The Yankees have officially signed Brian McCann to a five-year contract with a vesting option for a sixth year, the team announced. He has passed his physical and all that. “The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is to construct a team each and every season designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October … Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement.
McCann will be introduced at a press conference on Thursday, which will be broadcast on YES. I’m pretty sure it will be their first press conference to introduce a new player since
Mark TeixeiraRafael Soriano. Been a while. The 2014 Draft Order page has been updated. · (37) ·
Forty-three players joined the free agent pool at midnight last night — including three Yankees (David Adams, Jayson Nix, Matt Daley) — when the non-tender deadline came and went. Here’s the full list. Most non-tendered players are spare parts not really worth carrying on the 40-man roster all winter, but some are legitimate big leaguers whose projected salary had eclipsed their on and off field value.
The Yankees grabbed Russell Martin three years ago after he was non-tendered and last winter they made a play for Nate Schierholtz before he signed with the Cubs. This year they’re seeking pitching help, both in the rotation and the bullpen, though the non-tender market very rarely offers quality starting pitchers. Bullpen help is plentiful though, and an interesting crop of relievers became free agents last night. Here’s a quick rundown of four newly available bullpen arms who could help New York as they seek a late-inning reliever to pair with David Robertson (and Shawn Kelley).
I’m listing these guys alphabetically but it’s fitting we start with Axford, who spent 2007 bouncing around New York’s farm system before being released, tightening up his mechanics, and having lots of success with the Brewers. Years of hefty saves totals beefed up his salary and the Cardinals walked away rather than pay him upwards of $6M to be a seventh inning reliever in 2014. Not a bad idea given all their young power arms.
Axford, 30, had a 4.02 ERA (4.34 FIP) in 65 innings this past summer. His fastball still sits in the mid-90s and he still backs it up with a nasty curveball that allows him to miss bats (9.00 K/9 in 2013 and 10.82 career) and get an okay amount of ground balls (45.3% in 2013 and 46.9% career). Axford walks a fair amount of guys (3.60 BB/9 in 2013 and 4.05 career) and will occasionally lose the strike zone all together, plus he’s very homer prone, especially these last two years (1.34 HR/9 and 18.2% HR/FB). When he makes a mistake, it gets hit out of the park. That’s not exactly a desirable trait for a late-inning reliever.
I think there’s a good chance another club will offer Axford — who will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, by the way — a closing job, which could put the Yankees at a disadvantage unless they promise him the ninth inning over Robertson. The homer problems are very scary but outside of Grant Balfour, Joe Nathan, and Brian Wilson, I’m not sure there’s a better combination of power stuff and late-game experience out there. The Yankees signed Axford as an undrafted free agent back in the day, so they know him pretty well and there’s some kind of relationship already in place.
After missing the 2011 season due to drug-related visa problems, the 30-year-old Belisario has been workhorse in Don Mattingly’s bullpen. He’s pitched to a 3.24 ERA (3.36 FIP) in 139 innings over the last two years while relying on a heavy mid-90s sinker that has gotten a ground ball 62.8% of the time. The sinker doesn’t really miss bats (7.60 K/9) and location can be an issue at times (3.69 BB/9), but at least he keeps the ball in the park (0.39 HR/9 and 9.2% HR/FB) and can hold his own again lefties (.320 wOBA against). Like Axford, Belisario would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, though he figures to come much cheaper as a non-former closer. I was surprised to see the Dodgers non-tender him (that makes me wonder what they know that everyone else doesn’t) but Belisario a versatile and durable reliever, and that’s something every team needs.
I’ve always liked Webb, who is a classic “the results don’t match the stuff” guy. His low-to-mid-90s two-seamer runs all over the place and his low-80s slider looks like it should miss bats, but batters have consistently squared him up. Since landing with the Marlins three years ago, Webb has a 3.34 ERA (3.50 FIP) in 191.1 innings with a very good ground ball rate (56.0%) but unimpressive strikeout (6.07 K/9) and walk (3.15 BB/9) rates. His platoon split is manageable (.321 wOBA against lefties and .296 against righties). Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a history of improving strikeout rates, so maybe he could help Webb turn that nasty stuff into better results. At worst, he’s a decent middle reliever, but I think the 27-year-old has some untapped potential and is something of an upside play.
With Boone Logan likely leaving as a free agent, the Yankees figure to cast a wide net and target a bunch of lower cost players to compete for the lefty reliever spot. Wright, 28, is a pure specialist, holding lefties to a .228/.313/.342 (.296 wOBA) line in his career while righties have tagged him for a .263/.356/.500 (.367 wOBA) line. His strikeout (10.42 K/9) and ground ball (55.3%) rates against same-side hitters are very good despite a soft upper-80s fastball and low-80s slider. Wright has been around for a while and figures to get a guaranteed contract somewhere, and that might not jibe with what New York wants to do at this position. I get the sense they’ll add some pieces via waivers and minor league deals and see what happens in camp between Cesar Cabral, David Huff, and whoever else. If they are willing to sign someone to a low cost big league deal, Wright could be the guy.
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Some of the big name non-tenders like Andrew Bailey (shoulder capsule) and Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery twice in the last 17 months) come with major injury concerns and aren’t expected to be healthy enough to pitch until the second half of the season at the earliest. Given the nature of their injuries, I think 2015 is a more realistic target for a return. Others like Tommy Hanson and Dan Bard are too far removed from consistent success to warrant anything more than a minor league contract at this point. Everyone loves a good reclamation project, but the Yankees need healthy players who can actually help them come Opening Day right now given the state of the roster. Once they’ve brought in a few of those, they’ll be in better position to roll the dice on guys with something to prove.
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed first baseman/left fielder Russ Canzler to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training as well. Canzler was with the Yankees briefly last winter — they claimed him off waivers from the Indians on January 4th and lost him on waivers to the Orioles on February 5th.
Canzler, 27, has a 91 wRC+ with 102 big league plate appearances. He has punished Triple-A pitching over the years, putting up a .277/.358/.466 (~128wRC+) line in over 1,600 plate appearances at the level. That includes a .307/.390/.531 line against left-handed pitchers. Canzler is a cheap right-handed bat who offers a tiny bit of verstility, so he’s a nice guy for the Yankees to have in Triple-A as insurance. Heck, there’s a good chance he’ll be a better bench option that Vernon Wells next season. · (14) ·
7:02pm: The Yankees have indeed non-tendered Nix, Adams, and Daley, the team announced. They are now free agents. The Yankees will be left with
twothree open 40-man roster spots once the Brian McCann signing is made official later in the week.
6:13pm: Via Anthony McCarron: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are planning to non-tender Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams prior to tonight’s deadline. Nix was projected to earn $1.4M through arbitration while Daley and Adams were slated to make only the league minimum (or thereabouts) in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team tries to re-sign all three to minor league contracts. Chris Stewart, the team’s other non-tender candidate, was traded to the Pirates earlier today. · (42) ·
Fair or not, I will probably always remember Chris Stewart as the guy who struck out on two strikes. He was so awful in the second half and that just seemed like the ultimate rock bottom. Stewart is a backup catcher who was miscast as a starter, and that is on the team, not him. The Yankees planned on giving him significant playing time, they admitted it before the season, but it was a plan that was doomed to fail. Frankie Cervelli saved their bacon for a few weeks in April before suffering what amounted to a season-ending hand injury. The Yankees agreed to sign Brian McCann last week and traded Stewart to the Pirates today, a move that makes sense for both sides. He can be a backup and the Yankees have a real starting catcher.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Saints and Seahawks are the Monday Night Football Game, plus both the Rangers and Devils are playing. It goes without saying at this point that there’s some college something on somewhere. Talk about Stewart, McCann, any of those games, or anything else right here. Have at it.
Dec. 2nd: Joel Sherman reports Ryan will earn $2M in both 2014 and 2015. There is a club option worth $2M for 2016, but if that is declined, Ryan will have a player option worth $1M. His luxury tax hit will be $2M for the next two years. Hopefully this is the last update.
Nov. 27th: Ken Rosenthal says it’s a two-year contract worth $5M plus a mutual option for 2016 that could push the total value to $10M. Options are complicated, but I believe Ryan’s luxury tax hit will be $2.5M since the mutual option does not exceed 50% of the potential total value of the deal. The contract is official according to Rosenthal, so the 40-man roster is now full.
1:00pm ET: The Yankees will have a legitimate shortstop on their roster next season. Jon Heyman reports the team has a deal in place with free agent infielder Brendan Ryan, though terms of the contract are unknown at this point. I can’t imagine it’ll be longer than one year. The two sides were said to have an agreement in place a few weeks ago, but Ryan had an unknown minor surgery after the season and his physical was delayed. The Yankees have not officially announced anything yet.
Ryan, 31, spent the end of 2013 with the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners on September 10th. He hit .197/.255/.273 (44 wRC+) in 349 plate appearances overall and .220/.258/.305 (51 wRC+) in 62 plate appearances in pinstripes. There is little to like about Ryan’s offensive game. He’s never hit (career 71 wRC+ in over 2,600 plate appearances) and this past season he struck out more than the league average (20.9%), walked less than the league average (6.6%), showed little power (.075 ISO), and didn’t steal bases (4-for-6). With all due respect, he’s a zero at the plate.
Defensively, on the other hand, is where Ryan stands out. He is an elite defensive shortstop regardless of metric — +51 DRS, +26.5 UZR, +19.1 FRAA, and +19 Total Zone since 2011 — with ridiculous range, baby soft hands, and a strong throwing arm. The guy can really go get the ball.
Ryan is one of the best shortstop defenders in baseball and by far the best on the Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner recently told Derek Jeter that despite his new contract, the team intends to pursue a capable everyday shortstop following his injury-plagued season. I’m not a fan of players who can’t hit (like, at all) but Ryan is an asset because of his defense and would contribute much more in a full-time role than Eduardo Nunez, whose only redeeming quality is his speed.
It has been a while since Ryan has played a non-shortstop position — last played second base in 2009, last played third in 2008 — but given his defensive ability, I don’t think moving around the infield would be much of a problem. Jeter figures to play shortstop whenever possible because hey, he’s Derek Jeter, but his time at DH is likely to increase this season. Ryan is an upgrade over Nunez and chances are he will be an oft-used bench player in 2014. The Yankees still have a number of roster questions to answer this winter, but backup middle infielder is no longer one of them.
4:30pm: The offer was made “a long time ago,” according to Mark Feinsand. The Yankees never expected Kuroda to make a decision right away. Sounds like they made a standing offer soon after he declined the qualifying offer to just make it clear they want him back.
1:00pm: Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees have offered Hiroki Kuroda a contract in the $15-16M range in hopes of keeping him from retirement or going back to Japan. Kuroda turned down the $14.1M qualifying offer last month. The team is said to be “more upbeat” about their chances of keeping him now than they were a few weeks ago.
Kuroda, 38, had a 3.31 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 201.1 innings this past season, but he faded badly down the stretch for the second straight year. The Yankees paid him $15M in 2013 and although I love Kuroda as much as anyone, his age and the back-to-back second half fades are definite red flags to me. The team needs starters in the worst way and there might not be a better deal out there than Kuroda on a one-year contract, but I’m much more nervous about him returning for another season right now than I was last winter. · (98) ·
Joe Girardi‘s coaching staff was shaken up a bit last week when we learned bullpen coach Mike Harkey is leaving the Yankees to become the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach. Harkey was one of Girardi’s closest friends and confidants, so replacing him won’t be easy in that sense. Here’s the latest on some coaching and front office positions courtesy of George King, George King (again), George King (yet again), and Josh Norris.
- The Yankees have hired Matthew Krause as their new strength and conditioning coach after declining to renew Dana Cavalea’s contract a few weeks ago. Krause held the same role with the Reds from 2005-2013. He also spent three years with the Pirates and eight years in the Marines, so the Yankees are in good shape for potential benches-clearing brawls. New York has been one of the most injured teams in baseball over the last four years while Cincinnati has been one of the least injured, though obviously not all of that can be attributed to the strength and conditioning coach.
- Gary Tuck is one candidate to replace Harkey as bullpen coach. He held that role with the Yankees in 1990 and with the Red Sox from 2007-2012. Tuck also served as Joe Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006 and spent 1998-1999 as a catching instructor in the Yankees’ minor league system.
- Among the internal candidates to replace Harkey are Triple-A Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred, Triple-A manager Dave Miley, Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar, senior pitching instructor Greg Pavlick, minor league pitching instructor Gil Patterson, catching coordinator Julio Mosquera, and Rookie GCL Yanks manager Tom Nieto. All except Aldred have some kind of big league coaching experience.
- Pro scout Rick Williams has left the Yankees to take a job with the Braves. He and Atlanta GM Frank Wren have known each other for a while, dating back to their playing days and time working for the Marlins. Williams was most often used to scout pitchers prior to the trade deadline.
- Double-A Trenton hitting coach Justin Turner is out for whatever reason. He has been with the organization for a while but this was his first season with the Thunder. It appears High-A Tampa hitting coach Marcus Thames (yes, that Marcus Thames) will take over in Trenton.
As expected, the Yankees cut ties with Chris Stewart on Monday. The team announced it has traded the catcher to the Pirates for a player to be named later. Tonight is the non-tender deadline and New York was expected to cut Stewart from the roster in the wake of the Brian McCann signing. We heard he was drawing trade interest over the weekend. Dan Barbarisi says the trade was agreed to on Friday but was contingent on Stewart working out a contract with the Pirates, which he has done.
Stewart, 31, will backup former teammate Russell Martin in Pittsburgh, which is pretty much the perfect role for him. He can frame the hell out of borderline pitches but he can’t hit (career 59 wRC+) and is just okay at the non-pitch-framing part of catcher defense. Matt Swartz projected Stewart to earn a modest $1M in 2014, but the Yankees have a small army of young catchers on the 40-man roster and don’t need to keep him around at that price.
Brian Cashman confirmed the team will tender Frankie Cervelli a contract prior to tonight’s deadline a few weeks ago, making him the easy favorite to backup McCann next year. That leaves Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy to split time behind the plate with Triple-A Scranton while Gary Sanchez catches everyday at Double-A Trenton. A trade to further clear up the logjam is possible. Romine seems most likely to go but Murphy might have the most value as a no doubt catcher who is pretty close to big league ready.
The player to be named later coming from the Pirates is almost certainly a non-40-man minor leaguer. Chances are it is someone who is eligible for next week’s Rule 5 Draft as well, the teams just have to make sure the player goes unclaimed before completing the deal. Pirates Prospects has a list of Pittsburgh’s Rule 5 Draft eligible minor leaguers, if you’re interested. The Yankees were a few hours from non-tendering Stewart and getting nothing in return, so it’s not a surprise they received relatively little in the trade. Relatively little is better than nothing.
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees and Robinson Cano‘s representatives met face-to-face several times last week. His camp lowered their demands to a nine-year contract worth $250-260M while the team is holding steady at seven years and $160-175M.
- Brendan Ryan‘s contract is now official. He received a two-year deal worth $5M with a mutual option for a third year worth another $5M. New York also added infielder Yamaico Navarro on a minor league deal.
- There is mutual interest between Carlos Beltran and the Yankees, but Beltran wants three years while the Yankees are only willing to offer two. The club does not have an offer out to Stephen Drew.
- MLB and NPB officials met to continue negotiating a new posting system, though there is no agreement yet. The Yankees are “more upbeat” about Hiroki Kuroda returning next season.
- Chris Stewart is drawing trade interest. The team is also talking to him about a contract that will allow them to avoid arbitration.
- Bullpen coach Mike Harkey will be named the new pitching coach for the Diamondbacks this week.
- Left-hander Omar Luis will be available in the Rule 5 Draft next week due to a contract snafu.
- Mike Mussina is among the first timers on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot.
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