The appeal hearing of Alex Rodriguez’s record 211-game suspension does not resume until November 18th, but don’t worry, there is still plenty of nonsense being leaked to the media. A trio of New York Times reporters published this ultra-juicy look into the league’s investigation yesterday, which included six-figure payouts for evidence, an intimate relationship between an investigator and a witness, and an off-the-books investigative team approved by Bud Selig. Like I said, it’s ultra-juicy. Check it out.
Within that article we learn A-Rod reportedly tested positive for a stimulant during the 2006 season. The test result wasn’t made public and he wasn’t suspended because that’s what the Joint Drug Agreement says is supposed to happen. Only repeat offenders are punished for stimulants. A-Rod’s legal team denied the failed test in a statement, and, according to the New York Daily News, they’ve filed a formal complain with arbitrator Frederic Horowitz over MLB’s non-stop leaks to the media. Considering how much they’ve boasted about all of the evidence at their disposal, the league sure seems to be going out of its way to disparage Rodriguez publicly, no? Just let the evidence speak for itself. · (13) ·
Ever since the Red Sox won the World Series — and really, for weeks and months before that — sportswriters have praised the way the team rebuilt itself last winter. The conversation then moves to how other teams can replicate this model for their own turnaround successes.
The Yankees in particular could use an off-season like the Red Sox had last year. With CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, plus perhaps Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, eating up huge chunks of payroll, a bargain or two is just what the Yankees need this winter. But don’t expect them to approach their issues the same way the Red Sox did last winter.
Joel Sherman addressed this issue yesterday in the New York Post, and while he’s on the right track, he does miss a number of reasons why the Red Sox were able to turn around in a single off-season. Rather than rehash his arguments, I’d rather tackle the issue from the start.
The Red Sox were not a true-talent 69-win team in 2012. They had a number of talented players who either underperformed or were hurt. Perhaps having Bobby Valentine at the helm did cause further underperformance due to chemistry issues. Subtract the players that went to the Dodgers in August, and it’s easier to see why they finished so poorly.
When they started to reload in the off-season, they still had a quality core of players, especially on offense. In Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz they had the leadoff plus three and four hitters in the lineup. They retained a decent offensive option behind the plate in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, giving them starters at three of four up-the-middle positions. Combined with a superstar slugger, the Sox needed only to fill in the gaps with free agency. There were many, but they were at easier positions to fill.
In filling those positions, the Red Sox took a number of gambles. Mike Napoli was coming off a good year, but one not as impressive as his breakout 2011 season. Hip problems factored into that, which increased the risk for the Sox. Stephen Drew was coming off a major ankle injury. Shane Victorino dropped off a bit in 2012, and really started struggling from the left-handed batter’s box. The Sox bet on recovery from each, and won. There’s certainly a level of luck involved there.
Luck also came in the form of Mike Carp, who exceeded expectations by a mile in his nearly 250 PA, producing a 140 OPS+. (Skill came into play here as well, as the Sox limited him to just 28 PA against LHP.) Daniel Nava came through in an even bigger way, producing a 128 OPS+ in 536 PA. Add in quality platoon production from Jonny Gomes, and you have the makings of a quality team on offense. In fact, this highlights one major point of the 2013 Boston Red Sox:
They were bad at only one position.
At third base they had Will Middlebrooks, who did get sent to the minors mid-season for poor performance. His replacements weren’t much better. But at every other position the Sox had a player with an OPS+ of 110 or better. Even their bench guys performed well: only three players, including Middlebrooks, got more than 100 PA with an OPS+ under 100. The Red Sox carried very few bad players on their roster throughout the 2013 season.
The 2013 Yankees, as we all know painfully well, employed many bad players. Injuries did play a role in this, so it’s not completely the fault of shoddy roster construction (though that is a prominent culprit). But like the Red Sox, the Yankees do have a few core players that will play a significant role in the 2014 team.
The Yankees don’t quite have a core, but they do have a number of quality players who could be back for 2014. Mark Teixeira is, hopefully, free of injury and ready to return to something between his 2009 and 2010 levels of production. Robinson Cano can be among the best in baseball. Curtis Granderson provides power, if nothing else. Maybe Derek Jeter has something left in the tank, especially after a winter in which he can work out his legs. They might be weak at basically every other position, but the Yanks do have a few players who should produce next year.
Unfortunately, the free agent class looks particularly weak, especially where the Yankees need help. They need someone to man third base, even if Alex Rodriguez faces only a 50-game suspension; if he can’t stay healthy through 44 games, how is he going to play even 90 next year? They need a backstop who can hit even a little. And they need some pop from right field. If they can address one of these through trade and one through free agency, perhaps they have a shot to turn things around.
(They also need a backup plan at SS, but we all know that plan will be Eduardo Nunez for better or for worse.)
On the pitching side of the ball, the Sox saw similar results. While their staff lacked a real standout starter (Clay Buchholz was brilliant when healthy but barely cleared the 100-inning mark), no who got more than 10 starts was particularly bad, either. Put together, this no-horrible-starters scheme led to the fourth-best starters ERA in the AL.
The Sox bullpen was highly praised, and down the stretch it was unhittable. But during the course of the season it ranked just 10th in ERA, and actually behind the Yankees. There’s not much sense in comparing here, since bullpens form and grow largely in reaction to conditions. Injuries happen, guys hit walls, and other guys miraculously perform as they never have before. The Yankees seem to have a sound bullpen construction strategy, which is all you can ask for.
Can the Yankees pull off a 2013 Red Sox coup this off-season? It’s possible, but it’s not at all probable. They have their own set of conditions, their own existing players, and a completely different market, both trade and free agency, in which to play. No, the Yankees shouldn’t seek to replicate what the Red Sox did. But they can achieve similar results in their own ways.
The Yankees have officially extended qualifying offers to Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Curtis Granderson, the team announced. Qualifying offers are worth $14.1M this offseason. Players have until next Monday to either accept or reject the offer. If they reject and sign with another MLB team, the Yankees will receive a supplemental first round pick as compensation regardless of whether their new team has a protected first rounder. All three guys are likely to reject the offer and test the open market. · (26) ·
Starting at midnight tonight, free agents will be free to negotiate and sign with any team. The offseason will finally get underway in earnest — up until now it’s been a lot of waiting and boring procedural stuff. Now the Yankees and the other 29 clubs can get down to business for real.
With that in mind, it’s worth figuring out how much money New York has to work with this winter. They’re trimming payroll and intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year, a threshold they can’t pass at all next season. The payroll is calculated at the end of the year for luxury tax purposes. They don’t get to spend freely after staying under on Opening Day or anything sneaky like that.
The Yankees have many holes to address and, for the first time in a long time, a finite amount of money to do it. Don’t get me wrong, the team never had a truly unlimited budget, but it sure felt like they did at times. None of us were worried about a hard payroll number, that’s for sure. This offseason will be a new experience. Here are the club’s current contract commitments for next season:
- Under Contract ($97.71M): Alex Rodriguez ($27.5M), CC Sabathia ($24.4M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Derek Jeter ($12.81M), Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5M), Alfonso Soriano ($4M), Vernon Wells ($0)
- Arbitration-Eligible ($17.2M projected): David Robertson ($5.5M), Brett Gardner ($4M), Ivan Nova ($2.8M), Shawn Kelley ($1.5M), Jayson Nix ($1.4M), Frankie Cervelli ($1M), Chris Stewart ($1M)
- Pre-Arbitration-Eligible: David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Ramon Flores, David Huff, Corban Joseph, Brett Marshall, J.R. Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine, Nik Turley, Adam Warren
- Potential Bonuses ($13M): Jeter (up to $7M based on awards), A-Rod ($6M for his 660th career homer)
Just to be clear: those are luxury tax numbers, which are based off the average annual value of multi-year contracts. Some players will actually take home a different salary next summer — the money in the Wells trade was structured in such a way that he won’t count towards the tax this year despite a $21M salary — but that is how much they will count against the tax.
I tend to be conservative with this stuff, but I wouldn’t expect even a perfectly healthy, in-his-prime A-Rod to hit the 60 homers he’d need to hit to trigger his second $6M milestone bonus. The team does have to plan for the first milestone though — he’s only six homers away, which is easily doable — ditto Jeter’s awards-based bonuses. That stuff counts towards the luxury tax. Between the guys under contract, the arbitration-eligible, and bonuses, the Yankees already have 14 players locked in at $127.91M for 2014. Add in the $12M or so every team has to contribute towards player benefits and it’s really $139.91M for 14 roster spots.
That $139.91M leaves the team $49.09M to spend on the remaining 26 40-man roster spots. The 15 players on the 40-man but not on the 25-man active roster are usually estimated at $2-5M total (they earn a lower salary in the minors), so assuming the high-end of that range leaves us with $44.09M for the final eleven 25-man active roster spots. Non-tendering Nix and Stewart would free up another $2.4M but also create two more spots to fill. With Cervelli, Romine, and Murphy around, I see no reason to keep Stewart at that price. Nix is a fine utility man but that projected $1.4M salary is a bit steep. Let’s assume those two are non-tendered. We’re now sitting on $46.49M to fill 13 25-man active roster spots.
So what 13 positions, exactly, does the team need to fill with that money? Here’s a look at the roster as it stands right now:
|Cervelli||1B Teixeira||LF Soriano||Sabathia||Robertson|
|2B ?||CF Gardner||Nova||Kelley|
|Designated Hitter||SS Jeter||RF Ichiro/Wells||Phelps||Warren|
|C Romine or Murphy||OF Ichiro/Wells||?|
I think it’s safe to assume Nunez, Phelps, and Warren will make the roster and fill three of those 13 open spots. Phelps and Warren have earned spots and the Yankees love Nunez. He’s not going anywhere. Either Romine or Murphy can fill in as the backup catcher. All four are in their pre-arbitration years and will make something close to the league minimum, leaving the Yankees with roughly $44.29M to answer those remaining nine ?s.
One of those nine ?s is at second base, meaning Robinson Cano. I feel it’s inevitable that he’ll sign a fat new contract, probably something in the $20-25M average annual value range. Splitting the middle and calling it $22.5M leaves the Yankees are left with $21.79M to fill their remaining eight roster spots. They are going to need to save some payroll space for midseason call-ups and acquisitions (trades, waivers, etc.), so let’s make life easy and call it an even $20M for those eight spots. Still with me? Good.
Obviously the two open rotation spots are the biggest concern. The Yankees have some cheap internal options for those last four bullpen spots — specifically Claiborne, Cabral, Huff, Betances, Daley, and Nuno — though I would like to see them add a veteran late-inning guy to pair with Robertson and Kelley. The bullpen has more openings but is not as much of a priority as the rotation at this point. It’s easy to see the appeal of Masahiro Tanaka here — his posting fee is expected to be gigantic but it doesn’t count towards the luxury tax. Only his contract counts towards the tax. Assuming he signs for a $10M average annual value like Yu Darvish, that’s a bargain for someone who many people expect to be a number two-ish starter. He’s a very luxury tax friendly option for the pitching-needy Yankees.
If the Bombers wind up spending $10-12M on Tanaka or another starter, they’ll be left with $8-10M for the remaining seven spots. Betances (league minimum) figures to get one bullpen spot because he’s out of options. The Yankees could find a fifth starter and long man out of the Warren, Huff, Nuno, and Marshall foursome with the other two guys going to Triple-A as the sixth and seventh starters. They’ll be needed at some point, no doubt about it. It’s worth noting Huff is out of options and would need to clear waivers to go to Triple-A. Either way, the fifth starter and long man would make something near the league minimum in this scenario. That leaves $6.5-8.5M for the last four ?s, which are a DH (Mark Reynolds?), another bench player (preferably a lefty bat with some pop), and two relievers. Maybe Huff makes the team as a lefty specialist with another guy filling in as the long man. That’s an option.
Now, for the elephant in the room: A-Rod. If he is suspended for all of next season, his $33.5M tax hit ($27.5M salary plus $6M bonus) is wiped off the books and the Yankees suddenly have a ton of extra money to spend. Someone like Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran or Matt Garza becomes a realistic option. Heck, they’d be able to afford two of those guys with Rodriguez off the books. If he is suspended for only part of the season, the salary portion of his tax hit would be pro-rated but the team would still have to prepare for that full $6M milestone bonus. Either way, A-Rod being suspended for any length of time leads to considerable payroll savings, though the Yankees would have to find someone else for third base. That’s a trade the team would be happy to make.
In addition to what feels like the inevitability of Rodriguez being suspended for some number of games, it’s also unlikely Jeter will reach all of the bonuses in his new contract. The Yankees have to go into 2014 prepared just in case he does, but this is something they can monitor as the season progresses. If July rolls around and it’s obvious he’s not an MVP candidate — seems silly to say now, but remember, he was in the MVP conversation as recently as 2012 — that’s suddenly $4M the team can allocate elsewhere, specifically towards a trade deadline pickup. That’s a nice chunk of change to have available at the deadline.
After running through all of this, it seems like the Yankees have enough payroll space to make one big Tanaka-sized splash in addition to re-signing Cano this winter. A-Rod’s appeal hearing will resume in mid-November, meaning the ruling may not come down until mid-December, after the Winter Meetings. They’ll have a lot more money to spend if he is indeed suspended, but some of the top players figure to be off the board by then. More than anything, I think this little exercise — which is just an estimation, remember, these numbers are not exact — shows just how much the Yankees will need a) Teixeira and Sabathia to rebound, b) Nova to put together a full productive season (not a half one like 2011 and 2013), and b) youngsters like Phelps, Warren, and various catchers to step forward and contribute. That seems like a lot to ask.
Via George King & Ken Davidoff: The Yankees have already checked in on free agent infielder Omar Infante. Teams can not talk dollars with free agents until midnight tonight and the Tigers have already confirmed they will not make him (or anyone else) a qualifying offer. “Calling them all,” said Brian Cashman when asked if he has sincere interest or is simply doing due diligence.
Infante, 31, hit a career-best .318/.345/.450 (117 wRC+) with ten homers in 476 plate appearances for the Tigers this season while missing a little more than a month with an ankle sprain. He’s a high contact (9.2 K% in 2013), low power (.132 ISO) guy from the right side. Infante has been a full-time second baseman the last three years after starting his career as a utility man. He’s a solid player but not someone the Yankees would consider if they had any confidence in David Adams, who has a very similar skillset but is several years younger and millions cheaper. · (39) ·
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees re-signed Derek Jeter to a new one-year contract worth $12M that may or may not help their luxury tax situation. The deal replaces his $9.5M club option for 2014.
- A total of 147 players and 13 Yankees became free agents on Thursday morning. Among those players are Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, and Phil Hughes. The Yankees will make the qualifying offer to Cano and Kuroda but not Hughes. They’re on the fence about making the offer to Granderson.
- Some executives expect the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka to fall in the $75-100M range. MLB and NPB are still working on an agreement that will revise the posting system. Tanaka can not be posted until a deal is reached.
- Among the players the Yankees reportedly had interest in last week are Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Matt Garza, and Chase Headley. Kevin Youkilis‘ agent confirmed he has not had any conversations with the team about returning next season.
- The Yankees were middle of the pack in Baseball America’s near-term farm system rankings. The team reached an agreement to move their High-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala, though it is not yet final.
- There is still no update on the coaching staff. Contracts for everyone on the staff expired Thursday night.
- MLB’s lawyers are seeking a dismissal of Alex Rodriguez‘s lawsuit.
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.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Former Yankees right-hander Johnny Kucks passed away at age 80 last week, according to the AP. The Hoboken native spent the 1955-1959 seasons in pinstripes and is best remembered for throwing a three-hit shutout against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game Seven of the 1956 World Series, when he was only 23. Kucks was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1959 and went 54-56 with a 4.10 ERA (93 ERA+) in parts of six big league seasons. Condolences to his family and friends. · (7) ·
Friday: Happy Friday everyone. Here is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and the Nets are the only local teams in action, so it’s a great night to get the heck out of the house. Talk about whatever here. Enjoy.
Saturday: I think I’m just going to start recycling these each weekend rather than creating a new post every night. Save bandwidth, or something. Anyway, the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Showcase is on tonight (8pm ET on MLB Network), which is basically the All-Star Game. Rather than pick the best statistical performers, they take the best prospects. 3B/C Peter O’Brien is in the starting lineup for the East team and OF Mason Williams is on the roster as well. Full rosters are right here. The three hockey locals are in action and I’m sure there’s college football on somewhere. Talk about any and all of it right here.
Sunday: Only a few more hours left in the weekend, you guys. The Colts and Texans are the late NFL game plus the Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all playing as well. Enjoy the rest of the night.
First, some notes:
- MLB is testing their expanded replay system in the Arizona Fall League next week, the league announced. This includes the manager’s challenges and all that. All of the necessary cameras have been installed (I assume) and the games will be televised live next week, from Tuesday to Saturday.
- Congrats to the Double-A Trenton Thunder for winning three minor league awards. In addition to being named Team of the Year, they also received awards for Promotion of the Year and Mascot Clip of the Year. The latter two relate to the retirement party for Chase, the team’s long-time bat dog. He passed away a few days later following a bout with cancer.
Second, the updates:
Arizona Fall League
- OF Tyler Austin: 4 G, 4-12, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (.333/.438/.500) – left the desert two weeks ago when the bone bruise in his right wrist flared up
- UTIL Addison Maruszak: 3 G, 2-11, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.182/.250/.273) — replaced Austin on the roster
- 3B/C Peter O’Brien: 11 G, 9-44, 5 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 15 K (.205/.239/.500) — fun slash line
- OF Mason Williams: 14 G, 16-59, 6 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K, 3 SB, 1 CS (.271/.328/.339)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 6 G, 7.2 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (9.39 ERA, 1.96 WHIP)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 7 G, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 4 G, 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (3.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) – it’s early, but you have to think he’ll have a decent chance to win a job (either starter or reliever) in Spring Training next year
- LHP James Pazos: 7 G, 6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 8 K, 2 WP (2.84 ERA, 2.21 WHIP)
For the first time since August 2012, Masahiro Tanaka took a loss on Saturday. The Rakuten Golden Eagles ace allowed four runs on 12 hits and one walk while striking out seven against the Yomiuri Giants in the biggest game of his career — it forced a Game Seven in the Japan Series. Tanaka threw 160 pitches in his fourth complete game in five postseason starts. Those workloads are fairly common in Japan, where they pitch once a week rather than once every five days. His 30-start unbeaten streak came to an end and is the longest in the professional baseball history (by six!).
Update: Tanaka came out of the bullpen and threw 15 pitches to get the save in Game Seven on Sunday. It’s considered an honor for the team’s best pitcher to record the final out of the series in Japan, which is why he was used on zero days’ rest.
The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka after the postseason and the Yankees “are going to be serious players” for the right-hander, who turned 25 on Friday. Jeff Passan posted an update on Tanaka and the reportedly forthcoming revisions to the posting system, so let’s round it up:
- With teams having few places to spend money, Tanaka is expected to be the most expensive international import in baseball history. Several executives said they expect the posting fee, which won’t count towards the luxury tax, the be in the $75-100M range. The $51.7M posting fee the Rangers paid for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish is the current record.
- Tanaka doesn’t have an agent right now. He’s been focused on the playoffs and isn’t sorting through candidates. The timetable for picking a representative is unclear but it’s been speculated he has an agreement with an agent already in place. Obviously he needs to get that figured out before being posted.
- Progress regarding the posting system changes has been slow because MLB wants to figure out a way to keep down posting fees. Haggling will delay the agreement, which means Tanaka may not be posted anytime soon even though the postseason is a few days from ending.
- One proposal suggested the winning team would not have to pay the full amount of their bid. Instead, they would find a point midway between the high bid and second highest bid and instead pay that. The Rangers outbid everyone by roughly $20M for Darvish and clubs want some protection in case something like that happens again.