Wow, I asked for questions last night in the open thread, and you guys responded big time. Over 20 questions hit the inbox, so don’t feel bad if yours isn’t featured below. We’re actually going to post another mailbag or two today just because there were so many good submissions and we want to get to them all. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box whenever you want to send in a mailbag question in the future.
Ed asks: What is the current status of the Chinese players the Yankees signed 3 or4 years ago?
He’s talking out lefty pitcher Kai Lui and catcher Zhenwang Zhang, who the Yanks signed back in June of 2007. Both were 19 when they signed, and obviously they have not yet come to the United States to begin their pro careers. They did however play for China in the World Baseball Classic last spring, with Lui getting lit up in two relief appearances (1.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HB … so what’s that, a 16.7% strand rate?) and Zhang failing to reach base in six plate appearances while striking out three times.
Wikipedia says both players were released at some point, and we all know wiki is never wrong. Neither Lui or Zhang was much of a prospect anyway, but they were instead the Yanks first venture into the completely untapped baseball market of China. It was a way to get some positive press in the most populated country in the world, and really just the first step in the process. At some point the Yanks will sign another player from China, then another, and after a while one of them will actually be pretty decent and come to the States. It’ll be a slow a process, but a process that started three years ago.
Vinny asks: When C.C. made his start against Toronto the other day, people began to worry that he wouldn’t be in great shape for the post-season because he would be pitching with 8 days rest. I’ve always found these kind of things to be stupid. I once pitched, for my high school team, and I would throw about every 6-7-8 days. Granted, I’m no C.C. and I only threw 65 mph, I feel that it’s not reasonable to think that C.C. wouldn’t be prepared. Whenever I made starts with many days of rest in between, I always felt stronger than ever and the results were pretty good….obviously not good enough, as I currently live with my parents. Awkward. What are your thoughts?
More than anything, I’m just worried about Sabathia’s command coming off the eight day rest. I’m sure he’ll be fine physically, if not stronger than usual, but if he’s having trouble locating his pitches it won’t matter. The last thing the Yankees need is for the other team to work him hard early in and force him out after five or six innings. I’ll admit though, my concerns about the rest are probably overblown.
Planks asks: If A-Rod hadn’t opted out of his contract in 2007, he would be a free agent this year. What kind of contract could he expect to sign?
That’s a mighty fine question. Given his age and the fact that his performance has dropped off a bit this year (.366 wOBA after no worse than .385 since 1998), not to mention the hip issues and PED stigma, you’d have to think that he’d get a smaller deal than Adrian Beltre. That said, power is at a premium these days, and Alex has proven that he can still hit the ball very very far very very often. Maybe he wouldn’t get $20M+ annually, but I bet he’d find something like $13-15M a season for three years on the market. For the record, Joe thinks that’s a little light on the salary.
I’d like to hear from the commentors on this one, because I really don’t feel like I have a hold on A-Rod’s market value at all. I just don’t see too many obvious fits for him, besides maybe the Tigers or Angels.
Mark in VT asks: What is the breakdown for next year’s salaries? I’m concerned that the Yanks won’t be able to “afford” Cliff Lee if they are serious about keeping payroll around $200 million. Also, are you worried with Lee’s workload and recent struggles (small but noticeable)? Is he going to pull a Santana? Thanks.
I broke down the money that’s coming off the books in the very first RAB Mailbag, and for the most part those figures still hold true because none of the trade deadline pickups will be back next season. Back then we narrowed it down to about $50M coming off, with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still having to be re-signed. Add in Lee and you’ve probably blown the $50M right there. Good thing they’ve got a bunch of cheap options to fill out the bullpen and bench. Cot’s has an in-depth breakdown that shows the Yanks’ payroll situation through 2014, so I recommend checking it out.
The Yanks were willing to go over their reported $200M budget at the deadline this year, and I suspect they’ll be willing to do so next year for a guy like Lee. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they drag the Jeter and/or Rivera negotiations out a bit. It would be a lot easier for Brian Cashman to go to the Steinbrenners in December and say “hey, I need more money to re-sign Derek/Mo” than it would be to say “can I have some more to sign Cliff?”
As for the concerns about Lee’s workload, yeah sure there’s a chance he breaks down at some point, in fact it’s likely just given the nature of pitching. Saying a pitcher is going to get hurt is the safest bet in sports. Lee’s not a terribly big guy (listed at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs.) and his workload over the last three years has been considerable (700.2 innings since Opening Day 2007 not including what he throws this postseason), but he has no history of arm troubles. I mean, yes it’s a concern, but no more than with any other pitcher.