Archive for Mailbag
Just had a huge and delicious Sunday breakfast. Now have a cup of coffee and nothing particular on the agenda, so let’s get to answering some questions Mike didn’t get to in this week’s official mailbag.
Plenty of people wrote in with shortstop-themed questions, and Mike covered ones relating to Asdrubal Cabrera, trades, and Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang. Yet there were plenty more.
C.Roy asks: Could you see the Royals being willing to talk about Alcides Escobar in a trade this winter? I see it unlikely that we will fix our lack of power at the SS position and Escobar would provide great defense and one more solid leadoff type. Possibly get Beltran involved (eating money) to open DH for Arod and in turn 3B for Headley.
No, I don’t see the Royals shopping Escobar this winter. They’re right in the race this year and with some young players coming through the system I doubt they’re ready to sit back and start rebuilding. He’s also under contract and has pretty reasonable team options through 2017, so the Royals really have no reason to trade him.
Well, maybe they have one reason. Escobar isn’t a guy known for his bat, as C.Roy mentions in his question. Great on defense, not much of a bat. Sounds like someone else the Yankees have on the roster, Brendan Ryan. Yes, Escobar’s bat is considerably better than Ryan’s, but remember that Ryan once could hit a little bit. His OPS+ during prime years:
It’s only since 2012 that Ryan has been a complete and total zero with the bat. Escobar’s last three years, by OPS+:
Escobar is a bit younger than Ryan was from 2009-2011, so it’s not a straight comparison. But the point is that I wouldn’t place my bets on a light-hitting shortstop, especially as the league hits lighter and lighter.
Nik asks: The Yanks seemed to have had a dearth of OF’ers and catchers, even arms for the mound over the last large handful of years. Why is it so hard to find shortstops who can hit AND play serviceable d? Has the era of Jeter and Ripken passed? Or is it that the Yankees just decided “Well, Derek will play until he’s 55, we don’t need to worry about it…”??
Not sure how they have a dearth of catchers, unless by dearth you mean abundance, in which case sure, maybe. But that misses the larger part of the question.
Yes, the era of Ripken and Jeter has clearly passed. Offense is down league-wide, as it seems we say in every post these days. Of the 22 shortstops who have enough PA to qualify (and Troy Tulowitzki does not), only seven have a wRC+ over 100 (although another four have 98 or 99). Of those seven, three were below average last year. (Of the four with a 98 or 99 wRC+, three were worse in 2013.)
Point being, it’s incredibly difficult to find consistently good, healthy shortstops. In the last three years there are 26 shortstops who have 1,000 or more PA, and of them only eight have an above-average wRC+. Only 15 of them have 1,500 PA (so average of 500 per year, which is not that much).
Making matters worse, at least in terms of 2013 and 2014, is that the Yankees have Derek Jeter. Who’s going to sign with them to play backup to Jeter? Stephen Drew wouldn’t do it last year, even with Jeter’s status uncertain. As for grooming one through the minors: it sounds nice, but how many teams have developed everyday shortstops in the last five years?
Jon asks: Why not take a chance on Tulo next year?
For starters, he’s under contract with the Rockies through 2020, so it’s not as though the Yanks can just take a flier on him. The Rockies aren’t just going to give him away, even if they do owe him $118 million through 2020.
To that point, why would you want to take on the most expensive portion of that contract? Tulowitzki hasn’t played in nearly two months and he’s constantly hurt. Since 2012 he has 1090 PA, or 363 per season. He’s played more than 140 games just three times since coming up full-time in 2007.
What is a fair exchange for a super expensive player (Tulo got the 18th largest deal in MLB history despite never hitting free agency)? How much would the Rockies have to eat? How little would they take? No, I don’t think they’re parting ways with him this winter, just because doing so will be too complicated.
The Yankees have a doubleheader tomorrow, meaning there won’t be time for the mailbag in the morning. My options were either post the mailbag a day early or not at all, so I went with the former. I’ve got five questions this week and three are kinda long. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you’d like to send us anything throughout the week. The mailbag will still be posted Friday morning going forward.
Brian asks: Mentioned in the “thoughts” piece, but there are a number of SS available in free agency this year. Doesn’t Asdrubal Cabrera make the most sense as a guy who is only 28 years old?
Like I said in the post, Cabrera and every one of the other shortstop free agents comes with their pluses and minuses. Hanley Ramirez is a legitimate middle of the order hitter but he gets hurt all the time and is awful in the field. Stephen Drew is very good in the field but looks like he forgot how to hit. J.J. Hardy is also a legit shortstop but his power fell off big time this year. Jed Lowrie can hit when he’s not hurt or busy being a butcher in the field.
Cabrera, who will turn 29 in November, had two pretty big years with the Indians from 2011-12, putting up a 116 wRC+ with 41 homers across those two seasons. He slumped down to 94 wRC+ last year but has rebounded to hit .247/.311/.398 (101 wRC+) with 14 homers so far in 2014. The defensive stats hate Cabrera, consistently rating him as a below-average defender throughout his career. From what I’ve seen, he has a knack for the highlight play but will botch the routine play more than a big league shortstop should. (He’s playing second base for the Nationals right now, in deference to Ian Desmond at short.)
Asdrubal is a switch-hitter who has been better against righties (111 wRC+) than lefties (100 wRC+) over the last four years, and the split has been even more pronounced the last two years (106 vs. 80 wRC+). He does have power though, plus he doesn’t strike out much either (17.1%), a skill that is increasingly valuable in this offensively starved era. The defense is iffy and because he was traded at midseason, the Nationals won’t be able to make Cabrera a qualifying offer, so he won’t cost a draft pick to sign. I’m not sure Cleveland would have made him the offer anyway.
The fact that Cabrera is only 28 is nice, but I wouldn’t overvalue his age and the perception that he has more upside remaining. The guy has has played almost 1,000 games and has more than 4,000 plate appearances to his credit. We have a pretty good idea what he is at this point, and that’s an average-ish hitter with good power for the position but sketchy defense. It’s worth noting Cabrera is swinging at more pitches than every before these last two years — both in and out of the zone — so maybe he’ll get back to being a 115+ wRC+ hitter with some more plate discipline. He’s a viable shortstop candidate but I wouldn’t get too caught up in his age. The other guys are very good players in their own right.
J. Kelly asks: Even with a deep SS free agent class and that being the most likely route the Yanks go in search of a SS, who would be some potential trade targets to fill that spot?
The obvious big name shortstop trade target is Troy Tulowitzki, who as far as we know is not even going to be on the market. The Rockies have been very hesitant to deal him. Tulowitzki also just underwent surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, which is pretty scary. If he slows down at all the field, his value is going to take a huge hit. Even with his annual injuries, Tulo is the best shortstop in baseball and it’s not all that close. I’d take 100 games of him and 62 of a replacement level shortstop over any other shortstop in baseball. I just don’t see him being available.
The other big name shortstop trade candidate is going to be Jimmy Rollins, who is under contract next season for $11M after his option vested. He’s already said he’s open to accepting a trade under the right circumstances and I think coming to the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter seems like something right up Jimmy’s alley. He has quietly had strong year, hitting .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers, 28 steals, and his usually strong defense. I know he’s an old guy and the Yankees should avoid old guys at all costs for reasons, but trading for one year of Rollins is not a bad idea if the free agent prices are through the roof in my opinion. Not at all.
Other than those two, I suppose the Tigers could shop Jose Iglesias if they’re happy with Eugenio Suarez at short. Iglesias hasn’t played all year due to stress fractures in his shins, so his value is down. (I don’t see the point in trading for a glorified Brendan Ryan when you already have the real Brendan Ryan.) Everth Cabrera seems to be on the way out with the Padres, the Cubs have a bunch of young shortstops to offer if you’re willing to give them an ace, the Mariners might move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor if they really believe in one or the other, and I’m sure the Mets would give Ruben Tejada away at this point. That looks to be about it for the shortstop trade market, though surprise names always pop up every winter.
Travis asks: Have you heard anything linking the Yankees to Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang? Has good defense and power from right side.
Outside of a recent Nick Cafardo report saying the Cardinals had interest at one point, there hasn’t been anything linking the Yankees or any other team to Kang. The 27-year-old is hitting .360/.463/.757 with 33 doubles and 38 homers in 107 games for the Nexen Heroes this year, easily the best season of his very good career. Here are the obligatory stats (the obligatory video is above):
Kang is said to be a true shortstop with strong defense, and his best offensive tool is his big power from the right side. Supposedly he’s a dead fastball hitter who struggles against good breaking pitches, which would be a major concern if true. Remember, Kang is playing in Korea, where the level of competition is even lower than Japan.
I remember reading something a few years ago that pointed it almost all the successful position players to come over from Asia were outfielders because the game on the infield is simply too fast and too big of an adjustment. Akinori Iwamura is the most notable recent Asian import to make it work on the infield in MLB, and he was nothing more than a league average player for two and a half years. Others like Kaz Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka flopped despite being high-profile pickups and stars in Japan. That doesn’t mean Kang will be a bust, but it’s something to keep in mind.
I don’t know nearly enough about Kang right now to say whether the Yankees should have interest in him, but I’m sure they’ll do their due diligence. He’s a shortstop and he has power, two things the Yankees desperately need. Reports say he will be definitely posted this winter, and MLB’s posting agreement still uses the old posting rules. It’s a blind bid for the right to negotiate with the player for 30 days. The release fee nonsense Masahiro Tanaka went through only applies to Japanese players.
I like Reynolds. He’s a potentially useful player if you look at what he is instead of focusing on the strikeouts. Reynolds went into last night’s game hitting .196/.288/.392 (87 wRC+) with 21 home runs, and it’s worth noting his offensive production has declined from a 116 wRC+ in 2011 to a 109 wRC+ in 2012 to a 95 wRC+ last year to an 87 wRC+ this year. He can split time at the two corner infield spots and DH on occasion. The Yankees have sorely lacked power and a true backup first baseman this year, two roles Reynolds would fill. Would I give him 600 plate appearances? No way. But if he would take a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training and try to win a 250-300 plate appearance bench job, great. I wouldn’t guarantee him multiple millions or anything. Remember, Reynolds turned the Yankees down last offseason to sign with the Brewers because they offered more playing time.
James asks: Obviously offense is down around the league, and many chalk it up to lack of PED’s, shifts, and strong bullpens. It also seems that the strike zone is much bigger than it used to be, the low and away pitch just off the plate often gets called, along with just below the knees. Any statistical proof of an increased strike zone from this year compared to the last few seasons?
Yes, absolutely. Jon Roegele put together a great PitchFX analysis of the strike zone back in January, showing that the zone is shrinking on the corners but getting bigger at the knees. A few days ago Jeff Sullivan showed the bottom of the zone has continued to get bigger this season. It’s easier to get a strike at the knees now than ever before — pitching coach Larry Rothschild made sure to emphasize the low strike in Spring Training — and I think that has absolutely contributed to the decline in offense around the league. Those pitches are hard enough to hit as it is, and now batters can’t let them go because they’re being called strike.
Six questions and six answers in this week’s mailbag. If you’d like to send us anything, mailbag questions or links or cooking tips or whatever, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t answer yours.
Tim Leary asks: Am I the only one who thinks that nobody won the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda deal? Just because Montero is seemingly a disaster right now and Pineda has made seven starts now, doesn’t mean the Yankees won. Montero could have fetched any number of star caliber players from 2010 through 2012 and the Yankees flipped him for an asset who subsequently got hurt and missed two full years. I just don’t see how in retrospect you can say the Yankees “won the trade” with that misuse of a top asset. Your thoughts?
There are a bunch of different ways to evaluate a trade, right? The easiest and lamest way is to add up the WARs, in which case both FanGraphs (1.1 vs. -0.8) and Baseball Reference (1.6 vs. -0.4) say the Yankees won the trade. That doesn’t include Hector Noesi, who would only further tip the scales in the Yankees’ favor, though Jose Campos would give some of that back since he hasn’t done much of anything or been particularly healthy these last three years.
Another way and arguably the fairest way to evaluate is trade is based on what we knew at the time. Back in January 2012, we knew:
- Pineda just had an All-Star debut season and was the first rookie in history to qualify for the ERA title with 9+ K/9 and sub-3 BB/9. He had five years of team control remaining.
- Montero had a monster September in pinstripes and was widely regarded as one of the two or three best hitting prospects in baseball despite his lack of position. He had six years of team control remaining.
- Noesi had a nice MLB debut season as a swingman and looked like someone cut from the David Phelps and Adam Warren cloth. He had six years of team control remaining.
- Campos was a good looking pitching prospect way down in the short season leagues.
That’s what we knew at the time. Based on that, I think you’d have to say the Yankees got the better end of the deal because Pineda had established dominance at the MLB level. I’ve always said I thought the trade was fair value (or that the Yankees actually came out ahead) on paper, but I wouldn’t have done it because I thought they had a much greater need for a young middle of the order bat than the young top flight arm. I was kinda right, no?
Anyway, there is also an opportunity cost element here — what they actually got vs. what they could have gotten had they traded these players elsewhere — but how could we possibly evaluate that with any sort of accuracy? Unless reports come out involving these players and trades that were turned down, it’s all guesswork. We know for a fact the Blue Jays said no to Montero for Roy Halladay and that the Mariners backed out of a Montero for Cliff Lee deal, but that’s really it. Knowing that, how could you say “Montero could have fetched any number of star caliber players from 2010 through 2012?” We assume the Yankees could have gotten something nice if they traded Montero elsewhere but we don’t know that for sure.
I think the simplest and most straight-forward way to evaluate a trade like this is: did either team get what they wanted? Did the Yankees get the young pitcher who claimed a spot near the top of their rotation? Did the Mariners get their big middle of the order bat? The answer to both of those questions is no. Neither team has gotten what they wanted out of this deal. Does that mean they both lost? I guess. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. There is no trade scorecard. The Yankees are left with Pineda and Campos and what happens with the Mariners is mostly irrelevant to their end of the trade. This deal has not worked out as hoped for either team and although I will stop short of calling it win for the Yankees, I do know I’d much rather have their end of the trade than Seattle’s right now.
Dustin asks: Do you think Kevin Long could be under any heat this offseason? It wouldn’t be necessarily deserved, but given the problems getting on base and scoring runs all season.
Yeah I think so. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees, after spending all that money last offseason only to win fewer games and score fewer runs in 2014 than they did in 2013 (which they’re on pace to do), look for someone to take the fall after the season. Ownership reportedly wants to bring Brian Cashman back and I suspect that’s what will happen. Joe Girardi sure as hell shouldn’t go anywhere, so now we’re down to the coaches, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild deserves a lot of credit for keeping the rotation afloat despite the injuries. That leaves Long, right? If someone is going to be scapegoated for the season, the process of elimination leaves him as the likely candidate.
Justin asks: How much money comes off the Yankee payroll at the end of the season? Off the top my head I got Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and Ichiro Suzuki. Did I miss any one significant? Also will $189M will be a issue this offseason? If so how much room to work do they have?
According to Cot’s, the Yankees already have $168.8M in salary commitments for next season. Those players Justin mentioned plus Stephen Drew are the notable guys set to hit free agency, clearing money. Remember, Alex Rodriguez and his massive salary will be coming back. A-Rod is included in that $168.8M but the team’s arbitration-eligible players are not. This winter’s crop of arbitration-eligible players includes Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phelps, Shawn Kelley, Frankie Cervelli, Esmil Rogers, Josh Outman, and David Huff. Rogers, Outman, and Huff are all non-tender candidates. Pineda and Phelps will get nice raises as first time eligible players, Nova and Kelley less so by virtue of being hurt and a non-closing reliever, respectively.
Including the arbitration guys, the Yankees already have something like $180M to $185M on the books for 18 players next year when you include Rogers, Outman, and Huff. Non-tendering them clears three roster spots but would results in minimal savings, maybe dropping them down to $175M to $180M for 15 players. This is all back of the envelope stuff, obviously. The Yankees have opened the last few years with a payroll in the $195M to $210M range, and if they stick to that again, they’ll have approximately $20M to $30M to spend this offseason unless they manage to shed some salary through trades. The biggest needs are a big bat (right field?), another starting pitcher or two, and a reliever or two if Robertson leaves.
Adam asks: Any idea/prediction on what this offseason’s qualifying offer amount will be? And does it make sense to offer to D-Rob and/or Kuroda?
Estimations have this winter’s qualifying offer just north of $15M. Last offseason it was $14.1M, the offseason before that $13.3M. The Yankees can not make qualifying offers to McCarthy, Headley, or Drew by rule since they were traded at midseason. Kuroda is again on the fence about retirement and the Yankees have made him the qualifying offer in each of the last two winters, so I think they will again just in case he decides to spent another year in Los Angeles or something. He didn’t accept the last two qualifying offers, instead opting to negotiate a new one-year deal. I think they trust he would do that again.
I definitely think the Yankees will and should make Robertson a qualifying offer. He just might accept, at which point the team could either keep him another year at an inflated salary (not the worst thing in the world) or use it as a stepping stone towards a long-term deal. If Robertson doesn’t accept, it might kill his market. I’m not sure how many teams will give up a high draft pick to sign a reliever, even an elite one. Remember, Rafael Soriano sat out there unsigned until Yankees ownership felt the need to grab some headlines a few winters ago. My feeling at this moment is that it makes sense to extend the qualifying offer to both Robertson and Kuroda, and that the team will do just that.
Paul asks: Thoughts on the Yankees trying to get some extensions done this month, before the end of the season? D-Rob and B-Mac (is that what we call him?) seem likely candidates. Or is it more likely they’ll wait until the season ends? Also, remind me again of how the exclusive negotiating period works please. Thanks.
I know Cashman has said the no extensions policy is a thing of the past, but I would be surprised if they took the time to work out any extensions this month. Robertson and McCarthy and maybe Headley are the obvious candidates for a new contract. I assume they’ll wait until after the season to work on that. The five-day exclusive negotiating period starts the day after the end of the World Series, but the Yankees are unlikely to go to the postseason, so they’ll have the entire month of October to discuss any extensions as well. They’ll have plenty of time to talk about new deals with McCarthy and/or Robertson and I hope they do just that. There are obvious reasons to keep both and few reasons to let either go.
Jamie asks: The Yankees offensive woes makes me wonder: how many times have they been shut out? Scored one run? Two? Three? Four? Five? Etc.
As always, Baseball Reference makes this nice and easy. To the table:
The Yankees have been shut out six times and held to two or fewer runs 43 times. That’s basically one-third of their games played at this point. They’re 7-36 (.163) in those games. On the other hand, they’ve scored six or more runs 33 times and are 30-3 (.909) in those games. That’s been the “magic number” this year, so to speak. If the Yankees manage to push across six runs, then in all likelihood they won the game. The MLB average winning percentage when scoring two or fewer runs and six or more runs is .144 and .874, respectively, so the Yankees are above-average at both.
Only five questions this week, but one has a really long answer. The best way to send us anything throughout the week is via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Justin asks: What would a fair contract for Chase Headley be? I know he hasn’t set the world on fire here, but he seems to be involved in a lot of rallies and his defense speaks for itself. I know re-signing him would in theory block Rob Refsnyder, as it would lock Martin Prado in at 2B, but I don’t see that as a major hurdle as there is almost no way the combination of Carlos Beltran, A-Rod, and Mark Teixeira don’t miss significant time next year and Prado would likely move somewhere to fill in in such times.
I am pretty terrible at estimating free agent contracts and I feel especially lost on what it will take to sign Headley. Is he going to look for the biggest payday possible? That’s never a bad idea in my opinion, especially at age 30. Will he be open to a one-year “pillow contract” to re-establish his value and then look for the biggest payday next winter? That’s what Adrian Beltre did with the Red Sox a few years ago.
The pillow contract idea is pretty risky, especially since Headley has hit only .234/.310/.350 (90 wRC+) this year after putting up a 113 wRC+ last year. Excellent defense is great, but it’s getting harder and harder to put up big offensive numbers, and that’s what gets guys paid. Can Headley get back up to, say, .270/.340/.430 with a full season in Yankee Stadium and without the pressure of having to be The Man offensively? Maybe, but who really knows. Baseball is hard.
I don’t think Headley would have any trouble getting $10M on a one-year pillow contract. Maybe $10M plus incentives. Teams have shown they’re willing to pay big dollars to keep the term short. The biggest possible contract for Headley at this point probably ranges between two years and $15M (Juan Uribe) to three years and $39M (Aramis Ramirez). Headley and Uribe are actually very similar players as standout defenders with average-ish bats, though Headley is several years younger with an MVP caliber season to his credit. Uribe has two total disaster years (2011-12) on his resume.
Ramirez and Headley are not at all the same type of player — Aramis is all bat while Headley’s value comes primarily from his glove — but Ramirez’s deal is the largest given to a non-Beltre free agent third baseman since A-Rod. Headley isn’t getting Beltre money (five years, $80M) but he’ll probably get more than Uribe. Aramis is right in the middle there. Headley’s free agent stock is very hard to gauge because he’s in his prime years and has shown he can be a solid offensive player, but he’s also the type of player who always leaves you wanting more.
The Yankees will need a caddy for Alex Rodriguez next year and Prado could always play second base — I’m not worried at all about blocking Refsnyder, I want the Yankees to have as many good players as possible — so there’s an obvious place for Headley on the 2015 Yankees. I’d absolutely love to get him back on a pillow contract, but I would be wary of giving him three years at something like $27M to $30M or so. I like Headley, he fits the team well, but the Yankees need impact hitters at this point and he isn’t one.
JonS asks: Maybe I haven’t been paying attention and SSS and all that, but does it seem like Michael Pineda is a LOT more efficient since he’s been back?
The difference between Pineda and other young big stuff prospects was always his command and ability to pound the strike zone. He had a 2.07 BB/9 (5.7 BB%) while in the minor leagues with the Mariners from 2006-10, then he followed that up with a 2.89 BB/9 (7.9 BB%) with Seattle during his rookie year in 2011. Pineda threw 54.1% of his pitches in the zone that year, the 14th highest rate among the 94 qualified starters according to PitchFX. Remember, he was a 22-year-old rookie back then, and 22-year-old rookies are not known for filling the zone.
Pineda has a 0.97 BB/9 (2.9 BB%) in seven starts and 37 innings overall this year, throwing 54.7% of his pitches in the strike zone. That is broken down into a 1.37 BB/9 (3.9 BB%) walk rate and a 52.6% zone rate in 19.2 innings before getting hurt and a 0.52 BB/9 (1.6 BB%) walk rate and a 57.0% zone rate in 17.1 innings since coming off the disabled list. Pineda also averaged 3.94 pitches per plate appearances before getting hurt and is at 4.00 pitches per plate appearance since coming back, so he really hasn’t been more efficient. About the same in terms of pitches per batter. The important thing is that Pineda is healthy and pounding the zone, which indicates he hasn’t lost confidence in his stuff.
Matt asks: Is there any available data about a manager’s success at challenges? I’ve heard people mention it before, and after the challenge at the plate with Jacoby Ellsbury (against the Royals) the ESPN guys mentioned it again. Seems like Joe Girardi is doing very well.
There sure is. Baseball Savant has a database of all manager’s challenges. Heading into yesterday’s action, calls have been overturned only 46.92% of the time this year, which really surprises me. I thought the overturn rate would be much higher since, you know, managers get the thumbs up or thumbs down from their video people before challenging. You’d think a system like that would have a pretty high success rate. I guess a lot of managers are rolling the dice on super close plays.
Girardi is 19-for-24 (79.17%) at getting calls overturned this year, which is obviously excellent compared to the 46.92% league average. In fact, that is the highest overturn rate in baseball. The Marlins are a distant second at 72.73% and no other team was over even 65% heading into yesterday. I’m sure there’s an element of luck here — super close players without what seems to be conclusive evidence going your way, for example — but that is pretty remarkable. Girardi and everyone involved in the team’s video review process have done a fantastic job this year.
Ryan asks: If Shane Greene keeps pitching the way he is and the Yankees make the playoffs, could he be considered in the running for Rookie of the Year? Same thing with Dellin Betances, does he have a legitimate shot at winning it?
Jose Abreu has the Rookie of the Year already in the bag and deservedly so. He went into last night’s game hitting .312/.371/.602 (164 wRC+) with 33 homers, and voters will love that he’s leading the league with 96 RBI. Masahiro Tanaka was the only player (in the league, not just with the Yankees) with a realistic chance to challenge Abreu, and his Rookie of the Year chances went down the drain as soon as he got hurt.
Betances has been awesome and he’ll definitely get some Rookie of the Year votes, maybe even a stray Cy Young or MVP vote, but there’s no way he’s beating out Abreu. The slugging first baseman is always going to trump the setup reliever in awards voting. Greene has been very good as well but he’ll finish the year with fewer than 100 innings pitched. What makes him more deserving than, say, Matt Shoemaker of the Angels (3.33 ERA and 3.38 FIP in 110.2 innings)? Nothing, really. Greene’s been great but I don’t see him getting any Rookie of the Year votes. The ballot is only three players deep, remember.
JPK asks: A lot will change, but as currently structured how you stack the top of the order next year? Do you bat Prado between Brett Gardner and Ellsbury or do you go some order of Ellsbury and Gardner 1-2?
I’d definitely go with Ellsbury and Gardner in the one-two spots with Prado lower in the lineup, ideally seventh or eighth. That’s not a knock on Prado, I just hope the team adds some true middle of the order bats this winter. It would be awesome if Prado bats eighth because the lineup is so deep, but batting him fifth because they don’t have anyone else? Nope. Ellsbury is at his absolute best as a leadoff hitter because he creates so much havoc, and Gardner’s on-base ability and newfound power make him a nice fit for the two-hole. Ellsbury’s completely miscast as a number three hitter, I wouldn’t do that again next year. Prado would make sense as the number two hitter if the Yankees didn’t have the other two guys under contract.
I’ve got seven questions for you this week. If you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or comments or links or whatever, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar at any time.
Many asked: What about playing Alex Rodriguez at shortstop next season?
We get asked this question a shocking number of times each week and I guess we can’t ignore them any longer. Alex can not play shortstop anymore. He hasn’t had the mobility for the position for about five years now based on his play at third. His arm is fine and his baseball instincts are literally the best I’ve ever seen, so I’m sure he knows what to do and all that, but physically he doesn’t move like he once did. Remember, we’re talking about a 39-year-old with two bad hips who has played 44 games total from 2013-14. By time Opening Day rolls around, it will have been 12 years since Alex played short. I’m am confident saying there is zero chance of this happening.
Assuming the Yankees don’t release A-Rod once his suspension is over — earlier this year I thought they would for sure, I think I wrote that somewhere, but now I don’t think that’s likely because he’s such a rating and ticket sale powerhouse — I’m sure they’ll try him at third base next year but wind up playing him at DH most of the time. I guess that would mean Martin Prado at third? Maybe they can teach Rodriguez to play some first base as well. But anything that requires actual mobility? I can’t see it. He’ll have to overcome a lot of physical obstacles to play the field regularly next season. Part-time third base, part-time first base, part-time DH seems like the best we could hope for going forward.
Justin asks: How does Jon Lester compare in age, innings pitched and injury history to CC Sabathia prior to his signing with the Yanks? Am I wrong to think off the top of my head that he would be well under CC’s innings total?
Sabathia was only 28 years old when he signed with the Yankees, remember. At the time of his free agency he had thrown 1,684.1 big league innings between the regular season and postseason, and his only notable injury was a torn meniscus following the 2006 season. Lester will turn 31 this offseason and he’s at 1,623.2 big league innings, so he’ll finish the year in the 1,650-1,700 range. He missed two weeks with a lat strain in 2011 and went through the cancer stuff back in the day. When Sabathia was Lester’s age, he had thrown 2,450.1 total innings. He started breaking down the next season (2012). (I’m not saying Lester will break down at the same age.) Lester’s arm is much fresher than Sabathia’s at the same point of his career, theoretically.
Paul asks: Approximately how bad would the Yankees have to be the rest of the way to get a protected draft pick? Where do you think they’ll end up picking (or which pick will they be losing to sign a qualified free agent if that’s what you think will happen)?
Because the Astros did not sign first overall pick Brady Aiken, they will receive the second overall pick as compensation next year. That pick as well as the first ten “natural” first round picks are protected from draft pick compensation. The Yankees currently have the 13th best record in baseball at 64-61, putting them in line for the 18th overall pick. The Mets have the tenth worst record at 60-68, a .469 winning percentage. Let’s say the Yankees would need to finish with a .460 winning percentage to secure a protected first round pick. That would mean a 74-88 overall record, or 10-27 in the final 37 games. The Yankees stink, but I can’t imagine they’ll play the .270-ish ball they would need to play the rest of the season to get a protected first rounder. In all likelihood they’ll end up picking in the 15-20 range.
Charlie asks: Just curious, how much longer is Big Mike under team control for? Does all of his injury time delay his arbitration? Thanks.
The Yankees did delay Michael Pineda‘s free agency and arbitration one year by activating him off the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A last July. He should have been in his first arbitration year right now and scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season. Instead, Pineda will be arbitration eligible for the first time next year and hit free agency after the 2017 season, when he’ll still only be 28. Time spent on the DL is the same as the active roster for service time purposes.
Mark asks: It seems to me that as bad as the Yankees power output has been this year, a larger percentage of the few HRs that they hit have been solo HRs. Is that true?
The Yankees have hit 112 homers this season, which are broken down into 75 solo homers (67%), 27 two-run homers (24%), eight three-run homers (7%), and two grand slams (2%). Two grand slams! Remember when they hit three grand slams in one game a few years ago (video)? Good times. Good times. Anyway, the AL averages this year are 57% solo homers, 29% two-run homers, 11% three-run homers, and 2% ground slams. So yes, the Yankees have hit far more solo homers than a) any other type of homer, and b) the league average this year.
Drew asks: I know no prospect is perfect but which Yankee hitting prospect has the most complete tool set? My first initial thought was Aaron Judge, or am I missing someone? Does most complete tools equal best prospect? I’m not too sure, and it depends on how high you value a particular skill set and ceiling.
I would say Judge has the most complete set of tools in the system right now. In fact, I think he does easily. I’m not even sure who’s close at this point. Tyler Austin lacks speed and a strong arm, Greg Bird has all the hitting tools but not much else, and Jake Cave lacks power. Slade Heathcott probably has the second most complete set of tools in the system but he’s never healthy. I wouldn’t say the most complete tools automatically equals the best prospect, the quality of the tools matter as well. I would rather have a guy with 80 power, 20 speed, and 40 everything else (to use the 20-80 scouting scale for a second) than someone with 50s across the board, for example. Having a well-rounded game is good! It’s not everything though.
Drew asks: Is Mark Montgomery really having that bad of a season? Yes the walks have been an issue but overall it looks like his numbers have been pretty good. I don’t think he is a realistic option for the pen in September but more like the middle of next year after starting the year in AAA. Yes we thought it was going to happen this year but, hey things happen.
He used to have much bigger velocity, and now its settling at a lower level. He still has the performance behind it, its just not the power stuff it was before. He’s still someone that’s on our radar.
Montgomery has a 2.30 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 47 innings with a 24.1% strikeout rate and a 12.8% walk rate between Double-A and Triple-A this year. During this sicko 2012 season at High-A and Double-A, he had a 1.54 ERA (1.62 FIP) with a 39.4% strikeout rate and an 8.8% walk rate in 64.1 innings. Montgomery’s stuff hasn’t been the same since he hurt his shoulder last year and it shows in the numbers. He’s still a good relief prospect, just not the potential shutdown late-inning force we all thought he would be two years ago.
Got seven questions for you this week. The best way to send us anything throughout the week is via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Joe asks: Should the Yankees target Arismendy Alcantara from the Cubs in the offseason? With all of Chicago’s infield prospects it seems like he will be the one left out, and may not have too high of a cost.
Yes, though there is no indication the Cubs are willing to move him. I love Alcantara. He hit .271/.352/.451 (132 wRC+) with 15 homers and 31 steals in Double-A last year, then hit .307/.353/.537 (127 wRC+) with ten homers and 21 games in Triple-A this year before being called up a few weeks ago (80 wRC+ in 32 MLB games). Alcantara is a 22-year-old switch-hitter with some power and a lot of speed, and although he can play shortstop, his best position is either second base or center field (he’s played both for Chicago).
Baseball America ranked Alcantara as the 33rd best prospect in baseball in their midseason update, one spot ahead of Luis Severino. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 71st best prospect in the game before the season, saying he has “upside as a potential All-Star at second base” and “might be a candidate for a Tony Phillips-type super-utility role.” Like I said, I love Alcantara since he’s a power-speed switch-hitter who can do no worse than hold his own at three up-the-middle positions. Plus he has a cool name.
He doesn’t get the same attention as some of Chicago’s other top prospects, but Alcantara is very good. The Cubbies are definitely looking for high-end pitching at this point, and unless the Yankees are willing to talk Masahiro Tanaka (lol nope) or Michael Pineda (maybe), it’s hard to see them swinging a deal for Alcantara. David Phelps or fresh off elbow reconstruction Ivan Nova ain’t getting it done. I’d love to see him in pinstripes though.
Mickey asks: Chances Brendan Ryan is the starting shortstop for the Yankees next year? Also, fill in the blank: if Brendan Ryan is the starting shortstop next year, the Yankees are _______?
I would say very small, less than 5%. I think the only way Ryan is the starting shortstop next year is if ownership completely clamps down on spending and prevents the front office from going out and signing one of the many free agent shortstops who will be available this winter (Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, etc.). Even then, I still think they’d try to make a trade. I see Ryan as Plan E or F at shortstop. The last resort. As for filling in that blank, I would say both “very bad” and “still looking for an upgrade.”
Stettinius asks: Y or N: Give David Robertson a qualifying offer, but not a contract offer. If he takes it, great, we’ve got an elite closer. If not, we’ve got two top 40 draft picks, Dellin Betances as closer, and Jacob Lindgren and his 10 K/BB knocking on the door.
Definite N for me. Make the qualifying offer and a contract offer. Offense has fallen around the league and every game is close these days, meaning a strong and deep bullpen is more important than ever before. Robertson isn’t irreplaceable but he’s not far off. Elite relievers who have shown they can close in New York and have no history of arm problems are rare and the Yankees should make every effort to keep him. I wouldn’t say they should keep him at any price, there’s always a point where you walk away, but there is plenty of room out in that bullpen for Robertson, Betances, Lindgren, and whoever else they dig up. Robertson’s a long-term keeper in my book.
Stimson asks: With Pineda pitching 171 innings in 2011 and only 20+ so far this year (including Wednesday’s game), assuming he stays healthy, does he have any innings limit for the rest of this season? 2015? If not, should he?
The Yankees claimed Pineda did not have an innings limit this year, but I didn’t fully buy that. You have to watch a guy’s workload after he misses two years with major shoulder surgery. The same will apply next year. If he stays healthy the rest of the year, Pineda will get up to about 50 innings this year, so we’re talking 50 big league innings in the span of three years. I don’t know if they’ll set a hard number on it — he won’t throw more than 170 innings, for example — but they will have to be careful with him (like they were in April) and pay extra attention for any signs for fatigue. I know Pineda will be turn 26 over the winter and will be out of the so-called “injury nexus,” but that doesn’t mean they should turn him loose. He physically might not be up for it. I expect it them to
monitor his workload watch him like a hawk all season.
JonS asks: What is the actual reasoning behind expanding rosters in September?
No one actually knows. Ted Berg spoke to MLB historian John Thorn (a must follow on Twitter) about this a few years ago, but not even Thorn knew how September call-ups originated. Here’s what he said:
I can only speculate that as minor-league seasons tended to close earlier than major-league ones, September seemed to be a good time to reward high-performing aspirants perhaps less expensively than inviting them to spring camp. The extra-manpower feature surely was not as important in the early days, when staring pitchers tended to complete a high percentage of their games.
Every year there is a big debate about expanded rosters and whether they’re fair and all that, but I am all for them. As long as every team is allowed to call up the same number of players, it’s fair to me. It’s not, for example, the Yankees problem if they call up eleven extra players while the Orioles only call up seven. Reward the teams that have better depth later in the season.
Phil asks: For the next mailbag, can you take a look at opposite-field power? I’m talking about HR’s specifically. I feel like I’ve watched every game this season, and I’m having a hard time remembering one opposite field HR. I remember when our RH bats could use the short porch, and when our LH bats were so awesome, they could put a pitch on the outside corner out of anywhere but YS.
The Yankees have hit 108 total homers this year, and of those 108, only three (!) were hit to the opposite field. Three! Mark Teixeira hit one (video), Frankie Cervelli hit one (video), and Alfonso Soriano hit one (video). That’s it. Both Teixeira’s and Cervelli’s literally hit the top of the wall and hopped over while Soriano’s made the seats. That’s nuts. Giancarlo Stanton (who else?) leads MLB with eight opposite field taters this year. Here are some more numbers on New York’s opposite field power production:
|NYY Total HR||NYY Oppo. HR||NYY Oppo. HR%||NYY Oppo. ISO||AL Oppo. ISO|
Even last season the Yankees were more or less an average team when it came to hitting the other way for power. This year they aren’t particularly close. That stems from their lack of power hitters in general, but especially righties who are able to take advantage of the short porch in right field. I mean, their best right-handed power hitter right now is Francisco Cervelli. That is something they have to address this offseason. The ability to hit the ball with authority the other way is nonexistent this year.
Shaya asks: Has Gardner hit enough this year to win a Gold Glove? I know he isn’t flashy out there, but he gets to just about everything so he doesn’t really need to exert himself like other flashier fielders. Who would be his main competition?
It’s possible, sure. Offense shouldn’t be part of the Gold Glove process but it’s no secret the managers and coaches who vote each year factor it in. A sabermetric component was added a few years ago, but that only counts for 25% of the vote. Gardner is hitting well (125 wRC+) and the various defensive stats say he’s been good but not great in left (+2 DRS, +3.6 UZR, +3 Total Zone, -1.2 FRAA). Remember, they now give Gold Gloves to the specific outfield spots, so Gardner will be up against other left fielders. That includes Alex Gordon (120 wRC+ and +20 DRS) and Michael Brantley (155 wRC+ and -1 DRS). Gardner is awesome, but Gordon deserves to win. He’s outstanding in left.
Got a nice and big nine-question, seven-answer mailbag for you this week after skipping it last week. Blame the trade deadline. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions, comments, links, complaints, whatever. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if yours is not picked.
nycsportzfan asks: Do you think Joe Girardi could win Manager of the Year even if they don’t make the postseason?
Joe asks: Where is Brett Gardner in the AL MVP voting? No way he wins the award itself but he has to get some votes, no?
Might as well lump these two together. I think Girardi would have a serious chance to win Manager of the Year if they make it to the postseason, but he’ll probably be an afterthought if they miss again. Bob Melvin and Mike Scioscia seem to be the front-runners at the moment, and I’m sure Buck Showalter will get a ton of love if the Orioles win the AL East. John Gibbons would also get plenty of votes if the Blue Jays sneak into the postseason. If Girardi carries this team into the postseason after all the injuries, I have to think he’ll get a ton of consideration for the award.
As for Gardner, I doubt he’ll finish top ten in the MVP voting, maybe not even top 20, but there are always weird down ballot votes every year and he seems like a prime candidate to receive a few. Gardner has not only been the team’s best player this year, he’s also been one of the most productive outfielders in the league. Unless the Yankees completely flop and fall way out of the race these next few weeks, I definitely expect Gardner to get a handful of MVP votes. He’ll never win, but hey, just getting votes is cool.
Joel asks: Can you tell us what percentage of his at-bats Gardner gets to two strikes? I think it’s very high, and I think his batting average with two strikes is close to his batting average.
Prior to yesterday’s game — I’m not waiting around for Baseball Reference to update overnight, sorry — Gardner had gone to a two-strike count in 288 of his 475 plate appearances, or 60.6%. The AL average is 50.4%. In fact, Gardner leads baseball in two-strike plate appearances. Matt Carpenter is second at 287 and Mike Trout is third at 285. No one else is over 280. Gardner has hit .188/.278/.290 in two strike counts this year, and while that sounds terrible, it works out to a 124 OPS+ because the league as a whole has hit .180/.249/.267 with two strikes. Hitting in those situations is mighty tough.
Mark asks: In the simplest terms possible, could you explain the difference between the July and August trade deadlines? I think I have a grasp, but I would like clarification. Thanks in advance
John asks: I’ve been thinking – with the trade waivers period starting up – what would happen if a guy with a no-trade clause was claimed on waivers? Would he have to go to that team? E.g. what if Matt Thornton had a no-trade? Could the Yankees have just let the Nats take him?
Combining two more questions again. After July 31st, any player on the 40-man roster has to go through trade waivers in order to be traded. Trade waivers are completely revocable — if a player is claimed, he can be pulled him back and nothing happens. The player can be traded anywhere if he clears waivers, but if he is claimed, he can only be traded to the team that claimed him (within 48 hours). If a team tries to slip a player through trade waivers a second time, they are irrevocable. A team can also dump the player on the other team if he is claimed, like the Yankees did with Thornton. Players have to be in an organization on August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster. No exceptions. That makes August 31st almost like a second trade deadline.
The no-trade clause stuff is interesting because there really isn’t an answer. MLB and the union have been arguing about this for years. A no-trade clause is technically a no-assignment clause, and both trades and waiver claims are assignments (as are demotions to Triple-A, etc.). The union says a no-trade clause should allow a player to block going to another team on waivers while MLB argues otherwise. The only time I can remember this even remotely being an issue was when the White Sox claimed Alex Rios from the Blue Jays a few years ago, but Rios agreed to go to Chicago and it was a non-issue. Most guys who have no-trade clauses have contracts other teams don’t want, so they are rarely claimed off waivers anyway.
Ryan asks: If you take a few of those early blowout losses out, what is their run differential? Probably closer to a slightly above .500 team?
The Yankees are currently 60-54 despite a -23 run differential, which says they should be something closer to 54-60. It seems like they win nothing but close games these days. In a one week stretch from April 18th through April 25th, the Yankees lost games by the score of 11-5, 16-1, and 13-1. That’s a -33 run differential right there, so in the other 111 games of the season, the Yankees are at +10. It doesn’t really work like that though, we can’t just ignore select games because they don’t fit a narrative. For example, if we remove their biggest blowout wins (7-0, 14-5, 10-2), they have a -47 run differential on the season. I believe the Yankees’ win-loss record better reflects their talent level than their run differential, but the numbers don’t lie. They are the record of what actually happened on the field.
Leigh asks: I know he has only thrown a handful of innings (and he isn’t on the 40-man roster), but do you think there is a chance we see Jacob Lindgren contribute as a LOOGY in September?
Yes, definitely. I was on the fence up until the Thornton deal (this question was sent in before that), but now I think it’s pretty much a lock as long as Lindgren doesn’t get hurt or completely blow up the rest of the month. I don’t think you draft a pure reliever in the second round and pay him a seven-figure bonus to not get him to the big leagues as quickly as possible. You take him because you think he can help very soon, and Lindgren has done everything he’s needed to do in the minors. I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t up in September at this point.
Greg asks: What can we expect from this year’s class of September call-ups?
In addition to Lindgren, pretty much everyone who is on the 40-man roster and has already been up at some point this year will be back in September. A third catcher is standard and the Yankees will probably call up both John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine, so make it four catchers. Extra arms like Bryan Mitchell and Matt Daley are a given, ditto Preston Claiborne if he returns from his shoulder injury in time. Zoilo Almonte and Zelous Wheeler are other obvious call-up candidates. My hunch is Manny Banuelos will be called up but Gary Sanchez will not.
Tyler Austin, Danny Burawa, Mason Williams, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, and Nick Goody are among the prospects who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, though I would be surprised if the Yankees got a head start on things and called any of them up in September. The only time they’ve done that in recent years was with Murphy and Romine, and only because they needed to get a third catcher on the roster. Lindgren, Murphy, Romine, Mitchell, Daley, Almonte, Wheeler, Banuelos, and Claiborne (if healthy) seem likely to join the club when rosters expand in September. There always seems to be a surprise call-up or two every year, both those are the guys I expect to see brought back.
Mike asks: Who do you see the Yankees sending to the Arizona Fall League?
Teams send either six or seven players to the AzFL each year, usually three position players and either three or four pitchers. All Double-A and Triple-A players are eligible and each team can only send one Single-A player. No players with a full year of service time are allowed, though the league has granted exemptions for young players coming off injury. The AzFL rosters are officially announced at the end of August, so not too far off now.
Players who missed time with injury during the regular season are the standard AzFL fodder, so I think Ramon Flores (ankle) and Goody (coming back from Tommy John surgery) are prime candidates to go to the desert. Banuelos is another as long as he feels well and his innings total is not an issue. Aaron Judge would make sense as the Single-A player if he’s physically up to it. It’s a long season and he might be worn down come October. If not, Eric Jagielo could go after missing more than a month with an oblique injury. The last two or three spots are usually fringe prospects for the taxi squad — they are only eligible to play Wednesday and Saturday, so they are never top prospects — the team wants to see a bit more. Taylor Dugas, Tyler Webb, Nick Rumbelow, and Jaron Long could fit that bill.
Got eight questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Many asked: What about Matt Kemp?
Kemp, who is still only 29, is open to being traded to a team that will put him back in center field full-time, according to Ken Rosenthal. That obviously isn’t happening with the Yankees. The Dodgers have been playing Kemp in left field and a tiny little bit in right while guys like Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke play center. They think that little of Kemp’s defense, and, of course, they have veteran outfielders to spare. He seems to be the most movable.
Kemp missed basically half of last season with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle injuries — the shoulder and ankle problems required surgery and he’s had shoulder surgery in each of the last two offseasons — but he’s been healthy this year, hitting a solid .268/ .33/.422 (116 wRC+) overall. That’s much better than last year’s 103 wRC+ mark but far behind his 2011 (168 wRC+) and 2012 (145 wRC+) production. He has always struck out a bunch (25.8%) but makes up for it with walks (9.2%), though his power (.154 ISO) disappeared following shoulder surgery and he’s not the first guy that’s happened to.
There is approximately $118M left on Kemp’s contract through 2019 and that’s an avoid at all costs deal for me. The structural problems in his shoulder explain the missing power — Adrian Gonzalez had the same surgery a few years ago and his power isn’t close to what it once was — and doesn’t give me much reason to expect it to return. His defense isn’t good and it’s clear he isn’t happy playing a corner spot. This isn’t a “let’s take a flier on him” situation, there’s too much money left on his deal for that. I’d steer clear unless Los Angeles was willing to eat a substantial sum of money and take back only middling prospects in return. Too many red flags.
(For what it’s worth, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system projects Kemp for a total of 7.7 WAR from 2005-19. Yikes.)
A few asks: What about Darwin Barney?
This is an easy no for me. Barney flat out can’t hit (58 wRC+ this year and a 67 wRC+ in over 2,000 career plate appearances) and while he’s a very good defender, he isn’t as good as the defensive stats said he was a few years ago because they were not yet accounting for the shift. The Yankees have the exact same player in Brendan Ryan — a better version, in fact, because Ryan can play shortstop. Very easy no for me. If they’re going to replace Brian Roberts, I’d hope they would call up Rob Refsnyder before going with someone like Barney.
Many asked: What about Brady Aiken? Should the Yankees go after him if MLB declares him a free agent?
The Astros failed to sign Aiken, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft, last week after a pre-signing physical showed his UCL was smaller than usual. It’s not torn, it’s just an abnormality, like Ty Hensley had in his shoulder. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5M bonus, but Houston dropped it down to $5M after seeing his elbow and they couldn’t come to terms. Fifth rounder Jacob Nix agreed to a $1.5M bonus that was based on savings from Aiken’s below-slot bonus, but the Astros went back on that deal too. Nix really got screwed.
Anyway, the MLBPA filed a grievance on Aiken’s (and Nix’s) behalf because of how negotiations were handled. The usually mild-mannered Casey Close represents both and he tore into Houston for how they handled talks. The odds are strongly against MLB making either player a free agent, however, because the team did make both players the minimum required offer according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league declared Barret Loux a free agent a few years ago because the Diamondbacks never made him an offer after taking him sixth overall and not liking something they saw in his shoulder. But yes, in the unlikely event Aiken (or Nix) is declared a free agent, the Yankees should go after him, clearly. They never got a chance to sign talent like that. Flex those financial muscles.
Daniel asks: Looking to next season, I was wondering if it would be possible if not likely that the Yankees would look to re-sign Chase Headley. I know there is the A-Rod potential issue as always but what kind of a deal would Headley require? If he continued at his pace of below average offense and strong defense, is it possible he’d sign a one year relatively low cost deal to rebuild value? Or is there a team out there other than the Yankees desperate enough to bet on his past production and go all in with a multi year deal?
As with Brandon McCarthy, I think it’s possible the Yankees will re-sign Headley after the season, but how he plays the next two months will play a huge role in that. Remember, when they traded for Lance Berkman a few years, there was immediate talk of re-signing him as a part-time first baseman/DH, but he played his way out of town.
Headley should have a decent market after the season because third basemen are always in demand, so I don’t think a one-year deal will do it. Plus he’s at that age when he’ll look for the biggest payday possible. Brian Cashman made it clear Headley was a rental after the trade, so maybe the team is dead set on playing Alex Rodriguez at third next year and won’t even consider bringing Headley back. But yeah, to answer the question, I think there’s at least a small chance he’ll come back, but it’ll take multiple years. I don’t see a one-year deal doing it in this market.
Steven asks: Any update on Andrew Bailey? Is he in any position to help the team? And is he on a two-year contract so that the real upside of the deal is 2015? I honestly forgot about him.
The last update we got on Bailey came back on June 26th, when VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed the right-hander was throwing bullpens in Tampa, but only fastballs and changeups. He had yet to start throwing breaking balls. The Yankees have maintained that if Bailey does pitch this year, it’ll be very late in the season, sometime in September. This signing was always about 2015 (his contract includes a club option). Anything Bailey gives them this year is gravy. It’s pretty amazing how the four injured relievers everyone wanted their team to sign — Bailey, Jesse Crain, Ryan Madson, and Joel Hanrahan — have yet to pitch this season. Hanrahan just suffered a setback and is done for the year, in fact. Arm injuries suck, man.
Dan asks: Assuming the season won’t be lost at that point; why not wait on Cliff Lee to get to waivers and then put in a claim on him and see if you can get him just for his salary? He’s making a lot, but it’s only for one additional year and the Yanks can afford it. Better to save the prospects I think then squabble over Philly eating $5-10M.
The Dodgers actually claimed Lee off trade waivers in August a few years ago, but the Phillies pulled him back. I’m sure they would do the same this year — you don’t let aces go for nothing more than salary relief — unless they have serious concerns about his elbow. Then they might just dump him and walk away, but I think that’s unlikely. From where I sit, it would make sense for the Yankees claim, if for no other reason than to block a team like the Orioles or Mariners or Angels from potentially acquiring him. It is a risky move though because you could wind up with a $25M a year pitcher with a bum elbow. This seems like a “yeah definitely do it” move to us, but there’s a lot of other stuff to consider that we’re just not privy to, like his medicals and the team’s financial situation.
Jeff asks: If you had to chose between a power hitting RF’er or a starting pitcher at the Deadline, and you could only have one or the other, which would it be?
As much as the Yankees need offense, it would have to be another starter. I have much more faith in the team’s ability to fix their lineup internally than I do the rotation. They could call up Zoilo Almonte or Rob Refsnyder, or Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran could get hot, something like that. The rotation though? There’s nothing left in the minors, they’ve used up all of their depth. Chase Whitley gets major props for what he’s done as a recently converted starter, but replacing him is a priority before the deadline. The Yankees need both, a right fielder and a starter, but I’ll take the pitcher if I can only pick one.
I’ll say false, true, and false. Austin (wrist) and Banuelos (elbow) have had injury trouble the last few years and I think they need more time to get over that and show what they can do at 100%. Williams has been healthy these last two years though and he just hasn’t made any progress whatsoever. A third straight year of that would not be the end of his career, but it would be pretty damning. Talent and tools alone don’t buy guys unlimited opportunities, especially when they’ve had attitude and makeup issues like Williams.
Got ten questions and nine answers for you this week. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours.
Vinny asks: Obviously he’d have to get his at-bats at DH at the expense of Carlos Beltran, but would you target Justin Morneau at the trade deadline? What would it take to get him?
Morneau, 33, is hitting .312/.345/.502 (119 wRC+) with 13 homers this year, his first with the Rockies. He’s actually hit better on the road (127 wRC+) than at Coors Field (109 wRC+). Morneau has big left-handed pull power and he’d fit wonderfully in Yankee Stadium, plus he’s always been a high contact hitter (10.6 K% this year). The Yankees need righty power more than lefty power at this point, but you take what you can get. The issue is Morneau’s contract — he’s signed for $6.75M next year and I’m not sure where they’d play him unless Beltran or Mark Teixeira went down with long-term injury. It took an okay big leaguer (Nate Schierholtz) and two prospects to get a year and half of Hunter Pence, which seems like a decent trade comp for Morneau. I’m just not sure where the Yankees would play him (unless Beltran has his elbow surgery).
Paul asks: Does St. Louis have any spare pieces the Yankees could deal for since they will need a catcher with Yadier Molina on the shelf for a while?
The Cardinals have a really deep farm system and lots to give up for a interim catcher, whether it be a stopgap like Frankie Cervelli or more of a long-term solution like John Ryan Murphy. Cervelli’s trade value is tiny as an injury prone out of options catcher. George Kottaras is roughly as valuable overall and he’s on waivers every other week (St. Louis actually claimed him right after the Molina injury). Murphy for someone like Randal Grichuk or Steven Piscotty would make a ton of sense for the Yankees since they could stick either player in right field immediately, but I’m guessing the Cardinals would balk, definitely on Piscotty. I get the sense the Cards will just ride this one out with what they have, maybe swing a nothing for a Cervelli type trade. Nothing more.
Jeb asks: Assuming the Yankees fold, would a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Mariners be out of the question? If not, what would you guess the trade would look like?
I don’t think the Yankees would trade him, but, even if they were open to it, a deal like this would hinge entirely on Seattle’s financials and their willingness to take on that contract. This isn’t a salary dump in my opinion, Ellsbury is too good of a player to eat money to move him in a trade. The Yankees would be trading an impact two-way player, someone who is a standout center field defender and top notch leadoff man, so the return would be pretty big. I’d ask for Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and a very good prospect as a third piece. I don’t even like Franklin all that much (Danny Espinosa without the defense!) and Walker has been battling shoulder issues all season, so that package might even be a little light. An Ellsbury trade doesn’t seem likely at all.
Danny asks: Do you know if Luis Severino has an innings limit this year? At the time of his AA promotion, he’s at 88.1 IP for the year, which is double what he pitched last year.
I’m sure he does. He is only 20, after all. Severino threw 64.1 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 and 44 official innings last year. That doesn’t include all the time he spent in Extended Spring Training, however. (He made his official season debut in late-June, so he was in ExST for a while.) I have absolutely no idea how many innings he could have thrown there, but he “real” innings total for last season might be closer to 80-90. If so, that would put him in line for 120 or so this year. So he’s got another month or so before being shut down, more or less.
Joe asks: With the lack of any impact talent from the draft and Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Rafael DePaula, Manny Banuelos and Tyler Austin regressing (although I still think Austin ends up a solid ML player) and the Eric Jagielo, Jose Campos, and Abi Avelino injuries, would you say the system is having another down year or do you like the progress of others enough to offset this? Is this a top 15 or 20 system?
Nah, I don’t think this is another down year. Williams and Austin have disappointed and Heathcott and Campos have serious injuries, sure, but the Jagielo (oblique) and Avelino (quad) injuries were just muscle strains. Nothing structural like Heathcott’s shoulder/knee. Aaron Judge and Severino have emerged as top 50-ish prospects while Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Gary Sanchez are having good years. Dante Bichette Jr. has rebounded well, Jake Cave has built on last year’s breakout, and guys like Jorge Mateo, Alex Palma, and Leonardo Molina all make their domestic debuts. Has it been a great year? No. But I don’t think this is a down year. If anything, it’s a normal year. Some good, some bad, lots in the middle. I think the system is in the 11-20 range among the 30 teams right now, probably closer to 13-17 if you want a tighter range.
Ryan asks: Would best case scenario for Peter O’Brien be Mark Trumbo? With offense in short supply around the league, there has to be a spot for him somewhere if he continues to hit for this kind of power.
Yeah, that sounds about right. It is worth noting that when Trumbo was O’Brien’s age, he was hitting .299/.366/.575 (133 wRC+) with 36 homers at Triple-A, with better strikeout (21.2%) and walk (9.2%) rates than O’Brien has now (24.5% and 4.6%, respectively) in Double-A. O’Brien’s right-handed power is very real — I seem to remember Keith Law rating it a 70 on the 20-80 scale recently and 70 power is no joke, but I can’t find the link — but I’m not going to lie to you, I am very skeptical about whether O’Brien will be able to tap into that power at the big league level given the holes in his swing and his general lack of plate discipline. Keep giving him chances, of course. Everyone should be thrilled if he turns into Trumbo.
Mark asks: At what point do we know if Shane Greene is the real deal? I know two starts is a ridiculously small sample, but he sure would be a nice find in a bleak (to this point) season. Thanks in advance.
The stuff is the legit, right? You can see that from watching him. PitchFX says Greene has averaged 93.9 mph with his sinker and 87.8 mph with his slider, which will play anywhere. The only question is whether he will continue to command it well enough to be successful. I don’t think we can put a number on this, X starts or Y innings before knowing if he’s the real deal. Greene is going to hit a rough patch at some point, it’s inevitable, and his ability to adjust will determine if he’s the real deal. I will say that I feel far better about his chances of remaining in the rotation long-term because of the quality of his stuff than I did Chase Whitley, with all due respect. Whitley did have a nice little run there and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Greene’s stuff is more built to last.
Tom asks: With Masahiro Tanaka out for a while, could they flip Brandon McCarthy prior to the deadline if they fall further back (another good start or two and I’d think they could end up with something even better than Vidal Nuno)? Is there a restriction on trading a player recently acquired? (time limit? player approval?)
Darrin asks: With the health of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda in indefinite question and Hiroki Kuroda‘s retirement coming sooner rather than later, if McCarthy pitches well would you be in favor of the Yankees signing him to a short term deal (1 year+option, 2 years) this offseason? He would cost less than some of the high dollar FA guys, although I wouldn’t mind another elite pitcher as well. Yanks need to fill several rotation spots.
Going to lump these two together. The Yankees could flip McCarthy at the deadline, there are no restrictions. The Red Sox acquired Adam LaRoche just before the 2009 trade deadline and traded him away nine days later. I don’t think they would get anything more than Nuno in return, however. There are a ton of teams looking for another starter and no one bit on McCarthy when he was with the Diamondbacks. If anything, they’d get a player similar to Nuno in return, nothing better.
As for re-signing McCarthy, that depends on how he performs in the second half, obviously. His long history of shoulder trouble is scary, so that will have to be considered. If McCarthy pitches well down the stretch and he’s open to a short-term contract, then sure, bring him back. The Yankees are going to need pitching and he’s a solid option for the middle to back of the rotation. As we’ve seen this year, there is no such thing as too much pitching. There will always been room for him. McCarthy is on a two-year, $15.5M contract right now and I wouldn’t go any higher than that after the season. Maybe even offer less since he’s two years older and not as good as he was the last time he was a free agent. Two years and $12M instead?
Austin asks: I’m glad to see that Bernie Williams is going to be honored with a plaque in Monument Park next year, but I think he deserves a larger footnote to the ‘Core Four’ discussion. From 1995 – 2002 he slashed .321/.406/.531 and averaged 5.2 bWAR. How does Bernie stack up with center fielders of his era?
I hate the Core Four (the term, not the players) because it completely ignores Bernie for no other reason than because Core Five doesn’t rhyme. It is pretty disrespectful to the guy who was the best all-around hitter on the team during the dynasty years. Anyway, Bernie’s peak was basically 1994-2002, so a strong nine years. Let’s stretch it out and call his era 1990-2005. I’m not sure where else to cut it off. Here is the center field WAR leaderboard during that period (full list):
No, WAR isn’t perfect, but it’s fine for an exercise like this. Plus it’s easy to search. Griffey being at the top should be no surprise. It’s definitely Griffey (big gap) Lofton (moderate gap) everyone else among center fielders of the era. There’s a decent-sized gap between Bernie and the number six player, Steve Finley (43.7 WAR and 107 OPS+). You could argue that, offensively, Williams was the third best center fielder behind Junior and Edmonds. His defense lagged behind the other guys and that costs him, but I don’t see any shame in being the fifth best overall center fielder in an era with Griffey, Lofton, Edmonds, and Andruw. All five of those guys are borderline Hall of Famers at worst.
Got eight questions for you in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a lot of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours. Also, I should probably mention that I tend to write these things on Thursday afternoon, so send in your questions before then if you want them answered that week.
Adam asks: You will probably hear this a lot this week, but reports say the Nationals are concerned with Desmond balking at a contract extension and that could force them into making a deal for a young shortstop. Is it possible for the Yankees to somehow be a third wheel in a three-team trade this off season for Desmond?
I don’t know if it’s possible but the Yankees should definitely explore it. Desmond will become a free agent after next season and he recently rejected a seven-year extension worth upwards of $98M according to Ken Rosenthal. The 28-year-old is hitting .241/.293/.429 (101 wRC+) with 16 homers and nine steals this year after putting up a .286/.333/.480 (122 wRC+) batting line with 45 homers and 42 steals from 2012-13. He’s also graded out as a very good defensive shortstop. The Nationals are clearly a win now team, so I doubt they’d trade Desmond for prospects. A three-team deal in which the Yankees get Desmond, the Nationals get the young shortstop Rosenthal says they’re seeking, and the third team gets prospects from New York makes sense, especially if the Yankees can convince him to sign an extension. We are talking about a two-way shortstop right smack in the prime of his career, after all.
Many asked: Can the Yankees still trade next year’s international spending pool money? Can they ignore the rules and sign prospects for more than $300k in the next two signing periods? What are the attrition rates for international prospects? Can the Yankees add another minor league team to give these guys a place to play?
(We got a bunch of questions following the team’s international spending spree, so I shortened them all up and lumped them together.)
Yes, the Yankees can still trade their international bonus slots next year despite this year’s spending spree. They will receive a full spending pool next year, they just won’t be able to hand out a bonus more than $300k. They also won’t be able to say screw it and sign a player for more than that amount. The rules are the rules and I assume MLB would void the contract(s) in that case. The Yankees could always work out some under-the-table deals, of course. That happens all the time in Latin America.
The attrition rate question is a good one and I have never seen exact numbers or rates for kids that far down the ladder, but it’s obviously going to be fairly high. The attrition rate only gets higher and higher the further away you get from the MLB level — approximately 25% of high school draft prospects get to MLB in general, not necessarily make an impact — and we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. The Yankees signed eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. If they hit on two, I’d be pretty happy. Hit on three and I’d be thrilled. If you want to $/WAR it, then remember that by time these kids have an impact in the big leagues, teams will be paying like $9-10M per win. The Yankees spent around $30M on international free agents last week.
As for adding another minor league team, it’s possible but not that easy. Minor league affiliations are a zero-sum game — there are only so many affiliates to go around in each league. The Yankees were able to add a second rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate last summer because the Mets shut down their GCL affiliate in a cost-cutting move (lol) and a spot opened up. Adding another affiliate is a very tough thing to do because you have to wait for another team to drop one of their affiliates, which rarely happens these days. Between the two Dominican Summer League teams and two GCL teams, the Yankees have four low level affiliates to sort these kids out. It’ll get tricky after that, but it’s a good problem to have.
Charlie asks: With all the chatter about Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury being the result of the transition to a five-day rotation, I’m wondering if Dice-K or Yu Darvish had an injury similar to Tanaka’s in their first MLB season?
Darvish has not had any arm problems during his three years in the show. He missed a start with a blister last season and another start with a cut on his thumb this year, but that’s nothing. Those weren’t structural arm injuries. (Darvish has had some back and neck problems over the last year.) Daisuke Matsuzaka missed a month in 2008 (his second MLB season) with a shoulder strain and four months with shoulder issues in 2009. He eventually blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 2011, his fifth season with the Red Sox. Neither had arm problems in their first MLB season like Tanaka, however.
Gregg asks: Do the Yankees have the option to dip below the luxury tax threshold in the 2015 season? If so, what moves would they need to make to do potentially do so?
The luxury tax threshold for next season is again $189M, and, according to Cot’s, the Yankees currently have approximately $166.8M on the books for the luxury tax next year. That doesn’t include arbitration raises or replacing the guys who could leave as free agents. Unless Alex Rodriguez gets suspended again or the Yankees find a way to unload the Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and/or Carlos Beltran contracts, it’ll be close to impossible to get under the $189M threshold next year. As soon as they went on that spending spree over the winter, it all but eliminated any chance of getting under the luxury tax threshold before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season.
Ghost of Horace Clarke asks: Many of all time Yankee records are mentioned for Derek Jeter. What about double plays, on both sides of the ball?
Jeter is, unsurprisingly, the franchise’s all-time leader in ground ball double plays at 281. Bernie Williams is a distance second with 223. The Cap’n is 15th on the all-time GIDP list, right behind Joe Torre (284) and Albert Pujols (283). Defensively, Jeter ranks first in Yankees history and sixth all-time among shortstops in double plays turned at 1,395. Omar Vizquel (1,734), Ozzie Smith (1,590), Cal Ripken Jr. (1,565), Luis Aparicio (1,553), and Luke Appling (1,424) are the only guys ahead of him.
Luke asks: I was reading Chad Jennings’ blog and he’d mentioned that Jeter was elected to the All-Star Game not only by fans, but by players as well (344 votes to Alexei Ramirez’s 313). I haven’t seen them publicized – are these player vote totals available somewhere for the public? I can’t stand fan voting – every year fans ruin it, this year most notably Orioles and Brewers fans – and I’m wondering simply because I’m interested to see how closely the player votes match the fan votes.
I have not seen the full player votes released anywhere. Jennings mentioned Jeter led at shortstop and Jeff Passan says Tanaka received the most player votes among AL starting pitchers, but that’s all I can find. Dellin Betances was voted in by the players as well, and since there were only four relievers on the initial roster, we know he received no fewer the fourth most player votes among AL relievers. Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, and Sean Doolittle were the other bullpeners on the initial AL roster. Pretty cool that Tanaka and Betances were voted into the game by their peers, no?
Mickey asks: Do you think Ichiro hits a homerun this year? I keep waiting for him to take advantage of the short porch but he seems more BA focused than trying to drive the ball.
Yeah, I think he’ll hit one out eventually. Just about everyone hits a cheapie over the short porch at some point during the season and I don’t think Ichiro will be any different. If you’re looking for a good laugh, here is Ichiro’s spray chart for the season, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (doesn’t include last night’s game):
There is no reason for outfielders to play anything but shallow against Ichiro.
Danny asks: In hypothetical world because Jeter; Teams don’t shift Brian McCann when runners are on base, wouldn’t Joe Girardi want to bat him second behind a guy like Brett Gardner so he won’t have some singles taken away?
That does make sense. The best possible spot for him seems like it would be behind both Gardner and Ellsbury, the team’s two best on-base threats. The odds would be pretty high that at least one of those two would be on base for McCann, opening up the field a little bit more. Remember, opposing teams will have to guard against the stolen base, so they can’t let the infielders wander too far away from second. McCann has made an effort to go the other way more often this year — he already has 18 opposite field hits in 2014, one fewer than last year and more than both 2011 (14) and 2012 (15) — but it’s clear he is at his best when he pulls the ball.