Mailbag: Red Sox, 2015, Dunn, Deadline, Hal

Remember to send your questions in via email or the Submit A Tip box, the more the merrier. Today’s topics: the third place Red Sox, the 2015 rotation, Adam Dunn, biggest needs at the trade deadline, another look at the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees, and better pitching statistics. Let’s get too it…

The Red Sox seem to be fading fast. Sure they’ll start getting some guys back from injury, but will it be too late? Should we start just assuming that the Yanks and Rays will make it out of the AL East? – Anonymous

This question was sent Sunday night, after the Mariners beat the Red Sox for the second straight day. Boston has since gone on to beat the wimpy Angels the last two nights, so their fade has slowed down. Either way, no, we can’t assume they’re out of it yet.

Winning the division is nice, but the first thing the Yanks have to secure is a playoff spot, and they’ll do that by clinching a better record than either the Red Sox or the Rays. Boston has started to get their key guys back from injury – Victor Martinez, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz – like you said, and are just waiting on Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia now. I’m sure Theo Epstein will do something to fix that bullpen, making them even more dangerous.

They’re seven games out in the division right now, which is a big deficit but not enough to count out a team of that caliber. Not when they still have 16 combined games left against the teams in front of them (ten against the Yanks). The Rays are definitely the Yankees’ biggest threat right now, but anyone who thinks the Red Sox are done in July is kidding themselves.

If you had to pick one guy pitching for the Yankees in minors right now who will be a key starter for the team in 2015, who? – Moshe

It’s too bad the Yanks didn’t sign Gerrit Cole back in 2008, because that would have made this a much easier question to answer. I’m going to go with Andrew Brackman simply because he’s the closest to the majors among the team’s high upside pitching prospects. The Yanks don’t seem to have much patience for young starting pitchers that project to become back-end starters, which puts guys like Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister, David Phelps, and Adam Warren at an instant disadvantage. I’m willing to bet three of those four are traded by Opening Day 2012.

Brackman’s main competition for me was Jose Ramirez, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances, but those guys are still quite a ways off. Ramirez is still in Low-A, and a level-a-year climb doesn’t get him to the big leagues until the second half of 2013 at the earliest. Betances still has to stay healthy for a full season just for development’s sake. The more time he misses, the less likely it is that he’ll reach his potential. Nine great starts this year doesn’t change that. Banuelos is still in still in A-ball and his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 155 lbs.) is going to work against him whether you accept it or not.

My dark horse candidate is Hector Noesi, who like Brackman is in Double-A, but unlike Brackman doesn’t have blow-you-away stuff. He’s got good stuff, sure, but his best trait is his command and willingness to attack the strike zone. He’s the kind of pitcher that could come up right away and succeed because he’s willing to challenge batters, strike zone jitters shouldn’t (but always could) be an issue.

Remember, being a key starter in 2015 means a guy has to take his lumps at the big league level in 2012 and 2013 and possibly even 2014. Look at Phil Hughes, he came up in 2007 but didn’t turn into a key starter until 2010, and he’s better than anyone I mentioned above. Brackman could potentially be in the majors by the second half of next season, but even if it takes him a little longer he still has a considerable head start and more talent over the other guys.

Do you think Adam Dunn to Yankees would be good addition? – David Robertson’s biggest fan

Hell and yes. I’ve even written about this exact topic already. The Nationals are going nowhere quick and haven’t even offered the guy a contract extension, so it would be pretty foolish of them to keep him around and take the draft picks after the season (or hope to re-sign him). Prospects now are worth a whole lot more than draft picks later.

There’s no reason that Dunn would be a bad pickup for the Yanks, unless they plan on playing him in centerfield. Imagine that guy in the New Stadium.

Biggest need at the trade deadline: 5th starter, reliever, or bench help? I say 5th starter. – Will

I’m leaning towards the bullpen. Andy Pettitte will be back soon enough and that’ll take care of the whole fifth starter thing. They certainly have plenty of in-house options to run through in the interim. If he wasn’t on his way back, then yeah, I think another starter would be the priority.

The relief corps needs a lot of help though. Joba Chamberlain can’t be counted on for anything right now, and you can’t expect Al Aceves to come back and a) be effective, or b) stay healthy. Anything out of him is gravy. Jon Albaladejo could help in the 6th and 7th innings, but right now Robertson is the team’s only reliable righthanded reliever (NMD). That just won’t cut it.

The bench stinks, but you can survive with a bad bench when you have the kinds of regulars the Yankees do. Bad middle relief is the kiss of death, though.

You answered a question about the short-term impact of the passing of The Boss, but I have a nagging concern about the long-term. It seemed that when Hal and Hank began getting involved in the family business that they were reluctant, and I suspected they might have been doing it to please their father. Now that he’s gone, is there a concern that the Steinbrenner family could sell the team? Or have Hal and Hank embraced the pinstripes the way George did? I still remember your 2010 April Fool’s Day joke, and I don’t want that nightmare to become reality. – Howie

Ben is our resident Business of Baseball guy, so I handed this question off to him. Here’s his response:

Beyond a few comments by Randy Levine indicating that the Steinbrenner family has no intention of selling the Yankees, the owners themselves have been awfully quiet about their intentions since George’s passing. That said, the feeling around baseball is that Hal Steinbrenner and his brother and sisters will continue to hold onto the club for the foreseeable future. Despite his initial reluctance to do so, Hal has taken a liking to running the Front Office, and he appears to command respect among his peers. He has George’s drive to win but a cooler head on his shoulder, and Hank has clearly taken a backseat to Hal. For the Yankees, that could only lead to good results on the field.

With that in mind, the Steinbrenners will look to expand their empire as much as they can. They seem more focused on the bottom line than the Yanks have been in previous years, and even with a payroll in excess of $200 million, there is a limit to the Yanks’ spending. So perhaps the team will look at investing in the English Premiere League as had been rumored. Perhaps the Yanks will continue their push into Asian markets. Perhaps the club will continue to monetize the YES Network and all that comes of it. Whatever the future holds, it ought to be a lucrative one.

To see how the Steinbrenners are going to manage the club, I would look to the upcoming CBA negotiations as well. The Yankees and their spending will again be targeted, and I’d expect Hal to push back and hard. If he does, you know the family has truly embraced the pinstripes. Plus, no matter what happens, there is no love lost between the Steinbrenners and the Dolans. So that nightmare — our April Fools joke — will not come to pass.

I had a question regarding pitching stats. namely innings pitched. I think we know that not all innings pitched are created equally. You could get through an inning with as few as one pitch (come in with men on and induce a triple play) or a Joba-esque 35-40 pitches to get 2 outs. Is there any push to move or develop stats based on number of pitches thrown instead of innings pitched? – Anonymous

Innings aren’t all created equal as you, so yes, it would be better to use a more stable denominator. Batters faced would be a great start, so strikeouts per 27 batters, or walks per 27 batters, stuff like that would be better than the usual K/9 and BB/9. Rich Lederer introduced the concept of K/100 many moons ago, which is strikeouts per 100 pitches. Striking a batter out on three pitches is better than striking someone out on five pitches, and that difference is expressed in K/100. It measures dominance and efficiency.

It hasn’t caught on yet, obviously, but it’s easy to understand why it makes sense. One day we’ll start seeing some more extensive per pitch data, and it will be glorious.

Mailbag: Joba, The Boss, Swisher, Montero

Time for another edition of the RAB Mailbag. Remember, you can email me your questions at any time, but the easiest thing to do is use the Submit A Tip box below The Montero Watch in the sidebar. This week’s topics include the mess known as Joba Chamberlain, the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees, Nick Swisher‘s future in pinstripes, and players I would be willing to acquire in a straight up trade for Jesus Montero. Let’s get to it…

About Joba Chamberlain… I wonder how much of his current troubles with consistency are due to the inconsistencies in his role, shifting from starter to reliever and back, then back again. I can’t remember any pitcher being moved back and forth so many times, aside from spot starters/long relievers of the Ramiro Mendoza mold, but that’s not the same. I personally have always been in the “Joba is a starter” crowd, and I still think he could be a top notch starter as he’s still young, has great stuff, and has been healthy. I think next year he should become a full time starter (yes, even though it’s another change, at least it will be the last), possibly starting in AAA to rebuild his mojo (if necessary), then set him loose on the AL and hope it works. Thoughts? – Howie

The Blue Jays really screwed around (bouncing back-and-forth between the rotation and bullpen) with both Dustin McGowan and Brandon League earlier in their careers, particularly McGowan. He hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues in 742 days because of major reconstructive shoulder surgery, and he recently had another setback. I’m not saying the juggling act led to McGowan’s injury though, not at all. He threw 80.1 more innings in 2007 than he did in 2006, when he was still just 25-year-old. That’s the likely culprit

Anyway, back to Joba. I definitely think the constant changing of roles has impacted him in a negative way. There’s nothing wrong with shifting a player to the bullpen at the end of the season, but going from reliever to starter and having that transition take place in meaningful games is tough. Also, while well-intentioned, the 2009 Joba Rules were horrifyingly stupid. The fact that the Yankees aren’t doing the same thing to Phil Hughes this season is basically an acknowledgment of that stupidity. Joba definitely had a deer in the headlights look towards the end of last season, like he didn’t know if he was coming or going, looking over his shoulder at the bullpen wondering if this was going to be his last batter.

That said, I don’t think Joba is beyond repair. I’ve given up on him being a starter not because I don’t think he can do, just because I don’t expect the Yankees to give him the chance to do it again. If they were going to give him another shot at starting, they should be very straight forward about it and do it in very controlled manner. Start him in the minors, let him stretch out at his own pace, get into a routine, and then call him up once he’s found a groove and has earned it. At times he does appear a little too comfortable, something we never saw out of Phil Hughes because he did the up-and-down thing for a few years. Maybe he needs a little kick in the ass in that regard.

That’s all easier said than done, of course. After this season Joba will have to clear (revocable) waivers to be sent to the minors because he’s been in the bigs for more than three calendar years. If someone were to claim him, the Yanks could pull him back, though he couldn’t go to the minors. If they tried to send him down again, then those waivers are irrevocable and the claiming team would get him. That might throw a wrench in any plan that involves sending him to the minors.

Will George Steinbrenner’s passing have any immediate impact on the Yankees day-to-day operations? – David

This question was sent in after we heard about The Boss’s passing last Tuesday, which is why it seems a little outdated. That’s my fault, not David’s.

As you probably know by now, Steinbrenner’s death will not impact the team’s day-to-day operations in any way. He handed control of the organization over to his sons in 2007, at which point George stepped into the background. Nothing will change, it’ll be business as usual from here on out.

Where can I find 2010 wOBA and FIP for minor leaguers? Fangraphs only has miLB numbers through last season. – Larry

I have absolutely no idea when FanGraphs will update with 2010 minor league info, so they’re out of the question for now. The best place to get wOBA and FIP for minor leaguers is, a very underrated site. They also have a version of HR/FB% for pitchers, as well as runs created (RC) and RC/27 for batters. has more comprehensive FIP data, broken down by level, by year, career, you name it.

Swisher isn’t just having a lucky season, the peripherals prove that. I believe that he has really enjoyed his time in New York, and has worked his ass off to keep his stay… the Yankees got him for nothing and he is really hitting his ceiling. He is hitting for power and avg, and his fielding is infinitely better than it was when he joined us as a platoon player. Do we see Nick in pinstripes for an extended period of time? – Daniel

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another player be so happy to be a Yankee. Maybe on the inside, but no one has shown it as much as Swisher, and that has everything to do with his personality, of course. He’s put a lot of work in to become the player he is today, losing weight in each of the last two offseasons and working with hitting coach Kevin Long to improve his performance against breaking balls, all of which shows you that he wants to be a better player and remain with the team long-term.

Swish signed a big fat contract with the A’s back during the 2007 season, signing away his three arbitration years and one year of free agency in exchange for $26.75M guaranteed. Can’t say I’d blame him, I’d take the long-term security too. Anyway, Swish will earn just $6.75M this season (FanGraphs says his performance has already been worth $11.6M) and $9M next season. The Yankees could then choose between a $10.25M option for 2012, or a $1M buyout. If Swish finishes in the top five of the MVP voting this year or next, the option jumps up to $12M.

Nick is right in the prime of his career right now, and will turn the big three-oh this November. Usually any decisions on option years are due ten days or so after the end of the World Series, so the Yanks will have figure out what to do with Swish for 2012 a few weeks before his 31st birthday. Assuming they pick up his option, which they unquestionably would if he maintained his currently level of production, Swisher would be able to test the free agent water as a 32-year-old, for all intents and purposes.

That’s when players, particularly power hitters like Swisher, tend to slow down, so the Yankees might not want to fork over a big four or five year contract at that time. Ideally Swish would sign for something like two years at $12M per plus an option for a third year, but the end result will likely be something in the middle. I’m not going to waste any more time talking about something that won’t happen for two years down the road, but for now rest assured, Swish will be in pinstripes* through next season at the very least, and more than likely through the end of 2012.

* Obviously, things can always change. This is all theoretical.

Mike, last year you would always say that there were 50 guys you would trade [Jesus] Montero for straight up. Does that still hold true this year? For the mailbag would you list those 50? Or even just 25. – Joe

Sure, I’ll give you 50 right now. The list is after the jump for space reasons, but I’ll explain my methodology here. It’s pretty simple. I didn’t consider salary or whether or not that player actually fits with the Yankees, because there is a difference between being willing to acquire a player and actually being able to acquire that player. Take David Wright for example. I would trade Montero for him straight up, but the Yanks already have a third baseman, it’s not a realistic fit. Nonetheless, Wright’s on my list.

What I did consider, however, is the number of years of team control a guy has left. I essentially ruled out all the rentals like Cliff Lee. Oh, and Yankee players too. They weren’t eligible for the list.

Again, the list is after the jump. It’s alphabetical, so don’t read anything into the order. Hiss and spit in the comments.

[Read more…]

Mailbag: Vazquez, Rule 5 Draft, Gaudin, Cash

We received some positive feedback following last week’s mailbag, so it’s definitely looking like something worth doing. You can send your questions to us at any time via the Submit A Tip box under The Montero Watch in the sidebar, or by just emailing them in to us. This week’s topics: Javy Vazquez and arbitration, the Rule 5 Draft, Chad frickin’ Gaudin, and figuring out what the hell “cash considerations” are…

Do you think that the Yankees will offer Javy Vazquez arbitration after the season? They’ve shied away from the practice in recent years, but you risk getting a good pitcher at a reasonable salary on a one-year deal for two high picks, right? Especially if they lose picks for a Lee or Crawford this offseason. – Dominik

I’ve been thinking about this more and more as the season goes on. My stock answer has been “no,” simply because they haven’t offered anyone arbitration over the last two years, and I had no reason to believe that they would change that approach now. Now I’m not so sure.

There is a difference between Vazquez and guys like Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon, the notable players that weren’t offered arbitration over the last few years. Those guys were really overpaid (Abreu made $16M his last year with the Yanks, Damon $13M) and stunningly bad on defense, and in Abreu’s case, he was clearly in decline offensively. Their defense negated a ton of their offensive value. Pitchers are different because a) there’s only one aspect of the game to evaluate, and b) quality arms are so damn valuable.

Of course we can’t ignore the red flags. Javy’s velocity is absolutely down this season, likely due to all those miles on his arm, and his strikeouts are down while the walks are up. His FIP (5.02), xFIP (4.62), and tRA (4.97) are the highest they’ve been in more than half-a-decade.  Believe it or not, Vazquez has benefited from some BABIP luck this year (.255), which you can’t count on going forward. That said, he’s still a very capable MLB starter that can easily hold down the fourth spot in any team’s rotation, which is what the Yanks would expect him to do. If he were to accept arbitration, he’s looking a $13-14M, which is certainly overpaying. It is just a one year deal though, and the Yanks can afford the luxury. Remember, there’s no pitching version of Nick Swisher to buy low on to fill that rotation spot.

At this point, yes, I do expect the Yanks to offer Vazquez arbitration. It’s been made clear that the team considered the two 2011 draft picks as part of the deal, and Vazquez comfortably projects to be a Type-A free agent. As you know, they have to offer him arbitration to receive those picks. Next year’s draft class is absurdly deep; a team could realistically walk away with a player that would be a top ten talent in a “normal” year despite picking in the 20-30 range. If there’s ever a draft to have an extra pick, that’s it. The Yanks also can’t lose those picks if they sign Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford or whoever.

Given the uncertainty of Andy Pettitte, plus the possibility of Lee signing an extension after inevitably being traded, offering Vazquez arbitration is a risk worth taking. Then again, I said the same exact thing about other players over the last two years, only to watch the Yanks not offer arbitration to anyone.

Which minor leaguers are eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the season? Of these, who do you think the Yankees will protect?  I’m interested to see what they do with Dellin. – Big B

College players drafted in 2007 and high school players drafted in 2006 are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, so that includes Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances, Ryan Pope, Bradley Suttle, Austin Krum, Justin Snyder, and Brandon Laird. Some holdovers from last year include George Kontos, Lance Pendleton, and Josh Schmidt. It’s tough to figure out exactly when players signed off the international market, so I usually just skip them when discussing the Rule 5 draft.

So how many 40-man roster spots are opening up after the season? I count nine: Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, Chan Ho Park, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Javy Vazquez, Derek Jeter, Marcus Thames, and Nick Johnson. Both Juan Miranda and Jon Albaladejo will be out of options next season, so they could be gone as well. Wilkin DeLaRosa and Dustin Moseley are imminently DFA’able, so I would count on them being gone as well. Mo and Jeter are obviously coming back, so let’s call it 11 total spots opening up after the season.

You have to figure that at least two of those spots are going to starting pitchers, two or three more are going to relievers, and two or three more are going to position players. So for all intents and purposes, let’s assume the team will have four 40-man spots to use for protecting prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.

McAllister and Laird are no-brainers, they have to be protected otherwise they will be lost. Their success at Double-A all but guarantees that. Suttle, Krum, Snyder, Pendleton, and Schmidt aren’t high priority guys, so they can go unprotected. Those last two spots come down to Betances, Pope, and Kontos.

Betances has been absolutely fantastic this year since coming back from elbow surgery (34 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 39 K), and non-contending teams will take a big arm like that and see if he can’t stick in the bigs all year. Pope has been fantastic since shifting to the bullpen (27.2 IP, 3.09 FIP, 30-6 K/BB ratio, .223 AVG against) and is a viable relief option for next season. If nothing else, he’s a guy that will always be on call in Triple-A. Kontos is coming off elbow surgery like Betances, though he’s had some success at the higher level.

I think Pope gets protected just because you can’t let such a close to the big leagues reliever go for nothing. The Yanks will need the inventory. If the Yanks don’t believe Betances can make it through the entire 2011 season on some team’s 25-man roster, they won’t protect him. They did the same thing with Ivan Nova. They could gamble on him going to camp with some team only to have him be offered back at some point. Of course Betances is a much different prospect because he has such enormous upside, so they may not be willing to risk it. Me? I’d protect him. Too risky to lose a guy the team invested so much time and money ($1M signing bonus plus all the costs associated with his rehab and surgery). Kontos is the cost of doing business, I was never a huge fan anyway.

Why is Chad Gaudin so bad this year? He was somewhat “decent” last year, and was supposed to be in the mix for the 5th starter job in ST. I don’t think we expected him to win any Cy Youngs, but mediocrity should not have been too much to ask. – Anonymous

I’m kinda surprised that Gaudin has been so dreadful. I never expected him to be awesome, but I figured he could replicate the 4.68 xFIP he posted with the Yanks last year. Instead, we’ve got a 5.60 xFIP after Gaudin put up a 3.94 xFIP in Oakland. And think, the righty has had some serious BABIP (.244) and strand rate (83.3%) luck with the Yanks.

The obvious problem is all the homeruns. Gaudin has served up nine long balls in 33.2 IP this year after giving up just 14 in 147.1 IP last year. His fly ball rate has climbed close to 10% from last year and sits at 44.6% in 2010, and his HR/FB rate is through the roof at 20%. For comparison’s sake, the league average is around 10.6% and he was at 9% last year. It’s a combination of bad luck and bad pitching. Yes, he should give up more homeruns because he’s giving up more fly balls, but not that many more homers.

Gaudin’s slider is letting him down this year (4.57 runs below average per 100 thrown after several years of being above average by a run or more), so perhaps he’s hiding an injury. Or maybe he just stinks.

MAILBAG! When a player gets traded for “cash considerations” what, exactly, does that mean? Is there a list of guidelines defining what is and is not, can and cannot be deemed cash considerations? Is there a deadline on when the cash has to be delivered? I’m thinking that it means they need to work out a deal and can’t haggle the money but are close enough where they say eff it we’ll figure it out. I am hoping, however, that there is some sort of structure to it. – Justin

I have no idea, but Keith Law does, so I asked him. His response: “Undisclosed [amount] but fixed at the time of the deal. It’s really just a straight sale, usually for ten or twenty grand.”

Simple enough. I assume it’s delivered immediately, or at a time specified when the deal is made.

Mailbag: Lee, Johnson, Wang, Waivers, Montero

Welcome to the first of what is hopefully many editions of the RAB Mailbag. If you want to submit a question, just email one or all of us using the links to the right, but the easiest thing to do is use the Submit A Tip box under The Montero Watch. This week’s topics include Cliff Lee, injury updates, and one crazy call-up idea.

There is a lot of talk about signing Cliff Lee in the offseason.  I was wondering what salary is coming off the books besides Andy and Javy?  Will there really be that much room to sign Lee to a long term deal at the money he will command? -John

Let’s cut right to the chase and break this down…

Coming Off The Books ($62.35M): Chad Gaudin ($1M), Derek Jeter ($21M), Chan Ho Park ($1.2M), Andy Pettitte ($11.75), Mariano Rivera ($15M), Marcus Thames ($900,000), Javy Vazquez ($11.5M)

Contractual Raises ($7.5M): Robbie Cano ($1M), Curtis Granderson ($2.75M), Alex Rodriguez (-$1M, yes his salary goes down), Nick Swisher ($2.25M), Mark Teixeira ($2.5M)

Arbitration Eligible: Joba Chamberlain (first time), Phil Hughes (first time), Boone Logan (second time), Sergio Mitre (third time)

Randy Winn’s $1.1M salary is coming off the books after the season as well, ditto the $500,000 the Yanks sent to Atlanta in the Vazquez trade (for Melky Cabrera). I assume they’ll buyout Nick Johnson‘s $5.5M mutual option for $250,000, which puts the total amount of money coming off the books this offseason at roughly $56.2M. That does not include arbitration raises and raises to pre-arbitration players, but I’m guessing those will total less than $6M. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it an even $50M coming off the books.

So assuming that the budget doesn’t change next year, that $50M will go towards re-signing Jeter and Mo first and foremost, then adding at the very least one starting pitcher. Thames, CHoP, and Gaudin can be replaced for $3M or less, theoretically. If Jeter and Mo do not take discounts, you’re looking at $11M left over. That’s not enough to buy you Cliff Lee, I can guarantee it, but remember that the Yanks are likely to bring in some players via trade between now and the offseason, which will change things here. Not necessarily for the worst either.

From the looks of things, the Yankees will have to expand the budget next year to afford Cliff Lee, or hope that Jeter and Mo take big discounts. And even that leaves you with a rookie fifth starter (Zach McAllister? Ivan Nova?) making the league minimum and the same Ramiro Pena led bench.

Any updates on how NJ’s wrist is doing? Also are there any updates on our dear old friend CMW? Any plans to bring back the RAB radio show? -Tom

The last thing we heard about Nick Johnson’s rehab came from one of Will Carroll’s Under The Knife columns a few weeks ago (sorry, I can’t find the link). All it said was that Johnson’s surgically repaired wrist was healing slowly and that there was no firm timetable for his return, which is exactly what the Yankees expected. Haven’t heard a thing since, which, depending on your worldview, can be either good (no setbacks) or bad (no progress).

As for Chien-Ming Wang, he’s still a month away from returning to a big league mound. He’s throwing simulated innings every few days at the Nationals’ complex in Florida, and right now the plan is for him to debut at the end of July or early August. Clearly, Wang’s agent Alan Nero grossly undershot his prediction of a May return.

The Radio Show will be back at some point, I promise. You’d be surprised at how hard it is for two of us to find some common free time to record the thing.

If a player on the 40-man (say, WDLR) gets waived, does a team that claims him have to put him on their 40-man? Also, if he clears waivers, does he then become a minor league free agent? -Tyler

Yes, if a team claims a player off waivers he remains on that new team’s 40-man roster. The entire point of the waiver process is to keep a player as close to the big leagues as possible, therefore allowing him to reap all the rewards that come with it (killer medical benefits, higher salary, etc.).

As for what happens when a player clears, well it depends. There are several kinds of waivers that are each designed to do different things. I recommend reading this post for an in-depth explanation, but there are two ways for a player to become a free agent after he clears waivers.

  1. He’s placed on release waivers, which are self explanatory. The entire reason he’s on these in the first place is because the team doesn’t want him anymore and they want him out of the organization.
  2. He is placed on outright waivers after having been outrighted to the minors at least once before in his career. If a guy has been outrighted before, he can elect to become a free agent instead of going to a new team (as part of a claim) or down to the minors. If a player does choose free agency, he forfeits the rest of his contract. Josh Towers accepted his outright assignment from the Blue Jays a few years ago because he still had something like $5M coming to him.

Minor league free agency is a different animal all together. That’s when a guy has spent six years in the minors without being on the 40-man roster, then he becomes a free agent.

Let’s use Wilkin DeLaRosa as an example. He’s been dreadful this year (5.68 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 31-24 K/BB ratio in 44.1 Double-A IP), and frankly he hasn’t made any progress since being added to the 40-man roster after the 2008 season. He’s an obvious candidate to go whenever a 40-man spot is needed. If/when the Yankees designate him for assignment, he’ll go on outright waivers, and if someone claims him he’ll go to that team and stay on their 40-man. If he clears, he has to accept the minor league assignment because this is his first time being outrighted. He would have become a minor league free agent if they didn’t add him to the 40-man after 2008 because he had spent six years in the minors, the first four as a no hit outfielder.

I’ve always wondered why you don’t see more moves where a team claims a player off waivers, then immediately DFA’s him. Take Cla Meredith for example, a somewhat useful righty reliever. The Orioles DFA’s him about a week ago, but he went unclaimed and was sent to the minors. Why wouldn’t a team like say, the Diamondbacks, put a claim in, get him in the organization, then immediately DFA him to remove him from the 40-man? Chances are he would have cleared waivers anyway, so you’re basically adding a piece that may have value to you in the future for almost no cost (there’s a fee for making a waiver claim). Of course, this only makes sense if the player doesn’t have a ridiculous contract.

Which is funnier: The calls for a Shelley Duncan return to the bench or Joel Sherman writing a column advocating calling up Jesus Montero? -Harrison

Gotta vote for Shelley here. We know what that guy is, and the Yanks know him better than anyone. What does he offer that Marcus Thames doesn’t? Sure, he’s hit four homers in limited action for the Indians, but he’s struck out in just shy of 40% of his at-bats. The grass is always greener on the other side, I guess.

Here’s Sherman’s article on Montero. The idea of calling up a top prospect from Triple-A to bolster the big league team is nothing new, so I can’t fault him for that. As cliche as it’s become, turning to Montero to help the Yanks’ offense is a very Mets’ like move – just changing the development plan as they go. The 20-year-old backstop didn’t perform at all until last month, and he still needs to work on managing at-bats and working the count a little bit more. Calling him up and asking him to fix an inconsistent offense is just asking for trouble.

Keep Montero in the minors the rest of the year and let him smack Triple-A pitchers around and build confidence. The kid’s got 467 plate appearances above A-ball, not even a full season’s worth. What’s the rush?