Tuesday Night Open Thread

Earlier today the Yankees re-signed Chris Capuano to a perfectly reasonable one-year, $5M contract. Capuano makes me nervous whenever he’s on the mound, I’m not a fan of finesse lefties at all, but he’s a serviceable depth piece who can be easily shipped to the bullpen or even dropped from the roster if a better option comes along. Now, if he’s the only pitcher the Yankees bring in this winter, that’s a problem. I don’t think that’ll be the case though.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers, Knicks, and Nets are all playing, and there’s the usual slate of college basketball as well. Talk about those games, the return of Capuano, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Headley’s signing is good for Refsnyder and Pirela

Jose Pirela
(AP Photo)

All Rob Refsnyder has done is hit. After starting slowly following the 2012 draft, he’s put up monster numbers at every level of the minors in the last two seasons, ending 2014 in AAA with a .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) line. It seems, or at least seemed, that his time in the Bronx is near.

Then the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley, which pushes Refsnyder out of immediate consideration for a starting spot.

It might appear as though the Yankees crowded Refsnyder out of a spot, but by re-signing Headley they might have made his transition to the big leagues easier. The same is true for Jose Pirela, and other candidate for an infield position before Headley signed.

It’s all about versatility

The trade for Martin Prado last July gives the Yankees flexibility. They took advantage right away, starting Prado multiple times at 2B, 3B, LF, and RF. It appears that he’ll start the season as the everyday second baseman, but that could change at any time — not because of Prado’s performance, but because others are stepping up.

Instead of starting Refsnyder at second out of the gate, they’ll have him continue what he started at Scranton Wilkes-Barre. If he continues pummeling the ball as he did in 2014, he can force his way into a call-up even if Prado is performing to expectations.

As of today, Alex Rodriguez is the Yankees’ primary DH. That could change between now and Opening Day, but let’s assume it’s true. In that case, who are the Yankees two biggest on-field risks? Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. Should anything happen to either, Prado can move to the outfield and Refsnyder can take over at second base.

(Refsnyder did play nine games in the outfield last year, and another 42 in 2012. He was an outfielder in college. But it appears that the Yankees want him to stay at second base. There’s a better chance that they move Prado to the OF rather than Refsnyder.)

Pirela is a man of many positions, having started multiple games at every spot except catcher in 2014. He also continued hitting well, a 117 wRC+ in 581 PA at AAA, which followed a 118 wRC+ in 530 PA at AA in 2013. Basically, ever since he reached AA he’s started to hit. Given his versatility, the Yankees can easily find a spot for him whenever a need arises.

Pirela can slide in for anyone who gets hurt, other than Brian McCann. The Yankees can work in Refsnyder in the event that anyone other than Didi Gregorius gets hurt, moving Prado to whatever position and inserting Refsnyder at 2B.

By fielding a team of veteran major leaguers, the Yankees can let Pirela and Refsnyder signal when they’re ready. With their flexibility, they can probably work in one of those guys at almost any time. Additionally, they provide depth in case of injury. If any of the seven non-mask-wearing fielders gets hurt, the Yankees have an easy way to fill the void.

When the Yankees signed Chase Headley they didn’t block two young players. They merely changed the way they’ll fit into the 2015 plans. It might be for the better, for all parties.

Chris Capuano is back on a one-year deal

Chris Capuano
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

The Yankees have signed LHP Chris Capuano to a one-year deal, according to YES Network’s Jack Curry. He’ll earn $5 million in 2015.

Capuano, 36, started 2014 with the Red Sox, but he pitched poorly enough to get DFA’d from that last-place team. He then signed as a free agent with the Rockies, but didn’t pitch at all for them before the Yankees purchased his contract.

By ERA Capuano didn’t fare much better for the Yankees than he did for the Sox: 4.25 vs 4.55. But he did cut down on his walks, which helped him eat some innings as a starter (5.5 innings per start). Basically, you could count on him for between five and six innings and between three and four runs per start. That worked better in the mid-00s, when the Yankees had 900-run offenses, but with all the injuries last year it came in handy in the second half.

This move was predictable once the Yankees signed Chase Headley yesterday. A week ago Joel Sherman noted that if the Yankees sign Headley, “they will have to bottom-feed for starting pitching.” Capuano is pretty much the definition of bottom-feeding.

While Capuano doesn’t really move the needle for the team, he does help lengthen the starting rotation. If he can give them six innings per start — not unfathomable, given that he spent the entire first half of last year in Boston’s bullpen — he can probably keep them in enough games that the back of their bullpen can close the door.

In a world where Brett Anderson gets $10 million and J.A. Happ costs you an average-hitting outfielder, spending $5 million on Capuano seems like a downright decent deal.

Cashman: “I don’t think Yankee fans will be looking at Max Scherzer” in 2015

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

During a recent television appearance, Brian Cashman reiterated what we’ve been hearing all offseason: the Yankees are unlikely to be major players for Max Scherzer. Cashman is the first team official to actually go on record saying the club is unlikely to pursue the free agent right-hander though. “I don’t think Yankee fans will be looking at Max Scherzer,” said the GM flatly, according to Brendan Kuty.

Of course, this could all be nothing more than posturing. If Cashman or anyone else involved with the Yankees comes out and says they’re planning to pursue Scherzer, the price will only go up. Scherzer is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras is no dummy. He’ll use anything he can as leverage against a team to get the most possible money, even a stupid little quote from the GM on a local television broadcast.

“The idea of them having a No. 1 pitcher certainly would add protection to where their current pitchers are, to take innings off them, give them a little bit an umbrella, somebody to be the No. 1,” said Boras at the Winter Meetings last week. “I can’t predict what the Yankees are going to do, but a guy like Max fits in with their starting rotation to develop a World Series-caliber set, similar to what they’ve had in the past.”

Boras is right. Scherzer would be a tremendous addition to the rotation. There’s zero doubt about that. But, as I said this morning, the team needs more than one starter and they have almost no money coming off the books next winter, so spending huge bucks on Scherzer would essentially take them out of the running for any of next year’s top free agents without a huge increase in payroll. I prefer signing two or three pitchers — inferior pitchers to Scherzer, to be sure — to smaller deals than handing out the one huge contract.

It’s hard to see a non-Yankees team that could be in the mix for Scherzer at this point, but it’s only a matter of time until Boras finds a desperate owner and gets a near record contract for the righty. The Tigers, Nationals, Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, and Scherzer’s hometown Cardinals could all be in the mix. The Yankees say they’re out on Scherzer, but I won’t believe it until he signs with another team.

Thoughts after Yankees re-sign Chase Headley

I'm a sucker for Gatorade shower photos. (Elsa/Getty)
I’m a sucker for a good Gatorade shower photo. (Elsa/Getty)

I was originally planning to post a post-Winter Meetings thoughts post, but then the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley yesterday morning, so I changed gears. Instead of a post-Winter Meetings thoughts post, here’s a post with some post-Headley deal and post-Winter Meetings thoughts combined into one post. To the post:

1. So that reported four-year, $65M offer Headley had from an unknown team had to be made up, right? It had to be his agent trying to drive up the price. As cool as it would be to say Headley turned down substantially more money to return to New York because the Yankees are totally awesome and everyone else sucks, I have a hard time thinking a rational human being would pass up that much extra money just because he liked playing somewhere. Take $1M less per year like Andrew Miller? Sure. I can buy that. But $3.25M per year like Headley? That’s a lot of money for the kids — Headley’s wife just had a baby, Joe Girardi said at the Winter Meetings — and the kids’ kids and the kids’ kids’ kids to leave on the table. Maybe it’s true and Headley really did value playing in New York so much that he turned down an extra $13M or so. That would be cool. I just have a hard time believing it. That reported $65M offer seems like a classic “agent trying to drive up the price” move. (For what it’s worth, Headley told Jack Curry yesterday he did turn down more money to return to the Yankees without giving specifics.)

2. With Headley back, the 13 position player slots on the roster heading into next season are just about set. We know who the nine starters will be — assuming Alex Rodriguez is the regular DH — and the bench will have Brendan Ryan, Chris Young, either John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine as the backup catcher, and probably Jose Pirela in the last spot. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to bring in potential bench piece or two as a non-roster invitee to push Pirela (and Ryan?) in camp, maybe someone like Adam Rosales or, day I say, Jayson Nix, but that’s not a pressing issue right now. Either way, Headley will join Didi Gregorius, Martin Prado, and Mark Teixeira as the regular infielders. The Opening Day infield last year was Teixeira, Brian Roberts, fading Derek Jeter, and Kelly Johnson. The year before it was Kevin Youkilis at first, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, and Nix. Even though it lacks a bonafide superstar like Cano, the projected 2015 infield looks so much better than what they ran out there from 2013-14. Million times better. They actually have a bonafide Major League caliber player at all four positions. That wasn’t the case the last two years.

3. The Headley signing presumably pushes Rob Refsnyder back to Triple-A Scranton to start next season — I suppose he could beat out Pirela for the last bench job, but I’m not expecting that to happen — and I do think that’s the best thing for his development, especially defensively. Learning on the fly in the big leagues is not easy. I’ve said this a million times already: when someone inevitably gets hurt next summer, the Yankees can move Prado to whatever position to fill in for the injury, then call up Refsnyder to play second. I am not at all a fan of handing a non-elite prospect a job out of Spring Training and prefer Refsnyder to get his opportunity as an injury replacement at midseason. I’m pretty sure I’ve written this before, but I think the best case scenario for his MLB arrival is the Brett Gardner path — up and down the first year, part-time role the second year, then full-time role the third year. The adjustment from Triple-A to MLB is more difficult now than ever before — Brian MacPherson recently spoke to a bunch of executives about this — and anything the Yankees can do to ease Refsnyder’s transition is a positive in my eyes. And, of course, re-signing Headley presumably makes Refsnyder (and Eric Jagielo?) more available in a trade, especially if they’re confident in Pirela going forward. If Refsnyder (or Jagielo!) can help land a pitcher with a few years of control left, it’s definitely something the Yankees should explore.

Nightmare fuel. (@TomLeyden)
Nightmare fuel. (@TomLeyden)

4. I do believe the Yankees are sincere when they say they will pass on handing a huge money long-term deal to Max Scherzer. He’s an excellent pitcher and would obviously be a huge help. That’s not really up for debate. The question is whether Scherzer and a bunch of scrap heap arms are better for the club than spreading the money around and signing two or three pitchers for similar 2015 money. Say Hiroki Kuroda, Edinson Volquez, and Chad Billingsley. Or Volquez, Brandon Morrow, and Chris Capuano. (Not endorsing either set of pitchers, just throwing names out there.) The Yankees need multiple starters right now and chances are they’ll have to dip into the scrap heap at some point this summer anyway, so maybe it’s better to get two solid pitchers rather than one great one. As good as Scherzer is, he does only take the ball once every fifth day. As Joe detailed last week, the Yankees have almost no money coming off the books next offseason (Shawn Kelley, Young, maybe Ryan, that’s all), so signing Scherzer probably means they have to sit out free agency (the big names, anyway) next winter barring a payroll increase. One year deal guys like Kuroda, Billingsley, Morrow, and/or Capuano would both help the 2015 rotation and leave some financial flexibility for next winter, when three legit aces (David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto) and several other solid starters (Doug Fister, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Mat Latos) are scheduled to hit the market. Some will sign extensions, sure, but some will inevitably hit the market. There’s too many for that not to happen. At that point the Yankees will be a year away from shedding Teixeira’s and Carlos Beltran‘s contracts (maybe CC Sabathia‘s as well), making a another big money deal a little easier to swallow. I’m in favor of skipping Scherzer, signing a few cheaper starters, then revisiting the pitching market next offseason.

5. Over the last year or so, there has been an uptick in the number of MLB player for MLB player trades going down around the league. At the Winter Meetings last week there was the Matt Kemp/Yasmani Grandal trade, the Jeff Samardzija/Marcus Semien trade, and the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes trade. At the trade deadline we had the Jon Lester/Cespedes swap, the John Lackey/Allen Craig deal, and the David Price/Austin Jackson/Drew Smyly three-team trade, among others. There are still plenty of MLB player for prospect deals (the first Samardzija trade, the Dee Gordon/Andrew Heaney deal, etc.), but the MLB player for MLB player trades are happening more often nowadays. I find these trades more fun and interesting, and I’m pretty sure they’re due to the second wildcard. It’s easier to get into the postseason than ever before, and there are many more buyers than sellers. Teams don’t want to take risky prospects in return for their established big leaguers because those prospects can’t help them win right now, so they’re focused on getting other established big leaguers back in return. The Yankees made four trades before the deadline this summer and three of the four were big leaguer for big leaguer. The only exception was the Prado/Peter O’Brien swap. Contrary to what many seem to think, the Yankees do have some tradeable assets on their MLB roster. Will they use any of them to get help elsewhere on the roster at the trade deadline? Intrigue!

6. We all know the Yankees have a lot of injury risk in the rotation heading into next year, and also some on the position player side, and that’s really scary. So I’m going to close with this as a change of pace: what if everything goes right? What if Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow holds up and Michael Pineda makes 30+ starts? And that CC Sabathia’s surgically rebuilt knee gives him a more stable landing and better effectiveness? What if A-Rod returns from his year away with a fully healthy body and rakes in his new role as the DH? What if the bone spur was the only reason Beltran didn’t hit in the second half in 2014? What if Teixeira starts mashin’ taters now that he’s more than a full year removed from wrist surgery? Just humor me for a second. What if all that stuff we’re all expecting to go wrong instead goes right? How amazing would that be? I think the Yankees would win the AL East in a landslide in that case, and then they’d go into the postseason with two aces, a dominant bullpen, and a deep lineup. Realistic? Nah. Fun as hell think about? You bet.

Jorge Posada, Jose Contreras sue financial managers after losing millions in alleged scam

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

According to Jorge Arangure, Jorge Posada and his wife Laura are suing Juan Carlos Collar and Anthony Fernandez of Quantum Ventures, LLC over “what they believe was a blatant and negligent mismanagement of funds.” The suit was recently filed in Miami. The Posadas were allegedly scammed out of approximately $11.2M. Ex-Yankee Jose Contreras is also suing Collar and Fernandez after losing more than $2M.

Posada entrusted his money to Collar and Fernandez way back in 1999, says Arangure. Collar and Fernandez “received all of the player’s mail, filed their tax returns, wrote checks for them, and were given the authority to make whatever investments they wanted” with Posada’s money. It wasn’t until Posada hired an independent investigator to audit his finances in 2010 that the wrongdoing was discovered. Here are the details of the scheme, from Arangure:

Shortly after founding Quantum in 2005, Collar and Fernandez formed a separate company to handle speculative real estate deals—Sunset Trails, LLC—into which they put $3 million of the Posadas’ money. But the $3 million didn’t ensure the Posadas any ownership of the properties Sunset Trails purchased. Instead, the money only entitled them to membership in the LLC. So the Posadas had no say in what happened with any purchase.

On July 28, 2005, Sunset Trails purchased a plot of land for $13.5 million for the purpose of “developing an elite equestrian-themed community for the wealthy,” according to Contreras’s complaint. Most peculiar was that Sunset Trails purchased the land from Southern Acres of Florida, LLC, who on that same day had purchased the land for $8,402,900. In less than a day, Southern Acres had made a $5,049,000 profit.

For example, both complaints outline that Quantum received a 1 percent management fee ($135,000) for Sunset Trails’ $13.5 million land purchase. Quantum also set up various conditions within the deal that gave them an even greater profit. For example, Quantum received the first 20 percent of all net profits. In total, Quantum was in a position to receive nearly 60 percent of all Sunset Trails earnings on the deal, a condition to which no independent company would have agreed upon. But Sunset Trails was not an independent company. Collar and Fernandez managed Sunset Trails.

Additionally, Fernandez served as the real estate agent on the deal, meaning he personally pocketed approximately $350,000 on the sale, according to Posada’s complaint.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that. It’s jaw dropping,” said Posada’s attorney to Arangure. “They would go to Jorge and they would have a stack of documents to sign, and they would just say ‘sign here,’ and Jorge would sign it. He completely trusted these guys with all of their finances. All of their money. Whatever the Posadas made, went directly into their accounts with these guys. That’s the kind of trust they had. The Posadas never in any way used other money managers, other investments. Everything was through these guys.”

The Sunset Trails land is currently being leased to a farmer and Posada’s money is still tied up in it. Collar and Fernandez will make nearly $750,000 in rent over the next five years. Because he was duped into being a member rather than an owner, Posada has no say in what happens to the property. Same with Contreras. Posada also invested over $8M into Quantum Hedge Fund, which invested in “risky, high leverage hedge funds.”

According to Baseball Reference, Posada banked more than $117M in player contracts during his time with the Yankees. That is before taxes and doesn’t include any endorsements or his MLBPA pension. Contreras made more than $67M during his time in MLB. Both lawsuits are set to go to trial next year.

Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today, before the Yankees agreed to re-sign Chase Headley, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) ranked the six divisions based on where they stand right now. The AL Central, which I think has four legitimate contenders in the non-Twins teams, claims the top spot and is followed in order by the NL Central, AL West, NL West, AL East, and NL East. I might flip the NL West and AL East — the NL West is just one superpower and one other very good team while the AL East is five okay-ish teams, any of whom could probably win the division if things break right — but otherwise it seems like a good list to me. The AL East was the undisputed best division for a very long time, but that definitely isn’t the case anymore.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the night. The Saints and Bears are the Monday Night Football game, plus the Devils and Islanders are playing (each other). There’s also some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Headley coming back, the division rankings, or anything else right here.