Here’s a thought to help us slog through a slow Thursday morning. On MLB Trade Rumors this morning we found out that the Reds have reached their 2009 payroll limit. If they want to add players to strengthen their team, they’ll have to shed comparable dollars in the process. In other words, they’re all but done with the remaining free agent crop. Late last week, we learned that the Astros are likely out as well. The Diamondbacks appear to have severely limited funds, as a number of pitchers (Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, Randy Johnson) have rejected offers, presumably because of insufficient dollars. The Padres are looking to shed Jake Peavy’s contract, so it’s not likely they’re willing to add payroll.

This is not good news for those remaining free agents. The number of teams willing to add payroll is diminishing. WIth fewer teams involved, these free agents have far less leverage than they normally would. Because free agents are subject to market conditions, we could see a number of players taking significant pay cuts — or else sit out part or all of the 2009 season.

Most affected, of course, are the Type A guys who rejected arbitration offers. This means our best pal Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Cruz, Ben Sheets, Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez, and Oliver Perez. Not only do they face a diminished market, but they also cost a signing team a draft pick, which may lead them to shy away.

When thinking of teams which can clearly afford to add some payroll, I’ve got the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, White Sox, and Cubs. Those are the larger market teams, and all of them seem to have a bit of payroll flexibility. There have been conflicting reports on some — Jayson Stark has said in the past that the Giants can’t afford Manny. If an opportunity arose, though, I doubt any of these teams would rule themselves out.

Then we have the teams mentioned above, those who are done spending. They might ink a few players to minor league deals, but you won’t see them getting any of the higher tier free agents. These include the Reds, Blue Jays, Astros, Rays, Marlins, and Padres. Arizona appears to have some level of payroll flexibility, but not much, so we’ll keep them off this list initially. Ditto Texas, Detroit, and Kansas City. Pittsburgh probably won’t add anyone, and there have been no indicators that the Twins are willing to add payroll.

This leaves us with the majority of teams, the ones we’re not quite sure about. They might be able to add payroll, but we’re not quite sure. As mentioned above, the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Twins, Tigers, and Royals appear to have some flexibility, but probably not much. None of those teams is probably willing to add even $5 million in payroll. Though I haven’t read anything about them directly (or don’t remember having done so), the Indians, Orioles, Rockies, Mariners, and Brewers seem to fall into that category.

Who does that leave? The Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and A’s. Clearly, this is a rough estimation, but could it be that only 12 of the 30 teams are willing to add more than $5 million in additional payroll? Not good news for the remaining free agents if that’s the case. So are these players going to disperse among the available teams, or will they wait around for what they deem an acceptable offer to come around?

That’s what we’re looking for during the rest of the off-season. With a limited number of teams willing to add significant payroll, you might see a number of one-year, below-market deals signed during the first week or two of February. Let’s hope the Yankees can take advantage of that situation.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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  • Submit your questions for the RAB Radio Show
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    We still need another week or so until we get the actual radio show up and running, so you’re stuck emailing your questions in for another week. Send them to Joe or myself, our email addresses are on the left sidebar. Thanks in advance, we should have it up on the site around 2pm. · (13) ·

  • Yanks battling Mets for Garcia
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    Via Ken Rosenthal (via MLBTR), free agent righty Freddy Garcia has narrowed down his list of suitors down to the two New York teams. Garcia wants a Major League deal because it’ll guarantee him termination pay if he’s released in Spring Training, but it’s unlikely either team would offer that. The Mets do have six open spots on their 40 man roster, so they could go the extra mile. The former Rookie of the Year runner up has thrown just 73 innings to the tune of a 5.55 ERA over the last three two years, with major should surgery mixed in for good measure. He’s nothing more than a nice lightning in a bottle guy at this point in his career, but if it’s only a minor league deal, who cares? See what happens. · (51) ·

I know we dump on Melky Cabrera a lot, and I realize that Melky has his supporters among Yankee fans. We don’t root against Melky Cabrera because of who he is; we feel that Melky’s presence in the lineup doesn’t help the Yankees and in fact makes them a worse team. We would like nothing better than to see Melky mature into a decent-to-good center fielder who can help the Yankees win while playing a demanding defensive position. It hasn’t happened yet.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few numbers — and do keep in mind that I’m using Melky as an example. Last season, Melky Cabrera earned himself 453 plate appearances and put up a 68 OPS+. Only three players with at least 453 PAs put up a worse OPS+, and all of them — Michael Bourn, Willy Taveras, Cesar Izturis — played in the NL. In terms of VORP among ALers with at least 453 PAs, Melky’s -5.4 mark was third-worst in the league.

In other words, Melky had a bad year. If you figure that his job was to get on base and be at least an average Major League player or even a replacement-level player, he didn’t do his job. Basically, he got the equivalent of a terribly negative employee review. If any of us not in the sports world performed down to Melky’s standards, we wouldn’t get a job, and we might not even have a job after that.

So what happens? He made $461,200 last year and somehow managed to lose his starting to job two-thirds of the way through the season. Well, Melky ends up with a $1.4 million contract for 2009. That’s a 300 percent raise for being among the worst everyday players in the game.

Now, I know I’m being unfair to Melky, but I am basically using him to make a point. $1.4 million isn’t a lot, and in fact, it’s around $2 million less than the Major League average. It is, however, hard to convince anyone that baseball economics is suffering when bad players earn 300 percent raises.

In the end, it could be a Yankee thing. The Bombers can afford to toss $1.4 million at Melky with the hopes that he could put it together and have a good year in 2009. But otherwise, it’s just another example of baseball economics disconnect. Even in a bad economy, even when a player is as bad as can be over the course of the season, he can still earn a disproportionate raise. What a business.

Categories : Rants
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Friend of RAB Keith Law posted his 2009 Organization Rankings over at the four-letter, and the Yanks came in at number fifteen, right in the middle of the pack. Here’s a snippet:

For the first time in several years, the Yankees’ system is light on impact talent, with major question marks on each of the top four prospects. The 2008 draft class doesn’t offer much hope — the Yankees’ first pick reversed course on them midsummer and decided to go to college; their third pick had a medical issue and didn’t agree to terms; and the resulting crop of players doesn’t offer much upside.

The four prospects with major question marks are Austin Jackson (raw), Jesus Montero (position), Andrew Brackman (health) and Dellin Betances (command, mechanics). As you probably remember, Baseball America also rated the Yanks system 15th overall, so we have some consensus here. The system is definitely down from the past few years, but a middle of the pack farm system is better than a bottom of the barrel one.

Law’s top 100 prospects list is due out tomorrow, but ESPN’s editors jumped the gun a bit and posted them briefly today. The top five are Matt Wieters (C, Orioles), David Price (LHP, Rays), Jason Heyward (OF, Braves), Neftali Feliz (RHP, Texas), and Travis Snider (OF, Jays). All I can tell you about the Yanks’ prospects is that Jackson came in at number 46, while Montero and Brackman squeezed in on the back half. If you have any beef with the rankings, take it up with Keith during his 1pm chat tomorrow.

Here’s your open thread for the night. Both the Knicks and Nets are in action, and Idol’s on. Woo hoo. Take about whatever you like, just keep it civil.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • The newest Yankee
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    In an article appropriately written by Chase Write — but probably not the Chase WrightThe Stamford Times reports on the newest member of the 2009 Yankees. Lou Potter of Stamford has signed a one-year deal to join the club as the full-time massage therapist. He’ll join the club next month in Tampa and travel the baseball nation with them this summer. This is Potter’s second stint with the club but his first in a full-time position. What a perk, eh? (Hat tip to long-time RAB supporter Scott.) · (15) ·

As New York, the center of the known universe, prepares to open two baseball stadiums in a few months, urban policy gurus and baseball economists have put the city and its stadium financing deals under a microscope. Meanwhile, with the U.S. economy in a deep recession, the national construction boom has all but ground to a halt.

Enter Maury Brown and The Biz of Baseball. In a multi-part series on Brown’s site, Pete Toms has explored the issues surrounding stadium construction and financing. Part I explored how stadium construction plans are couched in terms of mixed-use development. Part II examined how the current state of the U.S. economy has left the new Busch Stadium an island in an uncompleted and unfunded ballpark village. Yesterday, Part III hit the Internet.

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Categories : Yankee Stadium
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Dellin Betances | RHP

Background
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Betances attended Grand Street High School. He popped up on the prospect map after a sophomore year growth spurt that saw him add six inches and twenty pounds to his frame. Betances dominated as a junior, going 6-0 with 100 strikeouts and just eleven hits allowed in 41.2 IP. He allowed one earned run all season and led Grand Street to the PSAL semifinals, where he struck out sixteen in a three hit shutout of New Utrecht. Invited to the prestigous Aflac All-American Game, Betances retired the heart of the West squad’s lineup on nine pitches in his only inning of work.

Baseball America rated Betances the seventh best high school prospect prior to his senior year, however he struggled due to mechanical issues that led to inconsistent velocity. Despite that, he still managed to set a school record with 20 strikeouts in one game. In the revised rankings before the draft, he still checked in as the 68th best prospect in the class, and top prospect in the state. Betances had a strong commitment to follow fellow New Yorker Pedro Alvarez to Vanderbilt, and unconfirmed rumors swirled that he wanted a seven figure bonus and would only sign with the Yankees.

Betances lasted until the eighth round of the ’06 draft, when his hometown team popped him with the 254th overall pick. Despite the Vandy commitment and rumored bonus demands, he signed quickly for a cool million bucks, at a time a record for the eighth round. Betances was assigned to the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Yanks after signing, and used his bonus money to buy his parents a house in Bogota after the summer.

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Categories : Prospect Profiles
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It wasn’t long ago that Mike suggested that the Yankees sign reliever Juan Cruz. The reasoning: he’s a Type A free agent, which means teams will have to sacrifice a first round draft pick in order to sign him. The bottom 15 teams in the league would have to sacrifice a second rounder, but due to the signings of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees would only surrender a fourth rounder. Hence, he’s more attractive to them than other teams. Ken Rosenthal covers this in his latest column.

Also on the ledger is Ben Sheets. Rosenthal thinks he “could be the Yankees’ answer to Brad Penny and John Smoltz, both of whom signed with the Red Sox for relatively low base salaries with the chance to earn significantly more through incentives.” It doesn’t appear Sheets is ready to take an incentive-laded deal, however. Matt Cerrone from MetsBlog has noted that Sheets seeks a two year deal worth roughly $18 million. The chances of that aren’t likely, unless the Brewers deem it a worthy risk.

Rosenthal cites “one executive” saying that Sheets will likely get one year and between $6 to $8 million, with incentives bringing the potential deal past $14 million. That’s more like it. Even better, Rosenthal suggests a “lucrative club option,” which would make the deal more attractive to any acquiring team. That way, they can retain Sheets’s services, albeit at a high price, if he stays healthy through 2009. If we’re talking one year, $7 million with $7 million in incentives plus a $16 million team option for 2010, the Yanks would have to give that serious consideration.

Then again, that all hinges on Andy Pettitte. Tom Verducci mentions the lefty in his latest column: “…though a baseball source said he has been weighing a lesser offer to return to the Astros.” This doesn’t seem likely, as Rosenthal quotes Astros owner Drayton McLane: “I haven’t had any discussions with Andy or any of his representatives at all. We’re up against our (budget) number right now.” Also, why would Pettitte take less than $10 million from Houston? I thought the reason Pettitte rejected the Yanks offer is that he didn’t want to take a hefty pay cut.

Rosenthal tallies the Yanks’ current payroll at $187.975 million, which includes 17 players. Presumably, this covers Xavier Nady and Melky Cabrera, who both avoided arbitration yesterday. Brian Bruney could bring that figure close to $190 million, with seven more spots left to fill on the 25-man roster. If Sheets made the full $14 million, that would bring the Yanks north of $200 million, but still lower than their official payroll total last year of $222.2 million (which I believe is calculated on August 21). Their Opening Day payroll would also clock in at under the $209 million they spent in 2008.

Cruz is a bit of a different situation. WIth Kyle Farnsworth commanding two years and $9.25 million, you’d have to think that Cruz would want more than that. Would the Yanks be willing to go higher than that, in dollars and years, to sign a reliever? I’m not so sure that’s in the works. It makes sense on many levels, and perhaps the Yankees would get a better deal because of other teams’ unwillingness to sacrifice a first rounder for Cruz. I would guess, though, that signing both Cruz and Sheets isn’t a likely scenario.

Still, picking up one could help the Yankees shore up the pitching staff. Both Sheets and Cruz offer plenty of upside, and both will cost the Yankees less in terms of draft picks than other teams. If Andy Pettitte continues his quest to get another $16 million, the Yanks could do worse than singing Sheets to an incentive-laden deal.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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