Archive for Hot Stove League
Via Buster Olney: In the wake of the Masahiro Tanaka deal, the Yankees internally believe they are done adding pricey free agents this winter. “I don’t think it’s realistic to think there’ll be more heavy lifting that can take place,” said Brian Cashman during a press conference this afternoon.
The team has signed Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Hiroki Kuroda, and Carlos Beltran to deals worth more than $15M annually this winter. I don’t think it’s surprising the Yankees are done with the big money additions but they still have holes to fill, specifically in the bullpen. Adding another infielder and heck, even another starter would be nice as well.
Via MLBTR: The Yankees are one of several teams to talk to Brett Tomko as he attempts a comeback. The right-hander has battled arm problems in recent years, but he’s healthy now and was able to spend time pitching in winter ball. He is planning to work out for teams in the coming weeks.
Tomko, 40, last pitched in the big leagues back in 2011, when he chucked 17.2 ineffective innings with the Rangers. You probably remember his brief cameo with the 2009 Yankees. Tomko says he is open to going to Triple-A and mentoring young pitchers, and it sounds like he’s already thinking about a post-playing career in coaching. The Yankees have signed a ton of pitchers to minor league deals in recent weeks. If they add him to the pile, great. If not, oh well. No reason to get worked up over it either way.
These next five days are going to be all about Masahiro Tanaka. The right-hander has until 5pm ET on Friday to sign with an MLB team, otherwise he’ll return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for another year. I don’t see him returning to Japan. Especially not with five clubs reportedly making nine-figure offers. The Yankees are said to be one of those teams.
New York will not make another major move until the Tanaka situation is resolved — every club seems to be doing the same thing — and while adding a starter should be the top priority, the team also needs to fill out its bullpen. Just yesterday we heard they are seeking a proven late-inning arm to pair with David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton. Add a bullpen arm is a necessity more than a luxury at this point.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals would like to trade current setup man and former closer Drew Storen. Washington is in the mix for the still available Grant Balfour, and trading Storen would be a cost-saving move. Does the 26-year-old right-hander make sense for the bullpen-needy Yankees? Let’s look.
- From his big league debut in May 2010 through the 2012 season, Storen posted a 2.96 ERA (3.13 FIP) with good to great strikeout (8.39 K/9 and 23.0 K%), walk (2.80 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%), and ground ball (45.9%) rates in 161 innings. He also handled lefties (.261 wOBA against) as well as he handled righties (.270).
- Storen is one of those rare relievers who will use four pitches regularly: mid-90 two and four-seam fastballs, upper-80s changeup, and low-80s slider. That deep arsenal is why he had no platoon split.
- The only thing Storen has not done in his short career is be a long reliever. He has experience closing (52-for-60 in save chances from 2010-12), he’s been a setup man, and he did the middle relief thing earlier in his career. Nothing would be new to him.
- Storen will earn $3.45M next season, his second of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two. He has at least one minor league option remaining and will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.
- Storen was not particularly good last season, pitching to a 4.52 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 61.2 innings while spending roughly two weeks in Triple-A. Lefties destroyed him (.347 wOBA against) and he had a career worst homer rate (1.02 HR/9) as well.
- Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow limited Storen to only 30.1 innings in 2012. His fastball velocity has slipped a bit over the years and his slider whiff rate last year (11.44%) was way lower than the previous three years (15.49%).
- Storen has had some high-profile meltdowns, specifically blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game Five of the 2012 NLDS. The Nationals clearly lost confidence in him after that even though they insist otherwise.
It’s possible Storen’s issues last year were related to simple bad ball-in-play luck — his career-high .319 BABIP in 2013 was way higher than his .267 mark from 2010-12. Weird stuff like that can happen when you’re talking about a game that involves hitting a round ball with a
round cylindrical bat onto a large swath of grass, especially in the confines of 60-something innings. The elbow surgery, slight velocity decline, and possible confidence hit from blowing the 2012 NLDS may have also been (and likely were) factors.
Given his poor year and the fact that the Nationals have made it clear they’ve lost faith in him, Storen qualifies as a buy-low candidate. He’s still young and the upside is three years of an above-average to lights out late-inning reliever. If worse comes to worst, he could always be non-tendered. It’s difficult to come up with trades involving similar relievers at similar points of their career (Mark Melancon? Addison Reed? Ernesto Frieri?), so who knows what it would take to acquire him. Bill Ladson says the Nationals are looking to trade for a backup catcher, but I doubt Austin Romine gets it down without a good secondary piece. (I don’t mean Eduardo Nunez either.)
It’s worth pointing out that the Yankees drafted Storen out of high school back in the day (34th round in 2007), so they liked him at some point in the not too distant past. There is a tiny bit of familiarity there, but, even if there wasn’t, the club needs late-inning bullpen help and Storen looked to be on the path to becoming one of the best relievers in the game less than 18 months ago. Washington has soured on him and, like teammate Danny Espinosa, there might be an opportunity for the Yankees to acquire him for 75 cents on the dollar. There are some red flags, no doubt, but the same is true of every available reliever.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees have “indicated a desire” to bring in another reliever to help David Robertson and Shawn Kelley in the late innings. They signed Matt Thornton a few weeks ago, but he is a left-handed specialist more than anything at this point of his career. They’ve also signed a bunch of relievers to minor league deals in recent weeks (Matt Daley, Robert Coello, Brian Gordon, etc.) but seem to be looking for some more certainty.
The free agent market doesn’t offer many appealing options right now. Grant Balfour comes with wrist and knee concerns, Fernando Rodney is pretty unpredictable, and it’s tough to consider others like Luis Ayala, Kevn Gregg, and Francisco Rodriguez impact relievers. There are some interesting reclamation projects out there, with Joel Hanrahan and Eric O’Flaherty standing out as the best of the bunch. Both are rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and expected back at midseason. It’ll be interesting to see how the Yankees address their bullpen. It looks pretty sketchy right now.
Via Nikkan Sports (translated article): The Yankees were one of several teams to submit a formal offer to Masahiro Tanaka by Thursday, which apparently was Tanaka’s self-imposed deadline for offers. He has until 5pm ET on Friday to sign. Guess he wanted a few days to mull things over.
The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, and Cubs also made offers according to Nikkan Sports, and all of the offers were worth more than $100M across six years. Reports out of Japan have been very sketchy throughout this entire process — at one point they said Tanaka would not be posted at all — so take this with a huge grain of salt. This whole thing will be over within six days, one way or another.
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are one of several clubs to request Ervin Santana’s medical records recently. The team was only doing their due diligence. Brian Cashman recently indicated they could fill out the rotation with cheap pitcher if they fail to sign Masahiro Tanaka.
Santana, 31, had a 3.24 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 211 innings for the Royals last year. He has been a horse, throwing at least 210 innings in three of the last four years, but he’s also very homer prone. His career homerun rate (1.22 HR/9 and 11.0% HR/FB) is nearly identical to Phil Hughes‘ (1.29 HR/9 and 10.2% HR/FB) even though he’s spent the majority of his career in pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium. Santana was awesome last year but his skillset and Yankee Stadium are unlikely to mix well.
The Brewers have signed Mark Reynolds to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, the team announced. He’ll compete for their wide-open first base job. The Yankees had interest in bringing Reynolds back and reportedly offered him a minor league deal as well, but he obviously went for the better opportunity. Can’t blame him. I would have liked to have seen Reynolds brought back to fill that last open bench spot, but what can you do.
Via Steven Marcus: The Yankees are not planning to make any additions to the big league roster until the Masahiro Tanaka situation plays out. His signing deadline is 5pm ET next Friday, so only nine days away. “We are doing nothing until Tanaka resolves,” said a team official to Marcus.
From the looks of things, pretty much every team is waiting for Tanaka to sign before moving forward with their offseason, especially on the pitching side of things. Once Tanaka signs, guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Ervin Santana will start to come off the board and things will heat back up. As Joe explained earlier, the Dodgers are preoccupied with Clayton Kershaw’s extension and now is the time for the Yankees to make a major push for Tanaka. Once that is done, bullpen and infield help become the top priority.
Via Buster Olney: Grant Balfour failed his pre-signing physical with the Orioles last month due to concerns about his wrist and knee. I assume it’s the knee he had surgically repaired (torn meniscus) last February. It was initially reported that the deal fell through because something scary popped up in his shoulder, which is obviously a big deal for a pitcher.
The Yankees were said to have renewed interest in Balfour shortly after things fell apart with the Orioles. It has now been 24 days since that deal fell through and, aside from some rumors within the first two or three days, things around Balfour have been very quiet. Very few reports of interested teams, stuff like that. The medicals just might be pretty bad. I’d love to see the Yankees swoop in and get him cheap, but if the guy isn’t healthy, then the guy isn’t healthy and you have to look elsewhere.
Unless the team changes course in the next few weeks, the Yankees are unlikely to add another infielder on a guaranteed Major League contract this offseason. They’ll attempt to replace the suspended Alex Rodriguez with a bunch of scrap heap pickups and hope one of them sticks at some point. I don’t like that approach but that’s what the team seems to be doing. So be it.
While signing a player to a big league contract may be off the table, the Yankees could still trade for a 40-man roster player. They have a 40-man logjam of their own and would be able to clear a spot (or two) in a deal. Jon Morosi reported yesterday that New York called the Padres about their infield depth in the not too distant past, perhaps right after they learned A-Rod‘s fate. San Diego has so many extra infielders that they had no room on the 40-man for Dean Anna earlier this winter, so they shipped him to the Yankees for a Single-A reliever.
Do any of the Padres’ extra infielders make sense for the Bombers? Surely at least one does, right? Let’s look at what they have to offer.
UTIL Logan Forsythe
Forsythe, who turns 27 today, is the reason for this post, really. Morosi mentioned he was the “most realistic target,” but I don’t know if that is him speculating or reporting the Yankees are targeting him. Either way, Forsythe definitely makes sense for a team in need of both second and third base help. He has extensive experience at both positions — his defense is okay at best, more likely below-average if he plays regularly — and he even started to mix in some corner outfield work last year as well.
Thanks to a year-long battle with plantar fasciitis that prevented him from playing at 100%, Forsythe hit only .214/.281/.332 (73 wRC+) with six homers and six steals in 243 plate appearances last season. Foot and knee problems have hampered him over the years. Forsythe did show a lot of promise during an extended stint as San Diego’s everyday second baseman in 2012, hitting .273/.343/.390 (110 wRC+) with six homers and eight steals in 350 plate appearances. His career numbers in Triple-A are off the charts: .314/.446/.540 (154 wRC+) with 11 homers and 11 steals in 325 plate appearances.
“Forsythe is a natural third baseman who’s below-average at second but is good enough to fill in there for a team without a clear in-house option, and his high contact rates give him offensive value even with his lack of power,” said Keith Law (subs. req’d) following that strong 2012 season. Forsythe is a) still in his pre-arbitration years, b) a right-handed hitter who has mashed lefties in the show (124 wRC+), c) capable of playing two positions of need, and d) a buy-low candidate because his stock is down following the disappointing year and injury. If the Yankees aren’t going to spend big on a third baseman, he makes an awful lot of sense as a low-profile trade target.
2B/3B Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko is probably the least available Padres infielder. The 25-year-old hit .249/.301/.444 (110 wRC+) with 23 homers in 525 plate appearances as a rookie last season while playing solid defense at second and third bases. Scouting reports and his minor league track record suggest the power is real and his walk rate will eventually come up. San Diego is going to build around Gyorko and they’re more likely to sign him long-term than trade him for help elsewhere. His age, right-handed pop, and defensive versatility would be perfect for the Yankees. Acquiring him just isn’t all that realistic, however.
3B Chase Headley
The Yankees have been trying to trade for Headley for years, but the team’s lack of viable trade chips has hurt their pursuit. He is entering his walk year and is projected to make $10M, which isn’t all that pricey for the Padres anymore thanks to their local television deal as well as the new national television contracts. Signing him to a long-term extension is probably off the table though.
Headley, 29, was an MVP candidate in 2012, hitting .286/.376/.498 (145 wRC+) with 31 homers and 17 steals to go along with excellent third base defense. He dropped down to .250/.347/.400 (113 wRC+) with 13 homers and eight steals last year after breaking a thumb sliding into a base in Spring Training and coming back sooner than expected. A broken finger sabotaged his 2011 season, but otherwise Headley has consistently been an above-average hitter with double-digit homers, double-digit steals, and strong defense since becoming a full-timer in 2008.
I’ve always been a big Headley fan and think he’d be a pretty damn close to a star if you get him out of Petco Park. A switch-hitter with power and patience (11.8% walk rate since 2011) who steals bases and plays the hell out of third base? I’ll take that player on my team everyday of the week. Trading for Headley would be an enormous boost for the 2014 Yankees but it doesn’t seem like the two clubs match up for a deal right now. They’ll have to wait and pony up nine figures in free agency next winter.
SS Ryan Jackson
The Yankees don’t have much need for the 25-year-old Jackson, who is an excellent defender but can’t hit a lick. They have the same player in the older and more expensive Brendan Ryan. The Padres would probably be much more open to moving Jackson than incumbent shortstop and stolen base machine Everth Cabrera despite his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. If the Yankees and Padres are going to get together for a trade involving an infielder, Forsythe is the most realistic target by far.