Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees and looking into hiring an assistant hitting coach to pair with the incumbent Kevin Long. Two hitting coaches is one of baseball’s newest trends, and a recent article by The Sporting News says eleven teams currently staff an assistant or are seeking one this winter. Obviously we don’t know when the team started talking about this, but it seems odd that this is coming out after Greg Colbrunn (Red Sox) and Tino Martinez (Marlins) left the organization for hitting coach gigs elsewhere.
4:35pm: Conflicting reports! Buster Olney says the Yankees never did make Keppinger an offer. I suppose they could have floated the idea of … whatever. They didn’t sign him, end of story.
4:03pm: Heyman says the Yankees actually offered Keppinger more than the three years and $12M he took from the ChiSox. I assume he took the full-time job over the utility infielder gig.
1:30pm: Via Jon Heyman & Ken Rosenthal: The White Sox will sign Jeff Keppinger to a three-year contract worth $12M. The Yankees had a lot of interest in Keppinger following Alex Rodriguez’s new hip injury, but there was no chance they were going to three years. Scratch a name off the infield list.
If there’s one thing that’s held true during Brian Cashman’s tenure in recent years, it’s that he’s very willing to practice patience. He’s waited out both the free agent (Hiroki Kuroda, for example) and trade (Bobby Abreu) markets to get better than advertised prices, and for the most part it’s worked out wonderfully. As he indicated to reporters yesterday, patience is again his primary tactic this offseason.
“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” said Cashman. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.”
Patience was a fine approach these last few years but times have obviously changed. The market is flush with cash thanks to the new television deals and the inability to funnel money into the draft and international markets, so Major League free agents are getting paid handsomely. As the Yankees preach patience, the players they want are no longer falling into their laps. Eric Chavez won’t be there to sign in February because he took a $3M deal from the Diamondbacks, more money than New York paid him in the previous two years combined. Jeff Keppinger, another one of the team’s targets, actually took less money to sign with the White Sox for whatever reason.
“I think that we’ll be in a position, I would think, to leave here with doing something,” added Cashman. “But that doesn’t mean we will. I want to come here every time I go to the Winter Meetings, I want to get something done. I’ve been disappointed many times leaving, but that’s not going to make me do something.”
The Yankees are scaling back their spending as the price of talent is going up, and that’s a very bad thing. They don’t have the internal pieces to plug their various position player holes — a major black mark on Cashman & Co. given his constant preaching of building through the farm system — meaning they are at the mercy of the free agent market. Maybe the patient approach will work and some new targets will surface in the coming weeks, but right now it’s tough to see how the Yankees will go into next season with something other than a significant downgrade on the offensive side of the ball. After enjoying the benefits of patience, this new market might be the one that leaves Cashman empty-handed at the end of the winter.
Via Howie Kussoy: Mariano Rivera will announce his plans for 2014 at some point early next year. “I’ll tell you in Spring Training,” he said at a charity event yesterday. “Spring Training is going to be the date.”
Rivera, 43, debated between retirement and playing again after the season only to announce his return. I think we’ve all assumed next season would be his final year, and in fact Mo confirmed to Kussoy that he would appreciate a Chipper Jones-style fairwell tour. Rivera could easily announce an intention to pitch in 2014, but it seems pretty obvious the retirement announcement is on its way in a few weeks.
This is probably something I should have pieced together last week, prior to the Winter Meetings, but better late than never I suppose. Here’s a breakdown of the Yankees’ current payroll situation for 2013…
- Existing Contracts ($121M): Alex Rodriguez ($28M), CC Sabathia ($23M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Derek Jeter ($17M), Robinson Cano ($15M), Curtis Granderson ($15M), David Aardsma ($500k)
- Players Signed In Offseason ($37M): Hiroki Kuroda ($15M), Andy Pettitte ($12M), Mariano Rivera ($10M)
- Projected Arbitration Salaries ($15.8M): Phil Hughes ($5.7M), Boone Logan ($2.8M), Brett Gardner ($2.8M), David Robertson ($2.7M), Joba Chamberlain ($1.8M)
- Buyouts & Dead Money ($8.75M): A.J. Burnett ($8.5M), Pedro Feliciano ($250k)
That adds up to $182.55M for only 15 40-man rosters spots, and that’s real dollars being spent. It’s not average annual value for luxury tax purposes. The 15 players who are on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man active roster will earn the league minimum ($480k-ish), so let’s just estimate them at $7.5M total ($500k each). That brings us up to $190.05M with ten roster spots to fill.
The Yankees have started each of the last five seasons with an Opening Day payroll between $200-214M (again, real dollars), and I assume they’re willing to spend that much again this year. We know they’re trying to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold for 2014, but they’re theoretically in the clear for 2013. Opening next season with a similar payroll means they have anywhere from $10-24M to spend during the remainder of the offseason, and their holes include a right fielder, a catcher, a good utility infielder, and bench pieces. League minimum guys like Chris Stewart, Eduardo Nunez, David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and Clay Rapada mean it’s really $7.5-21.5M for five roster spots.
Barring an unexpected trade, it’s tough to see the Yankees spending much money on a backstop given the available options and their reported disinterest in A.J. Pierzynski. Even a (very unlikely) trade for Carlos Santana wouldn’t put a big dent in the budget because he’s due just $550k next season as part of his long-term contract. A right fielder could range anywhere from dirt cheap (Nate Schierholtz at $2M?) to pretty pricey (Justin Upton at $9.75M?). Jeff Keppinger could wind up with $4-6M annually while Asdrubal Cabrera is owed $6.5M. I guess that’s the going rate for a replacement third baseman/high-end utility infielder.
As frustrating as it is to watch the Yankees sit on the sidelines so far this week, I do think there’s some good to come from it. Some of the recently-signed free agent contracts have struck me as big overpays, talking specifically talking about guys like Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Shane Victorino. All nice players in their own way, but they got more money and one more year than I expected. Avoiding an overpay like that is a good thing for New York for obvious reasons, 2014 payroll plan or not. Either way, hopefully they’re planning to spend on the high end of that $7.5-21.5M range over so they can make one more serious run before scaling back payroll.