Archive for Hot Stove League
Via Buster Olney: Shortstop Stephen Drew is not among the players with a contract offer from the Yankees in hand. The team reportedly has several offers out even after agreeing to sign Brian McCann. They’ve been adding infield depth these last few weeks, specifically by agreeing to re-sign Brendan Ryan and acquiring Dean Anna.
Drew, 30, hit .253/.333/.443 (109 wRC+) with 13 homers and six stolen bases in 501 plate appearances for the Red Sox this past season. He also plays a mean shortstop. Boston did tender him a qualifying offer, so teams will have to forfeit a high draft pick to sign him. Drew turned down more money from the Yankees last offseason to sign with the Red Sox because of playing time uncertainty, uncertainty that still exists. The Bombers still need help on the left side of the infield, but at this point they might settle for lower cost options like Ryan.
Earlier today, the Pirates announced they have designated Garrett Jones for assignment. They needed to open a 40-man roster spot following a minor trade with the Padres. Jones was going to be non-tendered — Matt Swartz projects him to earn $5.3M through arbitration — so Pittsburgh just sped up the process and cut him loose now rather than wait until next Monday’s deadline.
Jones, 31, hit .233/.289/.419 (97 wRC+) with 15 homers in 440 plate appearances this year, including .241/.295/.435 (103 wRC+) against right-handers. The lefty swinger has hit .264/.324/.486 (122 wRC+) against righties over the last three seasons and can play both right field and first base. Jones can’t hit lefties at all (28 wRC+ since 2011) and his defense is passable at best. His value is tied up exclusively in his power and, lucky for him, his dead pull swing is pretty much tailor made for Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees have tried to acquire Jones before, most notably asking for him in the A.J. Burnett trade talks, so expect them to at least kick the tires as soon as he clears waivers and declares free agency. He could work as a power bat off the bench who sees time in right field and at DH while serving as protection for the increasingly injury prone Mark Teixeira. Jones has been okay at best over the last four years and there’s a chance the 2013 season is an indication he’s about to fall off a cliff. I don’t think this is a no-brainer, but at the right price though, he makes sense for New York as a role player.
It’s easy to talk a big game, especially when dozens of reporters and columnists hang on your every word. The Yankees certainly took advantage of their captive audience early in the off-season, pronouncing interest in essentially every high-end free agent. But talk is cheap, especially concerning something as unpredictable as the free-agent market. The Yankees certainly had a way out of their heavy proclamations.
Just because you’re interested in free agents, doesn’t mean that you’ll sign them. While not all 29 other teams are in on every available player, there is typically a healthy level of competition for the best free agents. Each team has its own limits on dollars and years. The Yankees easily could have justified not signing any of the top free agents, by merely saying that each was an overpay they weren’t willing to make.
The Brian McCann signing indicates that the Yankees aren’t just full of hot air. They addressed their biggest need, and will now move on to fill the other weaknesses on their roster. As Mike noted yesterday, reports have emerged that the Yankees are talking aggressively with other free agents, and even have offers out to some of them. The winter of 2012-2013 this is not.
While the Yankees likely have genuine interest in signing each of the players with whom they’re engaged, at least part of the reason for their aggression has to do with their own free agent, Robinson Cano. As Joel Sherman notes, the Yankees “badly want to retain the second baseman,” and are attempting to move quickly on him. Cano, for his part, appears ready to wait out the market until he gets the offer he wants. But the Yankees’ tactics could change his tune.
Current reports have the Yankees’ offer to Cano at seven years at $165 million, which is about $1 million more per year than the Yankees paid Mark Teixeira five years ago. The offer runs one fewer year, but Cano is also two years older than Teixeira was at the time of signing. Sherman notes that the Yankees “perhaps have some wiggle room upward…[b]ut not much.” What that means, exactly, in terms of perhaps a $175 contract for seven years, or a replica of Teixeira’s $180 million for eight years, is anyone’s guess. Regardless of where the Yankees will go, they have the best, and only, offer currently available to Cano.
By aggressively pursuing other free agents, the Yankees are implicitly signaling to Cano that they will not wait around for him, and that their dollars will be spent whether or not he signs. That’s bad news for Cano and his agents. Losing the leverage of the Yankees will hurt their bargaining positions with the 29 other teams, many of which won’t even place a bid for Cano’s services. What are his chances of getting an offer even close to the Yankees’ current one with his home team out of the bidding?
It only takes one team, for sure, as Prince Fielder learned two off-seasons ago. Yet the Tigers, who submitted the winning bid very late in the off-season, just paid $30 million to be rid of Fielder and the remainder of his contract. In fact, a number of other free agent contracts recently handed out might serve as a warning to teams that value long-term financial flexibility. The cases of Fielder, Albert Pujols, Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez could have teams gun shy about deals of even eight years. What are the chances that Detroit jumps back into the long-term free agent pool the very same winter they traded the previous guy?
The Yankees, as reports indicate, wish to meet with Cano this week to, as Jon Heyman puts it, “figure out whether there’s something to talk about.” If there’s not, it appears the Yankees will pursue the remaining players on their list without regard to Cano. That situation could prove costly. Imagine a scenario where the Yankees spend $200 million this off-season. Now imagine Cano signing in January for less than the $165 million the Yankees have currently on the table. Without them in the race, that could certainly happen. It wouldn’t be an impressive debut effort from Jay Z, and you can be sure the media, nationwide, will hammer home that point.
Alternatively, imagine Cano agreeing to a seven- or eight-year deal between $175 and $180 million. It will be a far cry from his $300 million request, but it will also come from the home team. Cano and his agents can actually spin this in a way that makes Cano seem like the good guy for taking “only” $180 million.
His intention all along was to stay in New York, and he was willing to back off a contract he felt he deserved in order to do so. He was moved by the retirement of Mariano Rivera and wants a similar sendoff for himself as a Yankee.
Cano gets paid more than any other free agent this off-season and last, and he could make more than any next off-season, depending on the market for Hanley Ramirez. He stays with the team where he is most visible and marketable, while coming off looking like the good guy. The Yankees get their man, at a not-too-inflated price. Everyone comes out ahead.
It’s tough to see exactly how this will play out. Both sides have talked big games, to the point that they’re approaching a game of chicken. We should get a good idea soon which one blinks.
Update: ESPN NY’s Andrew Marchand reports, well, basically what was just laid out here. There’s a time limit on the “best offer” that the Yankees can make. It’s not a take it or leave it ultimatum, but it’s essentially saying that if Cano doesn’t budge, the Yanks will move on with their priorities and won’t have enough money left to offer Cano the $160-plus-million they have on the table currently.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees prefer Carlos Beltran to more expensive outfield free agents like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, and he has let others know New York is his top choice. The mutual interest isn’t all that surprising. Beltran seeks a three-year contract, however, and the Yankees only want to give him a two-year deal. Feinsand says this isn’t a deal-breaker.
Beltran, 36, hit .296/.336/.491 (132 wRC+) with 24 homers in exactly 600 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. On the surface, a true switch-hitting right fielder with power and patience is exactly what the Yankees need. He’s a perfect fit. That said, Beltran carries plenty of risk and it goes beyond his age. Everything you need to know is in the Scouting The Market post. A two-year deal in the $28-30M range seems perfectly reasonable to me, but I’d probably walk away before pushing the offer to three years.
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees are staying in touch with second-tier free agents like Nate McLouth. Money is getting tight under the $189M luxury tax threshold (even if Alex Rodriguez gets suspended), so the team needs cheaper backup outfield plans just in case they spend big on pitching over the next few weeks.
3:56pm: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are “currently engaged” in talks with Beltran, Drew, Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and various unnamed mid-rotation starters. Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are not in the mix at the moment.
1:12pm: Via Buster Olney: The Yankees still have offers out to various free agents even after agreeing to sign Brian McCann last night. He says there is currently no traction in talks with Robinson Cano and the team doesn’t want to sit around and wait. I dig it. In addition to Cano, I’m guessing they have offers out to … Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, Grant Balfour, and Hiroki Kuroda. Whaddya think?
3:50pm: Jon Heyman says the Yankees were one of several teams that indicated a willingness to give Peralta a four-year deal in the $52M range. The free agent told clubs he simply preferred St. Louis.
1:06pm: According to Jim Bowden, the Cardinals have agreed to sign free agent infielder Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract worth more than $52M. That’s pretty pricey. The Yankees were said to have some interest in Peralta as they look to improve the left side of the infield, but I’m not surprised he took the everyday shortstop job elsewhere rather than bounce between shortstop and third base for New York. Either way, he’s a non-option now.
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams that have called the Dodgers to inquire about Matt Kemp. Los Angeles has four outfielders (Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig) for three spots and are reportedly looking to deal one of the veterans to address a different hole on the roster. I assume the two sides talked before New York dropped big bucks on Brian McCann.
Kemp, 29, hit .270/.328/.395 (103 wRC+) with six homers and nine stolen bases in 73 games this past season while missing time with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle problems. He had surgery on the ankle a few weeks ago and surgery on the shoulder last winter. Kemp was an absolute monster in 2011 (168 wRC+ and 8.4 fWAR) and excellent in 2012 (146 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR) despite missing more than 50 games with hamstring problems. He is owed $128M through 2019 and comes with a $20M annual luxury tax hit.
A trade for Kemp would be complicated for several reasons. First of all, what do the Dodgers want in return? I doubt they’d take prospects; they’re a win now team and probably want a third baseman or a starter, two things the Yankees don’t have to offer. Second, there’s the money. If Los Angeles kicks in enough cash to make him a $16-17M a year player instead of $20M, Kemp would be way more appealing. Third, those injuries. These aren’t bumps and bruises, it’s serious stuff. That said, the upside is insane. He just turned 29 in September and could legitimately be one of the five best players in baseball if healthy. Trading for Kemp is a great idea that might be too complicated to actually pull off.
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees never showed much interest in free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz before he agreed to re-sign with the Phillies. The Fightin’s gave him a three-year contract worth $26M with a club option for a fourth year earlier this week. New York had interest in acquiring the backstop prior to the trade deadline but was told he was not available.
Ruiz, 34, hit .268/.320/.368 (89 wRC+) with five homers in 341 plate appearances this past season after serving a 25-game amphetamine-related suspension. He managed a 128 wRC+ from 2010-2013 and is regarded as adequate defensively. The contract is probably a year too long but the salary is reasonable. The Yankees seem to be going in one of two directions behind the plate: either they’ll go big and sign Brian McCann or they’ll go cheap with Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, et al. The latter seems more likely given payroll restrictions.
The Cardinals traded David Freese (and a reliever) to the Angels for Peter Bourjos (and a prospect) this afternoon, both teams announced. This is notable because the Yankees were discussing Freese with St. Louis recently, but talks didn’t advance because New York didn’t have much to offer. There was some belief they could revisit talks later in the offseason, but forget that now. Even if Alex Rodriguez does not get suspended, the Yankees need to look for a capable third baseman just because he’s such an injury risk.
Thursday: The Yankees do indeed have legitimate interest in Nathan, according to Mark Feinsand. They are going to focus on more pressing needs (rotation, offense in general) first before circling back around for big money bullpen help, however.
Sunday: Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees have “had contact” with free agent right-hander Joe Nathan. They are seeking a late-inning reliever to pair with David Robertson in the wake of Mariano Rivera‘s retirement, and they’ve already shown interest in free agent Grant Balfour as well. It figures they would at least touch base with the market’s top available closer at some point.
Nathan, who turns 39 on Friday, pitched to a 1.39 ERA and 2.26 FIP in 64.2 innings for the Rangers this season while going 43-for-46 in save chances. Following a slight hiccup in 2011, he’s rebounded to be his usual self following Tommy John surgery in 2010. Nathan is probably going to get a pricey two of three-year contract this winter (Tigers?) and that doesn’t really fit into New York’s budget. As with Javier Lopez, it’s good they did their due diligence, but money might be an obstacle.