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(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Just a few weeks ago, friend of RAB Jack Moore wrote an article at The Score about the potentially boring hot stove, not only this season, but for future seasons. His overall point remains strong:

The shift to buying out multiple free agent years in long-term extensions for young stars has led to fewer and fewer young stars hitting the free agent market in their 20s. The advent of the second wild card has led more and more teams to believe they can contend, leading to fewer fire sales.

Thankfully, the hot stove has remained interesting, at least this off-season, thanks to teams acting early and aggressively. Moore might be correct in the long run; he’ll certainly be right come mid-December, when all those free agents are off the board and teams are pretty set. But for the last few weeks we’ve seen a peak of hot stove activity, and nearly every moment has been enjoyable — which seems a good transition into the first short.

Cano didn’t like Girardi?

The Yankees are clearly sold on Joe Girardi at the helm. They’ve now twice extended his contract after hiring him in 2008, the latest a four-year deal that could bring Girardi’s tenure to a decade. It makes sense, then, that the Yankees wouldn’t aggressively approach a free agent who has a known problem with the manager.

According to a George King report, Robinson Cano was no fan of Girardi.

According to three people who know Cano, he didn’t enjoy playing for manager Joe Girardi and that may have factored into the decision, though the Mariners giving him $60 million more than the Yankees offered ($175 million) likely had more to do with him leaving.

“Robbie didn’t like batting second, he wanted to bat in the middle of the order,” one person said. “The Yankees wanted him second because that was best for the team. He wanted to hit in the middle of the order to drive in runs [to increase his value].”

This could just be sour grapes; we do see that kind of behavior frequently from Boston writers when players leave the Red Sox. After all, if Cano batted lower in the order he might not have driven in any more runs. It’s not as though the Yanks were awash in players who could get on base for Cano.

(For what it’s worth, Cano did hit .308/.396/.560 in 182 PA batting second.)

Money won the day, no doubt. But perhaps Cano’s displeasure with Girardi was one among many reasons the Yankees declined to increase their offer beyond seven years and $175 million.

Spending spree

Despite losing Cano, the Yankees have spent lavishly so far this off-season. To be exact: $299 million on Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda, and Carlos Beltran. I’ve seen fans and media alike questioning how the Yankees spent so much on these players, particularly Ellsbury, and didn’t go the extra mile of five for Cano. There is certainly some sense to their spending, as wunderkind Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish notes:

In other words, the Yankees eschewed re-signing their star in order to spread money among many different positions of need. That number will look a lot different by the end of December, since the Yankees have plenty of remaining needs. But their overall strategy remains clear: don’t get caught up in too-long contracts and spread the wealth. You can disagree about its effectiveness, but it’s nice to see that they have a plan, because…

Dysfunctional Seattle

This article by Geoff Baker has made its rounds, so perhaps you’ve seen it. If not, it’s an eye-opening look into the Seattle front office. They’re painted as arrogant fools who surround themselves with yes-men, rather than people whose dissenting opinions could help the team make stronger, more informed decisions. Given Seattle’s woes in the last few years, including their lack of success with young players, it comes as little surprise that the front office has its issues.

(The article actually goes well with the book I’m currently reading.)

Baker talks to only former employees, so the story would probably look better if the other side told its half. Still, that Baker got two former employees to talk on the record is pretty remarkable in today’s environment of anonymous hatchet jobs. The Seattle organization seems to be the polar opposite of the Cardinals, which you can read about in this Q&A at FanGraphs.

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Chances the previous batter just hit a homer? ( Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Chances the previous batter just hit a homer? ( Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Trying something new today. People like to read on Sundays, right? So let’s take a short look at a few stories that probably won’t get full posts of their own, but are of interest to anyone who follows the Yankees daily.

Replacing Phil Hughes

When Brian Cashman said that he needed to find 400 innings this off-season, he mostly referred to the loss of Andy Pettitte and potential loss of Hiroki Kuroda. He’ll also need to find a replacement, perhaps internal, for Phil Hughes, who signed with the Twins yesterday.

In his four years as a starter (since 2010) Hughes has averaged under 150 innings per year, and he failed to eclipse that mark in his walk year. Of the 96 pitchers who have recorded at least 500 innings since 2010, Hughes’s 4.65 ERA ranks 89th. In that time he has produced 3.1 bWAR*, which ranks 80th.

*bWAR is chosen here, because it works on RA rather than FIP. Honestly, measuring a pitcher’s value based on FIP seems silly to me. FIP can be a useful tool, but not as a measure of produced value. To me, RA is a much closer mark. It also helps that this is a multi-year sample.

While he’s been a rotation mainstay, the Yankees should have no trouble at all replacing both his innings and his performances, almost certainly with someone better. Which asks the question, why didn’t they seek a replacement for Hughes sooner?

Waiting for Beltran

For about a week now we’ve heard that the Yankees have prioritized signing Carlos Beltran, and that Beltran prefers the Yankees. So why haven’t they come together on a contract yet? It appears that Beltran seeks three years while the Yankees, and most other teams in pursuit, prefer to keep the deal limited to two years.

Joel Sherman recently got an executive’s take on the situation: “Beltran wants three years, so I think the Yankees will either go three years or give him a [bleep]-load more on a two-year deal. I think the feeling in the industry is if it comes down to a two-year deal because no one goes to three, then the Yankees will win.”

Even though a three-year contract would come with a lower AAV, which would seem to help the luxury tax threshold, chances are it won’t make a significant difference. It’s difficult to see a difference of more than $2 million per year (e.g., $42 million for three years vs. $32 million for two years), so the Yankees definitely benefit by waiting out this situation and trying to get him on that two-year contract. I’d expect Beltran to sign by the winter meetings at the latest.

Connecting Cano and Rodriguez

Robinson Cano might have backed off his $300 million demand, but not by much. The latest reports have Cano seeking $250 to $260 million over nine years, including a vesting option for a tenth year. There is little to no chance the Yankees go this high, and in the wake of the Albert Pujols contract most teams have to be a bit cautious about this.

In a recent post I opined that a hardline stance could benefit both sides (while obviously benefitting the Yankees more). If Cano’s camp is publicly talking about $250 to $260 million, they clearly have no intention of signing soon for less than that. While the Yankees might seem handcuffed in that case, they can afford to wait on Cano while stocking their team with players to help in 2014.

If they sign Beltran and Tanaka, that will go a long way in rebuilding the offense — but they might not have the budget to bring back Cano, who will make more of a difference than any other player on the free agent market. Yet the Yankees could open up budget later this off-season, when they learn the details of the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing. By that point Cano’s market should be pretty clear.

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Nov
24

Weekend Open Thread

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In case you missed it last week, I’m going to start using the Friday/weekend open threads as link dumps. Basically random interesting stuff I come across throughout the week that isn’t Yankees related and doesn’t wind up on RAB. This week’s collection of links is just okay, maybe a six out of ten. Wasn’t a great week for the internet. Lots of people are on vacation this time of year and plenty of others are already looking ahead to the long Thanksgiving weekend. I know I am. Anyway, enjoy.

  • David Laurila interviewed Michael Girsch, an assistant GM for the Cardinals. He spoke in detail about a bunch of stuff, including the team’s internal data-compiling/sharing systems, their draft philosophies, their hitting philosophies, biomechanics, all that and more. The Cardinals are the darling organization of baseball right now and pretty much everyone wants to copy them. This is a (small) look under the hood. Pretty interesting stuff.
  • In the wake of the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, Grant Brisbee looked at the various awful contracts around baseball and tried to figure out which one will be moved next. He comes up with Josh Hamilton and I tend to agree since the current market has downgraded Andre Ethier’s contract from awful to merely pretty bad.
  • Zachary Levine (subs. req’d) compiled a list of baseball memes the internet beat to death in 2013. I don’t remember seeing too much of “Robinson Cano‘s 99 problems,” but the others were inescapable. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop making gritty jokes about the Diamondbacks though.
  • And finally, if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you’ll love this. It’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reading through the final scene of the series for the first time. It’s one giant spoiler, so don’t watch the video if you haven’t seen it yet. Pretty awesome.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and Nets are the only local teams playing tonight so ZZZzzzzzz. Talk about either game or anything else here. Have at it.

Saturday: Keep the open thread going right here. All three hockey locals plus the Knicks are playing. You folks know what to do, so do it.

Sunday: Only a few more hours left in the weekend, but at least Thanksgiving is coming up. Hands down my favorite holiday. The Broncos and Patriots are the Sunday Night Football Game and that’s it. The Nets already played and none of the other locals are in action. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.

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Nov
17

Weekend Open Thread

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If you’ve been reading my stuff long enough, then you might remember my Friday Randomness posts from the pre-RAB days. That was a long, long time ago. Geez. It was literally just a collection of links I had sitting around, interesting stuff I read throughout the week. Almost all of it was baseball related, but once a while some non-baseball stuff would sneak in. I’ve decided to bring that back here and this is the first entry. The nightly open thread is a pretty good spot to do that. This week’s stuff is pretty old, but that’s okay. Away we go:

  • My buddy Robert Sanchez profiled Cy Young winner Max Scherzer earlier this year for ESPN (Insider req’d). Scherzer’s brother Alex committed suicide last June and Max really opened up about their relationship and how his brother’s death affected him both on and off the field. Robert is one of the best writers I know and Scherzer is an impossibly great guy (met him at the ALCS). You can’t read the piece and not come away rooting for him.
  • Former big leaguer infielder Adrian Cardenas — who I once wrote up as a potential target for the Yankees — wrote an article in the New Yorker about why he quit baseball at age 25. He now studies creative writing and philosophy at NYU because he simply enjoys school more than baseball. Hard to believe someone can work so hard to get to the show then give it up to go back to school, but I guess the game isn’t for everyone, even if you’re good at it.
  • In another ESPN piece (Insider req’d), Sam Miller wrote about the science of team chemistry. Front offices are trying to measure and quantify “clubhouse atmosphere,” and a study by professors from Rutgers and Santa Clara University found that clubs with a lot of diversity outperform other clubs by about three wins a year. Young players hang out with other young players, Dominican players hang out with other Dominican players, star players hang out with other star players, stuff like that, so the more overlap you have between groups, the better the clubhouse chemistry. Pretty fascinating stuff.
  • Last one and this one’s kinda old: friend of RAB Jonah Keri spoke to Coco Crisp about the art of stealing bases, specifically getting jumps and reading a pitcher’s move. It’s a long but really interesting read. These small, easy to overlook “game within the game” aspects of baseball always fascinate me.

I’ll try to keep the links more current going forward, but I had some bookmarks to clean out and these were all in them. Figured I might as well post them here rather than just dump them. Hope you find one or two worthwhile.

Friday: Anyway, now that that’s all out of the way, here is open thread for the night. The Devils and Nets are both playing tonight, plus there’s college basketball on somewhere. I’m sure of it. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.

Saturday: Once again, use this as your open thread for the night. The five hockey and basketball locals are all playing, plus there’s college football and basketball on somewhere. Anything goes here. Have at it.

Sunday: Here’s the open thread for the evening. The late NFL game is the Chiefs and Broncos (that should be fun) plus the Rangers are playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else.

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If you’ve read this site long enough, then you’re probably familiar with the idea of linear weights and wOBA. If not, then I suggest checking out Joe’s primer. In a post at the FanGraphs Community blog yesterday, Sam Menzin presented an article from the 1915 edition of Baseball Magazine (pdf link), in which author F.C. Lane questions the idea of batting average and its accuracy. Allow me to excerpt…

Lane opens his discussion with a question: “Suppose you asked a close personal friend how much change he had in his pocket and he replied, ‘Twelve coins,’ would you think you had learned much about the precise state of his exchequer?” He goes on to compare two mens’ respective financial situations: Man A, with “twelve coins” consisting of a combination of quarters, nickels, and dimes; and Man B, with twelve silver dollars. Saying both men have equal financial means is equivalent to the system of tracking batting averages, he explains. “One batter, we may say, made twelve singles, three or four of them of the scratchiest possible variety. The other also made twelve hits, but all of them were good ringing drives, clean cut and decisive, three of them were doubles, one a triple, and one a home run…Is there no way to separate the dimes from the nickels and give each its proper value?” Sound familiar?

[snip]

This issue was not solely unique to Lane’s inquisitiveness. John Heydler, secretary and future president of the National League, added, “that the system of giving as much credit to singles as to home runs is inaccurate to that extent. But it has never seemed practicable to use any other system. How, for instance, are you going to give the comparative values of home runs and singles?”

Lane goes on to use an example of two players, one with a higher batting average and lots of singles and another with a lower batting average but lots of extra base hits. He compared each players’ hit rates (singles, doubles, triples, homers) to the league average, which is essentially an early version of wOBA and wRC+. It’s very fascinating stuff, a nearly hundred-year old article questioning the merits of a statistic still valued so highly today. I suggest clicking the links above and reading both articles, Lane’s and Menzin’s. I really can’t recommend it enough, it’s amazing stuff.

Full Disclosure: Our own Larry Koestler edited the post for Sam. Not that that means anything, just figured I’d mention it.

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Another rainy, yucky afternoon in New York, so I’ve got some inks that will hopefully brighten up the late lunch hour…

One of the two times Fat Elvis went deep in pinstripes. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Berkman, Ellsbury named Comeback Players of the Year

MLB announced today that Jacoby Ellsbury and former Yankee Lance Berkman have been named the AL and NL Comeback Players of the Year, respectively. Call me a homer, but I think Bartolo Colon should have taken home the AL award. I view this season as a breakout year for Ellsbury, not a comeback. Colon’s career was basically over, it had been four full year since he was last an effective pitcher. Put it this way, what would have surprised you more in March, Ellsbury having the year he had, or Colon having the year he had? Oh well, just my two cents. Congrats to Puma.

Ortiz and the Yankees

Amidst the chaos going on in the Boston, David Ortiz told ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he didn’t want to be part of the drama next year. That led to an exchange about the Yankees, and possibly wearing pinstripes in 2012…

“That’s something I gotta think about,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been here on the Red Sox a long time, and I’ve seen how everything goes down between these two ballclubs.”

Ortiz stopped well short of saying he wanted to play for the Yankees, but did express respect for the organization.

“It’s great from what I hear,” Ortiz said of the Yankees. “It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?

Well, I’m glad Ortiz is willing to spend some time thinking about joining the Yankees, but it takes two to tango. As Joe explained yesterday, acquiring a DH is so far down the team’s priority list right now that it’s one notch above “get a new second baseman.” They’d have to give up a draft pick to sign Ortiz since he’s a Type-A free agent (and will certainly be offered arbitration), and then deal with the inevitable PED questions when the Red Sox throw him under the bus as part of their smear campaign like they do everyone else.

Yanks exec interviewed for Phillies gig

Just a small note, but George King reports the Yankees allowed assistant pro scouting director Will Kuntz to interview for the Phillies minor league director position, but he did not get it. This comes on the heels of the news that both Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer were given permission to interview for the Angels vacant GM position (Kuntz works under Eppler). I guess it’s good to know the Yankees front office people are wanted around the league.

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Sep
30

Recapping today’s content

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It’s been a busy day, and the playoffs haven’t even started for the Yankees yet. Let’s take a second to recap all of the content from earlier today, just so no one misses anything…

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It’s a gorgeous Monday afternoon in New York, beautiful blue sky with a light breeze … they should dome the Tri-State Area with weather like this. Anyway, if you’re stuck spending your lunch break inside, here’s a pair of links to help pass the time…

A.J. Burnett, Reliever?

Joe wrote a post about why the Yankees should stick A.J. Burnett in the bullpen earlier this month, and Lucas Apostoleris added to the argument today at FanGraphs. The graph above shows that Burnett’s fastball velocity drops a good two miles an hour during the course of a typical start, peaking right around 94 mph through his first 30 pitches. Unsurprisingly, his strikeout rate dips later in the game and he gets hit harder. Joe Girardi said yesterday that they’re going to get back to a five-man rotation after the upcoming Red Sox series, and right now A.J. is clearly the odd man out. Given the info presented in Joe’s and Lucas’ posts, it would be interesting to see what the right-hander could do in one-inning relief bursts.

Previewing The Yankees’ Arbitration Cases

The Yankees had three relatively simple arbitration cases last year, settling on one-year contracts with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan before hearings even had to be scheduled. It won’t be that easy this year though, the Yankees have six players up for arbitration as Tim Dierkes’ shows in his Arbitration Eligibles series at MLBTR.

None of the six players – the three guys above plus David Robertson, Brett Gardner, and Russell Martin – are non-tender candidates, and all together they could end up costing the Yankees around $18M or so. Most of that is Martin (figure $6M or so), who’s going through arbitration for the fourth time as a Super Two. Gardner will probably get something close to the $2.4M that Michael Bourn got his first time through arbitration last year, and the relievers will be lucky to top $2M each. I really have no idea what Hughes is looking at, but Tim suggests $3.4M or so. Hooray for cheap talent.

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As we await out the start of Hurricane A.J. tonight and Hurricane Irene tomorrow, some links for your reading pleasure:

  • While Derek Jeter didn’t have much to say about his personal life and in fact walked away from reporters this afternoon, Minka Kelly’s rep confirmed that Jeter and Minka Kelly split up. The rep said Jeter “has broken up with” Kelly. So take that for what you will.
  • Aaron Taube wrote an entertain piece on Jorge Posada’s second base adventures yesterday. Posada, who started out with the Yanks as a middle infielder, hadn’t played there since his days with Oneonta in 1991. While his throw to first for the final out of the game wasn’t much, he can add it to his Major League resume now too.
  • A-Rod met with MLB officials today to discuss reports of his poker playing. The Yanks’ slugger refused to give any details, but he said he’s not worried. “They asked me a lot of questions. I answered them. It went well. I feel great about it,” A-Rod said. “I think they have their information. Now they can report back to the commissioner.”
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Got some interesting minor league stuff to pass along, so check it out while you wait for tonight’s game…

A-Rod on Montero

“We came in here and had a good session, talked a little bit about the mental side of hitting, the little bit about the mechanics,” said Alex Rodriguez to Kristie Ackert yesterday, referring to the time he’s spent with Jesus Montero this week. “We talked about hopefully getting together this winter in Miami, working out with Kevin Long and [Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar] and whoever wants to come down to Miami and  have a little bit of a winter hitting camp. Obviously he’s a guy we expect big things from and what  saw tonight and the past few nights, he’s not going to disappoint.”

A-Rod spent time with all the players in Scranton, but Wynegar says he really took Montero under his wing. “He is trying to show him the work it takes at the major league level. And Monty is just absorbing it all … I hate to say this, but I think Monty’s getting a little bored in the minor leagues, he’s ready for that next challenge. I told Brian Cashman I think he needs that next challenge, and I hope he gets it next month.”

Who is Jose Quintana?

High-A Tampa left-baller Jose Quintana has opened some eyes in DotF this year, pitching to a 3.08 FIP with 8.26 K/9 and 2.75 BB/9 in 85 IP. He was an unknown coming into 2011, just making a handful of appearances in rookie ball last season. In a piece for Baseball America (subs. req’d), George King digs into the 22-year-old’s story. Apparently the Yankees signed him three years ago after the Mets cut him loose with just three career appearances to his credit.

“We gave him a second opportunity,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. “Pat McMahon, who leads our Latin America player development, had him in the program and he liked him. He kept telling us there was more there.” Newman adds that Quintana sits 89-91 mph with his fastball and also throws a curveball and changeup. “There is some deception and a lot of swings and misses.”

Ranking The Minor League Markets

The Sports Business Journal (no subs. req’d, I believe) published a final ranking of minor league markets today. Charleston, home of the Yankees Low-A affiliate, placed seventh behind Hershey/Harrisburg, San Bernardino, Providence/Pawtucket, Reading, Portland (Maine, not Oregon), and Syracuse. Trenton ranks 42nd (between Kingsport, TN and Roanoke/Salem, VA), Staten Island ranks 56th (between Durham and Hagerstown), and Scranton/Wilkes-Barres ranks 139th (between Williamsport and Greeneville, TN). The ranks are based on more sports than just baseball, and factors include team attendance, the local economy, venues, etc. The Yankee brand is very important to the various minor league affiliates, that alone draws significant attendance.

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