Mailbag: Lee, Johnson, Wang, Waivers, Montero

Welcome to the first of what is hopefully many editions of the RAB Mailbag. If you want to submit a question, just email one or all of us using the links to the right, but the easiest thing to do is use the Submit A Tip box under The Montero Watch. This week’s topics include Cliff Lee, injury updates, and one crazy call-up idea.

There is a lot of talk about signing Cliff Lee in the offseason.  I was wondering what salary is coming off the books besides Andy and Javy?  Will there really be that much room to sign Lee to a long term deal at the money he will command? -John

Let’s cut right to the chase and break this down…

Coming Off The Books ($62.35M): Chad Gaudin ($1M), Derek Jeter ($21M), Chan Ho Park ($1.2M), Andy Pettitte ($11.75), Mariano Rivera ($15M), Marcus Thames ($900,000), Javy Vazquez ($11.5M)

Contractual Raises ($7.5M): Robbie Cano ($1M), Curtis Granderson ($2.75M), Alex Rodriguez (-$1M, yes his salary goes down), Nick Swisher ($2.25M), Mark Teixeira ($2.5M)

Arbitration Eligible: Joba Chamberlain (first time), Phil Hughes (first time), Boone Logan (second time), Sergio Mitre (third time)

Randy Winn’s $1.1M salary is coming off the books after the season as well, ditto the $500,000 the Yanks sent to Atlanta in the Vazquez trade (for Melky Cabrera). I assume they’ll buyout Nick Johnson‘s $5.5M mutual option for $250,000, which puts the total amount of money coming off the books this offseason at roughly $56.2M. That does not include arbitration raises and raises to pre-arbitration players, but I’m guessing those will total less than $6M. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it an even $50M coming off the books.

So assuming that the budget doesn’t change next year, that $50M will go towards re-signing Jeter and Mo first and foremost, then adding at the very least one starting pitcher. Thames, CHoP, and Gaudin can be replaced for $3M or less, theoretically. If Jeter and Mo do not take discounts, you’re looking at $11M left over. That’s not enough to buy you Cliff Lee, I can guarantee it, but remember that the Yanks are likely to bring in some players via trade between now and the offseason, which will change things here. Not necessarily for the worst either.

From the looks of things, the Yankees will have to expand the budget next year to afford Cliff Lee, or hope that Jeter and Mo take big discounts. And even that leaves you with a rookie fifth starter (Zach McAllister? Ivan Nova?) making the league minimum and the same Ramiro Pena led bench.

Any updates on how NJ’s wrist is doing? Also are there any updates on our dear old friend CMW? Any plans to bring back the RAB radio show? -Tom

The last thing we heard about Nick Johnson’s rehab came from one of Will Carroll’s Under The Knife columns a few weeks ago (sorry, I can’t find the link). All it said was that Johnson’s surgically repaired wrist was healing slowly and that there was no firm timetable for his return, which is exactly what the Yankees expected. Haven’t heard a thing since, which, depending on your worldview, can be either good (no setbacks) or bad (no progress).

As for Chien-Ming Wang, he’s still a month away from returning to a big league mound. He’s throwing simulated innings every few days at the Nationals’ complex in Florida, and right now the plan is for him to debut at the end of July or early August. Clearly, Wang’s agent Alan Nero grossly undershot his prediction of a May return.

The Radio Show will be back at some point, I promise. You’d be surprised at how hard it is for two of us to find some common free time to record the thing.

If a player on the 40-man (say, WDLR) gets waived, does a team that claims him have to put him on their 40-man? Also, if he clears waivers, does he then become a minor league free agent? -Tyler

Yes, if a team claims a player off waivers he remains on that new team’s 40-man roster. The entire point of the waiver process is to keep a player as close to the big leagues as possible, therefore allowing him to reap all the rewards that come with it (killer medical benefits, higher salary, etc.).

As for what happens when a player clears, well it depends. There are several kinds of waivers that are each designed to do different things. I recommend reading this post for an in-depth explanation, but there are two ways for a player to become a free agent after he clears waivers.

  1. He’s placed on release waivers, which are self explanatory. The entire reason he’s on these in the first place is because the team doesn’t want him anymore and they want him out of the organization.
  2. He is placed on outright waivers after having been outrighted to the minors at least once before in his career. If a guy has been outrighted before, he can elect to become a free agent instead of going to a new team (as part of a claim) or down to the minors. If a player does choose free agency, he forfeits the rest of his contract. Josh Towers accepted his outright assignment from the Blue Jays a few years ago because he still had something like $5M coming to him.

Minor league free agency is a different animal all together. That’s when a guy has spent six years in the minors without being on the 40-man roster, then he becomes a free agent.

Let’s use Wilkin DeLaRosa as an example. He’s been dreadful this year (5.68 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 31-24 K/BB ratio in 44.1 Double-A IP), and frankly he hasn’t made any progress since being added to the 40-man roster after the 2008 season. He’s an obvious candidate to go whenever a 40-man spot is needed. If/when the Yankees designate him for assignment, he’ll go on outright waivers, and if someone claims him he’ll go to that team and stay on their 40-man. If he clears, he has to accept the minor league assignment because this is his first time being outrighted. He would have become a minor league free agent if they didn’t add him to the 40-man after 2008 because he had spent six years in the minors, the first four as a no hit outfielder.

I’ve always wondered why you don’t see more moves where a team claims a player off waivers, then immediately DFA’s him. Take Cla Meredith for example, a somewhat useful righty reliever. The Orioles DFA’s him about a week ago, but he went unclaimed and was sent to the minors. Why wouldn’t a team like say, the Diamondbacks, put a claim in, get him in the organization, then immediately DFA him to remove him from the 40-man? Chances are he would have cleared waivers anyway, so you’re basically adding a piece that may have value to you in the future for almost no cost (there’s a fee for making a waiver claim). Of course, this only makes sense if the player doesn’t have a ridiculous contract.

Which is funnier: The calls for a Shelley Duncan return to the bench or Joel Sherman writing a column advocating calling up Jesus Montero? -Harrison

Gotta vote for Shelley here. We know what that guy is, and the Yanks know him better than anyone. What does he offer that Marcus Thames doesn’t? Sure, he’s hit four homers in limited action for the Indians, but he’s struck out in just shy of 40% of his at-bats. The grass is always greener on the other side, I guess.

Here’s Sherman’s article on Montero. The idea of calling up a top prospect from Triple-A to bolster the big league team is nothing new, so I can’t fault him for that. As cliche as it’s become, turning to Montero to help the Yanks’ offense is a very Mets’ like move – just changing the development plan as they go. The 20-year-old backstop didn’t perform at all until last month, and he still needs to work on managing at-bats and working the count a little bit more. Calling him up and asking him to fix an inconsistent offense is just asking for trouble.

Keep Montero in the minors the rest of the year and let him smack Triple-A pitchers around and build confidence. The kid’s got 467 plate appearances above A-ball, not even a full season’s worth. What’s the rush?

Oppenheimer in consideration for D-Backs’ GM job

If you went to bed early last night, you may not have heard that the Diamondbacks fired not only manager A.J. Hinch, but also GM Josh Byrnes as well. This was no small move; Byrnes was under contract until 2015 and he also had a small ownership stake in the team. Scouting and player personnel director Jerry DiPoto will take over GM duties on an interim basis, however Frankie Piliere says that Yankees’ amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer “will get serious consideration” for the job.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, Oppenheimer was recently named one of the best GM prospects in the game. Pro scouting director Billy Eppler received consideration for the Padres’ vacant GM position over the winter, so it’s good to see the front office talent get recognized for their skills around the league. That means they must be doing something right. I have no idea when Oppenheimer’s contract runs out, but I can’t imagine the Yanks would block him from such a big promotion if he were to get the job. Quite frankly, it would be a dick move if they did.

(As a side note: I’d love to see the Yanks hire Byrnes in a consulting role similar to what they did with Kevin Towers. The more input, the better.)

Yanks avoid sweep against M’s

There is no shame in losing to Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. They’re good. It happens. The consolation prize was Ryan Rowland-Smith, the weakest cog in the Mariners’ strong starting rotation. But still, the offense didn’t come. The Yanks drove him from the game by working him for 109 pitches through six innings, but they couldn’t bring home the runners they put in scoring position — the whole four they had. Thankfully Sabathia did that Sabathia thing, and the Yanks took the finale from the Mariners 4-2.

Biggest Hit: A-Rod ::clap clap:: A-Rod ::clap clap::

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

The way things were going, the Yankees didn’t need much out of their lineup. CC Sabathia was going strong, on pace for another eight-inning outing. Through seven he had allowed just three hits and one walk. He added another walk to that tally right off, and then got into just a little trouble. But just a little.

An Ichiro singly put the tying run on base, but not in scoring position. But on the 2-1 pitch CC dropped a slider right over the middle of the plate. Jorge missed it and it rolled to the backstop, moving Ichiro into scoring position. Worse, the umpire didn’t even call it a strike, even though it clearly was. Branyan ended up taking the 3-1 pitch to right, scoring both runners. He got caught between first and second to end the inning.

That’s why the Yankees needed A-Rod in the eighth. David Aardsma was out there, whipping fastball after fastball. He struck out Swisher with five of them and then got a called strike one on Teixeira. He went back to the same spot with the same pitch, and Tex lined that to center to put the go-ahead run on base. That didn’t stop Aardsma from continuing to throw the same pitch. A-Rod fouled off a high fastball for strike one, and then hit an even higher fastball to right.

In all Aardsma threw 14 pitches that inning and, according to PitchFX, didn’t use anything but his fastball until the 12th, when he threw a splitter. That seems to be what he’s done since coming to Seattle. It’s worked better than whatever he did earlier in his career.

Biggest Pitch: Close, but not quite

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

CC got into that jam in the eighth by putting two on with one out. It was the only time the entire day he’d face a situation with two runners on. In other words, the rest of the game was pretty unremarkable in terms of big situations. The only time a runner even reached third was Milton Bradley after a leadoff double and a ground out. But Josh Wilson popped up and Ryan Langerhans struck out to quell that mini threat.

With those two runners on and one out CC faced Chone Figgins, who he started with three fastballs high. Figgins took the first for a ball and swung at the next two, missing one and fouling off the other. Then it was a high changeup, another foul. Again CC went with the change, but this time put it low in the zone. Figgins hit a little fly that Cano caught. They were just one out away, with a lefty-lefty match-up. It all seemed so good.

Damn.

So, do you like…stuff?

Granderson goes 2 for 4 against Cliff Lee but 0 for 3 against Rowland-Smith? Y’know, Suzyn…

Tex and A-Rod were the only players to get two hits. More of the two hits part, less of the only players part.

Coming into this season Robinson Cano hit a home run once every 34.94 PA. Last year he hit one every 26.96 PA. He’s hitting one every 21.06 PA this year.

Mo’s ERA: 0.88. Mo’s WHIP: 0.593. He even has a 2.16 FIP (though Mo always outpaces his FIP). Mo’s ERA+ heading into the game: 446.

Also, no celebration pic. All the good pics were of the Mariners.

Graph and box and highlights

Oh, this little guy? I wouldn’t worry about this little guy.

Green lines, numbers in a box, and highlights.

Up Next

1:00 Starts, Game 2 features the Blue Jays coming into town. It’s the second straight year in which MLB has scheduled the Blue Jays, a Canadian team, to play at Yankee Stadium on Fourth of July weekend. This amuses me probably more than it should. We cannot let the Canadians come onto ‘Merican soil and beat us during our celebration of independence!

Oh, and the Blue Jays are now .500, so all is right with the world again.

Montero’s hot hitting continues in SWB win

Frankie Piliere threw some love the Yankees’ way in his mid-season Top 25 prospects list. He’s got Jesus Montero at #5, Austin Romine at #15, and Gary Sanchez at #25. Montero’s fine, but the other two seem like aggressive rankings. Nothing wrong with that, nice to see someone stick their neck out there and go against the grain.

David Phelps has been promoted up to Triple-A, so congrats to him. He’s put just 86 men on base while striking out 86 with a 46.3% ground ball rate in 88.1 IP, so clearly he was ready for the next level.

Triple-A Scranton (8-6 win over Pawtucket)
Justin Christian, RF-LF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB – 13 for his last 38 (.342) with six walks & three strikeouts
Marcus Thames, LF: 2 for 4 – playing six innings in the field by design
Greg Golson, LF: 1 for 2, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Eduardo Nunez, 3B: 3 for 6, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 K, 2 SB – 17 SB against just three CS (85%)
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K – 11 for his last 29 (.379) with four doubles, two homers, five walks & four strikeouts … love that he’s turned it around, good to see
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 K
Rene Rivera, DH: 2 for 4, 1 RBI
Reid Gorecki, CF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB – got picked off first
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 K
Eric Bruntlett, SS: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Ivan Nova: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 8-10 GB/FB – 61 of 97 pitches were strikes (70.9%)
Royce Ring: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 10 of his 16 pitches were strikes (62.5%)
Zack Segovia: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 11 of his 20 pitches were strikes
Jon Albaladejo: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 0-1 GB/FB – both of his pitches were strikes … gotta love the two pitch save

[Read more…]

Open Thread: A pair of reminders

Got two things to remind you about, so let’s start with the easy one first: All Star Game voting. It ends tonight, so make sure you go and vote for who you think should start the game in Anaheim in two weeks. Here’s the ballot, and here’s who I voted for:

AL: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Robbie Cano, Derek Jeter, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Shin-Shoo Choo, Vlad Guerrero
NL: Brian McCann, Joey Votto, Martin Prado (only because Chase Utley’s hurt), Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, Andres Torres (write-in)

Remember, you can vote up to 25 times per email address, so vote or die.

Second order of business: The RAB Mailbag. We announced our plans for this on Sunday, but it’s just a friendly little reminder to send your questions in to us (at any time) via email or the Submit A Tip box. We’ll pick a bunch and post our answers. If some require a full-fledged post, we can do that too. We’ll figure this thing out as we go.

And finally, here’s your open thread. Depending on where you live, you’ll get either the Rays-Twins or Giants-Rockies on MLB Network, plus the Mets are in the nation’s capitol. You can always talk about NBA and NHL free agency as well, I couldn’t care less (four years, $20M for Darko Milicic … really?). Talk about whatever, just don’t be a jerk.

You can now get your Yankees tickets on RAB

During the last few series I’ve been winging it with Yankees games. If there were cheap tickets available on StubHub I’d jump on them, making last minute plans to hop on a bus up to the Stadium. During the Phillies series, though, I encountered a logistical issue. StubHub stops selling tickets two hours before the game. So while I waited for tickets to come down below $10, they became unavailable completely.

It made me desire more options for finding tickets. There are sites out there that search multiple directories, but I’ve never had much success with them. So when the guys from TiqIQ got in contact with us, we were receptive. What they’ve provided us is essentially our own outlet for Yankees tickets.

As you can see in the photo above, the TiqIQ-powered RAB Tickets lays out options for you, from which you can select the best seats at the best price. Here’s what’s going on for the Jays series this weekend:

And here’s what TiqIQ provides:

  • Aggregated Listings: TiqIQ track tickets from major sellers including Stubhub, TicketsNow, eBay and TicketNetwork.
    • We show these in both a Market Tab (Stubhub, TicketsNow, TicketNetwork, eBay) and Auction Tab (eBay)
  • TiqZone Categorization: TiqIQ breaks each stadium up into TiqZones, which are groupings of sections that we’ve determined are comparable in value. 
    TiqIQ Statistics:
    TiqIQ provides ticket-level buying intelligence through the IQ rating and TiqIQ Statistics.
  • Event Details: TiqIQ gives you time and location information on the event.

If you’re looking to head to a game now or in the future, make sure check RAB Tickets along the way.

Game 78: Salvaging a lost series

No CC, you're the man. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

The Yankees have already dropped this series with Seattle thanks in no small part to Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, but allowing the game’s second worst offense to hang 14 runs on the board in just two games is pretty inexcusable. If anyone can right that ship, it’s CC Sabathia, who hit his stride in June like clockwork. The big guy has completed at least seven innings in his last five starts, during which time he’s held opponents to a .191/.269/.252 batting line against. He’s basically turned everyone into the June 2010 version of Frankie Cervelli. Imagine that.

On the bump for the Mariners is not one of their two aces, but the Australian born lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith and his 6.02 xFIP. Dude has a 3.90 K/9 and a 4.03 BB/9, for goodness sake. This pitching matchup is so lopsided, that I’m tempted to say this game has reverse lock written all over it. Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, DH
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF – first game since being hit by that pitch in the forearm on Sunday
Pena, 3B

And on the mound, Big Stoppa.

Gorgeous day for baseball here in New York. First pitch is set for 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy, folks.