The Little Engine That Could is at it again, apparently close to bringing in free agent pitcher John Lackey after he took a physical for the team today. Kenny Rosenthal expects the deal to be similar to A.J. Burnett‘s five year, $82.5M deal. It’s good to see the only the 16th largest market in the game able to go out and do something to improve their team.
One of baseball’s weird little quirks is draft pick compensation. If a team signs a free agent considered to be among the top 20% at his position based on outdated methods, they’ll send their top pick to the team that lost him. Last year we saw free agent compensation limit the markets for Juan Cruz and Jason Varitek (among others), and already this year we’ve seen one high profile Type-A free agent accept arbitration (Rafael Soriano) in lieu of a potential multi-year deal for fear of having his market limited. As the game has shifted towards younger (and cheaper) players, draft pick compensation has become a major consideration when targeting free agents.
From what I’ve been able to find, MLB starting handing out draft picks as compensation for losing free agents back in 1979, fifteen years after it instituted the draft. The rules regarding draft pick compensation have changed over the years; there wasn’t always a supplemental first round, the first 15 picks weren’t always protected, and some other stuff as well. As you can imagine, the Yankees have surrendered a ton of draft picks as a result of their free spending ways, 38 picks in 30 years in fact. In the compensation pick era, the Bombers have kept their true first round pick just 12 times in those 30 years.
Surely some of these forfeited picks turned into decent players, right? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. In part one of the series today, we’ll take a look at the players the Yankees signed as free agents from 1979 to 1985, as well as what happened to the draft picks the Yankees forfeited to sign those players. If there’s any missing/incorrect info in any of these posts, let me know. It was tough to research some of the older players.
Fun starts after the jump.
2009 Season Record: 103-59 (915 RS, 753 RA), won AL East by 8 games, finished with the best record in MLB by 6 games, won 27th World Series
Top stories from last week:
- Predictably, the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis produced the busiest week of the Yankees’ offseason. They kicked it off by dealing reliever Brian Bruney to the Nationals in exchange for the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft.
- Late Monday night, we got word the Yanks were working on a three team trade to land Curtis Granderson. They agreed to a deal on Tuesday, sending Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, and Phil Coke elsewhere. Once the medicals were reviewed, the deal was made official and the team’s offseason picture became a little clearer.
- On Wednesday, Andy Pettitte solidified the rotation by agreeing to a one year, $11.75M contract, though he may have rejected the team’s initial offer. The next day, the Yanks used the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft to select Dodgers outfielder Jamie Hoffmann, who will compete for a bench spot in Spring Training. There were some rumblings that they could use the pick to take one of their own.
- The Granderson pickup allows the Yanks to put some pressure on Johnny Damon and Scott Boras. The two sides remain very far apart during negotiations, though they Yanks may offer two years at $10M each, which could close the gap. The Yanks have some competition for Hideki Matsui, and they also have the option of dealing a spare outfielder.
- The week concluded with Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, and Melky Cabrera receiving contract offers for 2010, while Chien-Ming Wang was non-tendered. The writing had been on the wall for some time, and Wang rejected the team’s split-contract offer.
- The Yanks expressed interest in various free agent pitchers throughout the week, including Ben Sheets, Kelvim Escobar, and Ryota Igarashi, and of course they’re still in on Roy Halladay. They might not have room for another big contract, however.
- And finally, the front office wants to bring the entire coaching staff back.
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If the 2010 season began today, Melky Cabrera would be the Yankees starting left fielder. From an offensive standpoint, that’s not ideal. While Melky improved in 2009 after below average 2007 and 2008 seasons, he was just a league average hitter. Of all American League outfielders with at least 500 plate appearances, Melky’s wOBA ranked above just four: Ryan Sweeney, Vernon Wells, B.J. Upton, and Alex Rios. His defense, average in center field, might add a few runs in left, but it’s doubtful that would bridge the gap. The Yankees need to remain focused on adding a left fielder.
Johnny Damon appears the team’s top target, but recent stories indicate that the two parties remain far apart. In fact, Damon says that the team hasn’t made an offer yet and he hasn’t made his desires known to them. That hasn’t stopped Scott Boras, of course, from making outrageous demands on behalf of his client. If the Yankees don’t offer at least three years at at least $13 million, he says, they shouldn’t even bother making one. That leaves the Yankees still searching for left fielders. While I think the two parties will reconcile soon enough, it’s always fun to explore other options.
We’ve been over most of the free agent options, but on Saturday night we got a new wave. Teams decided to not tender contracts to some of their arbitration-eligible players, making them free agents. Among the new crop is Kelly Johnson, former Braves second baseman and left fielder. One of the Braves weaknesses last year was their outfield, so it seems odd to consider one of their players who could have filled that slot. Still, teams do make mistakes. Perhaps Johnson could slide back to left and help the Yankees.
Any team that signs Johnson gambles that he’ll return to his 2007 form, when he hit .276/.375/.457 with 16 home runs. Those numbers would play well in left field for almost any team, but there’s no guarantee that Johnson reaches that mark. His numbers have declined for the past two years, his OBP dipping to .349 in 2008 and then .303 in 2009. In 2009 this was due to a sharply declining walk rate. In 2009 he picked up the walk rate a little, but his BABIP and batting average took a huge hit, dropping to a .224 average as he hit .249 on balls in play.
As with Curtis Granderson, it appears that Johnson’s BABIP numbers in 2009 were mostly due to an increased fly ball percentage, 43.1 percent, up from 36.5 percent in 2008. That came at the expense of line drives. 24.7 percent in 2008 and17.9 percent in 2009. The increased fly balls and decreased line drives, combined with a little bad luck, can easily lead to a terrible season. The question for the Yankees is of whether Johnson can recover.
Another issue which held Johnson back in 2009 was his right wrist. After missing time with bilateral leg cramps in late June, he hit the DL in early July with wrist tendinitis. He returned on July 23, and for the rest of the season hit .261/.358/.493, though it was in just 83 plate appearances. By then he’d lost his starting job, and the whispers of a non-tender began to circle. The right wrist for a lefty is the power wrist, and a resurgence of power, even in a short sample, is good news for Johnson.
The Braves’ payroll situation further complicates the matter. They’ve hovered around $90 to $100 million over the past few years, and are over $80 million now before their arbitration players and any other additions. Johnson earned nearly $3 million in 2009, and that certainly factored into the team’s decision to non-tender him. They can’t afford to pay a player $3 to $4 million if he’s going to produce like Johnson did in 2009. In other words, they can’t afford to take the gamble, but another team could, especially because they won’t have to pay him anything close to his 2009 salary.
Chances are the Yankees won’t show much interest in Johnson. He’s a second baseman who has limited experience in left field, and who also had Tommy John surgery in 2006. If he rebounds to his 2008 level, he’s hardly an upgrade over Melky Cabrera. Only if he recovers to his 2007 form will he provide a team value in left field. Unless other teams aren’t interested and he’s forced to sign a minor league deal, I don’t think the Yankees move on Johnson. Still, his circumstances make him an intriguing option. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team grab him to play second base and get rewarded with an .800 OPS season.
This one tonight has some pretty serious playoff implications. If the Giants win, they remain right in the thick of the wildcard chase with three games to go. But if they lose, well that’s going to be rather difficult to overcome. The Cowboys already lost, so the NFC East isn’t out of reach either. Kickoff is set for 8:20pm ET on NBC.
Go ahead and chat about the game here, or anything else you want for that matter. Dr. House is making a cameo on Family Guy, so that should be fun.
Just two or three more weeks left in the winter leagues, which means Spring Training is inching closer…
Dominican Winter League
Abe Almonte: 18 G, 4 for 15 (.267), 7 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 SB
Jamie Hoffmann: 21 G, 16 for 68 (.235), 8 R, 5 2B, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K, 3 SB – new kid on the block
Juan Miranda: 11 G, 17 for 40 (.425), 8 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 SB – he’s been shut down for the winter, minor elbow issue
Eduardo Nunez: 2 G, 1 for 4 (.250), 1 R, 1 BB
Wilkins Arias: 23 G, 15.2 IP, 17 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 18 K
Noel Castillo: 1 G, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K – about time he showed up
Ivan Nova: 5 G, 4 GS, 25.2 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 17 K
Jon Ortiz: 6 G, 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Edwar Ramirez: 1 G, 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K
Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 28 G, 16 for 54 (.296), 10 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 SB
Ramiro Pena: 16 G, 17 for 56 (.304), 7 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB - solid
Jorge Vazquez: 24 G, 24 for 90 (.267), 13 R, 4 2B, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 19 K – mashin’
Puerto Rican League
Amaury Sanit: 6 IP, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – didn’t pitch at all last week
Venezuelan Winter League
Frankie Cervelli: 6 G, 3 for 14 (.214), 3 R, 1 2B, 3 BB, 4 K – hasn’t played in over two weeks
Reegie Corona: 37 G, 39 for 113 (.345), 29 R, 16 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 3 SB, 1 CS
Jesus Montero: 9 G, 3 for 26 (.115), 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K
Luis Nunez: 14 H, 13 for 44 (.295), 2 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K
Juan Marcano: 1 G, 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – he was in the Dominican Summer League last season
Romulo Sanchez: 22 G, 26.2 IP, 19 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 36 K – almost guaranteed to see him at some point next year … Fat Sanchezes unite!
Josh Schmidt: 13 G, 10 GS, 55.1 IP, 48 H, 30 R, 23 ER, 23 BB, 51 K – he’s up to 139 IP on the year … his previous career high was 68 IP back in 2006
Pat Venditte: 7 G, 9.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K – didn’t pitch last week
Eric Wordekemper: 5 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP, 12 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5BB, 3 K
If Chien-Ming Wang recovers from the shoulder injury he suffered last July, it will probably be with with another team. According to Bill Madden of the Daily News, the Yankees offered Wang a split contract which would guarantee him a spot on the active roster once his shoulder was ready. Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, rejected the offer, informing the Yankees that “Wang would be moving on.” This is not an unexpected development.
A free agent for the first time in his career, Wang surely wants to explore all of his options. Teams other than the Yankees will be interested, and perhaps one of them will offer the guaranteed money upon which Nero insists. There’s no harm in looking, and if no other offers top the Yankees’, chances are the two parties can work out a deal in the future.
The question of Wang’s potential return might hinge on the perceived rift between him and the Yankees. How much of this is true we don’t know, but there have been a few incidents, starting with the Yankees taking him to arbitration in 2008 over $600,000. A source tells Mark Feinsand that Wang is “still bothered” about the incident. Then there is the issue of Wang’s rehab from the lisfranc injury he suffered in 2008.
One story that sticks out in my mind is when Nero approached the Yankees about a possible contract extension. The Yankees said, “Make us an offer,” and talks ended there. That was before the arbitration incident.
For now, it appears Wang has his sights set elsewhere. There are reportedly six teams interested in him. The main questions here, I think, are of how Wang really feels about how the Yankees treated him, and of whether the Yankees are willing to top an offer from another team. The split minor/major league contract was already a good offer. We’ll see if Wang can get a similar one elsewhere.
Glove slap to iYankees for the Madden link.