Regardless of whether Alex Rodriguez‘s record 211-game suspension is upheld or overturned, the Yankees have a question mark at third base heading into next season. His continued injury problems can not be ignored. If A-Rod doesn’t miss a bunch of games due to suspension, he’ll miss them due to injury. That has been the case since 2008 and it would be foolish to think 2014 will be any different.
The free agent market for third baseman is okay at best, with either Juan Uribe or Jhonny Peralta headlining a crop that includes Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, and Michael Young. Peralta is coming off his Biogenesis suspension and Uribe just had a career year at age 34, so everyone comes with questions. The trade market is another option, with Chase Headley being the big name. Others available via trade may include Will Middlebrooks, Trevor Plouffe, David Freese, and former World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval.
Over the weekend, Nick Cafardo reported the Giants will “probably listen to anyone who had interest” in the 27-year-old Sandoval, which I suppose is true of every player. There appears to be a little more something to this, however, considering the one they call Kung Fu Panda is falling/has fallen out of favor with San Francisco because of his weight issues. The team has tried pretty much everything. Add in speculation they may move Buster Posey out from the behind the plate to protect him from injury and wear-and-tear — third base is an oh so natural fit — and Sandoval could very well be on the block. Is he a fit for the Yankees? Let’s break it down.
- Sandoval is a true switch-hitter who is better against right-handed pitchers (122 wRC+ in 2013 and 136 since 2011) but still playable against lefties (98 wRC+ in 2013 and 100 since 2011). He’s also a remarkably consistent low strikeout hitter. Here, look at this graph. Couldn’t possibly be any more consistent.
- Despite his reputation as a free swinger, Sandoval actually draws a fair amount of walks. His 8.0% walk rate this year is almost exactly league average, and over the last three years it’s 7.8%. No one will mistake him for Nick Johnson, but he’s not exactly Adam Jones when it comes to walks either.
- Sandoval is a surprisingly solid defender at the hot corner. His three-year defensive stats at third (+5 DRS, +9.5 UZR, +0.8 FRAA, +6 Total Zone) range anywhere from average to above-average, plus he has experience at first base and came up through the minors as a catcher. That ship has sailed though, he’s an emergency third catcher at best.
- Thanks to San Francisco’s recent success, Sandoval has plenty of big game and postseason experience. He didn’t play all that much during their 2010 title run but he was a monster in 2012, hitting .364/.386/.712 with six homers in 16 playoff games. That includes three homers in Game One of the World Series (two off Justin Verlander), a performance that led to him being named MVP.
- Sandoval is under contract for an affordable $8.25M next season and will qualify for free agency next winter. He will not chew up a big chunk of payroll either next year or several years down the line.
- The elephant in the room is Sandoval’s ongoing weight and conditioning problems. He is listed at 5-foot-11 and 240 lbs. on the team’s official site but has shown up to camp closer to 280 lbs. a few times now. The Giants have tried everything to help him get his weight under control, including publicly threatening to send him to the minors if he didn’t get in shape this past summer. It’s worth noting Sandoval came to Spring Training noticeably slimmer in 2011 and went on to have the best season of his career (149 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR).
- Sandoval is not the most durable player in the world, playing in only 366 of 486 possible games the last three years. He has had hamate surgery on both wrists (right in 2011, left in 2012) and has also been on the DL with a hamstring strain (2012) and a foot strain (2013). There was speculation the foot problem was due to his weight, which is completely plausible. Sandoval also missed time in Spring Training this year because of bone chips in his elbow.
- Even though he’s still an above-average hitter, Sandoval’s performance is trending downward. His average has gone from .315 to .283 to .278 these last three years, his ISO from .237 to .164 to .139, and his HR/FB% from 16.0% to 9.5% to 8.3%. Overall, he’s gone from a 149 wRC+ in 2011 to 117 in 2012 and 115 in 2013. Like I said, still above average, but trending in the wrong direction.
- You aren’t getting anything out of Sandoval on the bases. He is 11-for-23 (48%) in stolen base attempts in his career (3-for-8 since 2011) and over the last three years, he’s taken the extra-base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) just 29% of the time. The league average is around 40%.
I think the fit for the Yankees is pretty obvious. By acquiring Sandoval, they’d be getting a legitimate switch-hitter with power — he averages 20 homers per 162 games played, which is pretty impressive in massive AT&T Park — who can step in and bat in the middle of the order. They’d also get a solid defender at a hard-to-fill position and (gasp!) get younger. If they can’t get his weight under control and Sandoval stinks, they wouldn’t be stuck with him long-term. If he’s great, they could re-sign him or recoup a draft pick next winter.
Plenty of guys similar to Sandoval have been traded one year prior to free agency in recent years, giving us decent amount of comparables for a potential trade package. Among them are Kendrys Morales (one year of a starting pitcher), Shin-Soo Choo (a back of a top 100 list prospect and three years of an iffy outfielder), Carlos Quentin (two good prospects), and Josh Willingham (two good prospects). None are perfect matches but they get us in the ballpark, I think. Two quality pieces seem like the minimum, unless you’re giving up an established big leaguer.
Of course, the real question here is what do the Giants want? Even after re-signing Tim Lincecum, they still need to replace Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. A starting left fielder or even a new third baseman could be on the docket. GM Brian Sabean isn’t one to make MLB player-for-prospect trades either. The Yankees shouldn’t give up Ivan Nova for one year of a player like Sandoval, but maybe the Giants particularly like David Phelps, Adam Warren, or Vidal Nuno. Building a package around one of those guys plus a second piece (Preston Claiborne? Zoilo Almonte? Eduardo Nunez!) would work for me. I doubt that would be enough though. Either way, if San Francisco makes Sandoval available, the Yankees should definitely inquire.
Wednesday: Austin’s wrist is indeed flaring up again, according to Norris. It is not serious but the team is shutting him down for precautionary reasons.
Tuesday: Via Josh Norris: OF Tyler Austin has been removed from the Arizona Fall League for an unknown reason and will be replaced by a player from a different organization. He appeared in four games for the Scottsdale Scorpions but hasn’t played in a week now, so it might be injury related. Austin missed approximately two months with a bone bruise in his wrist over the summer. He went 4-for-12 (.333) with a triple, two walks, and one strikeout (149 wRC+) with Scottsdale before leaving the desert. · (23) ·
I’m a little busy tonight, so this will have to be quick. Here is your thread for the night, with World Series Game One representing the big event. Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester is your pitching matchup (8pm ET on FOX). Talk about that game or anything else here. Enjoy. · (69) ·
Via Peter Schwartz: The Yankees are currently valued at an estimated $3.28 billion, the highest of any franchise. The Dodgers are a (very) distant second at $2.1 billion. “The Yankees are as successful as you can possibly be,” said Lee Berke, a sports media consultant. “It’s the culmination of a perfect storm coming together: the nation’s number one market, professional sports’ most successful team and tremendously savvy and aggressive ownership.”
That $3.28 billion is broken down into the team itself ($2.09 billion), stakes in the YES Network ($932M) and MLB Advanced Media ($110M, same for every team), and related businesses ($148M) like Legends Hospitality. The team’s net loss in revenue sharing was $97M last year. The full breakdown, including revenue sources and whatnot, is available in this fancy infographic. The value of the Yankees has nothing but go up in recent years, from $1.6 billion in April 2010 to $1.7 billion in March 2011 to $1.8 billion in March 2012 to $2.3 billion in March 2013. What, you didn’t think the Yankees were losing money, did you? · (30) ·
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the only Yankees rookie to make an overall positive impression.
This past season was a very important one for right-hander Adam Warren. Coming into 2013, he was a 25-year-old who had put together back-to-back good but not great seasons with Triple-A Scranton and appeared destined for a third stint in Northeast Pennsylvania because of the numbers crunch. Instead, injuries to Phil Hughes and Clay Rapada opened roster spots and Warren made the team out of Spring Training.T
hanks to Hiroki Kuroda trying to snag a line drive with his bare hand, it took all of two games before the Yankees needed to use their long man this year. Kuroda exited the game early and in came Warren against the high-powered Red Sox, against whom he allowed just one run in 5.1 innings of work. Warren struck out four, walked one, and threw 86 total pitches after being fully stretched out as a starter in camp. It was an excellent follow-up to his ugly big league debut last summer.
As the long man, playing time was predictably sporadic. Warren made just three more appearances in April before becoming something of a regular in May, throwing 15.2 innings across six appearances. By the end of that month, the right-hander was sitting on a 2.10 ERA and 3.20 FIP in 25.2 innings of work. That included three appearances of at least three shutout innings and four appearances of at least three innings and no more than one run allowed. It’s a difficult role to excel in, yet Warren was doing it.
Appearances were again infrequent in June — he only pitched three times that month and was actually optioned to Triple-A at one point, but he never appeared in a game in the minors and was recalled four days later when Mark Teixeira went on the DL — but that month also featured Warren’s best outing of the season, when he chucked six innings of shutout relief against the Athletics in the marathon 18-inning loss on June 13th:
Warren struck out four, walked two, and allowed only four hits while throwing 85 pitches in the appearance. The Yankees went on to lose the game, but not because of their long man. He was nails.
In 43.2 innings prior to the All-Star break, Warren managed a 3.09 ERA and 3.83 FIP. His strikeout (7.21 K/9 and 19.1 K) and homerun (1.28 HR/9 and 12.8% HR/FB) rates were just okay, but he was limiting walks (2.47 BB/9 and 6.6 BB%) and getting ground balls (48.5%). By no means was he star or even a super important cog in the pinstriped machine, but Warren had established himself as a big leaguer. A young big leaguer at that, something the Yankees desperately needed.
The second half of the season didn’t go as well — 3.78 ERA and 4.97 FIP in 33.1 innings — particularly a five-game stretch after the All-Star break. Warren allowed seven runs on ten hits (three homers) and six walks in 9.1 innings across those five appearances, but thankfully it was just a minor hiccup. He recovered in mid-August and closed out the season well, allowing just seven runs in his final 24 innings (2.63 ERA). That includes five scoreless innings in a spot start in Game 160, after the Yankees had been eliminated.
All told, Warren pitched to a 3.39 ERA and 4.32 FIP in 77 innings across two spot starts and 32 long relief appearances in 2013. He made six appearances of at least four innings and in those games he surrendered only four runs total (1.27 ERA), three of which came in one outing. Joe Girardi even used him in some seventh inning setup situations as his bullpen got worn down and depleted by injury later in the season. It is worth nothing, however, that Warren’s platoon splits were pretty drastic:
Does that mean Warren should never face left-handed batters again? No, at least not yet. We’ve got a long way to go before we relegate him to righty specialist status. Getting lefties out is definitely something he will have to work on going forward though, especially if he’s going to continue being a multi-inning guy.
I think an important part of the season for Warren was that he stayed true to his starter roots and threw five different pitches in relief. According to PitchFX, he threw his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, low-90s sinker, mid-80s slider, and low-80s changeup all at least 18% of the time. He broke out his upper-70s curveball about 11% of time. Most guys stop using their third or fourth (or fifth) pitches and stick with their two best out of the bullpen, but not Warren. He mixed it up and as a result, he should come to Spring Training with an overall better feel for all of his pitches.
When he does come to camp next year, Warren is expected to compete for a rotation spot, pending the team’s moves this coming offseason. He showed he can turn over a lineup more than once as a long reliever this year and, if nothing else, he’s earned the opportunity to compete as a starter next year. Even if the competition is rigged in favor of someone else — the Yankees are known to do that from time to time, you know — Warren still deserves a nice long look during Grapefruit League play. New York didn’t have much success with young players or their farm system this year, but Warren was a definite bright spot. He could have easily stalled out by repeating Triple-A a third time, but instead he got an opportunity with the big league team and took advantage.
Greg Bird | 1B
Bird hails from Grandview High School just outside of Denver, where he played with current Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman. As scouts flocked to Colorado to see Gausman, Bird benefited from the increased exposure. He was named the state’s High School Player of the Year after hitting .533 with a dozen homeruns as a senior. Bird committed to Arkansas.
Prior to the 2011 draft, Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Bird as the best prospect in Colorado but not as one of the 200 best draft prospects in the class. He was generally considered the type of player who would benefit from three years in college before turning pro. The Yankees felt differently and selected Bird with their fifth round pick, the 179th overall selection. They bought him away from the Razorbacks with a $1.1M bonus on signing deadline day, the largest bonus they gave to a draftee in 2011.
The 109th edition of the World Series opens tonight with perhaps the most insufferable matchup imaginable: the Red Sox and Cardinals. It’s not so much the teams themselves — though let’s face it, no one likes the Red Sox around here — but it’s the way they’re covered. Hopefully these next few days are so super-exciting it will overshadow the general awfulness that will come from a Red Sox-Cardinals series. Anyway, I have thoughts:
1. Regardless of whether they win the World Series, I expect more than a few teams to copy the Red Sox model of targeting mid-range free agents and ignoring the top of market. It’s a great strategy in theory but is very hard to actually pull off. Boston did get at least somewhat lucky that every non-Ryan Dempster signing worked out almost perfectly this season. The years Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara had are like, 90th-percentile stuff. The Yankees are going to wind up re-signing Robinson Cano to a huge contract, which pretty much precludes them for the whole “spread the money around” idea. I have no reason to think they won’t remain a top of the market club, $189M payroll plan or not.
2. The Dodgers fired bench coach Trey Hillman yesterday and I would not be surprised if he wound up with the Yankees in some capacity. Maybe on the coaching staff, maybe as a minor league instructor, maybe as a scout or in the front office. I don’t really know. Hillman coached in the Yankees’ farm system for more than a decade (1990-2001) before leaving because he was passed over several times for big league coaching positions. He spent a year in the Rangers’ front office before heading over to manage in Japan. Brian Cashman and Hillman are reportedly close friends, so much so that he was considered an outside the box managerial candidate following the 2007 season. Hillman was named manager of the Royals before Joe Torre officially left and the Yankees had a chance to interview him. I don’t know what he would do or how qualified he is to do it, but I would not be surprised if Hillman returned to the organization at all.
3. This is probably worth its own post at some point, but I think former Rangers outfielder David Murphy has a chance to be a real free agent bargain this winter. The 32-year-old was awful this year (73 wRC+) but awesome last year (129 wRC+), and I suspect his true talent is somewhere in the middle (career 103 wRC+). Murphy is strictly a left-handed platoon bat (career 71 wRC+ against southpaws) and his performance against right-handers in recent years is rather interesting. Here is a table of information:
That is Murphy’s performance against right-handers only. I repeat: right-handers only. The strikeout and walk rates are very good, and outside of the normal year-to-year fluctuation, his batting ball profile is unchanged. It’s not like he suddenly forgot how to hit the ball in the air or something. It would be a big red flag if he did.
Despite that, Murphy’s average on balls in play fell off a cliff last season, nearly a hundred points from his established level the three years before that. There might be a tangible reason for this — maybe he changed his approach in an attempt to have a huge contract year, maybe he was hiding an injury, maybe he was a mechanic mess, or maybe he simply had an unlucky season. It happens. If the Yankees don’t bring Curtis Granderson back and can’t reel in Carlos Beltran, Murphy would make a ton of sense if they can sell him on the idea of using the short porch to re-establish his value on a one-year, prove yourself before hitting the market again next winter.
4. Tim Lincecum’s new contract (two years, $35M) is on the high-end but not way out of line with what I expected him to get. It shows two things: One, free agent prices continue to go up as the Yankees’ payroll comes down. That’s bad. Two, it shows the value of getting above-average pitching at an affordable rate, say $10-12M per year. Having Yu Darvish at that price sure would have been nice, but maybe Masahiro Tanaka can be that guy. Whoever acquires him will end up spending north of $100M, but half of that will be the posting fee, which doesn’t count against the luxury tax. Obviously the Yankees would benefit from that. My guess is the team that lands Tanaka ends up with a lesser pitcher than Darvish at a higher salary. Either way, Lincecum’s contract shows what happens when teams have a ton of money to spend — remember, every club will get an extra $25M starting next year thanks to the new national television contracts — and not many places to spend it. The few free agents who are good and/or have a track record are going to get paid in a big way.
Someone sent me this video and I thought it was pretty neat. It’s the final out of the last five World Series — three strikeouts, a fly ball to left, and a ground ball to second base. I’m sure you remember the ground ball to second. Five different pitchers too, even though one team (the Giants) won two titles in the span of three years. Kinda cool.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. There is no baseball — the World Series starts tomorrow — and no football, but the Islanders and Devils are both playing. Seems like a good night to chip away at the Netflix queue, eh? Anything goes here, talk about whatever. Enjoy.
- Brian Cashman reached out to the coaching staff last week to discuss new contracts. Their deals all expire on October 31st. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has reportedly agreed to a new contract and bullpen coach Mike Harkey — Joe Girardi‘s closest confidant — is expected to return as well.
- There’s a chance hitting coach Kevin Long will leave the team to join Don Mattingly, either with the Dodgers if he gets a contract extension or with a new team if he is let go and winds up elsewhere. The two grew close in 2007, when they were both on New York’s coaching staff.
- Strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea will not be brought back when his contract expires next week. He had been with the team since 2007. The Yankees told Cavalea they plan to go “in a different direction with the position.”
- Pro scout Don Wakamatsu recently interviewed for the Rangers’ bench coach job. They hired Tim Bogar away from the Angels instead. The Yankees brought Wakamatsu on board last winter and I assume he’s still with the team.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a young-ish player who couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime.
Despite all the optimism about an Opening Day return, Father Time remained undefeated as Derek Jeter was slow to recover from his offseason ankle surgery and unable to start the season with the Yankees. That gave the team the opportunity to do something they’ve seemed eager to do for a long time: play Eduardo Nunez everyday. Jeter’s injury was the perfect chance to play the kid without him having to look over his shoulder.
For about three games, everything went fine. The 26-year-old Nunez went 4-for-10 with a walk in the season-opening series against the Red Sox, but then he took a pitch to biceps in the fourth game and went into a deep 7-for-55 (.127) slump through the end of the month. The bat wasn’t working, but Nunez actually showed off some improved throwing mechanics and went from disaster to merely shaky in the field. Errors aren’t the best way to measure defense, but he did go from 30.1 innings per error from 2010-2012 to 62.3 innings per error in April 2013. Like I said, shaky instead of a disaster.
With his batting line sitting at a weak .200/.290/.275 through 95 plate appearances on May 5th, Nunez was pulled from a game after hurting his ribcage, apparently on a swing. An MRI came back clean but rest and treatment didn’t work, so a few days later the Yankees placed their backup shortstop on the DL. On the DL is where he stayed for two months and 57 team games. In typical Yankees fashion, his rehab moved very slowly.
Nunez returned on July 6th and five days later, Derek Jeter came off the DL (for the first time). Luckily for Nunez, the Cap’n hurt himself in his first game back and the shortstop position remained open. Eduardo went 16-for-62 (.258) with three doubles and a triple (.611 OPS) in between his return from the DL and Jeter’s second return from the DL. Nunez sat on the bench for a few games while Jeter played short, but on August 3rd, the shortstop job was his once again.
During the Cap’n's third DL stint, Nunez went a respectable 23-for-80 (.288) with seven walks (.341 OBP), three doubles, one triple, and one homer (.728 OPS) with four steals in four attempts. Jeter returned for about two weeks in late-August and early-September, but the combination of his need to DH and Alex Rodriguez‘s hamstring and calf problems kept Nunez in the lineup, either at shortstop or third base. Nunez had a very nice .295/.321/.487 batting line in September as the season wound down.
Despite that strong late-season performance, Eduardo’s season batting line sat at an ugly .260/.307/.372 (83 wRC+) with three homers and ten stolen bases (in 13 attempts) in 336 plate appearances. The league average shortstop hit .254/.308/.367 (85 wRC+), so Nunez wasn’t far off the mark with the bat. The problem was, as always, his defense. That improvement he showed in April was not evident late in the season, when he was back to booting grounders and airmailing throws.
The various defensive stats — -20.6 UZR, -28 DRS, -12.1 FRAA, and -18 TotalZone — absolutely crush him at shortstop, like worst defensive player in baseball bad, but defensive stats don’t really work in small samples. Nunez only managed 608.1 innings at shortstop this summer, only about 40% of a full season. Going back to silly ol’ errors, he made eight in the final month and a half of the season, roughly one for every 35.3 innings in the field. Right in line with his pre-2013 work.
Both fWAR (-1.4) and bWAR (-1.5) agree Nunez was one of the ten worst position players in baseball this season. That’s out of the 955 players who had at least one plate appearance. If you don’t want to use WAR — I actually don’t, I prefer it for multi-year stuff but not single seasons — then all you need to know is that Nunez was (at best) a league average hitter relative to position this season while being well-below-average defensively. That adds up to a below-average player.
This was Nunez’s Big Chance. Capital letters. Jeter was going to be out for a while and even if he came back at some point, A-Rod and Kevin Youkilis were sure to miss a bunch of time as well. Instead, Nunez did nothing to stand out in regular playing time. He didn’t hit all that much — not even show a sign that there was something more to come, really — and his defense was bad. Nunez seems to have some serious backers in the organization though, so much like Phil Hughes The Starter, I get the sense he will continue to get chances to show he is something he probably isn’t, which in this case is a depth infielder best used in an emergency.