Update: Lookee here: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the Yankees are showing interest in Anderson, and that he’s expected to be dealt next week at the Winter Meetings. Though given the flurry of recent activity, especially involving the A’s, it doesn’t appear anyone is waiting for the yearly conference to conduct their business.
While improving the offense appears to dominate the Yankees’ free agent agenda early this off-season, the pitching staff still presents a number of issues. Brian Cashman said he had to find 400 innings, meaning two reliable starters, this off-season. They could get 180 or so of those innings if Hiroki Kuroda accepts their offer, but they still have a huge number of innings to fill and not many attractive options on the free agent market.
The trade market looks fairly thin as well, yesterday’s deal involving Doug Fister notwithstanding. David Price might become available, but the Yankees don’t have the pieces to land him even if the Rays deigned to trade him within the division. Beyond that, it’s difficult to identify a team willing to part with an impact starter (except maybe the Red Sox, which is out of the question). That leaves the free agent market, which could inflate given the lack of trade options. Does anyone want Matt Garza for four years and $60 million, or to give up on a draft pick for the two good years Ubaldo Jimenez has produced in his career?
Make no mistake: the Yankees absolutely need two reliable starters this off-season. Getting cute with rotation construction will only compound the issue as the season wears on. Yet two reliable starters will give the Yankees four definites, including CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. For his part, Nova has yet to put together a full, effective season, so he remains something of an unknown. Behind him are David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno, all unreliable for one reason or another.
It might seem folly to add yet another unreliable arm to the fold, but it might be a gamble the Yankees need to make. This week we’ve learned that one potentially solid, but unreliable, pitcher has become available. Rumors started early in the off-season that the A’s could trade Brett Anderson, and with the addition of Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million) and Jim Johnson (projected arbitration of around $10 million), they’re almost certainly looking to shed Anderson’s $8 million salary. In fact, just this morning we learned that the A’s are currently discussing an Anderson trade. While the Yankees aren’t mentioned, they could be players if Anderson remains on the A’s for a few more weeks.
Why it works
Bringing in a wild card like Anderson can work if the Yankees get their 400 additional innings from more reliable sources. In that case they’ll have Phelps, Pineda, and Nuno to battle for the fifth spot. Still, given the utter uncertainty of that group, why not add a guy who can perform considerably better than the typical fifth starter on a first-division team?
Despite a poor 2013 outing, Anderson has produced a 3.81 ERA during the parts of his five seasons in the majors (109 ERA+). His strikeout numbers haven’t been particularly impressive, but he has displayed good control a a decent ability to keep the ball in the park (though at Oakland Coliseum). Before he came up Baseball America rated him the No. 7 prospect in the game, a potential he’s shown signs of fulfilling, if it weren’t for that one big issue.
Injuries have plagued Anderson throughout his career. He spent 96 days on the DL in 2010 with elbow problems, and then underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2011. Even after he returned in late 2012 he got hurt, finishing the season on the DL with an oblique strain. In 2013 he suffered an ankle sprain after a rough start in April, but he did come back to strike out 16 in 12.2 innings out of the pen to close out the year.
Why the Yanks can use a wild card
Again, the entire idea of Anderson is predicated on the Yankees acquiring two other reliable starters. To rely on Anderson for 100 innings might not be the best bet. But it’s a bet the Yankees can make, given their current makeup. In fact, if they do find those 400 innings elsewhere, Anderson can be a huge strength.
If the Yankees get two starters, the fifth starter competition is between David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno. Phelps is the clear frontrunner before camp even starts, given his experience. At the same time, his value is in his flexibility. The Yanks have shown they can put him in the pen and then have him spot start if the need arises. Given the depletion of the bullpen, he could be valuable in a setup roll, and then come out to make a spot start if needed.
Given Pineda’s recovery from shoulder surgery, he likely should start the season in the minors. He could, for all we know, come out guns blazing in camp after a full off-season of healthy recovery. Who knows. But given what we saw from his rehab efforts, that’s not something anyone can count on. Consider him the first depth option. Nuno is essentially a depth option, not really a fifth starter on a playoff contender (though he has proven people wrong before).
With Anderson in the fold, the Yankees would have depth they could pull from both the bullpen and the minors. That’s the kind of flexibility that allows teams to endure injuries. If Nova isn’t as effective as he was in the second half, if they want to give Kuroda a breather (if he re-signs), if Sabathia gets hurt, they’ll be somewhat covered with depth.
Why it doesn’t work
It’s hard to overlook a guy who has missed, on average, more than 100 games per season in the last four years. There are players who start out as injury guys who, as they reach physical maturity, just stop getting hurt. Anderson, who turns 26 just before pitchers and catchers report, is entering the prime years of his career. He could be one of those guys.
Yet even if he is, it might not happen this year. If Anderson continues to get hurt in his age-26 season, but starts staying healthy at age 27, it does little to help the Yankees. If he spends another year mostly on the DL, they’re not going to pick up his $12 million option for 2015.
As it stands, he’s an $8 million lotto ticket, who will cost the Yankees prospects in addition to the cash. While Oakland might be eager to trade him, they’re still not going to take zeroes in return. Anderson could well fit better on a team with more room to experiment, or a team that’s not trying to sign a number of big free agents.
Whether the Yankees show interest in Anderson depends on their taste for risk. Obviously they’ll first have to address the tangible holes in their rotation. If the A’s decide to deal Anderson before they do that, the Yankees have no shot. While they don’t have to acquire players in order of need, they certainly want to focus their resources on reliably filling their 400-inning gap. After that, if they have the stomach for the risk, Anderson could be an interesting player to watch. When else does a 26-year-old, left-handed, potential No. 3 starter hit the trade market?
Finally, we have the details of Brian McCann’s vesting option, courtesy of Joel Sherman. The option for 2019 is worth $15M and vests with 1,000 plate appearances from 2017-2018, 90 games as a catcher in 2018, and if he’s not on the DL at the end of 2018. All of those conditions must be met. If the option vests, McCann can void it and become a free agent. For all intents and purposes, he must still be a starting catcher in 2018 for the option to kick in. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. · (14) ·
Via Jeff Passan: The Yankees are taking a hard line with Robinson Cano and will not push their contract offer up to $200M. The two sides met face-to-face several times last week and Robbie’s camp asked for a nine-year, $250-260M deal. “They are not going to go to $200M, period,” said a source to Passan while Mark Feinsand hears they remain “oceans apart.”
The offseason is still relatively young and Cano has yet to receive an offer from another team, at least as far as we know. That could change in an instant. The Nationals could make a push and I won’t believe the Dodgers are out of it until Cano signs his next contract. For now, the Yankees and their second baseman are locked in a high stakes game of hot stove chicken. At some point someone will cave — either the team will raise their offer or Cano will lower his demands. I don’t think either of those things will happen anytime soon. · (194) ·
The Yankees have officially signed Brian McCann to a five-year contract with a vesting option for a sixth year, the team announced. He has passed his physical and all that. “The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is to construct a team each and every season designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October … Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement.
McCann will be introduced at a press conference on Thursday, which will be broadcast on YES. I’m pretty sure it will be their first press conference to introduce a new player since
Mark TeixeiraRafael Soriano. Been a while. The 2014 Draft Order page has been updated. · (37) ·
Forty-three players joined the free agent pool at midnight last night — including three Yankees (David Adams, Jayson Nix, Matt Daley) — when the non-tender deadline came and went. Here’s the full list. Most non-tendered players are spare parts not really worth carrying on the 40-man roster all winter, but some are legitimate big leaguers whose projected salary had eclipsed their on and off field value.
The Yankees grabbed Russell Martin three years ago after he was non-tendered and last winter they made a play for Nate Schierholtz before he signed with the Cubs. This year they’re seeking pitching help, both in the rotation and the bullpen, though the non-tender market very rarely offers quality starting pitchers. Bullpen help is plentiful though, and an interesting crop of relievers became free agents last night. Here’s a quick rundown of four newly available bullpen arms who could help New York as they seek a late-inning reliever to pair with David Robertson (and Shawn Kelley).
I’m listing these guys alphabetically but it’s fitting we start with Axford, who spent 2007 bouncing around New York’s farm system before being released, tightening up his mechanics, and having lots of success with the Brewers. Years of hefty saves totals beefed up his salary and the Cardinals walked away rather than pay him upwards of $6M to be a seventh inning reliever in 2014. Not a bad idea given all their young power arms.
Axford, 30, had a 4.02 ERA (4.34 FIP) in 65 innings this past summer. His fastball still sits in the mid-90s and he still backs it up with a nasty curveball that allows him to miss bats (9.00 K/9 in 2013 and 10.82 career) and get an okay amount of ground balls (45.3% in 2013 and 46.9% career). Axford walks a fair amount of guys (3.60 BB/9 in 2013 and 4.05 career) and will occasionally lose the strike zone all together, plus he’s very homer prone, especially these last two years (1.34 HR/9 and 18.2% HR/FB). When he makes a mistake, it gets hit out of the park. That’s not exactly a desirable trait for a late-inning reliever.
I think there’s a good chance another club will offer Axford — who will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, by the way — a closing job, which could put the Yankees at a disadvantage unless they promise him the ninth inning over Robertson. The homer problems are very scary but outside of Grant Balfour, Joe Nathan, and Brian Wilson, I’m not sure there’s a better combination of power stuff and late-game experience out there. The Yankees signed Axford as an undrafted free agent back in the day, so they know him pretty well and there’s some kind of relationship already in place.
After missing the 2011 season due to drug-related visa problems, the 30-year-old Belisario has been workhorse in Don Mattingly’s bullpen. He’s pitched to a 3.24 ERA (3.36 FIP) in 139 innings over the last two years while relying on a heavy mid-90s sinker that has gotten a ground ball 62.8% of the time. The sinker doesn’t really miss bats (7.60 K/9) and location can be an issue at times (3.69 BB/9), but at least he keeps the ball in the park (0.39 HR/9 and 9.2% HR/FB) and can hold his own again lefties (.320 wOBA against). Like Axford, Belisario would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, though he figures to come much cheaper as a non-former closer. I was surprised to see the Dodgers non-tender him (that makes me wonder what they know that everyone else doesn’t) but Belisario a versatile and durable reliever, and that’s something every team needs.
I’ve always liked Webb, who is a classic “the results don’t match the stuff” guy. His low-to-mid-90s two-seamer runs all over the place and his low-80s slider looks like it should miss bats, but batters have consistently squared him up. Since landing with the Marlins three years ago, Webb has a 3.34 ERA (3.50 FIP) in 191.1 innings with a very good ground ball rate (56.0%) but unimpressive strikeout (6.07 K/9) and walk (3.15 BB/9) rates. His platoon split is manageable (.321 wOBA against lefties and .296 against righties). Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a history of improving strikeout rates, so maybe he could help Webb turn that nasty stuff into better results. At worst, he’s a decent middle reliever, but I think the 27-year-old has some untapped potential and is something of an upside play.
With Boone Logan likely leaving as a free agent, the Yankees figure to cast a wide net and target a bunch of lower cost players to compete for the lefty reliever spot. Wright, 28, is a pure specialist, holding lefties to a .228/.313/.342 (.296 wOBA) line in his career while righties have tagged him for a .263/.356/.500 (.367 wOBA) line. His strikeout (10.42 K/9) and ground ball (55.3%) rates against same-side hitters are very good despite a soft upper-80s fastball and low-80s slider. Wright has been around for a while and figures to get a guaranteed contract somewhere, and that might not jibe with what New York wants to do at this position. I get the sense they’ll add some pieces via waivers and minor league deals and see what happens in camp between Cesar Cabral, David Huff, and whoever else. If they are willing to sign someone to a low cost big league deal, Wright could be the guy.
* * *
Some of the big name non-tenders like Andrew Bailey (shoulder capsule) and Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery twice in the last 17 months) come with major injury concerns and aren’t expected to be healthy enough to pitch until the second half of the season at the earliest. Given the nature of their injuries, I think 2015 is a more realistic target for a return. Others like Tommy Hanson and Dan Bard are too far removed from consistent success to warrant anything more than a minor league contract at this point. Everyone loves a good reclamation project, but the Yankees need healthy players who can actually help them come Opening Day right now given the state of the roster. Once they’ve brought in a few of those, they’ll be in better position to roll the dice on guys with something to prove.
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed first baseman/left fielder Russ Canzler to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training as well. Canzler was with the Yankees briefly last winter — they claimed him off waivers from the Indians on January 4th and lost him on waivers to the Orioles on February 5th.
Canzler, 27, has a 91 wRC+ with 102 big league plate appearances. He has punished Triple-A pitching over the years, putting up a .277/.358/.466 (~128wRC+) line in over 1,600 plate appearances at the level. That includes a .307/.390/.531 line against left-handed pitchers. Canzler is a cheap right-handed bat who offers a tiny bit of verstility, so he’s a nice guy for the Yankees to have in Triple-A as insurance. Heck, there’s a good chance he’ll be a better bench option that Vernon Wells next season. · (14) ·
7:02pm: The Yankees have indeed non-tendered Nix, Adams, and Daley, the team announced. They are now free agents. The Yankees will be left with
twothree open 40-man roster spots once the Brian McCann signing is made official later in the week.
6:13pm: Via Anthony McCarron: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are planning to non-tender Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams prior to tonight’s deadline. Nix was projected to earn $1.4M through arbitration while Daley and Adams were slated to make only the league minimum (or thereabouts) in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team tries to re-sign all three to minor league contracts. Chris Stewart, the team’s other non-tender candidate, was traded to the Pirates earlier today. · (42) ·
Fair or not, I will probably always remember Chris Stewart as the guy who struck out on two strikes. He was so awful in the second half and that just seemed like the ultimate rock bottom. Stewart is a backup catcher who was miscast as a starter, and that is on the team, not him. The Yankees planned on giving him significant playing time, they admitted it before the season, but it was a plan that was doomed to fail. Frankie Cervelli saved their bacon for a few weeks in April before suffering what amounted to a season-ending hand injury. The Yankees agreed to sign Brian McCann last week and traded Stewart to the Pirates today, a move that makes sense for both sides. He can be a backup and the Yankees have a real starting catcher.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Saints and Seahawks are the Monday Night Football Game, plus both the Rangers and Devils are playing. It goes without saying at this point that there’s some college something on somewhere. Talk about Stewart, McCann, any of those games, or anything else right here. Have at it.
Dec. 2nd: Joel Sherman reports Ryan will earn $2M in both 2014 and 2015. There is a club option worth $2M for 2016, but if that is declined, Ryan will have a player option worth $1M. His luxury tax hit will be $2M for the next two years. Hopefully this is the last update.
Nov. 27th: Ken Rosenthal says it’s a two-year contract worth $5M plus a mutual option for 2016 that could push the total value to $10M. Options are complicated, but I believe Ryan’s luxury tax hit will be $2.5M since the mutual option does not exceed 50% of the potential total value of the deal. The contract is official according to Rosenthal, so the 40-man roster is now full.
1:00pm ET: The Yankees will have a legitimate shortstop on their roster next season. Jon Heyman reports the team has a deal in place with free agent infielder Brendan Ryan, though terms of the contract are unknown at this point. I can’t imagine it’ll be longer than one year. The two sides were said to have an agreement in place a few weeks ago, but Ryan had an unknown minor surgery after the season and his physical was delayed. The Yankees have not officially announced anything yet.
Ryan, 31, spent the end of 2013 with the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners on September 10th. He hit .197/.255/.273 (44 wRC+) in 349 plate appearances overall and .220/.258/.305 (51 wRC+) in 62 plate appearances in pinstripes. There is little to like about Ryan’s offensive game. He’s never hit (career 71 wRC+ in over 2,600 plate appearances) and this past season he struck out more than the league average (20.9%), walked less than the league average (6.6%), showed little power (.075 ISO), and didn’t steal bases (4-for-6). With all due respect, he’s a zero at the plate.
Defensively, on the other hand, is where Ryan stands out. He is an elite defensive shortstop regardless of metric — +51 DRS, +26.5 UZR, +19.1 FRAA, and +19 Total Zone since 2011 — with ridiculous range, baby soft hands, and a strong throwing arm. The guy can really go get the ball.
Ryan is one of the best shortstop defenders in baseball and by far the best on the Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner recently told Derek Jeter that despite his new contract, the team intends to pursue a capable everyday shortstop following his injury-plagued season. I’m not a fan of players who can’t hit (like, at all) but Ryan is an asset because of his defense and would contribute much more in a full-time role than Eduardo Nunez, whose only redeeming quality is his speed.
It has been a while since Ryan has played a non-shortstop position — last played second base in 2009, last played third in 2008 — but given his defensive ability, I don’t think moving around the infield would be much of a problem. Jeter figures to play shortstop whenever possible because hey, he’s Derek Jeter, but his time at DH is likely to increase this season. Ryan is an upgrade over Nunez and chances are he will be an oft-used bench player in 2014. The Yankees still have a number of roster questions to answer this winter, but backup middle infielder is no longer one of them.
4:30pm: The offer was made “a long time ago,” according to Mark Feinsand. The Yankees never expected Kuroda to make a decision right away. Sounds like they made a standing offer soon after he declined the qualifying offer to just make it clear they want him back.
1:00pm: Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees have offered Hiroki Kuroda a contract in the $15-16M range in hopes of keeping him from retirement or going back to Japan. Kuroda turned down the $14.1M qualifying offer last month. The team is said to be “more upbeat” about their chances of keeping him now than they were a few weeks ago.
Kuroda, 38, had a 3.31 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 201.1 innings this past season, but he faded badly down the stretch for the second straight year. The Yankees paid him $15M in 2013 and although I love Kuroda as much as anyone, his age and the back-to-back second half fades are definite red flags to me. The team needs starters in the worst way and there might not be a better deal out there than Kuroda on a one-year contract, but I’m much more nervous about him returning for another season right now than I was last winter. · (98) ·