Archive for Mailbag
Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us any questions throughout the week.
Jeff asks: Carlos Beltran is a free agent next year. While the Yankees do have an abundance of outfielders, you see any chance they try to pick him up?
Do the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders? They have a bunch of warm bodies, but how many are legitimate everyday or even (gasp!) above-average players? I think Brett Gardner is the only guy you can say that about with any certainty.
Anyway, Beltran makes sense for the Yankees next season just like he did nine years ago (before he signed with the Mets) and even two years ago (before he signed with the Cardinals). He’s hitting .309/.346/.533 (146 wRC+) with 19 homers for St. Louis this year, and he continues to be a true switch-hitter who hits both lefties and righties. Perhaps most importantly, he has managed to avoid the DL these last two seasons. That’s encouraging given his history of knee problems.
Beltran turned 36 in April, and there are two significant red flags in his performance. His walk rate (5.1%) is a career-low by far, dropping from 10.5% last year and his 10.5% career average. His swing-and-miss rate (9.2%) is essentially identical to last year (9.3%), which was his career-high. Beltran has a career 7.3% whiff rate and was at 6.6% as recently as 2011. Seeing an older hitter cut his walk rate in half with an increased swing-and-miss rate suggests he may be cheating and starting his bat a little earlier. That’s not uncommon for guys that age.
The Yankees could certainly use a switch-hitting power guy in the middle of the lineup, especially since they should shuffle him between right field and DH to keep his legs fresh. Beltran has made it very, very clear he wants to play for the Yankees in the past*, which could work in their favor if he’s willing to take a one-year deal. I don’t like the idea of a two-year contract at this point of his career, but there’s a definite fit at the right price.
* For what it’s worth, I think passing on Beltran prior to 2005 was the biggest blunder of the Brian Cashman era, especially after he came to the team at the last minute and was willing to sign at a relative discount.
Brian asks: If the Yankees wanted to, what should they get in return in a trade for Hiroki Kuroda? To me, it may be a great opportunity to get some quality prospects in exchange for a valuable commodity.
From what I can tell, the 38-year-old Kuroda does not have a no-trade clause. He had one last year for sure, but I can’t find anything indicating this year’s contract includes one. That seems kinda odd and I’m just going to assume he does have no-trade protection. Why would he demand one in 2012 but not 2013? Weird.
Anywho, Kuroda is pitching like an ace this year (2.65 ERA and 3.62 FIP) and getting him for the second half would be a huge help to some contender. Just imagine the Dodgers or Rangers or Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox getting their hands on him. Low maintenance, affordable, proven in a big market, everything you could want in a rental starter.
If the Yankees were to move him, I think they should seek a return on par with what the Brewers got for Zack Greinke last year. Kuroda now is better than Greinke was last year, though he’s much older and Greinke had more “name value” as a former Cy Young winner. The Angels gave up their number two (Jean Segura), four (Johnny Hellweg), and nine (Ariel Pena) prospects for Greinke, though only Segura was a top 100 guy (#55 by Baseball America).
That’s the framework I’d be looking for in return for Kuroda. A top-100 prospect who is big league ready — Segura stepped right into the Brewers’ lineup after the deal — and two other good but not great prospects. Kuroda has shown a willingness to use his no-trade clause however — he blocked deals to the Yankees and Red Sox while with the Dodgers in 2011 — so getting him to agree to a deal wouldn’t be easy even if the Bombers wanted to move him, which I doubt they do.
Kevin asks: Was Hiroki Kuroda an all-star snub? And does he have a legit shot at the Cy Young award?
Oh yes, he absolutely was an All-Star snub. During the All-Star lineup/starting pitcher press conference, Jim Leyland confirmed he took Chris Tillman (3.95 ERA and 4.95 FIP) over Kuroda because he had more wins (11-3 vs. 8-6). Kuroda ranks second in the AL in ERA, seventh in bWAR (3.2), and 11th in fWAR (2.3 WAR). Definitely a snub considering eleven (!) AL starting pitchers were named to the All-Star team, including the injury replacements.
The Cy Young award is tougher to defend. No AL pitcher is having an outrageous season that moves them to the front of the pack yet; instead there are a bunch of guys — specifically Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Sale — who are simply having excellent seasons. For a Yankee to win a major award, he needs to blow everyone else out of the water and make it obvious like Alex Rodriguez in 2007. There is a voter bias against Yankees for sure, and that will work against Kuroda. He’d need a dynamite second half to make a serious run at the award, otherwise he’s a guy who will get a few fourth or fifth place votes at best.
Dan asks: With the Diamondbacks wanting bullpen help is there anything they’d give up that is valuable for Joba Chamberlain? Surely he’d fair better in the NL West.
The AL-to-NL switch isn’t as significant for relievers, who are much more likely to face a pinch-hitter than the opposing pitcher. The D’Backs have had some interest in Joba in the past, particularly during the rumored Dan Haren trade talks. That was back when Joba was, you know, good. Good and under control for a few more years.
These days Chamberlain is just a rental reclamation project reliever, which is nothing to get excited about. Brandon League was a Proven Closer™ having a good (but not great) year when he was traded at the deadline last year, and all he fetched was two non-top 30 prospects. Maybe Arizona would give up a failing former top prospect like RHP Anthony Meo (5.86 ERA and 6.06 FIP in 43 innings), a lottery ticket type. I wouldn’t expect much in return for Joba at this point, unless he’s like the second or third piece in a package deal. He won’t bring back much by himself.
Six questions this week, but none of the answers are particularly long. Use the Submit A Tip box — which now sits below the Kabak Hat Watch — to send us anything throughout the week.
Kyle asks: I have two questions about Shawn Kelley. 1) How long is he under team control, and 2) If he were still on the Mariners having the season he is now and Brian Cashman wanted to acquire him, what would it take? More than just Abe Almonte this time right? Thanks
Kelley is in his first year of arbitration-eligibility and remains under team control in both 2014 and 2015. He’s making $935k this year and probably won’t crack $3-3.5M in either of the next two years unless he starts picking up saves.
Kelley, 29, has a 3.74 ERA and 3.19 FIP in 33.2 innings this year. His strikeout rate (13.37 K/9 and 36.2 K%) is ridiculous and he’s been outstanding since the calendar flipped to May: 1.93 ERA and 1.78 FIP while stranding 17 of 18 inherited runners. Given his salary and years of team control, he would obviously cost quite a bit more an Almonte at the deadline. Probably two good but not great prospects. The Mariners had just designated Kelley for assignment and basically destroyed all their leverage when the Yankees acquired him. Credit to Brian Cashman & Co. for swooping in and grabbing him, Kelley’s been some find for them.
Rob asks: What happens to the Yankees’ luxury tax situation if Alex Rodriguez is declared “unable to perform” and then retires? I understand that insurance would cover 80% of his remaining salary but would it still count against the luxury tax? What if he’s suspended?
Being “unable to perform” and retiring are two different things. Being “unable to perform” means you just stay on the DL and get paid. Retiring is walking away and forfeiting the rest of your contract. If A-Rod is declared “unable to perform,” he still counts against the luxury tax even if insurance reimburses the team. If he’s suspended, then his salary does not count against the tax. Long story short, the only way Alex won’t count against the luxury tax is if he voluntarily retires or MLB suspends him. That’s it.
Mo asks: Do you think the Yankees hurt themselves for future drafts by going over-slot for Aaron Judge? I think they could have used the pick next year to sign a college senior for $50k (doing this because if they don’t sign the pick next year they lose it) and then used the huge amount of pool money from that pick to select players who dropped for signability reasons. Your thoughts?
Oh no, not at all. They went over-slot a relatively small amount, less than $150k. This wasn’t going double-slot like they did for Slade Heathcott. I’d much rather have Judge now than the pick next year, no doubt about it. Prospects are like money — a dollar today is worth more than a dollar next year, which is worth more than a dollar in five years. Passing on Judge over such a small amount means losing a chip at next year’s trade deadline, for example.
And just as a reminder, picks are now protected for two years under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Had Judge not signed, the Yankees would have been given the 33rd overall pick in next year’s draft. If the player they took with that pick didn’t sign, they would get the 34th overall pick the next year. If that player didn’t sign, then they lose the pick.
William asks: How does the overage tax work? Will the Yankees get a bill after the signing period ends tomorrow? Who gets that money?
I don’t know when the Yankees will get their bill — they are currently $114k over their pool, resulting in an $85.5k tax hit — but that money gets distributed to teams that didn’t not pay the tax this year for next summer’s draft. I don’t know how it’s distributed or if they even get the actual money, maybe they’re just allotted some extra pool space and the cash goes into MLB’s central fund. I’m sure the bill will arrive soon, I know the luxury tax check is due one week after the bills are sent out in December.
Ethan asks: There seems to be a ton of variance in HBP from player to player, year to year. Is there skill in taking a pitch? Does it just depend on batting stance/purposeful plate crowding, or are these players “disliked” enough to get thrown at more often than anyone else? It can mean 20-30 more times on base per season, which isn’t exactly negligible, but I haven’t heard anyone talk about this statistic at all.
Getting hit by pitches is definitely a skill. Or maybe it’s not so much a skill as it is willingness to get hit. It’s repeatable though. Carlos Quentin, who as been hit by at least 17 pitches in four of the last five years, is the poster boy for the whole “getting hit is a skill” thing. Mark Teixeira is usually good for double-digit hit-by-pitches each year, and Chase Utley always gets hit by a ton of pitches as well. The year-to-year hit-by-pitch leaders are typically the same guys.
I have not seen a good analysis about the ability to get hit by pitches. Like everything else, I imagine it stems from many things put together — crowding the plate, batting stance, how quick a player picks up the ball, and the type of arm protection someone wears could all be a factor. Injury risk is an obvious downside, so there’s a balance between getting on-base more often and staying on the field more often. It’s a topic I’d love to see explored more in-depth.
Jon asks: It’s Mariano Rivera a legitimate Cy Young candidate and could he win?
Nah, not without an outrageously great second half. Mo’s best chance to win a Cy Young was probably 1996 or 2008, when he was a legitimate four-win reliever without accounting for the fact that relievers are generally undervalued by WAR. Rivera’s awesome and he’s having a great year, but he’s not a legitimate Cy Young candidate. It’s not a lifetime achievement award.
Six questions and six answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up questions, comments, links, or anything else throughout the week.
Mat asks: What are your thoughts on acquiring John Axford? With the need of another arm down the stretch wouldn’t it make sense to acquire him?
Axford, 30, has pitched to a 3.86 ERA and 4.46 FIP this year, losing his closer’s job to Jim Henderson. He struggled last year as well (4.67 ERA and 4.06 FIP), mostly because he was walking everyone (5.06 BB/9 and 12.6 BB%). Axford has cut back on the free passes this year (3.60 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), but instead he’s crazy homer prone (1.54 HR/9 and 15.8% HR/FB). The homers have been trending in the wrong direction for years now.
The problem with Axford isn’t so much his performance — he does still miss a ton of bats even though his 9.51 K/9 and 24.2 K% are career-lows — but his salary. He’s earning $5M this year in the first of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two, so his salary is only going higher and higher. Saves pay, and he had a ton of them early in his career. Axford is going to be an $8M+ reliever as soon as next year, at which point he might be a non-tender candidate. I do like him as a buy-low guy in terms of what he can do on the mound, but there’s no way I’d be okay with the Yankees paying him that much. Way too risky.
John asks: Which free agents can the Yankees provide a qualifying offer to at the end of the season? I’m assuming Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson would be eligible? Joba Chamberlain wouldn’t be? Are Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda?
Any player with more than six full years of service time is eligible for a qualifying offer, so all of those guys you named plus Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Boone Logan, Mariano Rivera, and Kevin Youkilis can receive one. Tim Dierkes has estimated the qualifying offer at $14M for this coming offseason, so right off the bat we can rule out offers for Joba, Hafner, Logan, and Youkilis.
Cano is absolutely getting one if he does reach free agency, there’s no doubt about that. Rivera is retiring, so there’s no sense in making him an offer and risk having him complicate the payroll situation by surprisingly accepting. Pettitte is the same boat since it’s Yankees or retirement for him, plus at this point it’s debatable if he’s even worth that salary. If Kuroda continues to pitch has he has this year (and last), I think he’d get an offer. I think they’d welcome him back with open arms at that salary in 2014, especially since it’s a pay cut.
Hughes is very much up in the air and right now I lean towards no offer. That could change in a hurry if he pitches well in the second half though. Some team will give him Edwin Jackson money this winter (four years, $52M), but even if he surprises and accepts a qualifying offer, he’d be tradeable. The Yankees might have to eat some salary, but it’s doable. Hughes is definitely a wait-and-see thing, no sense in giving a definitive yes or no in early-July.
Thomas asks: What seems to be the holdup on signing the supplemental first round pick Aaron Judge?
Earlier this week, both Jon Heyman and K. Levine-Flandrup reported there has been no change in negotiations. The Yankees offered him slot money (~$1.68M) and they’re waiting for him to accept. As our Draft Pool page shows, the team has more than $300k in pool money saved, so they could offer him roughly $2M before next Friday’s signing deadline if push comes to shove.
Jim Callis recently said every unsigned first round pick will sign before the deadline — Judge and four others remain unsigned at this point — so I’ll defer to the expert and say it’s only a matter of time. It would be very tough for Judge to return to school and come out as a senior next year with improved stock and earning potential, though it is certainly possible. He and his advisor are presumably holding out for every last penny, which is understandable.
Tom asks: What about Norichika Aoki of the Brewers as a trade target? Looks like he has an option for ’14 so he could contribute in the OF now as well as next year.
Aoki, 31, is one of the very best bargains in baseball. He’s hit .289/.354/.410 (112 wRC+) since signing a two-year, $2.25M contract prior to last season, and this year’s at .292/.364/.373 (108 wRC+) in 360 plate appearances. That dirt cheap contract includes a $1.5M (!) club options for 2014, which will be picked up no questions asked.
The Yankees need to add some on-base skills to their lineup, and Aoki is basically a better (and cheaper) version of Ichiro Suzuki at this point. He doesn’t strike out (7.6%) but will walk (7.7%), steal bases (39-for-55, 71%), and play strong defense in right. Aoki is a big-time ground ball hitter (58.4%), so Yankee Stadium won’t automatically boost his power output. I don’t know what the trade cost will be, but it won’t be cheap given his salary and production. If the price is right and the Yankees could somehow unload Ichiro, they should absolutely go for it. I just don’t see it happening.
Winter asks: Is Chris Carter a potential trade target? He’s better than Lyle Overbay, has some OF experience, is a good young player under team control until 2019 (not arb-eligible until 2015), and plays for a non-contender who’ll be a seller at the deadline.
The 26-year-old Carter is a classic three-true outcomes slugger. He strikes out a ton (36.7%), walks a ton (11.6%), and hits for plenty of power (17 homers and a .235 ISO). It’s any park power — hitter’s park, pitcher’s park, you name it and he can clear the fence. As you said, he’s still in his pre-arbitration years and has plenty of team control left.
People hate strikeouts, but there’s nothing wrong with having one high-strikeout masher in the lineup. It’s a problem when you have three or four in the lineup. Granderson is almost certainly a goner after the season, which would leave Carter as the team’s lone grip-it and rip-it hitter. At the very least, he could platoon with Overbay at first and Travis Hafner at DH while spot starting in left field despite his awful defense.
I don’t know what the Astros want in return, but they did give up Jed Lowrie to get him, so I doubt he’d be cheap. The Yankees need power in the worst way, especially from the right side, so Carter would be a very good fit despite his obvious flaws. As we’ve seen this year, it’s very tough to win in the AL East when you can’t hit the ball out of the park.
Paul asks: What have you replaced Google Reader with?
Consider this the rare non-baseball-related public service question. Though I guess it is baseball-related if you read a lot of baseball blogs.
Anyway, I’ve settled on Feedly after toying around with Hive Reader and The Old Reader. Feedly just added a GReader-esque web app — previously it was a browser plug-in, which was annoying — and I think their Android app is top notch. Joe and (I think) Ben are using Digg Reader with positive reviews. I haven’t tried it yet. Pretty much everyone I know is using one of those four services at this point. Hope that helps.
Another six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers relatively short. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Andrew asks: How long do you think J.R. Murphy has to continue tearing the cover off the ball before he gets a shot? He can’t be worse than Austin Romine or Chris Stewart. Seriously, I think it’s statistically impossible.
Oh, it’s possible. David Adams tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A but has been worse than Jayson Nix. Thomas Neal was worse than Vernon Wells after his big Triple-A performance. The “he can’t be worse” idea is a terrible reason to make a move. They can almost always be worse.
With that said, I don’t think the Yankees should replace Murphy with Romine, not right now. The kid just got to Triple-A and is having his first real standout season since turning pro, and I wouldn’t risk screwing that up for the sake of upgrading the backup catcher spot. Not when Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach are freely available. Joe Girardi‘s not going to not play Chris Stewart, so I don’t see the point of calling him up to play twice a week. Let Murphy work on his catching and continue to rake in Triple-A. Rushing a prospect to plug a big league hole would only compound the problem.
Mitchell asks: MLBTR says Aramis Ramirez and maybe Jonathan Lucroy are available. Does one or both make sense for the Yanks? And what would it take, do you think, to get him/them?
Matt wrote about Ramirez the other day, so all I’m going to add to that is that I don’t like the idea of adding another aging veteran on the wrote side of 35 who is under contract through 2014. The Yankees have met their quota already. Ramirez would certainly help the team right now, but he’s battling continued knee problems while his strikeouts are up and his power is down. Classic signs of decline in a slugger, otherwise known as “The Kevin Youkilis.” Not a fan.
Lucroy, on the other hand, would be great for the Yankees. The 27-year-old has hit .274/.321/.443 (108 wRC+) this year and .285/.333/.443 (111 wRC+) since becoming the full-time catcher in 2011, plus he’s signed affordably ($9M through 2016 with a $5.25M club option for 2017). Lucroy isn’t all that good at throwing out attempted base-stealers but he grades out okay in the other defensive aspects of catching. Given his age and contract, I imagine it’ll take quite a haul to get him. At least two very good prospects, probably two plus a third piece.
Paul asks: Joe Girardi has stacked lefties recently. The criticism is that late in games you are likely to have the platoon disadvantage as the opposing manager will deploy a lefty reliever. My question is this: isn’t that a little negated by having the platoon advantage for the first 5-7 innings? What about neutralizing their righty relievers, or, better yet having them use a righty closer against your lefties?
Stacking the lefties isn’t ideal because of those late game matchups, but given the current Yankees roster, I’m perfectly fine with it. They don’t have many good hitters as it is, so the ones they do have need to bunched together if they want to generate any kind of rally. Breaking up Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano with Nix defeats the purpose, really. Those mid-to-late-inning lefty specialists are problematic, but stacking the left-handers is a net positive for New York right now given their personnel.
Ted asks: Can you guys please clarify injuries and insurance? If the Yankees are getting money back from insurance for Mark Teixeira‘s recent DL stint, then shouldn’t they also have boatloads of money if they have insurance policies on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (not to mention all the other injuries)? Thanks!
From what I understand, team don’t purchase insurance for everyone, nor do they fully insure the contract either. A lot of times teams will only get coverage for what is morbidly referred to as “total loss or death” because the premium are so damn high. For pitchers with huge contracts with CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, the premiums could wind up costing more than the actual contract. In that case, they just pass. The Yankees are apparently getting 80% of Teixeira’s salary back for this injury, but I have no idea what the case is for the other injured guys. I assume there’s some protection in place, but who knows how much.
Brad asks: Next season, as everyone moves up a rung in the bullpen, do you think Dellin Betances gets a shot in the show?
It depends entirely on how well he pitches the rest of the season. If he continues this strong run, then yeah I think they would find room for him in the bullpen next year. Not as a setup man or anything like that, just as the last arm for blowout games or whatever. At least at first, he could always pitch his way into more responsibility.
If Betances starts pitching like he did as a starter, he’d be a candidate to get taken off the 40-man roster over the winter. There would be no value there. Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera will all hit free agency after the season, so there figures to be some bullpen competition in Spring Training even if the Yankees sign a free agent reliever or two.
Steve asks: Any reason the Yanks wouldn’t go after Eric Thames?
Not really. I mean, he isn’t all that good. He’s a career .250/.296/.431 (97 wRC+) hitter in 684 career big league plate appearances with awful, awful defense, yet he continues to put up very good numbers at Triple-A (124 wRC+ before being designated for assignment last week). Thames hasn’t been resigned to Quad-A status yet, but he’s getting there.
That said, he’s 26 and a left-handed hitting outfielder with minor league options remaining. The Yankees also drafted Thames in the 39th round of the 2007 draft back in the day, so they liked him once upon a time. They have an open 40-man roster spot — Youkilis is prime 60-day DL bait as well — and an open outfield spot in Triple-A (for the time being), so it’s close to a no risk move. I don’t think it would be some great travesty if they passed, however.
Going with a rapid fire mailbag today, so nine total questions. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to send us anything throughout the week.
John asks: Hypothetically speaking, if the Yankees were to trade Robinson Cano today, what type of package do you think they could expect in return? Considering the new rule that the acquiring team will not get comp picks if they lose him, would the package really be that significant? In Spring Training I think they could’ve gotten, lets say, Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller from St. Louis. Now I don’t think they would get Taveras by himself. Am I off base?
Half-a-season of Carlos Beltran fetched Zack Wheeler, and Beltran had a clause in his contract that prevented the team from offering arbitration after the season. The Giants knew at the time they would be unable to recoup a draft pick. Beltran was also a corner outfielder with a long injury injury while Cano plays a more premium position and 159+ games a year, every year. There’s no way they should settle for anything less than a prospect of Taveras’ caliber. That said, Matt Carpenter is amazing and the Cardinals no longer need a second baseman. I know they were just an example though. A half-season of Cano should net the Yankees an elite prospect at the very least. I’d want someone MLB ready who could step right into the lineup after the trade.
Humphrey asks: Given the apparent need of the Tigers to improve their bullpen, is this a place the Yankees can match up? Is there something the Yankees could get in return that would be valuable to them?
The Tigers desperately need bullpen help, particularly capable late-game relievers. The problem is that they’re a contender and are unlikely to trade away big league players to get that bullpen. They’ll offer prospects instead, and they don’t have many great ones to offer. Sorry, but you’re not getting Nick Castellanos (or even Avisail Garcia, for that matter) for David Robertson. I can’t see the Yankees weakening the pitching staff, pretty much the only thing keeping them afloat these days, for minor league players who won’t help right away. I don’t see a good fit for anything more than a minor trade.
Travis asks: Do you think Adam Warren will get a shot at starting in 2014 or will he just stay in the bullpen?
Assuming Phil Hughes is allowed to leave and neither Hiroki Kuroda nor Andy Pettitte return, the Yankees will have to come up with three starters next year. Even if they sign some free agents, they won’t all be studs. I expect Warren to come to camp as a starter with the opportunity to win a rotation spot. I do think he’s best suited for the bullpen and have for a few years now. He’s been very good as the long reliever but I think he could also wind up contributing as a more tradition one-inning, late-game reliever at some point. Give him the chance to start though, he’s earned it. If they come to camp with an open rotation spot or two, they owe it to themselves to see what Warren can do.
SMC asks: What would it take to get Danny Espinosa from the Nationals? He’s clearly fallen out of favor with their organization, but he’s a young switch-hitter with power who plays the middle infield well, steals bases, and draws walks.
I have to preface this by saying I’m a huge Espinosa fan. He was awful this year (23 wRC+) while foolishly trying to play through a chipped bone in his wrist, and he’s since been placed on the DL and then sent to the minors. Espinosa has flirted with 20-20 in each of the last two years and came into this season with a career 98 wRC+. He’s also very good defender who can legitimately play shortstop on an everyday basis. I’d love to get my hands on him at this point while his value is down, especially since Washington has Anthony Rendon at second and seems disinclined to move Ryan Zimmerman off third. I don’t know what the Nationals would want in return, but if they wanted a good but not great prospect like Nik Turley or Ramon Flores, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Espinosa fits the Yankees needs very well going forward even if he is a low-average, strikeout-prone hitter. Power, speed, and defense on the middle infield is hard to find.
Ian asks: If Mark Teixeira‘s wrist is still hurting, what is the point of even trying to bring him back? It clearly isn’t right and isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season. Why not accept reality and do the surgery so the team can try to salvage the last three years of this now awful contract?
I disagree that it “isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season.” If the doctors say he is healthy enough to play, let him play. He can help the team. Wrist surgery is no small thing, you never want to cut into an important joint like that if it can be avoided.
Donny asks: The Yankees have three potential free agents who could be offered a qualifying offer — Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hughes. This would result in a total of four first round draft picks, correct? If that is the case, are there any limits on how many compensatory picks a team is allowed or, in theory, could the Yankees have their entire team turn down qualifying offers that then resulted in 26 first round picks? That seems a little ridiculous to me if that is the case, no?
We could add Kuroda to that list as well, he’s definitely a qualifying offer candidate. Hughes is very much on the fence right now. But yes, there is no limit to how many compensation picks a team can have. The idea of letting the entire roster walk and netting 25 additional first rounders is obviously unrealistic, but technically it is possible. I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all either. If you have a lot of good players, you should be able to reap the draft pick reward if they decide to sign elsewhere.
Colin asks: Saw a blurb that the White Sox may look to sell at the deadline. What are the chances they move Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham? Rios would be a great fit for the Yanks right now.
Beckham, even the disappointing version who is just an okay player and not the star he was expected to be, would definitely help the Yankees. I have a hard time trusting Rios though. He is so wildly up and down. Here, look:
You’ve got a star player one year, a replacement level guy the next, a league average player the next … who knows what’s coming in the future? The 32-year-old Rios has hit well since the startof last season and seems to have figured it out, but is it worth gambling ~$20M through 2014? The Yankees are already saddled with Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells through next year, I’d hate to add another dud outfielder to those two. Plus having Rios and Wells on the same team gives me nightmares about the mid-2000s Blue Jays.
Bill asks: Would never happen but say hypothetically the Dodgers were looking to trade Matt Kemp (once healthy) since they have Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier. What would the Yanks have to offer if they even have enough?
Kemp, 28, was having a terrible year (78 wRC+) before hitting the DL with a hamstring problem. He had left (front) shoulder surgery during the offseason, and the team has acknowledged it is still giving him problems. That said, he put up a 146 wRC+ just last year and nearly went 40-40 in 2011. He’s not old, though he is well-paid (~$140M through 2019). I really don’t know what it would take to acquire Kemp; we don’t have any comparable trades to reference. The first Alex Rodriguez trade maybe? The contract and shoulder should drag the value down a bit, but it’ll still take a huge package. Multiple top prospects, I’m guessing.
Ari asks: Chris Stewart hasn’t hit a double all season. What is the record for plate appearances without one? Can we start the Chris Stewart doubles watch?
I hadn’t even realized Stewart was double-less until this question came in. Stewart has three homers and no other extra-base hits on the season. That’s hard to believe. Anyway, the record for most plate appearances without a double by a non-pitcher is 321 (!), which Rafael Belliard set with 1988 Pirates. Here’s that list, and here’s the list of most double-less games to start a season by a Yankee (doesn’t include last night’s game, but it doesn’t change much):
Add in last night’s game and Stewart is at 41 games, still sitting in ninth place on that list. At some point he will yank a ground ball passed the third baseman and into the left field corner for a double … right? Yeah, it’ll happen eventually. He has about a month to do it before he sits atop that forgettable list.
Daniel says: What I’ve been thinking is that maybe there was no way of preventing this season’s struggles … I really believe it is just one of those years that a lot of problems fell onto the team all at once from injuries to decline to inconsistent performances (and not just a poor approach to free agency). I think it would help to keep it all in perspective by taking a look at the players the Yankees “missed out on,” and speculate exactly what kind of a difference it would have made had they been brought on. I may be one of the few that does not blame this whole joke of a season on Brian Cashman at all, and I place only a fraction of blame on the front office.
(Apologies, Daniel. I trimmed down your submission quite a bit, but hopefully this will still get your point across satisfactorily. Of course, with loaded question comes loaded answer…)
I suppose the best way to approach this topic would be to take a quick visit to MLBTR’s 2013 Free Agent Tracker. From there, we can try to assess whether any of those “lost” free agent candidates would impact the team’s needs enough to make a tangible difference.
Let’s start with 3B, SS, C, and RF as those were all obvious spots of concern this past offseason. Of course, it is worth mentioning that this kind of speculation is somewhat futile as we don’t know whether any of these players would have performed comparably had they been with the Yankees, nor do we know how the other clubs’ rosters would have been realigned if they couldn’t get some of the players they did. But for the sake of vacuum-written posts everywhere, let’s just go with it.
(click every table in this post for a larger view)
The third base market was pretty barren this past offseason. To make matters worse, the Yankees weren’t exactly looking to make major moves at this position heading into the offseason. The decision to repair Alex Rodriguez’s torn labrum surfaced in late-November. He required a month or so of pre-rehabbing prior to surgery, followed by an estimated four to six month recovery time afterward. This resulted in a need for a third baseman who could not only start, but who could potentially handle the rigors of playing all season long should A-Rod‘s return become delayed (which was/is definitely plausible).
Unfortunately, Eric Chavez was already off the table by the first week of December. He signed a one year, $3 million dollar pact with the Diamondbacks, opting instead for a starting gig. Chavez has had a solid season thus far and would have been a decided upgrade over what the Yankees have gotten from their third basemen collectively, though he’s already experienced his first (of what I’m sure will be several) injuries this season.
After Chavez, the alternatives are pretty awful besides Mark Reynolds. We’re talking Brandon Inge (signed a MiLB deal), Drew Sutton (MiLB deal), Mark DeRosa (1 yr/$750k), and the oft-injured Placido Polanco (who’s been terrible with the Marlins). Signing Kevin Youkilis made sense in theory to some degree, but it was an extremely risky move to replace one injury prone player with another. $13M for a fragile Youk plus random assorted parts simply doesn’t cut it.
Derek Jeter sure didn’t do the team any favors when he decided to go break his ankle last October. Man, that screwed things up. The Yankees took a gamble that the Captain would heal by his Opening Day target date (which in retrospect seemed pretty ambitious). Their backup plan, Eduardo Nunez, has been sidelined basically all year which has paved the road for other internal candidate, Jayson Nix who has been serviceable.
Would Alex Gonzalez (1 yr/$1.5M), Ronny Cedeno or Cesar Izturis (MiLB deal) prove a better alternative? None of these options seem particularly appealing to me – then or now. Stephen Drew would have been an upgrade over what the Yankees have for sure, but there was no way Cashman was going to sign him for a part-time gig anyway – remember the assumption was that Jeter would be back by Opening Day. I’m just not sure free agency was the solution for the short stop dilemma in terms of quality. Cash gets a pass here for not biting on any of the alternatives if all the information provided to him at the time suggested Jeter was likely to return on the expected schedule.
That brings us to catcher. The plan was – I can’t believe I’m saying this – to roll the dice with Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Frankie went down early after contributing at a surprisng pace. Austin Romine came up and played miserably in limited opportunity. This allowed Stewart to secure the starting gig for himself. Now, to be fair, Stewart has surpassed my expectations with his .270/.326/.348 (.299 wOBA, 84 wRC+) line and three home runs, which basically represents career highs for him. Russell Martin, on the other hand, is playing pretty close to his career norm. That is to say seven home runs and a .247/.340/.419 (.336 wOBA, 116 wRC+) line – a rate, mind you, that is sustainable for him … perhaps unlike Chris’ production (or Cervelli’s for that matter).
Pierzynski (102 wRC+) has been pretty good too, and he was signed by the Rangers for a one-year stint. Other FA catchers such as David Ross, Yorvit Torrealba, Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco have all performed generally worse. While Stewart hasn’t been bad, I think it was still a pretty big #FAIL to not re-sign Martin (especially since Martin is also a defensively capable catcher, which is apparently an asset these days). I’ll blame Cashman for this lost production, but who knows. Maybe ownership deserves some of (or the majority of) the blame here too if they either a) passed on Cashman’s recommendation to keep Martin or b) prevented him from retaining Martin because of the proposed austerity budget.
Now … the OF, which as it currently stands, is a complete cluster-f mess. As I mentioned last week, it’s no one’s fault that Curtis Granderson fell victim to two fluky injuries, the first of which happened in Spring Training. However, it is of absolutely no surprise that right field ended up being an offensive void after the team elected to drop Nick Swisher in lieu of some Ichiro/Francisco-headed platoon. Once Grandy went down, the team was doubly screwed as it would then be forced to trade/rely on Vernon Wells in left field. Prior to the start of the season, there were some outfielders available. The Yankees could have tried to replace Swisher with another right fielder, or hire a different outfield position and find a way to reorganize the lineup possibly.
For what it’s worth, Swisher hasn’t been all that great in Cleveland thus far; though even while playing relatively mediocre, Swisher’s 107 wRC+ still manages to sit about 30 points higher than the Yankees not-quite-so-dynamic outfield tandem of Ichiro and Wells. I can totally understand not signing a guy like Josh Hamilton for health concerns or Michael Bourn (might as well just get Swisher if you’re spending almost $50M anyway). Heading into the season, Justin Upton was an appealing option though. Ditto Torii Hunter. Mike’s been endorsing Nate Schierholtz from day one. All of these guys would have felt like a better plan going in, and a few would still be improvements now.
Sure, the actual numbers for some of these outfielders may not have panned out favorably through the first third of the season, but the opportunity for success would have been better heading in, and that’s the real point. The team chose guys whose ceilings were likely to be below average for a few of these positions. Again, these decisions were largely driven by the austerity budget, and we’re examining them in hindsight. But neither of those points makes the outcome an easier one to accept. The Yankees have gotten very little production from their corner outfielders and their third basemen, and it shows. Obviously, the Yankees were betting on their pitching and defense to help shoulder some of the burden, which it has, but the overall lack of offense has put a lot of pressure on the team to generate runs in different ways which isn’t always easy.
Now to be clear, this isn’t to say that if Cashman had hired any of these Free Agents, they’d be instant World Series contenders or definitively better off now than where they currently stand. What we’re talking about here is incremental upgrades. If some of these Free Agents came aboard and translated into even a few extra wins over the course of the season, who knows, maybe that ultimately winds up being the difference between making the playoffs and missing it in the hyper competitive A.L. East.
It’s about trying to mitigate the possibility of failure as much as possible before experiencing diminishing returns on the investment. Frankly, I think even a marginal upgrade in RF and 3B would definitely help considering how awful those spots have been — hence the reason I’m somewhat optimistic about A-Rod when he returns. Short-stop and Catcher haven’t been as bad relatively speaking, even though we’ve seen how Stewart’s skill set compares to a guy like Martin. Or, maybe they wind up right where they are as you suggest even with some of these guys. There’s no way to prevent a disappointing season from possibly happening if a maelstrom of injuries occurs.
I also wouldn’t go so far as to call this season a joke either. Games have been painful to watch at times, but there is a lot baseball to be played and the team is obviously in contention. You are absolutely right, though, in the sense that the perfect storm of injuries has exacerbated an already difficult set of conditions. Ultimately, maybe they get by without some of those Free Agents which is obviously the most desirable outcome as that’s the reality that the team created. In the meantime, keep yourself prepared for some low-scoring ballgames as we find out.
Got four questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything — questions, comments, links, complaints, etc. — throughout the week.
Paul asks: I know Brett Gardner was never really a highly talked about prospect, but I don’t remember anything about him before making it to the show. Can you give a brief history of how the Yankees got and developed him?
You’re right, Gardner was never touted as a top prospect. He was more of a second tier guy, someone I ranked 13th (2007), 19th (2008), and 11th (2009) in my annual preseason top 30 prospects lists. In retrospect, I under-rated his elite defense and should have had him higher. Not many prospects have an elite carrying tool, but Gardner did.
The Yankees drafted him in the third round of the 2005 draft out of the College of Charleston, signing him for a modest $210k. Gardner went to Short Season Staten Island that summer and put up a .752 OPS with 19 steals in 73 games. The Yankees sent him to High-A Tampa to start 2006 season, then bumped him up to Double-A Trenton at midseason after he hit to a 150 wRC+ with 30 steals in 63 games. He posted a 95 wRC+ with 28 steals in 55 games with the Thunder to close out the season.
Sent back to Double-A Trenton to start 2007, Gardner missed almost the entire month of May when an errant pitch broke his right hand. He hit to a 120 wRC+ with 17 steals in 52 total games for the Thunder before being bumped up to Triple-A Scranton and managing a 91 wRC+ and 21 steals in 45 second half games. The Yankees sent Gardner back to Triple-A to open 2008, where he put up a 134 wRC+ with 37 steals in 94 games while getting a few cups of coffee. He was in the big leagues for good in 2009, meaning he went from third rounder to big leaguer in the span of three and a half years. Not bad.
Brian asks: Suppose either Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte returns next season. Beyond CC Sabathia you have three rotation spots open. Let’s say you can keep three of the following while the other two are, say, traded before the deadline for a corner outfielder with at least 1.5 years of team control left: Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno. Who do you keep?
So I assume this means Hughes would be re-signed to a whatever contract? Of those five, I’d keep Hughes, Pineda, and Phelps without much of a second thought. Nova has been dreadful for a full year now and I have little faith in Nuno as a soft-tossing lefty who can’t miss bats, especially in a small ballpark in the AL East. If Pineda comes back from the DL and pitches terribly or looks like a right-handed Nuno, then I’d probably take Nova over him.
Ultimately, I say keep all of these guys unless there happens to be a trade they just can’t refuse. Most of them have minor league options, and that flexibility and depth is always great to have. Sabathia and Pettitte/Kuroda aren’t getting any younger, plus young pitchers tend to go through ups and downs (in case you haven’t noticed). Having a whole bunch of pitchers is a good thing! As badly as they need a bat, I’d much rather hold onto these guys and deal prospects.
Paul asks: Trades are frequently done for a Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL). Does that PTBNL ever end up being useful? Have the Yankees ever gotten a useful one? Or lost a useful one?
Every so often a PTBNL will turn into a useful player, but it’s not common. Marco Scutaro might be the most famous PTBNL in recent history after going from the Indians to the Brewers in the Richie Sexson trade back in 2000.
I went all the way back to 1990 and dug up every PTBNL either traded by or acquired by the Yankees. Only five are noteworthy:
- OF Lyle Mouton: PTBNL to White Sox for Jack McDowell in 1995. Mouton produced a 98 wRC+ from 1995-2001 as a part-time player for various teams.
- RHP Jim Mecir: PTBNL to Red Sox for Mike Stanley in 1997. The Devil Rays plucked Mecir from Boston in the expansion draft a few weeks later, and he pitched to a 3.53 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 448.1 innings from 1998-2005.
- 3B Scott Brosius: PTBNL from Athletics for Kenny Rogers in 1998. I think we all know what happened here.
- IF Joaquin Arias: PTBNL to Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in 2004. Arias was one of the Yankees top prospects at the time and he’s bounced around as a utility infielder over the years. Won a ring with the Giants last year. Pushing the limits of “useful” here.
- RHP Zach McAllister: PTBNL to Indians for Austin Kearns in 2010: McAllister has a 4.14 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 208.2 career innings for the Tribe, including a 3.43 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 65.2 innings this year.
It’s worth noting the Yankees acquired IF Charlie Hayes as a PTBNL from the Phillies for Darrin Chapin in 1992. That was Charlie’s first stint in pinstripes. He stayed with them in 1992 before being selected by the Rockies in the expansion draft after the season. New York eventually re-acquired him from the Pirates for the stretch drive in 1996. Otherwise, that’s it. Five, maybe six noteworthy PTBNL’s in the last 23 years.
Jaremy asks: Mariano Rivera struck out the side to beat the Mariners on Saturday. How many times has he struck out the side to register a save? How does that compare to his fellow closers?
You can thank the magic of the Baseball-Reference Play Index for this answer in advance. I’m going to limit this to one-inning saves since 1997, when Rivera officially got the closer’s job. Here’s the list (doesn’t include yesterday’s games, but I don’t think that changes anything anyway):
I don’t think it’s terribly surprising Wagner tops the list with 35 instances of striking out the side for a save; he has highest K/9 in baseball history among pitchers who have thrown at least 500 innings at 11.92. He’s actually tied with Lidge, who ranks third in the list above.
Rivera has only done it 14 times in the regular season believe it or not, but he’s never really been a super-high strikeout guy either. He’s been over a strikeout per inning just five times in his 17 years as a closer. Mo’s thing is broken bats and weak contact, not racking up strikeouts and overpowering hitters.
Four questions in this draft-free mailbag. If you’re interested in the draft though, check out today’s open thread. Otherwise, think up some questions for next week’s mailbag and send them to use with the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Kenny asks: What are your thoughts on re-signing Phil Hughes next year to close? Granted, he’d have to want to close and it would take a few other things like Michael Pineda coming back strong, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps continuing to progress, but he could dominate there.
Barring injury or a complete performance collapse, there’s no chance Hughes will re-sign with the Yankees as a closer. Zero. None. Not unless they pay him like a starter. Some team(s) will offer him a nice contract and a rotation spot, and that’s where he’ll go. He has no reason to come back as a reliever.
I do think Hughes would be awesome in the bullpen though, and in fact we already know he would be. We’ve seen him do it in 2009 and remember, he was dynamite out of the bullpen late in 2011 and during the postseason. If for some unexpected reason the Yankees don’t need a starter next year, sure, bring him back a reliever. He wouldn’t be open to it, however. The money is in the rotation.
Nick asks: Why not have an eleven-man pitching staff? They have several guys in the pen who can throw multiple innings, and a long man in Adam Warren so I think they can handle it. The 12th guy on the staff seems to go weeks between games (at least for the last few years). The extra bench player could allow them to do more of a platoon with several of their veterans, who are old and have platoon splits.
The easy answer is that a seven-man bullpen is commonplace these days and teams always hesitate to go against the grain. It’s been a while since the Yankees used a six-man bullpen and I don’t see them going back anytime soon. Having the extra arm is always nice, really.
That said, I do think teams could get away with it as long as they have three or four relievers capable of throwing two innings at a time. It also means having no lefty specialist. The Yankees have more platoons than they know what to do with — seriously, pretty much the only positions they aren’t platooning in some way this year are catcher, first base, second base, and center field — so having that extra position player would be nice.
Considering how important the pitching staff is for this team, carrying the extra pitcher (Joba Chamberlain? Shawn Kelley? Preston Claiborne?) over the extra position player (Brennan Boesch?) isn’t the end of the world. I do think a six-man bullpen is more doable that most realize, however.
Biggie asks: If an Alex Rodriguez suspension comes is he suspended without pay? If so, does his entire salary count against the salary cap or is it adjusted? We are almost 60 games in and suspensions sound two weeks away. Add an appeal and this can possibly carry over into next year. What would that mean to the 2014 $189 budget if anything. Thanks!
Well, the suspensions are nowhere close to two weeks away. The appeals alone will probably take months, especially if they do indeed go after 20 or so players. If A-Rod gets suspended, it won’t happen anytime soon. This labor war party is just getting started.
Anyway, yes the salary Alex forfeits during a suspension would not count against the luxury tax. Ken Davidoff was nice enough to spell it all out today, so I strong suggest reading that. We’re talking upwards of $15M in savings if he does get the 100-game ban MLB is seeking, so it’s a big chunk of change. That can fill a lot of roster holes.
Ariel asks: With our replacement shortstops playing abysmally, do you think the Yankees regret giving up on Ramiro Pena? Do you think he would be playing as well as he has with the Yanks?
You can file this under questions I never thought would be asked. New York has gotten a .216/.286/.289 (67 OPS+) from their shortstops this year while Rakin’ Ramiro has hit .318/.372/.506 (143 wRC+) in 95 plate appearances as utility infielder with the Braves. What the hell is that about?
Now, obviously Pena won’t maintain that pace. It’ll be a minor miracle if he does. A 50.0% ground ball rate and 16.7% HR/FB rate in that ballpark just don’t make sense considering the type of hitter he is, plus the .353 BABIP is a bit above what you’d expect even if he was a true-talent .320 BABIP guy. Pena could always pick it defensively, so that wasn’t the issue.
Considering who the Yankees have used at short and what they’ve gotten out of the position this year, I definitely think they want him back. Of course this kind of production was completely unforeseen, and I don’t think he’ll maintain this at all. He might hit better than he did in the Bronx, but Pena didn’t suddenly become Troy Tulowitzki.
Got seven questions and six answers this week, so the answers aren’t crazy long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.
Oh hell no on Youkilis. Aside from what will very likely be awful defense — as you can see above, he has played left field in Yankee Stadium before, rather lolingly at that – I’m not sure I want a 34-year-old with a history of back problems running around the outfield day after day. Stick him at third base and be done with it, no need to needlessly complicate things.
Adams has zero outfield experience as a pro and from what I can tell, he never played it in college either. I’m guessing he didn’t play it in high school as well because of the unspoken “best player plays shortstop unless he throws left-handed” rule. I haven’t seen any reports of him shagging fly balls lately — he has taken ground balls at shortstop, but that’s not unusual — so I’m guessing the Yankees don’t consider him much of an option out there. I don’t see any outfield help coming until Curtis Granderson‘s pinky heals up.
Jeb asks: As unlikely as this is to happen, suppose that draft day is rather chaotic and there is a top-15 talent available for each of the Yankees’ first round picks (e.g. Ryan Stanek, Austin Meadows, etc.). Would you select each of these high-caliber guys and not worry about how to sign them, or would you perhaps take two and then go for some guys who likely would have lower demands to ensure that you can sign your top two picks?
This is very unlikely as you said, but this is where the new draft pool system would really screw a team over. The top 15 picks are all slotted at over $2.2M apiece, so those guys were expecting large bonuses. The Yankees have a touch less than $7.96M to spend this year, which probably isn’t enough to sign three top-15 guys even going super cheap with $10k senior seniors in rounds two through ten.
Given the team’s need to add impact talent to the system, I’d hope they would just blow through the draft pool number and get the three players signed. It’s an extreme circumstance and you can’t pass up a haul like that. The Yankees can spend up to $8,753,140 before forfeiting a future first round pick (that would come with a $596,805 tax) and up to $9,151,010 before forfeiting a future first and second round pick ($1,193,610 tax). If they could add three legit top-15 guys, they’d have to grab them and get them signed. It it costs a pick next year, so be it. They never have access to those guys.
Ryan asks: With Teixeira going on a rehab assignment and very close, what teams may have a need/interest in Overbay? They will likely keep him for a little bit to make sure Tex is healthy, but what might a trade look like, what kind of a return might they get?
Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees will hold onto Overbay for at least a few weeks while they make sure Teixeira’s wrist is healthy and he’s in the clear. He’d be a bench bat/part-time starter at first and DH, basically.
As good as he’s been, Overbay is still just a 98 wRC+ first baseman who can’t hit lefties. There usually isn’t a huge market for those guys, but I could see clubs like the Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Rockies having some interest. Obviously injuries could create more openings, and that includes the Yankees. If they could get one of those competitive balance picks — #34-39 and #69-73, and they are tradeable between now and the draft — I’d take it and run. Otherwise I think the Yankees would be lucky to get a C-prospect out of Overbay in a trade. He’s been better than expected but still below-average overall. The demand just isn’t that great.
Matt asks: Which Yankees FA from last offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez) would you most like to have back, given their current performances and the injuries/general awfulness of their replacements?
All of the above? If I had to pick one, I’d go Swisher over Martin even though he plays the less important position because the Yankees really need offense and he’s the better offensive player. I think the difference between Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki is greater than the difference between Martin and Chris Stewart. Chavez has quietly been awesome by the way (153 wRC+) — he did leave yesterday’s game hurt — and I didn’t think he’d do it again. Good for him.
Michael asks: Could you write a post where you explain exactly how a simulated game “plays?” For instance, are there nine fielders? Are they playing at 100% or is it simply a way for the pitcher and hitter to do their work? Are there two discrete sides playing and changing between batting and fielding? Is the pitching coach calling balls and strikes? And so on … Thanks.
It’s glorified batting practice, basically. There’s a pitcher (with no L-screen) and usually two batters (one lefty and one righty) alternating at-bats in simulated “innings.” No fielders, and a coach will call balls and strikes and declare balls in play hits or outs or whatever. The pitcher will sit down for 15 minutes after getting three “outs” before going out for the next inning. The players are supposed to play at 100%, but you can’t truly simulate the adrenaline levels of a big league game. It’s just a way to get work in.
Bernie asks: How many wins do the Yankees have when trailing in the 7th or later and how many did they have all of last year? Has to be close?
I’ve spent more time on Baseball-Reference than I care to admit over the years, yet I always seem to be finding stats and info I didn’t know they had. Win-loss records when leading after a specific inning are one of those things I discovered within the last few weeks, so I can actually this question.
The Yankees are just 3-19 (.136) when trailing after seven innings this year, which is better than the league average winning percentage (.104). Small sample size, yadda yadda yadda. Last season they went 9-58 (.134) when trailing after seven, so a negligible difference. It’s basically the same pace. This year’s team does, however, already have more wins when trailing after eight innings (two) than last year’s team (one).
Six questions and five answers this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else at any time.
Nick asks: Could the Yankees target Chris Perez as a trade candidate? A deal similar to the Joel Hanrahan trade?
My first thought was no way, but my first thought is often wrong. Not only is Mariano Rivera retiring after this season, but Joba Chamberlain is likely to leave as a free agent too. David Robertson is awesome, but I think the Yankees should add some kind of Proven Veteran™ backup plan to the Shawn Kelleys and Preston Claibornes of the world. My preferred choice as of today is impending free agent Grant Balfour, but that is subject to change.
Perez, 27, owns a 2.25 ERA and 5.72 FIP in 16 innings this year. He’s run into some serious homer problems of late, serving up three to the last eight batters he’s faced. Since getting the closer’s job outright in 2010, Perez has pitched to a 2.80 ERA (3.88 FIP) with a strong strikeout (8.11 K/9 and 21.6 K%) rate but mediocre walk (3.53 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%) and ground ball (34.7%) numbers. He managed to cut his walk rate to 2.50 BB/9 (6.6 BB%) last year, but that hasn’t stuck so far. I think we can say Perez is what he is at this point.
The Hanrahan comparison is perfect. Perez will be a free agent after the 2014 season, so acquiring him this winter means you’d be getting one year of a two-time All-Star, Capital-C Closer like the Red Sox got with Hanrahan. Would the Indians take a package of four spare parts like the Pirates did? Who knows. The Yankees could slap together a package of Dellin Betances, Zoilo Almonte, Eduardo Nunez … guys like that if the Indians will take quantity over quality. Perez has had some run-ins with the Indians brass over the years and could be available, but I want to see how he performs the rest of the season before going all-in.
Johnny asks: How would you handicap the chances of Yankees trading Phil Hughes before deadline?
I think they’re very, very small. This team lives and dies with its pitching as presently constructed, so I don’t see them giving up a rotation arm even if Hughes will be a free agent (and likely leaving) after the season. Maybe if Michael Pineda comes back strong, Ivan Nova figures things out in Triple-A, Vidal Nuno continues to impress in the show … maybe. I’d want a bat in return, preferably at shortstop or catcher. Someone who can help the team today, not prospects. Prospects suck.
Alex asks: Do you think that the Yankees’ preference for bat-first catchers has hindered the development of their minor league pitchers? The Yanks have seemed to be notoriously poor at bringing pitchers up to reach their ceiling for the past decade-plus.
It could be a factor, but I don’t think it’s a big one. Most minor league catchers stink at defense, and it’s not like Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy — the teams’ two most notable bat-first catchers — are atrocious defenders. Reports over the last 18 months or so have been very positive about their defensive improvement. Jesus Montero was a miserable defender though, and he did work with most of the team’s top young arms over the years.
I suppose having no confidence in the catcher blocking a breaking ball in the dirt or throwing out base-stealers could alter pitch selection, but pitchers are usually given a set number of pitches to throw per game. A team will tell their guy he needs to throw 25 curveballs or whatever per start as part of his development. Maybe bad defensive catchers have contributed to the team’s lack of success with starting pitching prospects, but I feel like it would be just a small part of the problem.
Mike asks: Is it time for some promotions in the minor league system? I know Dietrich Enns is 22 already, but he is blowing away the competition in A-ball (along with Rafael DePaula). These guys, along with Murphy and Sanchez, need to go up a level. Right?
Shep asks: Given his early success in Low-A and his “age,” how quickly do you think DePaula will climb the ladder? What is your prediction for his MLB debut?
Gonna lump these two together. We’re starting to approach promotion season, which usually takes place from mid-June through July, when the draft provides some new players to fill roster spots. Enns has been awesome — lefty with a 0.71 ERA (1.34 FIP) and 43/11 K/BB in 25.1 innings for Low-A Charleston — and I expect him to get bumped up to High-A Tampa at midseason. Murphy and Sanchez are repeating levels and have performed plenty well enough to earn midseason promotions. Some other obvious promotion candidates include (stats don’t include last night’s games):
- C Peter O’Brien: His defense is awful, but he’s hitting .328/.392/.586 (165 wRC+) with five homers for Low-A Charleston.
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: Hitting .335/.440/.451 (~158 wRC+) and has already been promoted once. Bumping him up to Double-A Trenton allows Angelo Gumbs to play second everyday with High-A Tampa as well.
- RHP Tommy Kahnle: 1.77 ERA (3.50 FIP) with 23 strikeouts and 13 walks in 20.1 innings. Another few weeks of that and he should be ready for Triple-A Scranton.
- RHP Shane Greene: Repeating High-A Tampa with a 3.07 ERA (2.36 FIP) and a 53/8 K/BB in 55.2 innings. Get this man to Double-A Trenton.
DePaula is another animal entirely. The numbers — 2.38 ERA (1.96 FIP) with a 74/19 K/BB in 45.1 innings — are outstanding for Low-A Charleston, but he’s also short on pitching experience because of his various layoffs (suspension, visa) despite being 22 years old. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman told Chad Jennings a promotion isn’t imminent because he’s “got to develop secondary pitches. He hasn’t pitched that much competitively.”
I do think DePaula will get moved up to High-A Tampa at midseason, but he might spend another four or six weeks with the River Dogs first. Let’s see what happens when the league gets a second and third look at him, how he holds up physically under the workload, stuff like that. DePaula is on a weird development schedule and I’m generally not a fan of promoting starters after 50 or so dominant innings. As for his big league debut … second half of 2015 at the absolute earliest? DePaula will get promoted eventually, there’s no rush.
Travis asks: With the upcoming roster crunch (when DL players start coming back), is there going to come a point where is may make sense to bring Manny Banuelos up from the Triple-A DL to put him on the 60-day DL for MLB? I know they didn’t want to lose a year of control, but at the halfway point, would it be a lost year?
The Super Two date is sometime in early-June, so yeah, there’s a definitely a point where calling him up to clear a roster spot makes sense. Banuelos’ free agency has already been pushed back and they’re only two or three weeks from avoiding Super Two. They might actually be passed that date already since he’s not going to be in the big leagues on Opening Day next year.
There’s still some dead weight on the 40-man roster that can be trimmed — Ben Francisco, Reid Brignac, Melky Mesa, Francisco Rondon, etc. — but the Yankees have six guys expected to come off the 60-day DL in the next two months. Letting Banuelos accrue just a few weeks of service time would be no big deal under the circumstances.