• Heyman: Yankees have checked in on Mike Pelfrey
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    Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have checked in on free agent right-hander Mike Pelfrey. The team is still looking for a number three-ish type starter even after re-signing Hiroki Kuroda. They’re going to hold a competition for the fifth spot in Spring Training.

    Pelfrey, 29, had a 5.19 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 152.2 innings for the Twins in 2013, his first season following Tommy John surgery. At his best before elbow construction, he had a 3.66 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 204 innings for the Mets back in 2010. That’s probably his best case scenario. Pelfrey has the size (6-foot-7, 250 lbs.) and stuff (sinker averaged almost 93 mph this past season) that make you think he could be great, but he’s never lived up to the billing of being the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft. No harm in checking in. Hopefully he’s nothing more than a backup plan.
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(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

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

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

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

Cano didn’t like Girardi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spending spree

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

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

Dysfunctional Seattle

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

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

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

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  • Jennings: Yankees shopping Ichiro Suzuki
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    Via Chad Jennings: The Yankees are shopping spare outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in trade talks. Nothing is imminent and there are indications other clubs value him as nothing more than a fourth outfielder. His trade value is minimum at this point of his career.

    Ichiro, 40, hit .262/.297/.342 (71 wRC+) with seven homers and 20 stolen bases in 555 plate appearances this past season, setting several career worsts. He is a man without a role — unless the Yankees trade Brett Gardner, which is always a possibility — thanks to recent Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran pickups. If the team can move him for some salary relief, even $2-3M, it’ll be a win. I mentioned to Moshe the other day that I was weirdly confident the Yankees would be able to trade Ichiro (Phillies? Giants?) and he basically laughed at me, just to give you someone else’s perspective.
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  • Eric Hinske helped Yankees sign Brian McCann
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    Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees hired former Yankee Eric Hinske as a pro scout after the season, and he helped the team woo Brian McCann to New York. “He was here, he was involved” said Brian Cashman of Hinske. “He helped me with Brian McCann … because he played with Brian. So I appreciate Eric Hinske giving Brian McCann a lot of good advice about his experience here with the Yankees. He was a great resource for about 30 days.”

    Hinske, 36, was with the team for “about the month” before leaving to join the Cubs as their first base coach. You probably remember him as a member of the 2009 World Series team after being acquired from the Pirates at midseason. Hinske actually played for the Diamondbacks this past season, but he was terrible (49 wRC+) and decided to retire after being released in July. Long before he helped the Yankees land McCann, Hinske advised Evan Longoria to sign long-term with the Rays. Sounds like he might have a future in a front office.
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  • Marchand: Yankees will hold fifth starter competition in camp
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    Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees are planning to hold a competition between David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno in Spring Training for the fifth starter’s job. This isn’t much of a surprise — Brian Cashman said the team is looking to add two starters even though they lost three to free agency (Hiroki Kuroda has since returned, so they only need one more starter now). I was hoping they’d bring in some veteran competition, but alas.

    The Yankees have a knack for holding rigged competitions in camp (Phil Hughes as fifth starter in 2010, the catcher situation in 2013) but I do think this one is wide open. Phelps might have a leg up because he has the most big league experience of the group, but if Pineda shows up to Tampa and blows everyone away, I bet he’d get the job. Same with Warren and Nuno. Either way, the odds are strongly in favor of all four of these guys being needed in the rotation at some point next summer. Getting through the year using only five starters isn’t something you can reasonably expect.
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  • It’s official: Ellsbury’s a Yankee
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    The Yankees have officially signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract, the team announced. The deal will pay him $148M over the seven years and includes a $21M club option ($5M buyout) for an eighth year, so the total guarantee is $153M. Ellsbury will be introduced during a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

    The 40-man roster is now full, so the Yankees will have to clear a spot when the Carlos Beltran deal becomes official. Given their glut of outfielders, Vernon Wells could very well get the axe.
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(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

I couldn’t help but laugh at the Mariners after their ten-year, $240M offer to Robinson Cano.  That’s such an obscene amount of money for a guy already in his thirties – granted, he is the best at what he does and is arguably one of the top five players currently playing in the game.  Plus, according to pundits, the Mariners organization felt that it was necessary to make a huge splash this offseason as their team has been idling in irrelevancy for several years now.  Well, they certainly accomplished their goal of making a big splash.

Still, I can’t help but wonder whether the Mariners overestimated what would it would take to sign Cano.  If the best Yankees offer was locked in at $175M as it evidently was — not to mention the fact that Cano was apparently feeling a bit snubbed due the team taking a hard stance with him after the Jacoby Ellsbury signing– I wonder if the Mariners could have stood their ground with a $200M deal and overcome whatever shortcomings their location presumably has.  After all, that’d still be a $25M dollar difference between their offer and that of New York’s.  Maybe Cano prefers playing in NY so much that he is willing to dismiss twenty-five million reasons not to go to Seattle.  Then again, that’s a lot of money so maybe he wouldn’t have been able to resist.

In any event, if the Mariners honestly got the vibe that $200M wouldn’t get it done for them, they probably could have upped the ante to $225 and locked in there.  By that point, there’d be a $50M gap between them and New York, assuming the Yanks didn’t change their mind and offer more which it seems like they were unwilling to do.  I’m not sure how many folks would be able to turn down an offer that was that much more lucrative than another.  The Yanks did Seattle a huge favor by stalling out around $175M and never really giving a super strong impression to Cano’s camp that they’d be willing to bridge the gap between what they were offering and what Cano was asking for.  Maybe it’s an incorrect impression, but it never appeared as though the Mariners were willing to let Cano consider just how much better their initial offer already was to NY’s.  It was as if their great offer was immediately not good enough despite the fact that there wasn’t another offer even remotely close.  If $50M additional dollars doesn’t blow Cano away, maybe that would have been a strong indication that the cost isn’t worth the reward.

Instead, Seattle basically caved in overnight from what was already an excellent offer, and was content to bid against themselves even further. The Mariners increased their offer to ten years, $240M.  Well, congrats, to them.  They obtained Robbie’s services by outbidding the next highest bid by $65M!  Not only does this strike me as a severe overpay, but it was probably an unnecessary one.  Regardless of how Cano’s camp values his abilities, the fact is, at the end of the day he’s only worth as much as teams are willing to pay.  Hypothetically, if the Mariners offered nine years, $225M, they’d still be showing a really strong interest him.  They’d still be blowing New York’s offer out of the water, and I imagine they’d still have a strong chance of winning the bidding with a $50M dollar difference.

To Seattle’s credit, they now employ the best free agent available.  The problem for them now is that their team, as it currently stands, still stinks.  Even if Cano adds ten wins to their record single handedly, which is a stretch of the imagination, I don’t think that’s enough to make them a contender.  They still have a lot of work to do to become relevant again, especially if they want to try and compete during Cano’s prime years.  Along the same lines, as much as I would have loved to see Cano in pinstripes for the remainder of his career, I don’t regret for a second the Yankees not making a counter offer that extreme.  Letting him go was a no brainer at that point.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (106)
  • McCullough: Yankees receiving “significant interest” in Brett Gardner
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    Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees are receiving “significant interest” in Brett Gardner following the Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran signings. It’s unclear which teams have expressed that interest. New York is not shopping their incumbent center fielder, but they will listen to offers and are open to trading him. That goes for pretty much everyone.

    Gardner, 30, hit .273/.344/.416 (108 wRC+) with 24 stolen bases in 145 games this past season while playing his usual stellar defense. He will become a free agent next winter and I think his trade value is similar to Norichika Aoki’s and Seth Smith’s, probably a bit higher since he’s a better defender. Aoki and Smith are both a year away from free agency as well and were traded this week for a five years of lefty reliever and one year of an ace setup man, respectively. As I said this morning, if some team wants to blow the Yankees away and offer a good starter for Gardner, great. Go for it. If not, keep him as a heavily used fourth outfielder. They have the leverage here.
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  • Heyman: Yankees have no interest in Dan Uggla
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    Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have no interest in trading for Dan Uggla after losing Robinson Cano to the Mariners. The Braves have an enormous arbitration class and are looking to free up some payroll so they can make upgrades elsewhere.

    Uggla, 33, hit .179/.302/.362 (91 wRC+) with 22 homers in 537 plate appearances in 2013. He lost his starting job to Elliot Johnson in September and was left off the team’s postseason roster. Uggla still hits for power (.183 ISO) and draws walks (14.3%), but he really struggles to make contact and his defense is terrible. His decline is obvious. The Braves owe Uggla $13M in both 2014 and 2015 and they’ll probably give him away for salary relief. Glad the Yankees are steering clear. Big name, small production.
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