Via Ed Price, the Yankees are “considering” free agent outfielder Matt Diaz for a platoon (a.k.a. the Marcus Thames) role. There’s no indication that they’ve actually made him an offer or anything like that, just that he’s crossed their minds. Joe took a brief look at Diaz last week in his non-tender guide. Diaz would be a fine choice, thought it sounds like the competition will be stiff.
Bob Klapisch drops a December bombshell. The Yankees, he says, “heard from friend of Pettitte’s that he’s [definitely] retiring.” The club received this news three weeks ago, and they are officially “still waiting on his decision.” We’ve heard numerous conflicting reports on Pettitte this winter. Just a few weeks ago, Ken Davidoff said the lefty was “leaning toward” a 2011 swan song, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Pettitte hangs it up this year. Either way, Cliff Lee stands to benefit, but don’t jump off that bridge until we hear it from the mouth of number 46 himself.
Update (3:26 p.m.): NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra chimes in with an opposite view. He says, “Source close to Pettitte tells me that while you never know with Pettitte, the expectation is that he’s coming back.” All we know is that we don’t know anything yet.
Update by Mike (5:40pm): Brian Cashman told reporters this afternoon that last he heard, Pettitte is leaning towards retirement. Apparently Andy first mentioned it to the GM after the season, which is the first time he’s done that.
The winter meetings are just about six hours old now, and sadly the Yankees have yet to sign Cliff Lee. In fact, they haven’t even made an official offer yet. It’s okay though, because Jayson Stark says the Rangers haven’t either. Darek Braunecker, Lee’s agent, spoke to reporters for a few minutes in the lobby of The Dolphin not too long ago, and said that he is still trying to set up a schedule to meet with teams this week. “[It’s] too early to say,” said Braunecker when asked if his prized client would sign this week.
Lee is actually out on some deer hunting trip this week, but his agent will obviously keep him abreast of any major developments. Braunecker has all the leverage right now given the other (read: uninteresting) pitchers still available on the free agent market and he knows it, giving his approval of Jayson Werth’s monster deal and saying that it’s “good to be Cliff Lee.” He also emphasized that his client has proved “he can pitch anywhere,” which he has over the last two-plus seasons.
The slow-developing market for Lee isn’t terribly surprising, but as fans it’s rather annoying. We want some movement on this front and we want it now, but it’s in the best interests of Lee’s camp to be patient. Once Carl Pavano comes off the board the free agent pitching market will be simply atrocious, and the trade market doesn’t offer many alternatives. Shaun Marcum is a quality pitcher, no doubt, but the Brewers had to surrender their top prospect to acquire him. Quality pitching does not come cheaply, and for Lee the price will only go up the longer he waits.
I suspect that we’ll see some very serious progress with the former Cy Young Award winner this week, whether it be in the form of an offer or two or ten or an outright agreement. Remember, Braunecker is an agent and every single word that comes out of his mouth is carefully designed to benefit his client and nothing else. This thing will get settled soon enough, the Yankees will make sure of it.
Update: An of course two seconds after I post this Buster Olney reports that the Yankees will meet with Braunecker about Lee today. They also met with him in Arkansas last month, as you remember.
While the Red Sox were officially announcing the addition of Adrian Gonzalez, the Orioles were busy putting the finishing touches on a trade for Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds. The deal is done except for the physicals, with Arizona receiving relievers David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio in return. Reynolds has hit 76 homeruns over the last two seasons, but he’s also struck out in 40.3% of his at-bats during that time. In fact, he’s the only player in baseball history to strike out at least 200 times in a single season, and he’s done it every year since 2008. Baltimore added some much needed power to their lineup, and that’ll make life that much tougher on the Yankees.
The Washington Nationals sent a bit of shock wave through the baseball community yesterday afternoon, announcing that they had signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a massive seven-year, $126M contract. Werth is undeniably a great player, but that contract is excessive. It (theoretically) set the market for Carl Crawford, and could have a trickle down effect on just about any upcoming free agent outfielder, such as one current Yankee.
Since coming to New York, Nick Swisher has posted the two of the best seasons of his career at 3.7 and 4.0 bWAR. He’s hit 58 homeruns in pinstripes, getting on base at a .365 clip with a .235 ISO. He also made his first All Star team, all for the bargain price of $12.05M ($5.3M in 2009, $6.75M in 2010). Swisher is due to become a free agent after the 2011 season, so I’m sure he and his agent are licking their chops are seeing Werth’s deal. Over the last two seasons, Werth has a .899 OPS, and Swisher’s is not to far off at .870.
To get an idea of what kind of contract Swisher could be in line to receive, we should dig up comparables. Using the great B-Ref Play Index to find players with similar production during their two seasons leading up to free agency (what have you done for me lately?), we get names like J.D. Drew, Bobby Abreu, Jason Bay, and Brian Giles. Drew signed with the Dodgers for five years and $55M. Abreu re-upped with the Phillies for 5/64, Bay got 4/66 from the Mets, and Giles got 3/30 from the Padres. The average of those four is ~4/54, or $13.5M per season. Swish generally lags a little bit behind those guys in HR, OPS+, and in some cases bWAR in the years before free agency, but at least we have an idea of what he could ask for. Frankly, $13.5M per year seems rather reasonable.
The Case For Extending Swisher
Making a case to sign Swish to a contract extension is rather easy. He’s very productive (between 3.7 and 4.0 fWAR in four of the last five years), extremely durable (he’s been on the disabled list once in his six full seasons, and it came five years ago), and still in the prime of his career (he turned 30 less than two weeks ago). He’s also a fan favorite. The Yankees could end up saving themselves a few bucks by signing him now and avoiding the unpredictability of the open market as well.
The Case Against
While 2011 is the final guaranteed year on Swisher’s contract ($9M salary), the Yankees do hold a club option for 2012 worth $10.25M. They could choose to buy him out for a million bucks, but at this point in time it would be an upset if they went that route. So in reality Swisher is two years away from free agency, when he’ll be 32 and approaching his decline phase. While his stock is at an all-time high right now, it could be on the way down 24 months from now. Not extending Swisher now would also give the Yanks some semblance of roster flexibility going forward since his trade value is at an all-time high as well.
The Yankee policy is to not negotiate with players (not to mention field and front office staff as well) until their contracts expire, so this entire post is more academic than anything. But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Yanks would be up to giving their rightfielder an extension.
I’m in the camp that thinks they should wait this one out and let Swish play out the final two years of his contract before worrying about an extension, and I love the guy. Like I said, they’d maintain some roster flexibility, which is extremely important with so many massive contracts. It also eliminates a ton of risk since they wouldn’t be locked in for the next five years if he declines or something. The Yankees can afford to pay him when he becomes a free agent in two years if they want to, and that’s the route they should go. The financial advantage allows them to wait and pay people later rather than have to gamble and pay them now.
I see no good reason to not do a chat, so we’ll set one up for this afternoon. Come back at 1 p.m and we’ll chat Yankees, Winter Meetings, Adrian Gonzalez, and just about anything else you can think of.