Report: Diamondbacks in “active discussions” about Justin Upton

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Diamondbacks are engaged in “active (trade) discussions” about Justin Upton. The outfielder had the Yankees on his four-team no-trade list this year, but the list has since changed.

Upton, 25, hit .280/.355/.430 (108 wRC+) with 17 homers this year while battling thumb problems. A year ago he was an MVP candidate with 31 homers and a 139 wRC+. Upton is signed through 2015 for a total of $38.5M, or an average annual value of $12.83M. As I’ve said a million times before, the Yankees need to be involved in any talks with Arizona about their right fielder. They might not have the pieces to land him — the D’Backs are reportedly seeking help on the left side of the infield — but they’ve got to at least try. Who knows, maybe Kevin Towers fell in love with some prospects during the year he spent in New York’s front office.

In other news, Jerry Crasnick says the D’Backs will also listen to offers for 21-year-old right-hander Trevor Bauer, who has fallen out of favor with some in the organization. Same thing as Upton here, if he’s truly available, the Yankees need to at least make the call.

What Went Wrong: Curtis Granderson

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Power is becoming harder to come by these days, and hitting coach Kevin Long turned Curtis Granderson into one of the game’s elite power hitters with some mechanical adjustments back in August 2010. He hit a career-high 43 homers in 2012, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jason Giambi as the only players to hit 40+ homers in back-to-back seasons for the Yankees. Since the start of 2010, no player has hit more homers than the Yankees’ center fielder.

That said, it wasn’t all good for Granderson in 2012. Expecting him to repeat his MVP-caliber effort from 2011 was a little unrealistic, but seeing nearly every non-power aspect of his game take a step back this year was unexpected. He became a very one-dimensional power hitter in a lineup that featured a few too many of those guys to start with. Maybe having to play the field nearly every day due to Brett Gardner‘s injury — Curtis started the team’s first 71 (and 89 of the first 90 games) in center — wore him down a bit, but that’s not really an excuse. The decline in overall production took a bite out New York’s attack.

Batting Average
I don’t think anyone is realistically expecting Curtis to his .300+ every year, but I also don’t think anyone expected him to hit .232 either. In fact, after topping out at .284 in the team’s 28th game of the season, Granderson hit just .220 in his final 556 plate appearances. He came into the year as a .267 career hitter and a .255 hitter as a Yankee, so he failed to meet even his modest standards. The 30-point drop in batting average from 2011 to 2012 coincides with a 35-point drop in BABIP, which doesn’t really jibe with the minimal change his batted ball profile. I’m not giving Granderson a pass for his inability to pick up simple base hits, but it is fair to say he got a little unlucky with his balls-in-play this summer.

Strikeouts
This is partially tied to the whole batting average thing but the correlation is often overstated. That said, Granderson’s strikeout issues — franchise record 195 strikeouts in 2012 thanks to a career-high 28.5 K% — are a career-long issue that have gotten worse in each of his three seasons in New York…

Starting with the four-game series in Detroit in early-August, Granderson struck out 65 times in his final 210 plate appearances (31.0%). He also whiffed an astronomical 16 times in 33 postseason plate appearances. Curtis draws a lot of walks (11.0 BB%) and works deep counts (4.27 pitches per plate appearance, the fifth highest in baseball), which contributes to the strikeout issues, but also he’s just the kind of hitter who will swing-and-miss a bunch. It’s just who he is. When he’s hitting .260-something with 80+ walks and 40+ homers, you live with it. When he’s hitting .220 with a sub-.320 OBP, like he did in 2012, they’re a problem.

On The Bases
In the three seasons prior to coming to New York, Granderson stole 58 bases in 69 attempts (84.1%). This year he stole just ten bases in 13 attempts, both the lowest full season totals of his career. Heck, he only had three steals through the team’s first 69 games. Curtis doesn’t get enough credit for being a superb base-runner overall — he’s taken the extra base a well-above-average 48% of the time as a Yankees — but for whatever reason he just didn’t steal or even attempt to steal many bases in 2012. I wouldn’t call it a problem per se, but it’s a skill he was supposed to bring to the table that just isn’t there anymore.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Defense
The various metrics absolutely buried Granderson’s defense this year, as he ranked dead last among all qualified outfielders in UZR (-17.8) and bottom ten in both DRS (-10) and Total Zone (-12). I don’t believe he’s among the game’s worst defensively outfielders as the one-year of defensive data suggests, but he’s certainly a below-average defender in center. He was worse in 2012 than he was in 2011, when he was worse than he was in 2010. The Yankees aren’t oblivious to Granderson’s defensive shortcomings either, which is why they’re considering putting Gardner in center next year. Frankly, it’s a move that has to be made at this point.

* * *

The prevailing thought out there seems to be that Granderson was a flat out bad player in 2012, but that’s ridiculous. It’s almost impossible for a player to hit 40+ homers in this run-starved environment and be bad. He certainly took a step back in all of the above areas and had a miserable playoff showing like most of his teammates, but his overall production was still much better than average and valuable for New York. Curtis just wasn’t nearly as good this year as he was a year ago, and the Yankees missed the lost production.

Report: Yankees still haven’t heard from Pettitte about 2013

Via Ken Davidoff & Joel Sherman: Brian Cashman and the Yankees have still not heard from Andy Pettitte about his intentions for next season. The left-hander supposedly “hinted strongly” at returning last month, and Marc Carig says Joe Girardi has spoken to Andy recently and wouldn’t be surprised if he came back.

Pettitte, 40, said he hoped to make a decision about his future within a month after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS. He has since changed agents, joining Casey Close after being represented by the Hendricks Brothers throughout his career. Close also represents Derek Jeter. The Yankees appear to be waiting for Pettitte (and Hiroki Kuroda) to decide on his future before moving forward with their offseason plans because hey, getting him back on a one-year deal is more attractive than most of the other free agent pitching options out there.

Prospect Profile: Ty Hensley

(Photo via BaseballLife365.com)

Ty Hensley | RHP

Background
Raised in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, Hensley was a two-sport star at Sante Fe High School before giving up his quarterback gig to focus on baseball as a senior. He pitched to a 1.52 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 55.1 innings with the Wolves this spring, earning him Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year honors and several other awards. His father Mike was a second round pick who was a long-time college pitching coach after injuries derailed his playing career.

[Read more…]

Report: Yankees preparing to offer Rivera pay cut

Via Bob Klapisch: The Yankees are preparing a contract offer for Mariano Rivera, and it includes a pay cut from this year’s $15M salary. Exact details of the offer are unknown, but one team official said “there’s just no way” he could expect the same salary in 2013.

Rivera, 43 later this month, recently informed the team of his decision to return next season. The Yankees got Andy Pettitte to take a substantial pay cut following his subpar 2008 season, but incentives eventually pushed the value of that deal back up into his usual salary range. I suspect we’ll see something similar here. A lower base salary with a bunch of easily attainable incentives that could bring the deal back into the $15M range.

The Don’t Needs

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees have a pretty long shopping list this offseason, a shopping list topped by an outfielder, a catcher, and a starting pitcher or two. There are other needs as well, but those three are by far the most pressing.

There are also things the Yankees don’t need this offseason, but as fans we like to rummage through the hot stove scraps for interesting names and potential bargains. We often come up with solutions for problems the team doesn’t even have. It’s part of the fun of the hot stove season. Barring something unforeseen like a trade or an offseason injury, here are three roster items the Yankees won’t spend much (if any) time addressing this winter.

Left-Handed Reliever
An awful lot of money was wasted on Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte these last few years, yet in 2012 the Yankees paid the duo of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada less than $2.5M for rock solid left-on-left relief work. Logan held same-side hitters to a .289 wOBA (31.6 K%) this year while Rapada was even better, holding them to a .238 wOBA (28.7 K%). Both are under team control next season and are expected to pull down less than $3.5M combined.

Furthermore, the Yankees claimed left-hander Josh Spence yesterday and also intend to give 2011 Rule 5 Draft pick and fellow lefty Cesar Cabral another look in Spring Training after he missed all of this season with a fractured elbow. Triple-A southpaw Juan Cedeno held lefties to a .303 wOBA (27.8 K%) this year and has already signed a minor league contract to return to the organization next year. The Yankees have two good lefty relievers at the big league level as well as solid depth in Triple-A, so a LOOGY doesn’t figure to be a priority this winter at all.

(J. Meric/Getty)

Backup Catcher
The Yankees are said to have interest in David Ross, the game’s best backup backstop, but they already have plenty of options for the position. Chris Stewart held the job down last year and Frankie Cervelli the two years before that, plus Austin Romine will be just a phone call away in Triple-A. The Yankees also claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers yesterday for even more backup catcher depth. Ross is an upgrade over all four of them and someone New York should pursue if the price is reasonable, but a backup catcher is hardly a pressing issue this offseason. A starting catcher is the focal point.

Pure DH
We all laughed earlier this year when the Yankees said one of the reasons they signed Raul Ibanez over Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui was his defense, but it turned out they were correct. All three are terrible outfielders, but Ibanez was the most equipped to play the position everyday. That came in handy when Brett Gardner went down with his elbow injury two weeks into the season.

Given their DH rotation system, expect the Yankees to pursue a similar player this offseason. It could be another outfielder or maybe even a first baseman since Nick Swisher isn’t coming back, which rules out players like Jim Thome and Travis Hafner. They offer the left-handed power and patience the Yankees crave, but they also haven’t played a position even semi-regular in years. Every little sliver of value you can squeeze from a player is important these days, especially in the ultra-competitive AL East, even if that value is playing a DH in the field once or twice a week to rest other players.

Shocker: Scott Boras doesn’t like the Yankees’ 2014 payroll plan

Via Jon Paul Morosi: Scott Boras is not a fan of the Yankees’ plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold, and he even went as far as calling the tax a “reward” for clubs generating huge revenue. “Are you going to put your brand at risk, when your brand is having more superstars than anyone else? Superstars are good for business. Superstars make money for franchises and their television networks,” he added.

Of course, superstars also make money for Scott Boras, which is something he neglected to mention. The plan to scale payroll back theoretically takes away a potential suitor for Boras’ clients, which limits his negotiation power and by extension, his earning potential. That’s pretty much the only reason he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t care about the Yankees brand. I don’t like the idea of the team scaling back payroll, not with the New Stadium just opened a lucrative new television deals being signed, but it would be kinda awesome if it was just one big negotiating ploy.