Some right-handed outfield options

While most of the focus is on Cliff Lee and to a lesser extent Carl Crawford, the Yankees also have to address their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder at some point this offseason. Matt Diaz was said to be a target, but he signed with the Pirates for two-years and $4.25M last night even though he’s almost guaranteed to finish that contract in another uniform. There’s also the chance that he’ll be exposed with regular playing time and see his value plummet, but I digress.

With Diaz no longer an option for the Yankees, they’re left scrapping the bottom of the free agent barrel for someone that can hit left-handed pitching in part-time duty. Marcus Thames is still out there despite the interest from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and there’s always personal fave Scott Hairston, but let’s take a look at who else is available. I’m going to assume that Austin Kearns is not an option given how his stint in pinstripes ended (with 14 strikeouts in his final 25 at-bats).

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jeff Francoeur

Nope. (also: inevitable)

Reed Johnson

Johnson, who turns 34 today,  was one the team’s leftfield targets last winter, but he ended up with the Dodgers and had a rather forgettable season. He missed close to a month with back spasms and hit just .262/.291/.366 (.287 wOBA) in 215 plate appearances overall, though he did hit lefties for a .342 wOBA. Johnson has a .368 wOBA against southpaws over the last three seasons and is relegated to left defensively (ugly, ugly UZR‘s in center and right), which means he’s not far off from what Thames was last offseason. He’s a legit option, just not a terrible interesting or safe one.

Gabe Kapler

Once upon a time Kapler could mash lefties, tagging them for a .404 wOBA in 2008 and 2009. He fell off to a .255 wOBA against southpaws and .264 overall in 2010, playing so poorly that Tampa stashed him on the phantom disabled list in mid-August so they wouldn’t have to demote Dan Johnson when Carlos Pena came off the disabled list. Kapler’s 35-years-old and is actually a fine defender in the corners (+9.2 UZR in RF, -1.0 in LF (SSS) over the last three years), though there’s quite a bit of risk here.

Lastings Milledge

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Pirates non-tendered the former Met last week rather than give him a sizable raise through arbitration, and it’s tough to blame them really. He’s a slightly below average hitter (.322 wOBA) and a bad defender (-8.0 UZR/150 career), so the only thing that makes him appealing is his age (26 in April) and status as a former top prospect. Milledge can hit lefties (.350 wOBA career) and there’s always the potential to get better, bet I prefer a veteran guy that’s been a platoon player before when it comes to replacing Thames. It’s not an easy job, and a young guy that’s used to playing every day might be able to make the adjustments.

Xavier Nady

Been there, done that. Other than his great 2008 season (3.6 fWAR), Nady’s never been even an average player, topping out at 1.4 fWAR way back in 2003. He put up a .295 wOBA for the Cubs this season after having his second Tommy John surgery and was below replacement level (-0.4 fWAR) in a pretty good amount of playing time (347 plate appearances). The Yanks can do better.

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It’s an ugly crop of righty hitting outfielders out there, especially with Diaz off the board. Hairston is clearly the best option in my eyes with Thames a distant second, even though the latter’s unlikely to repeat his 2010 success. Perhaps Brandon Laird will get thrown to the wolves a little sooner than expected, though something tells me that movie will have a tragic ending.

Heyman: Yankees will make a ‘very strong’ offer to Lee today

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees will make a “very strong” six-year offer to Cliff Lee today. He guesses that it’ll be worth $23M for year, though anywhere from $20M-25M would not be surprising. It’s about time we got some movement on this front, the offseason doesn’t last forever.

Update (11:36 a.m.): Joel Sherman is hearing six years for $140-$150 million. That’s one enticing amount for an initial offer.

Could the Yanks afford both Crawford and Lee?

Of course they can. But are they willing to take the payroll to that level? That remains to be seen. Buster Olney says Brian Cashman had a long meeting with Carl Crawford’s people last night, and that Crawford himself might have even been there. Jayson Stark adds that if Andy Pettitte does indeed retire, the team is hinting that they’ll have room for both Crawford and Cliff Lee. I suspect this is all posturing though, Darek Braunecker is playing games and Cashman wants to get the ball rolling with Lee. Showing interest in Crawford is likely nothing more than a decoy.

Sabathia doesn’t say much about his opt-out situation

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

We have definitely heard this before. In August, speaking to the New York Post, CC Sabathia discussed the opt-out clause in his contract. Unlike three prominent opt-out cases — Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, and J.D. Drew — that came before him, Sabathia said that he’s a Yankee, “hundred percent.

I think you know I’ve built a house here, right? My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.

Situations can always change, and we could certainly see that with Sabathia. This winter another left-handed ace, Cliff Lee, figures to get six, or maybe even seven, years at a similar average annual value to Sabathia. Why, then, wouldn’t Sabathia use that leverage to turn what is essentially a four-year, $92 million player option into another seven-year deal?

According to the Post, Lee’s situation will not influence Sabathia. “It has no effect on me at all,” he said. Unfortunately, that is the only quote that the Post article provides. Apparently Sabathia’s stance hasn’t changed since the summer. We can refer back to the above quote for Sabathia’s stance on the matter.

Still, I can’t help but notice a glaring omission. Never has Sabathia said the words “I will not opt out of my contract.” He has just talked about how he’s sticking around. I don’t think this means he’s seriously considering an opt out, but I do think that he’s not prepared to surrender all of his leverage by saying, in no uncertain terms, that he will decline to exercise the clause. It’s hard to fault him for that.

The lesson, as always: don’t trust Post headlines. In this case it was, “Sabathia won’t opt out,” but he didn’t say that. He just said it has no effect on him, which references a previous statement, which also didn’t explicitly mention the opt-out clause. I don’t think he will, but it’s definitely a stretch to take Sabathia’s words and say that he won’t.

28 teams offer Cliff Lee 7 years

I honestly hope you had something better to do than follow the Cliff Lee saga today. Because unless you favor the theater of the absurd, you likely got nowhere but frustrated. Here’s what happened, in essence.

  • The Nats are “very much” in on Cliff Lee, to the point that they’d offer seven years.
  • Two hours later: oops, the Nats aren’t in on Lee.
  • A team not named the Nats has offered Lee seven years.
  • Wait, now there are two teams who have offered seven years. It’s a double mystery!
  • Right on cue, the Angels are mentioned as suitors. Not only that, they could trade a pitcher to make room for him.
  • Of course, amid all of these rumors, we hear that the two presumed suitors, the Yankees and the Rangers, not only won’t go to seven years, but also haven’t been allowed to make an offer. So random mystery teams can offer seven years when seven years is insane, but the Yankees can’t make their own offer.

It adds up to nothing but a mockery. Given the way this week has unfolded, there’s absolutely no reason to pay attention to anything said about Lee until he’s on the verge of signing a deal. It’s pretty clear that Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, is trying to play everyone. I don’t blame him. But he can’t blame me for tuning out.

Diaz joins the Pirates

Well, so much for that idea. Matt Diaz signed with the Pirates most likely because they offered him a two-year deal. Guess the Yankees will have to look elsewhere for a righty platoon outfield bat.

Yankees interested in Mark Prior

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees and free agent right-hander Mark Prior have mutual interest in what would surely be a minor league deal. Prior has not yet worked out for the team, though they have scouting him during his various independent league stints over the years. Prior did through one inning in Triple-A this past September (for the Rangers), his first action in affiliated ball since 2006. There’s no such thing as a bad minor league contract, but sheesh.

The Yankees, of course, drafted Prior 43rd overall in 1998 but the two sides could not come to terms with a contract. He then went to Vanderbilt for a year before landing at USC and eventually went second overall in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history.