Yanks prepared to offer Sabathia a six-year extension

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

CC Sabathia has every reason to void the remaining four years and $92 million on his contract. While that’s the most money any player will have ever left on the table, there is a 100 percent chance he’ll exceed that total, in both years and dollars, on the open market. But that won’t stop the Yankees from trying to prevent his impending free agency.

According to a New York Post report, the Yankees are currently preparing an offer, or a series of offers, intended to retain Sabathia before his opt-out date arrives. Their idea consists of a five- or six-year deal with a raise over Sabathia’s current $23 million annual salary. That sounds like a reasonable offer, and there’s definitely a chance Sabathia could accept.

Chances are the six-year offer is the only one that gets it done. Six years at $24 million per season totals $144 million, which exceeds the offer the Yankees made for Cliff Lee last offseason. That’s fair, given how much Sabathia has contributed to the Yankees in the last three years. They can even bump that up to $145 million, thereby exceeding Lee’s record $24 million annual salary. A five-year deal would certainly have to come in at around $125 million, and would include at least one option.

The Yankees stand to learn plenty with such lucrative offers. If Sabathia accepts, then he was true to his word about enjoying New York and his declarations of, “I’m not going anywhere.” If he declines a six-year deal worth $140 to $145 million, then the Yankees have to question Sabathia’s intentions. Again, $145 million over six years would give Sabathia the highest average annual value of any pitcher contract in history, to go along with his highest gross total of $161 million. Should he decline such an offer, he’s signaling that he would consider an offer from another team that, in all likelihood, wouldn’t constitute much more than a marginal increase over the Yankees’ offer.

Even so, a six-year offer to a 31-year-old pitcher might seem like a lot. But consider that 1) the Yankees made a six-year offer to Lee last off-season, 2) there is no pitcher on the market who matches Sabathia’s abilities, and 3) Sabathia’s importance to the team’s success the past three seasons. For instance, he has averaged 34 starts and 235 innings per season with the Yankees. In the three years before Sabathia arrived the Yankees had six pitchers reach 200 innings, but none eclipsed 218 in any season. Also, none had an ERA within 15 points of Sabathia’s average 3.18 ERA. That is, he’s been a consistently top-notch workhorse. That’s the type of pitcher the Yankees can pay a premium for.

Without Sabathia in 2012, the Yankees would be in quite a bind. They’d absolutely have to go after C.J. Wilson, and Wilson simply isn’t as good as Sabathia. Even when you factor in the contract Wilson would require, Sabathia seems like the better value. The Yankees recognize this, and will prepare an offer that appears difficult to refuse. If you truly liked pitching somewhere and they offered you a six-year deal that paid you more per year than any pitcher in history, wouldn’t you take it?

Eiland joins Royals, talks about leave of absence

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As the Cubs and Red Sox were busy introducing their new President of Baseball Ops and GM on Monday, respectively, the Royals very quietly announced that they had hired Dave Eiland to be their pitching coach. Eiland, of course, filled that same role with the Yankees from 2008-2010, getting the job because he was familiar with the team’s young pitchers (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy) after serving as their pitching coach in the minors.

During his final season in New York, Eiland took a month long and still unexplained leave of absence from the team, forcing bullpen coach Mike Harkey into pitching coach duties for the month of June. Although we still don’t know why he had to leave the team, Bob Dutton of The KC Star spoke to Eiland about the absence after the Royals announced his hiring…

Eiland took a 25-day leave of absence for personal reasons stemming from family issues in June 2010 from his job as the Yankees’ pitching coach. He was fired after the season and joined the Rays as a special assistant to general manager Andrew Friedman.

“It was something that if it happened in the off-season,” Eiland said, “nobody would have known anything about it. It was something I had to take care of. I came home, got everything where it needed to be and moved on.

“All is well, and I couldn’t be happier from a personal or professional standpoint. As I told Ned (on Monday), I wish spring training was starting tomorrow.”

When the Yankees decided to fire Eiland (technically they didn’t fire him, his contract expired and they decided not to renew it) after last season, Brian Cashman would not go into detail about the decision other than to say it was made for “private and personal” reasons. “He knows why [he was let go]”, said Cashman. “He was given conditions that needed to be followed. So he knows why.” Eiland spent last season with the Rays, scouting amateur pitchers prior to the draft.

Like A.J. Burnett‘s black eye, Eiland’s leave of absence is one of the Yankees’ great unsolved mysteries. It was blamed for Burnett’s disastrous June last season (11.35 ERA and a 2.26 WHIP in five starts), but after his awful performance carried over into 2011, I think it’s safe to say the only person that deserves blame for that is A.J. himself. Eiland may be a public figure, but frankly his personal life is none of our business. We’re curious and we can’t help but wonder about the juicy details, but as if often the case with these kinds of things, the reason is something a) not all that juicy, or b) better left unsaid.

MLB Network will broadcast 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series

The MLB Network announced today that it will broadcast the five-game Taiwan All-Star Series from November 1-6. The schedule is right here; four of the five games start at 9pm ET. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are headlining the MLB Team now that Miguel Cabrera has withdrawn due to a sore shoulder. They’ll be teammates with former Yankees Phil Coke, Jose Veras, Mark Melancon, and (hah) LaTroy Hawkins, among others. Old buddy Chien-Ming Wang will start one game for the Chinese Taipei squad. Hooray for baseball in November.

Open Thread: Goal Posts

(via the Yankees on Twitter)

One way or the other, the baseball portion of Yankee Stadium‘s schedule would have been over by today. The AL park schedule of the World Series is over, but of course the Yankees were ousted in the ALDS. The Stadium is now going into college football mode, with Rutgers and Army scheduled to play in Bronx on November 12th. You can get your tickets right here. The goal posts went up today, so they’ve got about two weeks to paint the lines and install additional on-field seating, plus whatever else there is to do. I haven’t been to a non-baseball event at Yankee Stadium yet, but everything I’ve heard is that they’re amazing, whether it’s college football or a concert or a boxing match. One day I’ll make it there for one. One day.

Anyways, here is your open thread for his fine evening. No World Series game tonight, the Rangers and Cardinals need to rest after making the 650 mile flight from Dallas to St. Louis. Both the Devils and Islanders are playing though, and that’s better than nothing. Use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires, go bananas.

(photo link)

Cashman, Hal met in New York; still no deal

Via Joel Sherman and David Waldstein, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner met in New York yesterday, though they talked mostly about baseball and the team’s baseball operations. That’s a pretty good indication that the two sides expect a new contract for the GM to be reached with ease. Cashman’s contract expires next Monday, so we should hear something very soon. I figure it’ll be another three-year deal, Cashman’s fourth in a row.

What Went Wrong: Pedro Feliciano

Nope. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Yankees have been searching for a quality left-handed reliever since letting Mike Stanton walk after the 2002 season, and that search led them to Pedro Feliciano last offseason. They inked the former Met to a two-year contract worth $8M in mid-December, in part because he a bonafide relief workhorse. He’d proven to be very effective against lefties and unusable against righties, making him the quintessential lefty specialist.

Feliciano, now 35, struck out six batters in his four Spring Training innings, and that was it. We never saw him again. On March 18th, we got word that he was dealing with a dead arm and the team was giving him extra rest as a precaution. Less than two weeks later the dead arm had turned into some kind of triceps problem, a problem that would cause him to open the season on the disabled list. Two days later it was being described as “soreness in a muscle behind his left shoulder,” and the team shut him down for ten days.

The ten days came and went, and doctors had to push Feliciano’s time table back about a week because he wasn’t ready yet. On April 12th, when he finally did get on a mound to start throwing, the southpaw suffered a setback and was sent for an MRI. “He was abused,” said Brian Cashman shortly thereafter, referring to Feliciano’s league leading games pitched totals with the Mets from 2008-2010. The MRI revealed a torn shoulder capsule, the same injury Chien-Ming Wang suffered in mid-2009, but surgery was put off after Dr. James Andrews advised a conservative treatment program that consisted of six-week shoulder strengthening routine. Feliciano was also undergoing platelet-rich plasma treatment as well.

Six weeks after Dr. Andrews’ recommendation, he was ready to start a throwing program on June 1st. Feliciano made 30 soft tosses on that date, and he continued building up to the point where he was ready to being throwing to hitters in early-August. A few weeks later, on August 25th, he made his first rehab appearance, striking out one in one perfect inning for the Rookie Level GCL Yankees. He never made another one. Exactly two weeks after the rehab outing, Feliciano underwent surgery to repair damage to his rotator cuff, a serious procedure that will likely keep him on the shelf for all of 2012.

Between Feliciano, Damaso Marte, and Kei Igawa, the Yankees had three $4M-a-year left-handers on their payroll that were completely unusable in 2011. The reason the Yankees went out and signed Feliciano in the first place was because Marte was recovering from his own shoulder surgery, so they ended up right back where they started, just with less money in their pocket. Cashman’s comments about Feliciano being abused came off as whiny more than anything, because anyone with internet access could go to Baseball-Reference.com and look up how much the guy had pitched the last few years.

The Yankees knew the risk involved with signing an older, heavily worked relief pitcher to a multi-year contract, but they took the chance anyway and got burned again. Early reports from this offseason indicate that the team is again looking to add a reliable left-handed reliever to their bullpen, this time to replace the injured Feliciano who was replacing the injured Marte who was replacing the awful Billy Traber. It’s highly unlikely that Feliciano will ever throw a pitch in pinstripes, rendering him a completely sunk cost.

What Went Wrong: Mark Teixeira

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After two mortifyingly slow Aprils to start his Yankees career, Mark Teixeira wanted to start on the right foot in 2011. In that regard he was a smashing success. In 102 April PA he hit .256/.392/.549, which represented the best April of his career. That made for an optimistic 2011 outlook. If Teixeira had produced those numbers in April 2010, his numbers would have been much more in line with his 2009 performance. In May he came back with a .375 wOBA, which, while not as good as his April, was still cause for encouragement.

And then the wheels came off.

In June Teixeira didn’t record many hits, just 20 in 94 AB, but he did send 13 of those hits for extra bases, including nine homers. While he did pick up more hits in July, 28 in 106 AB, he produced only nine extra base hits. That absolutely killed his overall production, since his early-season value came almost exclusively from his power numbers. In August he rebounded some, but not much, and for the second straight year he closed with a slow September. The end result: .248/.341/.494, a .361 wOBA and 124 wRC+. The latter, which relates Teixeira’s numbers to the league average, represents his lowest mark since 2006, though it was pretty much in line with his 2010.

During that horrible July, Mike and I took a hard look at Teixeira’s production. Mike likened him to an expensive Tino Martinez. After that I looked at some of his plate discipline issues, or really, lack thereof. It did seem that he was getting unlucky in many ways, hitting right into the shift at times when he might have gone the opposite way in 2009. That brought on a rough analysis of Teixeira’s stance at the plate. He opened up his stance considerably from 2009 through 2011, likely because he aimed to pull the ball every time up. He even admitted as such in Spring Training. “If you hit a lot of home runs and you see that short porch, you tend to come around the ball a little bit and try to hook it. I got into that a little too much last year and it ended up hurting me.” It again ended up hurting him in 2011.

(Charles Krupa/AP)

The good news is that Teixeira realizes that there is a problem in his approach. He mentioned this as the season came to an end, saying he’d work with Kevin Long during the off-season to better balance his swing. We saw some tangible evidence of this later in the season; during the playoffs Teixeira noticeably stood upright, mirroring his 2009 stance. In Game 1 against the Tigers it appeared that he had figured out something, as his leadoff double led to the big inning that sealed the Yanks’ victory. But apparently closing his stance didn’t correct the problem; Teixeira had a poor series overall and received much of the blame during the fallout.

What went wrong with Teixeira? He tried to pull everything from the left side, and he far too often hit weak grounders and pop-ups. It comes as absolutely no surprise that he had a .222 BABIP as a left-handed hitter. From the right side he was a great deal better, producing a .410 wOBA (compared to .338 from the left side). That’s easy enough to define. The difficult part is finding the fix. Teixeira is far too expensive — and valuable on defense — to become a platoon player, especially when his strong side accounts for less than a third of his season’s plate appearances. If he can’t reconfigure his left-handed swing, the Yankees have a long five years ahead of them.

For now we can rest a bit easier knowing that he is actively addressing the problem. Teixeira has been the consummate professional during his time in New York, and it stands to reason that he’ll do everything he can to correct the flaws that have hampered his last two seasons. That’s all we can really ask at this point. Given Teixeira’s pedigree and work ethic I think we can remain optimistic at the moment. But if he continues his pull-happy ways in 2012, it will be much harder to remain optimistic for the remainder of his contract.