Since center field is currently the Yankees’ weakest position, we might as well take a look at news involving a soon-to-be-traded center fielder — even though few if any of us would touch him with a 50-foot pole. Via Jon Heyman, we learn that the Dodgers have re-worked their contract with Andruw Jones. The deal will reportedly save them $12 million from their 2009 payroll. More importantly, it will make Jones easier to trade.
According to Cot’s, Jones is scheduled to earn $15 million in salary in 2009. However, the signing bonus from his two-year, $36.2 million deal complicates things a bit. He made $9 million last year plus a $5.1 million signing bonus. That means that despite his $15 million salary, Jones is slated to make $22.1 million for the rest of his contract. He is due a $5 million payment as part of his signing bonus in 2010, even though he won’t be under contract, so that, I guess, won’t count against the Dodgers’ 2009 payroll. That leaves $17.1 million. If the Dodgers did in fact defer $12 million of that, an acquiring team would only be liable for $5.1 million in salary.
Clearly, that’s not the final word on the matter. This is just my elementary understanding, using what I know about salaries and bonuses, how they count against the cap, and parsing the words of Heyman. His “official” salary number for 2009 could be $5.1 million; it could be $10 million. What matters to an acquiring team, though, is that they will not be on the hook for that $22.1 million they otherwise would have been. That makes Jones attractive.
While the Yankees have a need in center, I can’t see them going after Jones. There’s some upside here; Jones was, after all, one of if not the premier center fielder in baseball earlier this decade. He’s a few years removed from that status, though, and he’s done little to show he can regain that form. Among the many criticism of Jones over the past two years has been his lack of a work ethic, leaving him out of shape and an injury risk. While he had remained healthy through most of his career, he spent the bulk of 2008 either on the DL or on the bench.
Reduced salary or not, any team trading for Jones is taking a weighty gamble. The deflated salary number clearly makes this a better risk, but it does nothing to the reward aspect of the deal. Jones is still coming off two abhorrent years, the latter of which placed him among the worst players in the league. The guy who managed to hit a home run every 13.2 plate appearances in 2005 hit one every 79 PAs in 2008. You can’t even play the “contract year” card with Jones, as he hit .222/.311/.413 in his last contract year.
A healthy, in-shape, and motivated Jones could prove an astronomical boost to any team acquiring him, no doubt. However, we’ve seen little to indicate this will be the case. The Dodgers mitigated the risk for an acquiring team by reducing his salary, but that provides no guarantees (obviously, hence the risk involved). The Yankees and their fans might ponder this for a moment or two, but in the end I’m guessing the risk would outweigh the reward.
Brian Foley over at The College Baseball Blog has completed his list of the top 50 college baseball players for the 2009 season. San Diego State superstud Steven Strasburg tops the list, and this gives us a nice glimpse into some of the top talent for the June draft. Check it out. · (40) ·
For the most part, minus a potential Andy Pettitte signing, the Yankees are done with their major dealings this winter. From here on out, it’s about tweaking what they’ve got in order to optimize their roster heading into Spring Training and eventually Opening Day. This will probably be our focus for the rest of the winter, which is just fine by me. Baseball is a nuanced game, and we’re getting into those nuances right now. First up, the arbitration process.
We’ve seen the deadline for offering your own free agents arbitration pass, so it’s time for the next group to file: three- to five-year players. You can add to this group Super Two players. Barry Bloom, in an article about arbitration cases, explains:
Currently, clubs control the contracts of almost all players with zero to three years of Major League experience, save for a small group of “Super Two” players who are eligible for arbitration early if they played in the Majors at least 86 days in the previous season and were among the top 17 percent in cumulative playing time in that group with at least two to three years of experience.
Melky Cabrera qualifies as a Super Two and is arbitration eligible this year. He joins Brian Bruney and Xavier Nady as the only Yankees who will face this process. The Yankees other eligible player, Chien-Ming Wang, agreed to a $5 million 2009 salary last week to avoid arbitration.
Most people are familiar with what happens from here on out. Eligible players file to protect themselves. Then they negotiate with their teams until February, when the hearings begin. Prior to the hearing the two sides exchange figures of what they deem a fair salary. If no agreement is reached prior to the scheduled hearing, both parties appear before a three-member panel and argue the case. The panel then determines which of the two figures better reflects the player’s value.
Hearings, though, are quite the rarity these days. Bloom notes that 110 players filed for arbitration last year. Only eight of them went to the hearing. Fewer than half, 48, even exchanged figures with their respective club. This suggests that both sides benefit from striking a deal beforehand. Maury Brown of Biz of Baseball explains:
“To place the arbitration process in perspective, there is a reason that so few clubs and players go all the way to hearing,” said Brown, who noted that the owners have beaten the players in arbitration for 12 consecutive years. “The stakes are too high. That and the clubs really lose even when they win. Whether a deal is struck before hearing, or if a club wins at hearing, the player nearly always gets a hefty raise.”
As for the Yankees specifically, the only case that might to to a hearing is Nady, who is represented by Scott Boras. Bruney and Melky figure to settle beforehand, earning raises over their 2008 salaries, but nothing ridiculous. Both faced troubles during the year — Bruney a foot injury and Melky a demotion to AAA — so they don’t have much leverage. Nady on the other hand made just $3.35 million last year, and by the numbers he far outplayed his salary. When Boras is involved in a case like this, you can’t really assume anything (but that won’t stop us from trying).
My guesses as to what each player will earn, hearing or not:
Bruney: $1.2 million
Nady: $6 million
Things will be much more interesting for other teams. Ryan Howard won a $10 million salary in arbitration last year and went on to lead the league in homers and RBI, and his shiny ring won’t hurt him in the process. Bloom predicts a 50 percent raise, meaning $15 million for the second-year arbitration eligible player. Howard’s hearing last year could play into the Brewers situation with Prince Fielder, who is arbitration eligible for the first time. He won’t get $10 million, but if he plays his cards right he could get $7 or $8, which is still a high figure for a first-year arbitration player.
Little things like this help get us through the cold months prior to Spring Training. So please: comment, dissect, analyze, etc.
Since wrapping up their last big free agent signings, the only word out of Yankee camp has concerned Andy Pettitte. Through anonymous sources and speculation, the Yankees have tried to temper the veteran lefty’s expectations.
The team first made it clear that they were willing to move on without Pettitte. Now, as has been obvious since the get-go, word is that they want to bring Pettitte back but on their terms. We’ve been saying this all along. The Yanks would love to have the lefty to anchor the rotation in the four spot with the kids bringing up the rear, but they don’t want to do so for $16 million a season. I don’t blame them.
John Harper, writing earlier this week, shed some light on the team’s thinking:
After signing Mark Teixeira, the Yankees began whispering that Andy Pettitte might have waited too long to accept their take-it-or-leave-it $10million offer, and that they might just decide to move on without him.
However, a person in regular contact with Yankee brass said Tuesday he believes the club still wants Pettitte back and believes a deal will get done, perhaps as early as next week.
According to this person, someone in the Yankee organization was putting out that word as something of a scare tactic, knowing that Pettitte badly wants to pitch for the Yankees next season. “They just want him at their price, that’s still the bottom line,” the person said.
I predict a one-year, $12-million deal for Pettitte, and for the impatient fans, I urge patience. There is no need to wrap this deal up now, and if Pettitte doesn’t send for a few more weeks, it won’t be the end of the world. By the time Opening Day rolls around, this negotiation saga will be just a forgotten relic of a very busy Yankee off-season.
Now that the Yanks have wrapped up Mark Teixeira for the next eight years, they can, as many fans have noted, no longer store their old and aging players at first base. Personally, I don’t like this approach of basically wasting a lineup spot for convenience’s or nostalgia’s sake, and the Yanks have shown they don’t buy this philosophy either. Meanwhile, Bob Klapisch wonders if the Teixeira signing foreshadows the end of Derek Jeter in the Bronx. I don’t really agree either, but this will be a looming issue over the next two years. · (78) ·
As 2009 dawns, it does so an age of economic uncertainty. Last year was one of the worst in our nation’s history, and some major indexes ended the year down nearly 40 percent.
While the Yankees have seemingly weathered the storm for now, the rest of baseball has not been so lucky. Teams have fired employers or instituted hiring freezes, and spending is down across the board. Buster Olney noted on Wednesday that the 29 other teams had spent $244 million more at this point in the off-season last year. In fact, only one non-Yankee — Ryan Dempster — has signed a deal for more than $40 million.
Meanwhile, major free agents across the board remain unsigned. Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu headline a second tier of power-hitting outfield/DH types who have been subject to few rumors, and Manny Ramirez and Derek Lowe are still searching for jobs. Now, these players won’t stay unemployed for much longer, but the 2008-2009 market will really test agents across the board.
Derek Lowe provides the perfect test case. The Mets have been rumored to be in on the Lowe bidding, and now that the Yanks have wrapped up two starters and a first baseman, they no longer seem to be interested in the former Dodger. The Red Sox and Phillies have expressed lukewarm interest at best, and the demand for Lowe just isn’t what Scott Boras wants it to be.
The Mets know they are potentially bidding against only themselves, and to that end, they made an initial three-year, $36-million offer. Early reports had Lowe searching for a four-year deal at around $16 million per. As you could guess, Lowe is reported not impressed by the Mets’ offer and is still looking for “a more desirable offer.” Unless the markets rebound 4000 points when they reopen later today, a significantly better deal just won’t arrive on Lowe’s doorstep.
Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez finds himself in the same situation. With the Yankees no longer interested in his services, it seems that only the Giants and Dodgers are kicking the tires on Manny. The future Hall of Famer turned down a guaranteed $40 million when he wrote his ticket out of Boston, and while he once expected a lavish multi-year deal, he will probably wind up with two or three years at a salary not much higher than the one he declined in 2008.
This all boils down to a test of Scott Boras. Long known for getting above-market deals for his clients, Boras supposedly took a less for Teixeira from the Yanks than the Nationals would have paid and now is facing a reality in which his two top clients aren’t going to see the millions they were envisioning six months ago. If Boras can get the big money deals, then he has truly earned his title as an über-agent, but if Lowe signs for three years at a lower-than-expected AAV and Manny doesn’t land his mega-contract, Boras will emerge just like the rest of us, shaken by bad economy and paying the price for it.
While Joe Torre and Scott Proctor will no longer be joined together in bullpen bliss, the former Yankee has latched on with another team. He has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Marlins worth up to $1 million. I, like Torre, always had a soft spot for Proctor. Hopefully, he can overcome his elbow troubles and have a good year in Miami. · (13) ·
As the Yanks head into Spring Training, they may or may not have a roster with too many outfielders for too few spaces. Johnny Damon is entrenched in left field and the lead-off spot while Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera will seemingly battle it out for center field. In right, Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady offer the Yanks a plethora of platoon options with Hideki Matsui as the DH.
The Yanks could look to trade an outfielder. Damon wouldn’t — and probably shouldn’t — be the one to go while no team would take on Hideki without a guarantee that his knees could hold up. So that leaves Swisher and Nady as the potential trade bait. Swisher had a seemingly poor 2008, but luck had a big role in suppressing his numbers. He also has a better track record than Nady.
But no one seems to generate more discussion than Nady as the Yanks shop their outfielders. In answering some mail this week, Steve Goldman opined about Nady:
What happened to the Yankees’ fondness of Xavier Nady? It seemed like when they got him, the organization really liked him. But now they’re thinking of trading him? Trading away a .305 AVG, 25 HR and 97 RBI from an offense that had trouble scoring runs last year? Does that even make sense? –Tucker
It makes a ton of sense, Tucker, because Nady isn’t really a .305 hitter. In his career, he’s been far closer to the hitter he cooled from his hot pinstriped start, a .268/.320/.474 hitter. As far as corner outfield production goes, it’s subpar. If Nick Swisher gets back on track this year, he’ll get on base much closer to 40 percent of the time and show comparable power. The value in Nady last season was that he was a huge in-season upgrade on Melky Cabrera, who he displaced from the lineup by allowing Johnny Damon to go back to center. That was a very nice move by Brian Cashman to staunch a bleeding wound, but Nady isn’t someone a championship team plans on starting.
Meanwhile, one of the various Steve’s who read RAB wrote in with this take on the X Man:
He’s one of the more misunderstood players on the Yanks, with many believing “he had a fluke year” and “he’s a NL player,” both of which are demonstrably false.
Check out the progression Nady has made over the past 5 years, especially vs righties. (The numbers are BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.)
vs R .178 .213 .311 .524
vs L .344 .417 .563 .979
vs R .223 .270 .431 .700
vs L .323 .400 .452 .852
vs R .263 .312 .424 .736
vs L .336 .418 .551 .969
vs R .274 .322 .479 .802
vs L .295 .356 .463 .819
vs R .317 .357 .529 .886
vs L .262 .361 .444 .805
He has steadily improved from being a platoon player who only hit lefties, to one who hit righties better than lefties last season. Even if that was a peak year for him, if he was to revert to his 2007 line he would still be a fine everyday player and a good replacement for Abreu, especially when you factor in his value as a (slightly better than league average) fielder, and Abreu being the worst RF in the AL by most measures.
Now to the AL/NL stuff:
1st Half .291 .344 .504 .848
2nd Half .255 .303 .425 .728
1st Half .321 .377 .525 .901
2nd Half .284 .333 .492 .825
The middling second half he had leads many Yankee fans to believe that he’s “not an AL player,” but he actually had a similarly weak (.80 drop off in OPS both years) 2nd half in 2007 in the NL, which could say something about his conditioning or training regimen, but not the league. It’s also worth noting that he only became a full time player in 2008 (607 PAs), he had about 500 PAs in 2007/2006 and 356 PAs in 2005. Again, he is progressing from a platoon player to an everyday player.
So what will it be? Should the Yankees trade Xavier Nady? I’d be inclined to keep him as a fourth outfielder, long his traditional role, and if Swisher falters, they have a Plan B. He provides a lot of pop off the bench, and the Yanks don’t need to trade him right now.
Let’s open the floor on this debate with an ever-popular poll, and feel free to use this post as tonight’s open thread.
In left field, a manual scoreboard represents a throwback to another era.
Via Shutterfly member KEVINF279 (and with a hat tip to Sliding Into Home) come new pictures from inside Yankee Stadium. Construction is set to wrap up on Feb. 17, 2009, and the new stadium looks great.
Once inside, the Great Hall will honor Yankees of years gone by while a rather large screen dominates center field. The entire scoreboard complex dominates the view, and a new façade rings the stadium. Monitors ring the entrance
As the field awaits games, the new stadium features a smaller foul territory. While the Yanks are trading outs for a better view of the field, the recessed upper decks shouldn’t seem as far away as they otherwise would.
We have some more views of the stadium after the jump. Click the images to enlarge.
Over at the LoHud Yanks blog, Peter Abraham is hosting guest columns for the month of January. We drew the short straw with the Jan. 1 post and explored Johnny Damon’s impending free agency. Damon has, in our view, far exceeded our expectations, and the Yanks are going to have to decide what to do with him after the 2009 season. While their trend this year has been to jettison the old guys, Damon’s presence atop the lineup should not be underestimated. · (68) ·