Archive for Front Office
Via David Waldstein, manager Joe Girardi will not be suspended by the league for his tirade and subsequent ejection in Thursday’s game following third base ump Tim Welke’s premature foul call on a ball that hit the line. Girardi made his case to MLB’s Executive VP of Baseball Ops Joe Torre, and that was that. No surprises here.
Two years ago the Yankees employed former Padres GM and current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers as a special advisor, using him as what amounts to a front office jack of all trades. The Yankees hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry for a similar position this past offseason, and Dan Barbarisi wrote about his role with the team and his relationship with Brian Cashman.
Like Towers, Hendry does a little bit of everything, including internal evaluations of the club’s prospects and scouting prior to the amateur draft. He also played a role in the Casey McGehee trade — he drafted developed McGehee with the Cubs — and handled negotiations with first round pick Ty Hensley. It’s a short but really interesting read, so check it out.
After parting ways with Joe Torre following the 2007 season, the Yankees interviewed just three serious candidates for their managerial opening: Joe Girardi, Tony Pena, and Don Mattingly. Girardi obviously got the job and Pena stayed with the team as his bench coach, but Mattingly left the organization to join Torre with the Dodgers. When Torre announced his retirement from managing at the end of 2010, his job was given to Mattingly.
For years it had been assumed that Donnie Baseball would one day take over as the Yankees’ manager. He was the team’s hitting coach from 2003-2006 and the bench coach in 2007, which was presumed to be his apprenticeship under Torre before taking the reigns himself one day. Instead, Mattingly is out in Los Angeles and calling the shots for a first place team in his second year on the job. As part of an interview for Barfly on FOX, he spoke to Mark Kriegel about not getting the managerial job in New York five years ago…
“It was a blessing that I didn’t get that job,” said Mattingly. “I was going through a rough time … trying to manage for the first time in New York … would have been absolutely miserable.”
A few days before the Yankees officially cut ties with Torre, it was reported that Mattingly told Hal and Hank Steinbrenner — who has just assumed control of the team from their father — that he was uncomfortable replacing his mentor. A few weeks later there was an incident involving Mattingly and his wife, which may or may not be the “rough time” he mentioned to Kriegel. Don and his first wife Kim divorced shortly thereafter and he’s since remarried.
Managing in New York is different than managing anywhere else, and I’m not talking about the on-field stuff. You and I don’t know anything about the clubhouse issues that arise during the course of the season, but we do know that the media scrutiny is intense. Mattingly knows all about that from a player’s perspective but it’s different as a manager. Given where the team was after 2007, I don’t believe a rookie skipper — even someone with as much local star power and support as Mattingly — would have been the best thing for the club.
That said, I can absolutely Donnie back in pinstripes one day. In fact, the idea of Mattingly replacing Girardi was first mentioned here more than three years ago. Girardi does a fine job with the team but I don’t see him as a super-long-term manager like Torre. He’s in the second year of a three-year contract, just like Mattingly with the Dodgers. I think it goes without saying that fans will love the idea of having Donnie back in pinstripes and I like that he’s cutting his managerial teeth elsewhere, especially in a big market with a strong club that boasts superstars, young pitchers, overpaid/underperforming veterans, the whole nine. The situation wasn’t right for either side after 2007, but there may be a time that the Yankees and Mattingly reunite, perhaps even sooner than we may think.
One day, very soon, the figure $189 million will disappear from these pages. It’s a hot topic now, for sure. But that’s only because there’s no meaningful baseball. Once the games begin, it will be time to remove two-years-distant speculation and focus on the team taking the field. Until then, $189 million will remain prominent. And there might be no more prominent aspect of it than Alex Rodriguez.
The biggest obstacle the Yankees face in reaching the $189 million goal is their collection of existing contracts. They currently have three players under contract for 2014, and their average annual values are all over $20 million. Mark Teixeira will cost them $22.5 million on the luxury tax, and CC Sabathia will cost them $24.4 million. Alex Rodriguez, however, will cost them the most. Not only is his average annual value $27.5 million, but he has a number of milestone escalators that could kick in around that time. He remains the team’s biggest obstacle to attaining its goal.
In terms of the $189 million payroll level, the escalators in A-Rod‘s contract could hurt more than the average annual value. If he reaches those milestones in 2014, he could send the Yankees over their luxury tax threshold, ruining the entire plan. Of course, his $27.5 million average annual value hurts as well, since it’s the highest in the game. Yet there could be a way the Yankees could take care of both problems with one move. They could re-work A-Rod’s contract.
Joel Sherman wrote about this idea recently. Some of the ideas he proposed make sense. For instance, approaching A-Rod about the extension following the 2013 makes the most sense. That gives the Yankees two years to determine if Alex can actually stay on the field for prolonged periods. They’ll also have a better idea of when he’ll activate his home run milestones. That can help inform them on the new contract.
Sherman proposes an actual contract extension, totaling five years and $100 million. After the 2013 season A-Rod will have four years and $86 million remaining on his deal, plus escalators. The extra year, then, would be to essentially drag out the contract and provide luxury cap relief, while the $14 million would go towards guaranteeing some of his home run milestone bonuses. That does extend Rodriguez until he’s 43, but it does provide considerable cap relief — $7.5 million, to be exact. That would go a long way for the Yankees.
If Rodriguez hits his 660th, but not his 714th, home run before the end of the 2013 season, the reworked contract would total 11 years and $295 million guaranteed. That could be good enough a guarantee to entice him. After all, that guarantees him payment for Nos. 714 and 755, plus another $2 million. He might lose out a bit if he does indeed hit No. 763, but considering his health that’s some wishful thinking. Again, that’s why both he and the Yankees will want to wait until after 2013 to discuss this.
Where the Yankees could actually save is by working within the parameters of the old deal to create a new, cap-friendlier one. Because of the time value of money, teams often backload player deals. But the Yankees front-loaded Rodriguez’s. Again, after the 2013 season he’ll have four years and $86 million remaining, for an average annual value of $21.5 million. If the Yankees simply re-worked the deal under the same terms as previously, they could save $6 million per season on the luxury tax. They’d still have the home run escalators, though they could get creative in that manner, as Sherman suggests.
As long as Rodriguez is guaranteed more money than previously, chances are MLBPA will have no issue with the two parties re-working a deal. They have stepped in previously when Rodriguez tried to re-work his deal; he tried to take less money to facilitate a trade to Boston after the 2003 season, but the union would not allow it. But 10 years later, the Yankees won’t be trying for the same end. They’d instead guarantee Rodriguez more money. In exchange, they’d improve their cap figures.
MLB might not like it, but it would likely take Bud Selig invoking the “best interests of Baseball” clause to act against it. Even then, it’s hard to prove how it runs counter to Baseball’s best interests. It’s not as though every team has front-loaded contracts on the books. Most backload, making such a maneuver impossible. But in this one instance, the Yankees have an advantage. How could anyone argue that reworking Rodriguez’s deal — and handing him more guaranteed money in the process — runs counter to Baseball’s best interests?
Again, we have a while before any of this comes to the fore. Rodriguez still has two more seasons before his contract becomes an issue. After hitting the DL for four straight seasons, he has plenty to prove on the field. But come 2014, the Yankees could use his contract to their advantage.
Update: Commenter Needs Pitching notes that the savings might not be all that great. It would still amount to a few million, though, and the Yankees can use every possible dollar at this point.
It barely registered as more than a blip on the radar, but the Yankees made a rather significant move yesterday. The club added former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Pro scouting director Billy Eppler was promoted to assistant GM, a move with some pretty significant long-term implications. Rather than explain why all over again, I’ll point you to what I wrote last June…
When I look at the Yankees front office, one thing really stands out to me: there’s no obvious, in-house candidate to replace [GM Brian Cashman]. I’m guessing that’s by design, because why would Cashman want competition from the inside? He’s made himself that much more valuable to the franchise by making sure no one emerges as a potential replacement. From a business perspective, it’s brilliant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman reportedly specializes in contracts and negotiations, not necessarily baseball operations. Scouting directors Billy Eppler (pro) and Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) don’t have any kind of GM’ing experience, even at the assistant level. The closest thing the Yankees have had to a potential in-house GM alternative during Cashman’s tenure (at least recently) was Kevin Towers, who served as a special advisor in 2010 before taking the Diamondbacks GM job over the winter.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when you look around the league, this is something pretty unique to the Yankees. Just to use the Red Sox as an example (since apparently they’re the measuring stick for everything the Yankees do), their official site lists something like eight assistants (with various titles) to GM Theo Epstein, including one former GM in Allard Baird (Royals). If Epstein leaves for whatever reason, AGM Ben Cherington could step in and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. In fact, he and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer served as co-GMs when Epstein briefly left the club in December of 2005, and the duo actually brokered the Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett trade in Epstein’s short absence. I just don’t see how that kind of seamless transition would occur with the Yankees.
Eppler has run the pro scouting department since Cashman created it in 2005, and prior to that he worked as a scout for the Yankees, Padres, and Rockies. He pitched at UConn once upon a time, but a shoulder injury ended his playing career before he had a chance to go pro. Joe Torre (and Tom Verducci) referred to him as a “stats guru” in The Yankee Years, but Eppler says that’s not the case.
“Is Billy a stats guy? No, and I joke with him about it,” said Bill Schmidt — the Rockies’ VP of Scouting — to Tyler Kepner in 2009. “But does he use it as a tool? We all do. Billy is a well-rounded scout, and any well-rounded scout is going to look at stats.”
Eppler’s promotion to assistant GM appears to be step one of creating the seamless transition that I talked about in June. He’s been in the mix for both the Padres’ and Angels’ GM positions in recent years, and reportedly was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the job in Anaheim earlier this offseason. I’m sure other clubs have expressed interest in him in other capacities as well, we just don’t know about it. Cashman and former Yankees GM Gene Michael (currently an advisor to Cashman) have touted Eppler as a future GM in the past, and right now it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time before some team hires him for that role. Yesterday’s promotion is an indication that that team may end up being the Yankees.
Cashman is about to enter his 14th year as GM of the Yankees, and tenures of that length are pretty unheard of when it comes to baseball executives. He signed his fourth straight three-year contract back in November, so he’ll be around for a 15th and 16th season as well. What happens after that? We really don’t know. Cashman is still relatively young (45 in July), so he has plenty of GM years left ahead of him, at least in theory. The Steinbrenners love him and the team continues to win, so that side of it doesn’t figure to be an issue. Maybe another three-year contract is in the cards, but I get the sense that the next three years will be spent grooming Eppler to take over following the 2014 season.
Now, I don’t think Cashman will be fired or shown the door at that time, though it’s certainly possible, of course. It does come with the territory. I think it’s more likely that he’ll be promoted, however, perhaps to some kind of chairperson/team president capacity with Eppler stepping in as GM. It’s pretty much the same thing the Indians did a year or two ago, when long-time GM Mark Shapiro became team president and long-time assistant GM Chris Antonetti replaced him. That was the plan for years, and the Yankees could be setting themselves up for a similar kind of transition. Nice and easy, we’ll barely even notice.
I don’t have any kind of hard evidence to back this up obviously, it’s just a thought more than anything. Cashman’s been doing this GM thing for a long time now, and a promotion to a higher position is the natural order of things. Eppler is a valuable asset that other teams clearly have interest in, and that interest only figures to increase over the next few years. Rather than lose him to another club (which could still happen), they Yankees have put him in a position to potentially succeed Cashman and become the next GM. For the first time in Cashman’s tenure, there’s something resembling a line of succession in place.
The Yankees have hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, the team announced. Bruce Levine says he got a multi-year contract. Hendry ran the Cubs from 2002 through the middle of last summer before being fired, and he’s the second former GM the Yankees have hired in recent years. Former Padres GM and current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers served as a special advisor to Brian Cashman in 2010.
Towers is known for his ability to evaluate pitchers, but I honestly don’t know much about Hendry. At least two people with more access than I (Kevin Goldstein & Mike Ferrin) have applauded the move, so there’s that. I do know that Hendry was fired in late-July this past season, but stayed on another month to help the team sign its draft picks. That speaks to his character, if nothing else. Hendry is well-respected within the game and has done it all during his career, spending time as a college coach (at Creighton), a minor league coach, farm director, scouting director, assistant GM, and of course GM. I’m all in favor of adding voices to the front office, so I approve.
The Yankees also announced a series of promotions. Long-time assistant trainer Steve Donohue has been promoted to head trainer, replacing the now-retired Gene Monahan. Minor league head trainer Mark Littlefield will now be his assistant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman was given the title of senior vice president as well. Bill Eppler was promoted to assistant GM, with his former assistant Will Kuntz taking over as pro scouting director. The Eppler promotion is significant; he was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM job earlier this winter, and for the first time in a long time, there is an obvious in-house successor to Cashman.
Via George King (subs. req’d), the Yankees have re-signed pro scouting director Billy Eppler, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman for 2012. Eppler and Oppenheimer were both candidates for the Angels GM job earlier this offseason, with Eppler finishing as the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Oppenheimer was also up for the Orioles GM job. It’s only a matter of time before the Yankees lose those two to other clubs, but they’ll remain in the Bronx for at least one more year.
Joe Girardi just finished talking with the media, and the only significant piece of news he shared is that the entire coaching staff will return next season. No one really had a chance to be let go, but now it’s confirmed. I’ll have a recap of the entire presser up soon … hopefully.
There is plenty to digest in the new collective bargaining agreement. MLB and the MLBPA made sweeping changes in a number of areas, though the greatest ones cover amateur players. Yet there is one change that could affect teams at the Major League level — or, at least, it will affect the Yankees. As Mike noted on Monday, the luxury tax threshold and tax rate will increase in 2014. That gives the Yankees two more years at the current level, but it could become costlier for them to spend in two years. That could affect how they approach this off-season.
As the Yankees search for another pitcher this off-season, they’ll look at a number of pitchers who will be with the team through 2014. That might be a straight free-agency contract, as in the case of Edwin Jackson or C.J. Wilson. It could also come in the form of an extension following a trade. Whatever the case, the Yankees could in many ways add to the 2014 payroll this off-season. As is typically case for future Yankee payrolls, they already have quite a few commitments on the books.
Before signing any further contracts, the Yankees have $75 million tied up for 2014. Chances are that will be at least $80 million, since only the $3 million buyout in Derek Jeter‘s player option currently counts. While $75 to $80 million might seem like a decent starting point, it covers only three to four players: Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and perhaps Jeter. With multiple starting positions and rotation spots left to fill, the Yankees could find themselves increasing payroll even further. That’s going to cost them plenty under the new CBA.
While the luxury tax threshold will increase to $189 million, the tax rate will jump 10 points, to 50 percent of all payroll above that $189 million level. This actually helps the Yankees at their current levels. Last year’s $207 million Opening Day payroll would have been taxed at 40 percent above $178 million, or $11.9 million. At a 50 percent rate above $189 million the tax bill would have been just $9 million. The tax rates even out at a $233 million payroll, meaning the new luxury tax, compared to the old one, benefits the Yanks at all payroll levels up to $233 million. That is, their overall payroll, including tax, would have been higher under the old system.
(And I realize that Opening Day and luxury tax payroll figures aren’t the same; this is just a for-instance.)
This helps the Yankees in many ways, especially since it begins in 2014. Again, the Yankees are down to three or four players, and have a good chunk of payroll already committed. If Robinson Cano commands, say, $22 million per season, that’s $102 million for five players. The payroll might even climb dramatically from there. They have one outfielder and one relief pitcher under team control, and both — Brett Gardner and David Robertson — will be entering their third years of arbitration. That leaves two outfield spots, catcher, three rotation spots (assuming Ivan Nova keeps it up), and nearly an entire bullpen. Even if Gardner and Robertson combine to earn $10 million those are a lot of spots to fill for under $100 million. This new luxury tax threshold, then, will certainly benefit the Yankees when they need it most.
For an example of how it can help, let’s look to the Yankees’ all-time high payroll, $213 million in 2010. That year they actually paid $227 million that year, with the 40 percent tax above $178 million. Let’s say that their absolute maximum, in any year, is $230 million. That’s the number which Brian Cashman can exceed in no scenario. With the new 50 percent tax on payroll over $189 million, the Yankees could support a $216 million payroll and still pay the same $230. It might seem like a small amount, but that $3 million might cover, say, Ivan Nova’s arbitration case. That gives the Yankees a bit more flexibility than in the past.
The change might seem small, but it does benefit larger market teams. They can either stay at the same payroll levels as in the past and save money, or they can extend payroll a bit further and still pay less than they would have under the old tax rate. Of course, it also allows other teams to move towards $189 million, rather than $178 million, tax free. But the Yankees are likely more concerned about their own books than those of their opponents.
Via Tim Kurkjian, the Orioles are close to hiring Dan Duquette to be their new GM. Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer was a candidate for the job, but Dan Connolly reports that the O’s never even set up an interview with him.
Duquette hasn’t been in MLB for nearly ten years now. He was GM of the Expos from 1991-1994, then GM of the Red Sox from 1994-2001. He should get a bunch of credit for building the 2004 World Series team, but he doesn’t because crediting Theo Epstein is a better story. Duquette was the guy that brought in Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, and Johnny Damon. Anyway, hooray for keeping Oppenheimer.