Mailbag: Hamels, Wilson, A-Rod, Prado, Jagielo, Tulowitzki

Another big mailbag this week. Thirteen questions. Use the “For The Mailbag” widget in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week. I know it doesn’t look like the question gets submitted, but trust me, it does.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Alex asks: Which trade would you rather make: 2 of the top 3 Yankees prospects, plus another from the 4-10 range, and another from the 11-30 range for Cole Hamels, or that same deal plus another non top-30 prospect for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon (including his entire contract)?

I am anti-Papelbon on principle, so give me the first package. The four prospects for Hamels. And I don’t think that is unreasonable at all. That’s a package of, let’s say, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and Ty Hensley. I like all four of those guys but Hamels is a bonafide ace and a difference-maker. When Jon Lester get six years and $155M, Hamels with four years and $94M left on his contract (plus a vesting option for a fifth year) is a damn bargain. Lester and Hamels are almost the exact same age (they were born eleven days apart), and at worst they’re the same exact pitcher, though Hamels is a touch better. Yeah, I’d do that trade in the heartbeat (if the Yankees were willing to take on the money). The upgrade from David Phelps or Bryan Mitchell or whoever to Hamels is massive. Just no Papelbon.

Liam asks: In the wake of Matt Kemp’s failed physical revealing he has arthritis in both hips, it got me thinking: What’s the deal with doctor/patient confidentiality with players and teams? Do players waive their right to confidentiality when seeing a team doctor? I’ve never heard of an undisclosed injury to a player before (we’re told for example, Player A has a Grade I Hamstring Strain). Does that violate any privacy?

Here’s what the Collective Bargaining Agreement says about disclosing injury information:

(4) For public relations purposes, a Club may disclose the following general information about employment-related injuries: (a) the nature of a Player’s injury, (b) the prognosis and the anticipated length of recovery from the injury, and (c) the treatment and surgical procedures undertaken or anticipated in regard to the injury. For any other medical condition that prevents a Player from rendering services to his Club, a Club may disclose only the fact that a medical condition is preventing the Player from rendering services to the Club and the anticipated length of the Player’s absence from the Club. A Club physician or certified athletic trainer treating a Player pursuant to Regulation 2 of his UPC and any other physician or medical professional treating or consulting with a Player pursuant to Regulation 2 or Article XIII(D) shall be prohibited from making any public disclosure of a Player’s medical information absent a separate, specific written authorization from the Player authorizing such public disclosure.

So the team can announce the nature and severity of the injury, the expected timetable for the player’s return, and what kind of treatment he is receiving. The Kemp stuff is different because the Padres leaked the info about his bad hips even though he’s not their player. He was still technically a Dodger at the time. Imagine if Brett Gardner pulled him hamstring running out a grounder in Fenway Park, the Red Sox team doctor looks him over and says he has a Grade II hamstring strain, then tells the media about it. That’s wouldn’t go over well. The Red Sox doctor has no business talking to the media about another team’s player. Same with Kemp and the Padres.

Rooting for U.S. Steel: When a team’s offer includes an invitation to spring training, what is the team’s obligation? To merely allow the player in the gates? To guarantee the player will have at least one plate appearance or inning in the field? Varied by agreement with an individual player? Other?

I suppose it could vary by player, though the Collective Bargaining Agreement does have guidelines for Spring Training. Players don’t receive salary in Spring Training, but the team must provide the player with a place to stay during camp (hotel room) and pay them a weekly allowance (it was $291.50 in 2012 but has since gone up due to cost of living adjustments). If they don’t give the player a place to stay, they instead have to pay them a housing allowance ($51.50 base per week plus $40 per day back in 2012). Players also get per diem for food ($82.50 in 2012) unless the team provides meals. There’s some stuff in the Collective Bargaining Agreement about allowing access to facilities for rehab in case of an injury, but I don’t see anything about guaranteeing playing time during Spring Training.

(Justin Edmonds/Getty)
(Justin Edmonds/Getty)

Jarrah asks: Brian Wilson was just DFA’d by the Dodgers this week. Any interest? A solid late-inning guy and he could be the closer we’re looking for.

Wilson was pretty bad this past season. He had a 4.66 ERA (4.29 FIP) with a 13.0% walk rate while throwing nearly 60% sliders. The Dodgers are on the hook for his $9.5M salary in 2015, so any team will be able to sign him for the league minimum once Los Angeles releases him. I think Wilson’s definitely worth a shot at that point, just to see if he improves as he gets further away from his second Tommy John surgery. He’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so who knows, maybe you stick him in the ninth inning and he dominates while Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller handle setup work. He’s so low risk because of the salary. That said, the Yankees looked into signing Wilson last winter, but he said he was unwilling to shave that stupid beard. Maybe that will change this offseason if he has trouble finding work.

Jack asks: Do any of the higher salary players NOT have a no-trade clause such that the Yanks COULD trade them (while eating a bunch of their salary) such as the Dodgers did with Kemp, even if it means getting very little in return other than salary relief?

Among players on the roster with guaranteed contracts (meaning not arbitration-eligible or pre-arbitration players), only Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Martin Prado, Andrew Miller, Chris Capuano, and Brendan Ryan do not have any kind of no-trade protection. (Headley and Gardner both receive a $1M bonus if traded.) All the other players with guaranteed contracts either have a no-trade clause or ten-and-five rights. Keeping in mind that Kemp as well as other big money guys who were traded (Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez) were actually good at the time of the trade. Good and no older than 30. Teams actually wanted them. No one wants broken down 34-year-olds like Mark Teixeira or CC Sabathia. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann are the only huge money players on the Yankees’ roster other teams might actually want. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka too if they’re confident in the elbow.

Don asks: It seems as though the Yankees are legitimately refusing to give Rob Refsnyder a chance to show that he can play everyday or at least make the varsity as a bench piece. Is there something that the Yanks know that we don’t? According to the numbers, the guy can rake and there’s always room for a big league bat on the team … so what gives?

Come on now. First of all, of course the team knows something the fans don’t. Believe it or not, teams generally have a better idea of when their own prospects are ready for MLB than fans like us. Be careful not to fall in love with the numbers. They aren’t everything. Signing Headley, who is one of only like 13 above-average third basemen on the planet, doesn’t qualify as “legitimately refusing” to give Refsnyder a chance. Minor league slash lines aren’t everything — it amazes me how everyone is so willing to overlook that Refsnyder went from an 82/84 K/BB in 2013 to a 105/55 K/BB in 2014, that should sound some alarms — Refsnyder has to work on his defense because he isn’t a Major League quality infielder yet. There is nothing the Yankees would love more than to have Refsnyder come up and become an impact player right away, but that is so very unlikely. Giving him more time to work on his defense in Triple-A before calling him whenever someone inevitably gets hurt is a perfectly reasonable development approach for 2015. Let’s not act like he’s been in Triple-A for three years now. This isn’t a Johnny Giovatella situation.

Steve asks: How do you pronounce “Axisa?”


Joe asks: Assuming the last two 40-man spots go to FA Pitchers; a) Who & How many players start on the 60 day DL? (Nova for ex)  b) Who is likely to be added to 40-man (Refsynder?)? Thanks.

This was sent in early this week, so Capuano has since claimed one of those last two open 40-man spots. I’m guessing the Yankees will sign another pitcher at some point to fill that last spot. Nova is the only player right now who will definitely start next season on the DL, but remember, teams can only use the 60-day DL when they need it. They have to call a player up right away to fill the spot, and there’s no sense in filling the spot before you have too (Nova will go on the 15-day DL for the time being). Refsnyder will presumably need a 40-man spot at some point next season but there’s no reason to give it to him in April and waste an option year when he starts back in Triple-A. Refsnyder and relievers like Nick Rumbelow and Tyler Webb are the obvious non-40-man candidates to come up at some point in 2015, but they won’t be added to the 40-man until they absolutely have to. Once a player is on the 40-man, there is no painless way to get him off. It’s a commitment.

(Marc Serota/Getty)
(Marc Serota/Getty)
Paul asks: With Didi Gregorius and Headley wrapped up, who has the best ground ball rate currently on the market? Do you think having them on the left side will help in getting a ground ball pitcher?

Among unsigned starters (min. 300 innings), the best ground ball rates from 2012-14 belong to Paul Maholm (51.5%), Roberto Hernandez (51.2%), Hiroki Kuroda (48.7%), Kyle Kendrick (47.1%), and Joe Saunders (47.1%). James Shields (46.3%) is next. Among relievers (min. 120 innings), the leaders are Scott Downs (62.2%), Ronald Belisario (61.6%), the injured Matt Albers (59.4%), the perpetually solid Jamey Wright (58.4%), and Burke Badenhop (55.3%). Of all those guys, the only ones I would be happy to see in pinstripes are Kuroda, Shields, Wright, and Badenhop. I’m pretty sure free agent pitchers will focus on the money and not infield defense when picking a new team, so no, I don’t think having Headley and Gregorius will lure ground-ballers to the Bronx.

Sandeep asks: A-Rod hits .500 in spring training. What happens? A-Rod hits .100 in spring training. What happens?

If he hits .500, he goes into the regular season as the regular DH and everyone writes articles saying he must be taking PEDs again. If he hits .100, he goes into the regular season as the regular DH and everyone writes articles saying he sucks because he isn’t taking PEDs. That’s about it.

Larry asks: With the lack of 3B available, what is Prado’s trade value? Could he return a 4 or 5 starter?

Pete O’Brien. That’s Prado’s trade value. I doubt any clubs changed their evaluation of him after 37 good games with the Yankees. Maybe he can fetch an okay-ish fourth or fifth starter, but I think he’s more valuable to the team in the lineup than as a trade chip. I know the rotation is shaky right now, but remember, the offense flat out stunk last year and they need Prado’s bat.

Vinny asks: What does the Headley deal mean for Eric Jagielo?

I think it makes Jagielo more available in a trade, definitely. It shouldn’t change anything as far as his development path — Jagielo should still go into next season as the regular third baseman for Double-A Trenton, and if he mashes, a midseason promotion to Triple-A Scranton could be in order. Jagielo’s defense at the hot corner isn’t great and there have been rumblings a move to the outfield or even first base could be in the cards, but he’s not there just yet. But yeah, I definitely think the team will be more open to trading him now that Headley’s locked up.

@NYYFan14 asks: Needed your opinion on this. What would Troy Tulowitzki get on the Open Market today? I’d give him 8/200 in a heartbeat. Am I crazy?

Yes, I do think eight years and $200M is crazy because of his injuries, especially the hip labrum surgery he just had. At the same time, I do think Tulowitzki would get a lot more than the six years and $118M left on his contract though. Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153M would be the starting point, right? So maybe he would get eight years and $200M in this market then. What do I know. Either way, Tulo’d get much more than what’s left on his contract right now. Yes, he’s injury prone, but he’s also by far the best shortstop in baseball when he’s on the field.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Kazmir, Chapman, Valbuena, Murphy

Massive mailbag this week. Maybe the biggest in RAB history. Thirteen questions total, so I tried (and mostly succeeded) to keep the answers short. You can send us questions via the “For the Mailbag” form in the sidebar. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Vinny asks: Alex Rodriguez: hitting coach. Discuss.

It’ll never ever ever ever happen for a million different reasons, but I think A-Rod would make a pretty good hitting coach. The guy was put on this planet to play baseball. He knows as much about baseball as one person could possibly know and has worked tirelessly on his swing throughout his career. I’m sure he can help players with their offense. The real question is whether his communication skills are good enough. Coaching is as much about communication as it is knowing the ins and outs of the craft. But, like I said, it’ll never happen. The Yankees would sooner not have a hitting coach than hire A-Rod in any kind of authority role.

Daniel asks: Alex Rodriguez currently sits at 2,939 career hits. He will very likely reach 3,000 hits in 2015 even with a bad season. The media will be unbearable. The Yankees front office will be so awkward. Barry Bonds set the HR record after his BALCO scandal, and he was still celebrated. But that was uncharted territory and so much has happened since. How do you think this all gets handled?

I wouldn’t say it’s “very likely” Alex will get those 61 hits next year, but it is definitely possible. He’s way to much of an injury risk to count on him staying on the field that long. Anyway, it’ll be incredibly weird whenever A-Rod gets to 3,000 hits. Bonds was absolutely loved in San Francisco, which is part of the reason why his homer chase was celebrated. Everyone hates Rodriguez, even Yankees fans. Also, unlike Bonds, Alex has actually admitted and been suspended for his PED stuff, which changes the equation. My guess is the accomplishment will be downplayed as much as possible and we’ll get another round of articles saying it is morally wrong to take PEDs. But the Yankees will probably still sell some A-Rod3K merchandise. Cash, as the kids say, rules everything around me.

Bhavin asks: It seems like every time the Yankees are interested in a player there are other teams involved and “raising the price” to sign a free agent. How come Brian Cashman doesn’t do the same for other teams? Would it be a smart strategy to make your competitors spend more money than they are comfortable for the same player even if NYY are not interested?

Oh the Yankees definitely do this. Heck, earlier this week Cashman said the only reason they said they were still interested in re-signing Robertson was to drive up the price. (That was much as thank you to Robertson as it was trying to get a competitor to spend more.) Even when the Yankees aren’t involved, agents float rumors saying the Yankees are interested in their clients too because it helps inflate the market. That’s why they’re connected to almost every big free agent each winter. The Yankees absolutely 100% do this.

Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Hunter asks: Since the Yankees need some starting pitching, what are the chances that they trade for Scott Kazmir? Billy Beane seems apt to trade him considering he’s in his walk year. Would it be a good move for New York, and who do you think it would take to get him?

For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says the Athletics aren’t looking to move Kazmir. The A’s do still need someone to pitch innings and he’s both effective (3.35 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 2014) and reasonably priced ($13M in 2015). The fact that he’s faded big time in the second half the last two years and is a fly ball pitcher scares me, but let’s roll with it.

Three pitchers with one year of control were just traded in Jeff Samardzija, Mat Latos, and Rick Porcello. Of those three, Kazmir is most similar to Latos in my opinion. Latos fetched a good MLB ready pitching prospect (Anthony DeSclafani) and a good Single-A catching prospect (Chad Wallach). Not great prospects, not fringy prospects, good prospects. I guess the Yankees equivalent would be Bryan Mitchell and Luis Torrens, though that’s not a perfect match because Torrens is five years younger than Wallach. Of course, Kazmir is somehow the healthier of the two between him and Latos.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean Mitchell and Torrens will be enough to get Latos. Different teams have different demands and different player valuations, and Oakland seems to be prioritizing quantity over quality in their deals so far this winter, with the caveat that most of the quantity be MLB ready. Maybe that means they would want Mitchell, Ramon Flores, and Jose Pirela instead? I dunno. Kazmir’s not a perfect fit for the Yankees but he would be an upgrade for the rotation for the one year they’d have him.

Peter asks: Is a C.J. Wilson trade worth a shot? Lots of available pitching out there and if the Angels refuse to eat salary, maybe Cashman get him without giving up much. Do the Yanks and Angels even match up anywhere?

Wilson had a rough 2014 season, with a 4.51 ERA (4.31 FIP) and an AL-leading 85 walks in 175.2 innings. He’s owed $18M in 2015 and $20M in 2016 as well, so it’s no surprise the Halos are reportedly looking to deal him. Wilson was very good in 2013 (3.39 ERA and 3.51 FIP) and he had a run of four straight 200+ inning seasons from 2010-13 before an ankle sprain sidelined him for three weeks this summer. If the Angels eat enough money to make Wilson, say, an $8M per year pitcher these next two seasons, isn’t it worth at least exploring? (I wouldn’t touch him if I had to pay all that money.) He eats innings, gets grounders (47.8% in 2014), has some rebound potential (.306 BABIP in 2014 after .286 from 2010-13), and should some cheap. Maybe it can be similar to the A.J. Burnett trade, only with the Yankees playing the role of the Pirates.

Brad asks: I know the Yankees are a business and don’t place a high premium on fielding a “likable” team, but the 2014 team was joyless and terrible. And Derek Jeter was still around. Shouldn’t the Yankees have placed a higher priority on retaining David Robertson?

You answered your own question there. The Yankees can’t worry about likeability, they have to focus on putting the best team on the field. Letting Robertson walk so you can replace him with a cheaper Andrew Miller and get a draft pick is a perfectly sensible baseball move, albeit an unpopular one with the locals. These Yankees are pretty bland and unlikeable though, you’re right. At least that’s how I feel. The only players on the roster I won’t actively hate next year are Dellin Betances, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner, maybe Didi Gregorius, and CC Sabathia whenever he isn’t hurt. (I may or may not be joking.)

Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Ward asks: With rumors that the Reds may be trying to trade some of their pitchers to save money, what could the Yankees give up to get Chapman?

The Reds cleared some salary yesterday with the Mat Latos — by the way, Mat Latos has a cat named Cat Latos — and Alfredo Simon trades, though it’s unclear if they hit their payroll target or still have work to do. Chapman isn’t all that expensive (owed $5M in 2015 and will probably make $10M+ through arbitration in 2016 before becoming a free agent) but he would bring back a major haul. He’s no worse than the second best reliever in baseball right now and a true difference maker. Lesser relievers like Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were traded for decent hauls a few years before free agency and I assume Chapman would blow those deals out of the water. My hunch is it would take one very good young MLB player, one top of the line prospect, plus a third lesser piece. For the Yankees, I guess that means … Pineda, Luis Severino, and maybe John Ryan Murphy? That feels light. I’m not sure they could put together a package good enough to bring Chapman to New York.

Sam asks: With the acquisition of Didi Gregorius, will the Yankees still go after Yoan Moncada? If they do, does he work at short or third in the Minors?

I don’t think the Gregorius trade will change anything with the team’s pursuit of Moncada. It shouldn’t, anyway. Moncada is still just a 19-year-old kid who is expected to start his pro career in Single-A. He’s not someone you worry about when building your MLB roster. Just about everything I’ve seen says Moncada has the potential to play just about anywhere on the field other than shortstop, though I suspect whichever team signs him will keep here there for a little while. If that doesn’t work, second base seems like the next logical spot.

Richard asks: Why didn’t the Yankees go after Josh Donaldson?

How do you know they didn’t? The Indians asked about Donaldson but the Athletics said they weren’t seriously considering moving him, according to Terry Pluto. This Donaldson deal is reminiscent of last year’s Doug Fister trade; there seem to be a lot of people wondering why the A’s didn’t shop around and get a better deal. Seems like they just really wanted the guys they got from the Blue Jays. Besides, the Yankees don’t have a player on par with Brett Lawrie they could have offered as a center piece.

Alex asks: Knowing that trades with the Mets are rare, what about trading for Daniel Murphy to fill in 1B/2B/3B? Power numbers should go up. If you can lock him up, trading Gardner for him could work for both NY teams.

Murphy would make a lot of sense for the Yankees, who could use him at every non-shortstop infield position if necessary. He might hit a few more homers in Yankee Stadium but his offensive game is more about spray line drives to left field, so I wouldn’t expect a huge boost in power. That said, he’s consistently been a .285+ AVG, .330+ OBP, 10+ homer, 10+ steals guy these last few years. The Yankees could definitely use someone like that, even if his defense stinks. I wouldn’t trade Gardner for him — Murphy will be a free agent next winter and there’s no sense in paying the Mets for the right to extend him (the “right to extend” is inherently included in every trade ever)  — but I do think Murphy’s a fit.

Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)
Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)

Dustin asks: If the Yankees miss on Chase Headley, would trading for Luis Valbuena be a good move? Or would you prefer starting Martin Prado and Rob Refsnyder?

Valbuena is probably the best third base option on the trade market. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Chris Johnson but he hit .249/.341/.435 (116 wRC+) with 16 homers and an 11.6% walk rate last year. That’s pretty damn good. Valbuena just turned 29, has gotten better at the plate every year since breaking into the show five years ago, and the various stats say he’s a passable defender at second and third. He’s a nice little underrated player who’s cheap (projected to make $3.1M in 2015) and under team control through 2016. I’d prefer Prado/Valbuena to Prado/Refsnyder this coming season — it’s not really an either or because Refsnyder is still in the organization — and if the Yankees miss out on Headley, I hope their next call would be to Chicago about Valbuena. Even if he is only a league average hitter in 2015 (as the projections project), that’s still a nice upgrade for New York.

Evan asks: Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce are both great fits. Brandon Phillips isn’t because he’s declining and his brutal contract.  But assuming you had to take Phillips to get Bruce or Frazier what would that deal look like?

I wouldn’t take on Phillips to facilitate a trade for either of the other two. I hate the idea of taking a bad contract to get a discount for another player — the bad contract negates the discount and, if you’re only trading prospects, there’s at least a chance they won’t come back to bite you whereas the bad contract will definitely hurt. I’d rather just pay full price for Frazier or Bruce than get saddled with more dead weight in Phillips.

Bruce is a nice rebound candidate coming off knee surgery and Frazier is just a perfect fit for the Yankees — right-handed power, quality hitter, can play the two corner infield positions plus left field, under control through 2017, super high character guy, and he’s a local dude from New Jersey. What’s not to like? It’ll take a haul to get him after the year he just had though. Unless the Yankees are willing to talk about Severino or Aaron Judge, I don’t think they have the pieces to make it worth Cincinnati’s while. Man would Frazier be a great though.

P.J. asks: Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely don’t want this to happen. That said, what would Dellin Betances be worth on the trade market? What if he was a FA (non-QO)?

If he was a free agent, he’d probably get Andrew Miller/David Robertson money. He was awesome in 2014 but has no track record whatsoever. In a trade … that’s really tough to answer. When was the last time a player like Betances traded? An elite reliever with five years of team control remaining? The Athletics traded pre-shoulder mush Andrew Bailey when he had three years of control remaining and they received an adequate everyday player (Josh Reddick) and two nondescript minor leaguers. Do the two extra years of team control mean Betances fetches better prospects in addition to the okay regular? It’s really tough to gauge his trade value. I don’t think he can be a centerpiece in a blockbuster because, at the end of the day, he’s still a reliever, but maybe he can be the number two piece in a deal for an ace or a young, above-average everyday player. If that is the case, he is worth more to the 2015 and beyond Yankees as a trade chip, or in their bullpen?

Mailbag: Non-tenders, Rule 5 Draft, Harper, Niese, Lineup

Seven questions in this week’s mailbag, which feels pretty damn long by mailbag standards. Lots of wordy answers this week. As a reminder, we now have a “For The Mailbag” widget in the sidebar that you can use to send us questions each week. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does. We’re working on that.

That Medlen kid. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
That Medlen kid. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Many asked: What about Kris Medlen? Any other interesting players among this year’s non-tenders?

Medlen is definitely the most interesting non-tender. He’s rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery in the last four years and the Braves opted to cut him loose rather than pay him a projected $5.8M in 2015. Medlen, 29, had a 2.45 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 337.1 innings across 43 starts and 41 relief appearances between elbow reconstructions from 2011-13. That includes a 3.11 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 197 innings as a full-time starter in 2013.

The second Tommy John surgery has a much lower success rate than the first — Chris Capuano is pretty much the only guy who had the procedure twice and both stayed healthy and returned to his previous level of performance. Medlen has shown he can be effective as both a starter and a reliever, though there’s also the possibility of getting zero return, especially in 2015 since he’s still rehabbing. Chances are he won’t be ready until midseason. I’d still like to see the Yankees sign him, obviously to something with a low-base salary and incentives. Maybe Brian McCann can talk him into coming to New York or something.

I wrote about this at CBS the other day: I like the idea of signing Medlen to a Josh Johnson-esque contract, meaning a contract with a club option that kicks in only if he makes fewer than a certain number of appearances. (Johnson’s contract including a $4M option the Padres could only exercise if he made fewer than seven starts.) That would allow Medlen to hit the market again next winter if he stays healthy and contributes, and allow the team to keep him and try again in 2016 if he doesn’t. Both sides get some protection.

As for the rest of the non-tenders … there’s not much to see there. We already discussed Everth Cabrera yesterday. John Mayberry Jr. would have been interesting had the Yankees not already re-signed Chris Young. We now have nearly 3,000 plate appearances telling us Gordon Beckham can’t hit (career 83 wRC+), but I’d probably still give him $750k and see what happens. Alexi Ogando and Brandon Beachy are both coming off elbow injuries (Beachy had his second Tommy John surgery in the span of three years). I like them considerably less than Medlen.

J. Wong asks: A few years ago as I recall the Yankees “traded up” to pick up someone they liked in the Rule 5 draft. Since they now have officially 2 spots open to make selections, do you think they have anyone specific in mind they want to take, and if it’s necessary to move to one of the top slots what it’ll take in terms of talent to pick earlier?

They actually have four spots open right now, but they won’t take four players in the Rule 5 Draft. Two is a stretch. Four would be ridiculous. The Yankees “traded up” to get the first overall pick in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft (Jamie Hoffmann) and again to get the fourth overall pick in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft (Cesar Cabral). Technically they were trades for players to be named later — they sent Brian Bruney to the Nationals in 2009 and $100,000 to the Royals in 2012, then those teams took the players New York wanted and sent them to the Yankees as the player to be named. You can’t trade the actual Rule 5 Draft pick.

So, if the Yankees do want to move up again this year, it won’t cost very much to do it. Some cash or a fringe big leaguer (out of options Austin Romine?). J.J. Cooper put together an excellent Rule 5 Draft preview and, as usual, the vast majority of the players available are relievers and extra outfielders. The Yankees could use a shortstop but the best shortstop available in the Rule 5 Draft is probably Cito Culver. I’m not joking. Rockies shortstop prospect Taylor Featherston is available — “Featherston isn’t the traditional utility infielder. But he can play on either side of second base and he has the arm to play third base if needed as well,” wrote Cooper — after hitting .260/.322/.439 (116 wRC+) and 16 homers as a 25-year-old in Double-A last year. Meh.

If the Yankees do take a player(s) in the Rule 5 Draft next week, chances are it’ll be a bullpen arm(s). Relievers represent like 95% of the players taken in the Rule 5 Draft. I made that up but it feels like it could be true. Looking over Cooper’s list, Tigers righty Edgar De La Rosa (“The massive 6-foot-8 de la Rosa can run it up to 100 mph at his best and pairs it with a usable changeup”) and Marlins righty Jake Esch (“Esch has a plus fastball  (91-95 mph) and a hard slider that sometimes looks more like a cutter as well as a downer curveball … with excellent athleticism and steady development, he’s turning into something interesting”) seem most intriguing to me. The Yankees do love their super tall pitchers. De La Rosa seems like someone they might target.

Jonathan asks: It seems like every offseason everyone waits to see when/where one particular FA lands before everyone else starts signing. This year that player seems to be Jon Lester. Why is that? And who’s signing first, Lester or Max Scherzer?

I’ll answer the second question first: I think Lester will sign first simply because there are many more rumors about him going around right now. The Scherzer market has been very quiet and that is not uncommon for a top Scott Boras client at this point of the offseason. As for the first question, I think it’s because no one wants to set the market. Boras and Scherzer want to see what Lester gets, because then they can ask for more than that because a) Scherzer is better, and b) there’s one fewer high-end starter on the market to compete against. That’s why Chase Headley didn’t sign before Pablo Sandoval — now that Sandoval is off the board, he is clearly the number one third baseman available.

In the NFL, NBA, and NHL, players sign as soon as possible because they’re salary cap leagues and no one wants to be left unsigned when everyone runs out of cap space. In MLB, with no cap, it seems like the top free agents are willing to wait for a GM (or an owner) to get desperate later in the offseason.

Bring to me. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Bring to me. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

New Guy asks: With recent rumors that there may be dissention between Bryce Harper and the Nationals, any chance Yankees try to put something together to bring him to the Bronx? Do they even have enough to get it done?

Ken Rosenthal recently reported the Nationals and Harper are likely to go to a grievance hearing later this month because of a dispute over an opt-out clause in his contract. The Nationals say there is no opt-out, Harper (and Boras, his agent) say there is supposed to be. The opt-out would allow Harper to forego the final year of the five-year Major League contract and instead file for salary arbitration. His contract says he will earn $2.25M in 2015, but MLBTR’s projections say he could earn $2.5M through arbitration in his first year as a Super Two. That doesn’t sound like much, but it carries over into future years and boosts his future salaries. The difference could be millions over his four years of arbitration-eligibility.

Anyway, I don’t think the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for Harper. He just turned 22 — fun fact: Harper has never faced a pitcher younger than him in a professional game, Majors or minors — and he’s a career .272/.351/.465 (125 wRC+) hitter in nearly 1,500 big league plate appearances who also happens to have a rocket arm and play strong defense. Also, he can do this:

Harper’s biggest problem is that he plays too hard. I don’t mean that in a cutesy “my biggest fault is that I work too hard” kinda way. Harper runs into walls and slides into bases aggressively, and it’s landed him on the DL more than a few times. He hurt his knee and shoulder running into walls — the knee required offseason surgery a year ago — and torn ligaments in his thumb sliding into third on a triple. Harper’s aggressive play puts him at risk of injury in a Slade Heathcott kinda way and it’s a problem. He needs to not play with the dialed turned to eleven all the time.

Even with the injury concerns, Harper would command a massive haul because of his age, production, and four remaining years of team contract. Would you really say no to, say, Masahiro Tanaka plus Luis Severino and Aaron Judge for Harper? I sure as hell wouldn’t. (Judge is six months older than Harper, by the way.) Outside of his stupid haircut, Harper’s a franchise player in every way. Incredibly productive and marketable. Stick him in the middle of the lineup and in every commercial for the next decade. I don’t think the Nationals are open to moving him even with this recent contract dispute and I don’t think the Yankees have enough to get him even if he was available. Other clubs would surely outbid them.

Dustin asks: Ken Davidoff is saying the Mets  Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee or Jon Niese. The first 2 do nothing for me, but wouldn’t Niese be a good guy to go after?

I liked Niese a few years ago, but he’s had a lot of nagging arm injuries the last two or three years. Both shoulder and elbow. Nothing major, but some inflammation here, some soreness there, stuff like that. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before he blows out completely. That said, he just turned 28 in October and he has a 3.49 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 521 innings over the last three years, so he’s a perfectly fine mid-rotation starter. His contract isn’t onerous either — Niese is owed $7M in 2015 and $9M in 2016, with $10M and $11M club options for 2017 and 2018, respectively. I’m not quite sure what the Mets want in return — they need a shortstop but the Yankees don’t have one to give — but if it’s just a salary dump situation where they’re willing to take some prospects to clear money, then I think Niese would make sense for the Yankees. Risky, sure, but he’s a quality MLB starter when on the mound.

Liam asks: Who is batting fourth if the season started today?

I would think McCann. If the season did start today, I’m guessing the regular lineups would look something like this:

vs. RHP vs. LHP
1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury 1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2. LF Brett Gardner 2. 3B Martin Prado
3. RF Carlos Beltran 3. RF Carlos Beltran
4. C Brian McCann 4. 1B Mark Teixeira
5. 1B Mark Teixeira 5. DH Alex Rodriguez
6. 3B Martin Prado 6. C Brian McCann
7. DH Alex Rodriguez 7. LF Chris Young
8. 2B Rob Refsnyder 8. 2B Rob Refsnyder
9. SS Brendan Ryan 9. SS Brendan Ryan

That’s just what I think the lineups would be given the current roster, not the lineup I would use. Based on his platoon splits the last few years, Beltran should be the one sitting in favor of Young against lefties, not Gardner. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jose Pirela started the year at second instead of Refsnyder either. If the Yankees go into Spring Training with those two competing for the second base job, I do think it would be a true competition, not a fake competition rigged in favor of someone, which the Yankees have been known to do in the past.

Mark S. asks: Derek Jeter will still probably have the most jerseys sold in 2015. What active Yankee player do you think will have the most sold?

Yeah I think it’s a safe bet Jeter will still lead the team in merchandise sales next year, especially if they bring him back for some kind of number retirement ceremony. Among active players, I think Tanaka would probably sell the most jerseys. He’s the biggest star on the team in terms of name value, plus he’ll tap into the Japanese market. Ellsbury and Beltran and whoever else can’t do that. So Tanaka’s my guess.

Weekend Mailbag and Open Thread

We’ve been getting a ton of submissions through our new mailbag form, which you can find in the right sidebar. Keep ‘em coming. The more questions, the more mailbag features we’ll do. They’re pretty fun for everyone, aren’t they?

Again, we open with a couple of housekeeping items:

1. Remember, when you’re buying Yankees stuff this holiday season, click through the RAB Shop links. It’s a huge boost for us. We have some items displayed on that page, too — like a Jeter replica jersey that doesn’t have his name on the back. You don’t see those every day.

2. The first RAB Daily Digest will hit mailboxes on Monday morning. You can read about the RAB Daily Digest, or sign up using the form below. We’re at 850 subscribers right now, and would love to have this hit 1,000 inboxes for the inaugural run.

And now…

Zac asks: At first glance, the A’s seemed to get an uninspiring haul for Donaldson. What would the comparable package of Yankees players/prospects have been?

CanGuest asks: With regards to the Donaldson/Lawrie trade, it doesn’t seem like the Jays gave up too much in the way of prospects. Do you think we could have made a similar deal to get Donaldson, and how surprising is it that he was traded? Was he on anybody’s radar at all?

In case you missed it last night, the A’s traded 3B Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for 3B Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects: RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Sean Nolin, and SS Franklin Barreto.

It does not seem as though the Jays gave up much. Donaldson is not only light years better than Lawrie, but he also has less service time — he’s eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, while Lawrie will be free after 2017. The move seems even stranger coming on the heels of the A’s signing Billy Butler, a seemingly win-now move. Why sign Butler and then trade your best hitter?

Getting back Barreto is nice for Oakland, since they traded away their top shortstop prospect, but he’s just 18 and so has years before reaching the bigs. Billy Beane has to be banking to a decent degree on Lawrie delivering more on his considerable promise. He’s been perfectly average since a breakout performance in 2011, and has missed 100 games in the last two seasons due to injury.

That said, Beane clearly isn’t done. There are already rumblings of a Jeff Samardzija trade with the White Sox (which would be huge for them), and Brandon Moss could be next. This clearly isn’t a rebuild, but, as one reporter put it (can’t find the link), Beane is reworking the entire team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see John Jaso and Josh Reddick traded as well this off-season.

Was this a surprise? Sure, in that most of Beane’s moves are surprises. I don’t think anyone really saw him giving up Addison Russell for Samardzija, nor did we see him trading Cespedes for Lester. So, surprising, but kinda not since Beane never operates in a way we expect.

In terms of comparable Yankees prospects, there’s really not much there. They don’t have anyone like Lawrie, a cost-controlled MLB player the A’s can plug into Donaldson’s old position, or perhaps 2B. Martin Prado fits that bill, but he’s older, more expensive, and has fewer years remaining of team control.

Looking at the top 30 prospects, you have to think Clarkin would be in there. Jagielo? Torrens? I’m not sure. It’s tough to piece these things together from another team’s perspective. Sometimes a GM will have his eyes on a few prospects from one team, and that’s the end of that.

Ken asks: Would it make more sense for the Yankees to let Robertson go and hope that Betances’s 2014 was not a fluke (as opposed to what they saw from him previously) and go for a veteran to handle the eighth or ninth inning and sign/trade for a “marquee” shortstop or to go four years with Robertson and go for a lesser shortstop?

Tom asks: Any idea on potential arbitration savings on Betances (2016-2019) by signing a closer who racks up the saves (which pays in arbitration).

I’m not sure trading for a “marquee” shortstop is in the cards (there are none on the FA market) regardless of what they do with Robertson. I picked this question, because there is an obvious parallel in recent Yankee history: letting John Wetteland walk to make Mariano Rivera closer after the 1996 season.

Plenty is different in that scenario, mainly the success of the team at the time. Rivera’s 1996 and Betances’s 2014 were very similar. While that doesn’t make Betances the next Rivera, it is an encouraging sign, perhaps one that will allow the Yankees to save some bucks on Robertson, which they can allocate to offense. Because they need offense.

As for signing a closer to keep down Betances’s arbitration costs, that’s going to cost money, too. Even then, the market is full of question marks. The Yanks have reportedly talked about making Jason Grilli an offer, but he’s not exactly reliable. Francisco Rodriguez has declined, as has Rafael Soriano. Maybe they try to get one of them on a sweetheart deal and move Betances into the closer role if they falter.

(I do not think they’re signing Robertson, for what it’s worth.)

James asks: Could A-Rod be the hitting coach?

It might sound like a silly question, but the man does know the game. I remember him talking about specific things he works on with hitting coaches. Younger players also seem to love him. It’ll never happen, not in a million years, but I do think A-Rod could help out kids at the plate.

Rich asks: How good a chance does Severino have make the opening day rotation?

Zero. Negative, possibly. The kid has potential, but certainly isn’t on tap for the majors quite yet. Give him time. Maybe he slots in later in the season. But realistically we’re talking 2016 at the very earliest.

Mailbag: Lowrie/Cabrera, Zobrist, Roller, Frazier

Just a few shopkeeping items before we dive into the questions:

1. If you’re giving Yankees/baseball gear as gifts this year, You can also give a gift to RAB at the same time, free of charge. When you buy from the MLB Shop, Fanatics, or Amazon using our links at the RAB Shop we get a little cut. Same price for you, a little cash in our pockets.

Here are some deals at the MLB Shop today:

Those deals last through Sunday.

2. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re experimenting with a new mailbag submission form. It’s in the sidebar. You only have to hit Send once — it might not look like it goes through, but it does. We’re working on slightly better functionality on that. You can still email us questions if you prefer, but this form seems to work for more people.

3. Starting Monday morning we’re sending out a daily digest email. You can read more about the daily digest here. You can also sign up there, or you can just enter your email address into the field above.

And now, onto the questions.

Ben Zobrist

Mark L. asks: Do you see signing two of Lowrie / Drew / Cabrera to mix and match with Prado as a cost-effective alternative to big bucks Headley?

No, I cannot see that. It seems increasingly probable that some team offers Chase Headley a four-year deal. Since the Yankees are willing to give only three, they’ll have to find help elsewhere.

Would it cost them less to sign Lowrie or Cabrera? Maybe a little, but maybe not. If Headley signs elsewhere I think they allocate that money to other positions and use Refsnyder or Pirela at second with Prado at third.

JR asks: With the Rays appearing to be in rebuilding mode, What would the cost be to get Zobrist be?

I’m not sure the Rays are in complete rebuild mode. Maybe they’re not looking for win-right-now pieces, but they’re not doing some three-year project. That said, Ben Zobrist has just one year left on his contract, for a super reasonable $7.5 million (well, $7.75 really, because he gets $.25 million if traded).

It’s hard to find a reasonable value here, though. How much is one year of Zobrist worth to you? I’m guessing the Rays want something like Greg Bird and a pitcher, and I don’t think I’d go that far. Not where the Yankees stand right now.

If they’re on the brink of greatness — if they have three guys with power who you can count on in addition to the table setters, and a great pitching staff — then maybe I consider mortgaging a decent prospect for one year of a player as versatile as Zobrist. But right now? The roster is too weak right now to make a move like that.

Hmmm asks: Would it be in the Yankees best interest, for the overall future of the team, if they do not sign anyone to over a 4 or 5 year contract until they are a legitimate contender to win? I understand that those contracts can help them become a contender, but I feel like if they don’t have the young talent that will make them perennial contenders that those contracts will just prove to be a waste.

I don’t understand this mentality at all. What does young talent have to do with being perennial contenders? Look at the 1996 Yankees. They had one starting pitcher under 30, and a lineup of mostly imported veterans. That’s not to say that the 2015 Yankees have a Jeter or a Bernie, but the idea that young talent creates perennial winners is a bit off.

You can only work with the players available to you, whether that’s on the roster or available to you in trade or free agency. Cutting yourself off from that talent because of years in a reasonable range is silly. Avoiding 10-year deals? Sure, that’s something you might want to avoid in general. But 4-5 years deals are pretty standard.

nycsportzfan asks: Why did the Yanks not protect Kyle Roller?

Roller did rake last season, mostly in AAA, so it seems as though he’s knocking on the door. That said, he turns 27 before the season starts, so it’s not as though he’s some prime prospect that they just didn’t protect.

There’s a lot going on with Rule 5 protection. You have to take into account the roster implications. A few years ago Brian Cashman said something about sometimes the best way to protect a player is to not add him to the 40-man roster. Wish I could find the exact quote. His point was that because of roster crunch issues, sometimes you protect guys and later have to make some tough DFA choices.

Say you protect someone on the fringe, but have to DFA him in June for some roster crunch reason. A team might not have taken him in the Rule 5, because they didn’t see a way to keep him on the MLB roster all year. But on waivers he doesn’t have that restriction. You can stash him in the minors for a few years. So a team that wouldn’t have made a Rule 5 pick might jump in with a waiver claim.

The Yanks have plenty of needs this off-season, and they’ll need roster spots. They can’t afford to have one of those spots taken up by a 27-year-old first baseman. Also, Roller didn’t even make this enormous list of Rule 5 possibilities.

Elfi asks: Why would the Yankees sign Headley for 3B when they have a solid and capable player in Prado who could do it? Prado I’m sure can at least match Headley’s numbers. This would pave the way for Refsnyder to be the 2B and of course A-Rod at DH

It’s all about depth. If you go into the season with Prado at 3B, you’re stuck with the rookies as your first option at 2B. If they fail, then what? By creating some depth, they can react to injuries and failures. If Prado gets hurt, Pierla or Refsnyder steps in. If they fail as a depth option, that’s one thing. But to rely on them, and have no real backup option, would hurt quite a lot.

Chris R. asks: Doesn’t a run at Todd Frazier make a ton of sense? 28 year old that can play 1st & 3rd. Entering his arb years so he will start to cost Cincy some money now.

Cincinnati is in a tough spot right now, with the poor season they had combined with a number of their pitchers hitting free agency after 2015. They’re locked into a couple of huge contracts, so they could seem inflexible at this point.

That said, he’s one of their only weapons on offense. Unless they go into rebuild mode — and I’m talking trade-Votto rebuild mode — I can’t see them entertaining offers for Frazier.

That said, a Jersey-raised kid who went to Rutgers and walks up to “Fly Me to the Moon” Frazier sounds like a Yankee to me.

Lightning Round

Kenny asks: With the Yankees looking for a new shortstop, do you think Ruben Tejada is on their radar?

The Mets also need a shortstop, so that should answer the question right there.

Daniel asks: Assuming no major changes to the current rotation, who would be the opening day starter?

Have to imagine that’s CC’s job for at least one more season, if he’s healthy.

Matt asks: The Rays are reportedly listening on offers for Yunel Escobar, should the Yankees be interested?

He doesn’t seem like the Yanks kind of player. The Braves traded him for peanuts because they couldn’t stand his attitude. Plus, he’s not a very good SS, even if he can hit a little.

Dustin asks: Dave Martinez for 1B coach or hitting coach?

He’s as good a candidate as any. I have a feeling that the Yankees are more interested in Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton, though. But maybe they bring in both, given that they have two coaching openings.

Mailbag: Swisher, Cervelli, Johnson, Cabrera, Non-Tenders

Only five questions for you this week but they’re five good ones. As a reminder, we got rid of the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar as part of the redesign. There’s a new email button in the sidebar, right under the YES Network video widget. Use that to email us questions.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Many asked: What about a Nick Swisher reunion?

Earlier this week Ken Rosenthal reported the Indians are exploring ways to move Swisher, perhaps in a bad contract-for-bad contract swap. Swisher is owed $15M in each of the next two seasons with a $14M vesting option for 2017 based on his plate appearance total in 2016. He hit a weak .208/.278/.331 (75 wRC+) with eight homers in 97 games this year while batting injury — he had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees in August — after hitting .246/.341/.423 (115 wRC+) with 22 homers in 145 games a year ago.

The Yankees already have a full outfield, complete with a right fielder with bad knees. Alex Rodriguez is clogging up the DH spot as well. Carlos Beltran will make $15M in each of the next two seasons, and a few people asked about trading him straight up for Swisher, but I don’t see any way Beltran will waive his no-trade clause to go to Cleveland. Not after waiting all these years to wear pinstripes. If the Yankees weren’t stuck with A-Rod or hadn’t already re-signed Chris Young, maybe Swisher would have made sense as a fourth outfielder/backup first baseman/part-time DH if the Tribe were willing to eat a bunch of money, especially if you think he’ll rebound following knee surgery. That’s not happening though. There’s no fit for Swisher on the current roster and I don’t think the Yankees would bring him back anyway.

Dan asks: Do you think the Yankees pulled the trigger too early on dealing Francisco Cervelli?  With Russell Martin signing in Toronto, the Cubs and Dodgers are in need of catching. Maybe they could have done better than Justin Wilson? Doesn’t it seem like Brian Cashman acts too early in general on minor moves, in a way that could foreclose better moves later in the offseason? (See also Chris Young.)

I don’t agree with this at all. I’m surprised the Yankees got as much as they did for Cervelli, who was on the verge of being designated for assignment at various points within the last two years. Injury prone backup catchers don’t have much trade value, especially when they’re slated to make seven figures next season. Maybe the Yankees could have gotten something very slightly better than Wilson if they had waited a few weeks … or maybe they wind up with nothing at all because the Cubs and Dodgers find comparable players at a lower cost. With small moves like this, I think you need to pull the trigger as soon as possible. The risk of being the last last one standing in the game of roster musical chairs is high. Now, if they were shopping someone like Brett Gardner in the trade? That’s a different story.

Arad asks: Could Chris Johnson from the Braves be a nice pickup? Bad contract and had an overall down year, but just look at his splits vs. lefties in 2014 and for his career. Could be a great platoon option for 3rd and 1st base.

Johnson, 30, had an insane BABIP-fueled season in 2013, hitting .321/.358/.457 (127 wRC+) with 12 homers and a .394 BABIP. He has a .260/.310/.391 (~96 wRC+) batting line with a .328 BABIP every other year since becoming a regular in 2010, including a .263/.292/.361 (82 wRC+) line with a .345 BABIP in 2014. We can’t ignore 2013, it happened and Johnson deserves credit for it, but it’s a big time outlier and I’m not sure you could expect him to repeat that in the future.

Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

That said, Johnson hit .395/.435/.553 (177 wRC+) against southpaws this past season and has a career .312/.349/.443 (116 wRC+) line against lefties, so he’s a viable platoon option. He can also play both corner infield spots (not well though), which fits what the Yankees need. The Braves jumped the gun and signed Johnson to a big contract following his career year in 2013, so he’s owed $6M in 2015, $7.5M in 2016, and $9M in 2017 with a $10M club option for 2018. That’s a lot of scratch for a platoon corner infielder you can stash on your bench. Johnson can be a useful player if used properly even if he is overpaid, but since the Yankees are saddled with A-Rod (who projects to fill the exact same role), I’m not sure there’s a spot for Johnson on the roster.

Michael asks: If he’s non tendered can you see the Yankees going after Everth Cabrera? Or any of the other theoretical at this point non-tenders?

Cabrera, 28, quietly led the NL with 44 stolen bases in 2012 and then stole 37 more in 2013. He hit a very weak .232/.272/.300 (65 wRC+) with 18 steals in 90 games this season, and is projected to earn $2.9M through arbitration next year, which is why he’s a non-tender candidate. That and his litany of off-the-field issues. Cabrera was arrested for domestic abuse in 2012, suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis in 2013, and arrested for driving under the influence in 2014. The Yankees need a shortstop and hey, a 28-year-old shortstop would be cool, but Cabrera isn’t the type of person you want on the team. Dude is bad news.

As for some other interesting non-tenders, infielder Gordon Beckham, first baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland, right-hander David Hernandez, and left-hander Travis Wood stand out to me. I’m going off MLBTR’s list of potential non-tenders, by the way. The actual non-tender deadline is December 2nd. Beckham’s salary will come down to maybe $1M or so next year, at which point he might be worth a flier because the Yankees need infield help. When he was making $4M? Forget it. Moreland seems like a real nice fit as a left-handed bench piece, Hernandez is a shutdown reliever coming off Tommy John surgery, and Wood could be a league average-ish fifth starter if things click. Once the non-tender deadline passes and we know who is and isn’t available, we’ll circle back around and discuss this further.

Eric asks: Do you think letting David Robertson leave sets a bad trend for the Yanks? This will be the 2nd year in a row they let a homegrown player leave.

Well, Robertson hasn’t left yet, and even if he does, we need to see the details first. If some team comes out of nowhere and offers him five years at, say, $14M per year, I wouldn’t be heartbroken about letting him walk. That’s essentially what happened with Robinson Cano. The Yankees made him that seven-year, $175M offer that was the high bid until the Mariners completely blew it out of the water. As much as the team misses him, I have no trouble with letting Robbie walk at that rate.

Now, if the Yankees don’t re-sign Robertson because they’re unwilling to meet a totally reasonable contract request, something like three years and $39M or four years and $48M, then yeah, that would bug me. I don’t think the Yankees should lose out on the top players at their positions — which Cano clearly is and Robertson is among — over nickels and dimes. If they get blown out of the water like Cano last year, fine. I can live with that. But letting Roberson go because of a small amount wouldn’t sit well with me. They’re the Yankees, after all.

Mailbag: Kemp, McCann, Morrow, Betances, Expansion

Got nine questions for you in this week’s mailbag, so the answers are kinda short. In case you haven’t noticed, the new design eliminated the Submit A Tip box. There’s now an email button in the sidebar (right below the YES Network video widget) that you can use to email us mailbag questions each week. The email address is riveraveblues (at) gmail (dot) com. Nice and easy.

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

James asks: Dodgers are reportedly shopping Matt Kemp hard, and willing to eat money depending on the return. His defense in CF is declining, so why not try him in the favorable RF dimensions of Yankee Stadium? Also, his power came back a touch last season. Is he a fit?

Kemp moved from center to right field midway through last season and looked okay there, based on what I saw. (I probably watched more Dodgers games last season than any other non-Yankees team. I enjoy Vin Scully. So sue me.) He was still below-average in right, though that could have due to inexperience. Even if Kemp is a below-average defender in right, it won’t matter if he hits 25 homers with a 140 wRC+ again. That guy would be a fit for just about any team including the Yankees. The Dodgers are reportedly trying to trade him but I doubt Andrew Friedman will give him away. Kemp is a fit for the Yankees, no doubt about it, I just don’t know if the two sides can match up for a trade. I have no idea what Los Angeles is looking for in return. Friedman’s history suggests the best possible talent regardless of position.

Isaac asks: It seems the Dodgers had the worst offensive production from catchers last year. With Hanley possibly leaving, what are the chances that the Dodgers take Brian McCann‘s contract in exchange for one of their surplus outfielders like Joc Pederson or Kemp?

I see zero chance of this happening now that Friedman is calling the shots. Ned Colletti? Maybe they could pull it off. But I think Friedman is going to avoid those types of contracts — top of the market dollars for a players over 30 and in their decline phase — even now with a huge payroll. He’s too smart and the Dodgers already have enough of those contracts on the books anyway. Besides, McCann has a full no-trade clause and I don’t know if he’d be willing to accept it to go so far away from home (he’s from the Atlanta area) and back to the NL, where he won’t be able to DH as he ages.

Mark asks: Let’s say that the latest news on Alex Rodriguez gets him permanently banned from MLB. If this were to happen and you were the GM, how would your offseason wish list change?

I’m honestly not sure it would change much. I’m not expecting A-Rod to contribute anything next year, though getting banned would free up a roster spot and a ton of cash. Maybe make a bigger push for someone like Mike Morse? Maybe go all-in on Andrew Miller in addition to David Robertson? I wouldn’t do anything crazy, like suddenly go after Max Scherzer just because Alex is no longer around. In reality, losing him wouldn’t change much on the field. The extra money would definitely help if spent wisely, which is easier said than done. Pumping it into one huge contract only continues the cycle the team is in right now, trying to contend around a mess of bad contracts.

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

John asks: I have had an irresponsible man-crush on Brandon Morrow since his first season with Seattle, and have pondered the possibility of the Yankees acquiring him many times (and was subsequently disgusted when he was traded for Brandon League). Now that he is a FA, how much would you be willing to pay for a guy that could be, when healthy (big IF), a K Machine in the bullpen or back-end of the rotation?

I thought the Blue Jays were going to exercise their $10M option for Morrow after the season, but they walked away instead. That’s something of a red flag, no? He’s hurt all the time and they know him better than anyone, and they decided to let him go rather than pay a reasonable $10M salary. Morrow has huge stuff and I think it’s time to stick him in the bullpen because it’s obvious the rotation isn’t working out health-wise. Maybe a Betances-esque multi-inning setup role is in his future? That would be awesome. The FanGraphs crowdsourcing predicts a one-year deal worth $6M for Morrow and that seems like the kind of roll of the dice the Yankees can afford to take, especially if Robertson bolts.

Constantine asks: Now, before I ask this, I’d like to say that I’d much rather keep the status quo with Dellin Betances. Keep him as the 8th inning guy, or even move him to the closer role if D-Rob leaves. But just to play scenarios here, how do you think theoretically moving Dellin to the rotation thanks to his immensely dominant season?

I wouldn’t even think about it. He flat out failed as a starter in the minors. Betances couldn’t throw strikes and he got hurt a whole bunch. He’s said himself that being a reliever has helped him better repeat his delivery and I wouldn’t mess with that. Nothing in Dellin’s history suggests he can succeed as a starter long-term. It’s just way too risky to change his role. Stick Betances back in the rotation and you’re likely to get Daniel Cabrera in return. That was the comp way back in the day and I still think it’s true today.

William asks: It is readily apparent that the new free agent/draft pick/qualifying offer set up is not working. Not a single player has taken the deal, teams are losing good players and getting little to nothing in return, and players are getting screwed over with the increased love of prospects. The issue is where do we go from here? Could the change be to make the qualifying offer a multi-year deal which a player like D-Rob might take at $13M a year? Maybe make the team automatically get a sandwich pick by merely offering the deal and getting a second if a team picks up the free agent?

I think there will be a big push to completely sever ties between free agency and the draft in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. That would make big trades more common, at least in theory, which would be fun and create headlines for the league. Maybe the solution is giving the player’s former team a draft pick without forcing his new team to forfeit him? I don’t remember where I read this, but someone suggested making the qualifying offer a standing offer all offseason, and I like that idea. Teams will be more hesitant to make the offer because that’s a big chunk of money they have to be prepared to absorb at any time in the winter. There would be fewer qualifying offers in that case. Again, in theory. Either way, the system is still broken and I have little reason to think MLB and the MLBPA will find a solution that actually makes sense. They’ve shown they are pretty damn good at implemented solutions with unintended consequences.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Shaya asks: Will the pickup of Justin Wilson have any effect on Jacob Lindgren and/or Tyler Webb? Since Lindgren and Wilson both seem to not have platoon splits will they bring both of them to NY? Do they have room for both of them?

Adding Wilson doesn’t really change anything with Lindgren or Webb going forward. Maybe it means David Huff is more likely to be non-tendered, but that’s not a big deal. There is plenty of room in the bullpen for all three of Wilson, Lindgren, and Webb, if that’s what it comes to. All three guys have multiple minor league options remaining — Wilson has two left and the other guys have all three (they haven’t been added to the 40-man roster yet) — and that creates some competition, which I view as a plus. Make guys earn their spot and keep the best.

Christopher asks: Is the MLB fanbase over interleague games or do they still draw bigger crowds? If the league were to expand with one team each in the NL and AL, which cities would land teams?

I don’t know how to easily look up the attendance numbers, but I’m guessing interleague games draw better because MLB is still doing them year after year. Now they kinda have no choice because there’s an odd number of teams in each league. I do think expansion is on the horizon, within the next 10-15 years or so. Baseball is super healthy financially and there are no shortage of cities for new franchises. Portland and San Antonio are the two cities I’ve seen mentioned most often as potential landing spots. I definitely think the New York market could support a third team (Brooklyn?) but it’ll never happen because of territorial rights. Montreal and Monterrey are other options if MLB wants to expand outside the United States. The talent pool would be further diluted, sure, but as long as there is gobs of money to be made, it’ll happen.

Brian asks: Why aren’t the Yankees making keeping Hiroki Kuroda more a priority? He was unbelievably consistent the last three years and didn’t show any signs of slowing down the stretch last year. Every year injuries to pitchers crop up so I don’t see an issue in developing a lot of starting pitching depth.

Oh I think Kuroda is a priority, I just don’t think he’s decided whether he will pitch again next season. Earlier this week Brian Cashman said he has been in contact with Kuroda’s agent and seemed to indicate they’ll pursue him if he decides to pitch again. I wouldn’t mistake waiting for Kuroda to make a decision — he’s re-signed in late-November/early-December the last two winters — for the Yankees not wanting him back. I think they’ll take him back in a heartbeat if he doesn’t retire.