Only five questions this week, and some of the answers are kinda short. We must have received about a dozen different variations of the first two questions. Great minds think alike, I hear. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Many people asked: What about Nick Franklin?

Now that Robinson Cano is locked in at second base for the next decade, the Mariners don’t have an obvious spot for the 22-year-old Franklin. He hit .225/.303/.382 (90 wRC+) with 12 homeruns and six stolen bases in 412 plate appearances this past season, his first taste of the show. Franklin is a switch-hitter who has always struggled against lefties, so much so that there’s been talk of making him hit exclusively left-handed. He’s the anti-Derek Jeter on defense — good amount of range but makes a lot of errors because he boots grounders and makes bad throws — and the total package is more solid regular than future All-Star.

Franklin has understandably been getting talked up as a trade chip since the Cano signing and the hype has surpassed reality, kinda like Mike Olt a year or so ago. He’s good but not truly great. The Yankees can use a young second baseman now and Franklin would certainly fit, though I don’t think the Mariners are ready to move him. They could always send him back to Triple-A and have him work at other positions or wait for a better offer. There’s no need to rush into a decision. I’m more intrigued by Dustin Ackley to be honest, because at least there’s All-Star caliber talent hiding in their somewhere. I’d rather see New York buy super low on him and hand him over to Kevin Long than pay market rate for Franklin. Franklin fits a need, no doubt, but I feel like there’s a disconnect between what he actually is and how he’s being valued.

Many people asked: What about moving Alfonso Soriano to second base?

This ain’t happening. Soriano hasn’t played second base at all since 2009 or regularly since 2005, and, in case you forgot, he was pretty terrible there. We saw it firsthand from 2001-2003. He wasn’t Eduardo Nunez bad, but he misplayed a lot of balls on the infield during his time there. Soriano is going to be 38 next month and he’s played 3.2 innings at second base over the last eight years. This isn’t even something the Yankees can seriously consider.

Andrew asks: Will Dean Anna be competing for a MLB roster spot in Spring Training or was he added purely for depth in the minors? I have not heard any discussion about him being a potential 2B option for the Yanks.

Can’t it be both, compete for a job in camp and be added for depth? The Yankees have an open position player spot right now — could be two if they cut one of Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki — and that figures to go to whatever infielder they acquire in the coming weeks. If they don’t add an infielder, Anna probably has to beat out Nunez for a roster spot. For some reason the incumbent always seems to have up in these competitions. I’m intrigued by Anna’s on-base skills and like him as an up-and-down depth player, but if he makes the team out of camp as even a semi-regular at second, something probably went wrong somewhere.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Andy asks: Can you make up what a potential Yankees line-up would look like now? Against both lefties and righties.

Given the roster as it sits today, meaning no obvious second/third baseman, here are the lineups I would run out there:

                  vs. RHP                   vs. LHP
1.   CF Jacoby Ellsbury 1.   CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2.   LF Brett Gardner 2.   SS Derek Jeter
3.   RF Carlos Beltran 3.   1B Mark Teixeira
4.   C Brian McCann 4.   DH Alfonso Soriano
5.   DH Alfonso Soriano 5.   RF Carlos Beltran
6.   1B Mark Teixeira 6.   C Frankie Cervelli
7.   3B Kelly Johnson 7.   3B Kelly Johnson
8.   SS Derek Jeter 8.   2B Brendan Ryan
9.   2B Brendan Ryan 9.   LF Brett Gardner

You and I both know Jeter will bat second against righties and lefties as long as he’s healthy. That’s just the way it is. I would bat him lower in the order against righties until he shows he can hit them, however. The Cap’n had a 99 wRC+ against same-side pitchers even during his big bounceback 2012 season, so I’m skeptical about what he can do at his age and following what amounts to a lost season.

Ellsbury and Gardner had almost identical batting averages (.246 vs. 247) and on-base percentages (.317 vs. .323) against lefties last season, but Gardner hit for much more power (.071 vs. .180 ISO). That doesn’t really jibe with the rest of his career though. Ellsbury and Gardner have identical career 96 wRC+ against southpaws, so the tiebreaker goes to the guy who will steal 40+ bases no questions asked (who also happens to have a $153M contract). Batting Gardner ninth instead of eighth against lefties allows him to serve as a second leadoff man, so to speak.

The rest is pretty straight forward, right? Soriano was awesome last year but McCann is the (much) better hitter against right-handers, which is why I have him batting cleanup against righties. I’d use a straight splatoon at catcher as a way to give McCann regular time off as well. He’s going to need the rest, it comes with the territory, so you might as well rest him against southpaws and get Frankie in there. Jeter and Teixeira still mash left-handers (or at least they did the last time they were healthy), making them a natural fit for the two-three spots against southpaws.

Laying the lineup out like this makes it easy to see how much the team needs a second or third baseman, preferably a righty bat. Those lineups would look so much better if they moved Ryan to the bench, shifted Johnson to second, and had someone like Mark Reynolds to bat seventh or eighth, no?

Jon asks: Explain the minor league Rule 5 Draft. How could you just lose players for $12,000? How many could you protect? Could the Yankees have chosen players from other minor league teams for $12,000 or did their lack of room on the 40-man roster prevent it?

The lack of 40-man space has nothing to do with the ability to make picks in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The minor league phase is pretty complicated, so I’ll direct you to this J.J. Cooper explanation. I don’t even fully understand it. All I know is that if you take a player in the minor league phase, he’s yours to keep. Those guys do not have to go through the same roster hoops as the players drafted in the Major League portion. The Rule 5 Draft exists as a way to give players an opportunity with a new organization if they’re buried or overlooked by their current team, and, for the most part, it accomplishes that goal.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (144)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The final day of the lamest Winter Meetings I can remember is upon us. The Rule 5 Draft starts the day — J.J. Cooper has a preview, including notes on several Yankees farmhands who figure to be selected — but the Yankees do not have an open 40-man roster, so they won’t be able to make a pick. Clubs and their executives tend to leave around midday Thursday, so don’t expect there to be many rumors or transactions in the afternoon. For shame.

Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. Late last night we learned the Yankees rejected a Brett Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips trade offer from the Reds, who are looking to unload their second baseman and the $50M left on his contract. We’re going to keep track of Thursday’s worthwhile rumors right here. All times are ET.

  • 9:26pm: The Yankees were involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before he was dealt to the Rockies. [Susan Slusser]
  • 5:31pm: While talking to Johan Santana’s agent, Brian Cashman showed some interest in hard-throwing but not-always-strike-throwing reliever Henry Rodriguez. [David Waldstein]
  • 5:28pm: The Yankees made their offer to Infante after Robinson Cano agreed to sign with the Mariners and before the Winter Meetings, which basically means last weekend. [Olney]
  • 2:49pm: Apparently there was a three way trade being discussed involving Gardner, Justin Masterson, and Didi Gregorius. Gardner would have wound up with the Indians, Masterson with the Diamondbacks, and Gregorius with the Yankees. Huh. [Sweeny Murti]
  • 1:10pm: Mark Ellis is “on the radar” as an Infante alternative for the Yankees. I looked at him as a possible target yesterday. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 12:20pm: The team’s offer to Infante is in the three-year, $24M range. He’s seeking four years and $40M. [Sherman]
  • 12:09pm: The Yankees have offered Omar Infante a three-year contract. He is still holding out for a fourth year. The Royals are in the mix as well. [Jon Heyman]
  • 9:00am: Future talks about Gardner and Phillips could be expanded to include other players, but the Yankees have essentially told teams they will only trade Gardner for a starting pitcher. They listened on Phillips out of due diligence. [C. Trent Rosecrans & Joel Sherman]
  • Masahiro Tanaka remains the team’s top pitching priority. The new posting system is expected to be ratified soon but it’ll probably be another week or so before we find out whether Tanaka will actually be posted. Maybe longer. [George King]
  • The Yankees are one of Joaquin Benoit’s likeliest destinations along with the Indians, Padres, Mariners, and Cubs. He’s seeking $7-10M annually across multiple years. Matt looked at Benoit as a free agent target earlier this week. [Jeff Passan & Buster Olney]
  • While talking to reporters yesterday, Brian Cashman said the pool of available of second baseman is “deeper” than it is at third. He also said he has not spoken to a bullpen candidate who demanded the closer’s job. [Chad Jennings]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Comments (96)

The 2013 Winter Meetings are over. The Yankees didn’t make any moves these last few days but there were a bunch of rumors, most involving Brett Gardner. I’m glad the team values him as much as they apparently do and have set a high price. It would have been very easy to pull the trigger on that Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips offer, and heck, it sounds exactly like something they would have done about ten years ago. The countdown in the sidebar says we’re two months and two days away from pitchers and catchers reporting. Lots of time to fix that pitching staff and the infield.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Lions and Broncos are the Thursday NFL game, plus the Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing. Talk about those games, the Winter Meetings, or anything else right here. Enjoy.

(Not ashamed to admit I can’t wait to see the (latest) Godzilla remake.)

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (55)
  • Teixeira hopes to return to game action during first week of March
    By

    During a recent appearance on the YES Network (video link), Mark Teixeira laid out his rehab plan as he works his way back from season-ending wrist surgery. He’ll be performing strengthening exercises through the end of the month, start swinging a bat in January, start hitting 90+ mph pitches in February, then resume full workouts when Spring Training begins. He will be a bit behind the other position players in camp but hopes to get into his first Grapefruit League game during the first week of March.

    “That first game, against Justin Verlander in Lakeland, he throws me a 95-mph fastball on the inside part of the plate, I want to drop the head (of the bat) on the ball. Even if I don’t get a hit or get a homerun off it, I want to know that I can make a really strong, quick move on an inside fastball at 95 mph, and have no pain, no tightness. Once I do that, then I’ll know that I’ll be fine for the season,” said Teixeira. The 33-year-old missed all but 15 games of this past season with wrist problems. Jose Bautista rebounded well from the same wrist surgery, which is a positive sign, but the Yankees need Teixeira to come back and have an impact in the middle of their lineup this season. The upgrade he represents over Lyle Overbay is significant but not guaranteed until he’s actually healthy and out on the field.
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(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It appears that Phil Hughes and Johan Santana simply couldn’t be in the Bronx at the same time. In 2007 the Yankees declined to include Hughes in a trade for the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner. Now that they’re both free agents, could Hughes and Santana effectively make that swap? Hughes has already signed with the Twins. According to ESPN NY, the Yankees have interest in signing Santana.

Any potential deal would come towards the end of the off-season, as the Yankees fill out their non-roster invitee list. Santana might be a household name, but at this point he doesn’t warrant a guaranteed contract. After missing all of last season, and all of 2011, with shoulder injuries. Those have been the kiss of death for so many pitchers that any amount of guaranteed money could be essentially flushed down the toilet. The only way to justify a rotation spot for Santana is to watch him first-hand in spring training.

While shoulder injuries spell trouble for all pitchers, Santana at least has one mitigating factor: he’s pitched reasonably well with diminished velocity. Through his first 16 starts in 2011 he threw 98 innings to a 2.76 ERA, holding opponents to a .618 OPS. While the narrative is that he fell apart after he threw the first no-hitter in Mets history, he did have quite a few good starts after that (12 ER in 30 IP) before completely falling apart in July. It’s not much of a stretch to speculate that his shoulder started becoming a problem right around that time.

The Yankees aren’t the only team with interest in a potential Santana resurgence. Both his former teams, the Twins and Mets, have expressed interest, as have the Rays, Orioles, Royals, Brewers, and Pirates. With that many teams in the hunt, there’s a non-zero chance that one team makes the crazy move of giving Santana a guaranteed contract. His agent, Peter Greenberg, has indicated that if a team does offer a guarantee, Santana could sign now. Absent one, he’ll throw in January for interested teams. At that point teams will get a better idea, and one could certainly offer a guaranteed contract.

The Johan Santana who dazzled the league for years with his devastating changeup is long gone. He started his fade in 2009, and by 2011 he was completely gone. This is a different Santana, one dealing with physical limitations. Yet he has shown, for at least half a season in 2011, that he has the ability to succeed even with diminished stuff. A second shoulder surgery certainly changes things, but Santana is still worth a peek, at least. I wouldn’t bet on the Yankees coming away with him, but in a search for low-cost, potentially valuable assets, they could do a lot worse.

Categories : Musings
Comments (53)
  • It’s official: Cano’s a Mariner
    By

    Just in case you were hoping things would fall apart at the last moment, the Mariners have officially announced the signing of Robinson Cano. The press conference is later this evening and will probably be on MLB Network, if you’re interested. Here’s a photo of him in Mariners garb. “I want to thank all my fans in New York for an amazing nine years. It was truly an honor to play for you,” said Cano is a statement.

    The Yankees receive a supplemental first round pick for Cano, but it will be forfeited once the Carlos Beltran deal is official. It’s been real, Robbie.
    · (77) ·

The Yankees have done most of their offseason heavy lifting and are now left with a very specific set of needs: second or third baseman, starting pitcher, and a reliever or two. Those are the most pressing items and rightfully so. The Yankees also need to improve their overall depth — we saw how important that is this past season thanks to all the injuries — and they’ve started doing that with the recent Dean Anna, Russ Canzler, Yamaico Navarro, and Brian Gordon pickups.

Late last night, Bob Nightengale reported the Mariners have made both Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero available in trades following their two first base/DH additions (Corey Hart and Logan Morrison). Smoak has been pretty awful in parts of four seasons now, with almost 500 games and 2,000 plate appearances telling us he’s a replacement level first baseman. Montero has been awful in the show as well, but the sample size is way smaller (182 games and 732 plate appearances) and he’s three years younger than Smoak. Does a reunion make sense? Let’s look, starting with the negatives.

The Cons

  • Montero, who turned 24 last month, just hasn’t hit these last two years with Seattle. He put up a .260/.298/.386 (90 wRC+) line with 15 homers in 553 plate appearances last season and a .208/.264/.327 (62 wRC+) line with three homers in 110 plate appearances this year. The Mariners sent back to Triple-A this summer, where he hit .247/.317/.425 (93 wRC+) in 19 games. His batted ball distance plot isn’t encouraging and he doesn’t draw walks (6.0%) or lay off pitches out of the zone (36.7% chase rate).
  • Big league righties have eaten Montero up. He hit just .227/.263/.347 (68 wRC+) with a 19.9% strikeout rate and a 44.4% ground ball rate against same-side pitchers with the Mariners these last two seasons. That’s terrible.
  • Montero is not a catcher, as we heard time and time again over the years. He threw out only 13 of 94 (13.8%) base-stealers from 2012-2013 and rated as a terrible pitch-framer. Montero ranked as one of the game’s overall worst defensive catchers in 2012 and 2013.
  • Montero can’t run at all. He has never stolen a base in the big leagues (been caught in all three attempts) and he’s taken the extra-base just 20% of the time. That’s basically half the league average. Molina-esque speed.
  • Injuries have been a problem. He missed close to two months this year after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, and back during his minor league days he missed time with a broken finger (2009) and an ankle debridement (2010).
  • Montero was suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis back in August and performance-enhancing drugs raise questions. The Yankees always had concerns about his makeup and work ethic, benching him several times for lack of hustle and insubordination throughout his minor league career.

The Pros

  • Montero, a right-handed batter, has done very well against big league lefties. Over the last two seasons with Seattle, he hit .300/.351/.435 (119 wRC+) against southpaws with a 14.7% strikeout rate. Montero doesn’t strike out a ton in general, just 18.7%, slightly better than the league average rate.
  • He still has the opposite field swing that was seemingly made for Yankee Stadium (spray chart). Almost three-quarters (73.0% to be exact) of Montero’s balls in play over the last two years have been hit to center and right field. That’ll play in the Bronx.
  • The Mariners shifted Montero to first base when they sent him to Triple-A at midseason and he has played the position on occasion in the past, mostly during winter ball workouts. He can’t catch but the transition to first is underway.
  • Montero has at least one and likely two minor league options remaining, so sending him down to Triple-A won’t be an issue. He will not be arbitration-eligible until after 2015 and a free agent until after 2018 at the earliest.
  • Montero made it no secret he wanted to play for the Yankees and was reportedly pretty torn up when he was traded away. I guess wanting to wear pinstripes is a positive.

The trade has been a disaster for both the Yankees and Mariners so far, and let’s not kid ourselves here, there isn’t much to like about Montero at this point. He hasn’t hit since September 2011 and he doesn’t really have a position, plus there are long-standing questions about his work ethic. And he just got popped for PEDs. You’ve really gotta squint your eyes to find some positives. If it wasn’t for the “he’s Jesus Montero and he used to be an awesome prospect for my favorite team” aspect, we probably wouldn’t think twice about him.

The Yankees don’t have a first base prospect at Triple-A (or Double-A, for that matter) and Montero is basically a reclamation project. Maybe getting him away from the Mariners — they’ve seen nearly all of their top position player prospects fall short of expectations (Kyle Seager is the obvious exception) in recent years — and back with the minor league coaches and instructors who helped make him one of the game’s very best prospects back in the day can get his career back on track. It’s a long shot obviously, and remember, we’re talking about a guy who is likely nothing more than a part-time first baseman, part-time DH if it comes together.

I don’t know what it would take to acquire Montero, but it’s clear the Mariners have soured on him. How could they not? The Yankees know him as well as anyone and that may not necessarily lead to the trade, in fact it could lead to the exact opposite. They might steer clear entirely. The fanboy in me says hell yes, go get him and let’s rock. The rest of me says if he comes cheap enough, maybe for a similar post-hype broken prospect (Eduardo Nunez? Austin Romine?), then sure, go for it. I couldn’t give up much more than that, not for a guy with so many red flags and no real position. The Yankees would have the flexibility to send Montero to minors to work on things, but he simply might not be salvageable at this point.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Kahnle. (Robert Pimpsner)

Kahnle. (Robert Pimpsner)

The Yankees lost five total players in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, most notably Double-A RHP Tommy Kahnle. He was taken by the Rockies with the fourth overall selection. In a nutshell, New York receives a $50k fee and Kahnle must now stick on Colorado’s active 25-man roster all of next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to place him on waivers and then offer him back to the Yankees before being able to send him to the minors.

Kahnle, 24, was the team’s fifth round pick in the 2010 draft, out of Lynn University in Florida. They gave him $150k to turn pro. Kahnle had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (11.10 K/9 and 28.8 K%) and a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9 and 17.5 BB%) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton this summer. He throws very hard, regularly running his fastball up to 97-98, but he lacks a good offspeed pitch and his control is shaky at best. The Yankees offered him in trades for Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young before the deadline earlier this year.

The four players the Yankees lost in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft are OF Ravel Santana (Astros), RHP Mikey O’Brien (Reds), RHP Felipe Gonzalez (Pirates), and converted infielder RHP Kelvin Castro (Marlins). Santana is the big name here because he was once one of the team’s very best prospects. Injuries — most notably a shattered ankle in 2011 and a broken arm in 2013 — have hampered his development. The 21-year-old had a 157 wRC+ with the Rookie GCL Yankees in 2011, an 83 wRC+ with Short Season Staten Island in 2012, and then did not play in 2013.

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. The players do not have to stick on a certain roster all year, they simply become their new team’s properly. The Astros essentially purchased Santana from the Yankees for the $12k fee. Same applies to the other three guys taken in the minor league portion.

The Yankee left several other interesting relief arms — RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Fred Lewis, specifically — exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but none were selected. The Bombers have a full 40-man roster and were not able to make a pick themselves. The full Rule 5 Draft results can be seen here.

Categories : Transactions
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Nope. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Nope. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

It appears there will be at least one more mention of Brandon Phillips. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Yankees rejected a Cincinnati Reds offer of Phillips for Brett Gardner. By itself that makes enough sense. While Gardner and Phillips produce their offensive value in different ways, it amounts to a similar run value. The only advantage Phillips holds is that he plays a position the Yankees need, which hardly seems to make up for the $46 million difference in salaries owed ($7 million in 2014).

The difference in salary would have actually been far greater in any potential grade. Heyman goes onto say that, when the Reds approached him about a deal, Phillips asked them to re-open his contract and add money. That’s quite a bold move after the kind of season Phillips had in 2013. It also comes as little surprise. From Day 1 it seems Phillips was unhappy with his contract, especially since it came just after teammate Joey Votto signed a $225 million deal. He got a no-trade clause in his deal, and apparently intends to leverage it.

Heyman says that Philips’s request came before the Yankees rejected the offer, so perhaps that was the kicker. Still, even a one-for-one swap seems a bit odd. The Yankees seemingly have a surplus in the outfield and a deficit at second base, but the issue is a bit more complex than that. For instance, are they really going to either 1) count on Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran full-time in the outfield corners or 2) go out and sign or trade for a fourth outfielder? Neither of those scenarios seems ideal. While Gardner doesn’t profile as a typical left fielder, he’s performed well there in the past. His bat isn’t as bad as people think — it’s in the top two-thirds of outfielders since the 2010 season.

There’s plenty of off-season left, and the Yankees, as Cashman says, are ready to rock n roll. This likely isn’t the last we’ll hear about a Gardner-for-Phillips swap. Hopefully any further overtures end with the same rejection.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (44)
  • Cashman confirms Dellin Betances has a minor league option for 2014
    By

    While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Brian Cashman confirmed Dellin Betances qualified for a fourth minor league option for the 2014 season. I have no idea why he was granted one at this point of his career; the rules are complicated. “I’m sure he’s not all that pumped about it, but it’s a good thing for us,” said the GM.

    Betances, 25, was thought to be out of options — he burned his three options from 2011-2013 — following this past season, meaning he could not be sent to the minors next year without first passing through waivers. He was expected to win a bullpen spot out of camp for that very reason. Betances found a niche in relief last summer, but having the flexibility to send him down next year is obviously pretty big. Now they won’t have to keep him in the big leagues almost by default.
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