. That $190M could buy them Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Chase Headley, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy, Melky Cabrera, Yoan Moncada, and a bunch of lesser guys. They could also pay Alex Rodriguez to go away. They’d already be flushing $100M down the drain in luxury tax, so why not make it $120M? The team would be limited by roster size, not necessarily dollars.

Know what else would limit the Yankees? The talent pool. They could have all the money in the world to spend, but the free agent class is the free agent class. Better free agents won’t just magically appear. Sure, the Yankees could use that big payroll to take on big contracts in trades, but the only contracts teams look to move are the bad ones. (MLB frowns on buying players from another team, in case you’re wondering). Troy Tulowitzki has six years and $118M left on his deal. That’s not bad in a world where Pablo Sandoval gets five years and $95M. Why would the Rockies just give him away for salary relief?

I’m sure more than a few people read the line in McDaniel’s story and wondered why the Yankees don’t just spend $500M on payroll. First and foremost, remember they are a for profit business. They aren’t trying to break even. Secondly, a payroll that size comes with a lot of wasted dollars (in luxury tax) that don’t appreciably improve their chances of winning the World Series. It’ll add more regular season wins, sure, but only so many. They could add the same number without bumping payroll that high. The $500M is an extreme example, not a sustainable model for the Yankees or any team.

At some point in the near future, every team will have a payroll over $100M and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets to $500M. It’ll probably be the Yankees and I hope I’m around to see it. Spending that kind of money in this age, with free agency what it is and revenue presumably not what it once was, a $500M payroll doesn’t make much business sense for the Yankees. It sure is fun to think about though.

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Tuesday Night Open Thread

Buster Olney (subs. req’d) continued looking at the top ten players at each position today with left field. (He looked at third base two days ago but no Yankees were on it, because duh.) Michael Brantley topped the list, which I don’t necessarily agree with despite his huge year. Alex Gordon and Justin Upton round out the top three. Brett Gardner made the list at No. 8, between my boy Christian Yelich and J.D. Martinez. Yelich is so, so good. Gardner’s pretty cool too.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local hockey or basketball team in action, though I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere as well. Talk about the game’s top left fielders, the Devils game, the new Jurassic World trailer, or anything else right here.

Joe’s Shameless Promotion

Also, if you want to get some quick holiday shopping done before everyone goes nuts this weekend, the MLB Shop (and by extension the RAB Shop) is offering a buy one, get one 50% off deal on caps and tees.

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