We are now less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty in Tampa, meaning it’s looking less and less likely that Brian Cashman & Co. will pull a major move out of their sleeve this offseason. The Yankees still need a starting catcher (not happening), a DH (will probably happen), bench help (almost certainly will happen), and various depth pieces (will happen) before the start of the season, so the shopping list isn’t small. Since it’s unlikely each of those holes will be filled before the season, let’s look ahead at some players who might be available at the trade deadline.
Now, looking ahead seven months and trying to figure which teams will be in it and who be available is very, very tricky business. At this time last year I was touting Andre Ethier as a potential deadline DH target, yet by time late-July rolled around he had signed a new extension and the Dodgers were suddenly owned by free-spending billionaires. There are surprise contenders and surprise extensions every summer, which throws a wrench into the trade market. Since we like talking about possible trades though, here are a few players in their walk years — I’m assuming the Yankees won’t want to take on any multi-year contracts given the 2014 payroll plan — on projected non/maybe-contenders who might be available at midseason.
The Athletics surprised everyone last season with their late surge to the AL West crown, but you don’t have to try real hard to envision a scenario in which they’re out of the race and far behind the Angels and Rangers come the deadline. Oakland had a ton of walk-off wins and nearly all of their rookie arms worked out last year, neither of which I would count on happening again. The Yankees have had some interest in Balfour before, and the 35-year-old right-hander would be an obvious target if things go wrong in the bullpen and another late-game arm is needed.
Matt Garza & Ricky Nolasco
The Yankees have plenty of pitching depth at the moment, but we know how this stuff goes. It has a way of disappearing quickly. CC Sabathia is coming off elbow surgery, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are up their in age, Phil Hughes seems to perpetually walk the tightrope, and no one really knows what to expect out of Ivan Nova and David Phelps. Since Adam Warren and Brett Marshall are the next-in-line guys in Triple-A, a veteran starter could easily be on the trade deadline agenda. The Cubs and Marlins aren’t going anywhere and they’ve already been shopping Garza and Nolasco, respectively, so it’s a safe bet both guys will be moved at some point before the end of July. Garza, 29, has AL East experience while the 30-year-old Nolasco is more of a break glass in case of emergency option. The Yankees have had interest in both in the not-too-distant past.
Hart, 30, was supposed to have knee surgery yesterday, but he pushed the procedure back so he could get a second opinion. He was expected to miss three or four months once he had the operation. Hart is basically another Mike Morse, except he hits for a slightly lower average and makes up the on-base numbers with walks. He hits for power from the right side and can play either corner outfield spot in addition to first base. DH is always an option as well. The Brewers overhauled their league-worst bullpen from a year ago but didn’t add any starting pitching, so contending in the tough (but winnable!) NL Central will be a chore. For what it’s worth, Brewers GM Doug Melvin was non-committal when asked about signing Hart to an extension a few weeks ago.
This one might be coming out of left field, but I think there’s potential here. Helton, 39, fits the Ichiro Suzuki/Lance Berkman mold of a former great who has been toiling on a non-contender for years and could request a trade in hopes of one last shot at a World Championship. He’s battled knee, hip, and back injuries in recent years but still provides value at the plate because he’s very disciplined (13.8 BB% in 2012, 14.4% career) and he doesn’t strike out much (15.5 K% in 2012, 12.1% career). Yes, the guy has been in the big leagues since 1997 and he still has more unintentional walks (1,111) than strikeouts (1,088) to his name. His power (.164 ISO last two years) is mostly the product of Coors Field — Yankee Stadium is a pretty good place to hit as well — and he will need a platoon partner. Helton has already hinted at retiring after the season, and if the Yankees need a left-handed hitter for their DH spot come July, and I bet his name pops up in rumors. He fits the good clubhouse presence, veteran change of scenery guy mold perfectly.
Ruiz, 34, has to serve a 25-game amphetamines-related suspension to open the season, but he’ll still have about three months before the deadline to prove last season’s 151 wRC+ wasn’t a fluke. I don’t expect him to ever hit like that again, but he’s been an above-average hitter over the last four seasons because he takes walks (career 10.4 BB%) and doesn’t strike out (career 11.1 K%). He’ll probably go back to hitting single-digit homers again, but that’s fine given his batting average and on-base ability. Chooch has consistently ranked in the top-six of the various catcher defense rankings (2010, 2011, 2012) and he’s thrown out base-stealers at a league average rate or better throughout his career. If the Phillies skid to the finish and make Ruiz available at the deadline, he’d be the perfect rental for New York even if he doesn’t repeat 2012 and reverts back to his 2008-2010 form.
One of these days the Yankees will make a move, right? These last few weeks have been incredibly boring as a fan. The Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki signings did nothing for me as far as creating excitement. Once they re-signed the various pitchers, it’s been a snooze of an offseason. Frustrating, boring, many other things.
Anyway, here is your open for the night. The Devils are the only local team in action, but talk about whatever you like here. Enjoy.
Kevin Youkilis is famous for many reasons, including his rather unique batting stance. He bounces around with his hands separated and high above his head … it’s not something you would teach to kids in little league. Let’s put it that way. It worked for him so it stuck, but that’s going to change next season. With his production declining, Youkilis and hitting coach Kevin Long have examined some old tape and worked on a new setup this offseason.
“We looked at old film and compared it to 2012,” said Long to Dan Martin earlier this month. “We saw some considerable differences, mainly in his stance and it looked like the adjustments had an impact … I think we can get him back to being an all-star caliber player.”
Jack Curry followed up by reporting that the specific adjustments include a wider base and deeper crouch at the plate, as well as a lower hand position. Dropping hands is a classic adjustment made by older players losing bat speed because it helps get them into the hitting position sooner. Rather than having to bring his hands down and then start to load the swing, Youkilis’ hands will already be down and require less movement to begin his load. Make sense? It cuts out a step. The wider stance, on the other hand, creates a bigger base and helps balance. Albert Pujols has a very wide base at the plate, for example.
Since Youkilis has continued to annihilate left-handed pitching in recent years, I assume these changes are geared towards helping him hang in better against right-handers. With some help from the indispensable Baseball Heat Maps, here are Youk’s heat maps against right-handed hitters over the last three seasons…
I highly recommend clicking the image for a larger view, but from left to right that’s 2010, 2011, and 2012. The red is good (above average production on pitches in those spots), the blue is bad (below average), and the green is about neutral (average). Youkilis has always been a dead pull hitter, so it’s not a surprise that he’s had the least success on outside pitches these last three years. You can kinda see the blue spots gradually drop within the strike zone over the years, which makes sense given the position of his hands and the assumed loss of bat speed. He simply has a long way to go to reach those pitches and can’t do it as well as he once did.
Here’s the thing though: Youkilis never was and most likely never will be someone who can consistently take that outside pitch the other way. He’ll do it on occasion, no doubt about it, but given his struggles against down-and-away pitches last year, the goal is more along the lines of “well at least now he has a chance.” If Long and Youkilis can do enough that those down-and-away pitches become something other than automatic swings and misses, it should help him get better pitches to hit because we know he has the eye to lay off stuff out of the zone and can still do an okay job against pitches on the inner half.
The Yankees were painted into a bit of a corner a few weeks ago when news of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip injury broke, as the free agent third base options included Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, and a bunch of utility infielders. They opted for the most accomplished of the bunch, but unfortunately they’re not acquiring the Youkilis of 2008-2010. He’s still a serviceable hitter though, especially against left-handers, and it’s good to see he and Long are putting in work this offseason in an attempt to improve his overall production. Long as helped turn Curtis Granderson into one of the game’s best power hitters and Robinson Cano into an elite all-around hitter, now all he has to do is get Youkilis back to being himself.
This isn’t very surprising, but David Waldstein confirmed the Yankees did not make any kind of offer to Pedro Feliciano before he signed a minor league contract with the Mets yesterday. The Bombers already have enough left-handed relief options at both the big league (Boone Logan & Clay Rapada) and Triple-A (Josh Spence & Juan Cedeno) levels, plus they already wasted enough time and effort on Feliciano these last two years. I’m guessing they won’t make an offer to Damaso Marte either. · (31) ·
Since we last met, the Yankees addressed nearly all of their arbitration business by signing Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain to one-year contracts that were a bit more pricey than MLBTR’s projections. Here’s an updated look at the team’s payroll situation for the upcoming season…
- Existing Contracts ($121M): Alex Rodriguez ($28M), CC Sabathia ($23M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Derek Jeter ($17M), Robinson Cano ($15M), Curtis Granderson ($15M), David Aardsma ($500k)
- Players Signed In Offseason ($70.525M): Hiroki Kuroda ($15M), Andy Pettitte ($12M), Kevin Youkilis ($12M), Mariano Rivera ($10M), Phil Hughes ($7.15M), Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5M), Boone Logan ($3.15M), Brett Gardner ($2.85M), Joba Chamberlain ($1.875M)
- Remaining Arbitration Cases ($3.55M max): David Robertson (filed for $3.55M, team countered with $2.85M)
- Buyouts & Dead Money ($8.75M): A.J. Burnett ($8.5M), Pedro Feliciano ($250k)
Assuming Robertson wins his arbitration hearing (doesn’t make a big difference either way), the Yankees already have $203.825M in real dollars (not average annual value for luxury tax purposes) tied up in 17 roster spots. They’ve opened each of the last five seasons with a real-dollar payroll in the $203-214M range, meaning they have approximately $10.2M to spend on the remaining 23 40-man roster spots if they’re willing to again open the season at a similar level.
The 15 players on the 40-man but not in the big leagues will earn less than the league minimum — the pro-rated minimum in the show and something much less in the minors. I’ve seen those players estimated at $2.5M total which I think might actually be a little light in the Yankees’ case. Remember, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda are going to open the season on the 60-day DL and will have their 40-man spots occupied by other players. Let’s call it $3.5M for the non-active roster 40-man players.
Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Chris Stewart, Frankie Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, and Clay Rapada are in their pre-arbitration years but project to open the season on the 25-man roster. They’ll earn something close to the league minimum, so $3M for the group ($500k each). Those six combined with the 15 non-25-man players brings us to $210.325M for 38 players. Jayson Nix and Matt Diaz are the early favorites to fill out the bench, and they signed minor league contracts that will pay them $900k and $1.2M in the big leagues, respectively. We’re now at $212.425M for a full 40-man roster.
The Yankees still have a number of holes to fill, but at this point I think we should all stop expecting them to find a legitimate starting catcher. Maybe (hopefully) they’ll claim George Kottaras and his meager $1M salary to, if nothing else, compete for the job in the camp. It’s not like they’d be taking on a huge financial commitment or anything. They still need a DH and miscellaneous depth pieces, both on the bench and for the pitching staff. More minor league contracts are inevitable, but there still appears to be some room left in the payroll to acquire a real big leaguer who improves the club. I expect that to happen at DH.
Here is your open thread for this chilly evening. The Knicks and Nets are meeting in Madison Square Garden, and that’s really it as far as professional local sports go. You can talk about that game or anything else here, as usual. Go nuts.
When the arbitration dust settled late last week, the Yankees had reached agreements with all of their eligible players except for David Robertson. The two sides filed salary figures — Robertson filed for $3.55M while the team countered with $2.85M — before Friday’s deadline, and those numbers will be used during a potential hearing late next month. It’s important to point out that Robertson and the Yankees can agree to a new contract of any size between now and a hearing.
As we know, Hal Steinbrenner is not a fan of contract extensions. We also know the team is willing to bend the rules a bit to sign players long-term before they hit free agency. The Yankees did it with Robinson Cano prior to the 2008 season and they were willing to do it again with Russell Martin last winter. Robertson is not due to become a free agent until after the 2014 season, but he’s an exception candidate for the no-extensions rule given the impending departures of Mariano Rivera (retirement) and Joba Chamberlain (free agency) next winter.
Robertson, 27, has emerged as one of baseball’s most dominant relievers over the last two seasons. His 1.84 ERA and 2.15 FIP both rank sixth among all bullpeners since the start of 2011 (min. 50 IP) while his strikeout rates (12.79 K/9 and 34.8 K%) both rank fifth. Robertson’s also thrown a ton of important innings these last two years, as his 1.57 gmLI (leverage index when entering the game) is the 27th highest overall and the third highest among non-closing relievers (arbitrarily defined as guys with fewer than ten saves). Sure, the walk rates are high (3.82 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%), but they aren’t astronomical. Robertson makes up for it by missing bats and getting grounders (45.6%).
Unsurprisingly, the number of non-closing relievers who have signed extensions two years before free agency is very small. That has much more to do with the teams wanting to limit risk than the players not being open to it, obviously. The only guy from that group who is remotely comparable to Robertson is Glen Perkins, who inked a three-year, $10.3M extension with the Twins during Spring Training last year. The left-hander had just one year as an elite reliever under his belt (2.48 ERA and 2.41 FIP) at the time of his extension and it wasn’t even as good as Robertson has been the last two years. We’re running very short on comparables here.
We know Robertson’s camp values his second year of arbitration-eligibility at $3.55M — a $1.95M raise from last season — thanks to their filing figure. MLBTR projected a $2.8M salary for next season, which is right in line with the team’s filing figure. Maybe that means the Yankees have a good chance to win a hearing, but I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. The club has been to just two arbitration hearings this century, beating both Rivera (2000) and Chien-Ming Wang (2008). That doesn’t mean much though, I’m sure they’re eager to work out an agreement with their setup man before having to step in front of a three-person panel next month. No one likes to go through a hearing, they tend to get ugly.
The Yankees would presumably look to sign Robertson for at least three years, which would buy out his final two seasons of arbitration-eligibility and one free agent year. Tacking on a club option or three at the end would be ideal for the team but not the player. I’m just going to spitball some numbers here: they could look at something like $3M in 2013 (a bit below the midpoint of the filing figures), $4.75M in 2014, and $6.5M in 2014 with a $250k signing bonus and a $500k buyout of a fourth year club option worth say … $9M. That’s a three-year, $15M guarantee that gives Robertson a $1.75M raise annually and the team a $5M luxury tax hit. He’d hit free agency at age-31 if the option was exercised.
Contract extensions are a two-way street since each side is giving something to get something else. The player trades maximum earning potential for financial security while the team trades the risk of performance decline for cost certainty. The unique twist here is Robertson’s role. If he were to assume the closer’s role at some point this year or next, his earning potential would skyrocket because saves pay. Given Rivera’s age and the likelihood of retirement after this coming season, you don’t have to try to real hard to envision a scenario in which Robertson becomes the closer within ten months or so. His agent is surely aware of that.
The other thing we have to remember is that Robertson is a reliever, and those guys have a tendency to fall apart without warning and for no apparent reason. Just using fWAR as a quick example, the three best relievers in baseball two seasons ago were Carlos Marmol, Brian Wilson, and Heath Bell. Four seasons ago Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and Brad Lidge were in the top five. It’s a volatile position and no matter how much we like Robertson and believe he’ll be different than the rest, he’s just as risky as every other reliever, especially when you factor in his less than stellar command. Given the team’s newfound dedication to staying under the luxury tax threshold, having ~$5M in payroll tied up in a risky reliever might not be the wisest thing in the world, even if they envision him as Rivera’s heir.
I don’t expect the Yankees to explore a long-term agreement with Robertson even though the two sides were unable to find common ground prior to last week’s filing deadline. Brett Gardner and Boone Logan didn’t sign until after the filing deadline last year, and there were no extension talks there as far as we know. Getting cost certainty from a reliever — especially a non-closing reliever — isn’t a huge priority for any team, so working out a multi-year contract with Robertson probably isn’t worth the hassle even though the club is likely to lose both Rivera and Joba after the upcoming season.
Just a heads up, my first post with CBS is live and yeah, it has to do with the Yankees. Don’t blame me, they said something about starting out in my comfort zone. Anyway, the post is part of our series looking at each team’s core, so head on over and check it out. [/self promotion] · (112) ·
2012 Record: 95-67 (804 RS, 668 RA, 96-66 pythag. record), won AL East, swept in ALCS
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees handled most of their arbitration business last week, agreeing to one-year contracts with Phil Hughes ($7.15M), Boone Logan ($3.15M), and Joba Chamberlain ($1.875M) . David Robertson did not reach an agreement, so the two sides filed salary figures with the league.
- Injury News: Alex Rodriguez (hip) had surgery and there was minimal cartilage damage. Derek Jeter (ankle) has been cleared to resume baseball activities.
- The Mariners traded for Mike Morse, whom the Yankees had some interest in acquiring. The Nationals signed Rafael Soriano, gifting the Yankees another supplemental first round draft pick. New York signed Reegie Corona and Thomas Neal to minor league deals.
- Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Frankie Cervelli will participate in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Andy Pettitte is not on the Team USA roster, however.
- Jorge Posada will not attempt a comeback, but he will be in camp as a guest instructor during Spring Training.
- The owners have tentatively approved three rule changes. Once the union signs off they will be implemented in 2013.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Got some news to share. About three weeks ago I was approached by CBS Sports about contributing to their MLB coverage, and long story short, you’ll be able to read more of my stuff at their Eye on Baseball blog starting tomorrow. I’ll be writing about all of baseball over there, not just the Yankees, which is what I enjoy the most to be honest. There are only so many times you can write about Alex Rodriguez‘s hip or the lack of a DH or getting under the luxury tax threshold before you bore yourself to death.
RAB, however, is not going anywhere. I’ll still be writing and praising and complaining about the Yankees regularly in this space, and in fact I’ll still be contributing to FanGraphs (and RotoGraphs) as well. MLBTR is a thing of the past though, something had to go and yesterday was my last day. It was a fun three and a half years, but there are only so many hours in the day. I’m lucky enough that I’ll have the best of both worlds with in-depth analysis (RAB and FanGraphs) and casual baseball writing (Eye on Baseball). It’ll be fun, hopefully you check it out.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Ravens and Patriots are playing (on CBS) for the right to face
either the Falcons or the 49ers in the Super Bowl, plus the Rangers are in action as well. Talk about either game or anything else here. Go nuts.