Sherman: Hal has yet to okay expanding payroll; only interested in one-year deals for pitching

Via Joel Sherman, Hal Steinbrenner has yet to approve an expanded payroll, and at the moment the team is only interested in signing a pitcher to a one-year contract. That includes Edwin Jackson, who I don’t think will take a one-year “pillow” contract given the pitching depth in next year’s free agent class. Right now is basically the only time he’ll ever be the best pitcher on the market.

This is great as far as I’m concerned, a one-year deal is the way to go given my affinity for Cole Hamels. I suspect the expanded payroll scenario works on a case-by-case basis, meaning they’ll add money for this guy at this price, another guy at another price, etc. They’re not going to sign someone like Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, or Roy Oswalt without adding significant dollars, so expanding the budget is basically a must if they want to augment the starting staff.

Edwin Jackson and falling prices

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Word got out late last night that Hal Steinbrenner met with Scott Boras during the quarterly owners meeting in Arizona, specifically to discuss free agent right-hander Edwin Jackson. The Yankees owner told Boras they would “think about the right deal” for Jackson, indicating that they “want to keep deals short.” Given all this talk about the 2014 austerity budget, that’s not a surprise.

Pitchers and catchers will report to camp in just five weeks, so the offseason clock is running out for teams that want to improve and players that want to be employed in 2012. We’ve already seen some prices drop in recent days, specifically that sweetheart one-year deal Ryan Madson (another Boras guy) took from the Reds. Paul Maholm also signed for less (one-year, $4.25M) than what he probably could have gotten earlier this winter, a contract that pales in comparison to what some comparable pitchers (Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen) received. It’s still a sellers’ market, just not as much of one as it was a month ago.

At this point, I’ve kinda resigned myself to the fact that the Yankees will end up signing Jackson. The parallels to Rafael Soriano last year are pretty staggering, and all the increased chatter over the last week only fuels that fire. He’s a fine pitcher and will undoubtedly help the team, so my only significant concern is the contract, and specifically its potential to hinder a pursuit of Cole Hamels next year. There’s no guarantee the lefty will even hit the market — right now the two sides are only talking about a one-year deal for 2012 — but I want them to be prepared if he does. Like CC Sabathia back a few years ago, Hamels is an elite arm that you have to prepare for in advance, not just someone you pursue because he just so happens to be the best guy on the market, kinda like Jackson now. A one-year deal for Roy Oswalt or Hiroki Kuroda both fits the Hamels plan and improves the rotation this year.

The report of ownership getting involved both does and doesn’t scare me. Obviously bad things tend to happen when owners play GM, but at the same time this doesn’t sound like an instance in which Hal sought out Boras. The agent showed up to the owners meetings to do his job, and that’s really it. Boras did meet with the Nationals’ owners about Prince Fielder yesterday, so it’s not like this trip was specifically designed to unload Jackson on the Yankees. Or maybe it was, we can’t be sure, but for some reason I feel more comfortable with this type of thing in Hal’s hands than I do some of the other higher-ups.

Everything we’ve heard over the past week, about the Yankees reevaluating their budget and this last stuff with Boras, sure makes it sound like something is go down with Jackson before long. All the evidence is pointing in that direction. I’ve made it no secret that I’m not Jackson’s biggest fan, but he is a worthy add to the rotation under the right terms. With prices starting to drop around the league, the chances of the Yankees getting him under favorable terms is going up just a tad, and every little bit helps.

The Silence Is Deafening: Bartolo Colon

(AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)

Larry hinted at this yesterday, but the market for Bartolo Colon has been absolutely non-existent this offseason. If you look at his MLBTR archive, there have been a total of two posts written about the burly right-hander this winter: one looking at his free agent stock, the other a short little bullet point about Brian Cashman mentioning his interesting in re-signing Colon and a few others. That’s it, not a single other newsworthy item about the guy over the last two and a half months.

Given the lack of impact pitching in this year’s free agent market, Colon figured to draw some interest after resurrecting his career in 2011. MLBTR ranked him as the tenth best starting pitcher available this winter while Keith Law (Insider req’d) had him 11th, so the media thought he had some value to offer going forward. The 30 teams seem to disagree based on how little interest there’s been, or at least disagree about just how much he could help next year.

There are obvious reasons why teams would be skeptical about Bart going forward. He’s going to be 39 in May, he’s overweight, and both his fastball velocity and overall performance declined in a big way down the stretch last year. He’s also a two-pitch pitcher for all intents and purposes (four-seamer and two-seamer), leaving him short on wiggle room. I think there’s also a fear of the unknown given his stem cell treatment, since no one really knows what to expect going forward. Was the second half fade the result of fatigue, or is his shoulder starting to come apart? Maybe both? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that question.

Despite all that, I do think Colon’s getting a bit of a raw deal this winter. He outpitched both Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano last season while in the tougher league and the tougher ballpark, but those two guys ended up with the two-year, eight-figure contracts. Neither of them is all that young, plus they both have injury histories of their own, a significant one in Capuano’s case. I’m not saying Bart deserves that kind of contract, but it goes to show what kind of gap there is between our perception of his value and how the clubs see him.

The Yankees brought Freddy Garcia back with a one-year, $4M deal earlier this winter, which probably means Colon is looking at something below that. Garcia is coming off back-to-back 150+ IP seasons, a claim Bartolo can’t make. Of course if his market continues to not exist, he might be looking at another minor league contract, probably one with a higher base salary than the $900k he made last year. Colon didn’t sign with the Yankees until late-January last offseason (the 26th to be exact), and I have to think they’ll show some more interest in bringing him back if he’s still sitting out there in a few weeks.

I think that Colon’s lengthy winter ball stint — 37.1 IP without including playoffs — contributed to his late season collapse, and not having to deal with all those extra innings will theoretically help him going forward. Of course that also means he won’t break camp in what amounts to midseason form, but that will just make him like everyone else. I don’t expect Colon to repeat his first half brilliance over a full season, but I think he can still be useful at a reasonable price. The only problem is that no teams seem to feel that way.

Report: Yanks talking Edwin Jackson with Boras

As Joe wrote last week, it seemed nearly inevitable that the Yanks’ attention would turn to Edwin Jackson. He’s a 28-year-old Boras client who can fill innings, and the Yankees, in need of pitching, would seemingly love to bite if the price is right. The price may soon be right.

As Jon Heyman reported today, Hal Steinbrenner and Scott Boras met to discuss Jackson this evening. According to Heyman, the Yanks and their scouts “seem to like Jackson but want to keep deals short.” The CBS Sports reporter also reports that the Yanks’ owner would “think about the right deal” for Jackson.

We’ve written extensively about Edwin Jackson this winter, and you can check out our archives right here. Joe scouted Jackson in December. Personally, I’m not so high on Jackson. He’s a fine filler piece, but his numbers will slump in the AL East. If the Yanks can get him on a short-term deal that doesn’t hinder their ability to go after, say, Cole Hamels next winter, then I’m all for it. But anything more than a two-year deal isn’t something the Yanks should consider. With the Yanks also kicking the tires on Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt, the rotation may not be as set as we think it is.

Nostalgia Report: Yankees sign Preston Mattingly

Via Kevin Goldstein, the Yankees have signed Preston Mattingly, Don’s son. The Dodgers gave him a $1M bonus as the 31st overall selection in the 2006, and he’s since gone on to hit .232/.276/.335 with 520 strikeouts and 99 walks in 1,846 minor league plate appearances. He’s never played above Single-A and had to move from shortstop to second base to left field to first base. We’re talking a total non-prospect here, but sheesh, can you believe Donnie Baseball’s kid is already 24? Preston’s not even his oldest.

Open Thread: Brad Halsey

(AP Photo/Ed Betz)

Once upon a time, the Yankees had no pitching prospects. Years of generally poor drafts under former scouting director Lin Garrett — giving away top picks to sign free agents year after year didn’t help either — resulted in one of baseball’s worst farm systems back in 2004 and 2005, meaning no significant help was coming when the Yankees needed to plug a hole. When Kevin Brown went down with a back strain in June of 2004, the Yankees had no choice but to give the ball to lefty Brad Halsey, the 24th best prospect in the 27th best farm system according to Baseball America.

Halsey, who was having a nice season in Triple-A, pitched well in his big league debut (two runs in 5.2 IP) at Dodger Stadium, but things went south from there. He gave up seven runs in his next start and seven runs two starts after that, finishing with a 6.47 ERA in 32 IP spread across seven starts and one relief appearance. After the season, the Yankees traded him as part of the package to get the long-coveted Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks, a trade that occurred seven years ago today.

After an okay season in Arizona (4.61 ERA in 160 IP), Halsey was traded to the Athletics for Juan Cruz. He made seven starts and 45 relief appearances for Oakland in 2006 (4.67 ERA), but was assigned to Triple-A in 2007. He was scheduled to come up and replace an injured Rich Harden in April, but the team bypassed him and called up Dallas Braden instead. Halsey publicly bashed the team for passing on him when they needed an arm, and he ended up having shoulder surgery later in the summer. He filed a grievance with the union regarding the team’s handling of him and his injury, and he actually ended up winning. Good for him.

Halsey, now 30, briefly returned to the Yankees this summer and spend most if his his time in Double-A. He spent a few years pitching in independent ball before that. Nowadays, a pitching prospect like Halsey would be so far down on the team’s depth chart that he’d probably be working in relief. Certainly not the kind of guy that would be entrusted with seven starts in the middle of the season. The Yankees still extracted some value from him as the third piece in the RJ deal, which is probably more than you can say for a lot of prospects of his caliber.

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This is your open thread for the night. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are playing, but Time Warner folks still can’t watch the first two because of the MSG dispute. Talk about whatever you like here, anything goes.

Yankees, Cory Wade agree to contract for 2012

Via Jon Morosi, the Yankees and Cory Wade have agreed to a non-guaranteed one-year deal worth $500k for next season, or $20k over the league minimum. Wade was not a free agent and he fell a few weeks shy of qualifying for salary arbitration, so the Yankees were able to renew his contract at basically whatever salary they wanted. Wade did a fine job after being plucked off the scrap heap at midseason, pitching to a 2.04 ERA and a 3.76 FIP in 39.2 IP. He figures to again serve as one of Joe Girardi‘s primary pre-seventh inning relievers.

Aside: I don’t know for sure because this stuff is next to impossible to confirm, but it appears as though Wade has a minor league option remaining. If so, he can go to the minors without a hitch next year. Hooray for flexibility.