For the folks who think MLB’s own steroid investigation was about as ethical as the players’ alleged drug use, comes this tale of fishing, courtesy of Ken Davidoff. On more than one occasion, it seems as though George Mitchell and his team of investigators tried to catch a big fish by feeding subjects some names. While this hardly clears anyone named in the Mitchell Report, it certainly casts further doubts on the validity of this entire exercise. Maybe Mark McGwire was right after all when he told Congress he wasn’t there to talk about the past. It’s all just very murky water under the bridge. · (16) ·
About an hour after I asked which teams can afford to sign a free agent, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated provided his own take on the situation. Except his is a bit more inclusive. The only team which shows up on my list but not his is the White Sox, though I think he underestimates Ken Williams’s penchant for sneaking in a deal. All told, he thinks half the teams in baseball can afford another “big deal or two”: Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Brewers, Braves, A’s, Cubs, Red Sox, Angels, Nationals, Orioles, Yankees, Twins, Rangers, Mariners.
I guess “big deal” is a relative term. I’m still skeptical that the Mariners, Rangers, Twins, or Orioles will add more than $5 million in 2009 payroll. The Nats might be willing to add more, but will it really help them compete in the stacked NL East? Still, I think most of these teams are out on the guys we ran down in today’s RAB Radio Show.
A couple of other Yankee-related notes from Heyman:
- The definitive word on Pettitte: “But where else is he going to go?” I still think a deal gets done as February approaches. It makes sense for both parties.
- “Hal Steinbrenner is thought to be against signing [Manny] Ramirez.” That was pretty much a given.
- “The Yankees are said to be getting more interest in Nick Swisher than Xavier Nady.” I can understand why, in terms of Swisher being locked up for the next three years. Then again, it’s not like he’s played since last season. Perhaps part of the reason is teams think they can get Swisher on the cheap. No, I’m sure Cashman wouldn’t trade him for Aaron Heilman.
- Heyman says that Bobby Abreu’s defense isn’t as bad as we might think. “Abreu, in fact, is fifth in assists among right fielders over the last three years and third in fielding percentage.” I imagine him saying this with a completely straight face, as if any of us believes that fielding percentage — for an outfielder, no less — counts for a damn thing. Almost all advanced defensive metrics out there have Abreu at the bottom of the league.
I apologize in advance for some audio issues about 2/3 of the way into the show. We’re working to get these issues resolved, but a big part of it is Time Warner. Bear with us, and we’ll certainly improve on that aspect.
Arbitration is the big story. Like Ben, we lament Melky Cabrera’s settlement. How could his agent have thought he was worth $1.7 million? I don’t see the argument here. The Yankees caved, though, and that’s all that matters. Here’s to hoping for bigger things from the Melk Man in 2009.
The subject quickly changes to free agency, as we note that there are many free agents remaining for just a few teams. Where are guys like Orlando Hudson and Adam Dunn going to land? Mike and I run down the Type As and bigger-name Type Bs remaining. We have a few guesses for most, but one has us stumped.
Then it’s onto reader Q & A. We got some good ones this week. Hopefully next week we’ll be able to take some live callers.
Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.
We appreciate any feedback. You can leave it in the comments or email either of us.
We touched on this a little bit last night, but Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list is officially posted over at the Worldwide Leader. Austin Jackson comes in at number 46, as he notes that Jackson’s athleticism hasn’t translated into baseball skills just yet. Jesus Montero and Andrew Brackman come in at numbers 83 and 95, respectively. Both have the standard complaints – Montero probably can’t catch, we have to see how Brackman comes back from TJ. Dellin Betances cracked Law’s list of ten prospects that narrowly missed the top 100. Prospects 1-25 are free, but the rest are stuck behind the iron curtain of Insider. Law’s chatting at 1pm, so if you have any questions for him make sure you check it out. · (74) ·
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.
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) ·
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.
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.
In an article appropriately written by Chase Write — but probably not the Chase Wright — The 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) ·