Archive for Alfonso Soriano

Five whole questions for you today. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

Soriano was a great Yankee. But A-Rod was better. (AP)

Soriano was a great Yankee. But A-Rod was better. (AP)

Nathan: Looking at their stats since the trade, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano aren’t too far apart. In retrospect, would you still have made that trade? A-Rod has the better stats but has been the bigger headache.

First, the side-by-side comparison (2004-present):

G AVG OBP SLG wRC+ HR SB K% BB% fWAR bWAR
A-Rod 1249 0.292 0.387 0.538 143 302 141 18.9% 12.0% 48.9 52.0
Soriano 1354 0.268 0.321 0.504 110 292 159 21.4% 6.5% 28.1 17.7

A-Rod was the far better player because he was a better hitter and a better defender at a tougher position. Does the headache, which really only became truly insufferable these last few weeks (at least to me), outweigh the production? I definitely don’t think so. The Rodriguez-Soriano trade worked out marvelously for the Yankees. It’s the new ten-year contract they gave Alex after 2007 that has been mostly a nightmare. The 2009 World Series does still counts for something.

Bruce asks: Why is Michael Pineda still only throwing four innings a start?

The Yankees say it’s “innings management,” and it makes sense they would try to limit his workload following shoulder surgery. He did throw six full innings in his third minor league rehab game (with Double-A Trenton), but since reaching Triple-A Scranton he has yet to throw more than five innings and 86 pitches. The last two starts have been limited to three innings (41 pitches) and four innings (58 pitches).

Pineda has thrown 39 innings in nine official minor league games this year. That doesn’t count all the simulated and Extended Spring Training games though, and there were a ton of those as you probably remember. I’m guessing they want to limit him to about 100 innings or so (hooray round numbers!) this season, and want to make sure there are some left for the big league team in September. Pineda’s has already been down long enough to delay his free agency a year, so that’s not a concern. I prefer flat out skipping starts to short starts to control innings, but the Yankees obviously feel differently. I’m sure Pineda will be allowed to start pitching deeper into the game in the coming weeks.

Sal asks: Based on the way Derek Jeter‘s Yankee Lifelong Legend Legacy is going, and with all kinds of earning potential out there for him even after he retires (corporate sponsorships and maybe even buying a stake in the Yankees), do you think he can end up with more lifetime earnings from the game of baseball than, uh, you know where I’m going with this … Alex?

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

According to Baseball-Reference, A-Rod is baseball’s all-time career earnings leader at $353.4M. Jeter is second at … $253.2M. That’s a nine-figure gap between first and second place. Geez. Keep in mind that Alex still has four years and $86M left on his contract after this season while the Cap’n just has a $9M player option for 2014. Given what feels like an inevitable Biogenesis-related suspension, A-Rod probably won’t see all of that $86M. He’ll probably still get a nice chunk of it though, so the career earnings gap will only widen.

I am completely out of my element when it comes to sponsorships and ownership stakes; I have no idea how lucrative that stuff can be outside of “very.” Forbes has Jeter at $9M in endorsements (Nike, Ford, Gillette, etc.) this year and A-Rod at just $0.5M. We’ve seen him in ads for Nike and Pepsi, among other stuff, in the past. I have to think Alex’s endorsements well will dry up following the Biogenesis stuff, but will that be enough to allow Jeter to pass him in career earnings over the time? It’s possible, especially if he does wind up purchasing a stake in the team, but he’s got a ton of ground to make up.

Mike asks: Does the Yankees being in 4th place make the waiver market at least slightly more favorite than in years past? Seems like there has been times where another team behind them was able to block a player from getting to them, now will they have easier access to players they want and can they now block players from getting to Boston, Tampa, or Baltimore?

Sure, being this low in the standings will definitely help the Yankees on the waiver trade market. Of course, I wish the team was higher in the standings and didn’t need the players, but that’s not the case. The Yankees have waiver priority over all of their wildcard competitors (Orioles, Indians, Rangers, Royals), meaning they’ll get first crack at whoever is on waivers. That means they can both block players and trade for them, if they want. It’s a nice consolation prize and could be helpful at some point.

Shaun asks: It may be to early to speculate, but do you see ownership’s trend of going above Brian Cashman being a problem with Cashman’s next contract? I know autonomy was a big deal to him during previous negotiations. If anything, ownership is making it more difficult to get under the $189 threshold.

Eh, I doubt it. Cashman knows how the Steinbrenner’s operate, and I believe even he said there is no such thing as true autonomy at the GM level. Besides, he signed his most recent contract after the Rafael Soriano signing. Hal is much less meddlesome than his father, though I suppose Cashman could be sick of it after 15 (!) years on the job. Ownership has gone over his head quite a bit these last few years, but it would surprise me if that was a big problem for him going forward.

That said, I do think this is Cashman’s last contract as Yankees GM. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. His current deal expires after next season, at which point I think he will be promoted to some other position. The “President of Baseball Ops” position the Cubs made up for Theo Epstein sounds nice. The Nationals just promoted GM Mike Rizzo to that just yesterday, so it’s already a trend. Cashman will have been the GM for 16 years when his deal is up, and a promotion is the natural order of things at that point. It appears as though former pro scouting director and current assistant GM Billy Eppler is being groomed to take over sometime soon, or at least he’s the only obvious in-house successor. I would be surprised if the Yankees brought in a new GM from the outside and threw them to the wolves. Experience and familiarity with the New York market would be a prerequisite.

Categories : Mailbag
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Via Joel Sherman: Team ownership pulled the trigger on the Alfonso Soriano trade even though Brian Cashman advised against it. “I would say we are in a desperate time. Ownership wants to go for it. I didn’t want to give up a young arm. But I understand the desperate need we have for offense. And Soriano will help us. The bottom line is this guy makes us better. Did ownership want him? Absolutely, yes. Does he make us better? Absolutely, yes. This is what [Hal Steinbrenner] wants, and this is why we are doing it,” said the GM.

Sherman reiterates that ownership was also behind the Ichiro Suzuki re-signing while Cashman preferred to spend the money on the combination of Russell Martin and Nate Schierholtz, who was seriously considering the team’s offer. Since officially taking over for George Steinbrenner in November 2008, the Hal-led regime has been behind the Derek Jeter contract, the Rafael Soriano contract, the Ichiro contract, and now the Soriano trade. Who knows what else. The trade was fine in my opinion, but I don’t like that ownership has made a habit of going over the baseball ops department’s head. That’s generally bad news.

Categories : Asides
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Jul
26

Game 103: The Return of Soriano

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Alfonso Soriano-002

Nine years and five months ago, the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano (and Joaquin Arias) to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. Today, Soriano makes his return to New York after being acquired from the Cubs for a minor league right-hander Corey Black.

The Yankees were — and still are, really — desperate for power, particularly from the right side, which is why Soriano made sense. He’s a flawed player, no doubt about it, but the Bombers needed another guy who can put runs on the board with one swing of the bat. Having only one player who can do that is no way to go through life in a small ballpark in the AL East. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Jeremy Hellickson:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay
  6. SS Eduardo Nunez
  7. DH Travis Hafner
  8. 3B Brent Lillibridge
  9. C Austin Romine

Soriano’s return is the big story, but the Yankees really need a strong outing from tonight’s starter, left-hander CC Sabathia. The team’s nominal ace has a 5.19 ERA and 4.37 FIP in his last eleven starts, which includes 14 (!) homers allowed in 76.1 innings. He needs to be better and he knows it. Tonight would be a good night to start being better.

It’s a little cloudy outside but the weather is fine in New York. High-70s/low-80s with some humidity and no threat of rain. Pretty good baseball weather. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.

Roster Updates: Obviously, the Soriano trade is official. He will wear #12 with Vernon Wells switching to #22 … Thomas Neal was sent back to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot for Soriano. The team already had an open 40-man roster spot.

Injury Updates: Alex Rodriguez (quad) did non-baseball activity today and will progress to fielding drills and soft-toss hitting tomorrow … Derek Jeter (quad) continued to hit and run the bases today. He’s scheduled for a check-up and another workout tomorrow. If all goes well, he could come off the DL on Saturday, the first day he’s eligible … Frankie Cervelli (hand) has some soreness and will be re-evaluated.

Categories : Game Threads
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Got five questions for you today. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go.

Former Ranger Mike Olt. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Former Ranger Mike Olt. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Alex asks: Guys, do you think that with the haul the Cubs got for Matt Garza, the Yankees could reasonably expect to obtain a Mike Olt type of prospect for Phil Hughes? Obviously the package would be less than what the Cubs got for Garza, but using the framework, could the Yankees get a pretty solid return for Hughes?

Olt, whose stock is down quite a bit this year, ranked 44th on Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects list. I like him less than that and think he’s more of a 75-100 prospect, but my opinion doesn’t matter. Teams have their own internal evaluation of every player and that’s most important.

Pitchers similar to Hughes — that means a back of the rotation starter due to become a free agent — who have been traded at the deadline in recent years include Ted Lilly, Joe Saunders, Joe Blanton, Jason Marquis, Erik Bedard, and Jake Westbrook. Hughes is by far the youngest of the group, but age doesn’t really matter when you’re talking about a three-month rental.

The trade return for those guys ranges from a big league reliever (Saunders for Matt Lindstrom), one good but not great pitching prospect (Westbrook for Corey Kluber), four fringe prospects (Bedard), a promising young big leaguer (Lilly for Blake DeWitt), and a borderline non-prospect (Blanton). No one on par with Olt, obviously.

This is a seller’s market though, mostly because more teams are in contention thanks to the second wildcard and no one wants to sell. If you have an asset like a back-end starter, you might be able to fetch more than expected. An Olt-caliber prospect is probably the best-case scenario for Hughes. I do think the Yankees are going to keep him unless they get a legit big league bat in return, however.

John asks: Who is considered — at this point in their respective careers — a better defender in left field, Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells?

Soriano was a complete disaster in left field when he first made the transition from second base, but he’s worked really hard to improve out there over the years. Experience helps as well. UZR has rated him a bit above-average in recent years while DRS has him a bit below-average. I prefer DRS personally, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I don’t watch enough Cubs games to say if one jibes with the eye test more than the other.

Wells was never as good as his reputation as a Gold Glover, but both UZR and DRS agree that he’s been ever so slightly above-average in the field since shifting to left three years ago. He’s graded out as below-average in center for a half-decade now. I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with Wells’ defense, particularly his range, but I suppose it is better than the typical left fielder. Defensive stats aren’t precise enough to argue over fractions of a run and whatnot, and at this point I think Vernon’s the better defensive left fielder. Not by a ton though.

Jeremy asks: Hey Mike, what about Paul Konerko? Tradeable, right-handed, free agent next year…

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Joe had a Konerko kick for a few weeks a while back, but I would go nowhere near him. For starters, Konerko has been dealing with some nagging back problems this summer, at one point receiving six (!) injections. Back trouble for older players (he’s 37) is a total dealbreaker for me.

If that wasn’t enough, Konerko really isn’t hitting this year. He’s at .248/.315/.365 (84 wRC+) with seven homers in 295 plate appearances, though he does have a stellar 149 wRC+ against southpaws in limited time. The strikeouts are up (15.3%), the walks are down (8.2%), the power is gone (possible related to the back trouble) … lot of red flags here. If Konerko was hitting like he did last year (26 homers and 132 wRC+), I’d be all for it. At this point I’m staying far away.

Chris asks: Much has been made of teams handing out monster contracts lately, primarily because the term comes back to bite teams in the long run. Could the solution to this be not allowing teams to control players for longer but shorter? Would MLB and the players union be willing to allow free agency after six years from the draft or two years on a team’s 25-man roster (whichever comes first)?

Baseball’s salary structure is very … weird. Players make the least amount of money during what is usually their best years — their first six seasons, during pre-arbitration and arbitration — and the most when they’re on the decline. The MLBPA would absolutely be in favor of anything that moves free agency up, which means the owners would be very much against it. They only like things that keep costs down. Small market teams would have a hard time competing if their best players could leave after two years. It would be impossible, really.

The only “solution” to prevent getting burned by long-term contracts is to not hand them out. Even if you moved free agency up, teams would still overpay for decline years. That seem inevitable. Whenever a huge contract is handed out, like seven or eight years, a lot of times the GM is assuming he won’t be around for the final few years of the deal, when it tends to go really bad. Many of these contracts are handed out with the idea that the worst part will be someone else’s problem. I have very little pity for clubs who get saddled with a long-term deal gone bad. They make their beds, they have to sleep in it.

Mark asks: Do the Yanks need make it priority #1 to acquire a long-term solution at third base this offseason (or before the trading deadline) as it is all but assumed that Alex Rodriguez will be banned for either 150 games or permanently starting either now or next year? Or is it another year of stop-gap temporary players and pray that either A-Rod is back at age 38/39 and that Eric Jagielo is hopefully ready by the 2015 season?

The Yankees shouldn’t count on Jagielo at all when planning the future of the third base position. He was just drafted and even though he’s polished and expected to climb the ladder quickly, he’s still in short season ball and so very much can go wrong before be makes it to the show. It’s the nature of the beast.

I think priority #1 should be finding a long-term shortstop, but third base is pretty much priority #2. This season confirmed it. They can’t count on A-Rod anymore and there are no real third base prospects on the immediate horizon, so they’ll have to look outside the organization. Finding that young guy to hold down the position for the next half-decade won’t be easy, so they’ll probably have to settle on stopgaps for the time being. Hopefully none with chronic back problems this time. Who knows, maybe Jagielo will emerge before they make any kind of trade for a long-term answer.

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Soriano is back in pinstripes. (Getty)

Soriano is back in pinstripes. (Getty)

After days of rumors and weeks of desperation, the Yankees are finally adding some right-handed power to the lineup. New York has agreed to acquire Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for minor league right-hander Corey Black, reports Bob Nightengale and Joel Sherman. Jon Heyman says righty Tommy Kahnle was on the table as well. The trade has not yet been announced by either team.

Soriano, 37, had full no-trade protection through his ten-and-five rights and had to agree to return to the Bronx. Nick Cafardo says the only team he was willing to accept a trade to was the Yankees. Soriano took a red-eye flight to New York last night and is expected to be with the team in time for tonight’s series opener against the Rays. I assume he’ll step right into the lineup on a full-time basis and not platoon. The Yankees have an open 40-man roster spot and will likely demote either Melky Mesa or Thomas Neal to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot.

According to Buster Olney, the Bombers will pay $6.8M of the roughly $24.5M owed to Soriano through next season. They will pay $5M of that $6.8M in 2014. Soriano’s eight-year, $136M contract comes with a $17M average annual value and an $18M salary next season. This luxury tax stuff is complicated, but by my unofficial calculation, Soriano will carry a $4M “tax hit” next year. Hopefully we get some confirmation on this at some point.

In 383 plate appearances this season, Soriano has hit .254/.287/.467 (100 wRC+) with 17 homers and ten stolen bases. That includes a .273/.310/.496 (112 wRC+) line against left-handers. After hitting just .250/.288/.302 with one homer in his first 30 games of 2012, Soriano switched to a lighter bat and hit .265/.331/.551 with 32 homers in his final 121 games. Over the last 30 days of this season, he’s put up a .286/.330/.714 (178 wRC+) line with ten homers.

To give you an idea of how power-starved the Yankees are these days, Soriano has out-homered them 8-7 in July. He’s hit ten homers since the Bombers last got a homerun from a right-handed batter — Jayson Nix took Yu Darvish deep on June 25th — and overall he has 17 homers this season compared to 24 for New York’s righty bats. As a team, the Yankees are hitting just .235/.306/.341 (77 wRC+) with 20 homers against left-handed pitchers in 2013. They were desperate for a right-handed power bat.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Soriano is not without his warts, obviously. He doesn’t walk (3.9%) and will strike out a fair amount (23.2%), though his strikeout rate isn’t as bad as generally believed. It’s more Nick Swisher and Evan Longoria than Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds. Soriano also doesn’t steal bases like he once did — his ten steals this year are already his most since 2008. From 2009-2012, he stole just 22 bases in 28 attempts (79%). Soriano has worked hard to both improve his defense (though he’s still no better than average in left) and his reputation in recent years. He gets rave reviews for his work ethic and clubhouse skills nowadays, especially when it came to mentoring the young players in Chicago. The Yankees love that stuff.

As you know, Soriano broke into the big leagues with the Yankees in 1999 before sticking for good in 2001. He signed with the Hiroshima Carp as a 16-year-old in 1992 and played them through 1997, at which point he “retired” from the Japanese leagues so he could sign with the Yankees for $3.1M. Soriano hit .284/.322/.502 (115 wRC+) with 98 homers and 121 steals with New York from 1999-2003, including .295/.335/.536 (128 wRC+) with 77 homers and 76 steals from 2002-2003. He finished third in the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year voting and third in the 2002 AL MVP voting, when he nearly went 40/40 (39/41). Soriano was traded with Joaquin Arias to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in February 2014.

Black, 21, signed for a below-slot $215k as the team’s fourth round pick in last year’s draft. I ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the organization before the season and the 18th best after last month’s draft. Black has a 4.25 ERA (3.27 FIP) with an excellent strikeout rate (9.58 K/9 and 23.0 K%) but a poor walk rate (4.90 BB/9 and 11.8 BB%) in 82.2 innings spread across 19 starts for High-A Tampa this season, though he did spend time on the DL with an unknown injury. He’s undersized — listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs. — but he has a big fastball, showing 100 in the past and sitting in the mid-90s now. His secondary pitches all need work and he’s likely headed for the bullpen down the road, though he has been impressive as a starter in 2013. Here are some .GIFs.

The Yankees have a ton of hard-throwing right-handed relievers in the organization, making it the one of the only areas the team has plenty of depth to use in trades. They are desperate for power at the big league level and Soriano will provide that even though his game is limited. The Cubs took Black over Kahnle because he’s the better prospect, and trading a High-A pitcher likely destined for the bullpen for an upgrade to the big league lineup for a potential second half push is a move the Yankees should make all day, every day. New York still needs more offense, at least one and probably more like two or three bats, but Soriano is a start and he came at a reasonable cost.

Categories : Transactions
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Via Paul Sullivan: Alfonso Soriano is taking a red-eye flight to New York tonight. There has not yet been an official announcement of a trade nor has there even been a report that the two sides agreed to a deal, but that’s a pretty great indication the trade will get done and Soriano will be with the club tomorrow. Based on various reports, the Cubs will pay more than half of the $25M left on his contract and the Yankees will send a low-level pitching prospect to Chicago. We’ll find out the particulars soon enough.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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Thursday: The Cubs have given Soriano two or three days to approve the trade to the Yankees, reports Gordon Wittenmyer. George King says he could be in pinstripes as soon as tomorrow. Chicago wants pitching, but the Bombers balked at giving them one of their better young arms like Preston Claiborne.

Wednesday: Via Carrie Muskat: The Yankees are included in the list of teams Alfonso Soriano willing to accept a trade to. He gave President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein the list last night. It’s unclear which other teams are included. “It’s not 100%,” said Soriano when asked if he will be traded. He did say a deal is closer now than it has been in years past.

Soriano, 37, is not in Chicago’s lineup tonight, though supposedly it was the manager’s decision to give him a day to clear his head. The Yankees may or may not be close to acquiring their former second baseman, who would give them a much-needed power right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup. Soriano is hitting .254/.287/.467 (100 wRC+) with 17 homers and ten steals this season, including a 113 wRC+ against southpaws. He has full no-trade protection via his ten-and-five rights.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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8:30pm: There’s a “large gap” between how the Yankees and Cubs value Soriano, reports Buster Olney. The two sides are also haggling over who plays how much of his remaining salary. Paul Sullivan says Soriano confirmed the Yankees have spoken to his agent, but he has not yet been asked to waive his no-trade clause.

1:04am: Via George King: The Yankees are close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs. Chicago will pay the bulk of the $25M or so left on his contract through next season, and the money will be structured in such a way that Soriano has no impact on the 2014 luxury tax calculation, similar to Vernon Wells. King says the Yankees will send a mid-level prospect to the Cubbies.

Soriano, 37, has ten-and-five no-trade protection, but he has indicated he will not veto a deal to return to New York in the past. He came into Monday’s action hitting .259/.289/.476 (103 wRC+) with 17 homers this season, including a 123 wRC+ against lefties. Following what has become an annual slow start, he’s put up a .300/.326/.744 (186 wRC+) line with ten homers over the last 30 days. The Yankees are desperate for power, particularly from the right side, so Soriano definitely fills a need.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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(Marc Serota/Getty)

(Marc Serota/Getty)

After a fairly dismal road trip, the Yankees now stand in third place with a 39-32 record and a run differential of zero. With just under 60% of the season remaining, there’s a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of time for rosters to change. As to be expected, Brian Cashman has already mentioned the team is “open for business,” so let’s take a look at some possible targets* who have been swirling about here at RAB.

Giancarlo Stanton
The 23 year old outfielder formerly known as Mike hasn’t had the best luck this season. He was sidelined in late April for five weeks with a fairly severe hamstring strain. Since returning Stanton has batted .344/.382/.813 (1.195 OPS) with four home runs. He’s a career .270/.350/.550 (.382 wOBA, 140 wRC+) hitter with three cost controlled years remaining. This is exactly the type of guy the Yankees should pursue. Chances are the Marlins won’t completely screw their fanbase move their disgruntled superstar by the deadline, but they very well may consider moving him come the offseason.

The problem is that Stanton’s a superstar and superstars require major hauls. The Yankees would be required to give up at least four or five of their top prospects (which I would definitely be okay with) – we’re talking Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and maybe Rafael DePaula for starters – and that very well might not be enough to get it done, nor would a package such as that necessarily compete with other insane prospect packages offered by other organizations. Chances of this trade happening, in my opinion, are gloomy with a chance of “get-the-eff-outa-here,” but it’s fun to dream nevertheless.

Chase Headley
Headley has had a disappointing start to the 2013 season, at least by his standards. He’s batting .221/.328/.350 (.304 wOBA, 99 wRC+); hence the “Quick! It’s time to buy…” chants. The problem here is threefold. First, the Padres, despite sitting right at .500 are only three games out of first place, so they probably aren’t going to be sellers, at least as it stands now.

Second, San Diego GM Josh Byrnes isn’t a fool. He’s not going to just hand over a young, talented third baseman just because he’s struggled early on this season – it just doesn’t behoove the team to act in such reactionary fashion. In fact, the organization actively tried to discuss a long-term extension with Headley already. Third, and along the same lines as Stanton, if Byrnes were to trade Headley, it wouldn’t be cheap nor would NY necessarily have enough MLB-ready, elite prospects to get a deal done. If this was doable, I’d be all for it even if it meant gutting the farm. I just don’t see it happening though. Bummer.

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

Alfonso Soriano
This one’s kind of interesting because it’s much more plausible. The former Yankee second baseman has a full no-trade clause, though that really isn’t a big deal as he can still approve a move to NY (and all indications suggest he would be willing to consider them). Contractually, Soriano is still owed about $30.5M total for the remainder of this season and next. Presumably, if the Cubs were to make a move, the expectation would probably be for them to eat a significant chunk of the contract if they’re expecting any sort of return. If the Cubs just wanted to unload the remaining salary on to another team (which is also possible), they probably wouldn’t get anything back — kind of like how the Yankees handled A.J. Burnett.

Maybe the Cubs are willing to eat $15-20M, in which case I could see a C-level prospect getting thrown into the deal. In terms of upgrading the Yankee lineup, Soriano has hit .249/.280/393 (.290 wOBA, 79 wRC+) this season but is one year removed from posting a 116 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR season last year. He also has a very discernible splits against right-handers and he’s never shown a whole lot of patience at the plate (career 5.9 BB%). Would he be an improvement over what the Yankees are currently trotting out into left field? Probably. Do we really want another him though? I’d say no unless the Cubs eat almost all the remaining dollars, in which case, my official stance becomes “meh.” Eventually Curtis Granderson will return anyway.

Andre Ethier
Now here’s another guy who’s name gets mentioned frequently around here. Ethier has batted .251/.333/.377 (.308 wOBA, 98 wRC+) this season, which is about on par with what ZiPS projected. On the plus side he’s consistently been a 100-plus wRC+ hitter who has hit for some power over the years. On the downside, he has very obvious splits – lefties haven’t been particularly kind to him which inevitably translates into another platoon bat. He’s also shown increasing strikeout trends over the past few seasons. Moreover, his defensive value in right field has been judged as anywhere from slightly below-average to outright lousy.

The real elephant in the room though is the contract. The Dodgers saw fit to give Ethier a five year, $85M deal which carries him through 2017 (plus a 2018 club option). That translates out to about $8M owed this year, $15M in 2014, $18M in 2015 and 2016, then $17.5M in 2017. Yikes. Then there’s the age. He’s already 31 years old. I don’t want to see the Yankees on the hook for a ton of cash during his decline years, and I don’t want to see anyone noteworthy get shipped out to LA in return for him. Fortunately, should the Yankees elect to send prospects to LA, I imagine it would be nothing beyond a B-level prospect. Granted, I have never been a big Ethier supporter, but I really have no interest in seeing another corpse stumbling along the bases over the next several years.

*For the record, I have been saying from day one that there aren’t going to be any big names heading to NY by the trade deadline. Until I see otherwise, I’m sticking by this prediction. Also, if you have any trade targets you’d like me to consider, please submit them using the “Submit a Tip” feature, and I’ll try to incorporate it into my follow up piece which will hopefully be written in the next week or so.

Categories : Trade Deadline
Comments (117)

Four questions and four answers this week, the final mailbag before Opening Day. Hooray for that. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ryan asks: The Vernon Wells trade … will essentially be the Yankees paying an above average one-year deal with help in the second year. My question is, where was this in the offseason, when they could have overpaid for one-year deals? Is this simply because they learned that Mark Teixeira‘s salary would be paid by the World Baseball Classic and freed up extra money?

I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost are the injuries — the Yankees probably didn’t think they needed any more help in the offseason because they were already good enough. That’s a dangerous way to think as we see now thanks to all the lost players and recent scrambling. Secondly is the WBC money, since it is a nice chunk of change they’re getting back. Then again, spending those savings (and potentially more) on Wells might not have been the brightest idea.

Brian Cashman made it pretty clear Wells will be the team’s everyday left fielder while Curtis Granderson is out — “So the rest of these guys are fighting for support positions,” said the GM to Chad Jennings — and I can’t help but think the team views him as a Granderson replacement for 2014. Maybe Wells will play his way out of that role, who knows. The Yankees have had a lot of success with these veteran scrap heap pickups in recent years, but dropping $13.9M on a player is beyond a scrap heap pickup to me. That’s a big commitment.

Matt asks: Hindsight being 20/20n, would you rather have Wells for the reported two years, $13.9 million or Alfonso Soriano for the same?

Soriano, no doubt about it. He was actually good last season, hitting .262/.322/.499 (116 wRC+) with 32 homers. Wells … hasn’t done anything close to that lately. There’s also some tangible evidence — switching to a lighter bat at in mid-May, at which point his production took off — suggesting Soriano’s revival was real and not a fluke. Even though he’s three years older than Wells, he’s much more productive.

The issue with Soriano is that the Cubs wanted a legitimate prospect in return. They didn’t consider it just a salary dump like the Angels did with Wells. It’s also unclear if they would have structured the money in such a way that Soriano would have counted as zero dollars towards the 2014 luxury tax threshold. I don’t want either player, but if I had to pick one I would rather give up an actual prospect to get the much better player. The Yankees obviously disagree.

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Mitch asks: Four years from now, which contract do you think will have been better for the Yankees — Mark Teixeira’s or Jason Giambi‘s?

It’s unfair to directly compare the contract terms — seven years, $120M vs. eight years, $180M — because of inflation and Collective Bargaining Agreement changes and all that. Let’s keep it to on-field performance.

Giambi hit .260/.404/.521 (145 wRC+) during his seven years in New York while Teixeira is at .263/.357/.506 (128 wRC+) after year four with four more to go. Forget the wrist injury, I don’t think there’s any way his offensive production would catch up to Giambi’s even if he was perfectly healthy. In terms of batting runs above average (wRAA), Tex is basically halfway to Giambi’s total in pinstripes in ~60% of the playing time (107.4 vs. 214.1).

The question now is whether Teixeira’s defense will be good enough to compensate for the offensive gap. Giambi was at -35 DRS and -22.4 UZR during those eight years with the Yankees while Teixeira is at +28 DRS and +19.6 UZR after year four. That’s a huge gap and that figures to only grow larger. Combining offense and defense, Giambi averaged +25.6 runs produced per year in pinstripes. Teixeira is at 33.9 per year. It’s a huge difference built largely on questionable defensive metrics. Giambi was a better hitter and I’m an offense first guy, so I’ll say his contract will go down as the better one for the Yankees with the obvious caveat that Tex still has four years to change things.

Fred asks: With six starting pitchers to start the season, and maybe seven if Michael Pineda actually returns at some point, doesn’t it make sense to employ a six-man rotation every two or three turns through the rotation? With CC Sabathia‘s innings load being an issue, plus the ages of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, doesn’t it make sense to insert whoever the sixth starter is a couple times a month to help soak up innings, keep the other guys fresh? It basically means the top five starters go about two or three less starts for the year and the sixth man gets about a dozen starts. Helps everyone no?

Well, let’s see all the starters get healthy at the same time before we start worrying about this. Phil Hughes has return from his bulging disk before anything can happen, and who knows how that will go. This also assumes all six (or seven) starters are actually effective and worthy of making starts. Someone is bound to disappoint, it’s just usually how it goes.

Now, that said, yeah I do think the Yankees should consider sliding in a sixth starter now and then just to take the load off Sabathia and, in particular, Pettitte. They could use off days to push them back a bit or even skip them entirely if fatigue becomes an issue. It’s a difficult thing to balance because the theoretical sixth starter has the remain stretched out, and if he’s the long man they’ll lose him out of the bullpen for a few days. If he’s in the minors they’ll have to make sure he’s lined up properly to pitch on whatever days. As I said, Pettitte is the big one for me since he hasn’t thrown a full season since 2009. The Yankees should monitor him carefully throughout the summer.

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