Stark: Yankees called about Jimmy Rollins, moved on because price was too high


The Yankees called the Phillies to inquire about the availability of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but they moved on because the price was so high, reports Jayson Stark. Phils GM Ruben Amaro confirmed Rollins was not asked to waive his no-trade clause and called him “one of best shortstops in baseball still” and “somebody we want on our club.”

Rollins, who turns 36 tomorrow, hit .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers and 28 steals in 34 attempts (82% success rate) this past season. His defense at short continues to rate as a bit above-average. Rollins is under contract for $11M next year and will become a free agent after the season, so he’s a pure rental. He’s expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause in the past, so that might not be much of an obstacle.

Amaro has reportedly annoyed his fellow GMs with high asking prices and an unwillingness to negotiate — he also blamed other teams for his inactivity at the trade deadline — so there’s no guarantee the asking price for Rollins will come down later in the winter. Rollins does make sense as a one-year shortstop stopgap though — he’s better than Stephen Drew and can contribute on both sides of the ball — but not at any price. Maybe Amaro will come to his senses in a few weeks.

Update: For what it’s worth, ZiPS projects a .248/.314/.386 (92 OPS+) batting line and 2.4 WAR for Rollins in 2015. That represents like a four-win upgrade over what the Yankees got from the shortstop position this past season. It was that bad.

Update II: Stark says the Yankees offered the Phillies a “utility player” for Rollins and it wasn’t nearly enough. So Brendan Ryan? Jose Pirela? Zelous Wheeler before he went to Japan? Intrigue!

Heyman: Yankees only willing to give Chase Headley three years

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

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are not willing to give third baseman Chase Headley anything longer than a three-year contract. Obviously this could all be posturing at this point. Heyman says the Giants have contacted Headley after losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox earlier this week, and supposedly the Indians, Blue Jays, and Padres have shown some level of interest as well.

If the Yankees are truly only willing to go three years for Headley, then in all likelihood they’ll be playing Martin Prado at third base in 2015. Heyman says Headley rejected a three-year, $39M extension from San Diego back in the spring, so you know he’s aiming higher. Sandoval, who is a comparable player, just got five years with an option for a sixth. Headley’s probably going to get a bunch of three years offer and wind up signing with the first team to step forward and offer that fourth guaranteed year.

Playing Prado at third base is not bad in and of itself, but I see Headley at third and Prado at second as a way better plan than Prado at third and either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder at second. The more Major League caliber players, the better. Whenever someone inevitably gets hurt, Prado can change positions to cover for the injury and then either Pirela or Refsnyder can take over at second. The Yankees can’t count on Alex Rodriguez to play third at all. At least not until he shows he can do it in camp.

The best third baseman scheduled to hit free agency next year is David Freese. The best the year after that will be 37-year-old Adrian Beltre. Headley is the best third basemen who will be available for nothing but money for the foreseeable future. If the Yankees aren’t comfortable with going more than three years for him, fine, but the only way they’ll get a better player in the next two or three years is by dipping into their farm system and making a trade.

Should the Yankees give Chase Headley more than three years?

On the Yankees and the prospect of a $500M payroll

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

As you’ve surely seen by now, Kiley McDaniel recently wrote about the ways the Yankees use their financial might to secure top minor league free agents, such as Yangervis Solarte last year. Buried deep within that story was this little nugget about the team’s finances:

A Yankees source told me they could break even financially with a $500 million payroll expenditure (including luxury tax) …

Whoa! That’s one hell of a buried lede. McDaniel used to work for the Yankees back in the day so I’m sure he still has connections in the front office and whatnot. That’s not something you can just make up and drop in a story, not if you want to be taken seriously.

Anyway, I can’t even wrap my head around a $500M payroll. That’s $20M per 25-man roster spot or $12.5M per 40-man roster spot. Since the $500M would include luxury tax, the actual team payroll would be $396.3M plus a $103.7M luxury tax bill. That’s over $100M for nothing, just washed away into MLB’s central fund. The Yankees could do that and break even, supposedly.

Now, that said, I’m not totally sure I buy the Yankees being able to support a $500M payroll, at least not on an annual basis. Maybe they could do it once and get away with it, but year after year? At this point, with attendance and ratings on the decline and the postseason far from a given, the revenue streams aren’t what they were a few years ago. I don’t have access to the team’s books, so what the hell do I know, but a $500M payroll seems a little outrageous at the moment.

The Yankees hit the point of diminishing returns a few years ago — every additional dollar they spent on the roster was bringing fewer actual wins in the standings. Baseball is a zero-sum game, there are only so many wins to go around each year. Spend $500M on players and you’d presumably have a great lineup with a great rotation and a great bullpen. That makes you … the 1998 Yankees in the best case scenario? The best teams still only win something like 105-110 games a year at the most. That’s baseball.

But let’s have fun with this for a second. Say the Yankees were going to up payroll to $500M next year. That gives them roughly $190M to spend this winter when you consider their existing commitments and the luxury tax. That $190M could buy them Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Chase Headley, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy, Melky Cabrera, Yoan Moncada, and a bunch of lesser guys. They could also pay Alex Rodriguez to go away. They’d already be flushing $100M down the drain in luxury tax, so why not make it $120M? The team would be limited by roster size, not necessarily dollars.

Know what else would limit the Yankees? The talent pool. They could have all the money in the world to spend, but the free agent class is the free agent class. Better free agents won’t just magically appear. Sure, the Yankees could use that big payroll to take on big contracts in trades, but the only contracts teams look to move are the bad ones. (MLB frowns on buying players from another team, in case you’re wondering). Troy Tulowitzki has six years and $118M left on his deal. That’s not bad in a world where Pablo Sandoval gets five years and $95M. Why would the Rockies just give him away for salary relief?

I’m sure more than a few people read the line in McDaniel’s story and wondered why the Yankees don’t just spend $500M on payroll. First and foremost, remember they are a for profit business. They aren’t trying to break even. Secondly, a payroll that size comes with a lot of wasted dollars (in luxury tax) that don’t appreciably improve their chances of winning the World Series. It’ll add more regular season wins, sure, but only so many. They could add the same number without bumping payroll that high. The $500M is an extreme example, not a sustainable model for the Yankees or any team.

At some point in the near future, every team will have a payroll over $100M and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets to $500M. It’ll probably be the Yankees and I hope I’m around to see it. Spending that kind of money in this age, with free agency what it is and revenue presumably not what it once was, a $500M payroll doesn’t make much business sense for the Yankees. It sure is fun to think about though.

Introducing the RAB Daily Digest – Sign Up Today

A couple of weeks ago we asked you for some feedback regarding the preferred delivery time for a RAB Daily Digest email. Now it’s time to actually start sending out that daily email.

A near majority of you prefer email delivery first thing in the morning, so you can expect this email to hit your inboxes at 6 a.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday. If this proves popular enough, and people want different delivery options (an evening regurgitation of the day’s posts, a Sunday edition, etc.), we’ll consider expansion. But for now, we’re sticking with the one daily email, first thing, five days a week.

What will you get in this daily emaiL?

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As with any project, this will start rough and adapt as we go. We’ll respond to your thoughts and recommendations and hopefully create a neat new entity for RAB.

So why not give us a shot and sign up? Worst case, you click that Unsubscribe link and go about your day. Best case, we can talk about the Yankees in perhaps a different way.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Buster Olney (subs. req’d) continued looking at the top ten players at each position today with left field. (He looked at third base two days ago but no Yankees were on it, because duh.) Michael Brantley topped the list, which I don’t necessarily agree with despite his huge year. Alex Gordon and Justin Upton round out the top three. Brett Gardner made the list at No. 8, between my boy Christian Yelich and J.D. Martinez. Yelich is so, so good. Gardner’s pretty cool too.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local hockey or basketball team in action, though I’m sure there’s college basketball on somewhere as well. Talk about the game’s top left fielders, the Devils game, the new Jurassic World trailer, or anything else right here.

Joe’s Shameless Promotion

Also, if you want to get some quick holiday shopping done before everyone goes nuts this weekend, the MLB Shop (and by extension the RAB Shop) is offering a buy one, get one 50% off deal on caps and tees.

Buy One Get One 50% Off Caps & Tee Shirts. Valid 11/25 & 11/26 Only

2014 Season Review: Splits, Velocity and More

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Every year, when I jot down a list of topics for the season review series, I always end up with extra stuff that doesn’t get written. I’m nice and ambitious at the start but by the end I’m just ready for it to be over, so some stuff doesn’t get written up. This year I had a few talking points I wanted to write up mostly because I was interested to see the information myself, though the topics weren’t necessarily worth a full post of their own. So I’m going to lump them all together here. Here are some random statistical tidbits about the 2014 Yankees.

Home/Road Splits

The Yankees went only 43-38 at home this year and were actually outscored by 22 runs. That includes a ghastly 18-23 at home in the first half, so at least they improved at home after the All-Star break. The Yankees outscored their opponents by 1.002 runs per game at home during the first five years of the new Yankee Stadium, yet they were outscored in the Bronx in 2014.

The Bombers both hit and pitched marginally better at home than on the road this past season, at least on a rate basis. They scored fewer runs at home even though they hit slightly better in terms of OPS+. Here are the offense’s home/road numbers:

Home 2965 304 662 117 9 88 286 64 11 218 558 .247 .309 .396 .706 .280 97
Away 3117 329 687 130 17 59 305 48 15 234 575 .244 .305 .365 .669 .284 95
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, allowed 12 more runs on the road in 33 fewer innings pitched. Here’s the home/road splits for the pitching staff:

Home 3.66 743.0 712 326 302 97 199 15 734 28 17 3115 1.226 8.9 3.69
Away 3.84 710.0 680 338 303 67 199 8 636 37 32 2999 1.238 8.1 3.20
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

Opponents had a 104 OPS+ against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium but a 94 OPS+ against them on the road, so they did hit them harder in the Bronx. Yet it resulted in fewer runs allowed. The Yankees hit better at home than they did on the road, but scored fewer runs. They pitched better on the road than at home, but allowed more runs. Weird.

Platoon Splits

Once Alfonso Soriano showed he was cooked, the Yankees had very little right-handed power on the roster. Derek Jeter had zero pop and both Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran failed to make an impact from the right side of the plate. It wasn’t until the Martin Prado trade that the team had a bonafide above-average right-handed hitting everyday player on the roster.

And yet, the Yankees hit quite a bit better against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers in 2014, mostly because their lefties mashed same-side pitchers. Here’s the team platoon splits:

vs RHP 4359 428 942 173 18 108 403 328 800 .240 .302 .375 .677 .272 94
vs LHP 1723 205 407 74 8 39 188 124 333 .260 .320 .393 .712 .306 102
vs RHP as RHB 1132 95 255 53 2 13 84 54 228 .245 .289 .337 .626 .299 84
vs RHP as LHB 3227 333 687 120 16 95 319 274 572 .238 .306 .389 .695 .263 94
vs LHP as RHB 1043 116 238 46 3 21 109 74 199 .250 .310 .371 .681 .295 87
vs LHP as LHB 680 89 169 28 5 18 79 50 134 .276 .334 .426 .760 .325 134
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2014.

Overall, the Yankees had a 94 OPS+ against righties, including an ugly 84 OPS+ against righties by their right-handed hitters. Their lefties, meanwhile, had a 134 OPS+ against left-handed pitchers. Left-on-left was the team’s single best platoon split this year. Thank Jacoby Ellsbury (121 OPS+ vs. LHP) and Brian McCann (143 OPS+) for that in particular.

That is sorta scary because McCann’s reverse split this year is a total outlier compared to the rest of his career. He had a 92 OPS+ against lefties from 2011-13 while with the Braves. Considering he batted only 145 times against southpaws this past season, I’m guessing this is just small sample size noise and not some newfound skill. I hope that’s not the case but it likely is. The offense would have been worse if McCann hadn’t performed unusually well against lefties. Yikes.

The pitching platoon splits are interesting only because the Yankees’ right-handed pitchers dominated opposing left-handed hitters. I’m not going to embed the table but you can see the stats right here. Masahiro Tanaka‘s splitter acts like a changeup and allows him to be very effective against lefty hitters. The same goes for Hiroki Kuroda, just to a lesser degree. Michael Pineda‘s slider is so good it doesn’t matter what side of the plate the hitter is on. David Robertson has dominated lefties for years and Dellin Betances dominates everyone. Those five are a big reason why the team’s righty pitchers performed so well against opposing lefty hitters.


There is more velocity in the game right now than ever before. Pitchers simply throw harder these days thanks to many reasons. Improved training, better understanding of mechanics, advanced throwing programs, more short relievers, better genetics, all of that and more is a factor. Throwing 96+ just isn’t as rare as it once was (unless you’re the Twins).

I wanted to see how the Yankees handled big fastballs this year, so, with the help of Baseball Savant, I looked at 2 mph chunks of fastballs from 88 to 100+. Here are the results (New York’s rank among the 30 clubs in parenthesis):

100+ .500 (1st) .000 (t-30th) 50.0% (14th) 0.152 0.014 54.4%
98-99 .278 (8th) .000 (t-30th) 26.3% (11th) 0.206 0.084 28.0%
96-97 .197 (26th) .095 (12th) 18.0% (8th) 0.238 0.091 21.2%
94-95 .233 (24th) .123 (14th) 21.6% (23rd) 0.250 0.122 20.4%
92-93 .262 (23rd) .176 (5th) 15.5% (15th) 0.272 0.144 15.9%
90-91 .276 (19th) .146 (23rd) 10.6% (5th) 0.281 0.165 13.6%
88-89 .277 (20th) .160 (17th) 10.7% (8th) 0.286 0.170 12.5%
<87 .272 (18th) .187 (7th) 14.5% (18th) 0.276 0.159 13.7%

The sample sizes here are a couple hundred pitches except at the very top of the velocity chart — the Yankees had only 18 at-bats end with a pitch at 98-99 mph this year and only four end with a pitch at 100+. They saw more total pitches at that velocity, they just took a bunch for balls and fouled off some others. Those aren’t included in the table because nothing happened.

In those four at-bats that ended with a 100+ pitch, they went 2-for-4 with two singles and two strikeouts. So, naturally, I had to dig up the two hits. And guess what? They came in the same inning of the same game against the same pitcher. Those two hits came on July 20th against (who else?) Aroldis Chapman. I totally forgot the Yankees played an interleague series against the Reds this year. First, Ellsbury put together a great at-bat to single the other way:

Then, two batters, McCann hit this frozen rope to right field for the walk-off single:

Remember when I said McCann’s success against lefties this year was probably small sample size noise? Hits like that one are why.

Anyway, going back to the table for a second, the Yankees had their most trouble with pitches in the 92-97 mph range, in terms of batting average. (I’m ignoring the 98+ pitches because the sample’s so small.) They still hit for power against pitches at that velocity relative to the league average, but getting a simple base hit was a chore. It could be that the pitches they were hitting were mistakes pitches they were able to drive. That would explain the low AVG but higher ISO.

The Yankees did have a lot of older players who looked overmatched by quality fastballs this summer — Jeter, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brian Roberts stand out — which helps explain why the team as a whole struggled against higher end velocity. That leads us into the next section…

Bottom of the Roster

Here is a very quick and dirty breakdown of New York’s plate appearances this season. I split them into three ranges: players with a 95-105 OPS+, and then anything above or below that. I figure 95-105 captures everyone who can be considered league average with some wiggle room in each direction. Here’s the breakdown (this doesn’t include pitchers who hit during interleague play):

  • 106+ OPS+: 1,914 plate appearances (31.6% of the team’s total)
  • 95-105 OPS+: 1,331 plate appearances (22.0%)
  • <94 OPS+: 2,812 plate appearances (46.4%)

That’s a lot of plate appearances going to players who are comfortably below-average hitters and not nearly enough going to players who are easily above-average. Ellsbury and Brett Gardner combined for 1,271 of those 1,914 plate appearances by 106+ OPS+ players, by the way. Most of the rest belong to Prado and Chase Headley.

The Yankees had a stars and scrubs offense with no real stars and way too many scrubs. They have to figure out a way to raise the floor of the roster, if that makes sense. That’s much easier said than done because bench players are unpredictable, but with openings all around the infield, it’s an opportunity to really improve the team. The question is whether the Yankees can find pieces that fit, even if they have to overpay a bit. I’m totally cool with overpaying for a big bat right now. Offense is at such a premium.

For the sake of completeness, here’s the pitching staff using a similar breakdown:

  • 106+ ERA+: 637 innings (43.8%)
  • 95-105 ERA+: 277.2 innings (29.1%) (all Hiroki Kuroda and Shane Greene)
  • <94 ERA+: 538.1 innings (37.1%)

That’s a much better breakdown. Nearly two-thirds of the innings went to pitchers who were no worse than average and most of those innings went to guys who were way better than average. More of that in 2015, please. And hopefully with an offense to match.

Sherman: Yankees have made several trade offers for shortstops

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have “made a series of trade offers to teams for shortstops” this offseason. He doesn’t name names, but we can make some halfway educated guesses: Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Didi Gregorius, and Troy Tulowitzki. Sound good? I’m sure the Yankees at least placed a phone call asking about those players (and others!) this winter, even if it was only out of due diligence.

The free agent shortstop market is pretty weak right now. Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera are still available, though both are better suited for second base at this point. Stephen Drew is still out there and he’s an actual Major League caliber shortstop, but he absolutely stunk at the plate this past season. Hanley Ramirez, who is a shortstop in name only, is now off the board as well. After that there’s Clint Barmes. So yeah.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear the Yankees are pursuing trades for a shortstop because that’s the only way they’re going to add an impact player at the position. I’d love love love to see them nab a young shortstop who can man the position both in 2015 and for the next five years. That would be the dream scenario even if it costs half the farm system. If that doesn’t happen, stopgaps better than Drew might be available. Someone like Ramirez or Jimmy Rollins.

The Yankees need half an infield this winter and Sherman says the team seems to prioritizing a shortstop, which makes sense. They can play Martin Prado at second or third base and have others like Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder available for second if necessary. The fact that they’ve already made some trade offers is a good sign because it shows they’re being aggressive and not waiting for the market to develop. The sooner they get this sorted out, the better.