What Went Right (and Wrong): Nunez, Cervelli, and Logan

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

As we get close to wrapping up our season review, we’re inevitably left a few players that don’t fit into our rather vague What Went Right/What Went Wrong categories. Unsurprisingly, these guys are bit pieces, essentially spare parts on the roster.

Eduardo Nunez

After a brief cameo in September 2010, the Yankees handed Nunez their utility infielder’s job out of Spring Training in 2011. The off-day and rain-out heavy April kept Nunez glued to the bench during the season’s first month (just six plate appearances), but he started to get more and playing time as the weather warmed up in May. He had five hits (including two doubles) in his first three starts of the season, but he carried a weak .214/.254/.339 batting line into mid-June, though that covered just 61 plate appearances.

Nunez became a pretty important piece of the Yankees’ puzzle in mid-June, after a calf injury shelved Derek Jeter for more than three weeks. The backup infielder had two hits in each of his first two games as the starting shortstop, and he ended up hitting a robust .339/.381/.525 in 65 plate appearances as the Cap’n’s replacement. When Alex Rodriguez hit the shelf with a knee injury before the All-Star break, Nunez was again pressed into everyday duty, this time at third base. He hit .252/.310/.336 in 117 plate appearances while filling in for A-Rod.

All told, Nunez hit .265/.313/.385 in 338 plate appearances, swatting five homers and stealing 22 bases in 28 tries (78.6% success rate). That’s pretty much what you expect from a utility infielder. His defense was atrocious however, specifically his long-time problem with making the throw to first base (from short or third). He committed 20 errors (almost all throwing) in 789.2 defensive innings, which projects to about 37 errors over a full 162-game season. Nunez had his moments, and I figure he was the Yankees’ best backup infielder in quite some time.

(Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Frankie Cervelli

Reportedly, the Yankees were holding an open competition for the backup catcher’s job in Spring Training, though it stood to reason that Cervelli had a leg up over Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Gus Molina just because he was the incumbent. A broken foot (suffered on a foul ball) delayed the start of his season by a month, but he came back with a bang. In his third game of the season (May 8th), Cervelli swatted a grand slam to dead center off Cody Eppley to turn a 6-5 game into a 10-5 game, helping put an end to an ugly four-losses-in-five-games stretch.

Cervelli played pretty regularly as CC Sabathia‘s personal catcher throughout the summer, and carried a .274/.333/.340 batting line into a late-August series against the Red Sox. After hitting just two homeruns in the first 541 plate appearances of his big league career, Frankie went on a tear and clubbed three homers in the span of eight days as August turned into September. I also remember one ball that looked like a no-doubter off the bat, but was caught at the wall after being knocked down by the rain and wind in that ugly, rainy 11pm ET start game against the Orioles. No idea where it came from, but Frankie was showing some serious pop late in the summer.

Unfortunately, a concussion ended Cervelli’s season in early-September. He was involved in two collisions at the plate on September 8th, giving him his third concussion in the last four seasons. That forced Romine into backup catcher duty, and makes Cervelli a bit of a question mark going into next season. Concussions are nothing to sneeze at, especially several of them in a relatively short period of time. The late power surge raised Frankie’s season batting line to .266/.324/.395 with four homers in 137 plate appearances.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Boone Logan

The Pedro Feliciano signing managed to turn into a disaster before Opening Day, which meant Logan was the team’s sole left-handed reliever for the majority in the season. He struggled early in the year, carrying a 5.40 ERA into mid-May. Even worse, lefties were hitting .364/.440/.591 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in their first 26 plate appearances against him. Logan received some advice from A-Rod during an interleague series in mid-June, at which point same-side batters were still hitting .300/.391/.425 off him.

The pep talk marked a bit of a turn around for Boone, who held lefties to a .234/.286/.484 batting line the rest of the way. He did a much better job of getting them out, but he was giving up far too many extra-base hits. After surrendering just one extra-base hit (a triple) to lefties in 2010, he gave up 12 in 2011 (seven doubles, one triple, four homers). That’s the same number of extra-base hits they had off Sabathia, who faced more than twice as many left-handed batters. All told, Logan finished the season with a solid 3.46 ERA (9.9 K and 2.2 BB/9), but lefty specialists don’t get judged by overall numbers. Left-handers hit .260/.328/.462 in 118 plate appearances against Boone this season, and that’s simply not good enough for the primary lefty on a contending team.

CC Sabathia and the opt-out that wasn’t

In business when negotiating a salary, having leverage is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Leverage allows the person in demand to set the pace. The price, the years, the responsibilities — everything can be dictated by the side with leverage to the side without. For the Yankees and their fans who didn’t want to see the Big Man depart from the Bronx after three stellar years, the lesson in leverage was quick and expensive.

CC Sabathia had leverage, and everyone knew it. To entice him to come to New York in the winter of 2008, the Yankees gave him an opt-out clause for peace of mind. If he hated it in the Big Apple, if his family hated it, if other teams came a-knockin’, CC could have departed the Bronx for less intense pastures. The Yankees, on the other hand, had no leverage. Their current crop of home-grown pitchers haven’t matured into the starters we had hoped, and their next class is a year or two away. Fronted by C.J. Wilson and perhaps the tantalizing enigma of Yu Darvish, the free agent pitching market is thin this year, and Sabathia had to return.

And so without exercising the opt-out or filing for free agency, Sabathia, who always said he wanted to stay in New York and never planned on opting out, did just that. He now has five guaranteed years and $122 million left on his contract with an option for a sixth year, which vests as long as he isn’t injured, for another $20 million. As a businessman, he did what anyone in his shoes would have done: He took his leverage and turned it into better job security and more money. That’s the way to do it.

Following the evening announcement of a contract extension, both Sabathia and Yanks GM Brian Cashman said all the right things. “CC is the ace of our pitching staff, a leader in our clubhouse and a driving force for the Yankees in our community,” Cashman, who will soon sign his own contract extension, said. “He is exactly the type player and person that Yankees fans and this organization can be proud of. We are excited that he will be wearing the pinstripes for many years to come.”

The left-hander too was effusive with his praise. “My son loves it here. All my kids love it here. My wife loves it here, obviously, and I do, too. I love pitching for the Yankee fans and everything, so it was the easy choice,” Sabathia said. “I just want to end my career here. I want to make sure I end my career as a Yankee and, hopefully, I’ve done that.”

As this drama unfolded following the Cardinals’ World Series win on Friday, I found myself pondering my reaction to it all. Had CC opted out to explore the market as Jon Heyman over the weekend said he would, I would have been unsurprised but disappointed. After all, CC has long expressed his love of New York and his desire to stay here. When the announcement came down today, I was elated. We don’t have to worry about life without the Big Man, and we’ll continue to watch him pitch every five days from now until the effective end of A-Rod‘s contract. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Finally, then, there is the matter of the contract itself. Effectively, CC never left. He didn’t opt out and didn’t take the PR hit from doing so. In fact, the Yanks’ press release never even says the phrase “opt-out.” CC’s Yankee tenure will take place over the course of two contracts. Yet, I still view his tenure as two deals. During the first, he pitched for three years and $69 million, won 59 games, had a 3.18 ERA and struck out eight per nine innings pitched. It’s one of the better free agent contracts in recent Yankee history.

The next deal will cover Sabathia’s ages 31-36 seasons, and as high-priced contract extensions go, that’s not a bad deal. We’ll see Sabathia continue with his peak-age pitching and perhaps he will decline. But as long as he stays healthy — and he has yet again vowed to lose some weight — the Yankees should be fine. The number of elite pitchers who excel throughout their 30s should make us accepting of the deal. You have your Curt Schillings and Randy Johnsons, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. A contract covering Andy Pettitte‘s age 31-36 seasons would have seen him go 87-57 with a 3.83 ERA in 1147.1 innings. By no means is this a comprehensive study of Sabathia’s peers, but the years and the dollars aren’t nearly as insane as they could have been.

So all’s well that ends well for the Yankees. We’ve wrapped up just three days of the Hot Stove League, and the Yankees already have knocked off the number one item on their agenda. Maybe they’ll dip their toes in again to find another pitcher or some bullpen help. Perhaps a trade is in order. For now, though, we’ll face the long, cold wait until Opening Day comfortable in the knowledge that the Yanks landed their guy before October even ended.

Teixeira, Cano, and Gardner among AL Gold Glove nominees

Via ESPN, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Brett Gardner are among the AL Gold Glove nominees at their respectively positions. Yeah, I didn’t know they had nominees for these things either. Tex is against Adrian Gonzalez and Casey Kotchman at first base, Cano against Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler at second, and Gardner against Alex Gordon and Sam Fuld in left. I wonder if that means they’ll actually give out a Gold Glove for each of the individual outfield spots. That’d be neat.

Anyway, the Gold Glove winners will be announced tomorrow night during the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show on ESPN2 at 10pm ET. I sure hope they get leaked before then, I have no interest in watching. The rest of the awards schedule can be found right here.

Yankees agree to extension with CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia stayed true to his word. After three years of professing his love for New York and the Yankees, the big lefty did not trigger the opt-out clause in his contract prior to tonight’s midnight deadline. As he says in the video above (via Zoodig), he and the team have agreed to a new contract extension that will almost assuredly keep him in pinstripes for the remainder of his career.

Now, for the gory details as reported by Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, and Joel Sherman. Essentially, it’s a five-year deal worth $122M guaranteed plus a sixth year vesting option worth $25M. That option depends on the health of his left shoulder. If Sabathia a) finishes the 2016 season on the DL with a shoulder injury, b) spends 45 days on the DL with a shoulder injury in 2016, or c) has to make six relief appearances in 2016 due to a shoulder problem, the option will not vest and he will instead receive a $5M buyout. There is no protection against elbow problems, and as far as we know, there are no provisions about his weight. At the end of the day, the Yankees added one year and $30M guaranteed to the four years and $92M still left on his original contract.

The team’s original offer, which we’ve know about for a while, was a five-year package worth $120.5M guaranteed according to Sherman, or half-a-mil more than Cliff Lee got from the Phillies. The Yankees increased their offer today to keep Sabathia from opting out and hitting the open market. The new deal ensures that CC is the highest paid pitcher in the game in terms of average annual value ($24.4M) and total package (the original $161M contract). We don’t know what other teams would have gotten involved in the bidding had he hit free agency, but I think it was in the Yankees’ best interests to avoid that scenario. Sabathia comes out looking like the good guy as well.

With that taken care of, the team can move forward with its offseason business. The rotation still needs help even with Sabathia back on board, but at least now the Yankees know they will have their ace left-hander ready to take the ball on Opening Day. Welcome back CC, I’m glad you never left.

Open Thread: Halloween

Joe's brother dressed up as the Red Sox Collapse for Halloween.

You know what the most underrated, and possibly best part of Halloween is? Going out tomorrow and buying about ten bags of leftover Halloween candy for like, three bucks at Rite Aid. Just can’t beat it, great way to stock up on junk food for the winter.

Anywho, here is your open thread for tonight. The Monday Night Football game is the Chargers at the Chiefs (8:30pm ET on ESPN), and the Rangers are the only local hockey team in action. They’re at home against the Sharks, and I know we have a few Sharks fans lurking in the comments. Anything goes, enjoy.

Discussion Question: If you had to trade one or the other, who would it be, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances?

Sabathia, Soriano rank as Type-A free agents, Garcia a Type-B

Via MLBTR, the official Elias free agent rankings for the 2011-2012 offseason have been released. CC Sabathia, who is expected to opt out of his contract before tonight’s midnight deadline, is a Type-A free agent and the highest ranked player this winter. Rafael Soriano, who is not expected to opt out, also qualifies as a Type-A. Freddy Garcia is a middle-of-the-pack Type-B. None of the team’s other free agents (Jorge Posada, Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, etc.) qualifies as a Type-A or B.

If offered arbitration and he signs with another team, the Yankees will get that team’s first rounder and a supplemental first rounder (pulled out of the air) for Sabathia. Garcia will bring back just the supplement first rounder, and Soriano is a non-issue. The deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents is midnight ET on November 23rd. The Yankees will surely offer Sabathia arbitration and I think they should offer it to Garcia. Anyway, the full list of Type-A’s and B’s is available on our 2012 Draft Order Tracker.

Mailbag: Sizing up off-season trades

Nick writes: So I know as Yankees fans (and just fans in general) that we over value our prospects/players. Everyone wants a top flight Ace, or a “#2” starter but they don’t want to give up Montero and Banuelos (for the most part anyway). What type of pitchers are available for a package that could include some of the following prospects: Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, George Kontos. Also, the Mets were somehow able to get a top prospect for Beltran for a half year. What kind of haul could Swisher bring back on the pitching prospect side? Maybe one of the Braves young starters? Not saying that should happen, just curious of his value for a full year.

Nick’s question raises a number of issues I’d like to address regarding off-season expectations. He’s clearly right. As fans we tend to overvalue the players in the Yankees’ system while underestimating other teams’ needs. Even if we take a step back and try to look at the situation from a different vantage point, we often misunderstand what teams seek in trades. It all leads back to the RAB off-season mantra: your trade proposal sucks.

Thankfully, Nick’s question stops short of a trade proposal. Here’s a breakdown of a few choice parts and what they mean for the Yankees’ off-season.

What type of pitchers are available for a package that could include some of the following prospects: Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, George Kontos.

This question brings one issue to mind. Rarely, if ever, will you see a quantity trade. That is, the more players you add to a hypothetical trade package, the less likely it is to become reality. If a team does desire to trade a No. 1 or 2 starter, they’re going to value quality over quantity. More players in a trade package typically means less high-end value.

Guys such as Phelps and Kontos are afterthoughts in any significant deal. They might go in a package for a pitcher, but they’re not going to play a big part in said package. Even a guy like Sanchez won’t headline any deal. Maybe the Yankees can entice a team by packaging Betances, a high-end and near major league ready arm, with Sanchez, a far away but promising prospect. But there is no chance that they package, say, Sanchez as the headliner in a deal along with Phelps and Kontos. They’re just not going to get much back for that, because the only high-end player in the deal is at least three years away from the majors.

Any trade for a useful pitcher will have to include either Montero, Banuelos, or Betances as the headliner. A few of those other guys might be included, but they’re not the indispensable parts. Without a high-end prospect that is near or at the major league level, teams simply will not part with their top talent. Maybe that changes if the Yankees are looking at a player in a contract year, such as John Danks. But even then it’s hard to see a deal getting done without Betances at least.

Also, the Mets were somehow able to get a top prospect for Beltran for a half year. What kind of haul could Swisher bring back on the pitching prospect side?

The Mets found themselves in a unique position this season. They had one of the best outfielders in the league and had no use for him themselves. They also had a number of teams that could have used the upgrade. But most importantly they had the Giants, a team that was in a rough spot. They were clinging to a three-game lead in the NL West, with Arizona nipping at their heels. Their offense was horribly underpowered, to historic proportions. They absolutely needed Beltran, and so they gave up a valuable pitching prospect for him.

It’s a bit different in the off-season. Teams can take their times constructing rosters. They can also look at a slightly less productive, but much cheaper, option to start the season and then see what develops. In addition, there are a number of free agent outfielders who can fill spots for just money (and perhaps a draft pick). Why trade a pitching prospect for Swisher when you can sign Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, or David DeJesus? Some of them might not be quite as good as Swish, but they also won’t cost a prospect.

That is to say, Swisher’s trade value isn’t that great. Mike made this point pretty clearly in his post about picking up Swisher’s option.

Maybe one of the Braves young starters?

This just brings up a quick note. The Braves traded Derek Lowe today. That doesn’t hurt their rotation much, but the move does make them more reliant on young starters. They’ll likely opt to retain their depth and focus on other areas. I’d be shocked if Atlanta moved any other starters this off-season.

To put it another way: if the Royals are looking to add starters rather than trade some of their young prospects, you can bet that most teams won’t be willing to trade young starters. In fact, as we’ve seen lately, far more teams are promoting and extending their young pitchers. The free agency game just isn’t attractive, and it appears that both players and teams are starting to recognize this.

We can expect the Yankees to remain active this off-season, looking under every rock for a deal that will improve the team for 2012. That might be a trade or an undervalued free agent, but whatever the case we can expect plenty of rumors from the hot stove. What we can’t expect is the Yankees to acquire something for nothing. Furthermore, we can’t expect the Yankees to acquire rare resources that other teams control and covet — especially if they’re only willing to part with fairly common prospects. That is, you’re either going to see the Yankees make a big splash with one or two enormous moves, or you’re going to see them operate as they did last off-season, taking advantage of their pro scouting department to find a few underrated players. Either way, it will make for great winter entertainment.