Mailbag: Myers, Sabathia, Refsnyder, Ryan, Lindgren

Got eleven questions for you in the mailbag this week. Send us questions through the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar at any time. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does. We’re working on that.

Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)
Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)

Chris asks: Will the Padres seemingly all in, do you think some sort of Wil Myers for Brett Gardner deal makes any sort of sense? Looks like the Padres could use a genuine CF.

I don’t think the Padres would go for that. They’ve made it clear they’re seeking power bats and are willing to live with shaky defense to get it. In theory Gardner would make a lot of sense for San Diego’s roster because they lack both a true leadoff hitter and a true center fielder, but I don’t think they’d flip Myers to get him. The Yankees would have to sweeten the pot quite a bit. Some of the shine is off Myers now but he’s still a just turned 24-year-old with a career 105 wRC+ and 19 homers in 175 big league games with five years of team control remaining. That’s really valuable.

Neil asks: Did the Yankees re-sign Slade Heathcott?

Heathcott hasn’t signed anywhere yet. This might be a wait-and-see situation. He had season-ending knee surgery in June and is probably still rehabbing. The Yankees probably want to see him at 100% before committing and Heathcott probably wants to be at 100% to see what offers come along. A team just might decide he’s worth a 40-man roster spot if he’s fully healthy and looks good in workouts later this offseason.

Joe asks: Would the Yankees have received a compensatory draft pick had they offered Kuroda a qualifying offer and rejected it to pitch in Japan?

Nope. The player has to sign a Major League contract with one of the other 29 MLB clubs in order to receive the compensation draft pick. Also, if the player signs a minor league deal and is called up before the draft, his old team gets the draft pick. Basically, to get the pick, he player has to be in MLB with one of the other 29 teams at some point before the next year’s draft. Japan or Korea or Taiwan or wherever else doesn’t count.

(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)
(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)

P.J. asks: Would designating CC Sabathia for assignment at the end of the 2015 season mean the Yankees are NOT obligated to pay his vesting year option when they release him?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m guessing they’d still be on the hook for the option. The option vests if Sabathia isn’t on the DL with a shoulder injury at the end of 2016, doesn’t spend more than 45 days on the DL with the shoulder injury in 2016, and doesn’t make more than six relief appearances due to a shoulder injury in 2016. Technically none of those things would happen if they release him, right? So wouldn’t the option vest? It’s a substantial amount of money ($25M) and I’m guessing Sabathia and the MLBPA would dig and fight that one.

Sid asks: Do you any scenario in which A-Rod and/or Mark Teixeira and/or CC are traded, what kind of return would they fetch? Assuming the Yanks are eating the majority of the salaries?

Nope. I think Teixeira has the most trade value of those guys and it’s pretty close to zero. Even if the Yankees eat all the money. Yes, I know Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder and a bunch of other guys were traded with a ton of money left on their contracts, but they were much younger and more productive than Teixeira, A-Rod, and Sabathia. The Yankees are stuck with those three, but at least now we are starting to see the light at the end of their contract tunnels.

Mark asks: Do you think the Yanks have glossed over Rob Refsnyder‘s lousy defense at 2B in all but making him the starter next year? Not sure about you, but I’m worried the fickle NY media and win-now fan base will turn on him quickly if he makes a few bad errors early on.

No, I think they’re very aware of Refsnyder’s defensive issues and are either willing to live with them or believe he is improving rapidly. That and they believe he has the makeup to handle any scrutiny. Besides, if Refsnyder comes up and struggles next year, either at the plate and/or in the field, he’s unlikely to be the center of attention. People are going to be focused on Didi Gregorius replacing Derek Jeter, on Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow, on Carlos Beltran‘s rebound, and, of course, on A-Rod. Refsnyder might just fly under the radar.

P.J. asks: Does Jose Pirela have minor league options left in case the Yankees go with Refsnyder for the last roster spot?

Pirela was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in September — remember the Yankees called him up only after Martin Prado‘s appendectomy abruptly ended his season — so he has all three minor league options remaining. They can send him to the minors no questions asked next year. That said, Pirela is already 25. If the Yankees have to consider optioning him down in a few years during his age 28 season, he’s probably not worth his roster spot anyway.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Chris asks: Brendan Ryan doesn’t have a place on the roster anymore as he hits lefties even worse than Didi. Would the Yankees be better served flipping his cheap contract for a PTBNL or release him, and use Pirela as the utility infielder? The projections have Pirela and Didi both being far more valuable than replacement level Ryan.

Like it or not, the Yankees do need Ryan because he is capable of playing shortstop on an everyday basis at the MLB level. He can’t hit a lick, but he can play the position, which Jose Pirela and others like Nick Noonan and Jonathan Galvez can not. I agree that Pirela would be more valuable than Ryan in a vacuum, but Pirela can’t play short regularly, and the Yankees need someone who can do that if Gregorius gets hurt or stinks. Maybe they could slip Ryan throughout outright waivers and stash him in Triple-A — if he refuses the assignment, he’d forfeit the rest of his contract, and I doubt he walks away from a guaranteed $3M — but I doubt they risk it. Ryan’s the 25th man on the roster and he does serve a purpose.

Daniel asks: Wouldn’t it be best if the Yankees held off on the QO FA’s this year, did the best they could this season with what they have, and then load up next offseason? I am salivating at the thought of adding Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, and Ian Desmond.

Aside from the ownership-mandated Rafael Soriano signing, the team’s M.O. seems to be loading up on qualified free agents in one offseason to lessen the draft pick blow. So, rather than giving up their first rounder each year to add one qualified free agent, they sacrifice their first, second, and third draft picks in one offseason. Next offseason looks to be as good a free agent class as any to employ that strategy — I think the Yankees are going to go hard after Doug Fister next year, he’s excellent but figures to a smaller contract than Cueto and Zimmermann, plus they drafted him once upon a time (sixth round in 2005), so he presumably has some supporters in the organization — though it’s worth noting there is very little money coming off the books after the 2015 season. Chris Capuano and Chris Young. (Update: Garrett Jones too. Forgot about him.) That’s it. The Yankees won’t be able to go on a big spending spree without pushing payroll into the $250M+ range, which they might be willing to do since Teixeira and Beltran come off the books after 2016.

Grayson asks: What’s Jacob Lindgren‘s future with the Yanks look like now that New York has signed LH Andrew Miller and traded for LH Justin Wilson? I thought Lindgren would be a lock for a lefty bullpen role. He rose fast through the system and the Yanks would have max years of team control, how do you see it playing out?

This is a question that only gets asked about left-handed pitchers. If Miller and Wilson and Lindgren (and the just acquired Chasen Shreve) were all right-handed, no one would worry about how they all fit on the roster. Miller is no lefty specialist, he can get both righties and lefties out and will be expected to do that next season. He just happens to throw lefty. Lindgren projects to be the same type of pitcher. If these guys are among the seven best bullpen arms in the organization, they’ll be in MLB. Their handedness isn’t much of a concern. They aren’t normal lefties. I expect Lindgren to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and get called up at some point during the summer. The Yankees didn’t draft a pure reliever with their top pick last year to not fast track him to MLB. The plan hasn’t changed.

Joe asks: Assuming this is A-Rod’s last contract, do any rules prohibit the Yankees from extending him for more years with same money owed to ease the luxury tax penalty? For example, if A-Rod is owed $100M over four years then could the Yankees sign him for $100M for ten years or would the MLBPA go bananas?

MLB frowns upon blatant luxury tax circumvention and this would qualify. There’s no other reason for the Yankees to extend Alex Rodriguez‘s contract. (MLB could simply not approve the contract if they think the team is trying to beat the luxury tax.) Also, the union doesn’t like players restructuring their contracts without getting something in return, like a raise or a no-trade clause or something like that. Maybe the MLBPA wouldn’t care in this case since, you know, A-Rod sued them, but they probably wouldn’t want to set a precedent. The Yankees are already well over the luxury tax threshold. I’m guessing they’d rather suck it up and pay the extra luxury tax these next three years than be stuck with Alex for any longer than that.

New Year’s Open Thread

Happy New Year’s, everyone. It’s hard to believe 2014 is over already but I’m glad it is, and not just for Yankees-related reasons. As for baseball, Spring Training is starting to inch closer, I can now refer to the 2014 season as “last season,” and a new, slightly younger Yankees club is on the horizon. That’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to 2015 for more than a few reasons.

Wednesday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are all playing, plus there’s college football and basketball on as well. Talk about all of that and more right here. Have a safe and happy New Year.

Thursday: Going to use this as the open thread one more time. None of the local hockey or basketball teams are playing, but there is some college football and basketball going on. Have at it.

Yankees trade Manny Banuelos to Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve

Last time for this photo. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Using this photo for the last time. Sad day. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

7:37pm: It’s a done deal, both teams have officially announced the trade. Banuelos for Carpenter and Shreve, as reported. So long, Manny.

5:38pm: After spending parts of seven seasons in the farm system, Manny Banuelos will not make his MLB debut with the Yankees. New York has traded the southpaw to the Braves for righty reliever David Carpenter and lefty reliever Chasen Shreve, according to Jack Curry. The 40-man roster is now full. Neither team has announced the trade yet.

The 23-year-old Banuelos was once the organization’s top prospect, but he missed most of 2012 and all of 2013 with elbow injuries, including Tommy John surgery. He had a 4.11 ERA (4.66 FIP) in 76.2 innings at three minor league levels in 2014 as he worked his way back from elbow construction. Banuelos’ stock has definitely fallen the last few years, enough that the Yankees — who know more about him than anyone — would rather have two relievers.

Carpenter, 29, had a 3.54 ERA (2.94 FIP) with excellent strikeout (9.89 K/9 and 25.9 K%) and walk (2.36 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) rates in 61 innings this past season. His ground ball rate (37.6%) isn’t anything special and hasn’t been his entire career. Carpenter was better in 2013 (1.78 ERA) despite nearly identical peripherals (2.83 FIP). He’s a classic mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider guy.

As Joel Sherman notes, Carpenter received a strong recommendation from Brian McCann, who was his catcher with the Braves in 2013. Hopefully Carpenter flat out dominates with New York and makes a name for himself, because right now his most memorable moment as a big leaguer ain’t so memorable for the Braves:

(Note: I embedded the video only because I love Juan Uribe. One of my favorite players in MLB. I’m not trying to dump on Carpenter.)

The 24-year-old Shreve was drafted in 2010 and has been a pure reliever throughout his career. He reached MLB for the first time in 2014, allowing one run (0.73 ERA) with 15 strikeouts and three walks (1.43 FIP) in 12.1 innings. Shreve was effective against both lefties (.714 OPS and 2.61 FIP) and righties (.680 OPS and 2.98 FIP) in the minors the last four years, so he might not necessarily be a specialist. He’s a low-90s fastball/low-80s slider guy.

Shreve. (Presswire)
Shreve. (Presswire)

Carpenter is out of minor league options, so he’ll stick with the big league team and presumably step into Shawn Kelley’s old setup role. MLBTR projects him to earn $1.1M through arbitration in 2015. Shreve has two options remaining and will join Justin Wilson and Jacob Lindgren as lefty bullpen options behind Andrew Miller. Carpenter and Shreve have three and six years of team control left, respectively. Banuelos has one option year and six years of team control remaining.

In a nutshell, the Yankees prefer Carpenter and Shreve to Kelley and Banuelos, with Johnny Barbato serving as a wildcard. At this point only Carpenter, Miller, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren are locks for the 2015 bullpen, though I think both Wilson and Esmil Rogers have a leg up o a bullpen job as well. Shreve, Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, Gonzalez Germen, Jose DePaula, Bryan Mitchell, and Chase Whitley are other candidates. That’s a lot of arms.

In the grand scheme of things, the Yankees added a setup reliever and replaced one potential up-and-down lefty with another. I’m bummed Banuelos is gone but that’s the way it goes. Pitching prospects will break your heart. Obviously the Yankees felt they were better off using Banuelos as a chip to improve the bullpen now rather than holding onto him and hoping for a rebound next year before he has to stick in MLB for good in 2016. Bottom line, the Yankees clearly believe Banuelos is no longer the guy he was from 2008-12, before the injuries.

Badler: Yanks among teams connected to Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

As the baseball world waits for Yoan Moncada to become eligible to sign — Jesse Sanchez says Moncada has yet to receive clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control but will start private workouts soon — another free agent Cuban infielder has emerged, Hector Olivera. And, according to Ben Badler (no subs. req’d), the Yankees are one of three teams most connected to Olivera, along with the Padres and Athletics.

Olivera, who will turn 30 in April, is “right up there with Yasiel Puig as one of the most fascinating players to ever leave the island, a mixture of premium talent, performance, health issues, a lack of recent looks and age,” according to Badler. Badler also says Olivera is a better MLB prospect than Yasmany Tomas despite being nearly five years older. Here’s a scouting report:

At around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Olivera is a physical righthanded hitter with a loose, quick swing and a good hitting approach. He showed good power for a middle infielder, and given that several Cuban players have transformed their bodies and increased their power since leaving the island, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Olivera did the same. His size, athleticism and plus speed (at least at his peak) made him one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba.

Olivera, who is a second baseman by trade but can also play third, flat out raked in Cuba, hitting .335/~.426/.567 with an average of with 23 doubles, 15 homeruns, 49 walks, and 25 strikeouts per season from 2008-12. (They play 90-game seasons in Cuba). That’s better than what Tomas hit in Cuba, not as good as what Jose Abreu hit in Cuba, and on par with what Puig and Yoenis Cespedes hit in Cuba.

Now, here’s the catch: scouts haven’t seen Olivera play all that much recently. A blood disorder — Badler says it was reported as “thrombosis in his left biceps” — caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season, and Olivera hasn’t played in any international tournaments either. He has not yet held a showcase for scouts but is expected to do so eventually.

Olivera is not close to being able to sign yet — he has yet to establish residency, and then must be unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB. It seems unlikely all of that will happen before Opening Day. It’s unclear how much it will cost to sign him, though it figures to be less than the six-year, $68.5M deal the Diamondbacks gave Tomas because Olivera is older and hasn’t played much recently.

Badler notes Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland has been around forever, so he’s seen Olivera play in his prime, but that’s not necessarily the Olivera they’d be signing at this point. They’re getting the guy who turns 30 in a few months and hasn’t faced high-caliber competition in a while. His eventual showcases will be important.

The Yankees are still considered a favorite to sign Moncada according to Badler, and Moncada is the much more desirable target as the 19-year-old potential star. That said, if they lose out on Moncada for whatever reason — he has to be cleared by the OFAC before June 15th, otherwise the Yankees can’t offer him more than $300,000 because of this summer’s international spending spree, and $300,000 won’t get it done — Olivera could be an alternative.

Yankees going with youth in all the right places in 2015

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Yankees needed to get younger this offseason. Or, rather, they needed to get better, and the easiest way to do that was to get younger. The club had been stuck relying on old past-prime players and needed to change direction. Old players can still be really useful in moderation. But a roster full of ‘em? Not the way to go.

After the end of the 2014 season, several key Yankees’ folks said the team intended to get younger in 2015. Joe Girardi said “at times we ran out four guys, five guys over 35 years old. I don’t think that will happen next year,” at his end-of-season press conference. Hal Steinbrenner said young players are “going to play a big part” for the team going forward during a radio interview in early-October. They talked the talk, for sure.

Teams say that sort of stuff every offseason — we want to get younger, more athletic, more well-rounded, etc. — and usually it’s just lip service. The intention is there but they never really follow through. That hasn’t been the case for the Yankees this winter. Girardi and Steinbrenner said they expected the club to get younger this winter and they have. Derek Jeter was replaced with Didi Gregorius*, Martin Prado with Jose Pirela/Rob Refsnyder, Hiroki Kuroda with Nathan Eovaldi, and Francisco Cervelli with John Ryan Murphy. They also have plenty of young relievers ready to replace Shawn Kelley and David Huff.

* Jeter was he oldest regular shortstop in the league last year, so the Yankees were going to get younger by default. They got way younger though. They didn’t replace Jeter with, say, soon-to-be 32-year-old Stephen Drew.

The Yankees didn’t just get younger, however. They got younger at key positions — the middle infield, behind the plate, and on the pitching staff. Only two teams since 2009 have had two middle infielders age 25 or younger qualify for the batting title in the same season — the 2011 Cubs (Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney) and the 2011 Nationals (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) — and the Yankees could very well do that in 2015 with Gregorius and either Pirela or (most likely) Refsnyder. Going young on both sides of second base is risky, but the Yankees seem willing to do it.

Catcher is a weird position because teams want either a young starter and a veteran backup to mentor him, or a veteran starter and a young backup he can mentor. With Brian McCann entrenched behind the plate, the Yankees have to go the veteran starter/young backup route next season, and John Ryan Murphy will presumably serve as McCann’s backup following the Cervelli trade. Down the road two or three years, perhaps Murphy will take over as the starter with McCann serving as the veteran backup as he ages and sees more time at DH.

(Marc Serota/Getty)
(Marc Serota/Getty)

Heading into next season, the only positions where the Yankees will have legitimately old and clearly past their prime players are first base (Mark Teixeira), right field (Carlos Beltran), and DH (Alex Rodriguez). I guess you could argue McCann belongs in that group as well, though I’m optimistic about his chances of rebounding next year, maybe foolishly. Otherwise the Yankees have prime age starters at catcher, third base, left field, and center field plus the kids at second base and shortstop.

As for the pitching staff, there are five rotation spots to fill, and the Yankees are planning to have 26-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, 26-year-old Michael Pineda, and 25-year-old Eovaldi occupy three of them in 2015. Ivan Nova, who turns 28 in two weeks, will return from elbow reconstruction at midseason to join them. The other rotation spots are slated to go to 34-year-old CC Sabathia and 36-year-old Chris Capuano. The team is locked into Sabathia because of his contract, which is in the back end portion of the “we want the elite years up front and will live with the ugliness on the back end” model, but Capuano is a depth arm on a low-cost one-year contract. In-house replacement starter options include 20-somethings Bryan Mitchell and Jose DePaula.

The Yankees currently have 20 pitchers on the 40-man roster and only four are age 28 or older: Sabathia, Capuano, Andrew Miller, and Esmil Rogers. (Nova’s two weeks from joining them.) Of those four, only Miller is expected to be a significant factor next year. Sabathia’s a wait-and-see guy after knee surgery while Rogers is another low-cost depth pitcher like Capuano. After Miller and Rogers, the oldest pitchers in the projected bullpen are 27-year-olds Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, who were born a week apart. Given Sabathia’s health and Capuano’s disposability, there might actually be a point next summer when the only pitcher on the active roster not in his 20s is Miller, who turns 30 in May. Wouldn’t that be something?

Now, here’s where it gets tricky: getting younger doesn’t automatically mean getting better. It’s quite risky, actually. We have very little idea of what Gregorius can contribute across a full season and even less about what Pirela and Refsnyder can provide. Kuroda had his worst season as a Yankee in 2014, but if Eovaldi were to match his 3.71 ERA (3.60 FIP) in 199 innings next year, I feel like it would be considered a positive. Murphy as the young backup catcher is great … unless he plays like the 2012 version of Austin Romine, the team’s last young backup backstop. Young players and productive young players are two different animals.

Right now, the Yankees are looking for productive young players. They hope Gregorius and Refsnyder and Eovaldi can be those guys. Maybe they can be, maybe they can’t. The only way to find out is to let them play. The Yankees are still going to be an older team in general next year, but the little bit of youth they do have is in the right spots. They are young at important up the middle positions and on the pitching staff. That’s where you want to have young players whose best years are still ahead of them. The Yankees are never going to tear it all down and rebuild. That’s not in their DNA. Instead, they’ve retooled this offseason by acquiring young players at key positions to carry them in 2015 and beyond.

Mailbag: Zach McAllister

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Travis asks: Zach McAllister throws hard and did well in a short stint in relief with Cleveland. If they don’t believe in him anymore, could the Yankees take a shot at hoping he is a failed starter who can be a weapon out of the bullpen?

The 27-year-old McAllister was New York’s third round pick in their tremendously productive 2006 draft class, though they traded him to the Indians as the player to be named later for Austin Kearns at the 2010 deadline. McAllister has been an up-and-down arm with the Tribe the last four years, pitching to a 4.38 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 363.1 big league innings, almost all as a starter.

McAllister really struggled in the rotation this year, posting a 5.67 ERA (3.80 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (7.40 K/9 and 18.5 K%) and walk (3.21 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%) rates. Cleveland stuck him in the bullpen late in the season and he was much better, pitching to a 2.77 ERA (1.44 FIP) with excellent strikeout (9.69 K/9 and 26.9 K%) and walk (1.38 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%) numbers in 13 innings, so small sample alert. His ground ball rate (42.1% overall) was about the same in both roles.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but a few years ago I read an article detailing traits that helped identify middling starters who would be good bullpen candidates. I don’t remember all of the traits, but I do remember one of them was effectiveness early in starts — the first time through the order, etc. — before a big drop off later on. Here’s how McAllister has done each time through the order and within his first 25 pitches of a start throughout his career (via Baseball Reference):

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
1st PA in G, as SP 585 42 117 28 3 11 39 127 3.26 .217 .271 .341 .612 .262 62
2nd PA in G, as SP 562 85 148 42 2 10 50 93 1.86 .295 .357 .447 .804 .341 113
3rd PA in G, as SP 374 64 107 26 1 18 30 64 2.13 .316 .374 .558 .932 .344 144
4th+ PA in G, as SP 10 1 4 0 0 1 1 1 1.00 .444 .500 .778 1.278 .429 233
Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
Pitch 1-25 423 28 88 21 3 7 18 93 5.17 .220 .255 .340 .595 .267 57
Pitch 26-50 428 52 98 27 0 7 46 81 1.76 .260 .338 .387 .725 .312 93
Pitch 51-75 389 60 109 26 3 8 33 60 1.82 .314 .371 .476 .847 .354 124
Pitch 76-100 298 52 83 19 0 17 20 54 2.70 .303 .356 .558 .914 .324 138
Pitch 101+ 45 2 11 4 0 1 5 11 2.20 .275 .356 .450 .806 .357 113

Those are some pretty significant splits, no? McAllister has been considerably better the first time through the order and within his first 25 pitches throughout his career. It’s a big, big drop off the second time through the lineup and after pitch 25. That suggests he might be best used as a short reliever who doesn’t have to turn the lineup over multiple times.

Furthermore, while McAllister does throw four pitches, he is very fastball heavy. He threw 64.5% four-seam fastballs back in 2011, and that has gradually increased to 69.7% in 2012, 73.1% in 2013, and 73.6% in 2014. McAllister’s thrown his changeup, cutter, and slider roughly 8-10% of the time each over the years. Unsurprisingly, his velocity ticked up noticeably in relief this past September (via Brooks Baseball):

Zach McAllister velocity

During his 13 innings in relief, McAllister scrapped his changeup and cutter and became a fastball-slider pitcher. The swing-and-miss rates for his fastball and slider went from ~8% and ~10% as a starter to ~11% and ~27% as a reliever, respectively. That’s a really big jump. But, of course, we are talking about only 13 innings, so we have to take it with a grain of salt. The velocity uptick definitely makes sense though, and there’s a pretty strong correlation between velocity and whiffs.

McAllister hasn’t showed a platoon split in the big leagues — .332 wOBA and 3.96 FIP against lefties, .329 wOBA and 3.90 FIP against righties — so he’s not someone who has to be hidden against lefties. (I’m pretty sure one of the traits that suggested a starter would be better off in the bullpen was a big platoon split.) If he were to go straight fastball-slider as a reliever, his platoon split might grow because sliders are typically reserved for same-side hitters. It’s not guaranteed to happen, but it could.

The increased effectiveness early in outings, the uptick in velocity, and his performance as a reliever in September (albeit in a small sample) all suggest McAllister would be much better off in the bullpen going forward. It would be better for him — above-average reliever pays better than disposable back-end starter, or at least it pays comparably with more job security — and better for his team as well. Now here’s a really fun comparison:

ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
Wade Davis as a SP
4.57 4.49 16.1 8.5 38.2 9.7
McAllister as a SP 4.44 4.03 18.6 7.8 39.6 9.1

Those two pitchers are really similar! Davis moved into the bullpen and became an absolute monster, basically a Dellin Betances who doesn’t give up homers. (Davis allowed zero homers in 2014.) That little table doesn’t mean McAllister will turn into an otherworldly reliever because Davis did, I just thought it was interesting. Some guys are just better off in the bullpen like Davis and Betances. McAllister might be one of those guys.

Based on all of this, I really like the idea of the Yankees bringing McAllister back and sticking him in relief. He is out of minor league options but New York does have two open bullpen spots, so there’s room on the roster for him. McAllister will be in his final pre-arbitration year in 2015, so he’ll be cheap, and he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. Obviously the team knows him too, so there’s some familiarity there.

The Indians have plenty of starters — McAllister is eighth on their rotation depth chart — so he might be considered expendable. I’m not quite sure what it would take to acquire him, but Ross Detwiler cost the Rangers two okay prospects a few weeks ago, guys in the 20-30 range on a prospect list. It’s not a perfect comparison — Detwiler’s a year away from free agency and was a former top prospect (sixth overall in 2007) — but it’s what we have. I’m very intrigued by McAllister as a reliever. If all it takes is two 20-30 range prospects to get him, I’d pull the trigger and see what he can do in a one-inning role.

Andrew Bailey is a wildcard for the 2015 bullpen, but not someone the Yankees will count on

Bailey, many years and injuries ago. (Presswire)
Bailey, many years and injuries ago. (Presswire)

Only five pitchers threw at least 50 innings for both the 2013 Yankees and 2014 Yankees, and, already this offseason, four of them have left the team one way or another. David Robertson departed as a free agent, Hiroki Kuroda returned to Japan, and both Shawn Kelley and David Phelps were traded away. The lone holdover is long man turned setup man Adam Warren.

Needless to say, the pitching staff will have a new look next year, especially the bullpen with Robertson, Kelley, and Phelps gone. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will be expected to handle the high-leverage spots while Warren and southpaw Justin Wilson provide backup. Esmil Rogers is versatile enough to be anything from the long man to another one-inning reliever, basically the role Phelps filled the last three years.

The last two bullpen spots are up for grabs with the caveat that the Yankees could always sign or trade for someone. They have no shortage of internal options, with holdovers Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, and Bryan Mitchell joining newcomers Gonzalez Germen and Jose DePaula. Then there’s Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, and Danny Burawa. Manny Banuelos, even. My guess is we will see all of these guys at some point in 2015.

A wildcard for next year’s bullpen is rehabbing right-hander Andrew Bailey, who Brian Cashman has said is expected to be ready to pitch in Spring Training, according to Brendan Kuty. Bailey didn’t pitch at all this past season following shoulder capsule surgery, and that plus a thumb injury have limited him to 44 mostly ineffective (4.91 ERA and 4.68 FIP) innings from 2012-14. The last time he was actually good was 2011, his final season with the Athletics.

It goes without saying the Yankees can’t count on Bailey for anything next year, and his new minor league contract shows they aren’t. The team signed him last offseason to a contract that included a club option for 2015, but, after rehabbing him all year, they opted against a guaranteed deal for next year. He’s a lottery ticket. If Bailey is healthy enough to pitch at some point next summer, great. If not, well no big loss. Not like he’s soaking up a roster spot or significant cash.

Shoulder capsule surgery is very serious — no one has ever come back from the procedure and returned to their previous level of performance — so I think the upside with Bailey is not the dominant late-inning reliever he was with the Athletics from 2009-11, but instead the pitcher Kelley has been for the Yankees these last two years. The guy with great peripherals but an inflated ERA because he serves up homers and is prone to the big inning. Someone who is the fourth best option in the bullpen, not the first or second. Bailey replacing Kelley would be a big win in my opinion.

In this hypothetical world where Bailey returns and is a reasonably effective pitcher, he’s someone who could take over the ninth inning and close while Miller and Betances handle the seventh and eighth innings. Bailey has closer pedigree — let’s not kid ourselves, that sort of thing influences roster decisions — and having an assigned inning might be best for his warm-up routine after the injury. He might not be someone who can get up and quickly get ready at a moment’s notice after having his shoulder rebuilt. Having a set inning would allow Bailey to prepare to enter a game at his own pace since he’ll know exactly when he’s going to pitch.

Either way, Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is going to have a much different look next year now that Robertson and Kelley are gone. Bailey could be in the mix at some point, especially if he truly does get healthy enough to pitch in Spring Training, but he’s not looked at as likely contributor. These injured reclamation project guys tend not to work out — Octavio Dotel or David Aardsma, anyone? — which is why he’s nothing more than a lottery ticket. If healthy though, Bailey could give the bullpen and nice and unexpected boost.