For the first time in a long time, the Yankees have signed a homegrown player long-term. Jon Heyman and Jack Curry report the team has agreed to a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $52M with outfielder Brett Gardner. The deal includes a $12.5M club option ($2M buyout) for a fifth year and it kicks in next season, so the contract covers 2015-18 and potentially 2019. Brian Cashman told Curry negotiations began way back during the Winter Meetings.
“I love it here, I love everybody in the organization, the coaching staff and all my teammates and this is where I want to be,” said Gardner to Erik Boland, Jorge Castillo, and Mark Feinsand. “Free agency is something that kind of intrigued me, but it also kind of scared me. I’ve never been anywhere else … I made it known to them that I wanted to stay here and be a part of this. I learned from guys that come from other places that there’s no better place to play, so I look forward to staying here and helping the team win.”
The Yankees and Gardner avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $5.6M a few weeks ago, so consider this one big five-year, $58.6M deal with an option for a sixth year. Joel Sherman says the contract will pay Gardner exactly $12.5M annually from 2015-18, and he gets a $1M bonus if he is traded during the life of the deal. Curry adds the contract does not include a no-trade clause. Gardner asked for one but the team was unwilling to do it.
The four-year deal is right in line with the four-year, $48M contract the Indians gave Michael Bourn last spring. Gardner gets an extra million bucks per year — chalk that up to inflation — but his option is a club option, not a vesting option like Bourn’s. Given the contracts handed out this offseason, Gardner might have been able to get five gauranteed years had he hit free agency after this season as scheduled. He and Bourn are two very similar players who signed very similar contracts at the same age. Have to believe Bourn’s deal was the framework for this extension.
Gardner, 30, was the team’s third round pick in the 2005 draft after walking on at the College of Charleston. He hit .273/.344/.416 (108 wRC+) with 24 stolen bases last year while setting career highs in plate appearances (609), hits (147), doubles (33), triples (ten), and homers (eight). He’s a career .268/.352/.381 (101 wRC+) hitter with two 40+ steal seasons to his credit. As you know, Gardner is a top notch defensive outfielder, though he will now slide back to left field with Jacoby Ellsbury and his $153M contract on board. The Yankees obviously value having two premium defensive players in the outfield.
As with every long-term contract, this deal comes with risk for the team. Gardner has not been the most durable player throughout his career, most notably missing almost the entire 2012 season due to an elbow injury and a series of setbacks. He’s also had thumb (2009), wrist (2010), and oblique (2013) problems over the years. The good news is that none of the injuries involved his legs, Gardner’s money-maker(s).
Just the other day I said I didn’t expect the Yankees to re-sign Gardner when he hit free agency after the season. I didn’t think the team would be open to paying top of the market salaries to two no-power, defense-first outfielders, and I also thought Gardner would prefer to play center field and leadoff, two things that won’t happen in New York thanks to Ellsbury. Wrong on both counts, I was.
The signing is a welcome break from the team’s archaic no extensions policy, which Cashman confirmed to Feinsand is a thing of the past. The Yankees tried to extend Russell Martin, Hiroki Kuroda, and Robinson Cano prior to free agency in recent years, but to no avail. The last homegrown player to sign a long-term deal with the team before becoming a free agent was Cano, who inked a four-year deal with a pair of club options way back in February 2008, four years before he was due to hit the open market.
The Yankees now have three outfielders signed through 2016, though the smart money is on Carlos Beltran being relegated to DH duty at some point during the life of his three-year contract. There is only one outfield spot open long-term for prospects like Zoilo Almonte, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin, but only Almonte is close to the big leagues right now, so this isn’t even a thing worth worrying about just yet. All of those guys are trade bait, now more than ever.
Sunday: Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman told Dan Barbarisi and Jack Curry that Bailey’s timetable is likely not midseason, but closer to September. So yeah, this move is more about the 2015 bullpen than anything.
Saturday: The Yankees have added some potential midseason bullpen help. Tim Dierkes and Buster Olney report the team has agreed to an incentive-laden minor league contract with right-hander Andrew Bailey. The deal can be worth up to $2.5M and it includes an option for 2015.
Bailey, 29, is a local guy from New Jersey who went to Wagner College in Staten Island. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum and shoulder capsule last July, so he won’t be ready to pitch until midseason at the earliest. Bailey had a 4.91 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 44 innings for the Red Sox over the last two years while dealing with shoulder and thumb problems. He was legitimately one of the best relievers in the game before that, pitching to a 2.07 ERA (2.74 FIP) in 174 innings with the Athletics from 2009-11.
Torn shoulder capsules are very serious and no pitcher has returned from one to recapture his previous form. Guys like Chien-Ming Wang, Rich Harden, Johan Santana, and Mark Prior have all been derailed by torn capsules. I really think this move is geared more towards 2015 (especially with David Robertson due to become a free agent), but there is a chance Bailey will be able to help down the stretch this year.
For the first time this year, the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained in Tampa this morning so most of the day’s workouts took place indoors. Such is life. Here’s the latest from Tampa.
- As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. David Phelps threw a simulated game while Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelley threw live batting practice. Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and David Robertson threw bullpen sessions. Kelly Johnson worked out at second and third bases but not first.
- Tyler Austin‘s wrist is bothering him again. He dealt with a bone bruise most of last season. Austin said it started acting up a few days ago, but when it didn’t go away, he told the team. He hopes to only miss a few days but who knows. [Chad Jennings]
- Alfonso Soriano (flu) is still being held out of workouts and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Nik Turley‘s arm was “a little tight” and he was shut down for the day. Jim Miller has “slight irritation” in his calf and will be re-evaluated Monday. [Dan Barbarisi, Jennings]
- And finally, today was photo day. You can scroll through all the shots right here, though they might not all be uploaded yet.
Here is your nightly open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, plus the Olympics are still going on. I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere as well. Talk about anything and everything here. Have at it.
Happy Friday everyone. Spring Training is fully underway now that position players are in camp and in just a few days, the Yankees will open their slate of Grapefruit League games. Here’s the latest from Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova were among those to throw live batting practice. Kelly Johnson spent time working out at first base, which is important because he has 18 career innings at the position and is slated to serve as Mark Teixeira‘s backup this year.
- Joe Girardi confirmed Tanaka will be allowed to face AL East clubs in exhibition games. The team typically tries to hide their stop starters from rival clubs, but they feel it’s important for Tanaka to face MLB caliber hitters. [Jennings]
- Teixeira said he is “probably a week to ten days” away from facing live pitchers in batting practice. He won’t get into a Spring Training game until early March, as expected. [George King]
- Slade Heathcott, meanwhile, still has not started hitting or fielding drills after having offseason knee surgery, so he’s behind the other position players. [Jennings]
Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks are playing and the Olympics are still going on as well. Talk about those games, Spring Training, or anything else right here. Have at it.
Friday: The Yankees did indeed have Diaz at the minor league complex early this morning for a workout, according to Jon Morosi. No word on whether Despaigne was there, but George King says he was scheduled to showcase himself for the team as well.
Thursday: Via Joe Strauss: The Yankees are one of seven teams “engaged in talks” with free agent Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. Jesse Sanchez says he is expected to work out for them today. “He is prepared to [sign] very quickly,” said agent Jaime Torres. “We know he’s going to be in the Major Leagues. It’s only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he’s played second and third and I’m sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary.”
Diaz, 23, is now eligible to sign after being suspended a year for falsifying age and identity information. Rather than make himself appear younger, he tried to pass himself off as older than his real age so he would not be subject to MLB’s international spending restrictions. Diaz can now sign for any amount and Torres said a decision could be reached as soon as Friday or Saturday. The Yankees certainly need infield help (both short and long-term) and they’ve been monitoring Diaz for months now, though they are said to be done signing big free agents. We’ll see.
In other news, Sanchez says the Yankees are also expected to work out Cuban right-hander Ordisamer Despaigne today as well. They scouted his showcases earlier this offseason. Ben Badler says Despaigne is “pretty fringy” and not much of a prospect, so there’s not a lot to see there. Diaz is a real prize of all the available Cuban players right now. · (63) ·
For all the talk about their shaky infield, the Yankees figure to boast one of the strongest outfield units in baseball this season. They have two legitimate starting caliber center fielders in Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as two veteran, middle of the order corner outfield bats in Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran. Fitting all four guys into one lineup will take some creativity on Joe Girardi‘s part but nothing crazy.
Girardi confirmed earlier this week that Ellsbury will be his everyday center fielder because duh. They didn’t give the guy $153M not to play center field. Since the Ellsbury and Beltran signings, I think the general assumption has been that Gardner will move back to left field everyday while Soriano and Beltran split time between right and DH. Obviously you want Gardner in the field for his defense, and considering their ages, giving Soriano and Beltran regular turns at DH makes sense.
It’s a wonderful plan in theory, but it is a little more complicated than that. Soriano has never played right field in his entire professional career and neither he nor Beltran have spent much time at DH. In fact, they’ve combined to start only 36 games at DH since 2005. Aside from Soriano’s return to New York in the second half last year, both guys spent the entirety of that 2005-13 period in the National League, so when they were in the lineup, they played the field.
“I don’t know,’’ said Soriano to George King earlier this week when asked about his spot in the lineup. “They said something about DH and left field. I want to be in the lineup, it doesn’t matter where … If I am the DH I will have to make adjustments. When the team is playing defense I will have to find a way to keep my body warm and ready.’’
Being the DH is tough, especially for a veteran player used to playing the field everyday. Baseball players are creatures of habit, and when the routine they’ve spent years crafting has to change, it can be a tough adjustment to make. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it is something to consider. For all we know, both guys could make that adjustment immediately and make this a non-issue.
The right field thing is a little different, particularly for Soriano. Like I said, he’s never played right field before, so if the Yankees do plan to use him and Beltran in what amounts to a right field/DH platoon, he’ll have to learn the position in Spring Training after spending most of his career in left. Again, it’s not impossible, but it is an adjustment that will have to be made by a veteran player with a routine already in place.
It’s possible that Soriano will not have to make that adjustment, however. The Yankees could instead keep him in left field, where he’s comfortable, and put Gardner in right field. Gardner has never played right field in his career either, but his athleticism and relative youth should make the transition easier for him than it would be for Soriano. His speed would also allow him to simply outrun his mistakes. Gardner has a better arm than Soriano and that should be considered as well — runners are going to go first-to-third on singles all day, everyday against Soriano.
“I played [left field] for a couple of years a few years ago. I feel comfortable over there,” said Brett Gardner to Chad Jennings the other day when asked about moving out of center. “I told Joe I can play right too if he needs me to. I’ll do whatever I’m needed to do to help the team win. Wherever I’m playing out there, wherever I’m hitting in the lineup, whatever he needs me to do, I’ll be ready.”
Gardner has already broached the idea of playing right field, so I assume he is on board with the idea. Aside from learning the position, the issue here is that right field in Yankee Stadium is tiny and it would be a waste to stick such a good defender there. There’s more real estate to cover in left and that’s where you want the rangier outfielder. That’s not a deal-breaker but it is something to keep in mind.
If the Yankees want to keep Soriano comfortable and play him in left, the best solution might be a rotation based on whether the team is home or away. At home, Gardner could play left with Beltran in right. On the road, Soriano could play left while Gardner is in right. That way Gardner’s range is used in Yankee Stadium’s spacious left field and Soriano gets to play his usual position.
That arrangement does sound great in theory, but it is a little more complicated than it seems. How will Gardner handle shifting back and forth between positions? Most guys like to have one set position and know where they’re playing everyday. Long homestands and road trips will also throw a wrench into things, especially if the team wants make sure Soriano and Beltran get regular turns at DH to stay fresh.
The Yankees are all but guaranteed to have an excellent outfield defense because of Gardner and Ellsbury, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the right field/DH rotation with Soriano and Beltran. Someone is going to wind up playing out of position most days, it’s just a question of who.
Got six questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything throughout the week.
Bill asks: Does Craig Kimbrel’s new extension with the Braves give us a better idea at what it would take to lock up David Robertson to an extension?
No, I don’t think so. This is an apples to oranges comparison. The Braves signed Kimbrel to a four-year, $42M deal earlier this week and it is the largest contract ever given to a pitcher in his first year of arbitration eligibility, starter or reliever. Even if they went to an arbitration hearing and Kimbrel had lost, he still would have made more in his first year of arbitration ($6.55M) than Robertson will earn in his final year this season ($5.215M). These two are at very different places in their careers.
Not only do saves pay very well, but Kimbrel is just flat out better than Robertson. Don’t get me wrong, Robertson is awesome, but Kimbrel is in his own little world right now. He’s clearly the best reliever in baseball at the moment. I looked at a potential extension for Robertson months ago and wound up at three years and $21M, which is basically high-end setup man money. Robertson will be a free agent after the season and if he has a typical Robertson year but with say, 35+ saves, then something like three years and $35M (Rafael Soriano money) or four years and $46M (Francisco Cordero money) might more appropriate. I guess that is Kimbrel money, we just got there in a roundabout away.
Anonymous: Let’s say the Yankees sign Stephen Drew and he indeed opts out after the first year. Is there any way they can get a supplemental pick from whoever signs him? Is it guaranteed, a property of the specific contract they agree upon, or impossible?
Yep, they can get definitely get a pick. If they were to sign Drew to a multi-year deal with an opt-out after the first year, they can make him the qualifying offer if he uses the opt out. They’d then get a pick if he declined. It’s exactly what happened with Soriano — when he opted out a year ago, the team made the qualifying offer and received a draft pick when he declined. Because they would only surrender a second rounder to sign him, the Yankees could conceivably “trade” their 2014 second rounder for a 2015 supplemental first rounder by signing Drew.
Dan asks: If I told the Yankees they could get 200 combined games out of Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts, do you think they’d sign up for that? If they’d even think hard about it, they should be calling up Boras right now to sign Drew.
Against my better judgement, I think I would say no to 200 combined games from those two. I think it’s possible they’ll combine for 240-250 games or so — 100 from Roberts, 140-150 from Jeter — but that’s basically the best case scenario. The Yankees haven’t exactly done a good job of keeping people healthy over the alst few years. The thing is that, even if he plays 100+ games, will Roberts even be any good? He’s 36 and has hit .246/.310/.359 (82 OPS+) when healthy over the last four years (192 games).
AJ asks: With the one infield spot open, would their be any thought of keeping three catchers on the roster? Someone will have to backup firstst base and Frankie Cervelli has proven versatile in the past backing up second base. John Ryan Murphy has played third and Brian McCann could backup Mark Teixeira at first.
Well, Cervelli hasn’t really proven himself to be versatile. He’s played five innings at third base and three innings at second base in his career, plus he spent one game in left field in the minors nine years ago. Those are emergency assignments, nothing more. Murphy has only played 14 total games at third base in his career as well, so it’s not like he has a ton of experience at the hot corner either. Both guys are catchers, that’s all. Given their roster, that last bench spot absolutely has to go to a real infielder. Carrying a third catcher rarely makes sense and it certainly doesn’t for this squad.
Jacob asks: Do you think the Yankees will re-sign Brett Gardner and should they?
I think the Jacoby Ellsbury signing pushed Gardner right out the door. I’m not sure how many no power, defense first outfielders one team can carry on expensive free agent contracts. It’s fine now while Gardner is playing for relative peanuts, but he’s looking at $10M+ per year as a free agent. Would they really commit $30M+ annually for the next three or four (or five) years for these two guys? Should they even want to do that? I don’t think so. One such player is enough. Besides, I’m guessing Gardner wants to play center field and bat leadoff, two things that won’t happen with the Yankees now.
Anonymous asks: Better FA pickup in your opinion, Jimmy Key or David Wells (first time)?
Without looking, I’m thinking Wells.
The Yankees gave Key a four-year, $17M deal during the 1992-93 offseason and he pitched to a 3.68 ERA (13.5 bWAR) in 604.1 innings during the life of the contract. He was also limited to five starts during the 1995 season due to a torn rotator cuff. Key was a big part of the 1996 team though, including beating Greg Maddux in the deciding Game Six of the World Series.
Wells, on the other hand, signed a three-year deal worth $13.5M during the 1996-97 offseason, replacing Key. He pitched to a 3.85 ERA (9.1 bWAR) in 432.1 innings across the first two years of the contract and finished third in the 1998 AL Cy Young voting. Wells helped the team to the 1998 World Series title and was then the center piece of the Roger Clemens trade after the season.
On a rate basis, Key and Wells (first stint) were very similar with the Yankees. Key missed almost an entire season to injury and Wells was traded away mid-contract, plus both guys were key parts of a World Series winner. Without going ridiculously in depth (this is only a mailbag, after all), I’d say Wells was the better pickup because he was more durable and then flipped for arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the time. Not sure there’s a wrong answer here, both were very good in pinstripes.
For the first time this year, the entire Yankees team worked out on Thursday. Position players reported yesterday so the first full squad workout was held today, meaning the first Grapefruit League game is less than one week away. Hooray for that. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa.
- As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances were among those to face hitters in live batting practice while Michael Pineda threw in the bullpen. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira took batting practice and participated in infield drills as scheduled.
- Jeter lost some weight this winter in an effort to reduce the stress on his legs. Joe Girardi said he looked far better during today’s workout than he did at any time last year. “To me it looked like he never got hurt,” said the skipper. [Dan Barbarisi, Joel Sherman]
- We have our first injury of Spring Training: Alfonso Soriano has the flu and missed today’s workout. That counts as an injury, right? [Sherman]
- Both Hideki Matsui and Willie Randolph arrived in camp to serve as guest instructors. [Mark Feinsand]
Here is your nightly open thread. Neither the Knicks or Nets are playing, so you’re left with the Olympics and whatever college basketball you can find. Talk about anything here, enjoy.