Mailbag: Ackley, Elias, Beachy, D’Backs, Desmond, Mauer

Thirteen questions this week. Use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us questions at any time. As I say every week, I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does.


Matt asks: Would you trade Brett Gardner for Dustin Ackley and Roenis Elias?

Yes, I would. I think the Mariners would say no though. Ackley isn’t as good as Gardner, either at the plate or in the field, but he is only 26 and his offense has improved the last three years, going from a 75 wRC+ in 2012 to 87 in 2013 to 97 in 2014. His defense in left is average at worst too, based on the numbers and the eye test. Elias is also 26 and he’s as generic as generic lefties get. Okay strikeout rate (7.86 K/9 and 20.6 K%), okay walk rate (3.52 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), okay ground ball rate (45.4%), okay velocity (averaged 91.8 mph), slightly better than league average swing-and-miss rates on the changeup (17.7%) and curveball (14.9%). His season ended two weeks early due to a flexor strain in his elbow, but supposedly he’s healthy now. In a nutshell, Elias can eat innings and has at least a little bit of upside. It would be four years of Gardner for three of Ackley and five of Elias, so I think the Yankees would have to kick in a prospect. A decent one ready to help at the MLB level too. Seattle asked for Bryan Mitchell in exchange for Ackley last year, so I think it would have to be someone like that. I love Gardner, but I would definitely trade him for Ackley and Elias in a straight one-for-two deal.

Dustin asks: Can you recall the last time the Yankees had a defense as good as they have right now? Outside of Beltran, the worst you can say about any fielder is that they are above average.

I think you could argue Stephen Drew is only average at second because of his inexperience there, though Dustin’s point stands. Carlos Beltran is the team’s only well-below-average defender right now and it’s been a long time since the Yankees had a defense this good. The Yankees have had a below-average Defensive Efficiency in each of the last years, and last season it was a .702 DE — that basically means they turned 70.2% of batted balls into outs — while the league average was .705. The 2010 team had a .719 DE and the 1998 team had a .723 DE, which is easily the franchise’s best mark over the last 25 years. As long as everyone stays healthy, I think the Yankees will be among the best defensive teams in baseball in 2015. They’ll have to be if they want to contend.

Tom asks: Rank these in order of importance and then in probability: Tanaka’s health, Pineda’s health, Sabathia’s effectiveness, McCann hits like he did in September, A-rod hits 17 homers.

This is totally subjective, of course. Here’s my list based on importance:

  1. Masahiro Tanaka‘s health
  2. Michael Pineda‘s health
  3. Brian McCann hitting like he did late in the season
  4. CC Sabathia being effective
  5. Alex Rodriguez doing anything

And now my list based on probability:

  1. McCann hitting like he did late in the season
  2. Pineda staying healthy
  3. Sabathia being effective
  4. Tanaka staying healthy
  5. A-Rod doing anything

As it stands, I think the Yankees have just enough offense to get by, which is why I have the two pitchers at the top of the importance list. I think you could argue that, when healthy, Tanaka and Pineda are the two best pitchers in the AL East. Getting 350 innings out of them instead of 150 could easily be the difference between going to the postseason or not.

Paul asks: How would it change the game if, while sticking to a 25 man roster, teams were allowed to put any 9 guys in the lineup and any 9 guys in the field? Basically, infinite DH’s.

Since you’re sticking with a 25-man roster, you’re still limited to 13 position players. Actually, in this case, I’d go with 14 position players and a six-man bullpen, emphasizing multi-inning relievers. I think having one extra DH would be more beneficial than having one extra reliever. So with 14 position players, you could “platoon” five, meaning one player hits and the other plays the field. You’d still need four guys to both hit and play the field, and I’d stick those four guys at the corner positions while platooning good defenders and good hitters in center, at shortstop, at second base, at catcher, and at pitcher. Make sense? Those are the positions where the offensive bar is the lowest and the defensive demands are high. Have a dedicated fielder at each position, then just let someone who can mash hit for them. Even with the extra hitters I think the result would be more less in baseball overall because there are many more good defenders than good hitters right now. A Double-A player like Mason Williams, who is a top notch defensive center fielder, could be your CF defense guy, for example.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Jeff asks: Is Jose Ramirez a full reliever now, or is there still the idea that he may be a starter in the organization? 

Nope, he’s a full-time reliever. They moved him last year. Ramirez couldn’t stay healthy as a starter — he couldn’t even stay healthy as a reliever last season — and it got to the point where they were either going to have to try to get something out of him as a reliever or get nothing out of him as a starter. Ramirez has had so many arm injuries over the years that it seems like only a matter of time before he blows out completely. The Yankees are trying to get what they can out of him at the MLB level before that happens because Ramirez does have nasty stuff. He could have a real impact in relief if he ever stays on the field.

Neaks asks: It’s clear from your post on closers that the Yanks are going to have an abundance of good arms in the bullpen next year. Because of that, is there a chance that the Yankees will encourage starters to “air it out” more and only shoot for ~6 innings max? It would theoretically improve their performance in those innings, and it’s not like the bullpen only has one or two guys you could go to with a small lead. Thoughts?

It’s possible, though they would have to be careful not to burn out their best relievers. Just because Dellin Betances can go out and get you six outs in one game doesn’t mean you want him to do it every other day. The Yankees do have enough bullpen arms to keep guys fresh, but it’s not like they’ll send down Betances or Andrew Miller when they need a breather and the team needs a fresh arm. Joe Girardi‘s been very good at managing his relievers’ workloads and I’m sure that will be the case next year. If anything, the Yankees might try the “air it out” approach with one or two starters, not all five.

Travis L. asks: Do you have any idea which 2014 IFA signees are destined for the states and which start at the DSL level? Some were more polished than other, right?

I have no idea and there’s a good chance the Yankees haven’t decided yet either. The team has been pretty aggressive with their top international prospects in recent years (Miguel Andujar, Luis Torrens, Leonardo Molina, etc.), skipping them right over the Dominican Summer League and bringing them to the rookie Gulf Coast League, and I’m sure that’ll happen this year. The best prospects they signed last summer (according to the consensus rankings) were SS Dermis Garcia, 3B Nelson Gomez, and OF Juan De Leon, and I think all three will come stateside this season. Everyone else might have to wait a year or two, like most international prospects. Remember we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. Developing them into big leaguers (and trade chips!) will be a long process. International free agency is not about instant gratification.

Vinny asks: What’s the hold up with the Stephen Drew signing?  Think the Yankees are trying to move Brendan Ryan rather than removing someone off the 40 man roster?

That’s possible. The Yankees moved very quickly with all of their other deals this offseason — the Didi Gregorius trade, the Nathan Eovaldi trade, the Andrew Miller signing, and the Chase Headley signing all went from rumor to agreement to press release within about four hours — but the Drew thing has been hanging for ten days now. It could be that they’re trying to make a trade to clear a 40-man roster spot rather than simply designating someone for assignment, or it could just be that Drew is vacationing with his family on some remote desert island right now and hasn’t been able to take his physical yet. Not really sure.

Zach asks: Brandon Beachy is still out there. I know he is recovering from TJ for the 2nd time, but would he be worth a look, even if he is not ready until mid-season?

Depends on the cost, as always. It was reported last week that he has six offers and was planning to pick a new team by the weekend, but that didn’t happen. Beachy is attractive because he is only 28, has a 3.23 ERA (3.34 FIP) in 267.2 career innings, and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2016, but there’s really no way to know how he will come back from his second Tommy John surgery in the span of 21 months. And remember, if he wants a 40-man roster spot, the Yankees would have to cut a healthy, ready to play player to make room for him. I’m inclined to say “pass” if he wants more than a minor league deal.

Desmond. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Desmond. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Frank M. asks: If Ian Desmond is potentially on the block wouldn’t trading Didi and another mid tier prospect make sense? Last year on contract for Desmond. Opposite players as Desmond’s defense is sub-par but his bat is above average.

Desmond is one of those guys who is better defensively than the numbers indicate. He’s not elite or anything, but the eye test suggests he’s better than the numbers say. Anyway, I suppose Didi Gregorius plus a prospect for Desmond would make sense for the Yankees, but the Nationals aren’t going to trade no worse than their fourth best player for Gregorius and a prospect. They’re a win now team and want MLB impact. Besides, Washington just acquired Yunel Escobar (Frank sent the question in before the Yunel trade), who figures to replace Desmond at short until prospect Trea Turner is ready. The Yankees could trade for Desmond and would be better in 2015, then give him $150M for his decline years next offseason, or they could actually give Gregorius a shot to see what he can do. What are the odds age 25-29 Didi can match age 29-33 Desmond for a fraction of the cost, especially given the latter’s scary strikeout trend? Better than most people think, I’d say.

Rob asks: With Arizona needing a catcher what would they they give up for either Murphy or Sanchez? Would it be crazy to ask for Braden Shipley or Brandon Drury?

I love John Ryan Murphy and think Gary Sanchez has gone overlooked recently, but yes, it would be crazy to ask for Shipley, who I feel is underrated in the pantheon of the game’s best pitching prospects. I’ll bet on a guy with a mid-90s fastball, two above-average second pitches, and elite athleticism all day, every day. D’Backs GM Dave Stewart recently said the price is too high for catching and I assume Shipley is beyond their comfort zone. Arizona has been trying to add young arms this offseason, not subtract them. They might be more open to moving Drury, who is more or less the third base version of Rob Refsnyder. I think the Yankees should hang onto Sanchez and Murphy for the time being, unless a team comes offering something more than the D’Backs seem willing to give up.

Justin asks: With G Jones on board is he the automatic back up 1B or will we see McCann and possibly ARod get spring training reps there? 

Girardi and Brian Cashman both said the team has spoken to A-Rod about trying first base in Spring Training, but there’s no word on whether that will actually happen. I assume Jones will be the backup first baseman next year, though McCann could always get some reps there. He played first last season basically as an emergency option and it was rough. He wasn’t good, which isn’t surprising considering he’d never played there before. Jones is the logical choice to back up Teixeira at first in 2015.

Tucker asks: Who would you rather have for the rest of his contract: Brian McCann or Joe Mauer. Mauer has more money left, and has already moved out from behind the plate. However, McCann is sure to follow suit soon, and is not as productive a hitter. I would probably say McCann because of the added value of his pitch framing. Thoughts?

It has to be McCann. They’re both signed through 2018, but Mauer is one year older and is owed $92M while McCann is owed $68M. Mauer is definitely the better hitter — his down year in 2014 was a .277/.361/.371 (106 wRC+) line — but he’s no longer a catcher, so his value took a huge hit. I understand why the Twins did it, Mauer has had some concussion issues and they’re trying to protect him, but he’s less valuable on the field nonetheless. McCann is still a well-above-average defensive catcher with enough power to remain a threat at the plate. I expect both Mauer and McCann to rebound with the bat this year, but the difference in money and position means I would rather have McCann going forward. And that’s coming from a guy who thinks Mauer will in the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done.

Mailbag: Mets, Smoltz, Nova, Jagielo, Bullpen, Banuelos

Got a nice big 15-question mailbag for you this week. Send us stuff through the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar. Trust me, the question goes through even though it doesn’t look like it.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Stu asks: If the Yankees offered Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius to the Mets, which starting pitcher(s) could they reasonably expect to receive in return? Would either team pull the trigger?

The Mets have six starters for five rotation spots — seven if you count Rafael Montero, who is MLB ready — and they’ve been shopping a few of them hard this winter, specifically Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Bartolo Colon. Gee seems most likely to go. For Gregorius and Betances, I think the Yankees would have to ask for Zack Wheeler, and the Mets would say no. It’s weird, the Mets have six starters, but three have little value (Niese, Gee, Colon) and three have a ton of value (Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey). There’s no one in the middle who’d be a more appropriate return for Didi and Dellin. I really liked Niese a few years ago, before his recent arm problems, and I wonder if the Yankees could get him for a good not great prospect at this point, someone like Eric Jagielo maybe.

Jim asks: Did Hall of Fame voters overrate John Smoltz while underrating Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling? They both out-WAR him by a sizable number of wins, and Schilling also has a very decorated postseason resume. What was it about Smoltz that made him a first-ballot guy and for Moose and Schilling to not even get half of the vote?

Yeah I think he was overrated a bit. I wrote our Smoltz Hall of Fame profile at CBS and was a bit surprised — I thought his case was much stronger than it actually was. (For the record, I do think he’s a Hall of Famer.) I think playing with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine boosted Smoltz’s case — for more than a decade we heard Atlanta had three future Hall of Famers in the rotation, and as good as Smoltz was, he rode Maddux’s and Glavine’s coattails a bit — and also for some reason people love the fact that he was both a starter and a closer. For what it’s worth, JAWS ranks Schilling 27th and Mussina 28th all-time among starters. Smoltz is 58th after adjusting for his time as a reliever. I don’t understand why there was a such a big voting disparity but at the same time I do. Know what I mean? Smoltz was awesome, and when you play with two no-doubt Hall of Famers for so long, people start calling you a no-doubt Hall of Famer too. (Ben Lindbergh gave a longer answer to this very question last week, so check that out too.)

Steve asks: Isn’t Daniel Murphy the perfect comp for Refsnyder?

Aside from Murphy being a left-handed hitter and Refsnyder being a right-handed hitter, yeah I think that is a pretty good comparison. I would hope Refsnyder could develop into a better defender than Murphy, who remains comfortably below-average, but it might not happen. Second base is hard. One big difference between the two is strikeouts — Refsnyder struck out 105 times in 577 plate appearances last year between Double-A and Triple-A while Murphy’s career-high is 95 strikeouts in 697 plate appearances back in 2013. If Refsnyder turned into a right-handed Murphy, I’d be very happy with that.

Mark asks: Is it just me or don’t you find it a little odd we’re now 42 days away from spring training and the Yanks still haven’t hired a hitting coach (not to mention a 1B coach too)?  You would think after last year’s feeble offensive output, Brian Cashman would have not only hired a hitting coach but also the team’s first ever assistant hitting coach by now!

Yep! Surprisingly, the knee-jerk reaction of firing the old hitting coach– I thought it was pretty obvious someone was going to take the fall after the Yankees missed the postseason for the second straight year, and once Cashman re-signed, Kevin Long was the obvious candidate to fall on the sword — may not be working out as well as expected. Just about every team has filled their coaching vacancies already. The pickin’s are slim. I’m of the belief that hitting coaches, while important, do not have nearly as much impact as everyone seems to think. The Yankees will hire someone eventually and everyone will blame him when the offense stinks again in 2015. Circle of life.

Eric asks: Why don’t the Yankees know what they’re going to get from A-Rod this year? He’s no longer suspended – why hasn’t he been checked out medically and put on the field to see what he has left? Thx.

Alex has been working out according to his Instagram account (journalism!), but what are the Yankees going to learn about him on a bunch of backfields against minor leaguers in the middle of the offseason anyway? Not a whole lot. If he rakes, they’d have to take it a grain of salt. If he stinks, they’d feel exactly the same way they do right now. The Yankees clearly expect nothing from A-Rod next year. That’s why they re-signed both Stephen Drew and Chase Headley and added Garrett Jones.

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

Bobby P. asks: Now that it’s been over a year since Robinson Cano signed with Seattle, and the Yanks are clearly moving in a different direction, has your evaluation of the club not matching the M’s huge offer changed? I realize how much money they would have been committing at the end of the deal but I can’t help but I just would have loved the chance to rebuild around Robbie moving forward.

Rebuilding around a 32-year-old middle infielder making $24M a year doesn’t really sound all that appealing. Don’t get me wrong, Cano is still an elite player, but his best years are very likely behind him, and that’s not someone you build around. Robbie is a “win now” player at this point of his career. You have him on your roster because you’re ready to win this year, not two or three years down the line. The Yankees desperately lack a star player and top notch hitter like Cano, but my opinion of his contract hasn’t changed at all. Love Robbie forever, but I’m glad the Yankees didn’t re-sign him at that price.

Dave asks: It seems like all but a handful of teams are trying to be competitive this year. Surely though, some of them will be out of the race by the trade deadline. Which top-of-the-rotation pitchers do you see becoming available mid-season?

The first name that jumped to mind was Johnny Cueto. Jon Morosi said the two sides haven’t make any progress in extension talks and Cueto’s agent told Mark Sheldon they won’t talk contract after the season starts. The Reds aren’t any good and they’ll get a haul for Cueto at the trade deadline. Much more than a silly draft pick after the season. Cueto is two years younger than Max Scherzer and every bit as good. He’s going to get a massive contract when he hits the market next winter. Other high-end starters who could become available are Cole Hamels (if he isn’t traded these next few weeks) and Andrew Cashner (who’s never healthy), though that’s just my speculation. I could see the Tigers shopping David Price if they fall out of the race as well.

Matt asks I know he’s really young, and not even in A ball, but what’s up with this Leonardo Molina kid? I never hear much about him, though I think he was pointed out recently as a young kid to keep an eye on somewhere.

The 17-year-old Molina received a $1.4M bonus as New York’s top international signing during the 2012-13 signing period. Baseball America (subs. req’d) called him an “an explosive, quick-twitch player” and “the most athletic prospect in Latin America” at the time of the signing. Molina had a rough pro debut with the Rookie GCL Yanks last summer (58 wRC+) but he played most of the season at age 16. He was a high school sophomore in pro ball. Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) ranked Molina as the team’s eighth best prospect a few weeks ago and called him a potential “first-division player/occasional all-star.” I think that ranking was pretty aggressive but Molina is definitely one of the top lower level prospects in the system. I expect him to return to the GCL this year simply because he’s so young.

Tim asks: Do you think the Yankees will move Jagielo to the OF now that Headley is here long-term and Miguel Andujar appears to be a more viable option and will be in Tampa this year?

Not yet even though the reports on his defense were pretty terrible last year. Jagielo is still two levels away from MLB and there’s no reason to move him off third right now. I think it’s more likely he gets traded now — probably to a team that still believes him at the hot corner — than moved to another position as the club tries to fit him in the roster puzzle. As bad as his defense supposedly looked a year ago, I think you have to give Jagielo more than one full year at third base. Worry about where he fits later, when he’s actually MLB ready. Same with Andujar.

Samantha asks: At the end of last season we heard a lot about the potential for a 6-man rotation. Right now it will be a struggle to fill even a 5-man rotation, but if a guy like Adam Warren does get stretched out and do well in Spring Training, will a 6-man rotation be legitimately considered?

I hadn’t really thought about it but it could be possible. Based on the roster right now, the Yankees will have a four-man bench, which means a six-man rotation and six-man bullpen. Betances and Esmil Rogers could both go multiple innings, Justin Wilson too, so that would make it easier to carry one less reliever. A six-man rotation would allow the Yankees to take it easy on Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia, all of whom have some injury concerns. A six-man rotation is possible but I don’t think it’s likely. Let’s see if they get through Spring Training with everyone in one piece first.


P.J. asks: Let’s assume Ivan Nova comes back in mid June and pitches decently upon his return. He will be under team control for only one more season, 2016. With Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin ready do the Yankees look to trade Nova at end of the 2015 season and try and get something for him before he becomes a FA at the end of the 2016 season?

Severino and Clarkin shouldn’t have any impact on Nova. (Also, it’s unlikely Clarkin will be ready by 2016. Severino might be though.) Pitching depth is a good thing, and even if they were ready, Severino and Clarkin are no sure things. That isn’t to say the Yankees shouldn’t be open to trading Nova, they should be open to trading anyone and everyone for the right return, but they probably shouldn’t actively shop him either. At this point in time, I say keep Nova for 2016 and maybe even try to sign him to a little extension, say three years and $24M. Something like that. Nova didn’t get a big bonus as an amateur ($80,000), he just might be open to it.

Calvin asks: Are they finding a market inefficiency in bullpen depth that helps consistently out perform their Pythag?

Eh, I’m not sure I would call having a deep bullpen a market inefficiency, I’m pretty sure every team knows that’s a good thing to have. But I do think that’s part of the Yankees’ plan. A few months ago a user at reddit did a real nice quick and dirty analysis showing bullpen strength had a small correlation with outperforming (and underperforming) run differential, though there was a correlation nonetheless. The Yankees outperformed their run differential by 13 wins (!) the last two years and by 17 wins since 2008, and I think Joe Girardi‘s bullpen management is a big reason why. He has more weapons to work with right now than at any other point during his tenure.

Nic asks: What are the chances David Carpenter gets a shot at closing? That way Betances and Andrew Miller are saved for the more high leverage innings.

It’s possible, but he’ll probably have to pitch his way into that role. I think it’s more likely Betances closes and Carpenter takes over as the team’s primary right-handed setup man alongside Miller. Of course, Miller could also close since guys like Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve will be available for the lefty setup work. I’m not really concerned about who will close — the Yankees have plenty of options and will have a strong closer and a deep setup crew regardless. I’m just curious to see who ends up in the ninth. Betances dominated last year but Miller has the big closer worthy contract.

Nick asks: Now that Manny Banuelos has officially been traded, who was the best player that he was ever rumored to be in a package for? Who could the Yankees have gotten for him way back when?

According to the RAB and MLBTR archives, Banuelos was mentioned in trade rumors for Ubaldo Jimenez (when he was good), John Danks (when he was good), and Matt Garza back in the day, mostly from 2011-12. That’s all we’ve got. I’m certain Banuelos was involved in more trade talk, a lot more, but that’s all that was reported. Garza is the best of that bunch by default — Jimenez has been a disaster since 2011 aside from the second half of 2013 and Danks hasn’t been the same since blowing out his shoulder. Garza had two more years of team control at the time of the trade rumors and was worth 2.7 bWAR total during those two years, which ain’t much. Is it weird that I’d rather have three years of David Carpenter and six years of Chasen Shreve now than two years of Garza then? I don’t think that’s weird.

Dustin asks: With the Yankees not in a position to get rid of rotation depth, do you think giving up on Manny Banuelos is a sign they are going to get another starting pitcher? Or are they really that down on Manny that they don’t even view him as a starter?

I expected them to go after more pitching depth even before the Banuelos trade. I think the trade means they were down on Banuelos and didn’t consider him a starting option in 2015. They probably didn’t have particularly high hopes of him turning into an option for 2016 either. The results weren’t encouraging last summer and Banuelos has essentially lost three years of development. He was hurt most of 2012, all of 2013, and spent 2014 shaking off rust. That’s a lot of development time lost at a critical age. It’s the kind of stuff that derails careers. It happens all the time. Such is life. Pitching prospects, man.

Mailbag: Ryan Vogelsong


Ethan asks: Would Ryan Vogelsong make any sense for the Yankees? Essentially Chris Capuano #2, but probably can be counted on for a few more innings. I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them crashed and burned out of the gate, so why not double up?

My first reaction was nah, Vogelsong’s probably not worth the trouble, likely because his stinky postseason performance was still fresh in my memory. His combined NLCS and World Series line was 6.2 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Eek. The Giants’ non-Madison Bumgarner starters were really awful in October.

Anyway, upon further inspection, the 37-year-old Vogelsong appears to still be a perfectly cromulent back-end innings guy at this point of his career. He’s thrown at least 175 innings in three of the last four seasons, with a broken finger suffered on a hit-by-pitch (stupid no-DH-having NL) being the only reason he was limited to 103.2 innings in 2013. Innings are good. Teams need innings.

Here is what Vogelsong has done since resurfacing with the Giants back in 2011 after spending three seasons finding himself in Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan (via Baseball Reference)

33 SFG 2.71 30 28 179.2 164 62 54 15 61 139 5 129 3.67 1.252 0.8 3.1 7.0 2.28
2012 34 SFG 3.37 31 31 189.2 171 76 71 17 62 158 8 105 3.70 1.228 0.8 2.9 7.5 2.55
2013 35 SFG 5.73 19 19 103.2 124 73 66 15 38 67 6 60 4.91 1.563 1.3 3.3 5.8 1.76
2014 36 SFG 4.00 32 32 184.2 178 86 82 18 58 151 9 87 3.85 1.278 0.9 2.8 7.4 2.60

Vogelsong was really awful in 2013 even before the finger injury, but he bounced back well this past season. That said, while his 4.00 ERA in 2014 looks nice on the surface, in this offense-starved era and in that huge ballpark, it’s only an 87 ERA+, so comfortably below-average.

It is worth noting Vogelsong’s underlying performance this past season was right in line with his very successful 2011-12 seasons. The strikeout, walk, and home run rates are nearly identical, ditto his small-ish platoon split, though his ground ball rate had steadily declined from 45.6% in 2011 to 38.4% in 2014. Vogelsong’s 72.3% strand rate in 2014 was well below his 78.1% mark from 2011-12, hence the inflated ERA.

Beyond the stats, Vogelsong’s stuff has held up well these last four seasons. His velocity rebounded after a small drop last season — between the velocity and performance dip, it sure seems like he was nursing some kind of unreported injury in 2013, no? — which you can see here (via Brooks Baseball):

Ryan Vogelsong velocity

The swing-and-miss rates on his pitches have also remained steady across the board with the exception of his changeup, which got a whiff more 12% of the time from 2011-12 but only 7.2% in 2014. Although Vogelsong has thrown his changeup a healthy ~14% of the time with San Francisco, it is only his fifth most used pitch behind his four-seamer (~30%), sinker (~20%), cutter (~20%), and curveball (~18%). Losing a few swings and misses on your fifth pitch isn’t the end of the world. At least I don’t think it is.

Because of his age, it’s more likely Vogelong will get worse next season rather than maintain his established level of performance another year. That’s why he won’t cost much to sign. He worked on a one-year deal worth only $5M last year, so Capuano money. As Ethan said in the question, that’s basically who Vogelsong is, Capuano v2.0, though probably a better bet to throw 150+ innings. One year and $5M is the going rate for a projected ~1 WAR starter these days.

Beyond the obvious (age, declining ground ball rate, etc.), my concern with Vogelsong is that the Giants aren’t pursuing him at all. They know him better than anyone and they need an innings guy as much as the Yankees, if not more, yet John Shea recently reported the two sides haven’t had any contract talks. What do the Giants know that we don’t? There has to be a reason they’re staying away given their need for pitching. That makes me a little nervous.

Now, that said, a one-year contract worth $5M is nothing. It’s a move the Yankees could easily back out of if Vogelsong stinks or a better option comes along. The team is going to need innings from somewhere, and Vogelsong is as likely to provide them as any non-Max Scherzer/James Shields free agent at this point. I don’t think he’s any kind of rotation savior or anything, but he could help at a low cost. I will define my interest as: tepid.

Mailbag: Myers, Sabathia, Refsnyder, Ryan, Lindgren

Got eleven questions for you in the mailbag this week. Send us questions through the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar at any time. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does. We’re working on that.

Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)
Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)

Chris asks: Will the Padres seemingly all in, do you think some sort of Wil Myers for Brett Gardner deal makes any sort of sense? Looks like the Padres could use a genuine CF.

I don’t think the Padres would go for that. They’ve made it clear they’re seeking power bats and are willing to live with shaky defense to get it. In theory Gardner would make a lot of sense for San Diego’s roster because they lack both a true leadoff hitter and a true center fielder, but I don’t think they’d flip Myers to get him. The Yankees would have to sweeten the pot quite a bit. Some of the shine is off Myers now but he’s still a just turned 24-year-old with a career 105 wRC+ and 19 homers in 175 big league games with five years of team control remaining. That’s really valuable.

Neil asks: Did the Yankees re-sign Slade Heathcott?

Heathcott hasn’t signed anywhere yet. This might be a wait-and-see situation. He had season-ending knee surgery in June and is probably still rehabbing. The Yankees probably want to see him at 100% before committing and Heathcott probably wants to be at 100% to see what offers come along. A team just might decide he’s worth a 40-man roster spot if he’s fully healthy and looks good in workouts later this offseason.

Joe asks: Would the Yankees have received a compensatory draft pick had they offered Kuroda a qualifying offer and rejected it to pitch in Japan?

Nope. The player has to sign a Major League contract with one of the other 29 MLB clubs in order to receive the compensation draft pick. Also, if the player signs a minor league deal and is called up before the draft, his old team gets the draft pick. Basically, to get the pick, he player has to be in MLB with one of the other 29 teams at some point before the next year’s draft. Japan or Korea or Taiwan or wherever else doesn’t count.

(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)
(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)

P.J. asks: Would designating CC Sabathia for assignment at the end of the 2015 season mean the Yankees are NOT obligated to pay his vesting year option when they release him?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m guessing they’d still be on the hook for the option. The option vests if Sabathia isn’t on the DL with a shoulder injury at the end of 2016, doesn’t spend more than 45 days on the DL with the shoulder injury in 2016, and doesn’t make more than six relief appearances due to a shoulder injury in 2016. Technically none of those things would happen if they release him, right? So wouldn’t the option vest? It’s a substantial amount of money ($25M) and I’m guessing Sabathia and the MLBPA would dig and fight that one.

Sid asks: Do you any scenario in which A-Rod and/or Mark Teixeira and/or CC are traded, what kind of return would they fetch? Assuming the Yanks are eating the majority of the salaries?

Nope. I think Teixeira has the most trade value of those guys and it’s pretty close to zero. Even if the Yankees eat all the money. Yes, I know Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder and a bunch of other guys were traded with a ton of money left on their contracts, but they were much younger and more productive than Teixeira, A-Rod, and Sabathia. The Yankees are stuck with those three, but at least now we are starting to see the light at the end of their contract tunnels.

Mark asks: Do you think the Yanks have glossed over Rob Refsnyder‘s lousy defense at 2B in all but making him the starter next year? Not sure about you, but I’m worried the fickle NY media and win-now fan base will turn on him quickly if he makes a few bad errors early on.

No, I think they’re very aware of Refsnyder’s defensive issues and are either willing to live with them or believe he is improving rapidly. That and they believe he has the makeup to handle any scrutiny. Besides, if Refsnyder comes up and struggles next year, either at the plate and/or in the field, he’s unlikely to be the center of attention. People are going to be focused on Didi Gregorius replacing Derek Jeter, on Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow, on Carlos Beltran‘s rebound, and, of course, on A-Rod. Refsnyder might just fly under the radar.

P.J. asks: Does Jose Pirela have minor league options left in case the Yankees go with Refsnyder for the last roster spot?

Pirela was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in September — remember the Yankees called him up only after Martin Prado‘s appendectomy abruptly ended his season — so he has all three minor league options remaining. They can send him to the minors no questions asked next year. That said, Pirela is already 25. If the Yankees have to consider optioning him down in a few years during his age 28 season, he’s probably not worth his roster spot anyway.


Chris asks: Brendan Ryan doesn’t have a place on the roster anymore as he hits lefties even worse than Didi. Would the Yankees be better served flipping his cheap contract for a PTBNL or release him, and use Pirela as the utility infielder? The projections have Pirela and Didi both being far more valuable than replacement level Ryan.

Like it or not, the Yankees do need Ryan because he is capable of playing shortstop on an everyday basis at the MLB level. He can’t hit a lick, but he can play the position, which Jose Pirela and others like Nick Noonan and Jonathan Galvez can not. I agree that Pirela would be more valuable than Ryan in a vacuum, but Pirela can’t play short regularly, and the Yankees need someone who can do that if Gregorius gets hurt or stinks. Maybe they could slip Ryan throughout outright waivers and stash him in Triple-A — if he refuses the assignment, he’d forfeit the rest of his contract, and I doubt he walks away from a guaranteed $3M — but I doubt they risk it. Ryan’s the 25th man on the roster and he does serve a purpose.

Daniel asks: Wouldn’t it be best if the Yankees held off on the QO FA’s this year, did the best they could this season with what they have, and then load up next offseason? I am salivating at the thought of adding Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, and Ian Desmond.

Aside from the ownership-mandated Rafael Soriano signing, the team’s M.O. seems to be loading up on qualified free agents in one offseason to lessen the draft pick blow. So, rather than giving up their first rounder each year to add one qualified free agent, they sacrifice their first, second, and third draft picks in one offseason. Next offseason looks to be as good a free agent class as any to employ that strategy — I think the Yankees are going to go hard after Doug Fister next year, he’s excellent but figures to a smaller contract than Cueto and Zimmermann, plus they drafted him once upon a time (sixth round in 2005), so he presumably has some supporters in the organization — though it’s worth noting there is very little money coming off the books after the 2015 season. Chris Capuano and Chris Young. (Update: Garrett Jones too. Forgot about him.) That’s it. The Yankees won’t be able to go on a big spending spree without pushing payroll into the $250M+ range, which they might be willing to do since Teixeira and Beltran come off the books after 2016.

Grayson asks: What’s Jacob Lindgren‘s future with the Yanks look like now that New York has signed LH Andrew Miller and traded for LH Justin Wilson? I thought Lindgren would be a lock for a lefty bullpen role. He rose fast through the system and the Yanks would have max years of team control, how do you see it playing out?

This is a question that only gets asked about left-handed pitchers. If Miller and Wilson and Lindgren (and the just acquired Chasen Shreve) were all right-handed, no one would worry about how they all fit on the roster. Miller is no lefty specialist, he can get both righties and lefties out and will be expected to do that next season. He just happens to throw lefty. Lindgren projects to be the same type of pitcher. If these guys are among the seven best bullpen arms in the organization, they’ll be in MLB. Their handedness isn’t much of a concern. They aren’t normal lefties. I expect Lindgren to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and get called up at some point during the summer. The Yankees didn’t draft a pure reliever with their top pick last year to not fast track him to MLB. The plan hasn’t changed.

Joe asks: Assuming this is A-Rod’s last contract, do any rules prohibit the Yankees from extending him for more years with same money owed to ease the luxury tax penalty? For example, if A-Rod is owed $100M over four years then could the Yankees sign him for $100M for ten years or would the MLBPA go bananas?

MLB frowns upon blatant luxury tax circumvention and this would qualify. There’s no other reason for the Yankees to extend Alex Rodriguez‘s contract. (MLB could simply not approve the contract if they think the team is trying to beat the luxury tax.) Also, the union doesn’t like players restructuring their contracts without getting something in return, like a raise or a no-trade clause or something like that. Maybe the MLBPA wouldn’t care in this case since, you know, A-Rod sued them, but they probably wouldn’t want to set a precedent. The Yankees are already well over the luxury tax threshold. I’m guessing they’d rather suck it up and pay the extra luxury tax these next three years than be stuck with Alex for any longer than that.

Mailbag: Zach McAllister

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Travis asks: Zach McAllister throws hard and did well in a short stint in relief with Cleveland. If they don’t believe in him anymore, could the Yankees take a shot at hoping he is a failed starter who can be a weapon out of the bullpen?

The 27-year-old McAllister was New York’s third round pick in their tremendously productive 2006 draft class, though they traded him to the Indians as the player to be named later for Austin Kearns at the 2010 deadline. McAllister has been an up-and-down arm with the Tribe the last four years, pitching to a 4.38 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 363.1 big league innings, almost all as a starter.

McAllister really struggled in the rotation this year, posting a 5.67 ERA (3.80 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (7.40 K/9 and 18.5 K%) and walk (3.21 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%) rates. Cleveland stuck him in the bullpen late in the season and he was much better, pitching to a 2.77 ERA (1.44 FIP) with excellent strikeout (9.69 K/9 and 26.9 K%) and walk (1.38 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%) numbers in 13 innings, so small sample alert. His ground ball rate (42.1% overall) was about the same in both roles.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but a few years ago I read an article detailing traits that helped identify middling starters who would be good bullpen candidates. I don’t remember all of the traits, but I do remember one of them was effectiveness early in starts — the first time through the order, etc. — before a big drop off later on. Here’s how McAllister has done each time through the order and within his first 25 pitches of a start throughout his career (via Baseball Reference):

1st PA in G, as SP 585 42 117 28 3 11 39 127 3.26 .217 .271 .341 .612 .262 62
2nd PA in G, as SP 562 85 148 42 2 10 50 93 1.86 .295 .357 .447 .804 .341 113
3rd PA in G, as SP 374 64 107 26 1 18 30 64 2.13 .316 .374 .558 .932 .344 144
4th+ PA in G, as SP 10 1 4 0 0 1 1 1 1.00 .444 .500 .778 1.278 .429 233
Pitch 1-25 423 28 88 21 3 7 18 93 5.17 .220 .255 .340 .595 .267 57
Pitch 26-50 428 52 98 27 0 7 46 81 1.76 .260 .338 .387 .725 .312 93
Pitch 51-75 389 60 109 26 3 8 33 60 1.82 .314 .371 .476 .847 .354 124
Pitch 76-100 298 52 83 19 0 17 20 54 2.70 .303 .356 .558 .914 .324 138
Pitch 101+ 45 2 11 4 0 1 5 11 2.20 .275 .356 .450 .806 .357 113

Those are some pretty significant splits, no? McAllister has been considerably better the first time through the order and within his first 25 pitches throughout his career. It’s a big, big drop off the second time through the lineup and after pitch 25. That suggests he might be best used as a short reliever who doesn’t have to turn the lineup over multiple times.

Furthermore, while McAllister does throw four pitches, he is very fastball heavy. He threw 64.5% four-seam fastballs back in 2011, and that has gradually increased to 69.7% in 2012, 73.1% in 2013, and 73.6% in 2014. McAllister’s thrown his changeup, cutter, and slider roughly 8-10% of the time each over the years. Unsurprisingly, his velocity ticked up noticeably in relief this past September (via Brooks Baseball):

Zach McAllister velocity

During his 13 innings in relief, McAllister scrapped his changeup and cutter and became a fastball-slider pitcher. The swing-and-miss rates for his fastball and slider went from ~8% and ~10% as a starter to ~11% and ~27% as a reliever, respectively. That’s a really big jump. But, of course, we are talking about only 13 innings, so we have to take it with a grain of salt. The velocity uptick definitely makes sense though, and there’s a pretty strong correlation between velocity and whiffs.

McAllister hasn’t showed a platoon split in the big leagues — .332 wOBA and 3.96 FIP against lefties, .329 wOBA and 3.90 FIP against righties — so he’s not someone who has to be hidden against lefties. (I’m pretty sure one of the traits that suggested a starter would be better off in the bullpen was a big platoon split.) If he were to go straight fastball-slider as a reliever, his platoon split might grow because sliders are typically reserved for same-side hitters. It’s not guaranteed to happen, but it could.

The increased effectiveness early in outings, the uptick in velocity, and his performance as a reliever in September (albeit in a small sample) all suggest McAllister would be much better off in the bullpen going forward. It would be better for him — above-average reliever pays better than disposable back-end starter, or at least it pays comparably with more job security — and better for his team as well. Now here’s a really fun comparison:

Wade Davis as a SP
4.57 4.49 16.1 8.5 38.2 9.7
McAllister as a SP 4.44 4.03 18.6 7.8 39.6 9.1

Those two pitchers are really similar! Davis moved into the bullpen and became an absolute monster, basically a Dellin Betances who doesn’t give up homers. (Davis allowed zero homers in 2014.) That little table doesn’t mean McAllister will turn into an otherworldly reliever because Davis did, I just thought it was interesting. Some guys are just better off in the bullpen like Davis and Betances. McAllister might be one of those guys.

Based on all of this, I really like the idea of the Yankees bringing McAllister back and sticking him in relief. He is out of minor league options but New York does have two open bullpen spots, so there’s room on the roster for him. McAllister will be in his final pre-arbitration year in 2015, so he’ll be cheap, and he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. Obviously the team knows him too, so there’s some familiarity there.

The Indians have plenty of starters — McAllister is eighth on their rotation depth chart — so he might be considered expendable. I’m not quite sure what it would take to acquire him, but Ross Detwiler cost the Rangers two okay prospects a few weeks ago, guys in the 20-30 range on a prospect list. It’s not a perfect comparison — Detwiler’s a year away from free agency and was a former top prospect (sixth overall in 2007) — but it’s what we have. I’m very intrigued by McAllister as a reliever. If all it takes is two 20-30 range prospects to get him, I’d pull the trigger and see what he can do in a one-inning role.

Mailbag: Chad Billingsley

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Nick asks: Do you have any interest in Chad Billingsley?

Even if they go out and surprisingly sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, I think the Yankees have a place for a reclamation project arm like Billingsley. Nathan Eovaldi added some innings to the rotation but CC Sabathia (knee) and Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) are still major injury risks, so much so that they might not even make it through Spring Training healthy. Ivan Nova will be back eventually, but perhaps not until June.

The 30-year-old Billingsley made two starts in April 2013 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He made two minor league rehab starts this summer before suffering a setback and having surgery to repair his flexor tendon in June. At the time of the surgery, Ken Gurnick reported Billingsley would resume throwing in December and was expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. I haven’t been able to find a more recent update other than agent Steve Hilliard telling Jack Magruder his client is in no hurry to sign.

Because he barely pitched these last two years, the Dodgers declined their $14M club option for Billingsley after the season and instead paid him a $3M buyout. At this point the only club said to have interest in him is the Diamondbacks, who are now run by GM Dave Stewart, Billingsley’s former agent. (Stewart had to unload his clients once he joined a team.) I could have sworn the Yankees had interest in trading for Billingsley once upon a time, but apparently not. It must have been speculation.

During the 2012 season, his last full season before his elbow gave out, Billingsley pitched to a 3.55 ERA (3.34 FIP) with okay strikeout (7.70 K/9 and 20.2 K%), walk (2.71 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), and ground ball (45.4%) rates in 149.2 innings. (He missed some time with elbow trouble.) He’s been a guy who has consistently underperformed his peripheral stats in recent years — Billingsley had a 3.86 ERA and 3.53 FIP in 725.2 innings from 2009-12. After that many innings, that’s just who he is.

As with any major surgery, there’s no real way of knowing how Billingsley will perform next season. He’s still reasonably young and you’d like to assume he’d return to his pre-Tommy John surgery form, but that’s not a guarantee. Plus the flexor tendon injury complicates things. If projections are your thing, Steamer pegs Billingsley for a 4.32 ERA (4.23 FIP) in 125 innings next year. That seems … reasonable? I guess so. It’s considerably worse than his career rates (3.65 ERA and 3.67 FIP), which reflects the injury risk.

The reclamation project starter market has already been set this offseason, giving us plenty of comparable deals. Here’s the list of contracts relevant to Billingsley:

  • Kris Medlen, Royals: Two years, $8.5M plus $10M in incentives and a $10M mutual option ($1M) after missing all of 2014 following his second career Tommy John surgery.
  • Gavin Floyd, Indians: One year, $4M plus $6M in incentives after throwing only 54.1 innings in 2014. He returned from Tommy John surgery then broke his elbow and needed surgery.
  • Brandon Morrow, Padres: One year, $2.5M plus $2.5M in incentives after throwing only 27.1 innings in 2014 due to a tendon sheath injury in his right index finger.
  • Josh Johnson, Padres: One year, $1M plus $6.25M in incentives after missing all of 2014 following his second career Tommy John surgery.

Brett Anderson could also be included here (one year, $10M with the Dodgers), but he’s significantly younger than all of these guys and the consensus seems to be that he got more money than expected. He’s a bit of an outlier. Medlen is also an outlier by virtue of getting two guaranteed years, then again he was the damn near ace-like in 2013 before blowing out his elbow in Spring Training earlier this year.

The Floyd, Morrow, and Johnson contracts seem most applicable to Billingsley, and those contracts average $2.5M guaranteed with about $5M in incentives. That seems more than reasonable to me. The Yankees have some nice depth rotation arms in Bryan Mitchell, Jose DePaula, and maybe Manny Banuelos, but there’s always room for a reclamation project guy like Billingsley. Remember though, the team has a full 40-man roster and would need to cut someone to accommodate a new player. (Eury Perez seems most likely to go.)

So, to the answer the question, yes I have interest in Billingsley at our $2.5M+$5M guesstimate. The real question is whether Billingsley has interest in the Yankees. Yankee Stadium isn’t the best place in the world for a pitcher to rebuild value, and that could work against them. One NL team is said to have interest in Billingsley (D’Backs) and I’m sure more will pop up in the coming weeks. The Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies could all use another starter, for example. Aside from Colorado, those are better destinations for a reclamation starter than New York.

Doubling down on rotation injury risk might not seem like the best idea for the Yankees, but, at this point, the only safe bets left in free agency are Scherzer and Shields. Bringing in someone like Billingsley — or Paul Maholm or Felipe Paulino or one of many other reclamation project starters — to add some depth is never a bad move, especially since it only costs a little bit of money. I’d be in favor of the Yankees signing him if he’s willing to come to New York.

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.