Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are planning to add minor league right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Shane Greene to the 40-man roster. Both players are eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, along with a whole bunch of other guys. The deadline to set the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft is this coming Wednesday.
Mitchell, 22, was the team’s 16th round pick out of a North Carolina high school in the 2009 draft. They bought him away from UNC with an $800k signing bonus. Mitchell pitched to a 5.12 ERA (3.47 FIP) in 126.2 innings for High-A Tampa this past season before a late promotion to Double-A Trenton. He’s all about stuff — Mitchell sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and only David Robertson boasts a better curveball in the organization. I ranked him as the team’s 16th best prospect before the season and at least a year and probably two away from the show.
Greene, 24, was drafted one round before Mitchell out of Daytona Beach Community College. He had a 3.38 ERA (3.06 FIP) in 154.1 innings split almost equally between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this past year. Greene took a huge step forward with his control this summer, going from 4.37 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) from 2009-2012 to 1.75 BB/9 (4.5 BB%) in 2013. He’s a low-to-mid-90s fastball guy with a good slider who will probably wind up as a reliever long-term. There’s a chance we’ll see Greene in the big leagues in 2014. Both he and Mitchell are slated to open next year back with a Thunder. · (44) ·
Got a pair of non-baseball business notes involving two prominent Yankees to pass along, so let’s dive in:
Derek Jeter: Book Publisher
According to Julie Bosman, Derek Jeter announced this week that he will start Jeter Publishing, a publishing imprint that is partnered with Simon & Schuster and Wicked Cow Entertainment. He admitted to thinking about life after baseball while hurt for much of this past season. “I’ve had a lot of time to myself to think. The whole last year has been sort of a blur. Being away from it for so long gave me the opportunity to think about what the future may hold after baseball” said the Cap’n. “I think this sort of sets the blueprint for post-career. This is a great way to start.”
Jeter’s first books will be released sometime next year. They’re expected to include nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books, elementary grade fiction, and books for children who are learning to read. The project could lead to film and television publications. “You never know where this may go. You look at all the opportunities that come with content in general — I mean, there might be a compelling story that someone has that turns into a film or a TV show,” he added. “If I put my name on something, I’m going to be involved. I’m not just going to put my name on it and not pay attention.”
You could have given me roughly a million guesses, and I would have never guessed Jeter would get into book publishing after his playing days are over. That’s pretty cool though, congrats to him for getting this off the ground and figuring out what he wants to do once he hangs up his cleats. Still, book publishing? Never would have guessed it.
Joe Girardi: Mobile App Engineer
Dan Barbarisi reports Joe Girardi has developed a new mobile app with Appetizer Mobile that is scheduled to launch early next year. This isn’t some branded app that got the okay to use Girardi’s name and likeness at the last minute, he’s been working on it for the last year. “I see my children on apps — and ordering apps, on many occasions — and I just thought it would be kind of fun to create an app that I felt was appropriate for them,” he said. “I think that’s what you worry about all the time, for me, as a parent with kids.”
Girardi declined to reveal the specifics of the app, but it’s a “sports-related multiplayer-capable game utilizing ‘augmented reality technology,’ which supplements real-world environments with computerized input,” according to Barbarisi. That’s a mouthful. Appetizer Mobile CEO Jordan Edelson said it will be “kid-friendly but targeted to baseball fans and adults as well.” The app will be free to download but there will be in-game purchases. Girardi’s cut is going to charity.
“It’s a different side of me, because I think people are always used to seeing me at the ballpark, and not having this type of creativity. It’s not something that I do a lot of, but when I do put my heart and soul into something, it’s important to me,” added the skipper. This isn’t an unexpected as Jeter getting into book publishing, but I can’t say Girardi struck me as the type of guy who was big on technology or anything. Good for him. Sounds like he was very involved in the process and put a lot of work in.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are looking to add a late-inning reliever to either replace David Robertson in the eighth inning or take over as closer if Robertson doesn’t run away with the job. “I definitely need to improve the bullpen and provide as many arms out there for [Joe Girardi] to choose from,” said Brian Cashman to Andy McCullough earlier this week. “I’m definitely interested in exploring all available options that would improve the pen, from the left and right side.”
At the moment, the only locks for next year’s bullpen are Robertson and Shawn Kelley. Adam Warren and David Phelps could also be in the mix depending on how the rotation shakes out. Both Dellin Betances and David Huff are out of minor league options and will get chances to win jobs in camp. Other guys like Preston Claiborne and Cesar Cabral will be in the mix, but they can be sent to Triple-A if need be. Relievers are the riskiest investments in baseball, but I think the need for another veteran late-inning guy is pretty obvious. The Yankees have already been connected to Grant Balfour and could also target free agents like Jesse Crain and Jose Veras. Sherman speculates the rehabbing Joel Hanrahan could be a possibility. · (32) ·
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees and free agent left-hander Javier Lopez have “expressed mutual interest” during preliminary talks. Agent Barry Meister expects to have more serious negotiations later in the offseason, after New York addresses some more pressing needs. “That’s our goal, is to make sure that Javy plays with a winner, and plays with a team that’s a contender … That’s the most important thing to him: He wants the innings to be meaningful,” said Meister.
Lopez, 36, has been one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball over the last few seasons. He held same-side batters to a .156/.208/.222 (.197 wOBA) batting line in 2013 and a .212 wOBA with a 25.4% strikeout rate and a 63.5% ground ball over the last three years, all with the Giants. Lopez is a true specialist with a low arm slot, mid-80s fastball, and mid-70s slider, so he’s completely unusable against righties. They crush him. He helped San Francisco to two World Series titles, so he’s pitched in big games and pennant races and all that.
With payroll coming down, I figured lefty reliever would be a good spot for the Yankees to save some cash and go cheap. Grab some Clay Rapada types off waivers and as minor league free agents to compete with Cesar Cabral and David Huff (and Vidal Nuno?) in Spring Training and go from there. It’s good they touched base with Lopez and his agent understands they could circle back if there’s some extra money lying around after the heavy offseason lifting is done though. · (22) ·
CC Sabathia was in the best shape of his life. Following a season in which he was twice placed on the disabled list, and after which he underwent offseason elbow surgery, Sabathia decided the time had come to shed some of his excess weight. It wasn’t the first time; he had come to camp a bit slimmer in 2011 as well, but gained back much of that weight during the season. This time, the weight loss was here to stay.
The result: the worst year of his 13-year career, by no small measure.
We can start with the obvious, that Sabathia’s 4.78 ERA (85 ERA+) ranked 35th out of 37 qualified AL pitchers. All of his peripherals declined from his 2011 to 2012 levels. Watching his starts you could see the points at which he’d start to unravel. In 28 of his starts he made it to the sixth inning, and during those sixth frames opponents hit .339/.419/.550 against him. The list goes on.
Did Sabathia’s troubles stem from the weight loss? After all, he did turn in a very good 2012 season despite the injuries. While causation is always difficult to prove, there are some indicators that Sabathia did not adjust to his new body type. If that is the reason for Sabathia’s poor 2013, there is certainly hope for 2014 and beyond; mechanics are correctable.
Sabathia has started his off-season a bit early, going on the DL with a Grade 2 hamstring strain just a few days after turning in one of his best performances of the season (albeit against the hapless Giants). He should be fine for Spring Training, and thanks to the necessary rehab from the injury he might come into camp a bit stronger. Perhaps with some more repetitions, he’ll iron out his mechanics. But this represents the optimistic scenario for last year. We’re still here to discuss what went wrong in 2013.
While his weight loss might have played a role in his poor 2013, it’s hard to ignore another possible factor: past workload. Sabathia pitched a full season, 33 starts, at age 20, and has made at least 28 starts in each following season. Before he signed his first contract with the Yankees he had thrown 1659.1 innings. Heading into the 2013 season he had thrown 2564.1. He has now thrown the 139th most innings in MLB history, at age 33. That can be a good thing as well as a bad thing, of course. Tim Hudson has lasted through more innings than Sabathia, and is about five years older. There are cases where players can throw lots of innings and hold up.
In reading the last three paragraphs, you might have noticed the same thing I did while writing it: that each paragraph ends on an optimistic note. It is difficult to write about such an obviously disappointing season from a guy expected to anchor the rotation, hence the “things could be better” follow-up to every negative point. Instead of continuing in this fashion, perhaps it’s best to list the final few factors in his poor 2013 and let that be that.
- Sabathia’s tERA, which accounts for batted ball types, stood at 4.87, the worst of his career and a full run worse than 2012.*
- His average velocity was down a mile per hour from 2012, and nearly 3mph from 2009 — though his velocity did rise as the season progressed.
- Then again, there was a drop-off after a steady rise sometime in August. Perhaps that was a turning point?
- He used his changeup more often than any year since 2010, but according to weighted values it was worth negative runs. Chances are that has to do both with the drop in fastball velocity and with his command issues; hanging changeups go a long way.
*Not that I buy totally into the value of tERA, but it is one tool with which we have to measure pitchers. Just like all other stats mentioned.
Honestly, after 2013 there’s nothing to do but hope that Sabathia gets stronger while rehabbing his hamstring, gets in as many reps as he needs in Spring Training, and starts 2014 fresh. Otherwise the last three to four year of his contract are going to hurt.
- When the hearing resumes, it will continue for ten consecutive days if necessary. They won’t take weekends off and will work right up until Thanksgiving in order to get this thing wrapped up. Arbitrator Frederic Horowitz is expected to take three or four weeks to hand down a ruling once the hearing is over.
- A-Rod will miss a scheduled interview with MLB on Friday because he’s sick and stuck in California, unable to travel according to doctor’s orders. It’s nothing serious and it will not delay the proceedings next week. The interview is required before he can take the stand, however (convenient timing, no?).
- Rodriguez, commissioner Bud Selig, and Yankees team president Randy Levine could all be called to stand to testify at some point soon. MLB is likely to try to prevent Selig and Levine from talking, however. I guess that’s something they’re allowed to do.
- The Florida Department of Health says MLB impeded their investigation of Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch by purchasing stolen clinic documents earlier this year. The documents were originally intended for DOH, so the state was forced to limit the scope of their investigation and Bosch’s eventual punishment ($5,000 fine that was reduced to $3,000). Long story short: MLB said too bad, their investigation was more important.
- Even if A-Rod is suspended for all or part of next season, he could still be around the team in Spring Training. The Joint Drug Agreement says a suspended player has all the rights of a regular player except he can’t play in regular season or postseason games. One of those rights is Spring Training, apparently. If the Yankees try to stop him from showing up to camp, A-Rod could file a grievance and create even more headaches. What a world.
Nine questions this week, so it’s another rapid fire mailbag with short-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.
Peter asks: Should the Yankees speak to the Tigers about trading for Drew Smyly and turn him back into a starter? How well do they match up and what would you give up?
To answer the question, yes, I think the Yankees should look to trade for Smyly so they can convert him back into a starter. Jon Morosi says the Tigers are fielding offers for Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello as a way to plug other roster holes and clear payroll with Smyly taking over the vacated rotation spot. The Yankees should have interest in all of those guys — slightly less interest in Porcello, who needs a good infield defense to be effective — including Smyly. I looked at the 24-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate last winter and everything still holds true, except he now has a season as elite reliever (2.37 ERA and 2.31 FIP) under his belt and one fewer year of team control. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t trade for prospects (he trades them away), he’ll want big league pieces in return. Detroit needs bullpen help and I’d give them David Robertson (free agent after 2014) for Smyly (free agent after 2018) in a heartbeat, but I suspect it’ll cost a bit more than that.
Ross asks: With the focus on the $189 million goal this off-season, what’s the likelihood the Yankees give extra years to free agents with a lower average annual value to separate their offers from other bidders?
An example of this would be signing Brian McCann for eight years and $81M ($10.125M luxury tax hit) instead of five years and $75M ($15M tax hit). The extra years lower the average annual value and thus the luxury tax hit while putting a little more money in McCann’s pocket for his cooperation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement covers potential luxury tax circumvention, and this type of maneuver would fall under that. The league would flag it and probably void the deal. It’s a good idea in theory — I’ve seen people suggest giving Alex Rodriguez a multi-year extension worth $1M a year to lower his tax hit — but I don’t think it would fly in reality. MLB doesn’t take too kindly to teams trying to game the system.
Mark asks: How do you like Chris Iannetta as a consolation prize for losing out on McCann? Would add a little bit more power to the bottom of the order.
Iannetta, 30, hit .225/.358/.372 (111 wRC+) this past season and has a 100 wRC+ with a 15.5% walk rate over the last three seasons. He’s also usually good for double digit homers. Iannetta isn’t a good defensive catcher these days (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s owed $10.225M through 2015 ($5.1125M tax hit). The Angels are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold themselves and one way they’ve discussed doing that is by dealing Iannetta and giving the catching reigns to young Hank Conger. Iannetta is better than the guys the Yankees have in-house and if they don’t bring in another catcher via free agency, he makes sense as a trade target. The Halos want pitching, so maybe something like Adam Warren for Iannetta makes sense for both sides. Not sure if that’s enough though. Just spit-balling here.
Glen asks: The White Sox are open to trading Alexei Ramirez. What would it take to get him and should the Yankees do it?
Well, according to Mark Gonzales, the White Sox turned Carlos Martinez when the Cardinals offered the one-for-one swap prior to the trade deadline. Jon Heyman shot that down, which makes sense because I can’t imagine Chicago would decline an offer like that. They’d be crazy. The 32-year-old Ramirez is basically Eduardo Nunez with a better glove and a much more expensive contract ($10.25M tax hit through 2015). He’s a total hacker (3.2% walk rate last two years) with no power (.098). I would prefer simply signing Brendan Ryan, who will play similar (if not better) defense and hit for a lower average but come far, far cheaper. I know good shortstops are hard to find, but I am not a Ramirez fan at all.
Bill asks: Any interest in Matt Kemp as a trade target?
Yes, but two things need to happen first. For starters, the Dodgers would have to eat a whole bunch of money. Kemp is owed $128M through 2019 ($21.3M tax hit) and I’d be willing to take him on at $16M or so annually. That means Los Angeles would have to kick in about $32M or so, a lot in the real world but little relative to the contract. Secondly, Kemp would have to go through a very thorough physical. The guy had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and left shoulder (labrum) surgery last winter, plus he’s missed a bunch of time with hamstring problems the last two years. There is evidence that hitters who have their front shoulder surgically repaired (like Kemp last winter) can lose bat speed and power for a long time and perhaps permanently. Adrian Gonzalez is a very good example — his power isn’t nearly what it was pre-2010 shoulder surgery. It has to do with the mechanics (and biomechanics, I suppose) of the swing and everything like that. Click the link, it’s interesting stuff. Kemp just turned 29 in September and his upside (MVP level performance fro, 2011-2012) is so very high that it’s hard to ignore. The salary needs to be offset and the body (especially the shoulder) needs to be checked out first, but yes, I’m interested.
Aaron asks: Any interest in Gordon Beckham for 3B? I know its been a few years but I think he’s still young enough to handle the switch back over.
Not anymore. I liked Beckham a few years ago and thought he was salvageable, but we’re going on nearly 2,500 career plate appearances with an 86 wRC+ now (88 wRC+ in 2013). Yes, he is only 27 and a breakout could be right around the corner, but Matt Swartz projects him to earn $3.5M next year and that’s a little pricey for a reclamation project in my opinion. I don’t think the transition from second base over to third will be much of a problem — hell, he still might be an option at shortstop — but it’s everything else that comes along with it, namely the price tag and noodle bat.
Travis asks: I’m thinking outside the box and more than likely this is one of the stupidest things you’ve heard in a while, but what if a team traded for Josh Beckett and made him a closer? He’s a former Red Sock, so I wouldn’t suggest Yankees, but someone?
stupid outside the box. (Kidding!) Beckett, 33, made only eight starts this year before needing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is what effectively ended Chris Carpenter’s career. It’s serious stuff but not always a career-ender. Dillon Gee and Matt Harrison have both dealt with it recently and come back perfectly fine. Beckett’s stuff has been fading in recent years and he was only sitting 90-91 with his fastball before getting hurt this year, and he’s a very different pitcher at 90-91 than he was was 95-96 a few years ago. Maybe a move to relief will bring back some velocity. If he can’t hold up as a starter anymore following the surgery, the bullpen would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to trade for him and try it, though.
Mark asks: Assume the Yankees part ways with Robinson Cano, any chance you see them trying to acquire Ryan Braun? Or does he have too much baggage with his PED suspension? Not sure the Brewers are open to dealing him, but I suspect they are given how bad the team is. Assuming he is available, he could fill the void in RF or 3B (can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera), is just 29 and is signed to a super team-friendly deal through 2021 (when he turns 37) at $16.5 million per year.
Believe it or not, Braun is still pretty popular in Milwaukee. This isn’t an A-Rod situation where pretty much everyone hates him. Braun is beloved by fans and his team (again, unlike A-R0d) and there’s no real desire to get rid of him. He’s the franchise cornerstone and they’re going to move forward with him as the centerpiece despite the PED stuff. Even if they wanted to get rid of him, I don’t think the Yankees don’t have the pieces to get a player of that caliber. It’s not like the Brewers would just give him away to save face and money. It’s a nice idea — he’d fit wonderfully in right field (third base isn’t happening, I don’t think “can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera” is a good enough reason to play him there) — and in the middle of the lineup, but it ain’t happening.
Mike asks: Would Jed Lowrie make sense as a possible trade target? He’s in his last year of arbitration this season before becoming a free agent in 2015. He’s a SS who has played 3B and 2B in the past, and he had a good year where he stayed healthy (finally) in 2013. If Billy Beane was inclined to deal him (would he be?), what kind of package would the Yankees have to give up?
Yes, he definitely makes sense. The 29-year-old Lowrie managed to stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career this past summer, hitting 15 homers with a 121 wRC+ in a pitcher’s park. He can play shortstop but his defense is spotty, though he does make up for it with the stick. Matt Swartz projects him to earn $4.8M in 2014 and there’s a decent chance he’ll be worth a qualifying offer after the season, meaning he’ll net a draft pick if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. Again, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for a player of Lowrie’s caliber — for what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears the Athletics aren’t looking to trade him in the wake of the Nick Punto signing — but he’s a definite fit at this point in time.
Via Chris Cotillo: The Yankees will re-sign right-hander Jim Miller to a minor league contract. I assume he’ll get an invitation to Spring Training. The team brought fellow righty David Herndon back on a minor league deal last month as well.
Miller, 31, appeared in one game for the Yankees in September, allowing three runs in 1.1 innings. He spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Scranton (3.55 ERA and 3.22 FIP in 63.1 innings) after being claimed off waivers from the Athletics last winter. In 64.2 career big league innings with the Yankees, A’s, and Rockies, Miller has a 2.78 ERA and 4.64 FIP. He’ll again head to Triple-A to serve as bullpen depth. · (6) ·
Via Jerry Crasnick: The Yankees have signed outfielder Antoan Richardson to a minor league contract. The Bahamas-born and Florida-raised switch-hitter also received an invitation to Spring Training and will be with the big league squad in camp.
Richardson, 30, hit .285/.402/.371 (126 wRC+) in 523 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A with the Twins this past season. He received a brief cup of coffee with the Braves in September 2011. Richardson is a classic leadoff hitter, drawings lots of walks (15.9%) with not many strikeouts (17.8%) or much power (two homers (!) and .064 ISO) over the last three seasons. He can steal bases (83-for-100 since 2011) and old scouting reports indicate he’s a very good defensive outfielder.
If nothing else, Triple-A Scranton will have one helluva leadoff hitter next season. Richardson could get an opportunity to make the team in a fifth outfielder’s role if the Yankees dump both Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells this winter, but that seems unlikely. If New York manages to sneak back into the postseason in 2014, I suppose Richardson could be considered for the honorary Freddy Guzman role of pinch-running specialist. · (23) ·
As expected, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive AL MVP Award on Thursday night. He again beat out Mike Trout by a pretty big margin, taking home 23 of the 30 first place votes. Based on the points system, Trout was closer to finishing fifth than he was first. For shame.
Speaking of finishing fifth, that’s what Robinson Cano did. He appeared on all 30 ballots and was as high as third on one ballot. Miggy, Trout, Chris Davis, and Josh Donaldson finished ahead of him. Robbie was the only Yankees player to receive MVP votes, which isn’t all that surprising. I thought Mariano Rivera might get a going away vote or two, but that didn’t happen. The full voting results are right here. Andrew McCutchen took home NL honors in a landslide. · (7) ·