Archive for Hot Stove League

Via Jon Heyman: Hal Steinbrenner and several other members of the Yankees’ hierarchy have interest in signing Kendrys Morales. I assume that interest only increased when Mark Teixeira left yesterday’s game with more wrist soreness and received a cortisone shot. Hal has already indicated a willingness to add payroll to improve the team at midseason.

Morales, 30, hit .277/.336/.449 (116 wRC+) with 23 homers for the Mariners last year, and his switch-hitting bat would look marvelous in the middle of the lineup. That said, he would further limit the team’s roster flexibility. By a lot. Morales is more of a DH than a first baseman at this point — he has played only 59 games at first (214 at DH) since destroying his ankle in 2010 — and with Carlos Beltran on the mend, the DH spot doesn’t figure to be open much. Beltran will reportedly return as the full-time DH because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur in his elbow by making him throw.

Morales will no longer require forfeiting a draft pick this coming Friday, so there’s no reason not to wait these last six days before signing him. He would help the Yankees, there’s no doubt about it, but unless Beltran winds up undergoing surgery or Teixeira misses an extended amount of time and the team doesn’t care about further weakening the infield defense, it’s tough to see Morales as anything but a square peg in a round roster hole.

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(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

If he continues to hit like he has the first few weeks of the season — he’s shown no signs of slowing down at this point, amazingly — Yangervis Solarte will go down as one of the best minor league free agent signings in baseball history. The switch-hitter has been a godsend for the Yankees, solidifying the infield and adding serious thump to the lineup. It’s been remarkable to watch.

I like to think that I’m pretty well-versed when it comes to prospects and the minors, but even I had never heard of Solarte before he signed with the Yankees. He came out of nowhere. Major League teams sure knew who he was, of course, and the Bombers were not the only team who pursued him over the winter. Joel Sherman says the Tigers were aggressive as well, so much so that they even promised him an opportunity to win their second base job. Here’s more from Sherman:

As a player who had spent eight years in the minors and was consistently — in (agent Peter) Greenberg’s words — “the 41st man” in a sport of 40-man rosters, Solarte wanted to see a road to make a team and perhaps start.

But then Detroit obtained (Ian) Kinsler. The Yanks were aggressive from the outset. They often have trouble convincing minor league free agents to sign with them because those players believe in the organization’s rep to go with stars over unknowns. The Yanks try to use money as a lure, and Greenberg said the $22,000 a month was the most any of his minor league clients ever had been offered, plus the Yankees were willing to guarantee three months of that contract.

Not only had Solarte never been in the big leagues before this season, he had never even been on a 40-man roster either. At least as far as I can tell. Solarte had several years of Triple-A experience though, so, according to Jeff Blank, he was earning upwards of $2,700 per month the last few years. Probably a bit more since he signed with the Rangers as a minor league free agent in both 2012 and 2013, when he had some negotiating leverage. It wasn’t $22k per month though, according to Sherman.

Being a pro baseball player is a good gig if you can get it, and if you injected every player in the world with a truth serum, I’m sure every one of them would say they are in it for the money, at least to some degree. It’s impossible to ignore the millions and millions of dollars on the table. Solarte signed with the Twins for a relatively small bonus as an amateur player out of Venezuela back in the day, and he didn’t exactly make huge bucks in the minors all these years. A $22k a month salary with $66k guaranteed would have been hard to pass up. Now it’s likely Solarte will earn more this season ($500k, the MLB minimum) than he did in his entire minor league career.

Like every other team, the Yankees sign a bunch of minor league free agents every year. Some work out — Solarte is an extreme example of one of these deals working out, but other minor league signees like Jayson Nix, Cory Wade, and Clay Rapada have contributed to the MLB team in recent years — and most don’t, but these deals are super low risk. No 40-man roster spot is required, and in many cases the actual salary is measured in the low six figures (or in Solarte’s case, five figures). It’s a place where the Yankees can flex their financial might by offered those extra couple thousand bucks per month, amounts that barely put a dent in the team’s bottom line.

Minor league salaries and free agency are still a bit of a mystery these days, especially when it comes to guys like Solarte, who have yet to make their MLB debut. He’s an outlier, and building a team around minor league signings is not something that will win titles, but these players are necessary to provide depth and fill out Triple-A (and sometimes Double-A) rosters. Even the best farm systems have holes — the vaunted Cardinals farm system had no shortstops, hence four years for Jhonny Peralta — and this is one way to fill them. It’s another spot where the Yankees can flex their financial muscle and it helped them strike minor league contract gold in Solarte.

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Via Ken Rosenthal: The Red Sox have re-signed Stephen Drew to a one-year contract worth $14.1 pro-rated, so basically the qualifying offer he turned down over the winter. He will presumably take over shortstop with Xander Bogaerts moving back to third base. Drew will be a free agent again after this season, but because he did not spend the entire season with Boston, they will not be able to make him a qualifying offer.

The Yankees had on again, off again interest in Drew during the offseason and even in recent weeks — we recently heard they would reconsidering signing him after the draft — which makes sense given the infield situation. Just this morning I said I expected Drew to sign with the Tigers after the draft, which shows what I know. Kendrys Morales is still unsigned, and if the Yankees lose Carlos Beltran to elbow surgery, he would make some sense as a full-time DH and replacement middle of the order bat.

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Via Marc Topkin: Fernando Rodney said the Yankees offered him a one-year contract over the winter. He received two-year offers from several teams and eventually took a two-year, $14M pact with the Mariners. Seems like the Yankees would have welcomed him aboard, but only on their terms.

Rodney, 37, has a 3.12 ERA (3.08 FIP) in 17.1 innings as Robinson Cano‘s teammate so far this year. Signing him would have allowed the Yankees to use David Robertson in some higher leverage seventh and eighth inning situations, but it also might have sent Robertson searching for a closer job when he becomes a free agent after the season. Rodney’s too much of a high wire act for me, but a one-year contract? No harm in that.

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Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees may re-consider signing Stephen Drew after the draft passes next month, when they would not have to forfeit their second round pick. The team also doesn’t want the Red Sox to gain another compensation pick after essentially giving them one as part of the Jacoby Ellsbury signing.

Drew, 31, will probably need several weeks to get ready for MLB game action at this point, even if he has been working out in the meantime. (I’m sure he has.) The best case scenario is what, probably one week to get ready? As Joe wrote yesterday, the Yankees could clearly use help on the infield — if Carlos Beltran needs surgery, Derek Jeter could serve as the regular DH with Drew at shortstop — but it’s obvious no other team is going to jump in to sign him before the draft. With only three weeks to go, I think they could wait. He wouldn’t move the needle enough in those three weeks to justify losing the pick.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Tigers have agreed to a deal with free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan. No word on the terms or anything like that. We heard the Yankees had “strong interest” in the right-hander just yesterday. Oh well.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are among at least five times with “strong interest” in free agent right-hander Joel Hanrahan. He is believed to have multiple offers on the table and is likely to sign rather than hold another showcase for teams. Hanrahan is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and two other elbow procedures (bone chips, flexor tendon).

Hanrahan, 32, was said to be sitting in the low-90s during a workout for teams a few weeks ago. He is not quite a full year out from surgery, but as a reliever it won’t take him very long to get game ready. There is always room for a guy like Hanrahan in the bullpen, especially since the Yankees are in position to ease him back into things after surgery and not ask him to be a late-inning guy right away. With both Vidal Nuno and David Phelps in the rotation, adding a reliever like Hanrahan to replace the bullpen depth sure makes a lot of sense.

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Via Diario de Cuba (translated article): The Yankees have interest in Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell. They scouted him during a workout in February and more showcase events are planning for the coming weeks. Ken Rosenthal says MLB recently declared Carbonell a free agent after he established residency in Mexico, so he can sign at any time.

Carbonell, 23, is said to be a speedy switch-hitting center fielder with some power, according to Rosenthal. He hit .288/.378/.405 with two homers, six steals, ten walks, and eleven strikeouts in 127 plate appearances in Cuba last season before defecting. Here is the requisite over the top workout video. Because of MLB’s silly rules, Carbonell will be subject to the international spending restrictions if he doesn’t sign by July 2nd. Expect him to have a deal worked out before then.

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Via Chris Cotillo: The Yankees have not yet shown any interest in Scott Baker. The right-hander has a 2.81 ERA (4.76 FIP) with 26 strikeouts and ten walks in five starts and 32 Triple-A innings with the Rangers. He can opt-out of his minor league contract if he is not added to the big league roster by May 1st.

Baker, 32, has thrown 15 big league innings since 2011 due to a series of elbow problems. He was awful in Spring Training — 12 runs with a 1/7 K/BB (!) in 12 innings — and failed to make the Mariners’ roster despite all their pitching problems. The Yankees could use a true long man with David Phelps assuming a middle relief role and Ivan Nova‘s injury forcing Vidal Nuno into the rotation, but it’s been a long time since Baker was effective. I don’t see much of a reason to be interested with Al Aceves already in house.

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Phelps is pumped about being a Super Two. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Phelps is pumped about being a Super Two. (Getty)

This past offseason, the Yankees signed their five arbitration-eligible players to one-year contracts totaling $16.4875M. Next winter’s class figures to be pricey as well, mostly because Michael Pineda will qualify for arbitration for the first time and Ivan Nova will be eligible a second time. Shawn Kelley will also be due a nice raise in his final year of eligibility.

Kelley is a Super Two, meaning he will go through arbitration four times instead of the usual three. The full explanation is here, but the short version is that some players (the top 22% in service time, specifically) with more than two years but less than three years of service time qualify as Super Twos and get four years of arbitration. It puts some more money in their pocket in exchange for teams manipulating their service time, basically.

According to agent Ryan Galla at CAA Baseball (h/t MLBTR), the projected Super Two cutoff for this coming offseason is two years and 128 days of service time, which is typically written as 2.128. David Phelps came into the season with 1.156 years of service time, so unless he gets shipped to the minors for about four weeks, he will qualify as a Super Two and go through arbitration four times instead of three. He will still not be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season.

Phelps will get a nice raise through arbitration but nothing crazy. He’d have to move into the rotation and pitch very well (and do it soon) for that. Phelps came into the season with ten wins and a 4.11 ERA in 186.1 career innings, and that’s the stuff that matters in arbitration. Not his FIP or his WAR. Old school stats reign supreme in arbitration. Tyson Ross went to arbitration with nine wins and a 4.34 ERA in 273.2 career innings last winter, which earned him $1.98M in his first year as a Super Two. That seems like a decent comparable for Phelps at this point.

The only other Yankee on the Super Two bubble is Austin Romine, who came into the year at 1.143 years of service time. He collected a bunch of service time while on the DL two years ago, in case you’re wondering why that number seems so high. Romine will reportedly not get the call to replace Frankie Cervelli today, which hurts his Super Two chances. He needs to get called up very soon and remain on the MLB roster (or the DL) for the rest of the season to have a shot at qualifying. That seems unlikely, but who knows. Even if does qualify, his 2015 salary should be a six-figure sum.

Nova and especially Pineda will be the Yankees’ big arbitration cases after this season. If Pineda keeps pitching like he has in his first two starts, he’ll be due a huge raise even after missing all that time to shoulder surgery. Kelley could get a nice salary bump depending on how many saves he picks up as well. Phelps will likely be a Super Two, and while he isn’t due a huge raise for next season, it does carry over and affect his future salaries.

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