Report: Yankees have insurance for most of A-Rod’s deal

Via Ken Rosenthal & Wally Matthews: The Yankees are insured for at least 70% and possibly even 100% of Alex Rodriguez‘s contract should his latest hip injury be so severe that he’s unable to play going forward. There are conditions that would have to be met (so many days on the DL, etc.) before the insurance payouts are triggered.

A-Rod, 37, is still owed $114M over the next five years. I doubt this new injury is that debilitating — Brian Cashman said doctors informed him Alex would have zero restrictions following the procedure and rehab — but I guess it’s good to know the team is covered in case it is. A-Rod would still get paid and his salary would still count against the luxury tax, so the only way the insurance money would be reinvested in the team would be if the Yankees increase payroll back over the luxury tax threshold in 2015.

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The Perfect Offseason Storm

Offseason surgery for three of the most important players on the team? Check.

A free agent class short on players who adequately fill the team’s needs? Also check.

Ownership mandating a payroll reduction in the near future? Another check.

One-year contracts only? Here’s your likely 2013 right fielder. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

While re-signing the veteran trio of Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera to one-year contracts solves most of the team’s pitching issues, the Yankees have a long hill to climb on the position player side. Russell Martin has already left for the Pirates and Nick Swisher will soon sign with another team while the Bombers give him a little “thanks for the last four years” pat on the behind but not a contract offer. The Yankees are open to discussing Curtis Granderson in trades, though if he’d done what he’s done the last two seasons with say, the Twins, we’d be talking about him as a buy-low bounceback candidate.

Thanks in part to the draft and international free agent spending limits implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as lucrative new national television deals, teams have more money to spend than ever before these days. With no way to funnel it towards amateur players, all of that money is going to big league free agents this offseason. Hence a four-year contract (!) for Angel Pagan and a $5.5M guarantee for a 31-year-old Phil Hughes clone (Scott Baker) who didn’t throw a single pitch last season. It’s a good time to be a free agent, even a mediocre one.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are intentionally scaling back their payroll in an effort to save luxury tax and revenue sharing dollars in 2014. Although they could spend as much as they want (or are able to, really) in 2013, the team is fixated on one-year contracts to save those precious future dollars. One-year contracts are great in theory, but they limit the team’s market severely. The Yankees are basically stuck digging through assorted veterans trying to hang on and guys coming off injury looking to rebuild value. The one-year gems like Kuroda are the exception, not the rule.

Moreso than at any other point in the last … I don’t know, 15 years? … the Yankees have questions at more of the nine offensive positions than not. We have no idea who will play right field, no idea who will play catcher, no idea who will DH, and no idea how much Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be able to contribute following offseason surgery for significant injuries. These questions coincide with a plan to reduce spending while other teams are increasing their spending. The financial advantage the Yankees have enjoyed basically since the advent of free agency has been willfully eliminated at what might be the worst possible time. More questions than answers and limited solutions.

Not So Baseless Speculation: Asdrubal Cabrera

(Bob Levey/Getty)

Here’s a nugget from Paul Hoynes, Indians beat writer extraordinaire for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer…

The going price on [shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera] is three to four players, preferably four. The Indians had the framework of a deal in place in which they would have received one big-league pitcher and two high-level prospects. When the Indians asked for a third prospect, the deal dissolved.

The particular team the Indians were negotiating with planned to change Cabrera’s position, but right now he’s the top shortstop available this winter through free agency or trades.

Tell me that doesn’t have the Yankees written all over it. One big league pitcher? Take your pick of Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Two high-level prospects? Pick two, though I’m not sure if “high-level” means top prospects or guys who played at Double-A and Triple-A. Asking Cabrera to change positions? Makes sense now that Alex Rodriguez will miss the start of next season. Could be a coincidence, but the glove sure does fit.

Cabrera, 27, has hit a solid .272/.335/.443 (116 wRC+) with 41 homers over the last two seasons. He’s a switch-hitter with no platoon split (115 wRC+ vs. RHP and 117 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011) and depending on your choice of defensive metric, he’s either a slightly-above-average (DRS and FRAA) or well-below-average defender (UZR) at short with minimal experience at the hot corner (four defensive outs in 2007). The Indians signed him to a short-term extension this past April, and he’s owned $6.5M next year and $10M the year after ($8.25M average annual value for luxury tax purposes) before qualifying for free agency. With A-Rod out and Nick Swisher‘s and Russell Martin‘s offense unlikely to be fully replaced, it’s easy to see why the Yankees would have pursued Cabrera to the point where they were on the verge of a deal.

Just to be clear, this is total speculation. Hoynes reported the Indians had a deal in place that fell through, and I’m just connecting the dots. Given the number of teams that need a shortstop and could offer a similar package (the Rays, Red Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks), it’s the part about asking Cabrera to change positions that sticks out. That said, the Dodgers are reportedly committed to Hanley Ramirez at short and could have interest in Asdrubal as a third baseman. The Phillies could want him at the hot corner as well. Even if the team in the rumor was not the Yankees, Cabrera is a player they should look into acquiring since seems the price reasonable (at least to me).

Winter Meetings Day Two Open Thread

(Elsa/Getty)

The Winter Meetings are only a day old, but they have yet to bring anything resembling good news to the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez will undergo surgery to repair some serious damage in his left hip next month, which will cause him to miss the start of the season. Now the club has to add a stopgap third baseman to a shopping list that already includes a starting right fielder, a starting catcher, a DH, a bench, and various depth players. Thankfully Spring Training is still more than two months away.

Joe Girardi will meet with the media at 5:30 ET today, but those things usually lack major news. Either way, I’ll have a recap. We’ll keep track of all the Yankees-related rumors and rumblings throughout the day right here, so make sure you check back in. Here are Monday’s rumors and here are today’s, with the latest up top (all times are ET):

  • 8:56pm: The Yankees have asked to see Youkilis’ medicals, though the two sides remain far apart on the dollars. I do not like where this is going. [Barbarisi]
  • 8:19pm: The Yankees remain in the mix for Scott Hairston. [Rosenthal]
  • 7:25pm: Brian Cashman confirmed that they’ve had conversations with both Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • 7:06pm: The Yankees are one of several teams with interest in Mark Reynolds. [Heyman]
  • 7:05pm: Updated demands! Keppinger is reportedly seeking $12M across three years now. [Heyman]
  • 6:02pm: The Yankees don’t want to break the bank on a third baseman even on a one-year deal. They’re nowhere close on money with Youkilis. [Curry]
  • 4:15pm: The Yankees have met with Chavez’s agent at some point during the Winter Meetings and expressed an interest in re-signing him for next season. This was inevitable following A-Rod‘s injury. [Ken Davidoff]
  • 3:33pm: Scutaro is seeking $24M across three years (!) while Keppinger is seeking $8M across two years. They’re basically the same player except Keppinger is five years younger. [Olney & Ken Rosenthal]
  • 2:01pm: The Yankees have “very strong” interest in Jeff Keppinger and met with his representatives yesterday. The A-Rod injury accelerated their timetable. [Jeff Passan]
  • 1:15pm: Kevin Youkilis is the top third baseman on the free agent market and the Yankees have spoken to his agent. The long-time Red Sox player is apparently open to a one-year contract if the money is good enough. [Jack Curry]
  • 12:55pm: The Yankees have checked in on Shane Victorino, who figures to get multiple years. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • 12:44pm: The Yankees have “likely interest” in Marco Scutaro, which means no one really knows if they have interest and are just guessing in the wake of A-Rod’s injury. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 9:43am: The Yankees are talking to multiple nameless third base candidates. Speculate at your own risk. [Heyman]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees are open to discussing Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes in trades. I wrote about what they could expect in return for their center fielder in a mailbag a few months ago, and I have a hard time seeing a realistic deal that would be worthwhile. [Buster Olney & Joel Sherman]
  • Although he intends to play in 2013, the Yankees have yet to talk to Eric Chavez about a new contract for next season. That figures to change pretty quickly in the wake of A-Rod’s injury. [Sherman]
  • Depending on who you ask, the Yankees either are or are not in on Yunel Escobar. I suppose they could have checked in before backing off. Considering their emphasis on strong makeup and character, I can’t imagine they would push hard to acquire him unless he came dirt cheap. [Jon Heyman, Jayson Stark & Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Two late night links

Two quick and self-promoting links for you. First, the Alex Rodriguez hip injury post has been updated quite a bit since being published early this morning, so make sure you check back for updates and quotes and all that. Secondly, I wrote this Winter Meetings Day One recap for the YES Network’s site. It’s nothing you haven’t already seen on RAB today and it’s more of a MSM-esque (i.e. dumbed down) recap than any kind of serious analysis, but still give it a click.

Rangers agree to sign Joakim Soria

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Rangers have agreed to sign free agent reliever Joakim Soria to a two-year contract. Soria had expressed interest in setting up for the Yankees so he could be around idol Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees are very unlikely to offer anyone a two-year deal with offseason. Guaranteeing two years to a reliever coming off his second Tommy John surgery is pretty sketchy anyway. One year with a vesting option was my personal limit, but I’m not the one calling the shots.

Winter Meetings Day One Open Thread

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Baseball’s annual Winter Meeting officially kick off today in Nashville, and the next three and a half days will be chock full of rumors, rumblings, trades, free agent signings, and all sorts of neat hot stove stuff. Whether the Yankees get involved and make some moves remains to be seen. They’ve already take care of their major pitching issues by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera to one-year contracts.

New York’s needs are rather obvious. They need a right fielder to replace Nick Swisher, a catcher to replace the already departed Russell Martin, as well as most of a bench and miscellaneous depth players. We’ll keep trade of any Yankees-related news right here throughout the day with the latest updates up top. Just check the time stamps (all ET).

  • 6:23pm: The Yankees were not in on Joakim Soria before the agreed to a two-year deal with the Rangers. [Sherman]
  • 4:25pm: The Yankees have some interest in Cody Ross as a right-handed hitting outfielder. He seems like a lock to get multiple years and overpaid. [Jon Morosi]
  • 3:42pm: Brian Cashman confirmed A-Rod‘s injury will not impact the team’s budget. They’re sticking with whatever number this year and will still try to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year. They may received some insurance money, however. [Buster Olney]
  • 3:29pm: The Yankees had some trade interest in infielder Chris Nelson of the Rockies earlier this season. The 27-year-old hit .301/.358/.458 this summer, but that’s only a 105 wRC+ when adjusted for Coors Field. Nelson is a second and third baseman. [Troy Renck]
  • 3:21pm: The Yankees are one of several teams trying to sign Scott Hairston, but they don’t want to spend 2014 dollars and he’ll likely require a two-year commitment. [Sherman]
  • 1:55pm: The Yankees were “quietly inquiring” about third base help at the GM Meetings last month. [Sweeny Murti]
  • 12:38pm: Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury means the Yankees figure to be even more interested in finding infield help, though they don’t believe Kevin Youkilis, Placido Polanco, and Ty Wigginton can handle the position on an everyday basis. They view Marco Scutaro as a second baseman. [Sherman]
  • 11:00am: The Yankees are interested in Stephen Drew and are “working hard” to sign him. They would presumably use him as their 100-game backup shortstop and third baseman, but there is no indication Drew is okay with playing the hot corner. He has never played a professional game anywhere other than shortstop and figures to get offers to start for other teams at the position. [Jim Bowden & Joel Sherman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.