Scenario 1: The market for corner outfielders isn’t strong, and while Bobby Abreu wants a three-year, $45-million deal, no club, for a variety of reasons, would dole that out right now. The Yankees offer arbitration, and Abreu accepts. All of a sudden, the Yanks will have to pay a 35-year-old corner outfielder in the declining phase of his career at least $16 million and probably closer to $18 or $19 million. Not only does Abreu occupy a spot on the 40-man roster, but his decision to accept arbitration means the Yanks cannot go after a younger and cheaper or older but better and more expensive alternative.
Scenario 2: The market for corner outfielders past their prime isn’t strong. In fact, baseball executives feel that Abreu could command just a multi-year deal but only at an AAV of $8-$10 million. The Yanks know that, with this parameter in place, Abreu would do better to accept arbitration. So they don’t offer it to him. They know this makes Abreu a bit more attractive in the eyes of his potential suitors because he won’t cost a draft pick, but they’re willing to make that move in the name of fiscal and roster flexibility.
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If you’re the General Manager, what do you do? To me, the answer is simple, and the Yanks made the right move. They picked scenario two. In doing so, they forfeited the potential to receive two draft picks, but right now, it seems as though Abreu would have been in a position where arbitration was the better option. The Yanks knew and didn’t want to take that chance.
In the RAB piece for Newsday’s On the Yankees beat blog, Joe made a similar point yesterday, and it’s worth delving into the aftermath of this decision. It’s not easy to replace Bobby Abreu’s production, and I don’t think the Yanks are expecting Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady to produce at Abreu’s past levels.
But now without Abreu around — and it seems like he is definitely not coming back — the Yanks have options. They can take a good, long look at Manny Ramirez; they can explore Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell. They can spend on pitching and hope that their offense is good enough if their starters can be outstanding. No matter what, they aren’t locked in to an outlandish obligation to Bobby Abreu.
These days, we tend to overvalue draft picks, and yes, compensation picks can be rewarding. After all, the Yanks wouldn’t have Joba Chamberlain without them. In the end, though, they’re just draft picks that may or may come due in a few years’ time. The Yanks looked at the seemingly weak 2009 draft, they looked at where they needed to be right now, and they determined that Bobby Abreu and arbitration did not go hand-in-hand this year. It was the right decision.
Via the newly-relocated ShysterBall comes a fun little article on wezen-ball. The author of this new blog found a preview of 2000 written in 1981. Among the highlights are dire predictions of $3,000,000 salaries and — gasp — $25 tickets. It’s quite amusing to see what happened and what didn’t in the intervening 19 years. · (22) ·
The Hot Stove picked up a little steam this evening, as ex-Yank Javy Vazquez was dealt back to the NL East in a five player deal with the Atlanta Braves. The deal is pending a physical tomorrow, but otherwise it represents the first of many moves we’ll see over the next 10 days.
Yankees’ fans have a strong and somewhat irrational dislike for Vazquez, but the bottom line is that he’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball this century. He’s supremely durable, throwing the second most innings in the game since 2000 (at least 198 IP for nine straight years), and a strikeout machine, trailing only Randy Johnson in K’s during that time. His ERA is 4.11 since 2000, just 0.05 runs higher than Andy Pettitte‘s (that’s one extra run every 180 IP). Given the Braves’ current rotation situation (Jair Jurrjens and pray for rain), the move is exactly what the team needs.
The ChiSox are reportedly getting three players in return, but LHP Jo-Jo Reyes and IF Brent Lillibridge are fringy guys who shouldn’t play a key role on a contending team. The third prospect, Tyler Flowers, is what makes deal worth it for Kenny Williams’ & Co. One of the best unknown prospects out there, Flowers projects to be an offensive catcher who holds his own behind the plate. He’s hit .291-.400-.488 in his three pro seasons, and he just finished annihilating the AzFL with a 232 OPS+. He instantly becomes the best White Sox prospect not named Beckham, and should render AJ Pierzynski moot no later than 2010. The Braves are also getting garden variety LOOGY Boone Logan.
Boy, Kenny Williams’ trades always seem to come out of nowhere, huh?
Not to be overshadowed by Javy, ex-Yanks’ draftee Matt Carson agreed to a minor league deal with the A’s and also gets an invite to Major League Spring Training. Good for him. Here’s your open thread of for the evening, talk about the trade or anything else here. Just pay play nice.
As the arbitration fallout continues, two stories surrounding the new stadium have cropped up over the last few days. Both of them involve ongoing stories I’ve been following here over the last few years.
First up is fallout from the weekend. Richard Brodsky says that he will continue to hold hearings about the city’s sweetheart deal with the Yankees. Greg Clary reported over the weekend:
State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky plans to continue an investigation into New York City’s stadium deal with the Yankees after releasing e-mails detailing discussions of tax breaks, free food and who might get to use a city-owned luxury box…
Brodsky said his Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions will look at how the assessment of the new Yankee Stadium was calculated, why ticket prices shot up hundreds of dollars each and whether promises that 1,000 permanent jobs would be created were knowingly overestimated.
“My job is to keep a check on authorities,” Brodsky said. “We’re doing the kind of oversight we’re supposed to. Where we have documents that we’ve finished reviewing and are worth looking at, we will continue to make them public.”
I’m a strong supporter of good government in New York City. I believe that, by and large, the taxpayers got a raw deal here while the Yanks and the City are busy patting each other on the back. I don’t see how the stadium is going to deliver the 1000 new jobs, and I don’t see why the city is footing the bill for so much.
But I have to wonder about the utility of more hearings. Does Brodsky have an end-game or is he just out to make the city and Yankees look as bad as possible? If the state assembly isn’t going to levy any sort of penalty, just let the matter go. We know it was a bad deal. Let’s not waste more taxpayer dollars on it.
Meanwhile, on the parks front, the Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared blog directs our attention to a Daily News article about the replacement parks. The gist of is that the parks set to replace the Macombs Dam Park won’t be open for a few years. It’s not really new news as these parks have been behind schedule for over a year now, but it’s just a reminder that the community benefits are slow to materialize. I know some fans disagree, but I think the Yanks should have been more responsive to the needs of the South Bronx residents who have long lived with the Yanks as neighbors.
Picking up where I left off this morning is Ken Rosenthal. While I think the MLB-wide arbitration decisions portend tighter economic times throughout the sport, Rosenthal feels that, contrary to what many of us assumed, even the Yankees will suffer. Outside of a soft market for outfielders, Rosenthal expects the Yanks’ 2009 payroll to be significantly lower than their 2008 total and doesn’t believe the new stadium will be as lucrative in its first year as it would be had the economy been stronger. Of course, we’ve heard the payroll line before, and the Yanks still have a $140 million offer outstanding to CC Sabathia. The Yanks’ spending, though, may not be as all-encompassing as we once thought it would be. · (81) ·
There’s only one week left in the regular season of our first ever fantasy football league, and just one of the twenty teams has clinched a playoff spot. The last time I updated you on the league’s goings-on, I was tenth in the league with a 5-4 record, but riding the wave of a three week winning streak. One month later, that streak is still alive at seven wins, and I’ve gone from the middle of the pack to near the top of the standings.
The trade deadline came and went with much controversy (I’m not going to explain, long story), and now teams are stuck mining the unbearably barren free agent pool for fill-ins. I grabbed Ken freaking Dorsey a few days ago to replace Vince Young as my backup to Chad Pennington for no other reason than because Dorsey will actually get some playing time during the rest of the season. Ryan Grant, Brandon Jacobs, Kevin Walter and Calvin Johnson continue to carry my squad.
Loyal RABer JSBrendog and I lock up for a UUUUUUGE battle this week. We’re tied for second in the league with identical 9-4-0 records, but I’m technically in third because my team has picked up 5.4 fewer points on the season. The winner of the week clinches a playoff spot and the second best record in the league, the loser’s playoff fate will be decided by the what the six teams with an 8-5-0 record do. You’re doing going down, fool.
Current standings are after the jump.
The date is August 10th, 2004, and the Dodgers’ Jose Lima finishes his warmup tosses prior to the bottom of the fourth in Cincinatti’s Great American Ballpark. Adam Dunn steps to the plate to leadoff the inning, having popped out to second to end a nine pitch battle in his first at-bat. The first pitch is a called strike, and Dunn fouls off the second for a quick 0-2 count. Lima Time tries to get Dunn flailing at something off the plate for the K, but The Big Donkey takes three straight balls to the work the count back full. Dunn fouls off the sixth pitch of the at-bat, then the seventh.
It’s just his second trip to the plate in the game, but Dunn has already coaxed sixteen pitches out of Lima; the rest of the Reds have seen just thirty pitches combined in their eleven plate appearances. Lima delivers the eighth pitch of the at-bat and Dunn connects, sending the ball deep to centerfield. It’s not a question of if he hit it out, but by how much. The ball clears the bleachers and takes a bounce off Mehring Way beyond the stadium walls. It lands on a piece of driftwood in the Ohio River, which eventually comes to a rest in nearby Newport, Kentucky.
The official measure on the homer is a monstrous 535 feet, and because of the way the Ohio-Kentucky border was defined by the low water mark of the river back in 1793, it is also believed to be the first (and only) homerun in Major League history to cross a state line in flight. Now that is freaking cool.
The Diamondbacks, who have already laid off thirty one front office employees this offseason, declined to offer Dunn arbitration before Monday’s line, meaning that the Type-A free agent will not cost a draft pick to sign. I think you know where I’m going with this.
Everything about Adam Dunn is big. He’s physically huge (listed a 6’6″, 275 lbs, and I’m willing to bet it’s muscle, not fat) and was a tremendous football prospect in high school, signing on to play quarterback at Texas before deciding to focus on baseball full time. He’s got tremendous power, racks up huge walks totals and even huger strikeout totals. Since his first full season in 2002 only three players have hit more homers (A-Rod, Pujols, Thome) and no one has drawn more walks (non-Barry division). At the same time, however, he’s also struck out nearly two hundred times more than any other player in the game. The man is not without his faults, but the positives outweigh the negatives.
Traditionalists point to his low batting averages (.246 career BA) and aforementioned strikeout totals as evidence of him being an unproductive player, but those of us unafraid of funny acronyms and spreadsheets point to his sky high wOBA (.383 career), EqA (.301) and VORP (37.4) and say “hey, this dude is a really good player.” He’s Joe Morgan’s dream player because he’s extremely consistent, smacking 40 homers on the nose in each of the last four seasons, and posting OBP’s of .388, .387, .386 and .386 in four of the last five years. Stick him in the Yankee lineup with the short porch in right, and those numbers might jump to 50 & .410. Dunn has seen 4.24 P/PA in his career, more than Jason Giambi (4.12) and just barely less than Bobby Abreu (4.27), and he’s also nice and clutchy (2.81 avg WPA over the last five years).
He sucks defensively out in left field, posting revised zone ratings of .899, .826 and .878 over the last three seasons. Dunn has some experience at first, but he’s bad there as well and hurts the team less by hiding out in a corner outfield spot. The Yanks have the option of starting Johnny Damon in centerfield, then sliding him over to left late in the game for defense with Melky/Gardner taking over up the middle. Dunn’s a better athlete than you may think, but his arm will make you wonder how he was ever recruited to play QB for the Longhorns.
Dunn’s name hasn’t even been whispered this offseason, with Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez rightfully hogging the position player headlines. Given the holes in the lineup created by the departures of Giambi and Abreu, as well as the complete lack of outfielders under contract beyond 2009, it would behoove the Yanks to look into bringing The Big Donkey aboard. His skill set is undervalued, and while he’ll still command an eight-figure annual salary (he made $13M last year), he’s a significantly cheaper but only marginally inferior option to Teixeira. Obviously short term contracts are ideal, but a three year deal for the now 29 yr old Dunn wouldn’t be absurd. PECOTA has a favorable 50 percentile projection, so even a guaranteed fourth year wouldn’t be the end of the world. And think, he won’t even cost a draft pick!
Via The Biz of Baseball comes a short story sure to warm the heart of any Yankee fan. According to a recent sports branding study, the Yankees are the most popular out-of-market team in the U.S. They lead a pack of high-profile sports franchises atop the Packers, Red Sox, Cowboys and Lakers. This popularity certainly is just another sign that MLB needs the Yanks and that fans love to watch the team they love to hate. · (42) ·
Baseball isn’t so recession-proof after all.
Until about an hour ago, no one really knew how the American economic slump would impact baseball. Now that the arbitration decisions are in, it’s clear that teams are being far more cautious than usual and that the free agent market for lesser players may not be as robust as those free agents had hoped.
To me, three players and their teams’ respective decisions highlight this economic issue. Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn were not offered arbitration by, respectively, the Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks. In all three cases, the teams are not actively looking to retain their former players, and in any other year, these three players would have been offered arbitration. This year, though, the specter of an arbitration acceptance looms large.
Leaving aside Bobby Abreu for now — because we’ll get to him later today — the most glaring example is Pat Burrell. I don’t think the Phillies expect to re-sign Burrell, and entering the off-season, Burrell didn’t expect to re-sign with the Phillies. As the economy has tanked, though, mid-30s outfielders who aren’t Manny Ramirez must not be in high demand.
If the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Yankees all declined to offer arbitration to these players, the teams’ GMs must feel that there is a better-than-usual chance these players would accept binding arbitration. Either the market for corner outfielders isn’t there or it is not as strong as these players would hope. After all, it would behoove these three, expecting large contracts, to ride out the economic tide for one more year while playing at a salary equal to or exceeding their 2008 total.
So Brian Cashman said no. Ruben Amaro, Jr. said no. Josh Byrnes said no. It makes sense on the one hand, and it doesn’t on the other.
Of course, now, these three players are slightly more attractive targets and more so Dunn than the other two. Teams who sign them won’t have to surrender money and draft picks, and the three of them are now at the whim of market forces. Those forces, by the way, as the Cubs’ decision not to offer arbitration to Kerry Wood shows, don’t figure to be too strong. Teams just can’t run the risk of saddling themselves with last year’s merchandise and last year’s price in this year’s economy.
In the end, this won’t impact the deals that Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez get. Those guys have tens of millions of reasons to feel good, and the players at the top will get their deals. But everyone below them must looking at the arbitration carnage tonight in fear. Now we know, at least, why the Hot Stove has been so cool lately.
As I expected, the Yanks’ decision to decline arbitration has fired up the Manny-to-the-Bronx rumors with Jon Heyman leading the charge. I’ll have more on this tomorrow — law-school work permitting — when I get around to delving into the Abreu decision, but I’m not at all surprised to see Heyman’s pursuing this line of reasoning right now. · (97) ·