2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees made their first major move of the offseason this weekend by agreeing to sign catcher Brian McCann to a five-year contract worth $85M. The deal includes a vesting option for a sixth year that could push the total value to $100M. McCann must still pass a physical before the contract is official. Needless to say, this is an enormous upgrade.
- In addition to McCann, the Yankees agreed to re-sign Brendan Ryan to a one-year pact worth $1-2M and acquired infielder Dean Anna from the Padres in a minor swap. Anna, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Bryan Mitchell, Shane Greene, and Jose Campos were all added to the 40-man roster and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Corban Joseph was outrighted off the 40-man and accepted his assignment to Triple-A Scranton.
- Targets Jhonny Peralta and David Freese signed with the Cardinals and were traded to the Angels, respectively, so they are no longer options for New York. The Yankees did indicate a willingness to offer Peralta a four-year pact in the $52M range before he hooked on with St. Louis. They weren’t in on Carlos Ruiz before he re-upped with the Phillies.
- Among the players New York showed interest in last week are Matt Kemp, Joe Nathan, and Raul Ibanez. Curtis Granderson remains a “serious part” of the team’s offseason plans. The Yankees still have offers out even after signing McCann but they don’t have much interest in Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez.
- Robinson Cano‘s camp called a meeting with the Mets’ brass, apparently in an effort to drum up some leverage. The Yankees have said they won’t wait around for Cano. The Dodgers and Marlins are not in the mix for Cano.
- The appeal of Alex Rodriguez‘s record 211-game suspension concluded on Thursday, the day after he stormed out of the room and declared the proceedings a “farce.” A ruling may not come until January.
- The Yankees reportedly plan to spend big on international free agents during next summer’s signing period.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
In case you missed it last week, I’m going to start using the Friday/weekend open threads as link dumps. Basically random interesting stuff I come across throughout the week that isn’t Yankees related and doesn’t wind up on RAB. This week’s collection of links is just okay, maybe a six out of ten. Wasn’t a great week for the internet. Lots of people are on vacation this time of year and plenty of others are already looking ahead to the long Thanksgiving weekend. I know I am. Anyway, enjoy.
- David Laurila interviewed Michael Girsch, an assistant GM for the Cardinals. He spoke in detail about a bunch of stuff, including the team’s internal data-compiling/sharing systems, their draft philosophies, their hitting philosophies, biomechanics, all that and more. The Cardinals are the darling organization of baseball right now and pretty much everyone wants to copy them. This is a (small) look under the hood. Pretty interesting stuff.
- In the wake of the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, Grant Brisbee looked at the various awful contracts around baseball and tried to figure out which one will be moved next. He comes up with Josh Hamilton and I tend to agree since the current market has downgraded Andre Ethier’s contract from awful to merely pretty bad.
- Zachary Levine (subs. req’d) compiled a list of baseball memes the internet beat to death in 2013. I don’t remember seeing too much of “Robinson Cano‘s 99 problems,” but the others were inescapable. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop making gritty jokes about the Diamondbacks though.
- And finally, if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you’ll love this. It’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reading through the final scene of the series for the first time. It’s one giant spoiler, so don’t watch the video if you haven’t seen it yet. Pretty awesome.
Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and Nets are the only local teams playing tonight so ZZZzzzzzz. Talk about either game or anything else here. Have at it.
Saturday: Keep the open thread going right here. All three hockey locals plus the Knicks are playing. You folks know what to do, so do it.
Sunday: Only a few more hours left in the weekend, but at least Thanksgiving is coming up. Hands down my favorite holiday. The Broncos and Patriots are the Sunday Night Football Game and that’s it. The Nets already played and none of the other locals are in action. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.
3:56pm: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are “currently engaged” in talks with Beltran, Drew, Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and various unnamed mid-rotation starters. Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are not in the mix at the moment.
1:12pm: Via Buster Olney: The Yankees still have offers out to various free agents even after agreeing to sign Brian McCann last night. He says there is currently no traction in talks with Robinson Cano and the team doesn’t want to sit around and wait. I dig it. In addition to Cano, I’m guessing they have offers out to … Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, Grant Balfour, and Hiroki Kuroda. Whaddya think? · (106) ·
3:50pm: Jon Heyman says the Yankees were one of several teams that indicated a willingness to give Peralta a four-year deal in the $52M range. The free agent told clubs he simply preferred St. Louis.
1:06pm: According to Jim Bowden, the Cardinals have agreed to sign free agent infielder Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract worth more than $52M. That’s pretty pricey. The Yankees were said to have some interest in Peralta as they look to improve the left side of the infield, but I’m not surprised he took the everyday shortstop job elsewhere rather than bounce between shortstop and third base for New York. Either way, he’s a non-option now. · (3) ·
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams that have called the Dodgers to inquire about Matt Kemp. Los Angeles has four outfielders (Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig) for three spots and are reportedly looking to deal one of the veterans to address a different hole on the roster. I assume the two sides talked before New York dropped big bucks on Brian McCann.
Kemp, 29, hit .270/.328/.395 (103 wRC+) with six homers and nine stolen bases in 73 games this past season while missing time with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle problems. He had surgery on the ankle a few weeks ago and surgery on the shoulder last winter. Kemp was an absolute monster in 2011 (168 wRC+ and 8.4 fWAR) and excellent in 2012 (146 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR) despite missing more than 50 games with hamstring problems. He is owed $128M through 2019 and comes with a $20M annual luxury tax hit.
A trade for Kemp would be complicated for several reasons. First of all, what do the Dodgers want in return? I doubt they’d take prospects; they’re a win now team and probably want a third baseman or a starter, two things the Yankees don’t have to offer. Second, there’s the money. If Los Angeles kicks in enough cash to make him a $16-17M a year player instead of $20M, Kemp would be way more appealing. Third, those injuries. These aren’t bumps and bruises, it’s serious stuff. That said, the upside is insane. He just turned 29 in September and could legitimately be one of the five best players in baseball if healthy. Trading for Kemp is a great idea that might be too complicated to actually pull off. · (24) ·
Last night, the Yankees made the single biggest upgrade they could have made this winter by agreeing to sign Brian McCann. They got close to nothing from their catchers last season and now they have one of the four or five best in baseball. McCann still has to pass a physical before the deal becomes official, and while that isn’t expected to be much of an issue, he did have surgery to repair his left shoulder last October. The team needs to take a good look at that. Here’s some other stuff I have to add.
1. Five years and $85M is pretty much exactly what I expected McCann to receive and probably a bit of a bargain in the current market. I mentioned in the Scouting The Market post that the bidding could get so out of hand — lots of big market teams need catching help (Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, etc.) — that it could take a sixth guaranteed year to land him, but the Yankees were able to avoid that. There is a vesting option, however. This is the third largest catcher contract in history behind Joe Mauer (eight years, $184M) and Mike Piazza (seven years, $91M), but it’s the largest free agent catcher contract ever. The previous free agent record was Jorge Posada‘s four-year, $52.4M deal prior to 2008. Good catchers are never available. This is also the largest contract the Yankees have given out since signing Mark Teixeira. As for the draft pick … who cares? I have no problem giving up a first rounder for a player of McCann’s caliber. The full no-trade clause bothers me more than the pick, but whatever.
2. The contract will count as $17M towards the luxury tax threshold these next five years, so, based on my most recent (unofficial) payroll breakdown, the Yankees still have about $27M left to spend this winter. They have to re-sign Robinson Cano with that money, so it’s not as much as it seems. Of course, that $27M would become roughly $61M if Alex Rodriguez is suspended for all of next season, but that’s hardly a guarantee at this point. If he’s suspended only 50 games, it still jump to $35.5M or so. The McCann contract means one of three things: a) the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold went out the winter, b) they’re going to let Cano walk, or c) they’re confident A-Rod will get suspended. After adding McCann, I don’t see how they can realistically re-sign Cano and stay under the threshold without Alex getting suspended. I mean, it could be done, but they would have very little to spend the rest of the winter. Some payroll shenanigans are afoot.
3. Although I think the Yankees should hang onto their catching prospects unless they get an overwhelming offer, I certainly understand the idea of trading one to help the team elsewhere. Gary Sanchez is the best prospect of the bunch but I actually like J.R. Murphy more as a no-doubt long-term catcher and think he is the best bet to take over behind the plate whenever McCann makes the transition to first base/DH. Assuming Frankie Cervelli serves as the backup next season, Murphy could spend the year with Triple-A Scranton (only played 59 games there last year) before starting a Joe Girardi/Jorge Posada-esque apprenticeship in 2015. That would make Austin Romine trade bait even though he probably has the lowest trade value of the trio. Still, young catching is hard to find and the Yankees should have no trouble finding a taker for Romine if they indeed decide to move one of their young backstops. I’d hang onto them just a bit longer though. None are sure things and catching depth can disappear in a hurry.
4. I’ve been messing around with batted ball distances these last few weeks — wrote this recently — because I think it’s pretty interesting, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet. I’m not sure how predictive it is or anything like that. It is fun to look at though. Courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps, here is every ball McCann has hit in the air since 2007, when the data started being recorded:
The vertical clusters are individual seasons (2007-2013 from left to right) and each red dot is a batted ball hit in the air, meaning a fly ball, a line drive, or a pop-up. Doesn’t matter if it went over the fence, fell in for a hit, or was caught for an out. If it was hit in the air, it’s in the graph. As you can see, McCann’s average batted ball distance (the black line) has been relatively unchanged over the years. I did add the blue line at 350 feet to show he didn’t hit the ball that far as frequently as he once did these last two years. That coincides with his right (front when hitting) shoulder problems, and there is some evidence suggesting an injury to the front shoulder can sap a hitter’s power for a few years or, in some cases, permanently. This doesn’t mean McCann is doomed or anything, he was a very productive hitter this past season, I just thought it was interesting.
5. So what’s next? Aside from getting Cano locked up, of course. The Yankees still need help at third base and in right field, but I think pitching is the biggest item on the agenda right now. Brian Cashman said they’re looking to add two starters this winter and that’s easier said than done. It doesn’t sound like Masahiro Tanaka will be posted anytime soon, but they could target a cheap-ish second or third tier guy to at least get the ball rolling. I’ve come around quite a bit on Scott Feldman (3.86 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 181.2 innings in 2013) and think he’d be a real solid pickup at the right price. The FanGraphs crowdsourcing and Jim Bowden (who’s been ridiculously accurate so far) both expect him to sign a deal worth right around $9M annually this winter, which is more than fair (and probably a bargain) for a number three-ish starter in this market. Landing someone like that solidifies the rotation while leaving enough money (assuming A-Rod is suspended) for Tanaka or Hiroki Kuroda or someone like that. Either way, pitching stands out as the biggest need now.
Do you really need the numbers to grasp how poorly the Yankees performed at catcher in 2013? In case you did: .587 OPS, which ranked 12 out of 14 in the AL, nearly .080 points lower than the next-highest team. They did have a few bright spots, including Francisco Cervelli‘s productive month and Chris Stewart staying hot for a bit, but by the end of the season the Yankees’ catchers were cooked. Stewart, a backup at best, was run down from starting, Austin Romine had gotten hurt (again), and J.R. Murphy was what you’d expect from a late-season call-up.
Tonight, the Yankees addressed their most glaring need, signing Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal that includes a sixth-year vesting option that could make the deal worth $100 million. McCann, 30 in February, will add some much-needed pop at catcher, perhaps recreating the days of Jorge Posada behind the plate.
The upgrade from Stewart, Romine, Cervelli, and Murphy to McCann speaks for itself. Last season, as McCann recovered from shoulder surgery, he produced a .796 OPS, 115 OPS+, in 402 PA. That lines up pretty well with his career numbers (117 OPS+). That OPS alone would have put the Yankees at third in the AL in OPS, behind only Minnesota (Mauer) and Cleveland (Santana). But that doesn’t tell the entire story.
McCann, a lefty, pairs perfectly with Francisco Cervelli, a righty who has excelled against lefties. True, his entire career against lefties amounts to a hair under 200 PA, but he’s more than done his job in those opportunities (.302/.402/.389). If he can squat behind the plate when the Yankees face left-handed pitching, it’s the perfect catching combination. McCann not only saves the wear and tear of catching for a third of the season, but he’ll be available to DH — and he’s produced a .744 career OPS against lefties.
Left-handed power hitters are always welcome at Yankee Stadium, and McCann’s swing appears tailor-made for the short porch. Even in his poor 2012 he produced a .344 wOBA when pulling the ball, and in two of the last three years he has just murdered the ball when pulling. Combine that with a difference in home parks — there’s a huge right-center gap at Turner Field — and it seems like an ideal fit from an offensive standpoint.
The money involved has more than a few fans up in arms. At five years and $85 million, it’s certainly a large outlay by the Yankees. It’s tough to analyze this without knowing their intentions re: Plan 189. If they do plan to come in under the luxury tax threshold in 2014, it’ll be even more interesting to see how they fill the roster. For the time being, let’s just consider this the Yankees getting aggressive in order to nail their No. 1 priority. Who knows what else is at play? All we know now is that the Yankees have more money than any other team, and that they’ve spent it on a player that will make them considerably better.
Much of the outcry regarding McCann involves his age and his position. He turns 30 in February, which is not a good sign for a catcher, at least anecdotally. Again, if the Yankees can continue trotting out a backup who can hit left-handed pitching, they can limit McCann’s exposure behind the plate, making up the PA at DH or even 1B, a position he said he’d be open to learn. He did suffer a shoulder injury in 2012 that sapped his production and kept him out during the first month of 2013, but it does appear he’s recovered from that. Assuming he’s healthy now, proper management could go a long way to keeping him on the field, and behind the plate, for the next five years.
It’s difficult to understate how poorly the Yankees fared at catcher in 2013. Signing McCann provides the greatest upgrade they could have acquired this off-season. There are concerns, as there are with any free agent signing. But given the upside of the deal, and the Yankees’ apparent ability to spend, this deal stands a decent chance of working out for them.
Discussion to be reconvened in January, when we see what else the Yankees have done to augment and upgrade the roster.
Evan Grant reports that the Yankees are on the verge of a deal with catcher Brian McCann. More to come, obviously.
Update: Ken Rosenthal notes that while the Yankees are in “serious” discussions with McCann, a deal is not close yet. We’ll see how quickly this develops.
Update: Now Rosenthal says that the deal is close, for five years and more than $80 million. For what it’s worth, a guy who told me about this deal a half hour before Grant broke it said 4/89 with a vesting option for a fifth, so I’m guessing the 5/89 figure is pretty close.
Update: Rosenthal has the deal at 5 years, $85 million with a sixth year vesting option that would bring the deal to $100 million.
Update: Jon Heyman reports that McCann gets a full no-trade clause. I’m figuring every big-name free agent signing with a large-market team will get one of these. · (229) ·
As you know, the Yankees lost a frickin’ ton of players to injury this past season. Important players too. Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter missed essentially the entire year, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson both missed over 100 games, Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner missed huge chunks of time … on and on it goes. Never-ending, it seems.
Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs posted injury data for 2013 and, believe it or not, the Yankees did not lose the most days to injury this year. They did lead baseball with 28 DL stints, but their 1,496 days lost trailed both the Marlins (1,538) and Braves (1,536). The Royals only lost 461 days to injury this past season. Must be nice.
Of course, tons of injuries are nothing new for the Yankees. This chart really drives home the point:
That’s an average of 1,200 (!) or so days lost to injury over a four-year period. Obviously some percentage of the injury pie is just plain ol’ luck. Curtis Granderson having not one, but two bones broken by pitches this summer was bad luck. Andy Pettitte having his leg broken by a hard-hit ground ball last year was bad luck. It happens. The non-luck portion has to do with things like the team’s injury prevention strategies, the training staff, the age of the roster, etc. Age is definitely a factor — older players tend to get beat up a little bit more and they take longer to heal. The Yankees have an older roster by design and they have to deal with the injury consequences, that’s all. They make their own bed.
Health is something of a market inefficiency these days. It’s not just about who has the best players anymore. It’s about who has the best players and keeps them on the field the longest. A huge part of Robinson Cano‘s value is his durability. He’s not just a brilliant hitter and an excellent defensive player, but he plays every single day. Since he broke into the league in 2005, only Ichiro Suzuki, Miguel Cabrera, and Michael Young have played more games. Over the last five years, only Prince Fielder has played more. He’s amazing. The Yankees have struggled with injuries over the last few seasons and when it happens year after year, it’s not really a coincidence. Some teams have a knack for keeping players healthy, but New York is definitely not one of them.
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees never showed much interest in free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz before he agreed to re-sign with the Phillies. The Fightin’s gave him a three-year contract worth $26M with a club option for a fourth year earlier this week. New York had interest in acquiring the backstop prior to the trade deadline but was told he was not available.
Ruiz, 34, hit .268/.320/.368 (89 wRC+) with five homers in 341 plate appearances this past season after serving a 25-game amphetamine-related suspension. He managed a 128 wRC+ from 2010-2013 and is regarded as adequate defensively. The contract is probably a year too long but the salary is reasonable. The Yankees seem to be going in one of two directions behind the plate: either they’ll go big and sign Brian McCann or they’ll go cheap with Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, et al. The latter seems more likely given payroll restrictions. · (20) ·