Archive for Mailbag
We got a frickin’ ton of mailbag questions this week, probably the most ever. It didn’t help that I skipped last week’s mailbag because of Thanksgiving either. So, to make up for it, here’s a massive 17-question rapid fire mailbag. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to the best way to send us anything, but based on this week, you knew that already.
Many asked: Why didn’t the Yankees get in on Doug Fister? What would have been a comparable package?
Here is a quote from Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, courtesy of Andrew Stoeten: “[Tigers GM Dave Dombrowsiki] was looking for very specific things. He said, look, for a deal like this, and what he was going to look to do, we didn’t necessarily have the right fit.”
The Tigers took what they took for Fister because that’s what they wanted, not because it was the best value. They’re obviously very high on Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. Eduardo Nunez is basically Steve Lombardozzi, but the Yankees don’t really have a Krol (big league ready shutdown lefty reliever) or a Ray (high-end lefty starting pitcher prospect at Double-A). Cesar Cabral and Nik Turley are several notches below Krol and Ray. Fister is awesome; if Brian Cashman could have gotten him for a comparable package — pretty much everyone agrees it was a very light return — I’m sure he would have pulled the trigger.
Biggie asks: With the Cubs still a few years away from contending could the Yanks try to pry Mike Olt loose from them to man third? The Yankee prospects of value seem like they might fit the Cubs timetable to contend better than other teams. If so, what package gets that done?
Olt, 25, hit a weak .197/.302/.368 in 104 Triple-A games this season while battling vision problems. He got pretty overrated last winter but is a quality prospect, with big right-handed power and plenty good enough defense to remain at third. I don’t love him as a long-term solution at the hot corner but I think he’d be a great piece to have during his pre-arbitration years. The Cubs reportedly seek pitching and prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen. Would David Phelps be enough? Does that make sense for the Yankees, who also need young pitching in the worst way?
Six questions and six answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.
Several people asked: What about Jeff Niemann?
Niemann, 30, elected free agency earlier this week after the Rays outrighted him off their 40-man roster. He did not pitch at all this year and has been limited to one game since May 2012 due to a series of shoulder problems, most notably surgery to repair damage to his labrum and rotator cuff. Niemann’s had a lot of injury problems over the years, most dealing with his shoulder. That’s always scary.
Before the injury, the 6-foot-9, 285 lb. right-hander managed a 3.08 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 38 innings last season. He put up a 4.06 ERA (4.13 FIP) in 135.1 innings in 2011 while missing time with a back problem. Niemann never lived up to hype associated with being the fourth overall pick in the country (2004), but he was a rock solid mid-rotation guy who showed steady improvement — particularly when it came to getting strikeouts and ground balls — before this last round of injury problems.
Niemann had his surgery in April and it came with a 9-12 month recovery time. He recently told Bill Chastain that things are going well but a second half return is the most likely scenario while adding that he might not sign until he can get back on a mound and clubs can see him throw. I definitely have interest in Niemann since he’s reasonably young and has AL East/pennant race experience, but obviously the medicals need to check out. If he’s willing to take a minor league contract, absolutely. Go for it. If he wants something guaranteed right away … eh, that might be pushing it. Some team could cave and given him that 40-man spot, I suppose.
Dustin asks: Two recently DFA’d players to pick up on waivers if they fall to the Yanks: Tony Sipp and Felipe Paulino. Thoughts?
The 30-year-old Sipp was taken off the roster by the Diamondbacks earlier this week and he has the right to elect free agency, but he hasn’t done so yet. He pitched to a 4.78 ERA (4.88 FIP) in 37.2 innings in 2013 overall but we’re talking about a lefty specialist, overall numbers don’t tell the whole story. Sipp was hit hard by same-side hitters this past season (.378 wOBA and 6.05 FIP) but was much more effective from 2011-2012 (.288 wOBA and 4.16 FIP). If he wants to take a minor league deal and compete for a bullpen spot with Cesar Cabral and David Huff in camp, sure.
Paulino, 30, is in the same boat as Niemann. He already elected free agency but hasn’t pitched since June 2012 due to Tommy John and shoulder surgery, the latter of which is expected to sideline him until the second half of next year. Before that he was showing steady improvement, with a 1.67 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 37.2 innings in 2012 and a 4.46 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 139.1 innings in 2011. Niemann has a longer track record of success but I think these two are in the same exact situation. If the medicals check out and Paulino is willing to take a minor league contract, then let’s do it. If he wants something guaranteed, let someone else give him the 40-man spot.
Travis asks: Would a swap of Dellin Betances and Conor Gillaspie of the White Sox make sense for both sides? They love their large-framed pitchers and the Yankees have a need for a left-handed 3B/1B.
I think that’s fair value. Both Betances and Gillespie are former top prospects who are out of minor league options and have yet to really establish themselves at the big league level. The 26-year-old Gillaspie did play fairly regularly for the ChiSox this past season, hitting .245/.305/.390 (85 wRC+) with 13 homers in 452 plate appearances. His defense at the hot corner was a tick below-average. The Yankees would be banking on Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch boosting his numbers. I do think that trade makes sense for both teams and it’s worth noting the White Sox have shown interest in Betances before. Do they still like him? That’s the question.
Dave asks: Let’s say A-Rod gets suspended for all of 2014 and prior to the 2015 season, the Yankees buyout his remaining contract in a single $61M lump sum. How does that amount affect the luxury tax?
From what I have read, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not address buyouts for a situation like this. I think it would be treated as a new contract, however. Essentially a one-year, $61M contract. If that’s the case, I think the Yankees would simply release him and pay the $61M over the next three years instead. I think a more likely buyout scenario is paying that $61M over six years (with interest) instead of three, doubling the term. The luxury tax hit would be recalculated in that situation but it’s not as simple as average annual value because the Yankees have already paid some amount of tax on that contract. The tax hit would be lowered, I’m just not sure how much. The most important thing to remember is A-Rod has no reason to take a penny less than what’s owed to him, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll agree to a buyout that makes all or part of that $61M disappear. He’ll make the Yankees release him before agreeing to take less money. That’s what I would do.
Nick asks: Nick Cafardo recently reported that Grady Sizemore was getting a lot of attention and that he should be ready for Spring Training. Now I know he shouldn’t be counted on for anything but don’t you think he’d be a good buy low candidate?
Did you know that Sizemore is 31 years old already? He’s not all that young anymore. That really snuck up on me. He hasn’t played in a game since September 2011 and when he did play, he kinda stunk (94 wRC+ in 2011, 81 wRC+ from 2010-2011). His list of injuries is so very long — left elbow inflammation and debridement (2009), sports hernia (2009), left knee microfracture surgery (2010), another sports hernia (2011), arthroscopic right knee surgery (2011), lower back surgery (2012), right knee microfracture surgery (2012) — that he’s basically the Eric Chavez of outfielders. If Sizemore is cool with taking a minor league deal and showing what he can do in Spring Training, by all means, bring him in. Maybe he has a 2012 Chavez year in him. My expectations are zero though.
Niq asks: Can you remind me what happens if the Yankees sign multiple free agents who received and turned down qualifying offers? Do they lose multiple picks? If not, doesn’t that make it easier to sign multiple top free agents? Thanks.
Oh yes, you will absolutely lose multiple picks for signing multiple qualified free agents. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can forfeit the picks they receive as compensation for losing their own qualified free agents as well. It didn’t used to work like that. So if the Yankees get a supplemental first round pick for Curtis Granderson signing elsewhere but sign two qualified free agents, they would lose their first rounder and the compensation pick for Granderson. If it’s feasible, I think you’re better off doing all your shopping in one offseason and losing two or three picks at once (like the Yankees did during the 2008-2009 offseason) than signing one big free agent each winter and forfeiting your first rounder every summer.
Nine questions this week, so it’s another rapid fire mailbag with short-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.
Peter asks: Should the Yankees speak to the Tigers about trading for Drew Smyly and turn him back into a starter? How well do they match up and what would you give up?
To answer the question, yes, I think the Yankees should look to trade for Smyly so they can convert him back into a starter. Jon Morosi says the Tigers are fielding offers for Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello as a way to plug other roster holes and clear payroll with Smyly taking over the vacated rotation spot. The Yankees should have interest in all of those guys — slightly less interest in Porcello, who needs a good infield defense to be effective — including Smyly. I looked at the 24-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate last winter and everything still holds true, except he now has a season as elite reliever (2.37 ERA and 2.31 FIP) under his belt and one fewer year of team control. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t trade for prospects (he trades them away), he’ll want big league pieces in return. Detroit needs bullpen help and I’d give them David Robertson (free agent after 2014) for Smyly (free agent after 2018) in a heartbeat, but I suspect it’ll cost a bit more than that.
Ross asks: With the focus on the $189 million goal this off-season, what’s the likelihood the Yankees give extra years to free agents with a lower average annual value to separate their offers from other bidders?
An example of this would be signing Brian McCann for eight years and $81M ($10.125M luxury tax hit) instead of five years and $75M ($15M tax hit). The extra years lower the average annual value and thus the luxury tax hit while putting a little more money in McCann’s pocket for his cooperation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement covers potential luxury tax circumvention, and this type of maneuver would fall under that. The league would flag it and probably void the deal. It’s a good idea in theory — I’ve seen people suggest giving Alex Rodriguez a multi-year extension worth $1M a year to lower his tax hit — but I don’t think it would fly in reality. MLB doesn’t take too kindly to teams trying to game the system.
Mark asks: How do you like Chris Iannetta as a consolation prize for losing out on McCann? Would add a little bit more power to the bottom of the order.
Iannetta, 30, hit .225/.358/.372 (111 wRC+) this past season and has a 100 wRC+ with a 15.5% walk rate over the last three seasons. He’s also usually good for double digit homers. Iannetta isn’t a good defensive catcher these days (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s owed $10.225M through 2015 ($5.1125M tax hit). The Angels are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold themselves and one way they’ve discussed doing that is by dealing Iannetta and giving the catching reigns to young Hank Conger. Iannetta is better than the guys the Yankees have in-house and if they don’t bring in another catcher via free agency, he makes sense as a trade target. The Halos want pitching, so maybe something like Adam Warren for Iannetta makes sense for both sides. Not sure if that’s enough though. Just spit-balling here.
Glen asks: The White Sox are open to trading Alexei Ramirez. What would it take to get him and should the Yankees do it?
Well, according to Mark Gonzales, the White Sox turned Carlos Martinez when the Cardinals offered the one-for-one swap prior to the trade deadline. Jon Heyman shot that down, which makes sense because I can’t imagine Chicago would decline an offer like that. They’d be crazy. The 32-year-old Ramirez is basically Eduardo Nunez with a better glove and a much more expensive contract ($10.25M tax hit through 2015). He’s a total hacker (3.2% walk rate last two years) with no power (.098). I would prefer simply signing Brendan Ryan, who will play similar (if not better) defense and hit for a lower average but come far, far cheaper. I know good shortstops are hard to find, but I am not a Ramirez fan at all.
Bill asks: Any interest in Matt Kemp as a trade target?
Yes, but two things need to happen first. For starters, the Dodgers would have to eat a whole bunch of money. Kemp is owed $128M through 2019 ($21.3M tax hit) and I’d be willing to take him on at $16M or so annually. That means Los Angeles would have to kick in about $32M or so, a lot in the real world but little relative to the contract. Secondly, Kemp would have to go through a very thorough physical. The guy had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and left shoulder (labrum) surgery last winter, plus he’s missed a bunch of time with hamstring problems the last two years. There is evidence that hitters who have their front shoulder surgically repaired (like Kemp last winter) can lose bat speed and power for a long time and perhaps permanently. Adrian Gonzalez is a very good example — his power isn’t nearly what it was pre-2010 shoulder surgery. It has to do with the mechanics (and biomechanics, I suppose) of the swing and everything like that. Click the link, it’s interesting stuff. Kemp just turned 29 in September and his upside (MVP level performance fro, 2011-2012) is so very high that it’s hard to ignore. The salary needs to be offset and the body (especially the shoulder) needs to be checked out first, but yes, I’m interested.
Aaron asks: Any interest in Gordon Beckham for 3B? I know its been a few years but I think he’s still young enough to handle the switch back over.
Not anymore. I liked Beckham a few years ago and thought he was salvageable, but we’re going on nearly 2,500 career plate appearances with an 86 wRC+ now (88 wRC+ in 2013). Yes, he is only 27 and a breakout could be right around the corner, but Matt Swartz projects him to earn $3.5M next year and that’s a little pricey for a reclamation project in my opinion. I don’t think the transition from second base over to third will be much of a problem — hell, he still might be an option at shortstop — but it’s everything else that comes along with it, namely the price tag and noodle bat.
Travis asks: I’m thinking outside the box and more than likely this is one of the stupidest things you’ve heard in a while, but what if a team traded for Josh Beckett and made him a closer? He’s a former Red Sock, so I wouldn’t suggest Yankees, but someone?
stupid outside the box. (Kidding!) Beckett, 33, made only eight starts this year before needing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is what effectively ended Chris Carpenter’s career. It’s serious stuff but not always a career-ender. Dillon Gee and Matt Harrison have both dealt with it recently and come back perfectly fine. Beckett’s stuff has been fading in recent years and he was only sitting 90-91 with his fastball before getting hurt this year, and he’s a very different pitcher at 90-91 than he was was 95-96 a few years ago. Maybe a move to relief will bring back some velocity. If he can’t hold up as a starter anymore following the surgery, the bullpen would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to trade for him and try it, though.
Mark asks: Assume the Yankees part ways with Robinson Cano, any chance you see them trying to acquire Ryan Braun? Or does he have too much baggage with his PED suspension? Not sure the Brewers are open to dealing him, but I suspect they are given how bad the team is. Assuming he is available, he could fill the void in RF or 3B (can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera), is just 29 and is signed to a super team-friendly deal through 2021 (when he turns 37) at $16.5 million per year.
Believe it or not, Braun is still pretty popular in Milwaukee. This isn’t an A-Rod situation where pretty much everyone hates him. Braun is beloved by fans and his team (again, unlike A-R0d) and there’s no real desire to get rid of him. He’s the franchise cornerstone and they’re going to move forward with him as the centerpiece despite the PED stuff. Even if they wanted to get rid of him, I don’t think the Yankees don’t have the pieces to get a player of that caliber. It’s not like the Brewers would just give him away to save face and money. It’s a nice idea — he’d fit wonderfully in right field (third base isn’t happening, I don’t think “can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera” is a good enough reason to play him there) — and in the middle of the lineup, but it ain’t happening.
Mike asks: Would Jed Lowrie make sense as a possible trade target? He’s in his last year of arbitration this season before becoming a free agent in 2015. He’s a SS who has played 3B and 2B in the past, and he had a good year where he stayed healthy (finally) in 2013. If Billy Beane was inclined to deal him (would he be?), what kind of package would the Yankees have to give up?
Yes, he definitely makes sense. The 29-year-old Lowrie managed to stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career this past summer, hitting 15 homers with a 121 wRC+ in a pitcher’s park. He can play shortstop but his defense is spotty, though he does make up for it with the stick. Matt Swartz projects him to earn $4.8M in 2014 and there’s a decent chance he’ll be worth a qualifying offer after the season, meaning he’ll net a draft pick if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. Again, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for a player of Lowrie’s caliber — for what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears the Athletics aren’t looking to trade him in the wake of the Nick Punto signing — but he’s a definite fit at this point in time.
Eleven, yes eleven questions this week. I combined two into one so there are only ten answers. Needless to say, I went rapid fire. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us stuff, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Dustin asks: With Jarrod Saltalamacchia not getting a qualifying offer, does he become a more attractive option for the Yankees over Brian McCann? Or does the fact that he only has one above-average season keep McCann in the lead?
It’s a combination of several things, really. The lack of track record and defensive shortcomings mostly. I do think there’s a strong case to be made that Salty at his price (three years, $36M?) is a better deal than McCann at his price (five years, $80M plus a pick?). Given where the Yankees are as a franchise, with some young catchers on the way and payroll coming down, a shorter term deal for a backstop makes more sense than going big on McCann. I would prefer Carlos Ruiz in that case — he is a far better defender than Saltalamacchia, plus he should come even cheaper — but I think McCann is elite relative to his position. Guys like that are hard to pass up.
Nick asks: So it seems that Texas would be willing to move Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus. What would it take to get either? Andrus isn’t as attractive now because of that contract, but still should be considered. And Kinsler is always hurt.
Kinsler makes sense only if Robinson Cano signs elsewhere this winter. I don’t buy him as a first baseman or corner outfielder. I was excited about Andrus a year or two ago and thought he made a ton of sense as a Derek Jeter replacement — his free agency lined up perfectly with the end of Jeter’s contract (after 2014) — but I also thought he would continue to get better, not have a career-worst season in 2013. He’s owed $124.475M through 2022 ($13.8M luxury tax hit), which is scary. Furthermore, I’m not sure the Yankees and Rangers match up well for a trade. Texas is presumably looking for a young outfielder or high-end starter, two things New York a) doesn’t have, and b) needs itself.
Aside: Wouldn’t it make sense for the Rangers to trade both Andrus and Kinsler, then sign Cano and play Jurickson Profar at shortstop? Dealing Andrus and Kinsler would surely net them that young outfielder and high-end starter.
Ryan asks: I haven’t heard any mention of the Yankees and Nelson Cruz. His name hasn’t been floated on here since the trade rumors last January. Whats the deal? I would have though he’d be a great addition to the lineup.
Grant Brisbee explained why Cruz is such a risk yesterday, so I’ll link you to that. Long story short: Cruz is basically Alfonso Soriano without the defense. His numbers against righties aren’t anything special (.249/.299/.465 since 2011) and while home/road splits usually get way overblown, it’s hard to ignore how much more productive Cruz has been at his hitter-friendly home ballpark (.279/.340/.546 since 2011) than on the road (.247/.299/.432). The Yankees already have one Soriano, no need to give up a draft pick (Cruz received a qualifying offer) to get another.
Kevin asks: Juan Oviedo and Eric O’Flaherty seem like natural fits for the Yankees next year given the payroll and need for bullpen arms.
Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, the ex-Marlins closer. He’s missed the last two seasons due to elbow problems that eventually required Tommy John surgery. I would bring him in on a minor league deal no questions asked, but there’s no way I’d guarantee him anything after missing two years. He took a minor league deal (with the Rays) last year and will have to take one again. O’Flaherty missed most of 2013 after having his elbow rebuilt. He was one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball before the injury (held same-side hitters to a .195 wOBA from 2011-2012) and I think he’ll get a nice contract this winter despite coming off surgery. Would he take one year and $2M to rebuild value? I’m not sure the Yankees can afford to go higher than that for an injured pitcher who won’t be ready until June or so.
Bryan asks: How about a flyer on Brett Anderson? The A’s have rotation depth and the cost wouldn’t be super high (you’d think) right now. Or would they be better off with a guy like Josh Johnson (who only costs money) if they want to take a gamble?
Man I love Anderson, but he just can’t stay healthy. He’s thrown more than 115 innings just once (175.1 in 2009) and over the last two years he’s been limited to 79.2 innings total. Anderson has been pretty awesome whenever he’s stayed healthy for more than a month at a time, but he’s going to make $8M next season. That’s a huge chunk of change for an always hurt pitcher. I’m not sure the Yankees can afford a risk like that. Payroll is tight as it is, and that doesn’t even factor in the trade cost. If I’m going to bring in a reclamation project starter, I’d go with Johnson because he only costs money. I’d prefer neither, to be honest.
Biggie asks: If Curtis Granderson accepts his qualifying offer would there be a market to trade him? What type of return would you expect? I would love him to accept, move him for another piece and sign Carlos Beltran for two years and $28M.
I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble finding a taker for Granderson if he accepts the $14.1M qualifying offer. Chances are they could get a better prospect in return than they’d be able to select with the compensation pick as well. A contender in need of a bat like the Cardinals (if Beltran bolts), Tigers (for vacant left field), and Reds (if they don’t think Billy Hamilton is ready) would presumably show interest in Granderson on a one-year deal, ditto non-contenders like the Phillies, Mets, White Sox, Giants, Mariners, and Rockies. They wouldn’t get an elite prospect in return, but a rock solid Grade-B prospect who is at Double-A or higher. That’s very fair value if not a bargain.
Mike asks: What about Kelly Johnson as a free agent? He can fill in around the infield except at short and play the corners in the outfield.
If Cano does leave as a free agent and the Yankees decide to pass over David Adams and Corban Joseph as internal replacements, Johnson is the guy I’d want them to bring him to play second base. He shouldn’t required a multi-year contract like Omar Infante nor would he require the general headache of trading for Brandon Phillips. Johnson is a Yankee Stadium friendly left-handed hitter who hits for power (16+ homers in four straight years), plus he’ll steal a decent amount of bases and play solid defense. As an added bonus, he can also play left field in a pinch. The trade-off is a low average and strikeouts, which aren’t the end of the world for a number eight or nine hole hitter. Even if the Yankees re-sign Cano, Johnson makes sense as a lefty bat off the bench. Definite fit.
Tucker asks: While the idea of the Yankees signing Brian Wilson has been floated out there, and it definitely has a lot of appeal, I just can’t imagine him being willing to go to the barber, even if it means forfeiting a couple million. Do you agree with this?
Wilson already turned down a million bucks to shave his beard, but maybe $6-7M will change his mind? Ultimately, I think Wilson will wind up signing with a non-Yankees team because they’ll offer more money and guarantee him the closer’s job, not because he wouldn’t have to shave his beard. That would suck, he’s a perfect fit in my opinion (as long as you look beyond the beard and seemingly intentionally insufferable personality).
Thomas asks: Is there any chance that the Yankees try and get another full-time DH this season? If so, if he doesn’t retire, is it possible we would get another taste of Raul Ibanez? I’m sure Yankees fans would like to see him again.
Zac asks: Jason Kubel is one year removed from a 30-HR season and should come cheap following a poor year in which he battled injury. Is he s fit for the Yankees?
Going to lump these two together since Ibanez and Kubel are nearly the same exact player. If the Yankees don’t sign Beltran — he’s pretty much the only big name outfielder I can see them realistically signing — either guy would make sense as a part-time right fielder and part-time DH. They could also serve as that lefty bat off the bench I always seem to be talking about. New York could find a spot for their power even if they sign Beltran, though I think Ibanez is the safer bet at this point. Supposedly he’s only considering retirement or a return to the Mariners (he lives in Seattle during the offseason). As long as they keep him or Kubel away from lefties and have a defensive replacement handy, they’d make some sense for the current roster. I still don’t like the idea of adding a full-time DH. They need to keep that spot open for various old guys.
Anthony asks: Hey Mike, Chris Perez was just released by the Indians. Being that the Yankees will look to add a piece or two to the bullpen this offseason, do you think the team should give him a look? While I don’t see him serving as the closer, perhaps he can provide some value in the 7th or 8th?
I wrote about Perez in a mailbag back in May and said I wanted to see how he performed the rest of the season before thinking about him as an option for 2014. Well, from that date forward, he pitched to a 5.21 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 38 innings while opposing batters hit .283/.351/.520 against him. He and his wife were also arrested for drug possession. So … yeah, things didn’t go so well. The Indians got so sick of him that they didn’t even wait until the non-tender deadline to release him. Perez has really nasty stuff, but he clearly has some things to work on. I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough bullpen depth (or payroll space) to take on a second project reliever in addition to Dellin Betances.
Only four questions week and they kinda suck. Nah, just kidding. I say they’re good every week, so I wanted to see if anyone is actually pays attention. Remember, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week.
Keith asks: Since there is lots of discussion this offseason about the Yankees’ minor leagues and their development of prospects, I’ve been kind of obsessed with the what ifs. One that particularly sticks out is Mike Trout. It’s been widely reported that the Yankees scouts were on him and of course the Angels ended up drafting Trout with the Yankees compensation pick. If the Yankees don’t sign Mark Teixeira and instead draft Mike Trout, would he even be in the Majors yet? Would they have found a way to screw up his development too?
First things first: if the Yankees did not sign Teixeira, their first round pick would have gone to the Brewers for CC Sabathia. If they did not sign Teixeira and Sabathia, it would have gone to the Blue Jays for A.J. Burnett. They would have had to pass on all three to keep their first rounder, and even then the Angels still would have had a pick (the compensation pick for Francisco Rodriguez) before the Yankees. Ken Rosenthal said the Halos had Trout second on their behind only Stephen Strasburg, so I assume they would have still taken him before New York had a chance at him.
Anyway, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Yankees somehow landed Trout in the draft that year. I think that in some cases, with historically great players and generational talents like Trout, the development part almost doesn’t matter. They’re going to succeed no matter what because there isn’t even that much developing that needs to be done, the raw talent is enough. Alex Rodriguez was like that. Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Rickey Henderson … players like that. They’re so good and physically gifted that the only thing that can stop them (other than injury) is a lack of effort and work ethic on their part. I truly believe that. Trout was so good that not even the Yankees could have screwed him up. He would have been in the show right now and still been a star.
Kevin asks: Obviously they’ll try starting first but any chance Michael Pineda‘s future with the team is ultimately in the bullpen? It wouldn’t put the stress of 170+ innings on his arm and that way they could possibly get some return on the investment.
Oh it’s definitely possible his future lies in the bullpen. He kept running into a wall around the 70-ish pitch mark during his minor league starts this year, and after such a major shoulder surgery, there’s a chance he may not be able to hold up for 100+ pitches anymore. I’m not sold on the idea that relieving on an unpredictable schedule is less stressful than having a routine and starting every five days, but a move to the bullpen is the next logical step if the starting thing proves to be too much for Pineda.
Ryan asks: What are your thoughts on Roy Halladay? Even though he is older and had the injury, I think the Yankees should sign him. Still has the stuff and experience, similarly to David Cone when they signed him.
I strongly disagree there. He doesn’t have the stuff. He might as he gets further away from the shoulder surgery in May, but Halladay was a shell of his former self late in the season. It wasn’t even Jamie Moyer stuff. No life on his fastball, loopy breaking balls, no command … it was ugly. He looked no part of a big league pitcher. Watching him pitch like that in September made it hard to believe he was the best pitcher in the world as recently as 2011.
The Yankees can’t help themselves when it comes to once-great big name players, so I do expect them to kick the tires on Halladay this winter. He has AL East experience obviously, though I’m not sure that matters much at this point. He’s not the same guy. He hasn’t been the same guy for two years now. There is no way I would guarantee Halladay anything — minor league contract or no contract, that’s it — based on that look in September, there’s no chance whatsoever I would guarantee him a rotation spot. Absolutely zero. If he wants to take a minor league deal and earn his way onto the roster, great. If not, oh well.
Ben asks: It’s pretty staggering to think about all the pitching St. Louis has right now: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, even Jaime Garcia. It’s fair to say they’d benefit from trading one or two of those guys. If you were the Yankees GM, what would you think a fair package would be to trade for Lynn or Kelly? Would we possibly have the pieces to trade for Martinez or Rosenthal?
Definite no on Martinez and Rosenthal. As for Lynn or Kelly, I have to think a shortstop would be atop the Cardinals wishlist. It’s hard to believe they did so well this season with a total zero at short in Pete Kozma. The Yankees don’t have a shortstop to give up unless St. Louis is particularly high on Eduardo Nunez, which I doubt they are. Jon Jay had a better year than I realized, so Brett Gardner doesn’t make much sense for them either. I’d have no trouble getting behind a Gardner for Lynn or (especially) Kelly trade, but that doesn’t seem realistic at all. I’m not sure there’s much of a fit here otherwise. The Cardinals are pretty stacked everywhere except short.
Five questions this week, including some long-ish ones. By know you should know how to contact us, but if not, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go. Send us mailbag questions or anything else that way.
Many asked: What about Brandon Phillips?
Lots of questions about Phillips this week after it was reported the Reds are looking to move him and get out from under his contract. Apparently he’s run his mouth — he called his recent contract extension a “slap in the face” in light of Joey Votto’s extension — a few too many times and has worn out his welcome.
Anyway, the 32-year-old Phillips hit .261/.310/.396 (91 wRC+) with 18 homers and five stolen bases this summer, his worst offensive season in five years. His defense at second base remains very good, among the best in baseball, but the bat is starting to slow down just a bit. Here is a rather troubling graph:
That is what amounts to a seven-year decline in ISO. Yeah, he did rebound a whole two points from 2010 to 2011, but that’s negligible in my opinion. Two points of ISO is one extra base every 500 at-bats, so yeah, negligible. Phillips has hit 18 homers in four straight years — I mean exactly 18 homers, kinda weird — but his doubles and triples are coming down. So are his stolen bases — this was the first full season in his career he didn’t swipe at least 14 bags — so maybe the power drop isn’t so much as a “not hitting the ball hard” thing as it is a “not fast enough to take that extra base on balls hit into the gap anymore” thing.
Either way, Phillips is 32 years old and he has another $50M coming to him over the next four years. That’s a lot of money for a player with very clear signs of decline. If Robinson Cano were to leave as a free agent — pretty much the only scenario in which I would even entertain the idea of acquiring Phillips — I’d still scour the trade market for a short-term stopgap than take on that contract. Phillips is more name than production right now and the Yankees have too much of that as it is.
Wilbur asks: What kind of contract would it take to keep Boone Logan in pinstripes? He’s made it clear he wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’ll be coming off surgery to remove bone spurs, which’ll drive the price down (but also raises the question of do the Yankees even want him?).
Logan had surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to start throwing in January and be ready in time for the Spring Training. It sounds like a minor procedure but there’s really no such thing. There’s risk anytime you cut into pitcher’s elbow. CC Sabathia had a similar surgery last winter and after the awful season he just had, it’s fair to wonder if the elbow cleanup had something to do with it.
As for Logan, the market for top left-handed relievers if pretty well established. On the low-end you’ve got Sean Burnett (two years, $8M), on the high-end you’ve got Scott Downs (three years, $15M), and in the middle you have Damaso Marte (two years, $12M). Logan is several years younger than Marte and Downs were when they got their contracts and roughly the same age as Burnett when he got his. Burnett had much greater injury concerns though, much much greater. In this free agent-friendly market, I think Logan should be able to pull down Marte’s contract without much of a problem and maybe even land Downs’. Do the Yankees want him back? I don’t know. Lefty specialist seems like an easy spot to save money with payroll coming down though.
Patrick asks: The only reliever I have any interest in is Brian Wilson. How many years and millions do you think he’ll get?
Wilson, 31, joined the Dodgers in August and quickly became their setup man, allowing just one run on twelve hits and six walks in 19.2 innings between the regular season and postseason. He struck out 21 (28.8%) and got 28 ground balls (60.9%). Wilson showed his usual pre-injury stuff — a nasty mid-90s two-seamer and an upper-80s slider — so that was one hell of a late season audition following elbow surgery. He was damn impressive with Los Angeles.
With Wilson, it’s necessary to look beyond the ridiculous beard and (intentionally?) insufferable personality. The Yankees need to add a late-inning arm to replace Mariano Rivera — they’re losing an elite reliever either way, regardless of whether David Robertson takes over as closer or stays in the eighth — and Wilson is close to the perfect candidate. He’s got power stuff and he misses bats, he’s got big game and World Series experience, and he’s an off the charts competitor. This is a guy who pitched through a torn elbow ligament for a while and worked his way back from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries. You don’t do that without being a determined and generally tough dude, both mentally and physically.
It’s tough to figure out what kind of contract Wilson will get this winter given his situation. He’s a not all that old formerly elite closer who has thrown fewer than 20 innings following his second elbow reconstruction. I’d call that unique. The Rangers gave Joakim Soria two years and$8M last winter as he was coming off his second Tommy John surgery, but he was not expected back until midseason. Wilson is obviously ready to go. Joe Nathan got two years and $14.5M one year removed from Tommy John surgery after 2011. If the Yankees could get Wilson for something between those two deals, say two years and $12M, I’d definitely do it. Forget the beard and the Taco Bell commercials, he’s a great fit for New York’s bullpen needs if the medicals check out and they can get him at a reasonable price.
Dan asks: MLBTR is reporting that the Royals might make Billy Butler available. He’s owed $8M in 2014 with a $12.5M club option in 2015. I know the last thing the Yankee need is a 1B/DH but would you consider him to DH and provide backup in case Mark Teixeira re-injures the wrist?
First things first: If the Royals are indeed making Butler available, they probably want something big in return. I doubt they’re going to trade their second best hitter for a prospect or two after having the franchise’s best season in 19 years. If they trade him, it’ll be a win now type of move, perhaps for a starting pitcher. The Yankees don’t really match up well with Kansas City. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume they do.
I am not all that interested in seeing the team spend even a moderate amount of bucks on the DH spot, and that’s what Butler is. He can fake first base during interleague play and that’s pretty much it. He’s awful defensively and he doesn’t hit for much power either. After hitting 29 homers in 2012, he dropped back down to 15 this year, in line with his 2008-2011 totals. He is a high-average, high-on-base guy and that’s very valuable, but the Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring David Ortiz here.
Spending $8M (and then $12.5M in 2014) for position-less, just-okay-power DH isn’t something they need to do in my opinion. They have so many other holes — more important holes like catcher and the left side of the infield and the rotation — that using a good amount of resources (both into terms of players traded away and then salary) to go after Butler doesn’t make much sense to me. He would make the team better next year, no doubt, but at a high cost that would limit their ability to make moves elsewhere. The Yankees could use a hitter like Butler, but they can’t ignore positional needs.
Kevin asks: If there is a weak draft and the next draft is projected to be loaded, do teams intentionally draft somebody they know they aren’t going to sign to essentially trade the pick in the weaker draft for another pick next year?
No, never. The only team who has something of a history of not signing top picks since the compensation system was put in place is the Blue Jays and that obviously hasn’t gotten them very far. Most scouting directors (and GMs) know they might not be around to make that pick next year if they intentionally do not sign a first rounder. The prospect now is always more valuable than the pick later. Always. Plus it’s impossible to judge the quality of the draft class a year in advance, so very much can change. Every club would rather make the pick now and get the player into their system as soon as possible. Waiting a year delays everything, including the ability to use that player in a trade to improve the big league. It’s a very, very risky strategy. There is always high-end talent available in the first round, you just have to find it.
Eight questions and seven answers this week, so let’s do this rapid fire style. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever throughout the week.
Vinny asks: Who would you rather have in right field next year, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson?
In a vacuum, Beltran. No doubt about it. But this isn’t a vacuum. In reality, we’re talking about Beltran and a 30-something overall draft pick or Granderson and the 18th overall pick. There’s also the contract size to consider. I think Beltran winds up with a similar deal to the one he has now, meaning two years and $26M or so. Granderson could wind up with three years and $39-45M. Something like that. Injury history (Beltran’s knees vs. Granderson’s fluky hit-by-pitches), potential age-related decline (Beltran is four years older than Granderson), and the team’s current situation (are they really good enough to win during Beltran’s two years?) all have to be considered. I’d take Beltran though, the difference between the 18th pick and a 30-something pick is pretty small.
Bill asks: How much do you think a pitcher can theoretically make or lose based on a few postseason starts? Take Ricky Nolasco the other night. Would an eight-inning, 11-strikeout game have given him a different label going into this offseason and been worth that much more?
Unless a guy gets hurt, very small. Remember, C.J. Wilson was awful for the Rangers during the 2011 postseason (5.79 ERA and 6.31 FIP in 28 innings) and it didn’t matter at all. He still got a very fair contract and reportedly turned down even more money from the Marlins to sign with the Angels. Maybe a history of good or bad postseason performance would affect a player’s market value, but I don’t think one individual postseason or series or start would. Teams are too smart to let one game change their valuation of a player that much.
Mark asks: Not that more payroll is the answer to the Yankees’ problems, but say hypothetically they were to win the World Series with a 2014 team payroll of say $210 million, would the increased television ratings, higher attendance and playoff ticket revenue make a major dent in the luxury tax they would be assessed for going over their $189 million target? Not sure if this is calculable or not, but it seems like it sure bears some serious discussion if I were them.
A $210M payroll means they’d be paying an extra $31.5M compared to staying under the luxury tax threshold ($21M in overages plus $10.5M in tax). Vince Gennaro’s work has shown that simply making the postseason is worth about $40M in increased revenue for the Yankees while winning the World Series is worth about $70M. His study and calculations were done in 2007, before the new Yankee Stadium opened and baseball’s economics changed with the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. I have to think those $40M and $70M figures are a bit light these days. So yes, I feel very comfortable saying winning the World Series with a $210M payroll is far more lucrative than not making the postseason with a $189M payroll. Far, far more lucrative. Of course, they could always win a title at $189M. I’m sure the Yankees have run their own numbers. They aren’t doing this on a whim.
Sean asks: With the emergence of Yan Gomes as the everyday catcher, do you think the Indians would be willing to deal Carlos Santana? I know they’ve used him at first-base and at DH, but Santana has apparently made it clear that he wants to play behind the plate. What sort of package do you think we’re looking at for the Yanks to land him? Do you think he’s a better option than signing Brian McCann?
Guilherme asks: I want to know what you guys think about Yan Gomes. Would he be a fit? For what the Indians would be willing to trade him?
Might as well lump these two together. I do think there’s a chance the Indians will be open to trading either Santana or Gomes for pitching help this winter, and I suppose the choice between the two may come down to the offers. Santana is far more established but more expensive (owed $17.75M through 2016 with an option for 2017) while Gomes has five years of team control and only 300 or so awesome plate appearances to his credit. Unless the Indians love them some David Phelps or Michael Pineda, I’m not sure what the Yankees could give them for Santana or Gomes aside from Ivan Nova. I’d happily take either catcher though. Backstops who can actually hit (!) and are under contract/control at an affordable rate for another few years are a super hot commodity.
Joey asks: When a scout is evaluating prospects, do they ever take what organization he is in in to consideration? What I mean by that is if the Yankees struggle to develop SP and the Rays crank them out year after year, will the scout look at the player and assume the Yankees can’t develop this guy in to a SP where maybe they says the Rays can?
They shouldn’t. The scout is evaluating a player’s package of tools and those don’t change from organization to organization. Scouts might look at a player and know their organization has a chance to help him develop more than another, but I don’t think that would change his evaluation. Gary Sanchez‘s physically ability is Gary Sanchez’s physical ability whether he’s a Yankee or a Twin or a Padre.
Brad asks: What are your thoughts on going after Bronson Arroyo this winter? He’s an innings-eater and he’s had experience in the AL East. I think we need a veteran arm to round out the rotation, especially if Hiroki Kuroda retires.
No way. It’s been a long time since Arroyo pitched in the AL East and he isn’t close to the same pitcher anymore. Over the last three seasons, he has a 5.52 K/9 (15.1%), a 1.43 BB/9 (14.0% HR/FB), and the fifth slowest non-knuckleballer fastball in baseball (86.6 mph). There’s a small chance three of the four guys ahead of him (Barry Zito, Shaun Marcum, Jeff Francis) will never throw another big league pitch. (Mark Buehrle is the other.) On top of all of that, Arroyo wants a multi-year contract. Innings are good, you need guys to soak up some innings, but I have no interest in bringing a soon-to-be 37-year-old guy with fringe stuff into the AL East and a small ballpark.
Kevin asks: Doesn’t Andre Ethier make sense if the Dodgers are willing to eat some salary and make him, say, a $7M player? He gets on base and doesn’t strike out that much and can take advantage of right field. I know he’s not any good on defense but they could pair him with someone like Justin Ruggiano and have one of the most productive corner outfields in the league.
Spending $7M on an injury-prone DH doesn’t sound like a great idea. Ethier has consistently been a 120-ish wRC+ player throughout his career but he can’t hit lefties at all (73 wRC+ this year and 67 wRC+ since 2011) and is a major defensive liability. I suppose you could hide him in right field for another year or two, but he’s already 31 and will turn 32 right around Opening Day. Ethier can mash righties and there is definitely a spot for him in the Yankees lineup, but that’s an awful lot of money — he is under contract through 2017, remember, so you’re essentially talking about a four-year, $28M contract if the Dodgers eat enough salary to make him a $7M a year player — for a very limited player. With payroll coming down, I’m more than happy to continue dumpster diving for Raul Ibanez types to fill that DH spot. I think that’s the last place the Yankees should commit huge bucks.
Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Nate asks: If Homer Bailey is indeed being dangled, what kind of package would it take to land him? Should the Yankees go after him?
There has been speculation the Reds could trade Bailey in an effort to create payroll space, perhaps to sign Shin-Soo Choo long-term. Matt Swartz’s insanely accurate arbitration model projects the right-hander to earn $9.3M next season, his last before qualifying for free agency. Bailey reportedly hasn’t shown much interest in signing a long-term contract and presumably has his eye on a massive contract a year from now. Hard to blame him.
Bailey, 27, has emerged maybe not as an ace these last two years, but something damn close to an ace. He had a 3.49 ERA and 3.31 FIP in 209 innings this season after posting a 3.68 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 208 innings last year. Bailey was once one of the very best pitching prospects in the game — he was one spot behind Phil Hughes on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list after the 2006 season — and now he’s coming into his own as he enters his peak years.
Even though he only has one more year of team control left, I do think the Yankees should pursue Bailey if the Reds are indeed open to moving him. Not only would they be acquiring a really good pitcher –they could definitely use one or two of those, you know — but they would get a year to evaluate him in their league and ballpark before deciding whether to commit to him long-term. If not, they’ll get a draft pick. Kind of a win-win situation, I suppose.
Not too many pitchers of Bailey’s caliber have been traded one year from free agency in recent years, so we don’t have a good idea of what it would take to acquire him. Javy Vazquez (Expos to Yankees) and Cliff Lee (Phillies to Mariners) kinda fit the bill, but they were both better and more established than Bailey at the time of those trades. I’m guessing three prospects — one stud and two lesser pieces — is in the ballpark. The Reds don’t have any urgency to trade him though, so they won’t give him away. I don’t even think they will trade him. He’s a guy a win-now team keeps.
Andrew asks: With Jason Giambi looking to play one more year (according to Ken Rosenthal), would a reunion on a cheap one-year deal make sense? Cheap power designed for Yankee Stadium off the bench to hit for offensively challenged Yankees late in games (i.e., Brendan Ryan types should they re-sign him).
Giambi, who turns 43 in January, hit .183/.282/.371 (85 wRC+) with nine homers in 216 plate appearances for the Indians this year. That includes some really memorable walk-off homers as the Tribe made their push for a wildcard spot. I think it’s safe to assume moving into Yankee Stadium would help his power output, but how much? An extra five homers? Eight? Ten? The concerns I have are a) Giambi can’t play the field, and b) Derek Jeter figures to eat up a lot of DH time next season. The Yankees had an inflexible DH-only type on the roster this year (Travis Hafner) and it was a problem at times. I love Giambi as much as the next guy, but I don’t think he’s a fit for the current roster.
Michael asks: I wanted to know your thoughts about seeing Johan Santana in pinstripes for next year? He has a $25 million player and a $5.5 million buyout option. Can you picture Brian Cashman offering him a one-year, league minimum contract?
The Mets are obviously going to buy Santana out, but no, I can’t see the Yankees giving him a one-year contract at any salary. There’s no way they would (or should) guarantee him anything coming off his second (!) torn shoulder capsule. Torn capsules are the kiss of death; no one has ever had one and come back the same pitcher. The victim list includes Santana, Rich Harden, Mark Prior, Chien-Ming Wang, John Maine, John Danks, and Dallas Braden, among others.
That said, I do think the Yankees would be open to giving him a minor league contract a la Wang this year or Bartolo Colon in 2011. Santana came back from the first torn capsule and had a 4.85 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 117 innings last season, and that was in a big ballpark in the easier league. I’m not sure how anyone could expect anything out of him after another capsule injury, nevermind moving into Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Santana has been adamant that he wants to continue pitching, so if he wants to take a minor league deal to prove himself in Spring Training (and likely Triple-A early in the season), great. If not, no biggie.
Donny asks: After reading your “What Went Right: One-Run Games” post, I came to the conclusion that the team should keep David Robertson in the eighth and find someone else for the ninth. I came to this conclusion based on how Robertson reacted to his first introduction to closing (not good). My worry is that changing his role might have similar effects that it had on Joba Chamberlain and, to a lesser extent, Phil Hughes. Do you agree with this thought and if so, who should top the wish list (reasonably) if you are Brian Cashman?
Two things here. One, why is everyone freaking out about Robertson as the closer? How long as he actually been the team’s closer? A week, maybe, before getting hurt? That’s not enough to tell us anything about anything. Mariano Rivera blew three saves in the first two weeks of the 1997 season, remember. Robertson is one of the absolute best non-closer relievers in baseball. If you aren’t comfortable sticking him in the ninth inning, then who? He’s the perfect candidate. Two, moving Robertson from setup man to closer is not at all similar to moving Joba and Hughes back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. All you’re changing is the inning Robertson throws. The other two guys had to change their preparation, off-day routines, the way they pitched, everything. Huge, huge difference. Huge.
Now, all of that said, yeah the Yankees definitely need to bring in a good late-inning reliever this offseason in my opinion. With Rivera retiring, they’re losing an elite reliever. That’s 60 or so elite innings gone.Off the roster. Doesn’t matter what inning or role they came from, that’s a lot of production to replace. Free agent relievers are always risky investments, but the Yankees don’t really have a choice. A bullpen full of kids scares the crap out of me. Looking at the list of free agents, potential bullpen targets include Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom (if his option is declined), Edward Mujica, and the perpetually underrated Jamey Wright. I had my eye on Grant Balfour earlier this year, but he had a great season and won’t come cheap.
Got six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers short and go rapid fire. If you want to send us questions or links or complaints or whatever, the Submit A Tip box in a sidebar is the best way to go.
Joe asks: If Joe Girardi leaves who would be on your short list of replacements?
I don’t even know where to start. There are no great candidates out there. You’d need someone familiar with being in a big market just because it’s completely chaotic, or it can be if the manager lets it. Bench coach Tony Pena seems like an obvious candidate and I guess the just-fired Dusty Baker is as well. Triple-A Scranton manager Dave Miley and Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin seem like long shots. I want no part of Mike Scioscia (if he’s fired) or Don Wakamatsu, who has big league managerial experience (with the Mariners) and works in the Yankees front office. I don’t see a ton of obvious candidates out there. Pena is clearly the best at this point.
Joey asks: B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla are both well-paid and under-performing for Atlanta. If the Braves cover most of the salary, do you think the Yankees would be interested in either player and would think its a good idea?
I don’t think the Braves would eat a ton of money to move Upton after just one year. Not with his brother still on the team and a roster that still managed to win 96 games despite his terribleness. As for Uggla … I don’t think I’d touch him. He hit .179/.309/.362 (91 wRC+) with 22 homers in 537 plate appearances this season, and he’s also 33 years old (34 in March). That’s right around the age second baseman tend to fall off the cliff. This sums up where his career is heading:
Go look at Uggla’s graph page on FanGraphs and notice how pretty much everything has been trending in the wrong direction for three years now. The Braves left him off their NLDS roster and they own him $13M in each of the next two years. Yeah, the Yankees could use him as a backup corner infielder/DH, but even if Atlanta eats so much money that he’s a $4M a year player, I wouldn’t touch him. The Bombers already have one Vernon Wells, no need to add the infield version as well.
Anthony asks: Say #HIROK decided to retire, could the Yankees still offer him a qualifying offer and get a pick?
The only way the Yankees would get a draft pick for Hiroki Kuroda (or any other player who turns downs a qualifying offer) is if they sign a Major League contract with one of the other 29 times before next summer’s draft. That’s it. They don’t get a pick if the player retires, goes to Japan, or signs a minor league contract.
Mr. Fish Fingers asks: Any interest in/chance of acquiring Jason Castro this off-season or (more likely) at some point in the season? Got to cost an arm and a leg, but he had a nice season in Houston and is under team control.
Theoretically, the Astros would want to build around Castro going forward, right? He just turned 26 and hit .276/.350/.485 (130 wRC+) with 18 homers this season, plus he’s a standout defender behind the plate. That’s a cornerstone player. If you’re a rebuilding team, you keep him. That said, the Astros seem to have completely given up on being competitive and are instead focused on having a strong farm system, so who knows. I’d take Castro in a heartbeat — he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year and can’t become a free agent until after 2016 — and would open up the farm system to give Houston whatever they want. Gary Sanchez and Rafael DePaula? Sure thing. You hope that in six years, Sanchez will be what Castro is right now. Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy? Tyler Austin and Mason Williams? Done deal. No-brainer for me. I think Castro is the one guy the Astros will keep, however.
Jon asks: MLBTR got me thinking about Asdrubal Cabrera as a possible 2014 shortstop target. If I remember, Brian Cashman was hot on him previously, only one year left on contract and coming off a down year. Possible buy low, would the Yankees want the Indians to kick some money in to offset $10M ’14 Salary? What would it take in prospects?
Cabrera would make sense as a shortstop target if he was actually a shortstop. The 27-year-old is an awful defensive player — pick any defense stat and it’ll say he’s been terrible for several years running now — and to make matters worse, he isn’t hitting all that much either. Cabrera put up a .242/.299/.402 (95 wRC+) line with 14 homers this year, which is way better than what the Yankees got from the position this year but way below what his reputation would lead you to believe. He’s better than Eduardo Nunez, but we’re not exactly setting a high bar there. Is he so much better that it justifies the massive salary and a trading away a prospect or two? Asdrubal is someone worth looking at more in-depth if he actually ends up on the block at some point. My short answer is: meh.
Elliot asks: If Derek Jeter declines his option (crazy talk) do you see a situation where he wants a longer contract guaranteed, but will spread out the cost over more years and help the team get under $189 million?
I don’t know if Jeter will want that, but there is a scenario in which opting out and signing a multi-year deal would help the Yankees get under the luxury tax threshold. Right now his option is worth $9.5M and can be worth as much as $16.5M with awards-based incentives. The team would have to treat him as a $16.5M player in 2014 — you can’t plan on him costing only $9.5M and then have him blow the whole thing up by finishing fifth in the MVP voting or something. They could, I suppose, guarantee the extra $7M (instead of basing it on incentives) and spread it out over multiple years. Instead of a one-year deal worth $9.5M and potentially $16.5M, it could be a three-year deal worth $16.5 guaranteed. That would lower the average annual salary (and his “tax hit”) from at least $9.5M and possibly $16.5M in 2014 to $5.5M flat. It’s worth considering, but remember, it takes two to tango.
Five questions and five answers this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything at any time, mailbag questions or otherwise.
John asks: Hypothetically speaking (how else would we speak when speculating about the offseason?), if Robinson Cano were to get say $29M per year for nine years from the Dodgers, could the Yankees sign Brian McCann, Stephen Drew and Omar Infante for $29M combined? And, if so, might that be a better strategy for 2014 and beyond?
I don’t see how they could get those three for only $29M total. McCann is looking at Yadier Molina money on the open market ($15M annually) while neither Drew ($9.5M) nor Infante ($4M) have a reason to take a pay cut following their strong seasons. I think the best case scenario is something like $35M total, broken down into $15M (McCann) plus $12M (Drew) plus $8M (Infante). I’m probably underselling Drew and Infante given the dearth of quality middle infielders. It might be closer to $40M total than $35M when it’s all said and done.
If the Yankees can’t re-sign Cano — I would be stunned if they didn’t at this point — then spreading the wealth around is pretty much the only thing they can do. There’s no other superstar available this winter who is worth a nine-figure commitment. (Maybe Shin-Soo Choo. Maybe.) McCann plus Drew plus Infante would be a real good start, bhe Yankees need more pitching and outfield help though. This team isn’t one or two players away from getting back into contention. This roster has an awful lot holes.
Chris asks: Would you be in favor of reducing the time between signing and free agency? Teams today are forced to decide between players hitting their free agency years around age 28-30. Small market teams won’t pay for players past 30 and subsequently lose their players while big market teams continuously pay and pay. It hurts everyone. Isn’t the answer to make players free agents earlier? Cano would be worth millions and millions more if he was two or three years younger.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I am decidedly pro player when it comes to this stuff. Let them become free agents as soon as possible. Teams would never agree to it and, frankly, small market clubs would have no chance to contend if they didn’t get to control their young players for what is usually the most productive years of their career. If they knocked it down to five or even four years of team control before free agency, clubs like the Rays and Athletics would have no chance to contend. It would be a franchise killer. Baseball’s salary system is screwed up in that players earn the most when they’re on the decline, but it is what it is. The six years of team control are a necessarily evil.
Karl asks: How much amateur money is at stake over the possible variation in the final standings? Any chance a post-qualifying offer Hiroki Kuroda signs with the Dodgers to chase a ring and gets the Yankees a comp pick?
I’ll answer the second part first: yes I could definitely see Kuroda signing elsewhere in hope of winning a ring. The Dodgers are an obvious destination but the Tigers, Rangers, Nationals, and Cardinals could also be fits. Despite his ugly finish to the season, I’d have no trouble making Kuroda a $14M qualifying offer. It’s a no-brainer in my book.
As for the standings, the Yankees could finish with anything from the 12th through 16th best record in baseball. The Blue Jays have a compensation pick early in the first round, so that would give them the 16th through 21st overall pick. Right now they have the 17th overall pick and the only way they can move up to 16th is if they get swept by the Astros while the Diamondbacks sweep the Nationals this weekend. That’s the only possible way to move up at this point.
Based on last season’s slot values, that’s the difference between the 16th ($2.3M) and 21st ($1.97M) picks is kinda small. Nice chunk of change but not a game-changing amount. The 17th overall pick was slotted for $2.16M, but the values are expected to increase next summer. Based on historical data and all that, the difference in expected future value of the 16th pick and the 21st (or 25th or 30th, for that matter) pick is negligible. That’s all theoretical though, anything can happen in one given year. Obviously you’d like the higher pick.
Christopher asks: Would you be interested in the newly back on track Ubaldo Jimenez at around $13M? I think there’s great value there and he could be the steal that helps the Yankees get back on track.
Once upon a time I was in favor of trading Jesus Montero for Jimenez, and for a while there it looked like the Yankees dodged a serious bullet. Obviously that seems silly now because Michael Pineda still hasn’t thrown a single pitch for the team in the 20 months (!) since the trade. Seriously, he’s missed two years (and counting) with that shoulder injury. What a disaster.
Anyway, this is purely hypothetical because there is an $8M club option in Ubaldo’s contract for next season and the Indians will surely pick that up. The 29-year-old has a 3.38 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 176 innings this season but he’s been even better in the second half: 1.86 ERA and 2.39 FIP in 77.1 innings. Jimenez has been a big reason why the Tribe jumped over the Rangers in the wildcard race.
Update!: Turns out Jimenez’s club option became a mutual option after the trade. He’ll surely decline his half and become a free agent.
Now, as good as the second half has been, we have to remember Ubaldo was really bad just last season. Heck, he had a 4.56 ERA and 4.49 FIP in 98.2 innings of the first half this year. Last year it was a 5.40 ERA and 5.06 FIP in 176.2 innings. Jimenez would be worth a much deeper look if he was indeed going to be free agent — did he actually change anything? — but I’d be very skeptical about giving him $13M a year based on a good half-season. High reward but super duper high risk.
Donny asks: Since we might not actually get to see this come to fruition, I figured I would ask: What do you think the playoff roster might/should look like?
I’ve been saving this question for like, three weeks now. I didn’t want to answer it while the team still had a shot at the postseason because I figured there might be serious playoff roster talk at some point. Now that they’ve been eliminated, let’s have at it. Based on who is actually healthy and available right now, here’s the 25-man roster I would take into the wildcard play-in game/ALDS:
|Chris Stewart||Robinson Cano||Curtis Granderson||Mariano Rivera|
|J.R. Murphy||Lyle Overbay||Ichiro Suzuki||Hiroki Kuroda||David Robertson|
|Eduardo Nunez||Alfonso Soriano||Andy Pettitte||Boone Logan|
|Mark Reynolds||Zoilo Almonte||Ivan Nova||Shawn Kelley|
|Designated Hitter||David Adams||Vernon Wells||Phil Hughes||David Phelps|
|Alex Rodriguez||Adam Warren|
The opponent would dictate the bullpen to a certain degree. If the Yankees drew an opponent with a right-handed heavy lineup, I would probably take
Phil Hughes Preston Claiborne over Huff. In this general case I’d take the second lefty.
The Yankees have an alarming shortage of useful position players. Brendan Ryan is not eligible for the postseason roster because he wasn’t in the organization on August 31st, so Nunez is the starting shortstop by default. That leaves Adams or Reynolds as the everyday third baseman if A-Rod‘s various leg injuries don’t heal up in time. Hafner is pretty useless, but I’d rather have the extra bench bat than the 12th pitcher. I’d trim the staff down to ten pitchers if there was another position player worth taking. That … is not an inspiring roster. Geez.