Archive for Hot Stove League
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams with interest in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Danny Knobler recently reported the Rakuten Golden Eagles are expected to make their ace available via the posting system following this season.
Tanaka, 24, has pitched to a 2.08 ERA with a 45/9 K/BB in 52 innings across seven starts this year. Since the start of the 2010 season, he owns a 1.57 ERA with 9.1 K/9 (25.6 K%) and 2.0 BB/9 (3.1 BB%). One scout told Knobler that Tanaka has “a wipeout split-finger fastball” and “a good slider” to go with solid velocity, though it’s unclear if he can remain a starter long-term. He has missed time with shoulder issues (strains and inflammation, mostly) over the years.
The Yankees have shunned the Japanese pitching market since the Kei Igawa fiasco, and Brian Cashman explained why in a recent interview with Index Universe. They’re concerned about difference in pitching routines as well as the cultural adjustment. Tanaka is not Yu Darvish and frankly he’s not even Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he’s still someone worth keeping an eye on over the next several months. The Yankees can’t ignore Japanese pitchers forever.
Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the Yankees have had some talks with Robinson Cano‘s new agent about a contract extension. The team’s 30-year-old second baseman fired Scott Boras and hired CAA Sports/Roc Nation last month. It’s unclear if a new offer has been made.
“We’ve had several conversations with Brodie (Van Wagenen), the new agent, just as we did with Scott (Boras) … A lot of it’s procedural. I keep saying, it’s not a process we’ll be reading about in the paper every day. If anything significant happens, everybody’s going to know, but we’re going to continue in the weeks to come to work though things and try to come to an agreement,” said Hal. The teams hopes to sign Cano before he hits free agency after the end of the year.
We’re not even half way through the 2013 season — seems like a perfect opportunity to discuss Phil Hughes‘ looming contract situation! The once-heralded prospect from California reached The Show back in 2007. Six-hundred and seventy-five innings (and several injuries) later, he’s amassed a career 4.40 ERA (4.25 FIP), which equates to a cumulative 10.1 WAR according to FanGraphs. In terms of peripheral stats over the course of his career, he’s struck out 7.62 per nine, walked 2.82 per nine, and surrendered 1.27 homeruns per nine. With that said, he’s only 26 year’s old and seems to be heading in the right direction (though his last start wasn’t wonderful). This season, he’s pitched to a 4.43 ERA which is actually just a touch over his 4.15 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates have been better than his career norms so far, and with any luck, his HR/9 rate will end up closer to his career norm than the inflated rate we witnessed all last season.
So here’s the rub. The Yankees have the option of proposing a qualifying offer to him after this season. Should they go that route, Hughes would remain in pinstripes for another season at a salary in the neighborhood of roughly $13-15M. This would delay his free agency for another year should he accept the offer (and would presumably qualify the Yankees for a supplemental first round draft pick if he chooses to take services elsewhere). Subsequently, if Hughes reached free agency in 2015, he’d be potentially competing for another contract against guys like Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Masterson, or Max Scherzer among others — obviously, the list of potential free agents can and probably will change rather drastically as teams attempt to retain their players between now and then (complete 2015 list here).
The Yankees could forgo the qualifying offer altogether after this season and let Phil simply test the free agent market — which would probably be in Phil’s best interest financially. 2014 brings a mediocre group of free agents that includes notable names such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Jon Lester (who has a $13M club option), Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum, and Josh Johnson. Lincecum and Halladay seem to have lost a lot of their star power (due to declining ability and injuries), and I’d be surprised to see Lester’s option does not get picked up. I’d also be surprised to not see Johnson, Garza, and maybe even Shields get traded (and extended) before then, which would all of a sudden makes that list a lot less interesting. Depending who else is available on the market will heavily influence Hughes’ perceived value.
Or, the Yankees could take an alternate and perhaps more desirable path, and buy out Hughes’ 2014 season in addition to a few more with an extension. Technically, the Yankees could also try to trade Phil before this decision has to be made, but seeing as though they’ll likely not be sellers by the deadline, I just don’t see this happening, nor do I think they would get a ton in return anyway. On the one hand, the Yankees face a perilous rotation situation next season. Pretending Michael Pineda is healthy and effective (and that alone may prove to be an excercise in absurdity), that leaves the Yankees with … well, it leaves them with CC Sabathia and Pineda. After that, it’s some combination of David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and not much else. I’d love to believe Manny Banuelos could be in the mix, but that’s probably waaay to optimistic given his rehab timetable and overall progress. Maybe Hopefully Andy Pettitte and/or Hiroki Kuroda are coaxed into another year in pinstripes, but that is not a garauntee by any means given their age and vocalized interest in retirement.
On one hand, having Hughes in the mix would certainly make the rotation a bit more digestable on paper, plus it’s comforting to know what weaknesses you have in a player rather than finding out down the road what baggage someone else brings. On the other hand, there are the talks about an austerity budget which poses a definite financial dilemma, and might be the biggest contributing factor as to why the Yankees may pass on Hughes (along with others) altogether. To be absolutely clear, I hope the Yankees elect to bring Hughes back – not because he has become the wunderkind that was advertised throughout the minors, but because I think he’s a younger alternative to many of the options out there, and honestly just about as effective at this point. To Hughes’ credit, he has also shown occasional capacity to be more than just a back-of-the-rotation type of arm. Also, I don’t necessarily envision the Yankees acquiring another headline-caliber pitcher — the Sabathias of the world are hard to come by after all, but who knows.
So let’s say for a moment that the Yankees roll the dice on Phil and offer him an extension. What might that contract look like? When asked this very question during Thursday’s RAB Live Chat, I whimsically answered five years, $50M. In retrospect, that price seems a bit conservative – though the number of years seems realistic enough. Really, that’s the price I would want the Yankees to pay, although I would definitely not complain with a four year, $52M agreement similar to Edwin Jackson’s. In actuality, I’d be surprised if it didn’t cost more though. Perhaps five years, $60M seems more plausible. At that rate, Hughes would still have some legitimate wealth, and wouldn’t completely break the bank for the Yankees (not to mention the contract would still include his peak years). For what it’s worth, we’ve also seen guys like Jered Weaver sacrifice a few dollars to stick around with a team he’s comfortable with, and maybe Hughes would do the same for the Yankees (though that’s not necessarily the norm nor would I expect it).
Interestingly enough, Baseball-Reference’s comparitive list of pitchers’ performance most similar by age includes Kyle Kendrick and John Lackey. Kendrick isn’t really useful for contract comparisons as he’s basically going through the same process himself. Lackey could make for an interesting discussion though. If Hughes performs very well for the remainder of the season (especially if the pitchers market becomes increasingly scarce), an inflated contract could become more likely. In his final year with the Angels, Lackey was making $10M. Boston rewarded him with a five-year, $82M salary. This is also similar to the deal that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers (though his included a club option). Both of these contracts are probably “best case” scenarios for Phil — but they are still within the realm of plausible. After all, how many times have we seen a team overpay a guy for whatever reason. Also, other organizations may not worry as much about his fly ball tendancies if their stadium is more pitcher friendly.
Conversely, if Hughes has a really disappointing season from here on out, he could end up with an offer closer to Rickey Nolasco, say, a three-year, $36M pact — or, a few years to re-prove himself at a standard rate. Given the premium placed on pitching, the fact that teams have money to spend and Hughes’ favorable age, I’d bet he lands a contract closer to Lackey before I’d bet on one similar to Nolasco — though my guess is he’ll fall somewhere in between, ultimately ending up slightly above Edwin’s arrangement. In any event, the Yankees have some tough decisions to make. Whatever they ultimately do, I’m sure it’ll be scrutinized heavily. In the meantime, what would you do?
Via Danny Knobler: The Yankees have been asking around about right-handed hitters in the wake of Kevin Youkilis‘ back injury and subsequent trip to the DL. Considering they passed on Casper Wells three times this month, it’s safe to say they don’t think much of the suddenly well-traveled outfielder.
It’s still a little too early in the season for teams to start selling off parts, even non-contenders, so the market for a right-handed bat figures to be limited. I’m sure Alfonso Soriano could be had right now, though impending free agents like Corey Hart, Paul Konerko, Mike Morse, Mark Reynolds, and Michael Young will probably have to wait for their teams to fall out of contention before becoming available in trades. Lesser pieces like Marlon Byrd and Placido Polanco could become available sooner. Yuck.
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees have discussed infielder Chris Nelson with the Rockies recently, but they don’t appear to have a ton of interest in trading for him. He was designated for assignment over the weekend and New York actually showed some interest in acquiring him back during the Winter Meetings. I wrote about him as a possible target just yesterday.
Nelson, 27, put up a .242/.282/.318 (51 wRC+) batting line in 71 plate appearances with Colorado before getting cut. He is one year removed from a 105 wRC+ though, plus he can play all three non-first base infield positions in a pinch. The Yankees desperately need some infield help while Kevin Youkilis is on the DL — Corban Joseph is a utility infielder in theory only given his defensive issues — so Nelson would help them out in the short-term. Even if it’s only a two-week thing while Youkilis is out, he fits their current needs better than their internal options.
The Yankees just rattled off four straight wins over the division rival Blue Jays and have now gone 14-5 since the ugly 1-4 start. The middle relief has settled down, the rotation overcame some early woes, and the lineup has really started to click even if they still stink against left-handers (71 wRC+). It took a few weeks (as usual), but things are starting to come together.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, especially for a team as injury-riddled as New York. They’ve already used the DL a league-leading nine times this season, and that could grow to ten depending on the results of today’s MRI on Kevin Youkilis‘ stiff back. Three players lost their jobs with other teams over the weekend, and all three could represent upgrades on the fringes of the Yankees’ roster.
Wells, 28, was designated for assignment by the Athletics yesterday, the third time a team has cut ties with him in the last month. That’s a pretty good indication front offices don’t consider him to be as productive as WAR or other freely available metrics say. He was claimed off waivers and traded for $100k this month, so the price is obviously low.
The Yankees aren’t looking for an offensive savior, they just need to find a better right-handed platoon bat than Ben Francisco (-7 wRC+ overall and -16 wRC+ against lefties). Wells has decent numbers against southpaws during his career (129 wRC+), but 317 plate appearances spread across three years aren’t definitive proof of anything. The various defense stats say he’s serviceable at worst in all three spots. Francisco hasn’t just looked bad, he’s looked horrible without even a hint of snapping out of it. Wells is freely available and it would be tough for him to give the team less than what they’re currently getting from Francisco*.
* That said, Wells has had five plate appearances in the last month because he’s been in transactions limbo, so rust is a very real concern.
The Rockies called up top third base prospect Nolan Arenado this weekend, and the 27-year-old Nelson was the roster casualty. Colorado designated him for assignment and it’s very likely another team will pick him up despite his poor performance this month (51 wRC+) because he’s versatile, one year removed from a 105 wRC+, and not too far removed from being a top prospect.
I wrote about Nelson as a potential target last month, so I’ll just refer you back to that to keep things simple. Nelson can provide depth at the three non-first base infield positions, which is something pretty much every team needs. The Yankees will be without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez until at least the All-Star break and there’s a chance Youkilis will wind up on the DL following today’s MRI, so adding an infielder seems rather prudent. Even if David Adams or Corban Joseph are the team’s preferred call-up options, there is still an opening to stash Nelson in Triple-A. That would require signing him to a minor league contract following his release, which seems unlikely. I’m guessing he doesn’t go through waivers unclaimed.
Quintero, 33, was cut loose by the Phillies over the weekend when Carlos Ruiz was eligible to return following his 25-game amphetamine-related suspension. The veteran journeyman barely played with Philadelphia (21 plate appearances), but he’s managed over 1,300 plate appearances (55 wRC+) in parts of 11 big league seasons. He’s always had a strong throwing arm (83-for-257 career, 32.3% caught stealing rate) and the rest of his defensive game is well-regarded, but who really knows these days.
The Yankees will be without Frankie Cervelli for at least six weeks thanks to his broken hand, and it could be even longer considering how hand/wrist/finger injuries tend to linger. They’re unlikely to find anyone better than Chris Stewart and Austin Romine right now, but Quintero is someone they could stick in Triple-A for further catching depth. Remember, Romine has a series of back injuries in his recent past, so it wouldn’t take much for the team to have to dip into it’s backstop depth again in the coming weeks. Quintero is likely to clear waivers and take a minor league contract, which fits what the team needs at the moment.
7:38pm: “False false false,” said Brian Cashman to reporters when asked about the report this afternoon. He confirmed the Yankees never had talks with Valverde’s camp and they didn’t offer him even a minor league contract. Shouldn’t lie about stuff like that Jose, it’s unbecoming.
5:15pm: Via Jon Morosi: Right-hander Jose Valverde said the Yankees were one of two teams to offer him a guaranteed Major League contract this past offseason. The Mets were the other. He eventually took a minor league deal from the Tigers and was added to the roster just yesterday.
Valverde, 35, pitched to 3.78 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 69 innings for Detroit last summer, but he was dreadful down the stretch and basically unusable in the postseason. His velocity, strikeout rate, and ground ball have all been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now, which is hardly ideal. I wonder if the Yankees made the offer late in the offseason, but pulled it after acquiring Shawn Kelley on the second day of Spring Training. Still seems very much unlike them to offer someone like Valverde a big league deal.
For pretty much the entirety of this past offseason, the Yankees were dormant. They re-signed all of their pitchers before the end of the November, but otherwise their only notable move was signing Kevin Youkilis in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip surgery. Had A-Rod been healthy and able to start the season on-time, there’s a pretty good chance Youkilis would be wearing a different uniform right now. They re-signed Ichiro Suzuki a few days later and waiting until February to sign Travis Hafner. That’s pretty much it.
Once the injuries began to mount in Spring Training, the Yankees jumped into action. They acquired three players — Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch, and Vernon Wells — in March who wound up making the Opening Day roster, and as Brian Cashman told Andy Martino, they made those moves because they were “desperate.” A rash of injuries in camp has a way of doing that, certainly no team plans on building a good chunk of their roster with scrap heap pickups in March. No contending team, anyway.
As the Yankees were being dominated by another left-handed starter last night — they’re now hitting .195/.266/.303 (54 wRC+) against southpaws in the early going — their two biggest offseason failures (for lack of a better word, really) were on full display. They didn’t acquire a capable right-handed outfield platoon bat and they didn’t bring in a solid utility infielder, two things we knew they needed back in October. These needs didn’t sneak up anyone.
That need for a right-handed outfield bat should be mitigated by Vernon Wells once Curtis Granderson returns, though that depends entirely on how Joe Girardi & Co. sort out the playing time. Considering how productive he’s been, it’s hard to think they’ll just relegate Wells to part-time duty once Granderson returns just because that was the original plan. Sure, it’s possible he’ll revert back to the guy he was with the Angels at some point, but right now he’s done more than enough to earn regular outfield playing time.
Still, Francisco (-13 wRC+) is drawing regular at-bats against lefties and he isn’t delivering. Not even close to delivering, really. That said, the more egregious mistake in my opinion was not finding a capable backup infielder. Just consider all of the circumstances…
- Derek Jeter, 38, had surgery for a major ankle injury in late-October and was questionable for Opening Day.
- The Yankees announced 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez needed surgery for a major hip injury in early-December and was expected to be out until for several months.
- Youkilis, 34, was signed to play third base in mid-December, soon after the announcement of A-Rod’s injury. He’s become injury prone over the years and actually played fewer games than A-Rod from 2010-2012 (344 vs. 358).
- Eduardo Nunez, 25, had well-documented defensive issues that made him a question mark at the big league level. The team also insisted he was a full-time shortstop and not a utility guy who would move around to different positions.
All that of that should have made adding a good reserve infielder — someone who could play on an everyday basis for a stretch of time if need be — a rather big priority before the season. The Yankees did indicate they wanted to find an upgrade over Jayson Nix back in November, but they never did get around to acquiring one. It really hurts right now because Youkilis is expected to miss a few days with a back issue while neither Nix (35 wRC+) nor Nunez ( also 35 wRC+) are hitting.
The season is barely more than three weeks old, but the Yankees have some very obvious needs at the big league level right now, stuff that goes beyond getting some injured players back in the lineup. The need for a competent infielder isn’t going away anytime soon and Francisco’s lack of production means they still need another righty bat in the lineup. These were items that should have been treated with greater urgency over the winter. Instead, the Yankees took a passive approach and are left without a gaping hole in the lineup against lefties and no suitable replacement for their various injured infielders.
Via Bryan Hoch: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees will stick with their internal options on the infield in the wake of Derek Jeter‘s setback. “We’re going to stay as we are,” said the GM. “Those guys have done a nice job. They’ve earned the right, and regardless, this time of year is certainly going to be a factor in anything that happens.”
Nunez, 25, is hitting just .184/.267/.211 (34 wRC+) in the early going this year while the 30-year-old Nix is at .172/.219/.276 (30 wRC+). That’s as bad as it gets right there. Nunez’s throwing has been much, much better these first few weeks, but that only goes so far. Teams usually aren’t looking to sell off pieces at this time of year anyway, so the Yankees are stuck with these two for the time being. Hopefully one of ‘em starts hitting.
Joba, 27, became much more important to the bullpen as soon as David Aardsma was cut loose. He’s the clear number three late-inning guy behind Mariano Rivera and David Robertson, sorta bridging the gap between those two and the Shawn Kelleys and Cody Eppleys of the world. One year of a reliever coming off two major injuries doesn’t have much trade value anyway. Makes more sense just to keep him.