Archive for Musings
After a few days of waiting, the Red Sox and Pirates finally finalized the Joel Hanrahan trade yesterday. The deal sends Hanrahan and infield prospect Brock Holt to Boston for four players: corner outfielder/infielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, and former Yankee Mark Melancon. I’m not here to discuss the merits of the trade from either side, but instead the framework.
By acquiring Hanrahan, the Red Sox cleared up some of their 40-man roster clutter. Sands, who I like more than most it seems, was made redundant by Jonny Gomes, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mike Napoli (if that deal ever gets done). Pimentel was once a top pitching prospect who has posted a 5.96 ERA (4.49 FIP) in Double-A over the last two years. He, like Sands, has one minor league option left. Melancon was an out-of-options middle reliever on a team with bullpen depth to spare. DeJesus was the only one of the four players going to Pittsburgh who was not on the 40-man while Holt has all three minor league options remaining.
The Yankees, like the Red Sox prior to the trade, have an awful lot of clutter on the 40-man roster. By clutter I mean youngsters who don’t figure to contribute much in 2013 or just fringy prospects in general. Ramon Flores, Jose Ramirez, and Nik Turley fall into the former category while Zoilo Almonte, Corban Joseph, and even Dellin Betances make up the latter. They’re interesting enough to keep around but hardly high priority guys, kinda like Sands, Melancon, and Pimentel. Given their big league roster needs (starting catcher, right-handed outfield bat, DH, bench), the Yankees are going to have to clear some 40-man spots before Opening Day.
Packaging two or three of those clutter pieces for one big leaguer seems like a wonderful idea in theory, but it’s much more difficult to actually put into practice. For starters, you have to find a team willing to take on several of those players and commit 40-man spots to them. That’s not easy. A rebuilding team isn’t looking to take on fringe prospects just because. Most clubs prioritize quality over quantity these days, even if it means getting back fewer pieces. Turning say, Betances and Joseph and Zoilo into a quality reliever or bench player is more of a pipe dream than anything, but the Red Sox just showed that turning spare parts into a useful player can be done.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying the Yankees missed out by not trading for Hanrahan. He would have helped the bullpen but New York is hardly in need of a $7M late-inning reliever, especially one with walk issues. I do want to see the team follow in Boston’s footsteps by turning some of those spare part guys who just don’t fit into the team’s long-term plans into a player who can help them win this season. These guys are going to start getting designated for assignment and plucked off waivers pretty soon, so it would be nice to get some kind of return before then.
I’ll admit the title is a bit of a misnomer. It should probably be “Some MLB players should consider cheating as it pertains to banned substances some of the time.” Also, before going any further with this, I’d like to point out that this article was inspired by one of my great friends (who will hopefully allow me to share his proposal on how to best resolve this issue at some point in the near future). For the sake of the article (and dialog in general), let’s put conventional sentiments surrounding ethics as they pertain to athletics on the shelf for a moment*.
* In other words, let’s not just claim players shouldn’t use banned substances simply because it’s “wrong.” Before you all completely hate on me for writing this article, know that my personal beliefs on performance enhancers are not being reflected, but rather, my observations on how players may perceive the current environment are. I am not really qualified to explain the long term effects of steroids to one’s physical health, so some of my points may be leaps of … ahem, faith. Okay, disclaimers in order … check.
As far as I can tell, the basic motivation for cheating comes down to one primary goal in baseball (and probably sports in general) – that is to obtain a competitive advantage whether it be via skill or durability. For some players, this means transitioning from “subpar or expendable” status to, say, a useful role player. For other players, it may mean going from very talented to exceptional. In any event, I believe certain players in Major League Baseball have much more to gain by cheating then they have to lose compared to others.
Now, I’m not talking about your Alex Rodriguez or your Barry Bonds. Personality traits aside, it’d be completely asinine to claim that either of those players weren’t incredible in their day. Both represent generational talents, who in their prime (and perhaps even past it), would represent an upgrade for any team looking to contend. The problem with cheating for these guys is a matter of perceived legacy. They were always likely to get paid assuming they could stay on the field. If they get caught cheating, the only real jeopardy they’d face is exclusion from the Hall of Fame (assuming the HOF doesn’t change its criteria which I think it will in time). Sure, they may face a suspension as the rules currently stand, but my guess is they’d still typically acquire the big contract more often than not as they’re naturally more gifted than their peers, and being gifted is an expensive commodity. To put this into clear context, I’m not talking about a guy like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, or any of the other exceptional players in the league.
No, the type of guys I’m referring too are of the Melky Cabrera ilk. Let’s rewind back to 2010. Having been traded to the Braves (in the infamous Javier Vasquez swap) from the Yankees, he was awful. We’re talking a .255/.317/.354 slash line (.292 wOBA) with four home runs bad. For those wondering, that translates out a 77 wRC+ and a -1.1 fWAR. Basically, if all was just in the world, he would have had to pay the Braves for letting him “contribute” to their cause (and he’d probably have to offer a sincere heart-filled apology to [insert generic replacement level player here] for keeping him in the minors). Instead, he was non-tendered as the Braves wanted no part of his $3.1M salary. But the point stands; at this juncture, Melky barely qualified for any Major League roster spot … anywhere.
But something happened, and no, it wasn’t the invigorating atmosphere of Kauffman Stadium or the refreshingly cool San Francisco air that caused it (presumably). Over the next two seasons with the Royals and Giants, Melky was legitimately good. This past season he was so good, in fact, he even contended for the batting title in the NL (.346/.390/.516, .387 wOBA, 149 wRC+, with 11 home runs). There were rumblings as far back as May, that by the end of the year, he was going to cash in a serious contract too, whether it be with the Giants or another team – some even mused a paycheck as lofty as four or five years, $50-60M (roughly $10-15M per year) which was probably quite realistic. For a guy who was about to potentially face a minor league contract, and who was barely a footnote in Major League Baseball as recently as 2010, that’d be one hell of a pay day.
Obviously, things went a bit differently though. Melky was caught using a banned substance. He didn’t win the batting title (because he withdrew his name from consideration), and he was suspended from baseball for 50 games. Now you’d think that teams might have been worried this offseason that some major performance regression could happen for Cabrera and that his performance as player wasn’t entirely legitimate the past couple seasons. You might reasonably expect that Melky could be an interesting “buy low” type of candidate for a lot of teams looking to strike gold on a player with some question marks along with some potential. Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays set the market with a two-year deal worth $16M – that is to say eight million dollars per season despite the question marks surrounding him! Not too shabby, really. And if he puts up solid numbers for the Blue Jays for the next couple seasons, he’ll be right back in line for another solid pay day the next time he hits free agency. That’s far more certainty than he had a few seasons ago when he was viewed as nothing beyond a fourth outfielder/depth guy.
So let’s pretend we’re the proverbial little red devil sitting on the shoulder of the next Melky Cabrera for a moment. We’re going to say. “Son, let’s be honest. You suck. Your dream of being a Major Leaguer could disappear very soon altogether. Go ahead; give yourself a boost while you still can. Maybe you’ll turn it around and extend your career a little while (let’s face it, you’re not getting any younger). Maybe you’ll heal faster from your injuries. Maybe you’ll even become more productive like the Melk Man with a just a bit of help, and you’ll put yourself (and let’s not forget your family) in a better position to earn whatever you can while you can! And if worse comes to worst, you’ll get caught, you’ll face suspension, and you’ll be viewed as a pariah. But then again, that sounds a lot like what’s happening right now. Just consider it. You know everyone else is.”
Of course, ironically, Melky still has the footnote to his name. He’s just substantially wealthier for it.
Baseball news is going to start to slow down in a day or two because of the holidays, and it won’t be until after the new year that things pick back up. Sure, there will be a move or three between Christmas and New Year’s, but GMs and agents and players tend to take it easy that week. Can’t really blame them, it’s a 24/7/365 profession and everyone needs a break at some point.
1. Now that R.A. Dickey has officially been traded to the Blue Jays, I sorta hate that I’m going to have to root against him. He was a blast to watch on the other side of town this season, and I don’t think he’ll have a ton of trouble switching leagues. Yes, the parks aren’t as friendly in the AL East, but he’ll still be well-above-average if not ace-caliber. Someone (I believe Bill Petti) has done recent research showing that the knuckleball removes some of the hitter’s skill from the equation in the pitcher-batter matchup, which would obviously serve Dickey well in the tougher league. The one real criticism I have of the Rays over the last few seasons is their unwillingness to make the big move to go for it, but we certainly can’t accuse the Blue Jays of that. The see an opening in the division and are going for it like hell.
2. So what changed about the Yankees’ evaluation of Russell Martin over the last 12 months? They offered him that three-year, $20M-something extension last offseason after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (and incentives to get under the luxury tax) were in place, yet they wouldn’t go near the two-year, $17M deal he took from the Pirates a few weeks ago. Do they think his offense will continue to decline? That he’s not a safe bet to stay healthy the next two years given his big career workload? Is his defense not as good as advertised? The Yankees have passed on a ton of free agents over the years and for the most part you can understand why. With Martin, given the dearth of quality catching, it just makes no sense to pass on that price even with the 2014 payroll plan looming, especially since they were so willing to give Ichiro Suzuki two years. So weird.
3. This is worthy of a larger post later in the offseason, but is there a more important Yankees position player right now than Mark Teixeira? Given the offensive hits the team will take in right field and behind the plate (Derek Jeter is unlikely to hit .316/.362/.429 again as well), the Yankees badly need to Tex to halt his decline and get back to his 30+ homers, 125+ wRC+ ways. I’m not asking him to hit like he did from 2005-2009 (141 wRC+), but he needs to do better than a .332 OBP. Hopefully good health — remember, he had the cough and wrist issues in addition to the calf problem this past year — will help Teixeira improve his offense next season. The Yankees need him to be a middle of the lineup force again. It’s imperative.
4. Here’s the list of unsigned free agents; anyone in particular you want to see the Yankees sign before Spring Training? The big names are Michael Bourn and Scott Hairston and Shaun Marcum and A.J. Pierzynski and blah blah blah. I’m talking about someone off the beaten path, like infielder Ronny Cedeno (110 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2012) for the bench or right-hander Matt Lindstrom (2.85 ERA and 3.24 ERA from 2011-2012) for the bullpen. I’d love to see right-hander Tim Stauffer (3.15 ERA and 3.72 FIP from 2010-2011 before elbow surgery in 2012) on a minor league deal to stash in Triple-A for rotation depth. Any irrational favorites?
The Yankees plugged their third base hole last night, agreeing to sign Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M. As I wrote yesterday, every win added to the team’s ledger this offseason will have a big impact on their division title chances next season given how tightly packed the AL East is at the moment. As soon as Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury was announced, a deal with the former Red Sox infielder seemed inevitable.
1. I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic about the signing. I would have preferred Mark Reynolds, but the Yankees are apparently allergic to players who have yet to experience their 30th birthday. Reynolds is an awful defensive player but he’s a better hitter than Youkilis, especially in terms of hitting right-handers, drawing walks, and hitting for power. He’s also a much better bet to actually stay on the field. My master third base plan was a defensive platoon with Reynolds (fly ball pitchers) and Eric Chavez (ground ball guys), but that was never going to happen. Anyway, the Yankees do deserve the benefit of the doubt here given their recent track record with veterans on one-year contracts. Watch Youkilis go .280/.400/.475 next season.
2. One thing about the Youkilis signing I do like is his ability to work the count and really grind out an at-bat. That’s been a Yankees trademark for the last two decades or so, but I thought the team got away from that a bit last season. A big part of that was the long-term injury to Brett Gardner and medium-term injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, but the Yankees are also losing noted count-workers Russell Martin and Nick Swisher this offseason. Youkilis will replace some (but not all) of those tough at-bats and they are the key to the kingdom. There is no argument to be made (traditional or sabermetric) against working the count and forcing the pitcher to throw more pitches than he wants to.
3. This has no direct tie-in to the Yankees, but man, what a deal for the Indians last night. They turned one year of Shin-Soo Choo, an up-and-down utility infielder (Jason Donald), a LOOGY (Tony Sipp), and a non-prospect (Lars Anderson) into a Trevor Bauer, a top ten overall prospect coming into the season. They also received lefty-mashing outfielder and personal fave Drew Stubbs as well as two relievers (Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw) on top of that. The Diamondbacks had clearly soured on Bauer for whatever reason, but he definitely has ace potential and the Indians deserve credit for capitalizing. They haven’t made many good moves lately, but they deserve major props for this one. I wonder if they’d be willing to flip Stubbs to the Yankees? He’s hit lefties better than Scott Hairston the last few years and contributes substantially more on the bases and in the field.
4. By signing all these one-year contracts, the Yankees are putting all their eggs in next winter’s free agent basket. They’re going to need three starting pitchers, two outfielders, a catcher, maybe a third baseman, maybe a shortstop, maybe a second baseman, maybe a DH, and various relievers and bench players next offseason. Here is next year’s free agent list, which will inevitably dwindle as players sign extensions during the next ten months. Free agency is by far the most inefficient and cost ineffective way to build a team, yet the Yankees are going to have to rely on that list of players in 2014 barring any farm system surprises next summer. I wouldn’t count on any and yet I fear the Yankees are.
The Yankees have won at least 95 games in each of the past four seasons, but as of right now it’s hard to see them winning that many games again in 2013. They don’t have a starting catcher, a starting right fielder, a starting third baseman, a DH, or a bench. There’s still more than two months of offseason left to address those needs, but as of right now the Yankees look like an 85-win team. In fact, SG’s most recent CAIRO projections have New York winning 85 games in 2013, good enough for third place in the AL East but not a playoff spot.
So far this offseason both the Red Sox and Blue Jays have improved their teams quite a bit while the Rays have taken a step back (by trading James Shields) and the Orioles have done absolutely nothing other than cut ties Mark Reynolds. Isn’t that weird? That a surprise, upstart team like the Orioles has done nothing to improve in an effort to make another run? Anyway, the AL East again figures to be a very tight race — SG’s projections have four of the five teams winning 84-86 games — next year and therefore the value of every win added this offseason means that much more.
That’s the concept of marginal wins. With four of the five AL East teams currently projected to win between 84-86 games, the team that adds say, three wins through a free agent signing (Kevin Youkilis?) will improve their chances that much more. Furthermore, a 75-win team adding a three-win player doesn’t have the same impact as an 85-win team adding a three-win player because only one of those teams is realistically improving their shot at a playoff berth. A playoff berth brings playoff revenue and all sorts of neat stuff. Grabbing those three (an arbitrary number I pulled out of the air to use as an example) wins is a significant move in the AL East right now.
The new playoff system has shifted the marginal win spectrum a bit. Going from those 85 wins to 88 wins improved your chances of getting a wildcard spot, and under the old rules a wildcard team had as much of a chance as the three division winners. Now it’s so much more important to win the division in an effort to avoid that one-game, winner-take-all wildcard scenario (which might not even be a revenue-generating home game), and 88 wins won’t be enough for the AL East crown. It’s going to take something like 93-96 wins, maybe more. Going from 85 to 88 helps a bit, but making a series of moves to go from 85 to 93 wins would help a lot more.
Without doing an in-depth and literal WAR analysis, the losses of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez will cost the Yankees something like seven games in the standings assuming replacement level replacements. Figure four for Swisher and two each for Martin and Rodriguez. They’ll get some of those wins back by replacing 2012′s left field conglomerate with Brett Gardner and some more by replacing Freddy Garcia with Andy Pettitte. Derek Jeter is unlikely to replicate his 2012 production though, so that’s another hit. Replacing those seven wins won’t be easy, especially since there really isn’t a way to replace Martin. Maybe Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki sign and each put up a surprising three-win season, but they Yankees would still need more to break their way to make up for the production they’re losing.
The Orioles were a surprise contender this year and even if they take a step back without the benefit of a historically good record in one-run games, the Blue Jays should step in to take their spot among AL East contenders. The Rays are always tough, with or without Shields, and the Red Sox will be better than they showed last year. The division race will again be very tight next season and grabbing those marginal wins this offseason, even by overpaying for them, greatly improves each team’s chances to win the AL East. The Yankees are actually in a position to add a number of wins to their current roster given the opportunity to upgrade in multiple positions, which isn’t something you can’t really say about the other four teams in the division.
As of right now, the Yankees are lacking an obvious solution for the catcher, right field, and third base positions. They are also sans DH, which is less of a problem but still something that needs to be addressed prior to Spring Training. New York has used that DH spot as a bit of a revolving door in recent years, something that figures to continue out of necessity (lots of old players) rather than preference. David Ortiz and Billy Butler are the only true full-time DHs these days (though Victor Martinez will join them when he returns next spring), so the revolving door thing has been catching on around the league.
Once those third base and right field positions are addressed — I’m becoming increasingly convinced the Yankees will not bring in another catcher, at least not a legitimate starting-caliber guy — the Yankees will sort through the scraps and find someone to plug in at DH next year. It’s what they did last offseason following the Jesus Montero trade. Given the rest of the lineup, the Yankees should seek out some specific traits in their next DH rather than grab the last box on the shelf as they run out of the offseason supermarket in February.
This sounds silly when talking about a DH, but the Yankees will definitely need someone who can step in and play a real position in case of injury. We all laughed when they said Raul Ibanez‘s defense was part of the reason why they signed him over Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui last winter, but sure enough Ibanez wound up starting over 70 games in the outfield due to Brett Gardner‘s injury. The Yankees are going to need a similar player this season, someone they can stick in the outfield or even just at first base (since there is no obvious backup to Mark Teixeira at the moment) at a moment’s notice.
Let’s assume for a second that the Yankees will re-sign Ichiro Suzuki while adding Kevin Youkilis, plus Derek Jeter‘s fractured ankle will be just fine and dandy come opening day. In that scenario, the Yankees will have four left-handed batters (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro), three right-handed batters (Jeter, Youkilis, whoever the catcher is), and one switch-hitter (Mark Teixeira) in the order. That’s a lefty-leaning lineup when you consider that the Cap’n isn’t a power guy and the catcher is all but guaranteed to stink.
The AL East and even the AL in general is chock full of tough left-handers, so the Yankees should look for someone who can hang in against southpaws given their utter lack of right-handed production. Finding a generic left-handed platoon masher who will pop 20 dingers thanks to the short porch is the simplest solution, but adding some diversity to the lineup and finding a right-handed batter who can hit both righties and lefties would be the ideal choice. Those guys are very hard to dig up, however.
This is often overlooked, but it’s not easy to be a DH. I’ve seen research suggesting the penalty for a DH is similar to the penalty for pinch-hitting, indicating that a player’s production will decrease roughly 10% from their expected line when shifted to the DH spot full-time. It’s not easy to sit on the bench all night and be productive in your four or five at-bats. The last thing a team wants to do is sign a regular position player and stick him at DH full-time only to find out he’s not the same hitter when he can’t figure out how to stay sharp between at-bats. Finding someone who has some experience at the position isn’t absolutely imperative, but it’s something that should at least be on the punch list.
* * *
Looking at the free agent list, the ideal candidate based on the criteria above is former Yankee Lance Berkman. He can play right field as well as first base, is a switch-hitter (though he’s not much of a threat against southpaws, just an 87 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2010), and has a little DH experience from his time in New York. Berkman’s knees (both of ‘em) are a major question mark though — he’s had something like seven surgeries between the two of them and managed just 97 plate appearances this year because of a problem with the right one. The idea that he can play right field and first base is just a theory based on his history and hardly a given based on his current physical state.
The free agent options are limited beyond Puma, with Ibanez standing out from the crowd of Travis Hafners and Aubrey Huffs and Jim Thomes and Hideki Matsuis. Carlos Lee could make sense as a part-time DH/backup first baseman/corner outfielder faker because he’s a contact-oriented right-handed batter who can still hit lefties (113 wRC+ last three years), but he invoked his no-trade clause this summer to block a deal to the Yankees because it was too far from home. Hard to believe he’d change his mind a few months later as a free agent, but it wouldn’t be the strangest thing to happen.
In all likelihood the Yankees will wait until January or February to sort out the DH situation. They’ll have a better idea of Jeter’s return date and also a little info about A-Rod‘s hip and expected recovery time by then, painting a clearer picture of their needs (long-term solution or a stopgap?). They didn’t ink Ibanez until the middle of February this season, after pitchers and catchers had reported, and something similar figures to happen this year. The DH spot is typically a low priority, but it’s nothing the Yankees should brush aside given the production hits they’re expected to take in right, at third, and behind the plate.
The Yankees may or may not be close to signing Kevin Youkilis and re-signing Ichiro Suzuki, but for the most part they’ve sat on their hands on the position player side of things this offseason. Other teams around the league have been making moves though, including some rather significant moves this weekend that will indirectly impact New York.
1. I’ve been a Yankees fan my whole life and have grown accustomed to seeing them spend millions and millions of dollars every offseason, especially in the last 10-12 years or so. That said, what the Dodgers have done over the last calendar year is mind-blowing.
The #Dodgers have taken on more than $600 million in salary commitments since they were purchased by Guggenheim Baseball.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 9, 2012
The Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten-led Guggenheim Baseball Management group invested more than $200M in two pitchers over the weekend, first signing Zack Greinke for six years and $147M (with an opt-out after three years!) and then signing Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu for six years and $36M on top of the $25.7M+ posting fee. Back in August they absorbed more than $260M in their trade with the Red Sox, and in July they took on Hanley Ramirez’s contract ($35M+) as well. Matt Kemp inked a $160M extension last offseason, but that was under Frank McCourt.
As a baseball fan, this is a blast to watch. The Yankees have gone on similar spending sprees (the 2003-2004 and 2008-2009 offseasons stand out) but I was invested in that as a fan. I looked at the potential risk and reward of each move, how it would impact the rest of the roster, how much it improved their chances, all that stuff. With the Dodgers, I don’t care. It’s fun to watch a team spend like crazy and not worry at all about the consequences should things go wrong. It’s awesome.
2. One thing I don’t believe is being said enough about the Rays-Royals blockbuster is that Tampa is taking a huge risk. We can argue whether Jamie Shields is an ace all day, but he’s an extremely durable top 20-25 pitcher who is capable of having an ace-like year, and those guys are very hard to find. The Rays have a lot of rotation depth and young pieces to plug into his rotation spot, but they’re unlikely to find someone capable of matching his production in 2013. They gave up the sure thing in this trade — Wade Davis is awesome in the bullpen but just okay as a starter, he won’t be nearly as tough to replace — and got back a bunch of guys with no MLB track record. Like I said last night, they’re going to take a hit in 2013 and hope they’ve improved in 2014 and beyond.
3. Wil Myers is awesome and there’s at least a small chance he turns into Ryan Braun, but he did strike out 140 times last season (~24% of plate appearances). That’s a lot of whiffs for top two or three hitting prospect. Just to use Jesus Montero as an example (since we’re all familiar with him) — he struck out only 99 times this year and never cracked triple-digits in the minors. He did whiff 115 times split between Triple-A and MLB last year, but that’s his career-high. Myers has a different skillset than Montero (the willingness to actually take a walk, specifically), but having a high strikeout rate like that against Double-A and Triple-A pitching is a red flag for a high-end hitting prospect.
4. As for the Royals, their only real path to the postseason is to win the division. There are too many good teams in the AL East and AL West to count on one of those two wildcard spots, yet the Tigers are such a better team. GM Dayton Moore is clearly trying to win now because his job is presumably on the line, but they need an awful lot more than Shields and Davis and Jeremy Guthrie to make it work. Ervin Santana needs to pitch like he did in 2011 and not 2012, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas need to step up and start living up to their promise, and a whole bunch of other things needs to happen for them to make a serious run at contention. Overall, I don’t think the Myers-for-Shields framework is bad, but the Royals aren’t really in a position to swing that type of deal. They’re not one (or even two) pitcher away yet.
Obviously the Alex Rodriguez injury was the major story in Yankeeland this week, but their seemingly half-hearted pursuits of various free agents (Jeff Keppinger, Eric Chavez, Nate Schierholtz specifically) makes you wonder what exactly is going on in the front office. Were they unprepared for the market inflation? Is ownership scaling back spending that much already? Is something else going on? I have no idea. Anyway, some quick thoughts…
1. The Yankees made a very strong bid for Kevin Youkilis yesterday and it seems like he’s deciding between that and a reunion with Terry Francona in Cleveland (on a two-year contract). He’s a flawed but fine stopgap option at the hot corner, though I do believe he carries an awful lot of risk given his declining performance and injury problems. The Yankees will need a backup backup third baseman in Triple-A to help cover during the inevitable DL stint. I suppose Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez fill that role. If the deal does get done, I think it’ll be much weirder seeing Youkilis in pinstripes than it was Johnny Damon in 2006. Youk is a Red Sox lifer.
2. The current catcher situation really scares me. Brian Cashman continues to insist they’re likely to go with internal options following Russell Martin‘s defection to the Pirates, but that could easily be GM speak. It’s not often you see a team with a well-below-average hitting catcher make it to the World Series, nevermind win the whole thing. Strength up the middle on the position player side is very important and I hate to see them punt such an important position. At the same time … what are the alternatives? There’s A.J. Pierzynski (who the Yankees may not be able to afford) and that’s it.
3. This report about Cashman having to get together with ownership before making any offers is just weird. Supposedly he had more authority in the past — I’m sure he still had to check with ownership for major contracts, but one-year nothings like Chavez and Schierholtz were probably at his discretion. I don’t know that for certain, obviously. Just a guess — but it was stripped for at least a week. The most important week of the offseason, for all intents and purposes. I don’t know what else to say about the whole thing other than it’s just weird. I can’t imagine Cashman is happy about having his authority scaled back after being on the job so long.
Over the last two seasons, Robinson Cano has been the Yankees’ only position player more productive than Curtis Granderson. The team’s 31-year-old center fielder disappointed to a tune of 43 homers and a 116 wRC+ this year, yet the Yankees still exercised his no-brainer $15M club option after the season. Strikeouts or not, that type of power is next to impossible to find.
Granderson is scheduled to become a free agent after next season and due to a number of factors, including the team’s desire to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, it’s unlikely they’ll look to re-sign him to a new contract. It’s always possible, a lot sure can change in a year, but right now it seems unlikely. Since he only has that one year left on his contract, Buster Olney wondered if the Grandyman would be a surprise trade candidate this offseason. Here’s his Insider-only blurb…
Curtis Granderson: The New York Yankees picked up his $15 million option for 2013, but given their other payroll concerns, it figures they would listen to trade offers for him. Granderson clubbed 43 homers last season, though he hit just .232 and struck out 195 times. For an interested team willing to give up a prospect, he could provide a big jolt of power without requiring the massive long-term investment.
A left-handed hitter with big power, Granderson has been an excellent fit for Yankee Stadium. But he hit 17 homers in 81 road games last season, as well, which was among the most in the majors.
Now just to be clear, Olney isn’t saying the Yankees are shopping Granderson or that they’ve received inquires about his availability, he’s just wondering aloud if his favorable contract situation will spark interest. He notes an NL executive framed it as: would you rather have Granderson at one year and $15M or Michael Bourn at $80-100M? What about Josh Hamilton at five years and $125M? The free agent market appears to be in “one extra year” mode early on, meaning every non-Hiroki Kuroda player who signs is getting one more year than originally expected. It’s kinda scary.
Brian Cashman likes to say none of his players are untouchable in trades, but some are more touchable than others. He’d certainly listen if someone asked about Granderson, but at the same time he’s already trying to replace one really productive outfielder this offseason. It would be close to impossible to lose both Nick Swisher and Granderson in one offseason and come out as a better team. Maybe they’d be better in the long run, but they certainly wouldn’t be better in 2013. Since the Yankees figure to take a step back under the 2014 payroll plan, contending in 2013 would be damn well appreciated.
In a mailbag earlier month, I said the Yankees could probably fetch two good prospects for Granderson in a trade, but that’s based on recent trades involving similar players with one year left on their contract. Perhaps the state of the free agent market scares a team into offering a third prospect, who knows. The point I’m trying to make here is that while the Yankees should be open to dealing Granderson if the right offer comes along, I don’t think they should look to move him unless they get blown away. His value to the team in 2013 is big even if he strikes out 200 times and moves to a corner in deference to Brett Gardner. The Yankees are losing enough offense as it is this winter, but moving Granderson on top of that takes away two of their three best hitters over the last few years. That would be very tough to recover from given the rest of the roster.
The baseball world still seems to be reeling from the not-yet-completed Marlins-Blue Jays blockbuster. Players still have to take physicals and stuff, so it might be a week or so until this thing is final. Between this and the Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster, these last four months have featured some insanely massive and historic trades.
1. The Marlins are such an embarrassment to baseball. At least they won the World Series immediately prior to their two other firesales, this time all they had was a publicly funding stadium. Seriously, they received $409M in public funding (on what was apparently false pretense) that will cost the city $2.4 billion (!) to pay off over the next 40 years. The Yankees pulled the same kinda public funding nonsense with their new building, but at least they field a competitive team year after year and generate a ton of revenue for themselves, the league, the city, etc. Could you imagine being a fan of that team right now? The Marlins are frauds and owner Jeff Loria is a crook. I say contract ‘em and sell the stadium for scrap.
2. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are suddenly pretty good. This trade alone isn’t enough to take them from 73 wins to 90+ wins and a division title — I feel like not enough people are talking about how bad of an idea it is for Jose Reyes to play 81 games a year on turf — but it sure will help. They need some of the guys they lost to injury this year (Jose Bautista and Brandon Morrow, specifically) to stay healthy and for Ricky Romero to #unsuck to really make a run at the AL East crown. Division titles aren’t won in November and December, Yankees fans should know that by now. Toronto always played the Yankees tough though, and this trade is going to make those games even tougher. Sucks.
3. If you were holding out hope that Alex Rodriguez would be traded to the Marlins this winter, you can forget it now. He’s not waiving his no-trade clause to go to that mess no matter how close the team is to his home. Moving him and his contract was a very long shot to start with, and now this latest Marlins firesale takes the most likely suitor out of play. A-Rod‘s here to stay, like it or not.
4. I know it’s coming and yes, of course the Yankees should look into acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. He’s obviously not happy …
Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple
— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012
… so bring him to New York and make him happy. What should they give up? Frankly I don’t care, give them whatever they want. I mean, could the Yankees really say no to Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Gary Sanchez for Stanton? No way. Stanton is ten months older than Heathcott for cryin’ out loud. He’s 20 months older than Williams and already has 93 career homers to his credit. He’s a franchise player the Yankees should go all out to acquire if he’s truly available, which I doubt he is just yet. The Marlins need someone to sell tickets next year and he’ll be the guy as long as he’s making the league minimum-ish, which he will next year. Come his first arbitration raise next winter — homers pay huge in arbitration, Prince Fielder pulled down $7M his first time through with 114 career homers and no major awards — all bets are off.