Archive for Mailbag
Only three questions this week because you folks sent in a whole lot of repeats and wildly outrageous hypotheticals. Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about crazy trade scenarios as much as anyone, but no, the Yankees won’t make a monster offer for Bryce Harper in the wake of Curtis Granderson‘s injury. So yeah, use the Submit A Tip box and step up your mailbagin’ game.
Paul asks: In years past I remember the season starting off with enough off days to make a fifth starter unnecessary until 2-3 weeks into the season. Freddy Garcia specifically had that happen. What’s this season like in that regard? Any chance that, even if Phil Hughes is on the DL they just go with four starters for a couple of weeks?
Unfortunately the schedule works against the Yankees this year. They play their first game on April 1st, have April 2nd off, then play 12 games in the next 12 days. Barring any weather-related postponements, the absolute latest the Yankees will need their fifth start this season April 8th in Cleveland, the seventh game of the season. They’ll need him again five days later, so it’s not even a situation where they would need him once in the first four weeks or something.
The Yankees are in relatively good shape because they do have have that spare starter — the loser of the Ivan Nova/David Phelps fifth starter battle — to stick in Hughes’ spot if his back injury delays the start of his season for any reason. My big concern is someone else getting hurt and having to miss time. All of a sudden Adam Warren would be taking the ball every five days in April and that is less than ideal. As I’ve written recently, I’m a fan of exploring a contract with Kyle Lohse even though it’ll cost a draft pick. If he’s willing to take favorable terms (one or two years at $7-8M annually?), having that extra quality depth will be nice. The Yankees are going to lean on their pitching staff more than usual this year, so might as well beef it up as much as possible.
Ben asks: Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the GM of a team that has either a protected first round pick or you’ve already lost it because you’ve signed a qualifying free agent. Would the thought of signing Kyle Lohse to a one-year deal cross your mind? Consider this: if you do, you lose a second round pick, but if he pitches well then you can make a qualifying offer and be in line to get a BETTER pick than the one you gave up. How long would you entertain that idea before you dismissed it?
Well, isn’t that convenient. As I just said, I would absolutely explore signing Lohse at this point. I think draft picks are being overvalued these days, especially by legitimate contenders who are trying to win now. If you’re trying to win in 2013 and 2014, adding Lohse is going to help you a helluva lot more than a draft pick in whatever round. The scary part is that these St. Louis journeymen/reclamation types tend to stink as soon as they leave the Cardinals, however. The Jeffs — Suppan and Weaver — are the primary examples. That does make me nervous.
I’m not sure I buy the idea of getting a pick when Lohse leaves — given how his free agency has played out, I’m guessing Lohse would take a qualifying offer in the future, especially since they’re expected to climb into the $14-15M range in the coming years — but that’s always possible. I certainly wouldn’t assume a future draft pick when signing the right-hander. Without knowing what Scott Boras is seeking, I think there’s a pretty great opportunity out there for someone to get a bargain with Lohse at this point. The Braves, who already forfeited their first rounder to sign B.J. Upton and have questions at the back of the rotation, should be all over him.
Frank asks: Nonsense (maybe not) hypothetical … If Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams have somewhat outstanding years in AA/AAA, would you trade all three for Giancarlo Stanton, straight up?
Yep, in a heartbeat. Stanton is a proven star at the big league level and is basically in those guys’ age range — he’s ten months older than Heathcott and less than two years older than Austin and Williams — so it would be both a win-now and win-later move. I said before that I think draft picks are being overrated and I feel the same way about prospects, even top prospects. If you can’t trade multiple top prospects for someone like Stanton, who can you trade them for?
As much as we don’t want to admit it, those three young outfielders aren’t all going to work out. If the Yankees get one above-average big leaguer from that group, they should be thrilled. Two would be a minor miracle. Heathcott is an injury risk because he plays like a maniac, Austin’s power ceiling is limited because he doesn’t generate enough backspin, and Williams is a bit of a hacker. There are red flags there. Stanton isn’t the perfect player, but he fits the Yankees’ needs so beautifully. Empty out that farm system.
Got four questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box to send us your questions or anything else throughout the week.
Mark asks: If Jacoby Ellsbury stays healthy and has a productive 2013, should the Yankees consider signing him as Curtis Granderson‘s replacement in the unlikely event Robinson Cano signs elsewhere this offseason? Even though he is a Scott Boras client, I cannot imagine he will get anything close to the 7-10 guaranteed years Cano likely will get from some desperate team given his past injury history.
Ellsbury, 29, desperately needs to have a strong season in 2013. He was a monster in 2011, but otherwise has only played 92 games with four DL trips in 2010 and 2012 combined. I’m pretty sure the Red Sox will let him walk — or even trade him at the deadline — after the season because Jackie Bradley Jr. is coming, so Ellsbury really needs to have a good healthy season if he wants to cash in next winter.
Here’s the thing though: if Ellsbury does stay healthy and has a strong year, Boras will be looking for $100M+. No doubt about it with an MVP-caliber season so close in the rear-view mirror. If he gets hurt again, then you’re talking about signing an injury prone player and expecting him to play everyday. Not the wisest idea. Ellsbury is a good player but I don’t thing he’ll ever repeat his 2011 effort, so I don’t like the idea of signing him to replace Granderson. Even if he stays healthy this summer, there’s still a long injury history there and it would make me wary considering his likely asking price.
Kevin asks: What about Francisco Rodriguez? He isn’t is former self obviously but I refuse to believe he is useless. He could give us insurance with closer experience if Mariano Rivera has a set back.
K-Rod, 31, pitched to a 4.38 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 72 innings for the Brewers last year, his worst season in the big leagues. His strikeout (9.00 K/9 and 23.6 K%) and walk (3.88 BB/9 and 10.2 BB%) were right in line with his career rates, but his swing-and-miss rate (7.9%) was by far the worst of his career (career 12.4%). His homerun rate (1.00 HR/9 and 12.3% HR/FB) were his worst since he first broke into the show. On the bright side, Rodriguez’s fastball velocity spiked back up last summer after a steady multi-year decline.
Last week Jon Heyman reported K-Rod will pitch in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and use the event to showcase himself to teams. The Yankees have a good amount of bullpen depth behind right-handers David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Rivera, but K-Rod would be the first guy I’d call if one of them got hurt in camp. He’s had continued off-the-field troubles and I doubt the makeup-loving Yankees would go for that, however. Rodriguez isn’t what he once was, but he’s still a useful reliever and someone New York should keep tabs on during the WBC.
David asks: Just happened to be surfing during a boring part of SNL and took a look at the MLB list of players with no options. What do you think of Conor Gillaspie? If the Giants don’t keep him, I’m sure someone will claim him, but I’m wondering if it makes sense to try to work out a trade? Yankees would use a young lefty bat who plays third with good minor numbers. Could be a useful left-handed bat on the bench to pinch-hit for a catcher or someone to spell Youk.
I’m willing to bet you are able to do a whole lot more than skim the out-of-options list during the boring part of SNL these days. Ba-dum ching!
That was my attempt at humor. Anyway, the Giants drafted the 25-year-old Gillaspie with the 37th overall pick in the 2008 draft and rather than give him a Major League contract, they promised him a September call-up. He made his big league debut that September and has since burned through his four minor league options (he qualified for a fourth because he used his original three during the first five years of his pro career).
Over the last two seasons, Gillaspie has hit .289/.368/.447 (~107 wRC+) with 25 homers and strong walk (11.1%) and strikeout (13.7%) rates in nearly 1,000 Triple-A plate appearances. He’s had three big league cups of coffee but hasn’t hit (60 wRC+) in 48 total plate appearances. Gillaspie is primarily a third baseman but the Giants have tried him out at first and in left field in the past. Baseball America did not rank him as one of the 30 best prospects in a brutal San Francisco farm system — system ranked 26th by Keith Law and 28th by BA — in their latest Prospect Handbook, which gives you an idea of how farm his stock as fallen. At this point he’s more of an organizational player than anything.
The only locks for Bruce Bochy’s bench right now are backup catcher Hector Sanchez, infielder (and former Yankees farmhand) Joaquin Arias, and outfielder Andres Torres. That leaves two spots open, one of which figures to go a left-handed hitting pinch-hitter. Given the names on their 40-man roster and non-roster invitee list, it sure looks like Gillaspie has a great chance to make the team. If he doesn’t, then I doubt he’s good enough to crack anyone’s bench. The “former (supplemental) first round pick” stuff means he still has a little bit of prospect shine, but I’m not sure Gillaspie is a legit big leaguer. He might be worth a minor trade or waiver claim, but I wouldn’t offer up much of anything even though he appears like a nice fit for the Eric Chavez role on paper.
Update!: The Giants just announced that they traded Gillaspie to the White Sox for a fringy minor league pitcher. I suppose the Yankees could look to acquire him from Chicago, but meh.
Sal asks: Who is the best player the Yankee farm system EVER produced? I’m guessing Derek Jeter or Mickey Mantle?
Without looking, I’m guessing Mantle. Now here are the top five position players and top five pitchers in franchise history according to bWAR…
Yogi Berra (56.2 bWAR) was a distant sixth behind Jeter and Lefty Gomez (39.5 bWAR) was right behind Ruffing, in case you’re wondering.
Ruth obviously wasn’t homegrown, so he’s not relevant in this discussion. Gehrig and Mantle are essentially tied — a difference of 3.0 bWAR spread across nearly 10,000 plate appearances is nothing. Gehrig is the best first baseman in history by a not small margin (Albert Pujols is second at 88.5 bWAR) while Mantle is “only” the fourth best center fielder (behind Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker). Is that enough to say Gehrig is the greatest homegrown Yankee over Mantle? Eh, sure. Why not.
Now, we have to remember that back in Gehrig’s and Mantle’s day, every amateur player was a free to sign with whatever team. The draft and international free agency as we know it (more or less) were implemented in 1965. The best homegrown Yankee during the draft era is Jeter by a mile. Rivera is the second best, then you’ve got Bernie Williams (45.9 bWAR), Thurman Munson (43.3 bWAR), Pettitte, and Guidry essentially tied for third. Fred McGriff was a Yankees draft pick who was traded away before reaching the big leagues, and he managed to rack up 48.2 bWAR. He’s the second best player the team has ever drafted with the caveat that Pettitte could pass him in 2013. Pretty crazy.
Got four questions with some pretty long answers today, so this is a hefty mailbag relative to most weeks. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or another.
Several people asked: What about Drew Stubbs?
When the Indians agreed to sign Michael Bourn earlier this week, the first thing pretty much everyone seemed to think was that either Michael Brantley or Stubbs were trade bait. Manager Terry Francona shot that down by saying they plan to play Brantley, Bourn, and Stubbs in the outfield with Nick Swisher at first base and Mark Reynolds at DH, but a trade should never be ruled out. Jon Heyman says the team is getting calls about its spare outfielders.
I wrote about the 28-year-old Stubbs early in the offseason, before the Reds traded him to the Tribe as part of the Shin-Soo Choo-Trevor Bauer deal. He was awful overall last season — 64 wRC+ with a 30.5% strikeout rate — but he continued to hit left-handers (111 wRC+) while providing plenty of value on the bases (30+ steals in three straight years) and in the outfield. Rather than rehash everything here, I suggest clicking the link and reading the previous post for the gory details. The short version is that I wouldn’t use him against righties at all but would everywhere else.
Cleveland signed Stubbs to a one-year, $2.825M contract last month, and he remains under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2015. I’d be all over him for the right-handed bench bat role if I was the Yankees, mostly because he’s affordable and will produce just as much against lefties as Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz while contributing far more outside the batter’s box. He’d give them a right-handed platoon bat and a late-inning pinch-runner. I don’t know what the Indians would seek in return, but if they’d take a depth arm like Adam Warren or a miscellaneous prospect like Corban Joseph, I’d be all over it.
Only three questions this week, but they’re good ones. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Many people asked: What happens with regards to the luxury tax if Alex Rodriguez retires or his contract is voided or he agrees to a buyout?
The answer to all three of those situations is: I have no idea. I imagine the Yankees would be off the hook completely if he voluntarily retired (which he would never do) or they were able to void the contract (which is extremely unlikely). Even if doctors said A-Rod was physically unable to play, he still wouldn’t retire. He’d just force the team to stick him on the 60-day DL every year and keep collecting his money, like Albert Belle did with the Orioles back in the day. That’s what I would do. The Yankees would collect insurance money in that case, but I don’t think it would prevent his salary from counting against the luxury tax. I don’t know that for sure though.
Until we have definitive word otherwise, I assume Alex and his entire $27.5M luxury tax hit will be on the books for the next five years. If they manage to work something out that changes his luxury tax hit, great. I’m not counting on it.
Anonymous asks: Hypothetical situation: if the Yankees had Jurickson Profar and you were the GM, would you hold him back in the minors, move Derek Jeter to a new position (or DH), or maybe something else entirely? This is obviously not a problem for the Yankees now, but it’s fun to play what-if.
Profar, 20 next month, is the best prospect in all of baseball. He hit .281/.368/.452 (127 wRC+) with 14 homers and 16 steals in 126 Double-A games last year, then made his big league debut in September. He’s truly elite, a great-defending shortstop who hits for average and power and can run. Profar is Hanley Ramirez — the good version with the Marlins from back in the day — with better defense.
If he was Yankees property and I was calling the shots, I’m pretty sure I would send Profar to Triple-A to begin 2013. It would be incredibly tempting to run him out there everyday if Jeter’s ankle kept him on the shelf early in the season, however. Profar would be the obvious long-term solution at shortstop once the Cap’n retires, and I would try to push Jeter to third base or DH in 2014 (assuming he exercises his player option) to make it happen.
Daniel asks: Any chance of acquiring J.J. Hardy from Baltimore? I can see them sticking with him this year, but would they really block Machado two straight years? I don’t think so and Hardy supposedly only plays shortstop.
Hardy, 30, hit .238/.282/.389 (78 wRC+) last season after putting together a .269/.310/.491 (113 wRC+) line with 30 homers a year ago. Given the dearth of quality shortstops, I totally would have traded Hardy this winter and handed Machado the shortstop job if I was the Orioles. Instead, Machado will play third base in 2013.
Baltimore owes Hardy $7M in both 2013 and 2014, so he’s very reasonably priced given his great defense and power production. He’d be a great fit for the Yankees if the ankle forces Jeter off shortstop full-time, but I have a very hard time seeing the Bombers and Orioles getting together for a trade. Especially if the O’s prove last year was no fluke and remain competitive. Hardy is too expensive to be a utility man and too good defensively to DH, but he’d be a great Jeter replacement.
Four questions and four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Travis asks: Do you think a trade with San Diego for Chris Denorfia could work? Denorfia had a .337/.390/.500 slash line with 15 walks and 16 strikeouts in 178 at bats against lefties in 2012.
Denorfia, 32, has very quietly emerged as one of the best right-handed platoon outfielders in baseball over the last few seasons. Since joining the Padres in 2010, he’s hit .281/.339/.423 (115 wRC+) overall and .323/.388/.468 (142 wRC+) against southpaws. He rarely strikes out (9.9 K%) against left-handers, can steal the occasional base, and grades out as average or better defensively in the corners. Denorfia would be a fantastic target for that righty outfield platoon bat role, but the Padres just signed him to a two-year extension and I doubt they’re looking to trade him.
Now, Denorfia is not San Diego’s only right-handed platoon bat. They also have 28-year-old Jesus Guzman, who’s hit .276/.339/.439 (118 wRC+) overall as a big leaguer and .311/.387/.509 (150 wRC+) against lefties. He doesn’t make as much contact as Denorfia (16.0 K%) and he won’t steal as many bases, but he draws walks (10.4 BB%) and can play all four corner positions while also filling in at second in a pinch. Guzman was a bit of a late-bloomer who didn’t stick in the show until 2011.
While Denorfia just received his new contract, there was actually some talk the Padres might non-tender Guzman a few weeks ago. I was planning to write a Scouting The Market post the very next day had they cut him loose. Instead, they’re going to bring him to camp and see how the bench shakes out. If there’s no room — San Diego has a ton of bench players to sort through in Spring Training — they could trade him or just option him down to Triple-A for depth. Denorfia would be nice, but I think there’s a much better chance of Guzman actually being available at some point. Needless to say, the Yankees should have interest in both.
A few people asked: What about Domonic Brown?
It’s that time of year again, huh? The Phillies continue to show no interest in giving the 25-year-old Brown a legitimate chance, this time signing Delmon Young (!) to play right field everyday. Not only are they not giving him a chance, but now they’re slapping him in the face in the process.
Anyway, I’m pretty much over Brown at this point. He didn’t look so hot during his 212 plate appearance cameo last summer (.235/.316/.396, 91 wRC+), plus he played awful defense. Like, maybe he should be a first baseman defense. Brown is out of options, meaning he’ll have to go through waivers to go back to Triple-A, plus the Yankees don’t really have a need for another left-handed hitting outfielder. I suppose there’s the DH spot, but meh. The Phillies did Brown no favors by jerking him around these last few years, but at some point we have to assign some blame to the player as well. I’m at that point and wouldn’t give up much of anything for him.
Justin asks: With the Diamondbacks loaded on young pitching, should the Yankees try and pry away Pat Corbin from them?
Corbin, 23, was part of the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Angels a few years ago. He made his big league debut last season and pitched to a 4.54 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 107 innings spread across 17 starts and five relief appearances. The strikeout (7.23 K/9 and 18.9 K%), walk (2.10 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%), and ground ball (45.7%) rates were all pretty strong. Certainly a solid showing for a rookie.
The Diamondbacks added yet another young arm yesterday, getting Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton trade. Delgado, Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs (another part of the Haren trade and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball) will compete for the team’s fifth rotation spot in Spring Training. The two losers will go to Triple-A and serve as depth. Kevin Towers is a pitching guy and will stockpile arms until the cows come home.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) said Corbin “projects as a No. 4 starter” before last season because he doesn’t light up the radar gun and none of his offspeed pitches is a true swing-and-miss offering. He’s almost like a left-handed (and slightly younger) David Phelps. That’s someone who is nice to have, but not someone you go all out to acquire. Corbin would be nice to have in stock come 2014 after Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes all hit free agency, but I think the Yankees should use their trade chips to acquire a bat first. That’s a much more pressing need.
Tucker asks: Back in the 2010-11 offseason, there was speculation of a Robinson Cano-for-Matt Kemp trade. In hindsight, would you have made the move?
I’m pretty sure that was much earlier than 2010-2011, no? I thought it was during the 2008-2009 offseason, after Robbie had his awful year. That’s usually when fans conjure up trade scenarios for players, after their down seasons. Anyway, I remember the idea was to trade Cano for Kemp and sign Orlando Hudson to take over at second base.
I was all for that trade at the time (not so much signing Hudson, but I digress) because I thought Kemp would turn into a star (he has!) and Cano would settle in a solid second baseman (he’s been much, much better than that). That was back when the Yankees were looking at replacing both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the near future, and before they acquired Nick Swisher or had seen what Brett Gardner could do in a full season. There was a need for an outfielder and I was all for such a trade.
Now, looking at this in hindsight is another matter. Cano’s been the better hitter (138 vs. 135 wRC+), the better defender (by a mile), and the healthier player (again by a mile) over the last four seasons. Kemp has the advantage in base-running (by a mile) and in terms of contracts ($21M vs. $39M). Despite the significant difference in salary, I would have not done that trade in hindsight. I valuable durability and Cano never ever misses a game. But, as I said, I was all for it at the time and it’s not like Kemp is chopped liver either.
Got just two questions for you this week, but they’re both good ones with long-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.
Bill asks: Should the Yankees have any interest in bringing Manny Ramirez to training camp and see if he has anything left? Could provide a nice righty bat.
Manny, 40, is tearing the cover off the ball in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .306/.405/.532 with four homers, nine walks, and a dozen strikeouts in 17 postseason games after putting up a .293/.360/.434 line in 25 regular season games. One hundred and eighty five total plate appearances is nothing though, so I wouldn’t read much into that performance at all. Ramirez’s agent recently confirmed to Jon Morosi that his client hopes to return to MLB next season and is using winter ball as what amounts to a showcase, and so far, so good.
Prior to the winter ball playoffs, Manny had not been an above-average hitter since splitting the 2010 season between the Dodgers and White Sox (140 wRC+ in 320 plate appearances). His bat speed and power had been slipping for a while when he signed with the Rays prior to 2011, though he continued to hit for average and draw walks. The stint in Tampa lasted five games due to his second PED suspension, which he satisfied after signing a minor league contract with the Athletics last winter. Manny hit .302/.348/.349 with no homers, five walks, and 17 strikeouts in 17 Triple-A games with Oakland before requesting his release in June and sitting out of the rest of the year.
I have no idea what Ramirez is capable of doing at the plate these days. No one does. He looked close to done during his brief (88 plate appearances) stint with the ChiSox in 2010, when he managed just a .261/.420/.319 (115 wRC+) line. The on-base rate is fantastic, but the lack of power from a guy in his late-30s is a red flag. That said, it’s a small sample and he hit .311/.405/.510 (150 wRC+) in 232 plate appearances with the Dodgers before going to Chicago, so maybe it was just a small sample issue. Remember, that was also two full seasons ago now as well. Hard to take anything from those performances.
Given their emphasis on makeup and all that, I can’t see the Yankees signing Manny at this point. Even on a no-risk, minor league contract. Just can’t see it. That said, I’d love it. Love it. Put that all-important veteran clubhouse to work and see if those guys can keep him grounded and in check. Give him an invite to camp and see what he can do against left-handers, against right-handers, as a DH, as an outfielder, at first base, whatever. There’s nothing to lose other than I guess PR, but the club isn’t doing so hot in that department these days anyway. The Yankees are boring as hell and Manny would certainly make Spring Training much more interesting. I’d love to see it.
Mark asks: With the Mariners apparently going with some mix of Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders — should Casper Wells be available? He’d be a good, cheap fit.
Seattle did nothing to unclog their logjam by replacing John Jaso with Morse, and in fact they made it worse since they would have been able to stick Jaso behind the plate. Justin Smoak is terrible, so Kendrys Morales figures to get most of the action at first base. Jesus Montero has a clear opening to catch at least most of the time, meaning Bay and Ibanez will likely platoon at DH while Morse, Gutierrez, and Saunders man the outfield.
Wells, 28, is a right-handed hitting outfielder who does almost all of his damage against southpaws. He’s a .246/.317/.435 (109 wRC+) overall hitter in 656 career big league plate appearances, but that’s broken down into 132 wRC+ against lefties and an 88 wRC+ against righties. He will strike out some (26.2 K% vs. LHP), but otherwise he draws walks (10.2 BB%) and hits for power (.225 ISO) against lefties. The batting average won’t be anything special (.264 career vs. LHP), but power and patience go a long way. Add in the fact that his defense has been rated as above-average in the corners and average in center, and you’ve got a useful platoon outfielder.
Wells is out of minor league options, meaning he would have to clear waivers to go down to Triple-A next season. That won’t happen, he would almost certainly get claimed. Saunders broke out last season (108 wRC+ overall) and suddenly started hitting lefties (116 wRC+), so he doesn’t necessarily need a platoon partner now. Gutierrez is far from a guarantee to stay healthy (or hit) though, so having an extra non-Bay and non-Ibanez outfielder around seems like a wise idea. If the Mariners do make Wells available, a) it would probably be at the end of Spring Training after they ensure everyone makes it through camp in one piece, and b) the Yankees should definitely have interest. He’d be a great fit.
Got five questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box (in the sidebar) is the best way to send us stuff.
Conor asks: Would trading one of Tyler Austin, Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott for Nick Castellanos make sense for both teams? The Tigers are going to have him move to right field since they have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the infield corners. Seems that trading him for a player whose already demonstrated he can play the outfield is a better idea.
Now that’s interesting. Castellanos is a one of the best prospects in baseball — Baseball America ranked him 11th overall while Keith Law ranked him 18th in their midseason updates — thanks to a career .316/.367/.443 batting line with 17 homers in 276 minor league games. Baseball America recently ranked him as Detroit’s top prospect, saying he’s “[o]ne of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues” in their subscriber-only scouting report. Since Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez are clogging the infield corners and DH spot, the Tigers shifted Castellanos from third base to right field this past July. Baseball America said “he could be an average outfielder” with experience.
The Yankees have plenty of high-end outfield prospects as you mentioned, as both Williams (#28) and Austin (#39) cracked Baseball America’s midseason update (Williams made Law’s, which was only 25 players deep). New York would probably have to kick in a little something extra, but a Castellanos-for-Williams trade (for example) isn’t outrageous at all. Both have their own red flags (Williams is coming off shoulder surgery, Castellanos strikes out a lot for a guy who hasn’t shown much power yet), but Castellanos doesn’t have an obvious spot with the Tigers while Williams would be coming from a position of depth. Prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen because every team loves their prospects more than everyone else’s, but I do think a swap like this makes some sense for both clubs.
Jason asks: Just wondering what you would think of a possible Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, or David Phelps trade to the Rockies for either Michael Cuddyer or Jordan Pacheco. I think Pacheco fits perfectly with NYYs needs. Right-handed outfielder and third basemen and can even fake catcher at times. The Rockies need starting pitching badly.
I wouldn’t touch Cuddyer. He’s 33 years old and he was just barely a league average hitter (102 wRC+) in Coors Field last season. Plus he spent nearly half the year on the DL and isn’t anything special on defense despite the supposed versatility. The Rockies can have fun with that $21M he’s owed over the next two seasons, no way would I want the Yankees to give up something of value for that.
Pacheco, on the other hand, makes some sense. He turns 27 later this month and is a .306/.338/.413 career hitter in 593 plate appearances. Don’t get too excited, that’s only a 91 wRC+ because Coors has turned back into a launching pad. Pacheco always had strong walk rates in the minors (10%+), but it’s dipped to just 4.2% in the show. I’m not sure what that’s about. He can play the three non-shortstop infield spots adequately and catch in an emergency, plus he’s under team control for another five years. I’m not giving up Hughes, Nova, or Phelps for a bench player though, Colorado would have to be willing to take something less.
John asks: Since the Yankees need a cost controlled right-handed outfield bat for 2013 (and 2014) does it makes sense to target someone like Justin Maxwell? He has power and is slightly above average defensively. Sure he doesn’t take a walk and his contact rate isn’t that good but a relatively young, arbitration-eligible (until 2017) 4th outfielder/platoon bat with some decent speed, defense and power doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me…your thoughts?
The Yankees had the 29-year-old Maxwell in camp last season, but he was out of minor league options and they lost him on waivers to the Astros at the end of Spring Training. He put together a 107 wRC+ overall with Houston, but was especially tough on southpaws: .272/.387/.505 (144 wRC+). Maxwell has some Andruw Jones in him (the old version, not the Braves version) because he hits for big power (.232 ISO), will draw a walk (9.1%), and can strike out with the best of ‘em (32.4%). Andruw actually has more favorable rates, but Maxwell will steal the occasional base and is better on defense.
Clearly the Yankees should have dumped Jones and kept Maxwell last year, but that’s a pure hindsight statement. Maxwell is a platoon player on the short-end of the playing time stick and should be treated as such. The Yankees shouldn’t have to overpay to get him back just because. If the Astros will take a Grade-B prospect, sure. I wouldn’t go much higher, we’re not talking about Mike Trout here. Maxwell is under team control for another few years and that’s nice, but I don’t focus too much on years of control when talking about bench guys (and relievers). They rarely stick around that long anyway.
Anonymous asks: Given that college baseballs apparently travel less in the air and have higher seams (which make breaking balls more effective), how would you evaluate college players in light of this? Would you downgrade fly ball pitchers and/or pitchers with less velocity (i.e., more reliant on breaking balls)? Would you give extra credit to hitters who had success against breaking balls?
It’s not just college balls, the balls they use in the minors are different than the ones they use in the big leagues as well. Craig Hansen and Bryce Cox were two guys who threw vicious breaking balls in school but couldn’t get the ball to move the same way as a professional, so they flamed out. Teams are obviously aware of this and I don’t really know how they address it. I’m guessing each club does it a different way. Preferably you’d see a pitcher several times (high school, college, summer league, private workout, etc.) before the draft, giving you plenty of chances (with different balls) to evaluate him. Hitters who can hit breaking balls tend to grade out well anyway, but I’m not sure if you’d give him extra credit for doing it against a college ball. I don’t really know the answer to this question, but the difference in balls (this applies to Japan and Korea as well) is something teams must consider when evaluating a player.
Chris asks: Would you consider new aged sabermetrics a “performance-enhancer”? 25 years ago players were judged based on simple stats which were visible and tangible to the fan. RBI, HR, AVG etc. Now advanced metrics allow us to judge players on a whole new level. Wouldn’t you agree that certain platoon players would have not found jobs 25 years ago but do today because certain metrics say they can still hit lefties or are victims of bad ball in play luck?
“Performance-enchancer” implies that they’re helping the player perform better than they normally would. A player getting a job because some front office executive used stats to determine he was being undervalued doesn’t really qualify to me. Maybe if the player was using stats to improve his performance they would be considered a “performance-enhancer,” but I’m not sure how that would work. It’s not like a pitcher could independently focus on lowering his HR/FB% or something. Looking at stats is the same as looking at scouting reports for me.
Just as an aside: The term “performance-enhancer” itself bugs me because it carries far too many connotations. I wish they’d just stick to calling them banned substances. No need to automatically tag them as performance-enchancing when we don’t know how much they really help. Trust me, there have been plenty of players who improperly used PEDs and wound up hurting themselves more than they helped.
After nursing from the mailbag teat during the holidays, it’s time to get back to the once-a-week Friday morning mailbag setup. I’ve got four questions for you this week and entirely too many words worth of answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.
Davis asks: Now that the Diamondbacks have signed Cody Ross, is there a chance that they will trade someone like A.J. Pollock? He bats right, has showed solid doubles power and seems to be pretty good on defense. He might make some sense for the Yankees, even if only as depth in case of an injury.
The D’Backs have a ton of outfielders. We all know about Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and Ross, but they also have Adam Eaton (117 wRC+ during his September call-up) and Pollock. The 25-year-old Pollock hit .247/.315/.395 (83 wRC+) in 93 plate appearances with Arizona last season, his big league debut. Prior to that he hit .318/.369/.411 (105 wRC+) in 471 plate appearances in the hitter friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Baseball America ranked him as the team’s sixth best prospect before the season, and here’s a snippet of what they had to say in their subscriber-only scouting report…
First and foremost, he’s a blue-collar player with great makeup and excellent instincts in all phases of the game. He’s a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter who squares balls up consistently and produces lots of doubles. He could develop 15-homer power once he gets stronger. He makes contact so easily that it hampers his ability to draw walks. Though he has just average speed, Pollock is the system’s best baserunner … He’s solid defensively at all three outfield positions, making good reads in center field and displaying an average arm … Though some scouts see him as a fourth outfielder because he isn’t loaded with plus tools, the Diamondbacks envision him becoming a solid regular.
Because he was added to the 40-man roster just last year and didn’t accumulate a full season’s worth of service time, Pollock has two minor league options remaining and all six years of team control. He didn’t have much of a platoon split in the minors over the last two seasons and his big league performance tells us nothing, but either way it’s still too early to pigeon-hole him into the right-handed half of a platoon.
Pollock is a (much) better prospect than Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte, and he also provides more roster flexibility than Chris Dickerson, so yeah the Yankees should definitely be interested. I like his chances of sticking as a regular by 2014 much more than I do Mesa’s or Zoilo’s, that’s for sure. Prospect-for-prospect trades don’t happen very often because teams are like parents, they all love their own kids more than everyone else’s. I’m not sure what the D’Backs need at the big league level at this point or if they’re even willing to move Pollock despite their glut of outfielders, but he would certainly be a fit for New York.
Mark asks: Doesn’t Adam Kennedy make some sense to fill an Eric Chavez-type role? He also has the benefit of playing played 2B (a lot) and the outfield (a little).
Kennedy, 36, is opening a baseball academy in Anaheim but is not officially retiring and remains open to playing according to Alden Gonzalez. He hit .262/.345/.357 (97 wRC+) in 201 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season while missing more than a month with a groin strain and playing primarily first, second, and third bases. It was his best offensive season since 2009 and second best since 2005, thanks mostly to a career-high walk rate (11.4% in 2012 and 6.6% career) that I really can’t explain. His plate discipline rates didn’t change and he only had eight total plate appearances as the number eight hitter (ahead of the pitcher), so who knows.
As a left-handed batter, Kennedy hit righties pretty well last season (107 wRC+) but not over the last three seasons (85 wRC+). He does put the ball in play (14.4 K% and 86.1% contact rate) and offer some versatility (mostly the non-shortstop infield spots), which counts for something. It’s not much, but it’s something. If Kennedy is willing to leave Southern California and take a minor league contract, sure, bring him to camp a la Chavez in 2011. I can’t imagine guaranteeing him anything though, this isn’t some former star with upside.
Damix asks: Given the uncertainty of next year’s market for Phil Hughes, do you think signing Edwin Jackson to the same contract he received would have been a smarter plan for the 2014 budget?
The Cubs officially signed Jackson, who is a little less than three years older that Hughes, to a four-year deal worth $52M earlier this week. That’s $13M annually and the going rate for a slightly better than league average starter. Jackson has been consistently solid over the last four seasons even though his ERA has fluctuated wildly, plus he’s a workhorse who will provide 30+ starts and 180+ innings no questions asked. I think he would have gotten more money had a) his velocity not dropped more than a mile-an-hour last season, and b) he not had a brutal September (6.54 ERA).
Hughes, on the other hand, has been anything but consistent and a workhorse. He’s managed two league average seasons in the last three years and has a chance to make it three in four years before hitting the open market next winter. Hughes has a longer injury history but has done it in the AL East, in the tiny ballpark, and in the postseason (outside of the nightmare that was the 2010 ALCS), and that kind of stuff pays in free agency. If he repeats his 2012 season in 2013, I bet he winds up with a deal closer to Anibal Sanchez’s than Jackson’s given his age.
Anyway, back to the actual question. I’m not a huge believer in Jackson but that is definitely a fair price in my book. I think he’s been overrated because his stuff says he should be an ace, but the last half-decade of performance shows he’s coming up short. He’s a classic “we can fix him” guy, especially at that age. The Yankees are going to need to plug a few rotation spots next winter and Jackson would be a nice guy to have around, but I’m not losing sleep over it.
Jeff asks: Are the Yankees setting themselves up well for the future with the MLB draft? They have four picks in the first 65. Looking ahead to 2014 the Yankees will likely have at least 2-6 picks depending on what happens with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Kevin Youkilis. Those draftees won’t impact the team for 4-6 years, but is this a good way for the Yankees to focus on the farm?
As soon as Rafael Soriano signs somewhere, the Yankees will own three of the first 35 picks in this year’s draft and four of the first 65-ish picks (obligatory Draft Order page plug). That would change if they re-sign Soriano or sign one of the other compensation free agents (Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche, Kyle Lohse), but I don’t see any of that happening. The Yankees have had three of the first 100 picks just
once twice in the last nine years (2008 and 2012), nevermind four of the top 65(-ish).
Based on last year’s slot values (which are expected to increase this year), those top three picks will all be worth seven figures and that’s huge as far as the draft pool and spending restrictions go. The Yankees have to start doing a better job with their high draft picks, it’s imperative given the new system and the team’s desires to curtail payroll. It’s too early to know much about the strength about this year’s draft class, but that’s irrelevant really. There is always talent available and they’re going to have some major bucks to spend in the first round. I think it’s fair to say this coming draft will be the team’s most important since 2006, when they were in desperate need of farm system help (and knocked it out of park with that draft haul).
As for the 2014 draft, I wouldn’t count on those extra picks yet. The Yankees would surely make Cano a qualifying offer, but Granderson, Kuroda, and especially Youkilis are far from guarantees. Given the impending payroll slashing, I don’t think the team would risk that much money in qualifying offers even if the players are worth it. Remember, the offers won’t be $13.3M again next year. They’ll go up since they’re based on the average of top 125 salaries. We’ll worry about that draft a year from now.
Travis asks: Mike, not a whole lot is made of the DSL. Since the Yankees have added a second GCL team, can you do a top ten DSL players that could make the jump to GCL play?
The DSL, or Dominican Summer League, is the lowest level of affiliated professional baseball aside from Extended Spring Training, which isn’t even a real league. The DSL is for internationally signed players (not just Latin America either) before they’re deemed ready to come to the United States. Some prospects, like Jesus Montero, skip the DSL entirely. Others, like Francisco Rondon, can spend several years there.
The Yankees have had two DSL affiliates since 2007, and prior to that they had one and a half — one full squad and another they split with the Padres. I don’t pay much attention to the team’s DSL affiliates because there’s so much misinformation out there about the kids playing in the league, plus the vast majority of them never make it to the states anyway. The addition of the second Gulf Coast League affiliate should bring more players stateside in the coming years.
I’m going to short-change Travis here and only list seven DSL players who could/should make the jump to the GCL this coming season. I just don’t have enough info on the rest of the guys down there to list another three players, but trust me, there are plenty of others who will come stateside this year. These guys are alphabetical, so don’t confuse this for a ranking.
- SS Abi Avelino — Signed for $175k in 2011, the 17-year-old Avelino was touted as a defensive whiz at the time of the deal. He hit .313/.409/.402 (139 wRC+) with 19 steals (in 21 attempts) this summer, creating some optimism about his offensive potential.
- RHP Cris Cabrera — The Yankees signed the 20-year-old right-hander for $400k back in 2009, but his development has been derailed by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Cabrera was healthy this year and pitched to a 2.84 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 57 innings. He’s a low-to-mid-90s fastball guy when right.
- RHP Rafael DePaula — If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, then you probably already know DePaula was the team’s best prospect in the DSL this summer. It wasn’t particularly close either. Here’s his Prospect Profile.
- RHP Dallas Martinez — Martinez, 19, draws comparisons to Manny Banuelos because he’s an undersized pitcher from Mexico. The right-hander received a six-figure bonus in 2011 and pitched to a 2.19 ERA (3.14 FIP) in 65.2 innings this summer. He’s a three-pitch guy with polish but not a ton of upside.
- OF Wilmer Romero — Signed for $656.5k in 2010, Romero hit .292/.347/.500 (139 wRC+) with six homers this summer after a disappointing 2011 effort (94 wRC+). The 19-year-old has filled out and slowed down a bit, so the tools package isn’t as impressive as it was a few years ago.
- RHP Luis Severino — The Yankees signed the 18-year-old Severino for $225k in 2011 and he posted a 1.68 ERA (3.14 FIP) in 64.1 innings this year. His fastball sits in the 91-96 range and his slider is on the path to becoming an out pitch.
- IF Chris Tamarez — A shortstop when the Yankees signed him for $650k back in 2010, the 19-year-old Tamarez has since moved over to third. He hit .333/.390/.487 (149 wRC+) with five homers this summer, but there’s concern about his propensity for the swing-and-miss despite modest power potential.
There’s a very good chance C Luis Torrens, who signed for $1.3M this July, will skip right over the DSL and play in the GCL next year. The team’s two other big money 2012 international signings, OF Alex Palma and SS Yancarlo Baez, are less likely to come stateside right away. 3B Miguel Andujar was New York’s top international signing in 2011 and he jumped right to the GCL this year.
Dan asks: Could you write a piece on how many of the classic five tools each player on the roster really has? Sure to generate conversation.
The five traditional tools are the ability to hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and field. I’m no scout and won’t dare slap 20-80 grades on players, so I’m going to stick to three “scoring” categories: average, above-average, and below-average. Those are simple enough and I think most fans can dish those out. I am going to stick to 40-man roster players who have appeared in the big leagues, giving us 13 players…
I consider only two players to be above-average at four of the five tools: Cano (lacking run) and Ichiro (lacking power). I think you can make an argument that Ichiro’s arm only plays as average because he takes forever to actually throw the damn thing, but he does have a reputation and that alone prevents runners from taking the extra base. Teixeira is probably the next closest to four above-average tools, but he’ll need to remember how to hit for average first. Gardner doesn’t get enough credit for being able to do a little of everything other than hit for power.
The catchers were the toughest to grade given their sporadic playing time over the last few years, and I think all three of those guys could be considered below-average across the board. Cervelli runs well for a catcher and both Stewart and Romine have strong defensive reputations, so I’ll give them a little love in those departments. My biggest problem with the five tools is that plate discipline gets ignored, and it’s an area where several Yankees (Gardner, Granderson, A-Rod, Tex, Youkilis) would rate as above-average. Durability is another one, the ability to stay on the field counts.
I suspect there will be a lot of disagreement about these, so let me have it in the comments.