Archive for Hot Stove League
The Orioles have finally made a move to improve their team. According to multiple reports, Baltimore has signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a fiour-year contract worth approximately $50M. They’ll also have to forfeit the 17th overall pick. The Yankees were never connected to Jimenez but he was often mentioned as a potential fifth starter candidate should be remain unsigned for another few weeks and his asking price drop even more. That was always a long shot though.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are done signing Major League free agents now that spring Training has begun. Brian Cashman is most concerned about the infield but they were unable to work out deals for Omar Infante and Logan Forsythe, and are apparently unwilling to meet Stephen Drew’s asking price.
While Drew is certainly the headliner here, the “done signing Major League free agents” thing applies to the bullpen as well. I’m much more confident in the team’s ability to create a good bullpen out of their in-house options than I am in their ability to cobble together a good infield, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see them add another veteran arm. The problem is none are available. Not good ones, anyway.
According to multiple reports, utility man Emilio Bonifacio has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. Jon Heyman says he turned down big league contract offers from other teams because he felt Chicago gave him the best opportunity. There were never any reports indicating the Yankees had interest in Bonifacio, but he did make some sense for that final option bench spot. Oh well.
Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees continue to have no interest in Stephen Drew even though they now know Derek Jeter will retire following the season. For what it’s worth, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says several teams are concerned about the infielder’s medicals, specifically regarding his right ankle. He suffered a severe break and torn ligaments when he caught spike sliding into home plate back in 2011.
I’ve said I believe Drew is a good fit for the Yankees more times than I care to count by now, though I think the team may be waiting to see what happens with Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz before pursuing Drew. Diaz, as I explained in yesterday’s mailbag, is eligible to sign next Wednesday and the Yankees have been scouting him since last summer. If they spend big bucks on an infielder, they might prefer to spend it on the 23-year-old Diaz rather than the 30-year-old Drew. I dunno, we’ll see.
Everyone likes a shiny new toy. The Yankees have plenty of them this spring, having spent hundreds of millions on seven new players. But here’s the thing about shiny new toys: no matter how many we have, we never mind having another.
The desire to sign Ubaldo Jimenez absolutely stems from the idea of acquiring another shiny new toy. Removing that aspect from the equation reveals reality. The Yankees don’t need to sign Jimenez.
At the same time, there are practical reasons why signing Jimenez could benefit the Yankees now and in the future.
The Pineda factor
If the Yankees signed Jimenez, they would bring five surefire starting pitchers to camp. It would terminate the fifth starter battle, effectively ending Michael Pineda‘s chances of breaking camp with the team.
By all appearances, Pineda is ready to win a rotation spot. Given his youth and potential to help in 2015 and beyond, he is the ideal fifth starter candidate. Why remove him from the race, then?
1) Pineda has never thrown more than 171 innings in a season, and that came two full years ago. He threw just 40 last year. Coming off major shoulder surgery, can the Yankees count on Pineda for even 120 innings this year?
2) Five starters might come into camp, but what are the chances all five are healthy and effective come June 1? They’ll need a sixth starter before long, whether that’s due to injury or even Ivan Nova pitching like he did in 2012. Pineda will have opportunities.
3) If the Yankees don’t need a sixth starter until, say mid-May, they might even eke out yet another year of control on Pineda. This is not a decisive factor by any means, but rather an added bonus.
The Yankees can manage Pineda’s workload much more closely in AAA, where the results won’t affect their playoff chances. They can pace him for 120 or 130 innings (if that’s their goal for him) and adjust when he’s needed in the majors.
In an ideal world, Michael Pineda breaks camp as the fifth starter and pitches like a No. 2 or No. 3 all season long. In reality, that’s not at all likely. Adding Jimenez would hold back Pineda, but it might make his transition back to the majors a bit easier.
Warren, Phelps, Nuno
Even if the Yankees don’t sign Jimenez, they have alternatives in case Pineda does indeed require more seasoning. Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno all started games last year. Why not just use them?
None of them strikes me as a long-term starter on a first-division team. If needed to spot start four or five times during the season, they’re fine. But are they guys capable of taking the ball every five days while facing off against AL East offenses?
Consider also the bullpen situation. Both Phelps and Warren have shown success in the bullpen, and could strengthen a unit that has just lost the greatest closer of all time. There are plenty of bullpen spots up for grabs this spring. It’s doubtful any of the candidates fit the bill better than Phelps and Warren. Even if one of them does shine, there are four total spots up for grabs.
The man himself
It has become clear that Jimenez will not get an A.J. Burnett contract. Rumors swirled that he was willing to take three years and $39 million, but he might not get even that much. What seems more realistic is the Kyle Lohse special, three years and $33 million.
That price seems reasonable for a 30-year-old who just put up the best strikeout rate of his career. Jimenez started slowly, which was concerning after his nosedive in 2012. But he came back strongly and looked straight dominant in the second half. He might not be an ace, but in this situation he wouldn’t need to be one, nor would he get paid like one.
Three years seems a reasonable commitment. The Yankees will almost certainly need another starter next year, assuming Hiroki Kuroda retires. Jimenez could give the Yankees another decent starter while they clean up the mess on the farm.
Do the Yankees need to sign Ubaldo Jimenez? Absolutely not. That’s money they could spend elsewhere, namely the infield, even if they don’t spend it until mid-season. (Because it’s tough to spend money now when you can count the remaining infielder free agents on one hand.)
But if Jimenez falls into their laps for three years and $33 million?
Even ignoring the shiny new toy aspect, it’s something they’d have to consider.
Via Darren Wolfson: The Yankees were one of several teams in inquire about Ervin Santana recently. Ken Rosenthal says the right-hander is finally progressing towards a deal, but Tim Dierkes hears talks still have a ways to go before anything is finalized.
Last month we heard the Yankees requested Santana’s medical records, but that was before they signed Masahiro Tanaka and it was said to only be due diligence. The 31-year-old pitched quite well last season (3.24 ERA and 3.93 FIP) but he’s very fly ball and homerun prone, making him a bad fit for Yankee Stadium. Santana would be an upgrade over the team’s internal fifth starter candidates, though I would be surprised if the team spent that kind of money on another starter at this point.
Via Adam Rubin: Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras are currently seeking a multi-year contract that includes an opt-out clause after the first season. The Mets are not willing to do a deal like that and it’s unclear if the Red Sox, his only other apparent suitor at this point, would be open to the opt-out.
The Yankees have not been pursuing Drew in recent weeks but their infield is a mess and he is by far the best available infielder. He’s a really good fit, especially since Boras has already said he’s open to playing positions other than shortstop. Since the Bombers would only have to give up their second rounder to sign Drew, they could conceivably wind up with a better draft pick next year if he has a strong Yankee Stadium-aided season and opts out. I dunno, this seems like one of those moves that won’t happen because it makes too much sense.
Via Joel Sherman: The Marlins have signed utility man Jeff Baker to a two-year contract worth $3.75M, plus incentives. The Yankees had interest in him earlier this offseason and he made a lot of sense as the right-handed half of a third base platoon. Asking him to play the hot corner everyday would have been a real stretch though. Baker signed a minor league deal last summer, so I’m guessing that two-year guarantee (plus the promise of lots of playing time) put the Marlins over the top.
It could just be posturing, but Brian Cashman has said the Yankees are done with their major moves for the winter following the Masahiro Tanaka signing. The club still needs infield and bullpen help, but a trade involving similarly priced players is more likely than a free agent signing. Swinging a trade may be difficult because the Yankees don’t have many trade chips aside from Brett Gardner right now.
A few weeks ago we heard about a possible Ichiro Suzuki for J.J. Putz swap, but that seemed to be Ken Rosenthal’s speculation more than anything. The Yankees are shopping Ichiro and that trade is on the right track — it involves two players with similar salaries who have been marginalized by their teams this winter. Ichiro is an extra outfielder making $6.25M in 2014, Putz a middle reliever owed $7M. It’s a good ol’ fashioned baseball trade. Both teams fill a need by trading from a position of depth with no fancy accounting or throw-ins.
Finding a trade match for Ichiro is rather difficult. The Yankees need to find a team not only in need of a speedy, defense first outfielder, but a team with a similarly priced infielder or reliever to spare. Putz likely represents the best, most realistic case scenario. Here are four others who could be matches.
Mike Adams, Phillies
Philadelphia has been looking for bullpen help all offseason at least partially because their two-year investment in Adams has gone south. The 35-year-old was one of the two or three most dominant setup relievers in the game from 2008-12 (1.98 ERA and 2.67 FIP), but back and shoulder problems limited him to only 25 innings last season. Adams had surgery to repair small tears in his labrum and rotator cuff in June and then needed surgery for a sports hernia in December. GM Ruben Amaro told Todd Zolecki that Adams won’t be ready for the start of Spring Training and will probably have the start of his season delayed.
The Phillies had interest in Ichiro last winter and they could use a defensively minded extra outfielder right now, plus Amaro loves big names. Ichiro makes sense for them, but, given his age and injuries, Adams isn’t a great fit for the Yankees. He is owed $7M this coming season ($6M club option for 2015) so the salaries match up well, but the team couldn’t count on him to be ready in time for Opening Day. There’s a lot of risk here and Adams has a history of shoulder problems (also had labrum and rotator cuff surgery in 2008). It would be awesome if he could get back to being his 2008-12 self but I don’t see how anyone could reasonably expect that.
Brandon League, Dodgers
We all knew League’s three-year, $22.5M contract would be bad the day he signed it last offseason, but I don’t think anyone expected it to go so bad so soon. The soon-to-be 31-year-old had a 5.30 ERA (4.93 FIP) in 54.1 innings last summer and didn’t just lose his closer’s job, he lost a setup job and a middle relief job as well. League was pulling mop-up duty by mid-June. The Dodgers have a full bullpen and some interesting arms in the minors, so they’d probably jump at the chance to unload the $15M left on League’s deal even though they aren’t shy about having a sky high payroll.
Los Angeles has a shockingly bad bench despite being an NL team with a massive payroll, plus Matt Kemp recently said he might not be ready in time for Opening Day following offseason ankle and shoulder surgery. Adding someone like Ichiro seems like a wise move on their part. League was awful last year — his strikeout (4.64 K/9 and 11.2 K%) and homerun (1.33 HR/9 and 19.0 HR/FB%) rates both declined big time — but he was very good from 2011-13 (2.97 ERA and 3.00 FIP) and he has AL East experience after spending the first few years of his career with the Blue Jays. I don’t think adding someone signed through 2015 is a bad idea, but the Yankees would have to be absolutely convinced they can fix League if they’re going to take on that contract.
Sean Marshall, Reds
Marshall, 31, is the only lefty among the three relievers in this post, but he is no specialist. He dominated both righties and lefties from 2010-12 (2.47 ERA and 2.12 FIP overall) before missing most of last season with a shoulder strain. When he’s right, Marshall is a high strikeout (10.35 K/9 and 27.9 K% from 2010-12), low walk (2.47 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), high ground ball (55.3%) reliever who can (and has) pitched in almost every situation. He was very, very good before that shoulder acted up last year.
The Reds owe Marshall $12M over the next two years and they tried to trade him earlier this winter, but talks with the Rockies fell apart due to some lingering concern about his health according to Troy Renck. That’s obviously a red flag. Cincinnati will attempt to fill their gaping center field/leadoff hitter void with speedy rookie Billy Hamilton, but they have been looking for some outfield depth and insurance in case that doesn’t work. Ichiro is certainly capable of filling that role. Again, I’m not against adding a player signed through 2015, but the Yankees would need to look over Marshall’s medicals thoroughly before pulling the trigger.
Cliff Pennington, Diamondbacks
There aren’t many extra infielders making Ichiro money, so the 30-year-old Pennington is among the closest at $3.25M in 2014. He’ll also remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2015. Pennington is essentially the infield version of Ichiro — he can’t hit (76 wRC+ from 2011-13) but he’s an outstanding defender who won’t kill you as an everyday guy because of his glove. The problem is the Yankees have almost the exact same player in Brendan Ryan and I’m not sure how many no-hit, all-glove infielders one team can roster. Arizona has plenty of young infielders and Pennington could be the odd man out, but he’s not what New York needs right now. Trading Ichiro for him would be about saving $3M or so and putting it towards a free agent reliever.
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Unless someone surprises them with an offer, I think the Yankees are best off holding onto Ichiro for another few weeks. Some team is bound to lose an outfielder or two to injury in Spring Training — that team could even be the Yankees! — which could improve his market. The Bombers have an obvious replacement in Zoilo Almonte, who is sound defensively and a switch-hitter who might actually provide some offense off the bench. Putz and the three relievers in this post all have some kind of injury and/or performance concern, but that’s what you get when you’re talking about trading pricey spare parts.
According to multiple reports this weekend, the Yankees are not among the serious suitors for Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon. The Orioles and Rangers are considered the favorites to land him with the Red Sox, Giants, and Indians also showing recent interest. It will reportedly take a two-year deal worth $10M to sign him.
Yoon, 27, threw for teams at UC Irvine last week and is traveling to Arizona for more showcase events. The Yankees were connected to him earlier this winter and agent Scott Boras said he specifically planned to talk to the team about the righty at some point. Yoon had some shoulder problems last year and isn’t overpowering, so he is expected to fill a bullpen role in MLB. The Bombers need bullpen help but are apparently unwilling to add more payroll following the Masahiro Tanaka signing.