RAB Live Chat

Cashman Speaks: Priorities, Free Agency, Kuroda, Hitting Coach

For the fifth straight year, Brian Cashman slept in the West 41st Street courtyard of Covenant House last night as part of an nationwide event to raise money to benefit the homeless. “I don’t know how any human beings can deal with this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. There’s no comfort on that ground. Even one night is terrible. With all the elements, with nature. It’s not right. No one should have to live like that,” he told Wally Matthews. Here are some notes from the GM, courtesy of Matthews, Mark Feinsand, Brendan Kuty, and Bryan Hoch.

  • On the team’s priorities: “I can restate clearly shortstop, maybe third base; the left side of the infield is definitely a priority. I think we have good pitching, but there’s obviously some volatility in it because of the health status and health histories of some of them. Those are two areas I would like to focus on. Bullpen, clearly with the (David) Robertson circumstance, is an issue. That’s a handful, right off the bat.”
  • On signing a big name free agent: “I can’t really say if any of the big-ticket items are in play or not in play. I’m just going to say we’re doing everything in our power to improve the club. Ownership has always been very beneficial with the resources to put the team on the field.”
  • On adding two starters and free agency in general: “I would be open to (adding two starters) … (There have been) lots of calls, lots of texts, but nothing to show for it yet. It’s certainly taking its time, but it’s been busy. Certainly a lot of conversations. Hopefully they’ll lead somewhere positive … We’re looking at ways to improve our club. But we’re looking at smart ways to improve our club. I guess I can say that much.”
  • On re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, who still hasn’t indicated whether he will retire: “Every dollar counts to something. Everything we do has to be accounted for, so it will have an impact on something else. It depends on the entire context of the roster. But I do need starting pitching so he’s clearly an area that would solve some issues. We’ll see … If he wants to keep playing, he’ll have a market.”
  • On the hitting coach: Cashman confirmed the Yankees have an interview with a new candidate lined up for next week, though he didn’t say who it is. He also said no one has been brought back for a second interview yet. Apparently no one asked about the first base coach situation because no one really cares about first base coaches.

Mailbag: Swisher, Cervelli, Johnson, Cabrera, Non-Tenders

Only five questions for you this week but they’re five good ones. As a reminder, we got rid of the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar as part of the redesign. There’s a new email button in the sidebar, right under the YES Network video widget. Use that to email us questions.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Many asked: What about a Nick Swisher reunion?

Earlier this week Ken Rosenthal reported the Indians are exploring ways to move Swisher, perhaps in a bad contract-for-bad contract swap. Swisher is owed $15M in each of the next two seasons with a $14M vesting option for 2017 based on his plate appearance total in 2016. He hit a weak .208/.278/.331 (75 wRC+) with eight homers in 97 games this year while batting injury — he had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees in August — after hitting .246/.341/.423 (115 wRC+) with 22 homers in 145 games a year ago.

The Yankees already have a full outfield, complete with a right fielder with bad knees. Alex Rodriguez is clogging up the DH spot as well. Carlos Beltran will make $15M in each of the next two seasons, and a few people asked about trading him straight up for Swisher, but I don’t see any way Beltran will waive his no-trade clause to go to Cleveland. Not after waiting all these years to wear pinstripes. If the Yankees weren’t stuck with A-Rod or hadn’t already re-signed Chris Young, maybe Swisher would have made sense as a fourth outfielder/backup first baseman/part-time DH if the Tribe were willing to eat a bunch of money, especially if you think he’ll rebound following knee surgery. That’s not happening though. There’s no fit for Swisher on the current roster and I don’t think the Yankees would bring him back anyway.

Dan asks: Do you think the Yankees pulled the trigger too early on dealing Francisco Cervelli?  With Russell Martin signing in Toronto, the Cubs and Dodgers are in need of catching. Maybe they could have done better than Justin Wilson? Doesn’t it seem like Brian Cashman acts too early in general on minor moves, in a way that could foreclose better moves later in the offseason? (See also Chris Young.)

I don’t agree with this at all. I’m surprised the Yankees got as much as they did for Cervelli, who was on the verge of being designated for assignment at various points within the last two years. Injury prone backup catchers don’t have much trade value, especially when they’re slated to make seven figures next season. Maybe the Yankees could have gotten something very slightly better than Wilson if they had waited a few weeks … or maybe they wind up with nothing at all because the Cubs and Dodgers find comparable players at a lower cost. With small moves like this, I think you need to pull the trigger as soon as possible. The risk of being the last last one standing in the game of roster musical chairs is high. Now, if they were shopping someone like Brett Gardner in the trade? That’s a different story.

Arad asks: Could Chris Johnson from the Braves be a nice pickup? Bad contract and had an overall down year, but just look at his splits vs. lefties in 2014 and for his career. Could be a great platoon option for 3rd and 1st base.

Johnson, 30, had an insane BABIP-fueled season in 2013, hitting .321/.358/.457 (127 wRC+) with 12 homers and a .394 BABIP. He has a .260/.310/.391 (~96 wRC+) batting line with a .328 BABIP every other year since becoming a regular in 2010, including a .263/.292/.361 (82 wRC+) line with a .345 BABIP in 2014. We can’t ignore 2013, it happened and Johnson deserves credit for it, but it’s a big time outlier and I’m not sure you could expect him to repeat that in the future.

Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

That said, Johnson hit .395/.435/.553 (177 wRC+) against southpaws this past season and has a career .312/.349/.443 (116 wRC+) line against lefties, so he’s a viable platoon option. He can also play both corner infield spots (not well though), which fits what the Yankees need. The Braves jumped the gun and signed Johnson to a big contract following his career year in 2013, so he’s owed $6M in 2015, $7.5M in 2016, and $9M in 2017 with a $10M club option for 2018. That’s a lot of scratch for a platoon corner infielder you can stash on your bench. Johnson can be a useful player if used properly even if he is overpaid, but since the Yankees are saddled with A-Rod (who projects to fill the exact same role), I’m not sure there’s a spot for Johnson on the roster.

Michael asks: If he’s non tendered can you see the Yankees going after Everth Cabrera? Or any of the other theoretical at this point non-tenders?

Cabrera, 28, quietly led the NL with 44 stolen bases in 2012 and then stole 37 more in 2013. He hit a very weak .232/.272/.300 (65 wRC+) with 18 steals in 90 games this season, and is projected to earn $2.9M through arbitration next year, which is why he’s a non-tender candidate. That and his litany of off-the-field issues. Cabrera was arrested for domestic abuse in 2012, suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis in 2013, and arrested for driving under the influence in 2014. The Yankees need a shortstop and hey, a 28-year-old shortstop would be cool, but Cabrera isn’t the type of person you want on the team. Dude is bad news.

As for some other interesting non-tenders, infielder Gordon Beckham, first baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland, right-hander David Hernandez, and left-hander Travis Wood stand out to me. I’m going off MLBTR’s list of potential non-tenders, by the way. The actual non-tender deadline is December 2nd. Beckham’s salary will come down to maybe $1M or so next year, at which point he might be worth a flier because the Yankees need infield help. When he was making $4M? Forget it. Moreland seems like a real nice fit as a left-handed bench piece, Hernandez is a shutdown reliever coming off Tommy John surgery, and Wood could be a league average-ish fifth starter if things click. Once the non-tender deadline passes and we know who is and isn’t available, we’ll circle back around and discuss this further.

Eric asks: Do you think letting David Robertson leave sets a bad trend for the Yanks? This will be the 2nd year in a row they let a homegrown player leave.

Well, Robertson hasn’t left yet, and even if he does, we need to see the details first. If some team comes out of nowhere and offers him five years at, say, $14M per year, I wouldn’t be heartbroken about letting him walk. That’s essentially what happened with Robinson Cano. The Yankees made him that seven-year, $175M offer that was the high bid until the Mariners completely blew it out of the water. As much as the team misses him, I have no trouble with letting Robbie walk at that rate.

Now, if the Yankees don’t re-sign Robertson because they’re unwilling to meet a totally reasonable contract request, something like three years and $39M or four years and $48M, then yeah, that would bug me. I don’t think the Yankees should lose out on the top players at their positions — which Cano clearly is and Robertson is among — over nickels and dimes. If they get blown out of the water like Cano last year, fine. I can live with that. But letting Roberson go because of a small amount wouldn’t sit well with me. They’re the Yankees, after all.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Buster Olney (subs. req’d) continued his look at the top ten players at each position yesterday with second base. Robinson Cano sits in the top spot because of course. He is far and away the best second basemen in baseball and has been for about five years now. The Yankees don’t have a player on the list because they don’t have a second baseman at the moment. If the season started today, I’m guessing Martin Prado would be at third and Jose Pirela at second. Thankfully there’s still three months of offseason to find an upgrade.

This is your open thread for the night. The Thursday NFL game is the Chiefs and Raiders, plus I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere. None of the local basketball or hockey teams are playing. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

Yankees add Austin, Burawa, Pinder, Williams to 40-man roster; sell Zelous Wheeler’s right to team in Japan

Bye Zelous. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Bye Zelous. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees have added outfielder Tyler Austin, right-hander Danny Burawa, right-hander Branden Pinder, and outfielder Mason Williams to the 40-man roster, the team announced. Today was the deadline to set the 40-man for the Rule 5 Draft and all four players would have been eligible. The Yankees have also sold utility man Zelous Wheeler‘s rights to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. There are currently 38 players on the 40-man roster, meaning New York can select up to two players in the Rule 5 Draft.

Adding Austin to the 40-man was the only no-brainer of the bunch. He had a huge second half with Double-A Trenton this summer and continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League. He played through a bone bruise in his wrist almost all of last year and again earlier this year, but it appears he’s over it and had gotten back to where he was when he was one of the team’s top prospects a year or two ago. Austin figures to open the 2015 season with Triple-A Scranton and could get called up at some point. If nothing else, he should be a September call-up.

Burawa is a pure reliever and has some of the nastiest stuff in the system with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a vicious slider. He does have control problems (13.2% walk rate the last two years) and had to be demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Trenton this summer, but the Yankees have had some success figuring these guys out, with Shane Greene being a primary example. Pinder is another pure reliever whose stuff isn’t as electric as Burawa’s, but he had an excellent season in 2014. He is primarily a fastball-slider guy. Both Burawa and Pinder are expected to open 2015 with the RailRiders and could make their MLB debuts later in the season.

Williams both is and isn’t a surprising addition to the 40-man roster. Surprising because he’s been flat out terrible for two years running now — he hit .223/.290/.304 (66 wRC+) in 563 plate appearances with the Thunder this past season — and there are reports of major maturity and work ethic issues. Those guys usually aren’t rewarded with 40-man spots. It’s unsurprising because Williams is a top flight defender in center field and has high-end tools. He was arguably the organization’s top prospect two years ago. The Yankees are obviously hoping he grows up a bit and unlocks some of his potential.

Among the players the Yankees opted not to protect from the Rule 5 Draft are first baseman Kyle Roller, left-hander Matt Tracy, and right-handers Mark Montgomery and Zach Nuding. All three pitchers could get selected. Montgomery’s stuff has gone backwards the last two years but his slider still misses bats. Nuding throws hard and Tracy is both breathing and left-handed. As a reminder, any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on his new team’s active 25-man roster all season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to his old team before going to the minors.

As for Wheeler, the Yankees didn’t sell his rights to Rakuten — Masahiro Tanaka‘s former team — without his knowledge or out of the blue. Almost always in these situations, the player asked the team for permission to pursue a job overseas and has a contract lined up with a new club. Wheeler presumably did that and the Yankees let him go as a courtesy while also pocketing a little extra cash. Win-win for everyone.

Update: The Yankees received $350,000 for Wheeler’s rights, according to Mark Feinsand.