Mailbag: Getting Soriano and keeping the draft pick

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

theyankeewarrior writes:

Here’s an unlikley scenario that I pulled out of mowhere over Christmas break: The Washington Nationals already have three of the first 34 picks. They don’t have a second rounder. What if the Yankees worked out a sign-and-trade with them for Soriano? The Nationals would only be surrendering the 86th pick for him, and the Yankees could easily make up for that (and some) with a guy like Phelps/Mitchell/Warren, right? This way, the Yankees get to keep their 31st pick in a stacked draft, secure one of the best relievers in MLB for about 4 prime years, and trade from a position of depth (SP/C?). Seems like a decent fit for both sides. What do you think?

This idea reminds me of Juan Cruz’s situation two winters ago. He had pitched very well for the Diamondbacks in 2008 and was labeled a Type A free agent. But, because of his inconsistent track record teams weren’t willing to surrender their first unprotected pick. And so he languished on the free agent market well into February. At one point a sign and trade was discussed, though it was quite a bit different than what is suggested above.

The idea two years ago was that the Diamondbacks would re-sign Cruz and then trade him to another team. They wouldn’t get a draft pick in return, since they re-signed their own player. But they would receive a player, or players, from the team that eventually got Cruz. That package wouldn’t be equal in value to an unprotected pick, or else the the receiving team would have just signed him straight up. But it would provide Arizona something. That situation never developed, though, as Royals GM Dayton Moore bailed out everyone by signing Cruz to a two-year, $6 million contract.

With Soriano the situation is a bit different. He’s clearly a better pitcher than Cruz, and I’m sure that eventually a team will surrender its first unprotected pick in order to sign him. More importantly, in the above scenario the Rays would be getting absolutely screwed. They would lose their best reliever to a division rival and not even get their first unprotected pick. They’d instead get Washington’s first unprotected pick, which, again, will be somewhere around No. 90 once all the free agents sign. If Washington straight up signed Soriano there’s nothing the Rays could do. But if it’s a sign-and-trade I can see the complaint board at the Commissioner’s Office lighting up.

Let’s just pretend for a second that all involved parties approve this. Let’s say the Nats would rather have a AAA player than the 86th pick in the draft. Let’s say that they won’t use Austin Romine, the 90th pick in the 2007 draft, as a reference point. Let’s say that the Commissioner’s Office ignores the Rays legitimate complaints and allows the trade to move forward. Would the Yankees want to sign Soriano at that point?

While draft pick compensation acts as a tax, the removal of that tax does not necessarily make Soriano a better bet. He’s still a relief pitcher with an injury history:

There are downsides to signing Soriano, of course. First, he’s going to command a multi-year, big money contract. We know that relievers are volatile creatures, and while Soriano has been relatively consistent throughout his career, he’s still susceptible to random fluctuations. His health is also somewhat of a concern. After his Tommy John Surgery he missed time in 2008 with further elbow troubles.

There are upsides, of course, not least of which is Soriano’s ability to step in for Mo after the latter retires. But does that potential advantage outweigh the massive risk that is giving four years to a reliever with an injury history? I’m leaning no. The Yankees have plenty of money available this off-season, and I think they should use every penny in order to improve the 2011 team. But when they start adding money to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 payrolls is when I start to get a bit wary. They still have a lot of money committed to those years, and to add potentially dead money to those years will only make things worse.

Removing the draft pick compensation — or at least making it a bit more palatable a sacrifice — definitely makes Soriano a more attractive option for the 2011 bullpen. The Yanks have quite a few question marks with the starting staff, so adding another high quality reliever can help Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild balance everyone’s workload if the bullpen is needed more frequently than in years past. It’s the implications this has for future years that has me leaning no on the issue. I wouldn’t be upset if the Yankees did this, though it sounds like an impossible scenario. But it’s also not a move I would actively pursue.

Mailbag: Andruw Jones

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Seb asks: As I’m from Holland and a huge Yankee fan, I would love to see a fellow Dutchman in pinstripes. Do you think there’s any chance the Yanks will pursue Andruw Jones this offseason? He fits their needs as a fourth outfielder/power bat off the bench. He’s put up some solid power numbers the past two seasons in Texas and Chicago with his splits against lefties looking much better than against righties. He is still a solid defender, definitely better than Thames, and although he might not be the player he used to be.. to me he looks like a pretty good fit for the Yanks. Do you see a spot for him on the 2011 Yankees?

It’s been a long, long time since Jones broke onto the scene as a 19-year-old in 1996, terrorizing the Yankees with a two-homer game in the World Series. Tough to believe that his borderline Hall of Fame career is rapidly coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of helping a big league team in a limited role. The Yankees need a right-handed hitting outfielder, and the still just 33-year-old Jones might be their guy.

Since leaving the Braves as a free agent three seasons ago, he’s bounced from the Dodgers to the Rangers to the White Sox, hitting just .204/.312/.411 (.328 wOBA) with 39 homers along the way. It’s an ugly slash line, no doubt about it, but it masks a rather pronounced platoon split. During that time Jones has hit just .196/.288/.402 (.304 wOBA) against righties but .219/.352/.428 (.344 wOBA) against lefties. If we look at just the last two seasons to remove that horrific 2008 campaign with the Dodgers, we get .215/.310/.477 (.340 wOBA) vs. righties and .234/.369/.463 (.363 wOBA) vs. lefties. Dude can’t hit for average to save his life, but he’ll certainly take his walks and he still hits for a ton of power.

One concern I have is how Jones has tailed off in each of the last two years, something Joe wrote about it at FanGraphs this summer. Andruw dropped off from a .424 wOBA in his first ~110 plate appearances in 2009 to just a .320 wOBA in his final ~220 plate appearances of the season, then the same thing happened in 2010. He had a .427 wOBA in his first ~110 plate appearances, and just .340 in ~220 plate appearances after that. The drop off wasn’t as severe this past season, but it still happened and we can’t ignore it. Jones has been a hot starter in each of the last two years and then he’s been merely average, if not worse after mid-May.

Defensively, Jone is no longer the historically great defender in center that he used to be. In fact, he’s spent more time playing the corners than center over the last three years, and even more time at designated hitter. He’s even dabbled at first base on occasion. His UZR‘s during that time are just okay at best, and we should expect him to get worse going forward, not better. If he’s playing once or twice a week, below average glovework in a corner outfield spot won’t be the end of the world.

Bench players are bench players because they have flaws in their game and aren’t good enough to be starters. Jones’ problem(s) is that he’s struggled against right-handers and hasn’t performed consistently over a full 162 game schedule over the last two years, not to mention that he strikes out a ton (once ever four at-bats in recent years). That last part is to be expected with power hitters, however. The good news is that he should come cheap, really cheap actually. Last year the White Sox paid Jones just $500,000 with another million bucks in incentives, the second straight year he’s settled for a six-figure base salary. The market has exploded this winter, but it still shouldn’t take more than $1.5-2M to sign Jones. And if it does, let someone else pay him.

I still prefer Scott Hairston as the righty outfield bat off the bench, but Andruw isn’t a bad option, probably the second best on the free agent market. The Yankees offered Jones an invitation to Spring Training as a non-roster player two years ago, but he turned them down for a guaranteed deal with the Rangers. If nothing else, that tells us he’s on their radar, and I’m willing to bet they’re at least considering him again this offseason.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 27th, 2010

Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card, lost in ALCS

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Christmas Weekend Open Thread

Update (12/26/10 7:00pm ET): It’s technically still Christmas weekend, so let’s just bump this thread up top instead of creating a whole new one. There’s no late NFL game because the Eagles and Vikings were snowed out, so they’re going to play on Tuesday instead. The Devils and Isles are supposed to play at home as well, but I have no idea if those games were postponed as well. Either way, talk about whatever you want.

Original Post (12/24/10 4:00pm ET): Happy Holidays to all of our readers out there. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, take the weekend to hang out with some family and be merry. Don’t expect any Yankee news until at least Monday, but use this thread to talk about whatever you want this evening. Happy Holidays.

Webb hooks on with the Rangers

Via MLBTR, the Rangers have reached an agreement with Brandon Webb. Hopefully you weren’t expecting the Yankees to sign him, because all indications were that they had minimal interest at best. Can’t say I blame them, expecting a guy to rebound from major shoulder surgery after throwing four innings total in the last 26 months isn’t much more than a pipe dream. They need sure innings more than anything.

Ivan Nova, the mystery winter ball pitcher

Apparently Ivan Nova has been pitching in the Dominican Winter League according to Tim Bontemps, but I can’t find anything supporting that. He’s not listed on the roster and his milb.com page doesn’t list any stats. Bontemps says Nova threw 25.2 innings in the DWL (17 K, 4 BB), which would push his 2010 total to 212.2 IP. That’s a jump of 73.1 innings from last year. Nova’s been a horse as a pro, throwing at least 140 innings every year since 2008 (he was two outs short in 2009, close enough), but he’s never eclipsed the 200 IP mark, or even come close to it really.

Anyway, here’s the latest update from the various winter leagues…

Australian Baseball League
Nathan Aron: 9 G, 6 for 19, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 K, 2 HBP (.316/.364/.579)
Kyle Perkins: 3 G, 0 for 5, 4 K – hey look, he finally made contact

Dominican Winter League (season ended Dec. 21st)
Colin Curtis: 14 G, 12 for 50, 9 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 9 K (.240/.356/.300)
Eduardo Nunez: 7 G, 8 for 23, 4 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS (.348/.333/.391) – still hasn’t played since fouling a ball off his face
Francisco Santana: 13 G, 4 for 16, 2 R, 2 RBI, 4 K (.250/.250/.250)
Wilkins Arias: 17 G, 14 IP, 12 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 19 K (3.21 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) – finally got back on the mound after last week’s incident … one of those walks is intentional

Mexican Pacific League (season ends Dec. 30th)
Walt Ibarra: 51 G, 46 for 147, 29 R, 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 10 BB, 37 K, 5 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.313/.356/.401)
Ramiro Pena: 29 G, 26 for 110, 14 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 10 BB, 21 K, 1 CS (.236/.298/.318)
Jorge Vazquez: 36 G, 46 for 133, 24 R, 10 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI, 13 BB, 41 K, 1 CS (.346/.401/.647) – boy he sure does strike out a lot
Francisco Gil: 4 G, 6 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP (10.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP)
Andy Sisco: 14 G, 14 GS, 72.2 IP, 61 H, 35 R, 31 ER, 42 BB, 60 K, 6 WP (3.84 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Eric Wordekemper: 21 G, 19.1 IP, 21 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 11 BB, 19 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (6.05 ERA, 1.66 WHIP)

Venezuelan Winter League (season ends Dec. 30th)
Gustavo Moliva: 29 G, 13 for 80, 7 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 2 BB, 17 K, 2 HBP (.163/.202/.375) – at least his ISO is really good
Luis Nunez: 11 G, 5 for 22, 2 G, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K (.227/.320/.227)
Jordan Parraz: 25 G, 22 for 72, 12 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 20 K, 1 CS, 2 HBP (.306/.393/.389)
Jose Pirela: 25 G, 28 for 88, 16 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 7 BB, 7 K, 1 CS (.318/.368/.420)
Romulo Sanchez: 18 G, 14.2 IP, 19 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 11 BB, 15 K, 2 WP (7.36 ERA, 2.05 WHIP)
Amaury Sanit: 4 G, 4 GS, 18.1 IP, 21 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 1 WP (3.93 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Josh Schmidt: 13 G, 12 GS, 66 IP, 46 H, 21 R, 20 ER, 32 BB, 62 K,  (2.72 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) – he’s also hit seven guys

Surprise Surprise: Yankees have no interest in signing Manny

Via Buster Olney, the Yankees have no interest in signing Manny Ramirez. The other day we heard that the team held internal discussions about him simply because he fit a need (right-handed hitting outfielder), but obviously it doesn’t make sense. Jorge Posada is the full-time designated hitter and they already have three very capable outfielders on the roster. Good to see this one shot down in relatively short order.

I’m guessing the internal talks went something like this: “Okay, righty outfielders, first candidate is Manny Ramirez.” “Nope, next.”