Via Dan Martin: The Yankees have “at least discussed the possibility” of signing free agent Eric Chavez this offseason. He would provide part-time help at both corner infield positions and DH, plus his lefty bat would be a nice weapon off the bench as well. Chavez has acknowledged he can no longer play everyday and has successfully made the transition to role player. It’s easier said than done.
Chavez, 35, hit .281/.332/.478 (114 wRC+) with nine homers in 254 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks last season, a bit short of his production with New York in 2012 (126 wRC+ and 16 homers in 313 plate appearances). He made two trips to the DL (oblique and knee) and remains a major injury risk, as you know. Chavez took $3M to move closer to home last year and I’m guessing he’ll command a similar salary this winter. The Yankees know him well and he’s obviously a good fit for the current roster. Risky though given his never-ending injury problems. · (34) ·
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have a long list of free agent targets this winter, a list that includes right-handers Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, and Dan Haren. The team is expected to be active during the GM Meetings next week. “[Hal Steinbrenner] is very involved and he wants to win,” said one source to Heyman while Scott Boras said the team has “been very aggressive.”
Arroyo, 36, had a 3.79 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 202 innings for the Reds this season. I have no interest in him for reasons I outlined in this recent mailbag. The 30-year-old Feldman had a 3.86 EA (4.03 FIP) in 181.2 innings for the Cubs and Orioles this year and I think he’s got a chance to be a real bargain, at least when compared to the asking prices being thrown out there by Ervin Santana ($100M) and Ricky Nolasco ($80M). Haren, 33, had a 4.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 169.2 innings for the Nationals in 2013 and was much better after spending two weeks on the DL to clear his head. The Yankees tried to acquire him in September as they made one last push for a postseason spot.
Heyman notes Hal and team ownership in general has gotten more involved in the decision-making process these last few months and … well, duh. That was obvious. He says the team’s brass is not blaming Brian Cashman for missing the playoffs and the decision to make Curtis Granderson the qualifying offer was his call. I’ve said this more times than I care to count over the last year or two: I understand no GM ever truly has autonomy, but I don’t like ownership taking a hands-on approach to roster building. Let the baseball ops people make the baseball decisions. · (57) ·
The Yankees have re-signed their entire coaching staff for 2014, the team announced. That includes Tony Pena (bench coach), Larry Rothschild (pitching coach), Kevin Long (hitting coach), Mick Kelleher (first base coach), Rob Thomson (third base coach), and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach). All of their contracts had expired on October 31st. Not surprising news. · (8) ·
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the baseball world’s most expensive sideshow.
I don’t even know where to start this post. Alex Rodriguez brought an unprecedented amount of negative to the Yankees this past season, both in terms of off-the-field distractions and in a pure on-field baseball sense. It was remarkable. A chore to sit through on a day-to-day basis but utterly fascinating at the same time. I guess the best way to do this is chronologically. Links take you to the pertinent RAB post.
December 3rd: Oh hey, Alex needs major hip surgery
During the very first day of the Winter Meetings, Brian Cashman took to the podium not to announce a trade or a free agent signing, but to announce that Rodriguez needed surgery to repair a torn labrum and a bone impingement as well as correct a cyst in his left hip. The injury apparently occurred sometime late in the regular season and was to blame for his dreadful postseason showing. (Unfortunately the rest of the team had no such excuse.) The surgery required 4-6 weeks of “pre-hab” and a 4-6 month recovery time, meaning A-Rod would be out until the All-Star break or so. The Yankees scrambled to sign Kevin Youkilis as a replacement third baseman and he managed to play fewer games than Alex in 2013, but I digress.
January 26th: Enter Anthony Bosch
This is the first time most of us heard about Bosch, a seedy quasi-doctor in South Florida who was being investigated by MLB and the DEA for allegedly providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes, including A-Rod. This would not be the last time we heard about him. Not by a long shot.
January 29th: A-Rod is officially connected to Bosch and PEDs
A few days later, The Miami New-Times published a lengthy exposé that included detailed records showing A-Rod had indeed received HGH and other banned substances from Bosch during a period of time from 2009-2012. The records included payment schedules and all sorts of other stuff. A number of other players were connected to Bosch and his Biogenesis clinic in the report as well. Over the next few days, we heard there was basically no chance the Yankees would be able to void the remaining five years and $114M left on Rodriguez’s contract.
February 12th: No camp for A-Rod
As MLB conducted their investigation into Bosch and Biogenesis behind the scenes, the Yankees started Spring Training without Alex. He was directed to stay home and continue his rehab following the hip surgery in New York. The injury provided a convenient excuse but it obvious the team wanted their third baseman nowhere near the club. They didn’t want the distraction. One day after the announcement, A-Rod was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for the newly-acquired Shawn Kelley.
April 12th: A-Rod may or may not have purchased Biogenesis documents
The Biogenesis story started to get cooky in mid-April, when it was reported A-Rod tried to purchase documents from people connected to the clinic in an effort to keep them away from MLB. Later that afternoon, a different report shot that down. Meanwhile, MLB was in the process of filing lawsuits against Bosch and several other important parties, but not Alex or any other players.
May 2nd: Cleared for baseball activities
A little less than five months following the surgery, Rodriguez and his surgically repaired hip was cleared to resume baseball activities. This was the first step of a long, long road. It wasn’t a typical rehab. A-Rod had to slowly build himself up before returning to the team.
June 6th: Attempted extortion
By now we all knew MLB was out for blood. They wanted to bury A-Rod and Ryan Braun specifically, the biggest names in the Biogenesis scandal. The league was looking to suspend upwards of 20 players, but especially those two because they were considered serial users and multiple time offenders. On this date, we learned Bosch tried to extort a six-figure sum from Rodriguez before agreeing to cooperate with MLB’s investigation. In exchange for Bosch’s cooperation, MLB dropped their lawsuit, covered his legal bills and civil liability, and provided him with bodyguards. Jumping into bed with the league after trying to extort A-Rod is shady, shady stuff.
June 10th: A-Rod to Japan?
Oh, by the way, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan called the Yankees to inquire about Rodriguez’s availability over the winter, but New York never bothered to call them back. This is a real thing that really happened.
June 25th: STFU
In a passive aggressive attempt to annoy the Yankees and MLB and whoever else, A-Rod was tweeting out details about his rehab. The team didn’t take too kindly to that, to the point that Brian Cashman suggested his third baseman should “shut the f**k up” while talking with a reporter. The GM eventually apologized and all that, but frustration had started to boil over.
July 2nd: Rehab games
Seven months after surgery and two months after being cleared to resume baseball activities, Rodriguez began an official minor league rehab assignment with Low-A Charleston. He went 0-for-2 and played three innings at third base. His 20-day rehab window had begun.
July 20th: When quads attack
Bad weather forced Alex to jump between minor league levels during his rehab, but he was with Triple-A Scranton in the middle of July and was only a few days away from rejoining the team when he felt some tightness in his left quad. Supposedly it wasn’t bad, so he was not scratched from that night’s game. They shifted him to DH instead.
July 21st: Grade I
The Yankees sent A-Rod for tests on his quad, tests that revealed a Grade I strain. Rather than meet the team in Texas to be activated off the DL as scheduled, he would be shut down for roughly two weeks. I am convinced the team delayed his return as long as possible because they hoped he would be suspended so they could be rid of him and the distraction. Completely convinced.
July 24th: Quad injury? What quad injury?
Three days after the Grade I strain diagnosis, Dr. Michael Gross called into Mike Francesa’s show to say he saw no quad strain when he gave Rodriguez an unofficial second opinion. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t see any injury there,” said Gross. A-Rod reported no pain and said he felt ready to be activated off the DL and play that night. The Yankees later fined Rodriguez because he sought a second opinion without first notifying the team in writing per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. He was sent for a third opinion the next day that confirmed the Grade I strain diagnosis. Things were starting to get weird, needless to say.
August 2nd: Rehab, part deux
Rodriguez returned to Double-A Trenton to start his rehab (again) and homered in his first game. He drew four walks the next day, in what was ultimately his final minor league game of 2013.
August 5th: A-Rmageddon
This is when things got completely nuts. On the afternoon of August 5th, A-Rod and a dozen other players were officially suspended for their ties to Biogenesis. Those 12 other players all received 50-game bans and started serving their suspensions immediately. Rodriguez received a record 211 games that covered the rest of 2013 and all of 2014. MLB essentially gave him 50 games for being a first-time offender and 161 games for trying to interfere with their investigation. Despite rumors that Bud Selig would invoke a commissioner’s power that would ban Alex from baseball in the “best interests of the game,” he did no such thing.
Unlike the other 12 players, Rodriguez appealed his suspension and rejoined the team that night. On the same day he was given a historic suspension, he played his first game of the season. Crazy. A-Rod met the club in Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox and went 1-for-4 with a walk in his first big league game of 2013. Not coincidentally, the YES Network recorded their highest ratings of the season that night. Alex went 15-for-47 (.319) with two doubles and two homers (.897 OPS) in his first 12 games back and gave the offense a major shot in the arm.
August 17th: Enter Joseph Tacopina
Tacopina, A-Rod’s lawyer for his appeal, blasted the Yankees during an interview and said the team deliberately endangered his client’s health by playing him with the hip injury during the postseason last year in an effort to get him out of baseball. He claimed the team hid MRI results that showed the labrum tear. “They rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer … They did things and acted in a way that is downright terrifying,” said Tacopina. The next day we learned Alex’s camp had started the process of filing a medical grievance. Cashman told reporters he felt uncomfortable around A-Rod but rooted for him because he wore pinstripes. So very weird.
August 18th: Officer Ryan Dempster, Baseball Police
In the finale of a three-game set with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Dempster took it upon himself to punish Rodriguez for his alleged PED crimes. He threw the first pitch of their first encounter behind A-Rod’s legs, the next two inside at his waist, and the fourth at his ribs. Joe Girardi got tossed after storming out of the dugout because both benches were warned but Dempster was not ejected despite obviously throwing at a player. The righty would be suspended five games a few days later. A few innings later, Alex hit a monster solo homer to dead center against Dempster, the team’s longest homer of the season. New York came from behind in the late innings to win what was then a huge game. Probably the highlight of the season, no?
September 10th: Hamstrung
With his batting line sitting at .301/.388/.496 after 31 games and 129 plate appearances, Rodriguez was forced out of a game against the Orioles with tightness in his left hamstring. No tests were performed and A-Rod returned to the lineup the very next night as the DH. The Yankees were fighting for a wildcard spot, after all. He would not play the field again the rest of the season.
September 15th: Now, the calf
Five days later, Alex had to leave a game against the Red Sox with tightness in his right calf. The team was off the next day and A-Rod returned to the lineup the day after that, again as the DH. At this point he was playing on a bad calf, a bad hamstring, and two surgically repaired hips. It was obvious the mounting leg injuries were affecting him at the plate as his swing was basically all arms late in the season. He looked like he did during the postseason last year. In his final 13 games of the season, basically from the hamstring injury through the end of the year, A-Rod went 4-for-43 (.093) with two homers (.483 OPS), including his record 24th career grand slam. He finished the season with seven homers and a .244/.348/.423 (113 wRC+) batting line in 44 games and 181 plate appearances.
September 30th: Now the show really starts
The appeal hearing of Rodriguez’s suspension started the first day after the end of the regular season. MLB kicked things off with about a week’s worth of testimony — the two sides traded public barbs the whole time — but scheduling conflicts put the hearing into a recess until mid-November. The hearing will resume on November 18th and a ruling is not expected until sometime in mid-December.
October 4th: Lawsuits for everyone
If A-Rod goes down, he’s going down with guns blazing. Early last month, his legal team filed two separate lawsuits: one against Selig and MLB for their “witch hunt” and trying to push him out of the game, and another against team doctor Christopher Ahmad for misdiagnosing his hip injury last fall. Refer back to the August 17th entry. He reportedly asked the union to step down as his lead counsel during the appeal because he felt they had not take advantage of opportunities to challenge the league’s shady investigation. Rodriguez is burning every bridge in an attempt to clear his name. Proceedings for the lawsuit against MLB started just yesterday. Nothing had started in the case against Ahmad as far as we know.
* * *
So that is all of it. Eleven months of scandal and injuries and baseball and more scandal. It’s something only A-Rod could pull off, really. The Yankees can now do nothing but sit and wait as the appeal process plays out, hoping their highest paid player gets suspended for a most if not all of next season so they have some extra money to work with this offseason. What a crazy world we live in.
Eleven, yes eleven questions this week. I combined two into one so there are only ten answers. Needless to say, I went rapid fire. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us stuff, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Dustin asks: With Jarrod Saltalamacchia not getting a qualifying offer, does he become a more attractive option for the Yankees over Brian McCann? Or does the fact that he only has one above-average season keep McCann in the lead?
It’s a combination of several things, really. The lack of track record and defensive shortcomings mostly. I do think there’s a strong case to be made that Salty at his price (three years, $36M?) is a better deal than McCann at his price (five years, $80M plus a pick?). Given where the Yankees are as a franchise, with some young catchers on the way and payroll coming down, a shorter term deal for a backstop makes more sense than going big on McCann. I would prefer Carlos Ruiz in that case — he is a far better defender than Saltalamacchia, plus he should come even cheaper — but I think McCann is elite relative to his position. Guys like that are hard to pass up.
Nick asks: So it seems that Texas would be willing to move Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus. What would it take to get either? Andrus isn’t as attractive now because of that contract, but still should be considered. And Kinsler is always hurt.
Kinsler makes sense only if Robinson Cano signs elsewhere this winter. I don’t buy him as a first baseman or corner outfielder. I was excited about Andrus a year or two ago and thought he made a ton of sense as a Derek Jeter replacement — his free agency lined up perfectly with the end of Jeter’s contract (after 2014) — but I also thought he would continue to get better, not have a career-worst season in 2013. He’s owed $124.475M through 2022 ($13.8M luxury tax hit), which is scary. Furthermore, I’m not sure the Yankees and Rangers match up well for a trade. Texas is presumably looking for a young outfielder or high-end starter, two things New York a) doesn’t have, and b) needs itself.
Aside: Wouldn’t it make sense for the Rangers to trade both Andrus and Kinsler, then sign Cano and play Jurickson Profar at shortstop? Dealing Andrus and Kinsler would surely net them that young outfielder and high-end starter.
Ryan asks: I haven’t heard any mention of the Yankees and Nelson Cruz. His name hasn’t been floated on here since the trade rumors last January. Whats the deal? I would have though he’d be a great addition to the lineup.
Grant Brisbee explained why Cruz is such a risk yesterday, so I’ll link you to that. Long story short: Cruz is basically Alfonso Soriano without the defense. His numbers against righties aren’t anything special (.249/.299/.465 since 2011) and while home/road splits usually get way overblown, it’s hard to ignore how much more productive Cruz has been at his hitter-friendly home ballpark (.279/.340/.546 since 2011) than on the road (.247/.299/.432). The Yankees already have one Soriano, no need to give up a draft pick (Cruz received a qualifying offer) to get another.
Kevin asks: Juan Oviedo and Eric O’Flaherty seem like natural fits for the Yankees next year given the payroll and need for bullpen arms.
Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, the ex-Marlins closer. He’s missed the last two seasons due to elbow problems that eventually required Tommy John surgery. I would bring him in on a minor league deal no questions asked, but there’s no way I’d guarantee him anything after missing two years. He took a minor league deal (with the Rays) last year and will have to take one again. O’Flaherty missed most of 2013 after having his elbow rebuilt. He was one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball before the injury (held same-side hitters to a .195 wOBA from 2011-2012) and I think he’ll get a nice contract this winter despite coming off surgery. Would he take one year and $2M to rebuild value? I’m not sure the Yankees can afford to go higher than that for an injured pitcher who won’t be ready until June or so.
Bryan asks: How about a flyer on Brett Anderson? The A’s have rotation depth and the cost wouldn’t be super high (you’d think) right now. Or would they be better off with a guy like Josh Johnson (who only costs money) if they want to take a gamble?
Man I love Anderson, but he just can’t stay healthy. He’s thrown more than 115 innings just once (175.1 in 2009) and over the last two years he’s been limited to 79.2 innings total. Anderson has been pretty awesome whenever he’s stayed healthy for more than a month at a time, but he’s going to make $8M next season. That’s a huge chunk of change for an always hurt pitcher. I’m not sure the Yankees can afford a risk like that. Payroll is tight as it is, and that doesn’t even factor in the trade cost. If I’m going to bring in a reclamation project starter, I’d go with Johnson because he only costs money. I’d prefer neither, to be honest.
Biggie asks: If Curtis Granderson accepts his qualifying offer would there be a market to trade him? What type of return would you expect? I would love him to accept, move him for another piece and sign Carlos Beltran for two years and $28M.
I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble finding a taker for Granderson if he accepts the $14.1M qualifying offer. Chances are they could get a better prospect in return than they’d be able to select with the compensation pick as well. A contender in need of a bat like the Cardinals (if Beltran bolts), Tigers (for vacant left field), and Reds (if they don’t think Billy Hamilton is ready) would presumably show interest in Granderson on a one-year deal, ditto non-contenders like the Phillies, Mets, White Sox, Giants, Mariners, and Rockies. They wouldn’t get an elite prospect in return, but a rock solid Grade-B prospect who is at Double-A or higher. That’s very fair value if not a bargain.
Mike asks: What about Kelly Johnson as a free agent? He can fill in around the infield except at short and play the corners in the outfield.
If Cano does leave as a free agent and the Yankees decide to pass over David Adams and Corban Joseph as internal replacements, Johnson is the guy I’d want them to bring him to play second base. He shouldn’t required a multi-year contract like Omar Infante nor would he require the general headache of trading for Brandon Phillips. Johnson is a Yankee Stadium friendly left-handed hitter who hits for power (16+ homers in four straight years), plus he’ll steal a decent amount of bases and play solid defense. As an added bonus, he can also play left field in a pinch. The trade-off is a low average and strikeouts, which aren’t the end of the world for a number eight or nine hole hitter. Even if the Yankees re-sign Cano, Johnson makes sense as a lefty bat off the bench. Definite fit.
Tucker asks: While the idea of the Yankees signing Brian Wilson has been floated out there, and it definitely has a lot of appeal, I just can’t imagine him being willing to go to the barber, even if it means forfeiting a couple million. Do you agree with this?
Wilson already turned down a million bucks to shave his beard, but maybe $6-7M will change his mind? Ultimately, I think Wilson will wind up signing with a non-Yankees team because they’ll offer more money and guarantee him the closer’s job, not because he wouldn’t have to shave his beard. That would suck, he’s a perfect fit in my opinion (as long as you look beyond the beard and seemingly intentionally insufferable personality).
Thomas asks: Is there any chance that the Yankees try and get another full-time DH this season? If so, if he doesn’t retire, is it possible we would get another taste of Raul Ibanez? I’m sure Yankees fans would like to see him again.
Zac asks: Jason Kubel is one year removed from a 30-HR season and should come cheap following a poor year in which he battled injury. Is he s fit for the Yankees?
Going to lump these two together since Ibanez and Kubel are nearly the same exact player. If the Yankees don’t sign Beltran — he’s pretty much the only big name outfielder I can see them realistically signing — either guy would make sense as a part-time right fielder and part-time DH. They could also serve as that lefty bat off the bench I always seem to be talking about. New York could find a spot for their power even if they sign Beltran, though I think Ibanez is the safer bet at this point. Supposedly he’s only considering retirement or a return to the Mariners (he lives in Seattle during the offseason). As long as they keep him or Kubel away from lefties and have a defensive replacement handy, they’d make some sense for the current roster. I still don’t like the idea of adding a full-time DH. They need to keep that spot open for various old guys.
Anthony asks: Hey Mike, Chris Perez was just released by the Indians. Being that the Yankees will look to add a piece or two to the bullpen this offseason, do you think the team should give him a look? While I don’t see him serving as the closer, perhaps he can provide some value in the 7th or 8th?
I wrote about Perez in a mailbag back in May and said I wanted to see how he performed the rest of the season before thinking about him as an option for 2014. Well, from that date forward, he pitched to a 5.21 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 38 innings while opposing batters hit .283/.351/.520 against him. He and his wife were also arrested for drug possession. So … yeah, things didn’t go so well. The Indians got so sick of him that they didn’t even wait until the non-tender deadline to release him. Perez has really nasty stuff, but he clearly has some things to work on. I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough bullpen depth (or payroll space) to take on a second project reliever in addition to Dellin Betances.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees believe Hiroki Kuroda is leaning towards returning to Japan to pitch for the Hiroshima Carp next season. Ken Rosenthal hears that could push New York to offer the right-hander more than the $14.1M qualifying offer they made him Monday. Kuroda made $15M plus some incentives in 2013. The team would not receive a compensation draft pick if he signs with a team in Japan.
Kuroda, 38, pitched to a 3.31 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 201.1 innings this season. He faded badly down the stretch for the second straight year, as I explained yesterday. The Yankees have a limited amount of money to spend this winter, especially until Alex Rodriguez is suspended (if he is suspended at all). I love Kuroda as much as anyone, but I’m not sure giving a soon-to-be 39-year-old who struggled late for two straight seasons another $15M is the wisest idea. When it comes to guys like this, I prefer walking away a year too soon rather than a year too late. · (34) ·
Yankee Stadium field lined for football pic.twitter.com/j11exndCEc
— Erik Boland (@eboland11) November 7, 2013
Yankee Stadium has undergone it’s annual transformation from baseball field to football field in advance of … something. The Pinstripe Bowl isn’t until late-December, but I guess they’re playing another game(s) this month. A quick Googling gave me nothing. In January, the football field will be replaced by a hockey rink for two games. I bought my tickets for Rangers-Devils today ($505 for a pair!). Better be worth it. (It will.)
Use this as your open thread for the night. Redskins-Vikings is the Thursday NFL game plus all three hockey locals are in action. Talk about any and all of that right here. Go nuts.
“As unpopular as trading Melky and IPK (along with a lesser prospect) could make me, I probably would.” – the world’s biggest idiot, yours truly, in November, 2007, referring to…Miguel Cabrera.
Well, that certainly was embarrassing. A bit less embarrassing is this post about saving the Big Three. In that situation we made our pleas to not trade Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, top-five prospects in 2007 and 2008, respectively, for Johan Santana. Even in hindsight that is somewhat understandable. The hype machine ran strong for Hughes and Chamberlain, and Santana was about to become massively expensive. With CC Sabathia‘s free agency looming, why not concentrate efforts there and hold onto the young arms?
With Miguel Cabrera, there is no justification for the prospect hugging mentality. At the time Cabrera had just completed his age-24 season, his third straight with an OPS+ over 150. His defense at third base looked poor to both the eye and the stats, and the media griped about his poor attitude, but those flaws are mere nitpicks when it comes to a generational talent. Following the 2007 season the Yankees had an opening at third and a virtual opening at first. Even if they hadn’t, there is always room for a player who can hit like Miguel Cabrera.
At the time the Marlins sought a starting pitcher and a center fielder. Detroit paid the price, sending top-five prospect Cameron Maybin and 2006 first rounder (projected first overall) left-hander Andrew Miller. In addition, the Marlins sent Dontrelle Willis to Detroit. That might have seemed like a sweetener for Detroit, but Willis was getting expensive and was coming off a poor season — though I’m not sure anyone knew at the time that he was cooked at age 25. Given the state of the farm system in 2007-2008, the Yankees very well might have matched up with the Marlins.
Phil Hughes’s name comes to mind first, as a pitcher comparable to Miller. Melky Cabrera was still a promising center fielder, though the Yankees also had Austin Jackson, who was a top-50 prospect before 2008, as a younger, more cost-controlled option. With a seeming horde of mid-tier prospects, perhaps the Yanks could have sweetened the pot and trumped Detroit’s offer. You could spend days imagining how Yankees history would have unfolded in that scenario.
The Yanks never really made a run for Cabrera, or at least that’s the way it’s portrayed, because they didn’t want to part with their three young, promising pitchers: Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. In hindsight, it’s a head-smacking idea. None of the three amounted to anything special. Each pitched well for certain stretches, but in the six full seasons since they debuted none has particularly stood out.
Looking back at this case boiled my blood a bit. It seems the Yankees haven’t made many good prospects-for-veterans trades since Cashman received “full autonomy” after the 2005 season. He’s made dozens of trades in that time, of course, but very few that involved prospects in exchange for solid, everyday veterans. The track record isn’t all that impressive when he did, either.
July 30, 2006: Traded C.J. Henry (minors), Jesus Sanchez (minors), Carlos Monasterios and Matt Smith to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle.
Perhaps Cashman spoiled us with this first big trade of his autonomous reign. Everyone knew the Phillies were going to trade Abreu. Given his large contract and the Yankees’ desperate need in the outfield, the match seemed perfect. The Phillies played tough, demanding Phil Hughes in early July, but Cashman waited them out and eventually landed them for what amounts to very little.
C.J. Henry was the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2005, but just a year later it was evident — to fans, at least, and apparently to evaluators as well — that he wasn’t going to work. Getting a previous-year first-rounder helped the Phillies save face, maybe, but this was a coup for the Yankees.
July 7, 2007: Traded Jeff Kennard (minors) to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Received Jose Molina.
While this is a minor move on the face of it, the Yankees certainly needed a backup catcher upgrade; they had been playing Wil Nieves there all year. Kennard was on the 40-man and expendable, so the trade worked out as well as a trade for a backup catcher can.
The Yankees actually weren’t in that bad of shape at the time of this trade. At 58-45 they were just three games behind the first-place Rays and one game behind the Red Sox. With Jorge Posada out, they could have used some pop, and had an opening in the outfield thanks to Melky Cabrera’s horrible play. Nady had hit 13 homers and 26 doubles with the Pirates in what was looking like a career year. Tabata had proven disappointing by that point, and the three pitchers were back-end arms, at best, expendable for a first-division team.
Nady hit .268/.320/.474 in his 247 PA with the Yankees, quite a bit lower than the numbers he produced with Pittsburgh. That helped plenty, though, because Cabrera had played so poorly. The Yankees got essentially nothing out of Nady the following year, when he blew out his elbow. Tabata, while nothing special, has produced above-average numbers in three of his four MLB seasons.
November 13, 2008: Traded Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to the Chicago White Sox. Received Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira.
It’s still difficult to look at this trade and believe it happened. It wasn’t totally prospects-for-veteran, since Betemit had been in the league since 2004. But the Yankees certainly got a steal here, in a deal that probably no GM rejects. Hell, I’m not sure Kenny Williams rejects it.
June 30, 2009: Traded Casey Erickson (minors) and Eric Fryer to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Eric Hinske and cash.
Another minor move that deserves mention, because Hinske played a role on the best team in the league.
December 8, 2009: As part of a 3-team trade, traded Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers and Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers. In addition, the Detroit Tigers sent Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks; and the Arizona Diamondbacks sent Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Detroit Tigers.
With Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui departing, the Yankees needed an outfielder and some pop at the plate. Granderson wasn’t exactly known as a power hitter at the time, but he had hit 20-plus in each of the previous three years, including 30 in 2009. He has certainly produced a few quality years with the Yankees, socking 115 HR with a 120 OPS+. It’s hard to call this trade a failure.
At the same time, Jackson has been quite good for the Tigers. He doesn’t have Granderson’s skills at the plate, though he has produced a higher OBP than Granderson since his debut. In terms of WAR Jackson actually comes out on top, 19.1 to 14.1 in bWAR and 14.6 to 13.9 in fWAR. Defensive measurement represents WAR’s most prominent flaw, so make of that what you will. This wasn’t a bad trade by any means, but it certainly wasn’t a steal of any kind.
The initial reaction to this trade was somewhat divided. Some Yankees fans hadn’t forgiven Vazquez for the second half of 2004. Others saw how he’d pitched after leaving and thought it was a good fit. At first the trade looked horrible, then it looked better, then it looked horrible again.
In the end, it was certainly horrible — not only for Vazquez’s performance, but because they could have used Vizcaino in a different trade later.
July 30, 2010: Traded a player to be named later to the Cleveland Indians. Received Austin Kearns. The New York Yankees sent Zach McAllister (August 20, 2010) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
At the time this one didn’t seem too bad. Kearns had been good in the past and was seemingly amidst a resurgent season. McAllister was a middling prospect who probably didn’t have a role with the Yankees. Of course, the whole thing blew up in their faces. Kearns was generally horrible, and McAllister has started looking like a serviceable back-end starter.
July 31, 2010: Traded Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes to the Houston Astros. Received Lance Berkman.
Traded players to be named later to the Cleveland Indians. Received Kerry Wood and cash. The New York Yankees sent Andrew Shive (minors) (October 21, 2010) and Matt Cusick (minors) (October 21, 2010) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
Needing offense, the Yankees stood to gain with the Berkman acquisition. He wasn’t atrocious, but he brought no power to the table, hitting just one homer and seven doubles in 123 PA while struggling with injuries. Losing Melancon didn’t seem like a huge deal, since he’d struggled at every opportunity. But he’s turned into a serviceable reliever (who has, fairly, struggled in both New York and Boston).
The trade for Wood made and continues to make all the sense in the world. That one couldn’t have gone better, indeed: Wood ran his luck all the way through October, while the Yanks gave up no useful players.
Kontos turned in a very good 2012 season and a poor 2013. He’s still only 29 in 2014, and might be a useful piece of a bullpen. Stewart…I’m not even going there.
This seemed to make sense, in that the Yankees needed an OF and they gave up what seemed like little. Mitchell wasn’t going to amount to anything, and they had just claimed Farquhar off waivers from the A’s earlier in the 2012 season. Yet Farquhar dazzled this year, particularly in the second half, when he took over as Mariners closer. Chances are he reverts to being crappy again next year, but again, there’s a mixed blessing here. Trading for Ichiro led to the ill-advised two-year contract. Then again, he also played a role in the Yankees staying afloat last September as the Orioles constantly threatened.
February 13, 2013: Traded Abraham Almonte to the Seattle Mariners. Received Shawn Kelley.
It’s tough to say, since Almonte only just made it to the majors. But Kelley has worked out well, and could help as the Yanks rebuild their bullpen post-Rivera.
July 26, 2013: Traded Corey Black (minors) to the Chicago Cubs. Received Alfonso Soriano and cash.
Soriano made the second half at least partly interesting, and really extended the Yanks life in the 2013 season. We all know how Cashman feels about Corey Black.
This revisiting of prospects-for-veteran trades isn’t meant as a referendum on Cashman or the organizational philosophy. It’s not meant as a rip on the farm system. Instead, it’s meant as something of an eye-opener.
If media narratives in any way reflect reality, teams are more protective of their prospects than ever. The Yankees appear to be in that boat. From back in 2007 to now, they’ve played the reluctant role when playing the prospects-for-veteran game. Yet when you look through their track record, there aren’t many clear wins when they do partake.
Is that a lesson, that they should indeed be more reluctant, given their track record? Does it mean that they need to reassess how they evaluate their internal talent? I’d say no to the former and yes to the latter. Furthermore, looking at these deals makes me think that the Yankees should take advantage of this prospect-protective market and see what they can get for what they have in the minors. Given their current team landscape, it might be the best bet they have this off-season.