Archive for Irresponsible Rumormongering

Via George King: The Yankees may have been waiting until the end of the World Series to contact Raul Ibanez and “gauge his interest in becoming their hitting coach.” Ibanez was not on the Royals’ World Series roster but he was still traveling with the team and stuff. They kept him around for his leadership.

Ibanez, 42, is more or less done as a player (61 wRC+ in 2014) and he’s long been considered a future coaching candidate because he’s very well-liked and a great communicator. He has zero coaching experience though — Ibanez has said he’d be open to coaching down the road — so who knows what kind of hitting coach he would be. The Yankees reportedly contacted Eric Hinske about the job as well, which shows they aren’t necessarily prioritizing experience at the position.

Via Bill Madden: The Phillies wanted top outfield prospect Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd at the trade deadline. The report comes after Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Matt Gelb his deadline inactivity was due to other teams not being aggressive enough. Other reports indicate clubs did not believe Philadelphia had sincere interest in moving their players given their unwillingness to negotiate.

Judge, 22, is having a monster year after being selected with the second of the Yankees’ three first round picks last summer. He’s hitting .319/.429/.509 (165 wRC+) with 20 doubles, 15 homers, and a system-leading 74 walks in 108 games split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. Judge for Byrd is silly and the Yankees would never do it, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with initially asking for a big return. If teams never did that, there wouldn’t be any Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trades. It’s the unwillingness to budge that’s the real problem. For the Phillies, anyway.

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11:09pm: Jon Heyman to the rescue! He says the Yankees do have interest in Kennedy but not at the cost of Jagielo and Clarkin. Maybe Bowden meant “discussing” as in “that’s who the Padres asked for.”

11:08pm: Via Jim Bowden: The Yankees and Padres are discussing a trade that would bring Ian Kennedy back to New York in exchange for 2013 first rounders Eric Jagielo and Ian Clarkin. The Yankees had a scout on hand to watch IPK’s start last night, according to multiple reports. That’s an awful lot to give up for Kennedy, who has been merely good and not great the last few years. Here’s my Scouting The Market post on him. This one doesn’t really pass the sniff test, but we’ll see.

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(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The Yankees need bullpen help and they have some extra outfielders lying around, ergo trading an outfielder for a reliever seems like an obvious move to make. It’s not that easy though. It takes two teams to tango and the outfielders worth trading aren’t all that appealing. Finding a trade match won’t be easy. Then again, Ken Rosenthal threw this out there late Saturday night:

Don’t be surprised if the Diamondbacks trade right-hander J.J. Putz following their addition of former White Sox closer Addison Reed. Putz is signed for $7 million in 2014, and the D-backs most likely would be required to accept a comparable salary in return.

Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, earning $6.5 million, could be one possibility, though it is not known whether Yankees ownership would part with Suzuki or how he would adjust to a backup role.

First things first: that’s not really a rumor. It looks like speculation more than anything. Of course, it also seemed like speculation when Rosenthal said the Phillies could trade Cliff Lee to the Mariners for prospects and then acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays a few years ago, so who knows. (The original Lee-Halladay story seems to be gone, sadly.) The man is well-connected and his speculation tends to be informed speculation, so maybe there are some legs to an Ichiro-Putz swap.

The Diamondbacks overhauled their roster this offseason and part of that overhaul included trading for Reed, who figures to take over as closer. Putz was shaky early last season before landing on the DL for two months with an elbow problem in early-May. He never did get his closer’s job back, instead spending the rest of the year in a setup role. Putz, who will turn 37 next month, had a 2.36 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 34.1 innings in 2013. From 2010-2012, he posted a 2.60 ERA (2.48 FIP) in 166.1 innings. He was excellent.

Injuries, specifically elbow injuries, have been a big problem for Putz over the years and therein lies the risk. He’s had two elbow surgeries (nerve problem in 2008 and bone chips in 2009) and dealt with various strains and inflammation (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013) throughout his career, so missing time last summer was not exactly a surprise. He’s an even bigger risk now that’s approaching 40, but, when he’s healthy, Putz is pretty good. Certainly better than most of the guys the Yankees currently have lined up for the bullpen.

One potential obstacle standing in the way of an Ichiro-Putz trade is Arizona’s outfield depth. They aren’t the only team with a logjam. The D’Backs are currently slated to go into the season with Mark Trumbo in left, A.J. Pollock in center, and Cody Ross in right with Gerardo Parra the heavily used fourth outfielder. Tony Campana, who is very similar to Ichiro at this point, is the fifth outfielder. Maybe they prefer Ichiro’s experience and name value to whatever Campana brings to the table.

Ichiro’s role on the Yankees right now is basically pinch-runner and defensive replacement. Not exactly hard to replace. They’ve been shopping him in hopes of saving some money but trading him for a useful (albeit risky) bullpen arm like Putz would be even better. Their contract situations are similar — they’re owed almost identical salaries in 2014 as Rosenthal pointed out, and both guys will become free agents next winter — and the Yankees would take a step towards addressing a pressing need. I don’t really care how the deal would help the D’Backs, to be honest. All I know is if they’re open to dealing Putz for Ichiro, the Yankees should jump all over it.

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The Yankees are going to have what figures to be a massive pre-game tribute to Mariano Rivera on September 22nd, celebrating his Hall of Fame career on the final Sunday home game of the season. As it turns out, Metallica will be in New York to play at The Apollo (!?) on September 21st with no scheduled appearances in the following days. A live performance of Enter Sandman sure sounds like something that could happen on Rivera’s tribute night day, but obviously nothing is confirmed. This is probably something the Yankees want to keep under wraps. Anyway, that’s out there now. (h/t NYDN)

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Brian Cashman and Co. have been spending a good deal of time at the local junk yard, searching for scraps that can perhaps fit into their Frankenstein of a 2013 roster. At this point, given the many weaknesses, any available player represents a potential upgrade; even Vernon Wells could prove better than fellow scrap heap additions Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch.

Today a few teams lumped a few more players onto the scrap heap. Looked at from the perspective of the defending AL East champs they normally wouldn’t merit consideration. But with these Yankees, anyone is in play.

Lyle Overbay: The Red Sox signed Mike Napoli to play first base, but with the issues they discovered during his physical they sought a MLB-caliber backup plan. That turned out to be Lyle Overbay, whom they signed to a minor league deal in late January. Had he made the Red Sox it would have been his fifth team in the last four years. Today they cut him loose, so he’ll be seeking a different home for that fifth team.

With David Ortiz starting the year on the DL, it seemed that Overbay had a chance to make the Sox roster. Apparently they think they can get more out of Mike Carp and perhaps some of their younger players. For his part, Overbay hit well in parts of two seasons with Arizona, but has generally struggled since 2009. He could provide a temporary solution at first base, perhaps platooning with Juan Rivera. Given the Yankees’ vulnerability against left-handed pitching, though, it seems more likely they’ll stick with the right-handed bat.

Tyler Greene: If the Astros cut a player, he’s not likely to be of much use to any other team. Ask 30 baseball pundits who will have the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and all 30 will guess Houston. Why would the Yankees have any use for a player the Astros couldn’t even use? Because at shortstop the pickings are slim.

If Derek Jeter opens the season on the DL, Eduardo Nunez becomes the starting SS with Jayson Nix backing him up. If Nunez’s throwing problems persist and he’s no longer a viable option at SS, Nix isn’t a guy you can really play there every day. That leaves Reegie Corona as the next option on the depth chart. Greene, a 2005 first-round pick, hasn’t hit a lick: .224/.292/.356 in 689 MLB PA. In the minors his only real successes came in the Pacific Coast League, where Bubba Crosby once hit .361/.410/.635. Yet he’s still a likely upgrade over Corona, and gives the Yankees a decent defensive option if Jeter remains immobile and Nunez falters.

Ramon Hernandez: He’s not on the scrap heap yet, but it certainly appears he’s headed there. Troy Renck of the Denver Post says that that Hernandez will either be traded or released at some point. He’ll earn $3.2 million this year, and given his abysmal 2012 season, combined with his advanced age, either the Rockies will eat almost all of that in a trade or else be forced to release him.

The Yankees seem committed to Francisco Cervelli to start the season. The disdain for Cervelli is a bit over the top in my opinion, seeing as he does own a career .271/.339/.353 line in about a full season’s worth of PA. Still, that’s spread out pretty far so the Yankees could use a backup plan. Austin Romine will likely need some more time, and Chris Stewart is hardly an option to start. Hernandez was worse last year, but he also suffered from a hand injury. At 37, though, he’s quite a risk. The Yanks might rather go with who they have in camp already than an unknown outsider.

In normal years, we might have laughed off these players. Who needs these old, underperforming players? But with injuries and general lack of depth this year, everyone becomes an option. At this point it would be something of a surprise if the Yankees didn’t sign one of these three players.

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Friday: Wally Matthews hears there is “no chance” the Yankees will pursue Bourn, nevermind sign him. Not only is his price tag too high, but the team is looking for a right-handed outfield bat, not another lefty. No surprise here.

Sunday: Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are believed to be “quietly interested” in Michael Bourn. With Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton off the board, Bourn and Nick Swisher are by far the two best outfielders left on the free agent market.

Bourn, 30 later this month, hit .274/.348/.391 (104 wRC+) with 42 steals (in 55 attempts) for the Braves this year. He’s one of the very defensive outfielders in the game and has a classic slap-hitting, leadoff man profile from the left side of the plate. The Yankees already have two of those guys in Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, so their supposed interest doesn’t make much sense. Add in the fact that he’s a Scott Boras client (no discount) and would require a draft pick to sign, this one doesn’t pass the sniff test.

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During the Winter Meetings last week, Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported the Indians had the framework of an Asdrubal Cabrera trade in place with an unknown team before things fell apart. They would have received an big leaguer pitcher and two prospects for their shortstop, who would have been moved to a new position by his new team. I connected the dots and speculated that the Yankees may have been that unknown team give their needs and surpluses.

In an update today, Hoynes reports that no, it wasn’t the Yankees. It was the Phillies. They offered the Tribe right-hander Vance Worley and two prospects before backing out of the deal when the Indians asked for a fourth player. Philadelphia has since traded Worley to the Twins for Ben Revere and would have used Cabrera at third base in deference to Jimmy Rollins. The Yankees, meanwhile, seem likely to fill their various roster holes through free agency (on one-year contracts) rather than with trades.

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(Bob Levey/Getty)

Here’s a nugget from Paul Hoynes, Indians beat writer extraordinaire for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer…

The going price on [shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera] is three to four players, preferably four. The Indians had the framework of a deal in place in which they would have received one big-league pitcher and two high-level prospects. When the Indians asked for a third prospect, the deal dissolved.

The particular team the Indians were negotiating with planned to change Cabrera’s position, but right now he’s the top shortstop available this winter through free agency or trades.

Tell me that doesn’t have the Yankees written all over it. One big league pitcher? Take your pick of Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Two high-level prospects? Pick two, though I’m not sure if “high-level” means top prospects or guys who played at Double-A and Triple-A. Asking Cabrera to change positions? Makes sense now that Alex Rodriguez will miss the start of next season. Could be a coincidence, but the glove sure does fit.

Cabrera, 27, has hit a solid .272/.335/.443 (116 wRC+) with 41 homers over the last two seasons. He’s a switch-hitter with no platoon split (115 wRC+ vs. RHP and 117 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011) and depending on your choice of defensive metric, he’s either a slightly-above-average (DRS and FRAA) or well-below-average defender (UZR) at short with minimal experience at the hot corner (four defensive outs in 2007). The Indians signed him to a short-term extension this past April, and he’s owned $6.5M next year and $10M the year after ($8.25M average annual value for luxury tax purposes) before qualifying for free agency. With A-Rod out and Nick Swisher‘s and Russell Martin‘s offense unlikely to be fully replaced, it’s easy to see why the Yankees would have pursued Cabrera to the point where they were on the verge of a deal.

Just to be clear, this is total speculation. Hoynes reported the Indians had a deal in place that fell through, and I’m just connecting the dots. Given the number of teams that need a shortstop and could offer a similar package (the Rays, Red Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks), it’s the part about asking Cabrera to change positions that sticks out. That said, the Dodgers are reportedly committed to Hanley Ramirez at short and could have interest in Asdrubal as a third baseman. The Phillies could want him at the hot corner as well. Even if the team in the rumor was not the Yankees, Cabrera is a player they should look into acquiring since seems the price reasonable (at least to me).

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12:33am: Erik Boland hears there is “no truth” to the report, so the Yankees have not re-signed Ichiro. Joel Sherman says there’s aren’t even serious talks ongoing.

8:36am: According to Nikkan Sports (translated article), the Yankees have re-signed Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract worth $5M plus incentives. Sweeny Murti, however, says it is just a rumor and not a done deal. No offense to the reporters overseas, but I have more trust in the local scribes. That price certainly passes the sniff test though.

Ichiro, 39, has indicated he “strongly wants to stay” with the team and is willing to wait for them to take care of other offseason business first. If the Yankees do bring him back as the primary right fielder, adding a right-handed hitting outfielder for the bench will be an absolute must. The same goes for a big bat at DH, because they’re going to be losing quite a bit of offense by replacing Nick Swisher with Ichiro.

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