Mystery team gets their man: D’Backs to sign Greinke

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The mystery team has struck! According to multiple reports, the Diamondbacks have swooped in and agreed to sign free agent right-hander Zack Greinke to a six-year contract. No word on the money yet, but my guess is he’ll get slightly more than the $31M annually the Red Sox are set to give David Price.

Greinke, 32, just had an insane season, pitching to a 1.66 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 222.2 innings for the Dodgers. Los Angeles and the rival Giants were bidding for Greinke in recent days before Arizona jumped into the mix. Greinke opted out of the final three years and $71M left on his contract after the season.

The D-Backs went 79-83 this past season and that represents a 15-win upgrade from 2014. They have a sneaky good core too, with Greinke joining Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray, David Peralta, and others. I don’t know if they’ll contend in 2016, but they won’t be a pushover either.

The Yankees were never involved in the Greinke sweepstakes as far as we know. They shed only a little salary after the season and various team officials are saying they don’t have much money to spend on free agents this winter. If they were going to spend big for a pitcher, my guess is it would have been Price, not Greinke.

Reports: Yanks sign Pete Kozma to minor league contract

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have signed infielder Pete Kozma to a minor league contract, report Anthony McCarron and Chad Jennings. The deal includes an invitation to Spring Training. The Yankees haven’t confirmed anything, but they usually don’t announce their non-roster invitees until right before camp anyway.

Kozma, 27, was the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He’s spent the last few years either in Triple-A or in a utility role with the Cardinals. Kozma was the starting shortstop during their 2013 pennant-winning season. He’s a terrible hitter, owner of a career .222/.288/.293 (58 wRC+) batting line in nearly 700 plate appearances.

The Cardinals designated Kozma for assignment back in June and he became a minor league free agent after the season. The Yankees don’t have a shortstop for Triple-A and Kozma is now the clear front-runner for the job. Plus middle infield depth is never a bad thing. Kozma can’t hit but he can field.

Hot Stove Links: Cliff Lee, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Winter Meetings start Monday, and according to Buster Olney, the Yankees are having a ton of trade discussions with teams about many different players. The only constant: they’re looking for young pitching in return. Not the first time we’ve heard that this offseason. Here are some other miscellaneous hot stove nuggets to pass along.

Cliff Lee intends to pitch in 2016

According to Jon Heyman, free agent left-hander Cliff Lee is currently throwing and has been cleared by doctors to resume pitching. He intends to pitch next season, as long as he finds a good fit. Lee missed most of the 2014 season due to a flexor strain in his elbow, then suffered a torn flexor this spring, which caused him to miss the 2015 season. The Phillies declined his $27.5M option after the season, instead paying a $12.5M buyout.

Lee, now 37, was still really good when healthy last year (3.65 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 81.1 innings), but that was a very long time and two serious arm injuries ago. Who knows what he can give a team right now. Brian Cashman and the Yankees are longtime fans of Lee. They’ve tried to trade for him on multiple occasions and tried to sign him as a free agent. Would it be a surprise if they reached out to him this offseason? No way. The questions are 1) does he consider the Yankees a good fit, and 2) will he come to camp as a non-roster invitee? Developing!

Yankees not all that interested in Johnny Cueto

This is not a surprise. According to George King, the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of interest in free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto. They are keeping an eye on the market for Jeff Samardzija and Wei-Yin Chen, however. Without a sudden increase in payroll — which I guess is always possible — it’s hard to see how the Yankees can afford a huge money starter like Cueto.

Cueto, who turns 30 in February, recently turned down a six-year contract worth $120M from the Diamondbacks, according to multiple reports. I think he’ll end up closer to six years and $150M or so, which is Jon Lester money. Cueto struggled with the Royals down the stretch but had some truly ace-like moments in the postseason, plus his track record is outstanding. He’s going to he paid. I just think if the Yankees were willing to go into the ~$25M a year range for a free agent starter like Cueto, they’d go the extra mile for David Price.

Yankees included in Jay Bruce’s no-trade list

This doesn’t seem all that important, but Jerry Crasnick reports the Yankees are one of eight teams included on Jay Bruce’s no-trade list. He can block deals to the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Athletics, Blue Jays, and Rays. Cincinnati has committed to rebuilding and it’s only a matter of time until they trade Bruce, who hit a disappointing .226/.294/.434 (91 wRC+) with 26 homers in 2015.

The Yankees have no need for another outfielder at the moment, especially not another left-handed hitting one. I suppose they could target Bruce as a bounceback candidate should they trade Brett Gardner at some point, but I think they’d sooner go with Aaron Hicks and some young guys. Bruce, who is still only 28, has been hurt and not very good the last two years. He’s owed $12.5M next year with a $13M team option for 2017. File this under: maybe relevant down the road.

The Up & Down Arms [2015 Season Review]

Davies. (Presswire)
Davies. (Presswire)

The big league roster portion of our 2015 Season Review series comes to an end today. All that’s left are the spare pitchers who made cameos with the Yankees this summer. These guys were on the bullpen shuttle but weren’t regulars, if you know what I mean. They came up to the big leagues once or maybe twice in 2015 and that was it. The average number of big league innings thrown by the players in this post this season: four. Let’s get to it.

Danny Burawa

The Yankees selected Burawa, a Long Island kid, out of St. John’s in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He went unselected in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, but the Yankees didn’t want to risk it again last offseason, so he was added to the 40-man roster. The Yankees saw him as part of that pipeline of power arms they stashed in Triple-A.

Burawa, 26, started the season in the Triple-A Scranton bullpen. He was called up to MLB for the first time in late-June and appeared in one game, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Tigers. Burawa was sent back to Triple-A the next day, demoted to Double-A a month later, then in mid-August he was claimed off waivers by the Braves after being designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Garrett Jones, who re-signed with the Yankees following Dustin Ackley‘s injury.

All told, Burawa had a 2.55 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 49.1 Triple-A innings with the Yankees this year. He was called up by the Braves in September and saw a fair amount of work, allowing five runs in 12.1 innings. Burawa has nasty raw stuff — PitchFX says his fastball averaged 94.9 mph and his slider 85.4 mph — but his lack of control always held him back.

Kyle Davies

The 32-year-old Davies was signed last offseason to be the designated Triple-A veteran innings eater. He spent the entire season in the RailRiders rotation aside from one MLB appearance, when he gave the Yankees 2.1 scoreless innings of long relief on April 12th. That was the ESPN Sunday Night Game when the Bombers scored seven runs against Clay Buchholz in the first inning. You remember that.

That was actually Davies’ first appearance of the season. (The Triple-A season started April 9th.) The Yankees designated him for assignment the next day, he accepted the outright assignment, and he spent the rest of the season soaking up innings for the RailRiders. Davies had a 3.30 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 152.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton. He was the first pitcher to throw 140+ innings for the RailRiders since Ramon Ortiz (169.1) and Adam Warren (152.2) in 2012. Davies is now a free agent.

Jose DePaula

Last winter the Yankees signed DePaula to a Major League contract, which was curious because he had been hampered by injuries in recent years and didn’t have a whole lot of experience above Single-A. They saw something they liked though, so they gave him a split contract worth $510,000 in the big leagues and $175,000 in the minors.

DePaula, 27, came down with a shoulder problem in Spring Training and did not make his regular season debut until early-June. He made three starts with Triple-A Scranton, then was called up in mid-June for long relief work. On June 21st, the same day Burawa made his debut, DePaula made his big league debut and allowed one run in 3.1 mop-up innings against the Tigers.

Back to Triple-A went DePaula (and Burawa) the next day. DePaula made three more starts with Triple-A Scranton before coming down with another shoulder problem, one that ended his season. He finished the year with 5.20 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 27.2 Triple-A innings plus the one MLB appearance. The Yankees designated DePaula for assignment in late-June to clear a 40-man spot for Ivan Nova. He became a minor league free agent after the season.

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Jacob Lindgren

Unlike most of the other players in this post, Lindgren came into the season as a well-regarded prospect. He was New York’s top draft pick (55th overall) in the 2014 draft and he zoomed through the system as a college reliever. Lindgren pitched at four levels in 2014 and nearly made the Yankees out of Spring Training this season. They instead sent him to Triple-A for more fine tuning.

After 15 appearances with the RailRiders, the Yankees called Lindgren up in late-May and showed they were planning to stick with him. When they needed to clear a roster spot a few days later, they designated David Carpenter for assignment when they could have easily sent Lindgren back to Triple-A. I guess that was part of the team’s sudden youth movement this past season.

Lindgren, 22, appeared in seven games with the Yankees and allowed four runs on five hits and four walks, including three homers. He struck out eight. The team sent him back to Triple-A in mid-June because they desperately needed a fresh long reliever, and soon thereafter Lindgren told the trainers he’d been pitching with some elbow pain. He had season-ending surgery a few days later to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

All told, Lindgren had a 1.23 ERA (1.88 FIP) in 22 Triple-A innings plus a 5.14 ERA (8.13 FIP) in seven MLB innings this past season. He’s expected to be ready in time for Spring Training — there was some thought he’d be ready to pitch in September, but the team decided not to rush it — and again figures to compete for a bullpen spot. Even if Lindgren doesn’t win a big league job in camp, I’m sure we’ll see him at some point in 2016.

Diego Moreno

The Yankees originally acquired the 28-year-old Moreno from the Pirates in the A.J. Burnett trade a few years ago. He’s spent the last few seasons in the farm system either pitching or going through the Tommy John surgery ordeal. Moreno started 2015 in the Triple-A bullpen and stayed there until late-June, when he was called up to MLB for the first time. He appeared in two games (two runs in two innings) before being sent back down.

Moreno returned to the RailRiders soon thereafter but did get a second call up in late-July. The Rangers knocked Chris Capuano out of the game in the first inning on July 28th, then Moreno came in and chucked 5.1 scoreless and hitless innings to earn his first MLB win.

Rather than be sent right back to Triple-A for a fresh arm, the performance earned Moreno some more time with the big league team. He allowed four runs in three innings against the White Sox four days later, and a few days after that he landed on the 15-day DL. Moreno later had season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

In 53.2 innings with the RailRiders, Moreno had a 2.18 ERA (2.73 FIP) this year. He also allowed six runs in 10.1 big league innings. The Yankees dropped Moreno from the 40-man roster after the season and he became a minor league free agent.

James Pazos

People can’t help but overreact to Spring Training stats, I’m guilty of it too, so when Pazos allowed two hits in 4.1 innings during Grapefruit League play, there was some thought he could crack the Opening Day roster. That didn’t happen. He actually suffered an undisclosed injury at the end of camp and started the season on the shelf.

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

Pazos, 24, was the team’s 13th round pick in the 2012 draft. Once healthy, he joined Double-A Trenton in late-May, stayed there for a six-game tune-up, then was promoted to Triple-A Scranton. He remained there until being called up to the big leagues for the first time on September 1st. Pazos was Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason, so the Yankees got a head start on things and added him to the 40-man roster in September.

Joe Girardi used Pazos fairly regularly in September — he appeared in eleven of the team’s final 28 games — but he was limited almost exclusively to left-on-left matchup work. Pazos threw five scoreless innings in pinstripes and stranded four of five inherited runners. Left-handed batters did go 3-for-11 (.273) with one walk and one strikeout against him though. Not too great.

Pazos finished the season with a 1.09 ERA (2.46 FIP) in 33 Triple-A innings plus those five MLB innings. He was on the wildcard game roster but didn’t pitch in the game. As a hard-throwing lefty — PitchFX says his fastball averaged a healthy 93.2 mph in September — it’s easy to understand why the Yankees added Pazos to the 40-man roster. We’ll see him plenty next summer, I reckon.

Jose Ramirez

The 25-year-old Ramirez has been on the prospect radar an awfully long time. He’s always had explosive stuff but injury problems and generally unreliable command never allowed him to really break through. I thought there was a chance Ramirez would make the team out of Spring Training, but that didn’t happen (seven runs in 8.2 Grapefruit League innings didn’t help his case) and he started the season in Triple-A.

Ramirez spent some time as the RailRiders’ closer and was called up to the big leagues for the first time this year in mid-May. He got hammered by the Royals on May 15th (four runs in one inning) and was sent right back down. Ramirez was called up again in mid-June, allowed one run in two innings across two appearances, then was sent back down once again. The Yankees traded him to the Mariners with Ramon Flores for Ackley at the deadline.

Seattle called Ramirez up when rosters expanded in September and he got hammered again (nine runs in 4.2 innings). The stuff is electric, though in an admittedly small sample size (17.2 innings), he hasn’t come close to positive results (20 runs!). Ramirez had a 2.90 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 49.2 innings for the RailRiders this summer. He’ll be out of minor league options next year and the Yankees simply wouldn’t have a spot for him in the bullpen. I’m sure that factored into the decision to trade him.

Sergio Santos

Santos, 32, has had a pretty long and interesting career. He was a first round pick (27th overall in 2002) as a shortstop, developed into a very good prospect (Baseball America ranked him No. 37 on their 2004 top 100 list), was traded in a deal that involved Troy Glaus and Orlando Hudson in 2005, converted to pitching when he stopped hitting in 2009, then became a 30-save guy with the White Sox. How about that?

The Yankees picked Santos up off the scrap heap in mid-June after the Dodgers cut him loose and he never went to Triple-A. He immediately joined the big league team. Santos pitched in two games with the Yankees: he allowed two runs in two innings against the Orioles on June 13th, then he inherited a bases loaded, no outs jam against the Marlins on June 15th and escaped without allowing a run.

Four days later Santos was placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation. A few days after that he underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Santos remained on the MLB DL the rest of the season and collected a big league paycheck, so good for him. He elected free agency after being dropped from the 40-man roster after the season.

Matt Tracy

The Yankees drafted Tracy in the 24th round of the 2011 draft and he was a sleeper prospect for a little while there, but he never did take that next step forward in his development. He still reached the big leagues though. On April 11th, the day after the 19-inning marathon loss to the Red Sox, Tracy was called up to the show for the first time to give the Yankees a fresh long arm.

Tracy, 27, allowed three unearned runs in two innings against Boston that afternoon. The Yankees designated him for assignment the next day — clearing a 40-man spot for Davies — and the Marlins claimed him off waivers. Four days later, the Yankees re-claimed him on waivers when Miami tried to drop him from the 40-man roster. Tracy was then optioned to Triple-A Scranton.

On April 26th, after the call-up and waivers shenanigans, Tracy finally made his season debut with Triple-A Scranton. He spent the summer bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and Double-A — he went wherever an extra arm was needed, basically — and was unceremoniously outrighted off the 40-man roster in mid-June. No one claimed him on waivers that time.

Tracy finished the 2015 season with a 3.79 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 90.1 minor league innings. He had just the one brief stint in the big leagues. As far as I know Tracy remains in the organization, and if so, he figures to again do the Double-A and Triple-A shuttle thing in 2016.

* * *

And finally, a special shout-out goes out to right-hander Joel De La Cruz, who was called up in April but didn’t appear in a game. He was called up on April 13th to replace Davies, sat in the bullpen for two days before being optioned back to Triple-A, then was outrighted off the 40-man roster a few days after that. That is the extent of his big league service.

De La Cruz, 26, is most notable for being the guy Brian Cashman tried to trade for Alfonso Soriano two years ago before ownership jumped in and dealt Corey Black. De La Cruz had a 3.31 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 84.1 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this summer. He became a minor league free agent after the season and recently signed a minor league deal with the Braves. De La Cruz didn’t get to pitch during his time with the Yankees, but hey, two days of big league pay plus health care for life is pretty cool.

Mailbag: Lawrie, Valencia, Fernandez, Alvarez, Flowers

Relatively short mailbag this week. Only eight questions. Some of the answers are pretty long though. Remember, you can email us your questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Lawrie and Valencia (and Mark Canha). (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Lawrie and Valencia (and Mark Canha). (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Many asked: What about Brett Lawrie or Danny Valencia?

This question is really many asking about Lawrie and one asking about Valencia, but I figured I’d lump them together since the Athletics have indicated they’re open to moving either player in the wake of the Jed Lowrie pickup. Lawrie is the young upside guy who is totally extreme and in your face bruh. Valencia’s the boring older veteran who quietly produces.

Shall we compare the two side-by-side? We shall. Here are their 2015 stats:

Brett Lawrie Danny Valencia 2015

And here are their 2013-15 stats as well:

Brett Lawrie Danny Valencia 13-15

Lawrie was traded for Josh Donaldson (!) while Valencia has been traded for cash and non-prospects, and been claimed off waivers. In fact, the A’s claimed him off waivers in August because the Blue Jays were unable to trade him. Funny how that works.

Both players are primarily third basemen. Lawrie has played a bunch of second in his career, including this past season, when Valencia took over as Oakland’s regular at the hot corner. Valencia has also played first base and left field (and a tiny bit of right). They’re both right-handed batters with a history of hitting lefties. It’s pretty easy to see how both could fit the Yankees roster, right? Right.

My head says get Lawrie because he’s younger and has more upside while everything else says get Valencia because he’s not Lawrie. We saw Lawrie all those years with the Blue Jays. Is there a more irritating player in baseball? I don’t think so. Valencia just might be the better player these next two years — they’re both under team control through 2017 — and I think he’d cost much less to acquire too.

Lawrie’s ability to play second base is nice, and yes, the Yankees have been targeting out of favor young guys like him, but they’ve also put a lot of time and effort into building a strong clubhouse. Lawrie might be a crazy person. I’m not sure if the team would go for that.

Samuel asks: What do we know about Jose Miguel Fernandez? Is he a possibility to fill the vacancy at 2b? Any idea what kind of contract he might command?

Fernandez, 27, defected from Cuba earlier this week, according to Ben Badler. He still needs to go through the process of getting cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and MLB before he can sign, and it’s tough to know how long that will take. Sometimes it happens in a matter of weeks, sometimes it takes eight or nine months. Either way, Fernandez is looking for an MLB contract. Here’s a mini-scouting report from Badler:

With his bat-to-ball skills and ability to manage the strike zone, Fernandez is a potential high OBP threat in the major leagues, although his power is below-average. Speed isn’t part of Fernandez’s game, and his thickening lower half (listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds) has hampered his range at second base, where he’s at best an adequate defender. Fernandez also spent time at third base during the 2013-14 season, though his arm strength is better suited at second.

Fernandez hasn’t played in actual games in more than a year now because he was suspended following other defection attempts, so scouts haven’t seen him in a while. Badler says Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 with 65 walks and ten strikeouts in 314 plate appearances during the 2013-14 season, his last full season in Cuba.

I dunno, that scouting report seems … not all that exciting? The high OBP potential is great, not making outs is the single most important skill in baseball, but everything else seems so meh. Not much power, questionable defense, no real versatility. Is Fernandez looking at a Hector Olivera contract (six years, $62.5M) or an Andy Ibanez contract ($1.6M bonus)? Based on the tiny little bit I know, an Olivera sized contract seems like way too much for that skill set.

Big Hendo. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Big Hendo. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Andrew asks: Is Henderson Alvarez a target after being non-tendered by the Marlins?

Yes but it’s important to understand what Alvarez is right now. He had surgery to repair some kind of tear in his shoulder in late-July and isn’t expected to be ready until at least May, if not later, so he’s not immediate rotation help. Alvarez threw hard before surgery (average 92.8 mph with his trademark two-seamer) but didn’t miss any bats (career 12.6 K%), so any loss of velocity could be a real problem.

That said, Alvarez is an extremely fun pitcher to watch because he’s a bit of a showman on the field and (usually) throws one super-slow low-60s curveball per start just to mess around with hitters. He also has a novelty windup he uses for the first pitch of the game:

Alvarez is only 25 and he would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017, so it’s not like you’ll sign him, rehab him from surgery, get a handful of innings, then watch him go back out on the open market. He was very good when healthy in 2014 (2.65 ERA and 3.58 FIP in 187 innings) because he makes up for the lack of strikeouts by limiting walks (4.3%) and getting grounders (53.8%). When healthy, he’s really good. Unconventional, but really good.

A minor league contract makes all the sense in the world and of course the Yankees should do that if possible. I think it’s likely to take a big league deal to get him though. The cost of just okay pitching is sky high — $12M a year for J.A. Happ! — that I think at least one team out there will be willing to give Alvarez a 40-man roster spot just to see if he can help them in the second half. Also, the Yankees ostensibly have seven starters for five spots. Wouldn’t Alvarez want to go somewhere that offers a greater opportunity?

Dan asks: Assuming they don’t sign Chris Davis. Doesn’t trading Mark Teixeira to St. Louis make sense for the Cards? What type of return could you see him bringing, assuming the Yanks ate some money?

On paper, Teixeira makes sense for the Cardinals. And again, for like the tenth mailbag in a row, I have no idea why the Yankees would be interested in trading away arguably their best hitter, nevermind eating money to make it happen. The Cardinals are actually short on starting pitching right now, so they’re not going to talk Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha. They wouldn’t do that even if they had ten extra starters. What else could they offer? Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk? The Yankees don’t need outfielders. I hereby declare a moratorium on Teixeira trade ideas. It’s not happening. Trading him makes the Yankees worse and then there’s the whole he has a no-trade clause and has said he doesn’t want to leave thing.

Marc asks: T or F: Tyler Flowers is a great option for back up catcher.

I’ll go with true, but we can scale it down from “great” option to “good” option? A great backup catcher is a guy who hits and plays strong defense. We have almost 1,400 plate appearances telling us Flowers can’t really hit (career 83 wRC+), and he’s been no better than average throwing out base-runners. He’s also prone to passed balls, though I blame Chris Sale’s slider for some of that.

Flowers. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Flowers. (Jon Durr/Getty)

The one thing Flowers appears to do exceptionally well is frame pitches. He ranked as the second best pitch-framer in baseball this past season according to StatCorner — behind only ex-Yankee Frankie Cervelli — and we know the Yankees value framing very highly. This was the first season Flowers rated as an elite framer, he’s been closer to average or even below-average in the past, though I do think framing is a skill that can be learned, at least to some extent.

Pretty much every half-decent free agent catcher has already signed this offseason, and they all received similar annual salaries: Alex Avila ($2.5M), A.J. Pierzynski ($3M), Brayan Pena ($2.5M), Geovany Soto ($2.8M). Signing Flowers for, say, one year and $2.5M allows the Yankees to start Gary Sanchez in Triple-A and have a better backup than Austin Romine. Flowers would also remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017. That makes sense, for sure. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they don’t sign him though. I’m skeptical of “his only standout tool is pitch-framing” guys.

Stuart asks: Could the story at this link be the reason the Yankees’ spending has flattened out? Are the Yanks perhaps under pressure to keep their payroll in check?

I guess it’s possible. I think Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was just speaking casually — I suggest reading the link, Ilitch may have hinted at collusion — maybe referring to other board members or something like that. The owners don’t want to spend money. We know that. If they had their way they’d set a hard salary cap at $50M.

I honestly think the luxury tax is to blame for the Yankees’ payroll leveling out. It’s dead money and Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t like paying it. I’d hate paying it if I were an owner too. Collusion is a juicy topic, and maybe I’m just naive, but I don’t see how agreeing to limit spending helps New York. That benefits small market teams with lower payrolls the most.

Ryan asks: In 1981, Dave Winfield signed with the Yankees for 10/$23M, making him the highest paid player at the time on a long term contract. With that said, what do you think ’81 Winfield, an easy five-tool player, would get if he was available in today’s market?

Winfield had just turned 29 when he signed that contract with the Yankees, and he was a monster from 1978-80, hitting .298/.376/.500 (150 OPS+) with 78 home runs and 16.5 WAR. I think he’d get $30M annually in today’s market, likely over six or seven years. The team that offers the seventh year might be the one to get him. So that’s seven years and $210M? Considering David Price, a 30-year-old pitcher who is inherently a bigger risk, got seven years and $217M, I think I’m light. Winfield might have gotten eight years and $240M. (Winfield had a 135 OPS+ and 27.4 WAR during the eight years that would have been covered by the contract.) He was a superstar and would have been paid appropriately.

Marc asks: Could you see the Yanks making a play to acquire Zunino as the right-handed compliment to McCann? Seems like he fits the young high-upside/hasn’t met potential type of player they have been acquiring lately.

I really think Mike Zunino might be a lost cause at this point. The Mariners rushed him to the big leagues for whatever reason and he’s hit .193/.252/.353 (71 wRC+) with a 32.1% strikeout rate and a 5.1% walk rate in over 1,000 plate appearances. He’s a good defender and rates as a great pitch-framer, but man, that’s an unplayable bat. Zunino can hit a mistake 450 feet but otherwise has no contact ability or plate discipline.

Seattle added Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger in recent weeks and the plan is to use them behind the plate with Zunino playing everyday in Triple-A. That’s the best thing for him. I don’t think being a backup helps him at this point. If the Mariners are willing to give him away in a busted prospect for busted prospect trade (Zunino for Slade Heathcott?), sure, do it. I don’t think they’d sell so low on him though. Send him to Triple-A and hope he either figures it out or rebuilds some trade value.

Two former Yankee pitchers net big deals in KBO

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So, if you haven’t noticed from my Twitter account, I also pay attention to KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) quite a bit. This week, there was some intriguing signing news that involved two of the former Yankee RHP’s.

First off, the Hanhwa Eagles re-signed RHP Esmil Rogers to a $1.9 million deal. When it was announced yesterday, Rogers became the highest-paid foreign player in Korea ever, surpassing the $1.5 million paycheck of Doosan Bears RHP Dustin Nippert. Pretty wild, huh.

We all know how Esmil did as a Yankee in 2015. If you need a refresher: 6.27 ERA in 33.0 IP. Yeah, pretty bad. I was actually at Camden Yards at his last Yankee appearance on June 12 (2.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 K’s) and boy, he just looked awful that day and the team DFA’d him almost immediately after. His mojo completely turned around when the Hanhwa Eagles, based on Daejeon, South Korea, signed him to replace Shane Youman (ex-Pittsburgh Pirate).

Rogers made an immediate impacts for the team. He threw two complete games in a row to begin his career in Korea and threw four in ten starts overall. He had a 2.97 ERA in 75.2 IP, averaging just over 7.5 innings per start (!!!). There were rumors Japanese teams were pursuing him for next season but Rogers decided to stay with Hanhwa, for a good amount of money. He became an innings-eating ace in Korea after struggling with the Yankees, go figure.

Here is a video of all of his pitches in a start against Kia Tigers, which ended as a 10 strikeout shutout, if you are curious.

In other news, the Kia Tigers signed RHP Hector Noesi to a $1.7 million deal, as announced yesterday. Unlike Rogers, Noesi has not pitched in KBO yet but the Tigers must have really liked him enough to give him that contact. As you may remember, Noesi made it to the majors back in 2011 through the Yankee farm system. He was traded that offseason to the Mariners along with Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda.

Like Rogers, Noesi’s struggled in his time in ML. After being traded away from Bronx, the Dominican pitched to a 5.44 ERA in 339.0 IP in 2012-15. No bueno. Long balls really hurt him as he allowed 59 total in that time span for a 1.6 HR/9 rate. He did seem to show flashes of promise as a SP for the White Sox in 2014. In 28 appearances (27 starts) in the South Side, Noesi had a 8-11 record with a 4.39 ERA. Alright, not bad. But he totally flunked it in 2015 by posting a 6.89 ERA in 10 appearances.

Both Rogers’ and Noesi’s paths to Korea follow those of many others’ that end up in Asian baseball leagues: promise in the minors, especially at AA/AAA levels, and talent not translating at the ML level. Not only is the level of passion about baseball pretty high in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, they also pay better compared to being stuck in minors. So yeah, makes sense in some ways. Best of luck to Esmil and Hector.