Since no one really wants to talk about stadium construction, Hank Steinbrenner or, to a lesser extent, the Yanks’ own Action Jackson, let me pander to the commenters just go back to Johan Santana.

In a free piece at Baseball Prospectus today, Steven Goldman writes on lengthy multi-year contracts. His overall point as it relates to the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez is that 10-year contracts for position players are generally not as bad as pitchers. Of course, the scarcity of ten-year contracts makes an in-depth study of them next to impossible, and we’re really relying on the evidence from Dave Winfield as a barometer of success.

When it comes to pitchers, however, Goldman takes a look at multi-year contracts and Johan Santana. He concludes that “the odds of a pitcher surviving ten years unscathed are minuscule.”

But what about the seven years Santana is rumored to want? Let me excerpt:

Of course, many lefties have pitched well at that age [36], but the list of those who maintained their value to a degree that they would be worth the kind of length and value that Santana is apparently demanding is pretty small: Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton comprise the top tier, after which you have to start cherry-picking the odd Jamie Moyer, Warren Spahn, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells seasons. As good as Santana is, history and human physiology are against him.

That said, it’s possible that no one cares. One of the interesting things we’ve seen this offseason—particularly in the contracts for A-Rod, Jorge Posada, and perhaps also what Santana will get—is the kind of contract where no one involved really thinks that the player will deliver value commensurate with the dollars involved throughout the term of the contract. The team does what it has to maintain its ability to win now, figuring that it will deal later with the problem of having an expensive, underperforming vet around.

I like what Goldman has to say here but with a few caveats. First, he doesn’t really control for inflation when it comes to the Posada and A-Rod deals. It’s quite possible that Jorge Posada will be a good deal in a few years as the market for catchers explodes. The same holds true for A-Rod. We just won’t know if these two players become dead weight until after the fact. So assuming that teams are willing to take on contracts that extend beyond the reasonable shelf life of a player is something of a flawed conclusion considering where baseball economics are heading.

But more germane to the Santana discussion is something we’ve mentioned before. The Yanks would be giving up lots of young potential and around $150 million for a player who probably won’t be able to live up to the demands of a $20-$25 million a year contract after the fourth or fifth season. Considering that Santana’s stats put him more in the mold of Johnson or Carlton but physically, he doesn’t profile to be as durable as those lefties, his long-term outlook doesn’t look at rosy as those two pitchers. Wells and Rogers have relied more on pinpoint control and slow, slower, slowest breaking ball approaches to pitching and have managed to stay effective by honing their craft. In other words, it’s unlikely that Santana 2008 and Santana 2012 will be anywhere near the same pitcher.

For A-Rod, a deal of this magnitude makes sense, and the marketing bonuses seem to support the belief that the Yanks will recoup this investment and then some. But for Santana, a lefty hurler at his peak now at nearly 29, it’s buyer beware.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Ajax named 49th best prospect in baseball
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    Milb.com starting counting down its annual list of the Top 50 Prospects in the baseball today with numbers 41-50. As the title implies, Austin Jackson was named #49, sandwiched between Dexter Fowler and Carlos Triunfel. Milb’s brass grossly under-rated Triunfel (should be top 15 in my opinion), but Fowler is rather impressive company for the former hoops standout. The Yanks should have at least three more players on the list, and I suppose there’s an outside chance Jesus Montero’s name pops up along the way, making it four more. · (9) ·

The old and the new face off against each other across 161st St. (Photo by flickr user Etep)

At some point this off-season, I’m going to grab my camera and head up to the Bronx to snap some shots of Yankee Stadium under construction. It’s been a while since we’ve seen much from the new Stadium, and the most recent photo gallery on Yankees.com is this one from the summer.

But while images are scarce, news is not. The Stadium is supposedly still on pace for an Opening Day 2009 premiere, but I’m growing skeptical. The Yankees recently awarded a new contract to a Canadian firm for $2 million. The contract calls for MQM Enterprises to construct the steel underpinnings that will hold up the stands.

MQM has already completed this work on the Mets’ Citi Field, and I have to wonder if this late date for a new contract means the Yankees are going to have to rush to complete their new stadium. As long as accidents don’t drag down the process as they are with the Mets, I’m sure the Yanks will do anything humanly possible to ready this stadium for Opening Day 2009.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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Last week, Justin Sablich, writing on The Times Bats blog, wondered aloud if the Yanks would be better off with Joba in the pen instead of in the rotation. His argument focuses around the idea that no one else could get the job done in the pen last year. While we can debate the rest of the Yankee bullpen and its potential makeup for hours on end, I think the answer to this question is simple. Joba throwing 150-160 as a starter is much more valuable to the Yankees than the 60-70 innings he would pitch in the bullpen. Feel free to debate this point as it relates to a shaky bullpen, but I’m sticking with my position here. Joba the Starter lives!

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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  • Hanks speaks on the Yankee Way
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    If you have the patience for a long and slightly scattered interview with Hank Steinbrenner, the man who has emerged to assume the public role of Boss of the Yankees this off-season, then take a read through Steve Serby’s lengty interview. Some interesting stuff, some mundane stuff and some thoughts on Hank’s favorite actress, Jennifer Love Hewitt. · (4) ·

The Santana Watch never stops.

According to Buster Olney, his ESPN colleague Peter Gammons has found out that the Twins want a package from the Yanks that includes Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson. Olney:

Given that the Yankees will probably be asked to pay Santana a deal of at least six years and $150 million to convince him to stay, I’d be shocked if they seriously considered that trade. Because part of the equation for the Yankees or any other team, as they make decisions about a possible Santana deal, is this: Even beyond the question of swapping promising young players like Hughes and Cabrera and Jackson, how much money does it save them to have cheap players on their roster. How much will it cost them to replace a Cabrera or Jackson? Without Cabrera or Jackson, the Yankees might have to sign a veteran center fielder in their place in a year or two.

And it’s possible that within three or four years, as Santana gets older and Hughes progresses, that Hughes might become something close to what Santana will be then.

Three things of note here that I think require some explication.

First, as the Yankees have shown this off-season and in many off-seasons prior, money is no obstacle to this team. They have the highest attendance in the Majors and their own very lucrative sports entertainment network on TV. They enjoy millions of dollars in merchandise sales and have owners willing to pony up big bucks to put a marquee team on the field.

It is awfully sweet of Olney to worry about the Yanks’ financial plans. But the reality is that the Yanks can afford to make a deal like this, and in a few years, with the Scott Linebrink’s of this world making insane amounts of money, a contract for Santana could be a steal.

Second is the center field issue. Some commenters are already wondering if it’s a good idea to trade two center fielders, and I’d have to agree with that line of thinking. While Jackson basically has had just his breakout half-season at high A, his ceiling is, right now, much higher than Melky’s. But with regards to the center fielders, the Yanks are in a position of power.

The Twins just lost Torii Hunter and need a replacement. If the Yanks are willing to part with Melky, I think they could bargain the Twins down off that A-Jax perch. Remember, this is just the initial set of demands from the Twins. There could be a whole set of negotiations.

Finally, the pitching. Phil Hughes is a big price to pay. We don’t really know the answer to this, but how much more valuable are five years of cost-controlled Phil Hughes than six years of very expensive Johan Santana? By the end of the deal, we’re certainly looking at a position where Hughes is the better pitcher. I’m very reluctant to part with Hughes.

I still would not be too quick to pull the trigger on this deal. We know that Johan Santana wants to come to the Yanks; we know that he has a full no-trade clause. So if he were that dedicated to the Yanks, he could just tell the Twins that he’s not waiving his no-trade provisions. Then, he can just sign a deal with the Yanks after 2008. That part really just depends on what Santana wants now, but I like that scenario — as implausible as it may turn out to be — the best.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Because it’s been five whole days since we last heard from Alex Rodriguez, let’s check in on how everyone’s favorite third baseman is doing. Courtesy of The New York Times and Murray Chass comes the news that the Yanks and A-Rod have cleared that last hurdle: The two sides have figured out the home run incentive clauses of A-Rod’s new contract.

Chass details how A-Rod could earn up to $30 million more if he tops various home run milestones:

Rodriguez will make $275 million over 10 years in his Yankees contract, which becomes the biggest baseball contract ever. Terms of the contract are expected to be confirmed early this week.

The nonguaranteed part of the contract will be the marketing agreement, which the commissioner’s office and the players union have approved. The Yankees and Rodriguez had to keep changing the nature of the agreement to gain approval because players cannot receive bonuses for achievements like home run totals.

In the approved agreement, Rodriguez will share in revenue the Yankees generate by marketing his home run milestones…Under the agreement, Rodriguez will receive $6 million when he reaches each of five milestones: the career home run totals of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), and when he breaks the record…

He will get the marketing money in exchange for making certain appearances linked to his home run milestones over and above what players are required by their contracts to do.

Those are some pretty lofty numbers both in terms of home run and salary, and of course, we won’t know how much of this non-guaranteed $30 million A-Rod will see until he actually reaches — or fails to reach — those home run plateaus.

With these new performance/marketing bonuses in place, A-Rod is sacrificing certain other incentive clauses. Gone are the monetary rewards for All Star Game appearances and MVP awards. For $27.5 million, A-Rod better be making the All Star team.

So in the end, A-Rod gets his deal potentially worth over $30 million. If all of these bonuses kick in, he’ll earn $305 million over 10 years. It’s what the Yanks were willing to give him in October before he opted out, and it is seemingly what he and Boras thought he would be getting anyway. But, as we’ve said before, the Yanks turned this deal on their terms. Hank Steinbrenner, the new face behind the game’s most powerful franchise, faced down the game’s most powerful agent and player and won. We get A-Rod; the Yanks get their win. Sounds good to me.

Categories : News
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Hot on the heels of of the White Sox’s signing of Scott Linebrink for four years and $19 million comes the obvious story: The new market for relievers — set by the Yankees and Mariano Rivera — will impact the Yanks’ bullpen plans. The real (terrible) news however is that the Yanks are interested in Ron Mahay, David Riske and Trever Miller. Considering that these mediocre relievers, a speciality of the Yanks lately, are going to want multi-million-dollar, multi-year contracts, the Yanks are simply better off with their internal options. Maybe Riske is worth the risk, but Miller shouldn’t even be under consideration. I hope Brian Cashman realizes that.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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