Mailbag: Hamels, Wilson, A-Rod, Prado, Jagielo, Tulowitzki

Another big mailbag this week. Thirteen questions. Use the “For The Mailbag” widget in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week. I know it doesn’t look like the question gets submitted, but trust me, it does.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Alex asks: Which trade would you rather make: 2 of the top 3 Yankees prospects, plus another from the 4-10 range, and another from the 11-30 range for Cole Hamels, or that same deal plus another non top-30 prospect for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon (including his entire contract)?

I am anti-Papelbon on principle, so give me the first package. The four prospects for Hamels. And I don’t think that is unreasonable at all. That’s a package of, let’s say, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and Ty Hensley. I like all four of those guys but Hamels is a bonafide ace and a difference-maker. When Jon Lester get six years and $155M, Hamels with four years and $94M left on his contract (plus a vesting option for a fifth year) is a damn bargain. Lester and Hamels are almost the exact same age (they were born eleven days apart), and at worst they’re the same exact pitcher, though Hamels is a touch better. Yeah, I’d do that trade in the heartbeat (if the Yankees were willing to take on the money). The upgrade from David Phelps or Bryan Mitchell or whoever to Hamels is massive. Just no Papelbon.

Liam asks: In the wake of Matt Kemp’s failed physical revealing he has arthritis in both hips, it got me thinking: What’s the deal with doctor/patient confidentiality with players and teams? Do players waive their right to confidentiality when seeing a team doctor? I’ve never heard of an undisclosed injury to a player before (we’re told for example, Player A has a Grade I Hamstring Strain). Does that violate any privacy?

Here’s what the Collective Bargaining Agreement says about disclosing injury information:

(4) For public relations purposes, a Club may disclose the following general information about employment-related injuries: (a) the nature of a Player’s injury, (b) the prognosis and the anticipated length of recovery from the injury, and (c) the treatment and surgical procedures undertaken or anticipated in regard to the injury. For any other medical condition that prevents a Player from rendering services to his Club, a Club may disclose only the fact that a medical condition is preventing the Player from rendering services to the Club and the anticipated length of the Player’s absence from the Club. A Club physician or certified athletic trainer treating a Player pursuant to Regulation 2 of his UPC and any other physician or medical professional treating or consulting with a Player pursuant to Regulation 2 or Article XIII(D) shall be prohibited from making any public disclosure of a Player’s medical information absent a separate, specific written authorization from the Player authorizing such public disclosure.

So the team can announce the nature and severity of the injury, the expected timetable for the player’s return, and what kind of treatment he is receiving. The Kemp stuff is different because the Padres leaked the info about his bad hips even though he’s not their player. He was still technically a Dodger at the time. Imagine if Brett Gardner pulled him hamstring running out a grounder in Fenway Park, the Red Sox team doctor looks him over and says he has a Grade II hamstring strain, then tells the media about it. That’s wouldn’t go over well. The Red Sox doctor has no business talking to the media about another team’s player. Same with Kemp and the Padres.

Rooting for U.S. Steel: When a team’s offer includes an invitation to spring training, what is the team’s obligation? To merely allow the player in the gates? To guarantee the player will have at least one plate appearance or inning in the field? Varied by agreement with an individual player? Other?

I suppose it could vary by player, though the Collective Bargaining Agreement does have guidelines for Spring Training. Players don’t receive salary in Spring Training, but the team must provide the player with a place to stay during camp (hotel room) and pay them a weekly allowance (it was $291.50 in 2012 but has since gone up due to cost of living adjustments). If they don’t give the player a place to stay, they instead have to pay them a housing allowance ($51.50 base per week plus $40 per day back in 2012). Players also get per diem for food ($82.50 in 2012) unless the team provides meals. There’s some stuff in the Collective Bargaining Agreement about allowing access to facilities for rehab in case of an injury, but I don’t see anything about guaranteeing playing time during Spring Training.

(Justin Edmonds/Getty)
(Justin Edmonds/Getty)

Jarrah asks: Brian Wilson was just DFA’d by the Dodgers this week. Any interest? A solid late-inning guy and he could be the closer we’re looking for.

Wilson was pretty bad this past season. He had a 4.66 ERA (4.29 FIP) with a 13.0% walk rate while throwing nearly 60% sliders. The Dodgers are on the hook for his $9.5M salary in 2015, so any team will be able to sign him for the league minimum once Los Angeles releases him. I think Wilson’s definitely worth a shot at that point, just to see if he improves as he gets further away from his second Tommy John surgery. He’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so who knows, maybe you stick him in the ninth inning and he dominates while Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller handle setup work. He’s so low risk because of the salary. That said, the Yankees looked into signing Wilson last winter, but he said he was unwilling to shave that stupid beard. Maybe that will change this offseason if he has trouble finding work.

Jack asks: Do any of the higher salary players NOT have a no-trade clause such that the Yanks COULD trade them (while eating a bunch of their salary) such as the Dodgers did with Kemp, even if it means getting very little in return other than salary relief?

Among players on the roster with guaranteed contracts (meaning not arbitration-eligible or pre-arbitration players), only Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Martin Prado, Andrew Miller, Chris Capuano, and Brendan Ryan do not have any kind of no-trade protection. (Headley and Gardner both receive a $1M bonus if traded.) All the other players with guaranteed contracts either have a no-trade clause or ten-and-five rights. Keeping in mind that Kemp as well as other big money guys who were traded (Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez) were actually good at the time of the trade. Good and no older than 30. Teams actually wanted them. No one wants broken down 34-year-olds like Mark Teixeira or CC Sabathia. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann are the only huge money players on the Yankees’ roster other teams might actually want. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka too if they’re confident in the elbow.

Don asks: It seems as though the Yankees are legitimately refusing to give Rob Refsnyder a chance to show that he can play everyday or at least make the varsity as a bench piece. Is there something that the Yanks know that we don’t? According to the numbers, the guy can rake and there’s always room for a big league bat on the team … so what gives?

Come on now. First of all, of course the team knows something the fans don’t. Believe it or not, teams generally have a better idea of when their own prospects are ready for MLB than fans like us. Be careful not to fall in love with the numbers. They aren’t everything. Signing Headley, who is one of only like 13 above-average third basemen on the planet, doesn’t qualify as “legitimately refusing” to give Refsnyder a chance. Minor league slash lines aren’t everything — it amazes me how everyone is so willing to overlook that Refsnyder went from an 82/84 K/BB in 2013 to a 105/55 K/BB in 2014, that should sound some alarms — Refsnyder has to work on his defense because he isn’t a Major League quality infielder yet. There is nothing the Yankees would love more than to have Refsnyder come up and become an impact player right away, but that is so very unlikely. Giving him more time to work on his defense in Triple-A before calling him whenever someone inevitably gets hurt is a perfectly reasonable development approach for 2015. Let’s not act like he’s been in Triple-A for three years now. This isn’t a Johnny Giovatella situation.

Steve asks: How do you pronounce “Axisa?”


Joe asks: Assuming the last two 40-man spots go to FA Pitchers; a) Who & How many players start on the 60 day DL? (Nova for ex)  b) Who is likely to be added to 40-man (Refsynder?)? Thanks.

This was sent in early this week, so Capuano has since claimed one of those last two open 40-man spots. I’m guessing the Yankees will sign another pitcher at some point to fill that last spot. Nova is the only player right now who will definitely start next season on the DL, but remember, teams can only use the 60-day DL when they need it. They have to call a player up right away to fill the spot, and there’s no sense in filling the spot before you have too (Nova will go on the 15-day DL for the time being). Refsnyder will presumably need a 40-man spot at some point next season but there’s no reason to give it to him in April and waste an option year when he starts back in Triple-A. Refsnyder and relievers like Nick Rumbelow and Tyler Webb are the obvious non-40-man candidates to come up at some point in 2015, but they won’t be added to the 40-man until they absolutely have to. Once a player is on the 40-man, there is no painless way to get him off. It’s a commitment.

(Marc Serota/Getty)
(Marc Serota/Getty)
Paul asks: With Didi Gregorius and Headley wrapped up, who has the best ground ball rate currently on the market? Do you think having them on the left side will help in getting a ground ball pitcher?

Among unsigned starters (min. 300 innings), the best ground ball rates from 2012-14 belong to Paul Maholm (51.5%), Roberto Hernandez (51.2%), Hiroki Kuroda (48.7%), Kyle Kendrick (47.1%), and Joe Saunders (47.1%). James Shields (46.3%) is next. Among relievers (min. 120 innings), the leaders are Scott Downs (62.2%), Ronald Belisario (61.6%), the injured Matt Albers (59.4%), the perpetually solid Jamey Wright (58.4%), and Burke Badenhop (55.3%). Of all those guys, the only ones I would be happy to see in pinstripes are Kuroda, Shields, Wright, and Badenhop. I’m pretty sure free agent pitchers will focus on the money and not infield defense when picking a new team, so no, I don’t think having Headley and Gregorius will lure ground-ballers to the Bronx.

Sandeep asks: A-Rod hits .500 in spring training. What happens? A-Rod hits .100 in spring training. What happens?

If he hits .500, he goes into the regular season as the regular DH and everyone writes articles saying he must be taking PEDs again. If he hits .100, he goes into the regular season as the regular DH and everyone writes articles saying he sucks because he isn’t taking PEDs. That’s about it.

Larry asks: With the lack of 3B available, what is Prado’s trade value? Could he return a 4 or 5 starter?

Pete O’Brien. That’s Prado’s trade value. I doubt any clubs changed their evaluation of him after 37 good games with the Yankees. Maybe he can fetch an okay-ish fourth or fifth starter, but I think he’s more valuable to the team in the lineup than as a trade chip. I know the rotation is shaky right now, but remember, the offense flat out stunk last year and they need Prado’s bat.

Vinny asks: What does the Headley deal mean for Eric Jagielo?

I think it makes Jagielo more available in a trade, definitely. It shouldn’t change anything as far as his development path — Jagielo should still go into next season as the regular third baseman for Double-A Trenton, and if he mashes, a midseason promotion to Triple-A Scranton could be in order. Jagielo’s defense at the hot corner isn’t great and there have been rumblings a move to the outfield or even first base could be in the cards, but he’s not there just yet. But yeah, I definitely think the team will be more open to trading him now that Headley’s locked up.

@NYYFan14 asks: Needed your opinion on this. What would Troy Tulowitzki get on the Open Market today? I’d give him 8/200 in a heartbeat. Am I crazy?

Yes, I do think eight years and $200M is crazy because of his injuries, especially the hip labrum surgery he just had. At the same time, I do think Tulowitzki would get a lot more than the six years and $118M left on his contract though. Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153M would be the starting point, right? So maybe he would get eight years and $200M in this market then. What do I know. Either way, Tulo’d get much more than what’s left on his contract right now. Yes, he’s injury prone, but he’s also by far the best shortstop in baseball when he’s on the field.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Use this as your open thread for the night. The Thursday NFL game is Titans-Jaguars, plus the Knicks are playing and there’s college basketball. Talk about anything and everything right here.

Report: Kenta Maeda will not be posted this offseason

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

The Hiroshima Carp have decided not to post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason, according to a report in Kyodo. The team has informed the player he will not be posted. Back in October, Carp owner Hajime Matsuda said “we would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult.”

Maeda, 26, has made it no secret that he wants to play in MLB, though he will not qualify for international free agency until after the 2017 season. He reportedly told the media in Japan he wanted to play for either the Yankees or Red Sox next season. Speculation had him receiving a five or six-year contract in the $100M to $120M range, on the top of the release fee that would be owed to the Carp.

Maeda is arguably the best pitcher in Japan, though his 2014 season was not as good as his 2010-13 efforts. I guess the team was worried the down year wouldn’t allow them to get the maximum $20M release fee. Hiroshima supposedly has a good club, so they can keep their ace, try to win with him in 2015, then post him again next year. Here are Maeda’s career stats (via Baseball-Reference):

2008 20 Hiroshima 9 2 3.20 19 18 1 1 109.2 103 43 39 10 35 55 3 462 1.258 8.5 0.8 2.9 4.5 1.57
2009 21 Hiroshima 8 14 3.36 29 29 3 1 193.0 194 82 72 22 29 147 3 795 1.155 9.0 1.0 1.4 6.9 5.07
2010 22 Hiroshima 15 8 2.21 28 28 6 2 215.2 166 55 53 15 46 174 7 848 0.983 6.9 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.78
2011 23 Hiroshima 10 12 2.46 31 31 4 2 216.0 178 61 59 14 43 192 6 864 1.023 7.4 0.6 1.8 8.0 4.47
2012 24 Hiroshima 14 7 1.53 29 29 5 2 206.1 161 46 35 6 44 171 9 820 0.994 7.0 0.3 1.9 7.5 3.89
2013 25 Hiroshima 15 7 2.10 26 26 3 1 175.2 129 46 41 13 40 158 2 690 0.962 6.6 0.7 2.0 8.1 3.95
2014 26 Hiroshima 11 9 2.60 27 27 1 1 187.0 164 61 54 12 41 161 2 746 1.096 7.9 0.6 2.0 7.7 3.93
7 Seasons 82 59 2.44 189 188 23 10 1303.1 1095 394 353 92 278 1058 32 5225 1.053 7.6 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.81

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) gave a scouting report on Maeda back in October, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video.

The Yankees were never connected to Maeda this offseason, though they need pitching and he figured to be someone they might explore, especially now that almost all of the mid-range starters are off the board. The reported $100M+ price tag seems pretty steep though, especially since Maeda is not considered an elite pitcher along the lines of Tanaka and Darvish. There’s always next offseason, I guess.

Yankees no longer interested in Jason Grilli


The Yankees are no longer interested in free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, his agent Gary Sheffield confirmed to George King. (Yes, that Gary Sheffield.) “We talked to (Brian Cashman) and he said ‘not at the moment.’ We will sit back with the offers we have and wait,” said Sheff. “I don’t see a reason why he isn’t a fit. He can close and pitch the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.”

A few weeks ago we heard the Yankees had some interest in Grilli, though that was before they signed Andrew Miller. They could have been discussing Grilli out of due diligence in case the worst case scenario played out and they failed to sign either Miller or David Robertson. Now with Miller signed and both Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers re-signed, adding a bullpen arm isn’t as high a priority.

Out of the crop of veteran late-inning relievers, Grilli will probably be the cheapest because he’s old (38) and didn’t have a great 2014 season (4.00 ERA and 3.37 FIP). Sergio Romo re-signed for two years and $15M just yesterday, which helps set the market for Rafael Soriano. Casey Janssen will probably come in a little lower than that, and Francisco Rodriguez even lower than that. The rest of the free agent bullpen market is journeymen.

The best way for the Yankees to improve their bullpen right now is to improve their rotation, and I don’t necessarily mean get more innings out of the starters or anything like that. Adding someone to the rotation pushed David Phelps into the bullpen, where he’s been pretty good throughout his career. He’d join Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, and Justin Wilson to form a fine complement to Miller and Dellin Betances. Another reliever would be nice. Another starter would be even better.

2015 Payroll Breakdown: Part Two


Although the Yankees didn’t do anything of note at the Winter Meetings last week, they have been busy this offseason and especially this month. Most of the moves have been on the smaller side, at least relative to last offseason, though the club has remade the left side of the infield, added some pitching, and improved the bench. As a result, the 2015 payroll situation has changed quite a bit since our last update in early-October.

The Yankees insist they will not give Max Scherzer the kind of ginormous contract it will take to bring him to New York, and when you see their current contract commitments, it’s easy to understand why. They have a lot of big contracts gone bad and next year’s payroll is already well beyond the $189M luxury tax threshold. Unless ownership decides to push payroll to a place it’s never been, Scherzer (or James Shields, for that matter) isn’t happening. Here’s where the 2015 payroll sits right now.

UNDER CONTRACT (16 players signed for $206.56M)
Players: A-Rod ($27.5M), CC Sabathia ($24.4M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Masahiro Tanaka ($22.14M), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.86M), Brian McCann ($17M), Carlos Beltran ($15M), Brett Gardner ($13M), Chase Headley ($13M), Martin Prado ($10M), Andrew Miller ($9M), Chris Capuano ($5M), Chris Young ($2.5M), Brendan Ryan ($1.67M), Esmil Rogers ($1.48M), Jose DePaula ($510k)

Those are each player’s luxury tax “hit,” not their actual take home salary for the 2015 season. The Yankees seem to operate in terms of luxury tax salary because that’s the most important number to them. Those 16 players already soak up over $206M of payroll on their own and that’s just incredible. It’s nearly $13M per player. The scary part is that no one really knows what to expect from the four highest paid players next year due to injuries and other factors.

DePaula is a special case here because the only one of those 16 players who isn’t locked into an MLB roster spot heading into next season. The Yankees signed him to a split one-year contract back in November, so he’ll earn $510k while in MLB and only $175k in the minors. For luxury tax purposes, his salary will be based on his time at each level. If, for example, he spends half the year in MLB and half in Triple-A, his luxury tax hit will be a little more than $342k — half of $510k plus half of $175k. Got it? Good. The other 15 players here are pretty straight forward. They’re all expected to be on the roster.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE (four players projected for $9.2M)
Players: Ivan Nova ($3.3M), Shawn Kelley ($2.5M), Michael Pineda ($2.1M), David Phelps ($1.3M)

The Yankees started the offseason with seven arbitration-eligible players and now they’re down to four. Francisco Cervelli was traded, David Huff was non-tendered, and Rogers agreed to a contract to avoid arbitration on non-tender deadline day. The Yankees cut his salary the maximum amount, so it seems like they said either take the offer or we’re going to non-tender you. Harsh, but not a bad strategy.

MLBTR’s arbitration projections are generally very accurate but there are always some outliers, so these salaries could be high or low. For now they work as good estimates. None of those four players stands out as a contract extension candidate. Pineda and Nova would have if not for all the injuries — Nova is hurt right now and Pineda’s made 13 starts in the last three years. Then again, neither guy received a huge signing bonus as amateurs, so maybe they’d jump at the chance to get a guaranteed payday and the Yankees could low-ball them. I don’t see that happening though. Adding these four to the under contract guys gives us $215.76M on 20 players.

PRE-ARBITRATION (19 players)
Players: Tyler Austin, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Danny Burawa, Preston Claiborne, Ramon Flores, Didi Gregorius, Bryan Mitchell, John Ryan Murphy, Eury Perez, Branden Pinder, Jose Pirela, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, Adam Warren, Chase Whitley, Mason Williams, Justin Wilson

As with DePaula earlier, these 19 players will sign split contracts for the 2015 season, so they’ll earn something close to the league minimum in MLB and something considerably less in the minors. Again, their luxury tax hit depends on how much time they spend at each level. At this point, Betances, Gregorius, Warren, either Murphy or Romine, and probably Wilson are the only guys here we can safely say will spend all of next season in the show. Everyone else figures to either ride the bus up and down or simply spend most of the season in the minors.

Conservatively assuming $600k each for Betances, Gregorius, Warren, Wilson, and one of the backup catchers — the MLB minimum is $507,500 next year, but these guys all have big league time and will earn more than that — brings us to $218.76M for 25 roster spots, including DePaula, who’s probably going to start the year in Triple-A. The remaining pre-arbitration players are usually estimated at $2M or so for the season, bringing us to $220.76M for 39 roster spots. (The Yankees have one open 40-man spot right now.) Good gravy that’s a lot of money.

BONUSES (up to $10.825M)
Players: Alex Rodriguez ($6M with six more homers), Chris Young (up to $3.825M based on plate appearances), Chase Headley (up to $1M based on plate appearances)

Bonuses do count towards the luxury tax and A-Rod’s homer milestone bonus is the big one. He’s six away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time homerun list and that triggers the first of five milestone bonuses. (The next milestone kicks in at 714 homers and he’s 60 away from that, so it won’t happen this year if at all.) A-Rod hasn’t hit fewer than seven homers during a season in which he actually played a game since he was a 19-year-old kid in 1995. Even with two surgically repaired hips and almost two full years away from the game, six homers seems doable for Alex as long as he stays on the field.

Young’s and Headley’s bonuses are all based on plate appearance totals. Headley gets $250k each for his 475th, 500th, 525th, and 550th plate appearance of the season. Young’s bonuses are much more complicated — he gets $150k for his 250th plate appearance and that gradually climbs to $550k for his 600th plate appearances. In a perfect world Headley gets his full $1M and Young gets maybe less than half that $3.825M. (He’d have to hit 400 plate appearances to get roughly half.) I’m not going to include the bonuses in our running payroll total because they aren’t guaranteed, but they are something to keep in mind and something the Yankees have to plan for.

There’s still a lot of offseason left and a lot can change, yadda yadda yadda, but here’s the Yankees’ 25-man roster as it stands right now:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
McCann 1B Teixeira LF Gardner Sabathia Betances
2B Prado CF Ellsbury Tanaka Miller
DH SS Gregorius RF Beltran Pineda Warren
A-Rod! 3B Headley Capuano Kelley
Phelps Wilson
Bench Disabled List Rogers
C Murphy or Romine OF Young Nova ?
IF Ryan ?

The bench question mark would likely be Pirela if the season started today, but maybe he gets beaten out by a non-roster invitee or something in Spring Training. Either way, that spot figures to cost right around the league minimum. The Yankees could go in a lot of different directions for the bullpen question mark, including putting Phelps in the ‘pen and letting Mitchell or Banuelos or DePaula start. Whitley, Claiborne, Burawa … lots of cheap internal options for the final pitching question mark.

Of course, I don’t know many people who want that spot filled with a cheap internal option. Lots of people want Scherzer or Shields or a big trade for Jordan Zimmermann, someone like that. A legitimate top notch starter to improve the rotation. The Yankees already have approximately $220M in luxury tax hits committed to their 40-man roster as it is right now though. Oh, you know what? I totally forgot to add the $12M or so each team has to pay in benefits each season, which counts towards the luxury tax. The Yankees are really at $232M or so for those 39 roster spots. The team finished the 2013 season — meaning after midseason trades — with $236.2M in payroll for the luxury tax, their all-time record. They’re approaching that number now before doing anything in season.

Yes, this is just an estimate and there’s still a lot of wiggle room with the bonuses and arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players, but not a ton. I’d guess we’re within $10M of the real payroll number, which is a lot and a little at the same time. Point is, the Yankees are at the very least in the ballpark of setting a new franchise record payroll. Adding someone like Scherzer or Shields would make it all but guaranteed. The Yankees have a ton of money and can afford this — at least I think they can, I haven’t seen their books — but Hal Steinbrenner seems disinclined to go any higher, at least right now. They do always seem to take on money in midseason trades, of course.

Given the numbers and where the payroll sits right now, I think the only player the Yankees would sign for substantial money this offseason would be Hiroki Kuroda, and that’s only because he’ll take a one-year contract and they’re very comfortable with him. If he doesn’t return, bottom feeding for more Capuano types is likely in the cards. That doesn’t mean the Yankees can’t make a significant move, they could always make a big trade where the dollars are even or they shed payroll, but those are hard to do. Aside from Kuroda, I would be very surprised if the Yankees took on any more big money contracts this winter.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I don’t want to get too political, but earlier today President Obama announced the United States will seek to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, so I wrote about what could mean for baseball down the road over the CBS. You should read it. Hopefully one day it will be easier for Cuban players to come over to MLB, and I don’t say that because I want the Yankees to sign all of them (I do!), but because MLB is the best league in the world and this is where the best players should be.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the evening. The Devils and Nets are playing, plus there’s college basketball on somewhere. Please don’t talk about politics or anything like that. This isn’t the place for it. If you want to talk about the Cuba stuff, please keep it to baseball. Thanks in advance.

Eddy: Yankees sign infielder Cole Figueroa to minor league deal

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The Yankees have signed infielder Cole Figueroa to a minor league contract, reports Matt Eddy. No word on whether he received an invitation to Spring Training but I assume that is the case. The Rays designated Figueroa for assignment in November and released him a few days later. They originally acquired him from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade way back in December 2010.

Figueroa, 27, made his MLB debut this past season and had a 74 wRC+ in only 49 plate appearances. He hit .282/.371/.389 (114 wRC+) with three homers and four steals in 71 Triple-A Games this year, his third season at the level. Figueroa is a career .285/.359/.378 (108 wRC+) hitter with eight homers and 17 steals in nearly 1,200 career Triple-A plate appearances now. He’s obviously not much of a power hitter or base-stealer.

Pretty much the only reasons Figueroa is interesting are his incredible strikeout and walk rates. He’s struck out only 81 times (6.8%) while drawing 119 walks (10.0%) during all the time in Triple-A. Figueroa has walked more than he’s struck out at every minor league stop since a 21-game stint in High-A back in 2009. His career rates in the minors are 11.8 BB% and 8.8 K%. That’s pretty incredible. Like Dean Anna but even more extreme.

Figueroa has spent most of his time at second and third bases but has also played some shortstop and a tiny little bit in the corner outfield. He’s the son of ex-big leaguer Bien Figueroa and has grown up around the game, which is why friend of RAB R.J. Anderson says Figueroa is really smart on the field. With Chase Headley re-signed, the best Figueroa can hope to do is beat out Jose Pirela for a bench job in Spring Training. Otherwise he’s just an extra body for Triple-A Scranton.