Heyman: Yankees have not ruled out re-signing Chapman

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have not ruled out re-signing impending free agent Aroldis Chapman after the season. He’s said to have enjoyed his time in New York. My guess is he’ll enjoy the city of the highest bidder too, whatever it may be. It doesn’t sound as though the two sides have had any contracts talks yet.

Chapman, 28, has a 3.00 ERA (2.07 FIP) with 27 strikeouts and somehow only three walks in 18 innings this year. Doesn’t it seem like it should be more than three walks? It feels like he goes to a three-ball count on everyone. Anyway, Chapman returned from his suspension in early May, and if the Yankees continue to slip out of the postseason race, he’ll be a prime piece of trade bait. I have some thoughts on this.

1. So what’s it going to take to re-sign him? Reliever salaries have exploded so much that non-closers like Darren O’Day are now getting $8M a year. Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50M contract with the Phillies is the reliever record and I’m sure Chapman is aiming to break that. It’s not unrealistic. Chapman is outstanding and there’s been five years worth of inflation since Papelbon signed his deal.

Five relievers have had contracts worth $12M+ per season: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, and Papelbon. Chapman’s going to look to join that group and understandably so. Between his age, his historically great dominance, and his unprecedented velocity, he’s very much in position to command that sort of salary. Could four years and $56M be in the cards? David Robertson got four years and $46M two years ago, remember. An extra $2.5M per year seems reasonable.

2. Are the Yankees willing to carry two high-priced relievers? The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold in the near future and it looks very doable. Most of the big contracts will be off the books within two years, and the threshold figures to rise with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I have to think it’ll climb over $200M. How could it not with the way payrolls are growing these days?

The Yankees already have one expensive reliever in Andrew Miller, who is making $9M a year. Conservatively assuming Chapman gets $12M a year, that’s going to be $21M tied up in two relievers, who might combine to throw 130 innings. Granted, it’ll be 130 high-leverage innings, but still. If they’re trying to get under the luxury tax threshold, spending big on relievers isn’t the smartest idea, not when there are so many other holes on the roster.

I think the only way the Yankees will re-sign Chapman is if they trade Miller first, which is certainly very possible. They were willing to move him this past winter, so even if they don’t trade him at the deadline, they could look to deal him in the offseason. Trading Miller and re-signing Chapman is a perfectly sensible baseball move, especially since Miller has greater trade value than Chapman thanks to the two extra years of team control.

3. What about a trade-and-sign? This gets talked about every year but very rarely happens. Trade away your big name impending free agent, then re-sign him after the season. It’s simple! Except the player has a say in things, and as soon as you trade him away, your odds of re-signing him go down because he gets a taste of life elsewhere. That’s what happened with the Red Sox and Jon Lester. Loyalty is for suckers.

The Yankees certainly could look to trade Chapman then re-sign him. The Orioles did that with Sidney Ponson a few years back, and the Braves do it with Kelly Johnson seemingly every year, so it happens. I don’t think Chapman would come back on any sort of discount though. Once he hits free agency, the Yankees will have to outbid everyone else to get him. A trade-and-sign is possible. It’s just a very tough maneuver to plan and execute. Everything changes once you trade a guy away.

Trade Notes: Cubs, Gallo, Tigers, Fulmer, Norris, Reyes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The draft is now over, which means teams will soon shift their focus to the trade deadline. The way things are going right now, the Yankees are much more likely to be sellers than buyers this summer. We’ll see what happens. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, both past and present.

Cubs scouting Yankees’ top relievers

According to George King, the Cubs had a scout at Yankee Stadium last week taking a look at New York’s big three relievers. The Cubbies already know those guys are awesome. They’re just doing their due diligence. Chicago could really use a shutdown lefty reliever, and I’m guessing they’d prefer Andrew Miller to Aroldis Chapman. Miller is under contract two more years and is willing to pitch in any role. Also, Theo Epstein and Miller have a connection dating back to their time with the Red Sox.

I’ve already written about the Cubs as a possible trade partner a few times (here and here) and something tells me I will end up writing about them a few more times before the trade deadline. As always, it’s going to come down to what Chicago is willing to give up in a trade. We’ve already heard they won’t trade Kyle Schwarber straight up for Miller. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were involved in trade rumors all offseason, so I imagine they’re available.

Rangers won’t trade Gallo for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Rangers are unwilling to trade third base masher Joey Gallo straight up for Miller, reports Jon Heyman. The Rangers have the best record (40-25) and worst bullpen ERA (5.12) in the AL, so yeah, a reliever or three figures to be on their trade deadline shipping list. It’s the glaring need right now. Manager Jeff Banister has to hold his breath each time he signals for a reliever.

Texas GM Jon Daniels has a history of making big moves at the trade deadline, and no team will have more bullpen help to offer than New York, so I expect to see a ton of Rangers-Yankees rumors these next few weeks. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will push for Jurickson Profar. They’ve had interest in him in the past, and it appears the Rangers have no place to play him. That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting, anyway.

(Fulmer)
(Fulmer)

Tigers were unwilling to part with top prospects for Miller

Prior to the Justin Wilson trade in December, the Yankees and Tigers were discussing a Miller trade, reports Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Detroit was not willing to move their top prospects, specifically righty Michael Fulmer and lefty Daniel Norris, so nothing happened. The Tigers then shifted their focus to Wilson, and that trade eventually came together.

This jibes with everything we heard about the Miller trade talks over the winter. The Yankees wanted high-end young pitching in return. They talked to the Astros about Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, for example. Fulmer and Norris are cut from a similar cloth. When it comes time to take offers for Miller again — I imagine the Yankees will listen even if they’re unwilling to sell — I assume they’ll again prioritize young power arms.

Yanks didn’t offer Mateo for Reyes

Remember a few weeks back when we heard the Yankees reportedly offered the Rockies shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo for Jorge Reyes last year? That didn’t pass the sniff test at all. As it turns out, the report was wrong. Tracy Ringolsby says the Yankees did not offer Mateo for Reyes, but Mateo’s name did come up during talks about a larger multi-player trade. That makes much more sense.

I wonder who else the Yankees could have been targeting in such a deal? The Rockies don’t exactly having pitching to spare — Jon Gray had not made his MLB debut at that point, and I can’t imagine Colorado was willing to trade him anyway — and the Yankees had no other massive needs since Reyes would have presumably replaced Stephen Drew at second. Maybe Mateo and stuff for Reyes and prospects? I have no idea what it could realistically be otherwise. Intrigue!

Nathan Eovaldi says he’s open to a long-term deal with the Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Andrew Marchand, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi said he is open to signing a long-term contract with the Yankees. Assuming the price is right, of course. “It would depend on what they offered,” said Eovaldi to Marchand. “I love it here.”

Eovaldi is one of the most important players on the roster right now. He’s only 26 and he’s pitching as well as he has at any point in his career. He’s also just a year away from free agency. The Yankees have to start thinking seriously about his long-term future if they haven’t already. (I’m sure they have.) Is Eovaldi most valuable long-term as a trade chip or in the rotation?

Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a right answer. You could make a very good argument for trading Eovaldi and a very good argument for keeping him. In fact, let’s do both really quick:

Nathan Eovaldi pros and cons

That about sums it up, right? The fact the upcoming free agent pitching market is terrible is a double-edged sword. Teams will be looking for pitching in trades and the Yankees have a pretty good pitcher to offer. Supply and demand, baby. At the same time, it also means it’s going to be pricey for the Yankees to build their own pitching staff.

Right now I am on team #ExtendEvo. I think power pitchers this young are hard to come by, and it helps that he’s already proven to be coachable (learned the splitter) and had some success in New York. If another team had Eovaldi and put him on the trade block — or he was available as a free agent — wouldn’t we want the Yankees to go after him? Of course we would.

At the same time, the Yankees have to listen to trade offers. It’s only smart. Someone might blow you away with an offer and the Yankees need all the young talent they can get. We know the Cubs have some interest. I could see the Giants, Rangers, Tigers, Astros, Pirates, White Sox, and Nationals all getting involved in Eovaldi talks too.

So far this season Eovaldi has a 3.71 ERA (3.53 FIP) in ten starts and 60.2 innings. His strikeout (22.9%) and ground ball (54.3%) rates are both career highs at the moment, as is his swing-and-miss rate (9.3%). There are plenty of reasons to like Eovaldi long-term and also some reasons to remain skeptical. No doubt about it. The fact he is at least open to an extension with the Yankees is a positive.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: June 2011

Big Z. (Brian Kersey/Getty)
Big Z. (Brian Kersey/Getty)

We are now in June and that means it’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. All we do each month is look back at the rumors we obsessed over five years ago. So many things that sounded silly back then make total sense now, and vice versa. As a reminder, we’re only posting this stuff for fun, not to embarrass the reporters or the MLBTR crew. They’re all cool in my book.

Alright, so back in June 2011 it was starting to become clear the Yankees hit the scrap heap lottery with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. They lost out on Cliff Lee over the winter and everyone was panicked about the rotation, both those two filled in nicely. It helped that Ivan Nova started to come into this own as well. The Yankees went into June with a 30-23 record and a one-game lead in the AL East, but they still had some pitching needs. Let’s dive into MLBTR’s June 2011 archives.

June 3rd, 2011: Yankees To Explore Deals For Starting Pitching

Though it may seem like the Yankees’ rotation is a strength, it has been solid rather than spectacular to this point in the season. The Yankees aren’t assuming Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia can continue pitching this well, so, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, they will be looking for ways to bolster their starting pitching depth this summer.

“Overall, the pitching is going to be the defining thing for us,” GM Brian Cashman told Sherman. “The pitching has excelled, but it is not wise or prudent to sit back and try not to reinforce and improve on it.”

Here is a complete list of starting pitchers traded during the 2011 season: Rodrigo Lopez, Felipe Paulino, Tommy Hunter, Jason Marquis, Erik Bedard, Doug Fister, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Edwin Jackson. Fister had not really come into his own yet while Lopez, Marquis, and Bedard were nearing the end of the line. Hunter was at the point where it was beginning to look like his future lied in the bullpen, and, sure enough, it did.

Jackson and Ubaldo were the two big names at the deadline. Jackson was coming up on free agency and the White Sox were bad, so flipping him made sense. He went to the Cardinals in a three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays. Jimenez pitched like an ace from 2009-10 (3.17 ERA and 3.23 FIP in Coors Field) but struggled in 2011 (4.46 ERA and 3.58 FIP), and no one was really sure which one was the real Ubaldo. Turned out to be the 2011 version. The Yankees were in on him but were unwilling to trade their top prospects, namely Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, so to the Indians he went. I remember being open to trading Montero for Jimenez. Zoinks.

June 3rd, 2011: Quick Hits: Orioles, Danks, Athletics, Yankees, Mets

The Mets are open to talking trade with the Yankees, writes David Lennon of Newsday.  Even though there are obvious hurdles, Lennon wonders if the two could be a match in a deal involving Carlos Beltran.

There was no real fit for Beltran on the 2011 Yankees. That team had Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson in the outfield, and the worst of those players (Gardner) was in his second full season the year after posting a .383 OBP. Jorge Posada was struggling at DH but the Yankees were never going to replace him.

The Mets were in sell mode at the time — they traded Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez that deadline, but did hold onto impending free agent Jose Reyes — and they had a few pieces who might have been able to help the Yankees. I don’t think Brian Cashman or Mets GM Sandy Alderson would have any problem making a crosstown trade if they believe it’s the best thing for their team. I think that’s true today and I think it was true in 2011. The two ownerships might be a little more squeamish. Potentially losing a trade to your crosstown rival is a bad look.

June 6th, 2011: Quick Hits: Zambrano, Stewart, Reds, Hall

Levine and Haugh each cite the Yankees as a potential trade partner, though it’s hard to imagine the Yankees taking on a high-priced pitcher with such baggage.  It’s even harder to imagine New York parting with a significant player like Joba Chamberlain or Brett Gardner in exchange for Zambrano, as Levine suggests.

The Cubs were quite bad in 2011 and Carlos Zambrano’s crazy guy act was starting to wear thin. He was only 30 at the time but he was starting to slip, enough that the Cubbies sent him to the bullpen in 2010. Zambrano had a 4.82 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 145.2 innings in 2011 and he was owed $18M in 2012, so yeah, not many clubs wanted him. The Yankees needed an arm, but not that badly.

The Cubs ended up eating that $18M and sending Zambrano to the Marlins following the season. He had a 4.49 ERA (4.47 FIP) with Miami in 2012 and then made seven minor league starts with the Phillies in 2013. That was it. He hasn’t pitched since. Today is Zambrano’s 35th birthday, you know. Hard to believe he’s still only 35.

June 7th, 2011: Quick Hits: Pettitte, Harper, Gordon

Andy Pettitte said on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 1050 that he is “loving” being home and that he doesn’t expect to play ever again. “If I missed it so much and I felt in my heart like that was the thing I need to do, I would try to start thinking about it and start considering it again,” he said. “But I’m just telling you right now, I don’t think I will ever pitch again.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork has the quotes from Pettitte.

Hey guys, remember that time Pettitte retired, said he was “loving” being home and didn’t expect to play again, then came back to pitch two more years? Good times. Don’t get me wrong, Andy coming back was awesome. It was just so absurd. There was the non-stop “will he or won’t he retire” non-updates during the 2010-11 offseason that, frankly, got to be annoying. Then Pettitte sat out a year before coming back and pitching to a 3.49 ERA (3.64 FIP) from 2012-13. Crazy.

June 7th, 2011: Stark On Montero, Athletics, Phillies

Though the Yankees never officially offered Jesus Montero to the Royals for Joakim Soria last year, executives around baseball are convinced GM Brian Cashman would have parted with the top catching prospect to acquire the Royals’ reliever.

This report was basically a bunch of executives guessing Cashman would have traded Montero for Soria, which I don’t buy. It’s a good thing he didn’t either. Michael Pineda hasn’t worked out as hoped, but in 2011 Soria had what was by far the worst year of his career up to that point (4.03 ERA and 3.49 FIP), then he blew out his elbow and needed his second career Tommy John surgery in 2012. He left as a free agent after that season. Montero for Soria in 2010 would have worked out horribly based on everything we know now, even with Montero turning into a dud.

June 8th, 2011: Yankees Claim Jeff Marquez

The Yankees claimed pitcher Jeff Marquez off waivers from the White Sox, MLBTR has learned.  The 26-year-old righty had been designated for assignment by Chicago on Sunday.  The move will require the Yankees to open up a spot on the 40-man roster; Marquez will be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.

Jeff Marquez! The random former prospects are easily my favorite part of the MLBTR Archives series. The Yankees selected Marquez with the 41st overall pick in the 2004 draft — that was the compensation pick for losing David Wells to the Padres as a free agent — and he was one of their better prospects for a few years. He eventually went to the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade.

Marquez made his MLB debut with the 2010 ChiSox, allowing two runs in one inning. The Yankees grabbed him off waivers in 2011 and he ended up appearing in three games with them that summer, allowing a run in four innings. Marquez hurt his shoulder and he spent most of that season on the DL. The Yankees cut him loose after the season. Marquez is still out there slingin’, you know. He was in an independent league last year, and this year he has a 3.08 ERA in ten starts and 52.2 innings for a team in Mexico.

June 10th, 2011: Heyman On Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, D’Backs

Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn’t expect elite starting pitching to be available this summer. “I just don’t see a No. 1 pitcher you can pinpoint,” Cashman said. 

Ubaldo was the closest thing to a No. 1 pitcher available at the time, and like I mentioned earlier, he did indeed pitch like a true No. 1 from 2009-10. Didn’t last though. Fister ended up being the guy who was moved at the deadline and provided ace-caliber production.

June 10th, 2011: Olney On Yankees, A’s, Moustakas

The Yankees have lost reliever after reliever to the disabled list this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to rush top pitching prospects like Manny Banuelos to the Bronx. GM Brian Cashman told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that he’ll try to strengthen the team’s bullpen in other ways. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors:

  • Triple-A reliever Kevin Whelan could be an option for the Yankees, who have a depleted bullpen instead of the dominant one they expected after the offseason.

Rafael Soriano (elbow), Pedro Feliciano (shoulder), and Joba Chamberlain (elbow) were all on the DL on the date of this report. Also, Phil Hughes was on the DL with a tired arm, forcing Colon into the rotation. David Robertson emerged as David effin’ Robertson that year and had taken over as the eighth inning guy. Luis Ayala was pitching in the seventh and Boone Logan was in his first year as the primary lefty. The rest of the bullpen was up in the air.

Whelan, who came over in the Gary Sheffield-Humberto Sanchez trade many moons ago, had a 2.75 ERA (3.28 FIP) in 52.1 Triple-A innings in 2011. It was one of those “hey, this guy who never threw strikes is throwing strikes!” situations. Whelan did get called up that summer, and he promptly walked five in 1.2 innings. He spent the 2012-15 seasons bouncing around Triple-A, and he did make it back to MLB briefly with the 2014 Tigers. Whelan’s out of baseball now, as far as I can tell.

June 13th, 2011: Yankees Sign Greg Smith, Cory Wade

The Yankees have signed southpaw Greg Smith and right-hander Cory Wade to minor league contracts, according to the International League’s transactions page.  Both pitchers will report to Triple-A Scranton.

Smith was nothing more than Triple-A roster filler. All those injuries depleted the team’s depth. Wade ended up being pretty damn awesome for the 2011 Yankees. He was called up a few days after signing and he gave the team 39.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA (3.76 FIP) despite an 88 mph fastball. Wade had that Bugs Bunny changeup. He was awful in 2012 though, and wound up getting cut loose after the season. He’s been out of baseball since 2014. We’ll always have the summer of 2011, Cory.

Also, the Yankees signed Wade because oft-injured bullpen prospect Tim Norton blew out his shoulder. Norton had a 1.50 ERA (2.31 FIP) with 46 strikeouts and 30 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A that year, I remember reading the club was preparing to call Norton up before the injury. They had to sign Wade instead. Norton never pitched again after the 2011 injury and he’s been coaching in the farm system the last few years. He is currently High-A Tampa’s pitching coach.

June 14th, 2011: Yankees To Sign Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon has opted out of his contract with the Phillies and will sign with the Yankees, according to to Ken Davidoff of Newsday (via Twitter, courtesy Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer). There is a condition in Gordon’s contract that stipulated he be added to an acquiring team’s Major League roster should he opt out, as Davidoff recently reported.

Ah yes, remember Brian Gordon? I remember the outrage when he was called up to make a spot start because the Yankees went with Gordon over a young Triple-A kid with good numbers named David Phelps. Anyway, Gordon made two starts with the Yankees, one of which was not awful. He asked for his release a few weeks later to pursue an opportunity in Asia. Gordon actually returned to the Yankees and spent some time in Triple-A in 2014. He’s been out of the game since.

Phelps, meanwhile, never recovered emotionally from getting passed over for the spot start and now sells homemade wicker baskets roadside in Missouri. Sad.

June 15th, 2011: Quick Hits: Bautista, Brian Gordon, Kuroda

Sherman also discusses Hiroki Kuroda, who he feels could be a target for the Yankees if the Dodgers want to dump his salary and the righty is willing to waive his no-trade clause.

Man I was all over Kuroda at the 2011 trade deadline. I wanted the Yankees to go after him so bad, though I’m pretty sure Kuroda eventually told the Dodgers he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause, so it was a moot point. Plenty of folks told me I was an idiot because Kuroda was just an NL pitcher. Hah! Who’s wrong now mofos? I’m wrong all the time but I was right about Kuroda, so excuse me while I live it up. Anyway, here’s a much needed #HIROK video.

Miss that guy so much.

June 15th, 2011: Rosenthal On Reds, Nunez, Edwin Rodriguez

The bright side of Derek Jeter‘s injury is that it gives the Yankees a look at Eduardo Nunez, their possible shortstop of the future.  Rosenthal also notes that Nunez could be a potential trade chip.

The “Eduardo Nunez, Shortstop of the Future” era was a weird one. The tools were there. Nunez could make contact with ease and he had a rocket arm, but man, he was so error prone. They were hilarious errors too. There are hilarious errors and sad errors. Nunez made hilarious errors. He hit .265/.313/.385 (87 wRC+) in over 300 plate appearances while filling in for injuries during that 2011 season, which was kinda sorta promising for a 24-year-old middle infielder. Nunez never built on that though and his defense became unplayable. He’s managed to carve out a role with the Twins as utility player. Good for him.

June 16th, 2011: Scott Kazmir Rumors: Thursday

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he hasn’t looked into the possibility of acquiring Kazmir but will eventually, tweets MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.  Cashman commented, “I know he’s struggled.”

The Angels flat out released Scott Kazmir about a week before this report, eating his $12M salary. He was hurt and he had a 5.54 ERA (5.12 FIP) in 299 innings from 2009-11. Yikes. I remember some folks wanted the Yankees to sign him because they needed pitching and he was a big name, but no one bit and he went unsigned. Kazmir had to work his way back to the big leagues through the independent leagues. He’s had a very nice second phase to his career as a sinker/changeup pitcher after starting his career as a flame-throwing fastball/slider guy.

June 16th, 2011: Yankees Release Amaury Sanit

The Yankees released righty Amaury Sanit to open a 40-man roster spot for Brian Gordon, tweets Newsday’s Ken Davidoff.  To clear a spot on the 25-man roster, Lance Pendleton was optioned to Triple-A.

Sanit was one of those lower profile Cuban players. The Yankees signed him cheap in 2008 and he spent a few years in their farm system before getting a chance as an up-and-down guy in 2011. He had a bullpen saving long relief appearance in his MLB debut. Sanit made only three big league appearances after that before hurting his elbow and getting released. He’s been pitching in Mexico ever since.

June 17th, 2011: Cubs Rumors: Zambrano, Dempster, Soriano

Some of the Yankees top evaluators have more interest in Ryan Dempster, reports Levine, as you might expect.  They’ll get a look at him Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  Dempster has $7.7MM remaining on his contract this year, as well as a $14MM player option for 2012.  He also has full no-trade rights and strong ties to Chicago.

The Cubs never did trade Dempster that season, probably because he had a 4.80 ERA (3.90 FIP) and another year on his contract. Why sell low when the team is going nowhere and you can afford the contract? Those innings aren’t going to pitch themselves. The Cubs ended up sending Dempster to the Rangers for two young players at the 2012 trade deadline, one of whom is righty Kyle Hendricks, who’s been a rock solid fifth starter for Chicago. That worked out for them. The Yankees? I thought they were smart to pass then and still think that now.

June 17th, 2011: Gammons: Yankees, Others Tampered With Miller

The Red Sox announced today that Andrew Miller will make his season debut against the Padres on Monday after calling him up from Triple-A before his opt-out clause became an issue. However, in an appearance on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni Show today, Peter Gammons said that the Yankees and several other teams tried to get Miller to opt-out of his deal. WEEI.com’s Jerry Spar has the transcript.

“I know this,” said Gammons, “There were a lot of teams that tampered and tried to get him to do the opt-out, including the New York Yankees. A lot of teams wanted him to opt out on Wednesday. Because of his trust for the Red Sox and how much they’ve invested in him — not in terms of money but in terms of effort to just get his delivery back and be patient with him, he stayed. In some ways, they’re fortunate. Because I think he could have gotten twice as much money if he had left.”

Huh, I don’t remember hearing about this at all. This probably happens all the time, right? When a guy has an opt-out date coming up, doesn’t his agent send out some feelers and gauge the market? That seems prudent.

June 22nd, 2011: Minor Deals: Lamb, Tiffee, Periard

The Yankees have signed Mike Lamb and Terry Tiffee to minor league deals, reports Donnie Collins of The Scranton Times-Tribune. Both infielders were playing in the independent Atlantic League, Lamb with the Camden River Sharks and Tiffee with the Lancaster Barnstormers. They will head to Triple-A.

Lamb and Tiffee were just Triple-A roster filler, though Lamb is a notable footnote in Yankees history. The Yankees acquired him from the Rangers in the minor trade back in 2004 after Aaron Boone tore his ACL playing basketball, and he was going to be their starting third baseman that season. Then the Yankees went out and acquired American Hero Alex Rodriguez to play the hot corner. New York flipped Lamb to the Astros for a minor leaguer at the end of Spring Training. That 2011 stint with Triple-A Scranton was Lamb’s last hurrah in pro ball.

June 23rd, 2011: Cashman: Reyes To Yankees ‘Not Going To Happen’

GM Brian Cashman told Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News that the Yankees are not going to acquire Jose Reyes any time in the foreseeable future. Cashman said a move for Reyes is “just not going to happen” and explained that he believes in his club’s current shortstops.

There was — and still is, kinda — this weird narrative about the Yankees going after Reyes that I’m not sure would exist if he hadn’t played with the Mets. Every year it was “Derek Jeter’s going to retire soon and Reyes can replace him at short,” which I guess made sense, except Jeter didn’t retire until Reyes had started his decline phase. People were talking about him replacing Jeter in like 2010. That just wasn’t going to happen.

The Mets never did trade Reyes at the deadline that year. They took the two draft picks after the season and used them on catcher Kevin Plawecki and infielder Matt Reynolds. That was all ownership though. The Wilpons didn’t let Alderson trade him because they wanted butts in the seats.

June 24th, 2011: K-Rod Would Consider Trade To Yankees, Rays

6:06PM: Rodriguez described himself as “irritated” about the story describing his interest in a trade to the Yankees, tweets Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger.  The closer reiterated that he wants to stay with the Mets.

8:13AM: Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that he would consider accepting a trade to a contending team like the Yankees, even if it meant setting up rather than closing. Rodriguez says he’d “love to stay” put, but understands that the Mets may approach him about waiving the no-trade protection that allows him to block deals to ten teams.

The Yankees were connected to K-Rod all the time too, though that’s a bit more understandable because teams always have room for another high-end reliever. The Mets did trade him that summer — I remember the trade was announced like ten minutes after the All-Star Game ended — for two prospects who never amounted to much. I have a hard time thinking the Wilpons would have signed off on a trade sending Rodriguez to the Yankees.

June 25th, 2011: Olney’s Latest: Cashman, Rays, K-Rod, Managers

In today’s Insider-only blog post, ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke to executives that believe this will be Brian Cashman’s last season as Yankees GM. His contract expires after the season, and it could just be a simple case of burnout. “I think maybe he’s finally had it,” said one GM. “That’s a job that will take a lot out of you.” Olney cites Cashman’s recent stretch of brutal and uncharacteristic honestly as evidence, but also notes that there have been three other instances in which he’s looked ready to leave, only to end up staying on three-year deals.

That was two three-year contracts ago. Cashman signed a three-year deal following the 2011 season and then another three-year contract following the 2014 season. That’s five straight three-year contracts, I believe. We’ve heard the “he’s burned out” and the “he’s sick of ownership overruling him” stuff many times over the years, yet Cashman is still around. Will he be around after his current deal expires following next season?

June 26th, 2011: Davidoff On Padres, Bell, Yankees, Reyes

The Yankees have called the Padres about Bell, but haven’t been as aggressive as other clubs who would use Bell to close games.

Heath Bell was pretty damn awesome for a few years there, but there were definitely some red flags in his game that 2011 season. I remember wanting the Yankees to stay away at the trade deadline and in free agency. Bell’s homer rate basically doubled in 2011 and his strikeout rate fell from 29.2% from 2009-10 to 19.9% in 2011. The Yankees never got particularly close to acquiring Bell as far as we know. The Padres never traded him, took the two draft picks when he left as a free agent after the season, and Bell immediately became cannon fodder. San Diego used one of the compensation picks to select righty Zach Eflin, who they later traded for Matt Kemp.

June 26th, 2011: AL East Notes: Hughes, Montero, Blue Jays, Rays

Rival evaluators have taken note of Jesus Montero‘s decline in offensive production this year, says ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider only). According to Olney, it’s led to some speculation that the Yankees could push to trade Montero this season “in an effort to recoup some value.”

Ah yes, the “Montero is bored” narrative. I definitely think there was some truth to that, though I didn’t consider it as much of a character flaw as I should have. Character flaw isn’t really the right term. I overlooked the apparent lack of motivation. Anyway, here are some Triple-A numbers:

2010 Montero: .289/.353/.517 (133 wRC+) with 21 homers in 123 games
2011 Montero: .288/.348/.467 (121 wRC+) with 18 homers in 109 games

The numbers aren’t that much worse, but they’re worse, and when a guy spends a full year at a level then repeats it the next year, the numbers should improve. Montero came up in September and mashed some dingers, then the Yankees flipped him for five years of a high upside starter. The idea they had to “recoup some value” was pretty crazy though. That sounds like rival execs trying to push his value down.

June 27th, 2011: New York Notes: Crosstown Trades, Osuna, Reyes

The Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Athletics, and Padres watched Roberto Osuna throw in Mexico on Thursday, reports Roberto Espinoza of Vanguardia (link in Spanish).  The Red Sox are also interested.  The 16-year-old Osuna is one of the top pitchers in the July 2nd class.

That’s the same Roberto Osuna who is currently in Toronto’s bullpen. The Blue Jays gave him a $1.5M bonus back in 2011 and injuries, most notably Tommy John surgery, limited him to 109 minor league innings from 2012-14. Osuna managed to make the Blue Jays out of Spring Training as a 20-year-old last year, and he’s now one of the best relievers in the league. The kid skipped Double-A and Triple-A.

That 2011-12 international signing period was the first year with bonus restrictions. Every team had $2.9M to spend that year, then the next year they starting basing the bonus pools on the reverse order of the standings. The biggest bonus the Yankees handed out that year went to third baseman Miguel Andujar. He got $750,000. The best player and prospect they signed that summer? Luis Severino. The Yankees picked him up for only $225,000.

June 28th, 2011: Sherman On Yankees, Padres, Clippard

Hoping for the Yanks to acquire Jair Jurrjens or Derek Lowe?  We’re not sure if either is available, but Sherman says “the Yankees’ policy has become pretty much to run away from Atlanta pitching after having successful Braves hurlers blow up on them.”

I’m trying to remember which Braves pitchers blew up on the Yankees. Jaret Wright for sure. Chris Hammond too. He had a 2.86 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 63 innings with New York in 2003 but I’m not sure anyone felt comfortable with him on the mound. I guess Steve Karsay fits. He only spent a half-season with the Braves before coming to the Yankees though. Does Denny Neagle count? He had a stint with the Reds between the Braves and Yankees. Javy Vazquez 2.0 didn’t work out too well, and more recently, there’s David Carpenter.

Braves pitchers seem to break down at a higher rate than all other pitchers, and maybe it’s just a fluke. Jurrjens, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and the late Tommy Hanson all broke down physically and/or had their performance collapse two or three years into their careers. Alex Wood’s elbow is acting up now too. Even if it is a fluke, that kind of recent track record is going to scare teams away. Say no to Braves pitchers. The long-term track record is awful unless you’re a Hall of Fame talent.

June 29th, 2011: Minor Deals: Kensing, Bautista

The Yankees have signed Logan Kensing to a minor league contract according to his representatives, CAA Baseball, on Twitter. The 28-year-old right-hander did not pitch in affiliated baseball last year and has a 5.81 ERA in 161 big league innings. He pitched for Yankees manager Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006.

I could have sworn Kensing spent some time with the Yankees, but apparently not. He only spent a few weeks in Triple-A. Once upon a time Kensing was supposed to be a future closer with the Marlins, though that never quite worked out. He’s still active though. In fact, Kensing made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster this year. He didn’t last long (4.2 innings) before being designated for assignment.

June 29th, 2011: Yankees Acquire Sergio Mitre

Sergio Mitre is heading back to the Bronx. The Yankees acquired the right-hander from the Brewers for cash considerations, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). Milwaukee designated Mitre for assignment Monday and he has since drawn interest from other teams.

That’s 2009 World Series champion Sergio Mitre to you. Mitre spent parts of three seasons with the Yankees. He had a 6.79 ERA (5.30) in 51.2 innings in 2009 and a 3.33 ERA (4.69 FIP) in 54 innings in 2010 before the team traded him to the Brewers for Chris Dickerson in Spring Training 2011. Milwaukee got sick of him and designated him for assignment, so the Yankees brought him back to help their injury depleted bullpen.

Mitre’s second stint with the Yankees lasted 5.1 innings. He allowed nine runs on nine hits and four walks before going down with a shoulder injury. The Yankees released Mitre following the season, he threw 11.1 innings in winter ball in Mexico in 2012, and hasn’t pitched since. Sergio Mitre was Esmil Rogers before Esmil Rogers came along.

Even on a hometown discount, passing on Robinson Cano was the smart move for the Yankees

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees are now in year three of the post-Robinson Cano era. The team has lacked a dominant offensive force since Cano left and it’s been painfully obvious at times. It wasn’t until this season that the Yankees finally found a long-term replacement at second base in Starlin Castro too. We all knew losing Robbie was going hurt. It wasn’t a surprise.

Based on everything we heard at the time, Cano would have taken a discount to remain with the Yankees, but not a big one. He wanted to get paid and that was his right. The Yankees maxed their offer out at seven years and $175M before the Mariners blew them out of the water at ten years and $240M. How could Cano say no to that? Seattle made the decision easy.

A friend of Cano’s told Mark Feinsand that Robbie was willing to take a larger discount than originally reported to remain in New York, however. The friend says Cano would have taken an eight-year deal at $200M, which is the Yankees’ final offer plus one additional year at the same average annual value. This is second hand information, it’s not coming directly from Cano, so take it with a grain of salt.

This news about Cano’s willingness to take a larger than reported discount doesn’t really change anything. He’s still a Mariner and the Yankees can’t have a do-over. I wouldn’t say the report raises some questions, but it does spark some thought. Three things immediately jumped to mind when I read what Cano’s friend told Feinsand.

1. Leaving $40M on the table would have been, uh, bold. I have a hard time believing Cano would have really taken $200M from the Yankees over $240M from the Mariners. This isn’t Andrew Miller turning down an extra $4M from the Astros to sign with the Yankees. We’re talking about $40M. Hey, Robbie had already made a lot of money at that point of his career, so maybe he really would have turned down an extra $40M (!) to stay in New York. It just seems so very unlikely, right? How does anyone turn down that much money? The MLBPA would have crushed Cano too. They would have been so pissed. I don’t doubt Feinsand’s reporting. I doubt Cano’s friend. This one doesn’t pass the sniff test.

2. Even at that price, passing on Cano was smart. Okay, so let’s say Cano really would have come back on an eight-year deal at $200M. Does that mean it would have been a good idea? Only if the goal was to get better value than the deal he took from the Mariners. We’re still talking about a player who had just turned 31 and averaged 160 games a year at a physically demanding position. The wear and tear could not be ignored.

Cano was truly great for the Yankees from 2009-13. The Yankees wouldn’t be getting 2009-13 Cano though. They would have been signing 2014-21 Cano, the guy who unquestionably would have been on the downside of his career. Robbie is having an excellent season to date (155 wRC+) but last season the Mariners got a scare when he put up a 116 wRC+ and barely resembled the Cano from the last half-decade. A contract of that size means you end up holding your breath an awful lot.

That 2013 season was a big wake up call for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira‘s wrist gave out, CC Sabathia‘s performance collapsed, and Alex Rodriguez‘s (other) hip gave out. The huge money contracts all started to go bad at once. Cano was great, but so were Teixeira and Sabathia and A-Rod once upon a time. Even at the “discount” rate of eight years and $200M, the Yankees were smart to not want pay big money through Cano’s decline years.

3. The problem wasn’t letting Cano walk, it was replacing him with Ellsbury. The Yankees essentially signed Jacoby Ellsbury to replace Cano, and that was bad. Now they’re going to end up paying big for someone’s decline years anyway. I know Ellsbury has been hitting well these last few weeks, but overall, his time in pinstripes has been largely forgettable. Give the Yankees a truth serum and I’m sure they’d tell you they’d like a do-over.

If given the choice between Ellsbury at seven years and $153M and Cano at eight years and $200M, give me Cano each and every time. I’d rather see the Yankees pony up for the elite homegrown player. Letting Robbie walk was a smart move long-term. The problem is the Yankees signed Ellsbury to replace him, so they still wound up with an expensive player heading into his mid-30s, except this one isn’t as good as the guy they had. The Yankees wanted to get back into contention in 2014 though, so when Cano walked, they pounced on Ellsbury. Blah.

* * *

The rational business side of baseball and the emotional fan side of baseball don’t always see eye to eye. I would have loved nothing more than to cheer Cano on as he chased 3,000 hits in pinstripes and cemented his place in Monument Park. At the same time, I understand committing huge bucks to Robbie’s age 31+ seasons was not a good idea. I can’t imagine the Mariners are looking forward to the remaining seven years of his contract.

I have a tough time believing the friend who says Cano would have taken eight years and $200M to return to the Yankees. That’s too steep of a discount. Either way, it doesn’t matter now. Cano is in Seattle and the Yankees are worse off without him in the short-term and better off without him in the long-term. That was always going to be the case.

Cashman confirms Yankees have not looked into contract extensions for Eovaldi, Pineda

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier this week the upcoming free agent class lost its top pitcher when Stephen Strasburg surprisingly signed a seven-year extension with the Nationals. I say surprisingly because Strasburg is a Scott Boras client, and Boras tends to push his top clients to free agency whenever possible. I guess $175M with two opt-outs was too good to pass up.

The Yankees have two starters of their own nearing free agency in Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, though Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman the team has not looked into signing either right-hander long-term. They’re also not looking to trade them right now. “People have expressed interest in the past on those two people, but at this stage, that is not our focus, our focus is contention,” said the GM.

We’ve talked about possible extensions for Pineda and/or Eovaldi in the past and honestly, my opinion seems to change by that day. Is that normal? I hope so. Both Pineda and Eovaldi can become free agents following next season, and, like everyone else, they have their pluses and minuses. They both offer high-end stuff, but the results aren’t always there. Eovaldi has flashed dominance more often, especially of late.

The way I see it, the Yankees have two options with Pineda and Eovaldi: trade them or extend them. They don’t have to do it right now, just at some point before they hit free agency. Letting them walk as free agents for nothing more than a draft pick — assuming the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t eliminate draft pick compensation — is a non-option to me. These are assets that need to be maximized.

Not many starting pitchers have signed extensions a year before free agency. Strasburg is an outlier. So, if the Yankees do decide to extend Pineda and/or Eovaldi after the season, there are few benchmarks to reference. Here are some recent extensions signed by pitchers a year before free agency:

  • Josh Tomlin: Two years, $5.5M.
  • Rick Porcello: Four years, $82.5M.
  • Homer Bailey: Six years, $105M.
  • Charlie Morton: Three years, $21M.

None of that helps us at all, unfortunately. Pineda and Eovaldi are most similar to Bailey in that they’re still young guys who can market themselves as being on the upswing. Does that mean the Yankees should offer them $17M a year? Of course not. Bailey had not yet had a major arm surgery like Pineda (shoulder) and Eovaldi (Tommy John surgery) and that’s not insignificant.

My feeling right now — and this is subject to change — is the Yankees should sign Eovaldi long-term and trade Pineda. Eovaldi has been better this year but that’s not the only reason. He’s a year younger, he doesn’t have major shoulder surgery in his recent history, and I think he has a better pitch mix with his fastball/splitter/slider. I feel more comfortable plopping a boatload of money in front of Eovaldi than I do Pineda.

The Yankees would be foolish to not at least gauge the trade market for Eovaldi and Pineda at some point. The free agent market is weak, so everyone is going to look for pitching via trades, and the Yankees could get themselves a surprisingly big haul. It doesn’t cost anything to listen. They also have to find some pitching for themselves beyond next season, and if Eovaldi and Pineda weren’t Yankees right now, we’d be looking at them as possible targets.

Stephen Strasburg’s extension and the Yankees

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg managed to agree to a contract extension in the middle of a start last night. While he was on the mound against the Tigers, news broke Strasburg and the Nats had a seven-year extension in place. The deal is worth $175M and includes opt-outs after the third and fourth years. The contract will be made official later today.

Massive contracts like this change the baseball landscape. Strasburg was on track to become a free agent after the season and pretty much every team with money to burn and a hole in their rotation was going to be interested. The Nationals opened their wallets and paid up. If nothing else, their fans now a least have some hope they will do the same with Bryce Harper in a few years. For now, here are some ways the Strasburg deal affects the Yankees.

Wow Does The Free Agent Pitching Class Stink

Strasburg was, by far, the best pitcher scheduled to become a free agent after the season. I wasn’t expecting the Yankees to make a run at him or any other big name free agent — that might not happen until they reset their luxury tax rate — but you can never truly rule this team out on free agents. What if they win 70 games and finish in last place? Would it surprise anyone if the Yankees respond by spending $400M in free agency? Nah.

The Yankees need pitching the same way every team needs pitching. With Strasburg off the board, here is a quick list of the best starters scheduled to become free agents after the season (full list):

Clay Buchholz
Andrew Cashner
Bartolo Colon
R.A. Dickey
Jeremy Hellickson
Rich Hill
Mat Latos

There are some options and opt-outs that can come into play (Gio Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Derek Holland, Edinson Volquez are the notables) but that’s the list. You really have to squint your eyes to find a difference maker in that group. I’m really surprised Strasburg and Scott Boras decided to forego free agent with that class. He might have gotten $200M on the open market.

The Yankees have quite a bit of money coming off the books after the season and spending on a free agent starter to beef up the rotation seemed possible. Maybe not a huge money deal, but a little something, you know? Now that Strasburg is off the board, there’s going to be much more competition for the mid-range arms. Someone’s going to end up betting a lot of money on Buchholz and Cashner not being enigmas going forward.

The Trade Market: As Buyers

Because the free agent pitching market looks so weak, expect the trade circuit to be busy. No team has too much pitching, but some have more pitching than others, and a few of those clubs figure to cash in an extra arm as a trade chip. The Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Indians stand out as candidates to move a pitcher. Sonny Gray is going to be the big name. Jose Fernandez too. Expect to hear a lot of Gray and Fernandez rumors over the next, I dunno, eight months or so.

The Yankees have exactly one starter under control beyond next season (Luis Severino) assuming Masahiro Tanaka opts out, so they’ll be one of the many clubs looking for pitching this coming offseason. They always are. They were looking for pitching this past offseason, remember. Teams looking for an impact pitcher can’t turn to free agency with Strasburg signed. The Yankees will have more competition on the trade market, which seems to be their preferred way to acquire talent nowadays. Not great, Bob.

The Trade Market: As Sellers

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

On the other side of the coin, the Yankees will potentially be in position to take advantage of the seller’s trade market. Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda will be free agents after next season. The Yankees would be foolish not to see what those two could fetch in trades this offseason. Some team could look at Pineda, see a guy with ace ceiling, and pay big. Same with Eovaldi.

Pineda and Eovaldi are both reasonably young. They both have sexy peripherals, they both have big time stuff, and there’s a chance to get a draft pick when they do become free agents. That makes both very desirable in trades. If the Yankees do not plan to sign either long-term term, they owe it too themselves to put them out on the trade market and try to get a nice return this winter. It’s not necessarily about selling to rebuild. It’s about maximizing assets. Pitching will be at a premium.

The Tommy John Discount?

This past offseason Jordan Zimmermann became the first pitcher to sign a $100M+ deal after having Tommy John surgery. (Shin-Soo Choo was the first to do it overall.) Strasburg is the second, and he blew away Zimmermann’s deal. There is no doubt Tommy John surgery presents certain risks going forward, even for guys like Zimmermann and Strasburg, who have thrown hundreds of innings since having their elbows rebuilt.

Both Strasburg and Zimmermann signed deals that were probably smaller than most expected. Heck, I thought Strasburg and Boras were going to try to eclipse David Price’s pitching record $217M deal because he’s a few years younger and the market was less saturated. So many pitchers are having Tommy John surgery early in their careers that now these guys are hitting free agency in their late-20s and early-30s, their prime years. It’s not just the old workhorses getting new elbow ligaments.

The Strasburg and Zimmermann contracts could indicate there is some sort of discount applied to pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery. That’s relevant to the Yankees because Eovaldi and Ivan Nova are due to hit free agency soon, and both have the zipper. Is it possible elbow reconstruction means it would be cheaper to re-sign those two? Two data points like Strasburg and Zimmermann doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, really. It’s just an observation.

* * *

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting the Yankees to be a serious player for Strasburg after the season. His signing does change the pitching landscape though, both the free agent and trade market, and that will affect the Yankees. Fewer available quality starters means more competition, and it also may represent an opportunity to turn players like Pineda and Eovaldi into other assets.