Archive for Irresponsible Rumormongering
Brian Cashman and Co. have been spending a good deal of time at the local junk yard, searching for scraps that can perhaps fit into their Frankenstein of a 2013 roster. At this point, given the many weaknesses, any available player represents a potential upgrade; even Vernon Wells could prove better than fellow scrap heap additions Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch.
Today a few teams lumped a few more players onto the scrap heap. Looked at from the perspective of the defending AL East champs they normally wouldn’t merit consideration. But with these Yankees, anyone is in play.
Lyle Overbay: The Red Sox signed Mike Napoli to play first base, but with the issues they discovered during his physical they sought a MLB-caliber backup plan. That turned out to be Lyle Overbay, whom they signed to a minor league deal in late January. Had he made the Red Sox it would have been his fifth team in the last four years. Today they cut him loose, so he’ll be seeking a different home for that fifth team.
With David Ortiz starting the year on the DL, it seemed that Overbay had a chance to make the Sox roster. Apparently they think they can get more out of Mike Carp and perhaps some of their younger players. For his part, Overbay hit well in parts of two seasons with Arizona, but has generally struggled since 2009. He could provide a temporary solution at first base, perhaps platooning with Juan Rivera. Given the Yankees’ vulnerability against left-handed pitching, though, it seems more likely they’ll stick with the right-handed bat.
Tyler Greene: If the Astros cut a player, he’s not likely to be of much use to any other team. Ask 30 baseball pundits who will have the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and all 30 will guess Houston. Why would the Yankees have any use for a player the Astros couldn’t even use? Because at shortstop the pickings are slim.
If Derek Jeter opens the season on the DL, Eduardo Nunez becomes the starting SS with Jayson Nix backing him up. If Nunez’s throwing problems persist and he’s no longer a viable option at SS, Nix isn’t a guy you can really play there every day. That leaves Reegie Corona as the next option on the depth chart. Greene, a 2005 first-round pick, hasn’t hit a lick: .224/.292/.356 in 689 MLB PA. In the minors his only real successes came in the Pacific Coast League, where Bubba Crosby once hit .361/.410/.635. Yet he’s still a likely upgrade over Corona, and gives the Yankees a decent defensive option if Jeter remains immobile and Nunez falters.
Ramon Hernandez: He’s not on the scrap heap yet, but it certainly appears he’s headed there. Troy Renck of the Denver Post says that that Hernandez will either be traded or released at some point. He’ll earn $3.2 million this year, and given his abysmal 2012 season, combined with his advanced age, either the Rockies will eat almost all of that in a trade or else be forced to release him.
The Yankees seem committed to Francisco Cervelli to start the season. The disdain for Cervelli is a bit over the top in my opinion, seeing as he does own a career .271/.339/.353 line in about a full season’s worth of PA. Still, that’s spread out pretty far so the Yankees could use a backup plan. Austin Romine will likely need some more time, and Chris Stewart is hardly an option to start. Hernandez was worse last year, but he also suffered from a hand injury. At 37, though, he’s quite a risk. The Yanks might rather go with who they have in camp already than an unknown outsider.
In normal years, we might have laughed off these players. Who needs these old, underperforming players? But with injuries and general lack of depth this year, everyone becomes an option. At this point it would be something of a surprise if the Yankees didn’t sign one of these three players.
Friday: Wally Matthews hears there is “no chance” the Yankees will pursue Bourn, nevermind sign him. Not only is his price tag too high, but the team is looking for a right-handed outfield bat, not another lefty. No surprise here.
Sunday: Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are believed to be “quietly interested” in Michael Bourn. With Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton off the board, Bourn and Nick Swisher are by far the two best outfielders left on the free agent market.
Bourn, 30 later this month, hit .274/.348/.391 (104 wRC+) with 42 steals (in 55 attempts) for the Braves this year. He’s one of the very defensive outfielders in the game and has a classic slap-hitting, leadoff man profile from the left side of the plate. The Yankees already have two of those guys in Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, so their supposed interest doesn’t make much sense. Add in the fact that he’s a Scott Boras client (no discount) and would require a draft pick to sign, this one doesn’t pass the sniff test.
During the Winter Meetings last week, Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported the Indians had the framework of an Asdrubal Cabrera trade in place with an unknown team before things fell apart. They would have received an big leaguer pitcher and two prospects for their shortstop, who would have been moved to a new position by his new team. I connected the dots and speculated that the Yankees may have been that unknown team give their needs and surpluses.
In an update today, Hoynes reports that no, it wasn’t the Yankees. It was the Phillies. They offered the Tribe right-hander Vance Worley and two prospects before backing out of the deal when the Indians asked for a fourth player. Philadelphia has since traded Worley to the Twins for Ben Revere and would have used Cabrera at third base in deference to Jimmy Rollins. The Yankees, meanwhile, seem likely to fill their various roster holes through free agency (on one-year contracts) rather than with trades.
Here’s a nugget from Paul Hoynes, Indians beat writer extraordinaire for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer…
The going price on [shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera] is three to four players, preferably four. The Indians had the framework of a deal in place in which they would have received one big-league pitcher and two high-level prospects. When the Indians asked for a third prospect, the deal dissolved.
The particular team the Indians were negotiating with planned to change Cabrera’s position, but right now he’s the top shortstop available this winter through free agency or trades.
Tell me that doesn’t have the Yankees written all over it. One big league pitcher? Take your pick of Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Two high-level prospects? Pick two, though I’m not sure if “high-level” means top prospects or guys who played at Double-A and Triple-A. Asking Cabrera to change positions? Makes sense now that Alex Rodriguez will miss the start of next season. Could be a coincidence, but the glove sure does fit.
Cabrera, 27, has hit a solid .272/.335/.443 (116 wRC+) with 41 homers over the last two seasons. He’s a switch-hitter with no platoon split (115 wRC+ vs. RHP and 117 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011) and depending on your choice of defensive metric, he’s either a slightly-above-average (DRS and FRAA) or well-below-average defender (UZR) at short with minimal experience at the hot corner (four defensive outs in 2007). The Indians signed him to a short-term extension this past April, and he’s owned $6.5M next year and $10M the year after ($8.25M average annual value for luxury tax purposes) before qualifying for free agency. With A-Rod out and Nick Swisher‘s and Russell Martin‘s offense unlikely to be fully replaced, it’s easy to see why the Yankees would have pursued Cabrera to the point where they were on the verge of a deal.
Just to be clear, this is total speculation. Hoynes reported the Indians had a deal in place that fell through, and I’m just connecting the dots. Given the number of teams that need a shortstop and could offer a similar package (the Rays, Red Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks), it’s the part about asking Cabrera to change positions that sticks out. That said, the Dodgers are reportedly committed to Hanley Ramirez at short and could have interest in Asdrubal as a third baseman. The Phillies could want him at the hot corner as well. Even if the team in the rumor was not the Yankees, Cabrera is a player they should look into acquiring since seems the price reasonable (at least to me).
8:36am: According to Nikkan Sports (translated article), the Yankees have re-signed Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract worth $5M plus incentives. Sweeny Murti, however, says it is just a rumor and not a done deal. No offense to the reporters overseas, but I have more trust in the local scribes. That price certainly passes the sniff test though.
Ichiro, 39, has indicated he “strongly wants to stay” with the team and is willing to wait for them to take care of other offseason business first. If the Yankees do bring him back as the primary right fielder, adding a right-handed hitting outfielder for the bench will be an absolute must. The same goes for a big bat at DH, because they’re going to be losing quite a bit of offense by replacing Nick Swisher with Ichiro.
4:49pm: For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman says the two clubs had a “lighthearted exchange” about A-Rod back in late-April but have not talked since. Even if they were talking, the Yankees would obviously deny it anyway.
4:30pm: Via Bryan Hoch: Brian Cashman said rumors that the Yankees are talking to the Marlins about a trade involving Alex Rodriguez are “not true.” Reports indicated that New York would be willing to eat virtually all of $114M left on A-Rod’s deal to facilitate a trade, and one variation had Heath Bell coming in return.
The Yankees will probably look to shed Alex this offseason but he does have full veto power thanks to his ten-and-five no-trade protection, so it won’t be easy. He did grow up in Miami and makes his offseason home there though, so who knows. I just wouldn’t hold my breath. At some point eating so much money is counterproductive since the Yankees will need to find a replacement third baseman and all that money will still count towards the luxury tax.
Via MLBTR, the Yankees were one of several teams that recently watched Ben Sheets throw at his home in Louisiana. He hopes to help some team down the stretch. The Phillies, Braves, and Angels were also in attendance.
Sheets, 34 next month, hasn’t been an effective pitcher since 2008. He missed all of 2009 and 2011 with various elbow surgeries — Tommy John and flexor tendon stuff — and pitched to a 4.71 FIP in 119.1 IP for the Athletics in 2010. Sheets is one of the most underappreciated great pitchers of his generation, but it’s hard to think he has something to offer a big league team at this point. I’m sure the Yankees were just doing their due diligence.
Via Josh Norris, the Yankees had talked with the Nationals about a trade involving one of Washington’s starting pitchers earlier this season. Eduardo Nunez, southpaw prospect Nik Turley, and an unnamed Low-A Charleston outfielder* were supposedly heading the nation’s capitol. Talks have cooled of late and nothing is imminent.
It stands to reason that Edwin Jackson was the subject of the trade talks. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman are presumably off-limits and Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, and John Lannan aren’t anything special. Certainly not guys you’d trade three young players for. Jackson signed a one-year contract with the Nats this offseason and can’t be traded until June 15th without his consent. It’s an interesting rumor, but Washington lives and dies with its starting pitching. It doesn’t appear that they’re getting enough of an offensive upgrade to dish one of their four best starters, even if he’s only signed through this season.
* I have to think it’s either Ben Gamel or Kelvin DeLeon. I can’t imagine either Mason Williams or Tyler Austin being including in a package like this unless one of Strasburg, Gio, and Zimmermann was on the table, and I find it very hard to believe they are.
As we all know by now, the Yankees are telling people they are hoping to fill their vacancy at DH via trade (which would presumably include dealing either A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes) first, and should that fail, scour the remaining free-agent market as a fallback option.
The following is a short-list of potential designated hitter candidates (ideally of the left-handed hitting variety, to create a platoon with Andruw Jones) that could make some sense as trade targets for the Yankees. It should be noted that none of these players are likely on the trading block — three of four are penciled in as starters — but what better to stoke the Hot Stove fires with than irresponsible rumormongerng?
Garrett Jones, Pirates. Prior to embarking on research for this post I’d never even heard of Jones, but he hit righties fairly well last season, posting a .351 wOBA/122 wRC+ in 406 PAs, including an 11.3 BB%. Combined with Jones ideally putting together something reasonably comparable to the .400 wOBA/151 wRC+ he compiled against LHP from last season, and that’d not only make for one of the more productive DHs in the league, but also perhaps the first-ever all-Jones platoon in baseball history. Garrett also carries a career .360 wOBA against RHP along with a 125 wRC+ and 11.3 BB% in more than 1,000 PAs — the man knows how to hit right-handed pitching.
At 30, he’s also no spring chicken, and I can’t envision the cost in players being all that considerable, although as Joe noted to me, “He’s one of their only decent bats, so I’m not sure they’d let him go cheaply. Considering his age and must-platoon status, I’m not sure there’s a good match there.” A late bloomer, Jones is also under team control for three more years, so that would likely impede a hypothetical deal further. Still, Brian Cashman and Neal Huntington do seem to like each other as trading partners, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cash figure something creative out given the team’s current glut of pitching.
Nolan Reimold, Orioles. Despite the fact that the Yankees and Orioles have hooked up for just one player-for-player trade in the 19 years since Peter Angelos bought the Orioles franchise, Ken Rosenthal yesterday posited that the birds could be a logical trade partner for Burnett. While a deal involving anyone seems highly unlikely, earlier this offseason I wrote about Reimold potentially being a useful bench piece. Unfortunately he doesn’t meet the left-handed-hitting component of our criteria, but he actually can hit righties, tagging them with a .360 wOBA/124 wRC+ (10.1 BB%) in 201 PAs last season, and he’s evinced a slight reverse platoon split during his career, with a .345 mark against righties compared to .332 against lefties. He’s also not currently projected to start for Baltimore, perhaps making him a bit more expendable. Still, file this under not bloody likely.
Lucas Duda, Mets. This is even less likely than a deal with the O’s, as the Mets would presumably have to be blown away to trade a player that is arguably their second-best hitter and one who also happens to be cost-controlled. After all, the CitiField faithful are going to need something to get excited about given the bleak outlook of the next few years. Still, with the Yankees’ excess of arms, perhaps a deal involving Phil Hughes and one of the fourth-starter types at AAA (who would probably fare quite a bit better both in the NL and at the cavernous ballpark in Queens than in the Bronx) or some sort of package of minor leaguers would be compelling enough to evoke a rare crosstown trade for the left-handed Duda, who obliterated righties to the tune of a .380 wOBA/145 wRC+. Though Duda projects to be the Mets’ starting right fielder, the 26-year-old hasn’t shown much of an ability to hit portsiders to this point (in an admittedly small sample of 86 PAs, Duda has a .282 wOBA), so perhaps the cost wouldn’t be excessive given the need to platoon. (h/t to YankeeSource for inspiring this idea following his musing on Daniel Murphy).
David DeJesus, Cubs. The long-linked-to-the-Yankees local product DeJesus is a no-go at the present moment, having signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubbies at the end of November. However; should Chicago fall out of contention come July — and at the present moment, it’s not clear that they’re better than roughly a 3rd-place team on paper — DeJesus will likely be an attractive trade candidate. Though he had a tough year in Oakland last season, he still hit righties well (.347 wOBA/120 wRC+), and owns a career .356 wOBA/116 wRC+ against northpaws.
Again, with Jones and Duda projected to hit 5th for their respective teams, the Pirates and Mets would likely look for more than the Yankees would feel comfortable dishing, despite both franchises having basically already been eliminated from 2012 playoff contention. The unfortunate O’s are also a lock for last in the AL East yet again, though that still won’t be enough for Angelos to attempt to improve his team via dealing with the Yankees. If the Yankees do decide to go into the season addressing their DH needs in-house, DeJesus will likely be a name that will once again come up frequently should the Cubs falter, and would seem to be the most probable to be dealt out of this quartet.
The Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda pickups changed the Yankees’ roster situation quite a bit, as they’re now heavy on pitching but lacking that one DH bat. Thanks to a MSM article earlier this offseason, some were beating a “trade A.J. Burnett for Jason Bay” drum a few weeks ago, a trade I called a no-win situation back in October. Both players are terrible and all the Yankees would have done is rearrange some furniture, not actually satisfy a need. They needed Burnett’s innings at the time and also needed to keep the DH spot open for Jesus Montero. Thanks not the case anymore, and now a trade like this actually makes a little sense.
As a pure bad contract-for-bad contract swap, it helps that Burnett and Bay have very similar contract situations. The Yankees owe their enigmatic right-hander $33M over the next two years while the Mets owe their disappointing outfielder $32M over those same two years. The only problem is that Bay’s deal has this horrible $17M vesting option for 2014, which will kick in with either 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in both 2012 and 2013. Omar Minaya was good at throwing those ugly vesting options into his free agent contracts.
We’ve seen both Francisco Rodriguez (another Minaya contract!) and Carlos Zambrano waive their vesting options as a condition of a trade over the last few months, and the same thing would have to happen with Bay. If he isn’t willing to pass on that option, forget the idea all together. Pay him the $3M buyout per the contract terms, but he and his contract have to go away after two years. That vesting option is a total dealbreaker if he’s unwilling to waive it. The buyout essentially makes Bay’s contract a two-year, $36M deal, so a straight-up trade means the Mets would save themselves $3M. Given their financial situation, I’m sure that will at least get their attention.
In terms of actual on-the-field stuff, the Mets can simply plug A.J. into their rotation alongside R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee as Johan Santana continues his perpetual rehab from shoulder surgery. Right now they have guys like Miguel Batista and Chris Schwinden set to compete for the fifth starter’s job, which somehow sounds worse than giving the ball to Burnett 30 times a year. The move to the easier league and the bigger park (although the walls at CitiField are being brought in this winter) should help Burnett’s homer problem, at least in theory. The only real issue for the Mets would be replacing Bay in left, though they do have a few kids on the 40-man roster worth trying. Maybe the Yankees could kick in a Chris Dickerson or Justin Maxwell to facilitate a trade.
As far as the Yankees go, the perfect world scenario calls for Bay to DH in 2012 and move to corner outfield spot in 2013. The Yankees could let Nick Swisher leave as a free agent after this coming season and still have a viable replacement for a year, buying them some time to figure out things out long-term and with regards to the 2014 austerity budget. This is all predicated on Bay being healthy and not awful, which he hasn’t been for two years. He’s missed more than 90 days over the last two years due to a concussion (suffered on this play) and an intercostal muscle strain, and when he was on the field he produced just a .325 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. It’s not a CitiField thing either; Bay’s hit .279/.367/.445 at home and .228/.310/.336 on the road during his two years with the Mets. His defense is below average but not as bad as the advanced metrics would lead you to believe; none of the systems have figured out left field in Fenway Park yet.
Just to make this perfectly clear, the Yankees and Mets aren’t discussing a Burnett-for-Bay swap as far as we know. The idea started as speculation in some random article back in September or October, and it’s sorta lingered throughout the winter. Given the drastic change in the team’s roster dynamics, I figured it was worth revisiting. It’s one of those ideas that looks great on paper and makes perfect sense in your head, but in reality is much more complicated. It would be great if the Yankees could shift Burnett’s money around and turn a superfluous starting pitcher into a corner outfielder/DH, but bad contract-for-bad contract swaps almost always turn out the same way for everyone: bad.