Saunders: Tommy Kahnle makes Rockies’ roster

Via Patrick Saunders: Right-hander Tommy Kahnle has made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster. They selected him from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft back in December. He is filling former Yankee Boone Logan‘s spot since the lefty is not all the way back from offseason elbow surgery.

Kahnle, 24, must remain on Colorado’s 25-man active roster all season, or be offered back to the Yankees. He had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton last season, and this spring he allowed just one run in 9.2 innings. Kahnle throws very hard but his command is spotty at best. As with most Rule 5 Draft players, the odds are greatly in favor of him being offered back to the Yankees at some point.

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Bullpen exodus: Joba to Tigers, Logan to Rockies

The Yankees have lost two relievers to free agency over the last 24 hours or so. First, Buster Olney reported Joba Chamberlain has agreed to a one-year contract worth $2.5M with the Tigers. He’ll join their revamped setup crew. Joba was awful in 2013 (4.93 ERA and 5.64 FIP in 42 innings) and finished his Yankees career with a 3.85 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 444.2 innings. There were no indications the team was interested in a reunion, understandably.

Next, Jon Heyman reported Boone Logan has agreed to a three-year, $16.5M deal with the Rockies. Nice payday for him. Logan had a 3.23 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 39 innings this past and Clayton Kershaw was the only left-handed pitcher in baseball with a higher strikeout rate against left-handed batters. He finishes his Yankees career with a 3.38 ERA (3.63 FIP) in parts of four seasons. Boone caught a lot of undeserved crap over the years (I’m certainly guilty) but chances are the team will miss him next season (they did talk about re-signing him). Pretty crazy that he ended up being the best player to come out of that trade.

Between these two guys plus Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have now lost three relievers who combined for a 3.22 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 145 innings this past season. The bullpen is pretty sketchy behind David Robertson right now. The team needs to work on that these next two months.

2013 Winter Meetings Day One Open Thread

2013 Winter Meetings

It’s hard to believe that after everything that happened last week, today is the first day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando. These next three days — the fourth day of the Winter Meetings is always slow because teams head home around noon-ish — might be a little slower than usual only because some of the very top free agents are always off the board. I still expect this week to be pretty busy, with lots of rumors and trades and signings with whatnot.

Robinson Cano is leaving for the Mariners and Curtis Granderson is going across town to the Mets, but the Yankees have already inked Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153M), Brian McCann (five years, $85M), Carlos Beltran (three years, $45M), Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $16M), and Kelly Johnson (one year, $3M). They still need another infielder to help replace Cano as well as another starting pitcher — Yu Darvish was posted during the 2011 Winter Meetings, so hopefully we get some clarification about Masahiro Tanaka this week — and some bullpen help. General depth is always something to monitor as well.

Brian Cashman is not expected to arrive in Orlando until this afternoon according to Andy McCullough, but that’s pretty typical. A few clubs and executives are already there but most trickle in throughout Monday. We’re going to keep track of any Yankees-related news right here throughout the day, so make sure you check back often. All of the timestamps are ET.

  • 10:58pm: The Yankees have not changed their stance on Gardner. They will listen to offers but aren’t overly motivated to trade him. [Jack Curry]
  • 7:47pm: The asking price for Gardner is “through (the) roof” and the Giants don’t have much interest in Ichiro Suzuki. Not surprised on either count. [John Shea]
  • 6:58pm: The Giants are intrigued by Gardner. One person involved in talks called a trade “not likely, but not impossible.” [Sherman]
  • 6:38pm: The most likely return for Gardner would be a number four starter, according to rival executives. A number three would be a strong return. Just keep him in that case. [McCullough]
  • 5:05pm: The Yankees are looking for relievers and they have stayed in contact with Boone Logan. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow after the season and is expected to start throwing this month. [McCullough]
  • 5:01pm: Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz will be eligible to sign on February 19th after being suspended for falsifying his age. The Yankees had a “large presence” at the 23-year-old’s recent showcase events in Mexico. Some teams like him more as a second baseman. [Jeff Passan]
  • 11:10am: The Yankees have not expressed interest in Johan Santana. He’s coming off his second torn shoulder capsule and the first is usually the kiss of death. [McCullough]
  • 11:03am: Thinking about Roy Halladay? Forget it. He’s retiring. Halladay will sign a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and make the official announcement later today. [Jon Heyman]
  • The Yankees are one of the teams with interest in trading for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. I wrote about him around the trade deadline. [Bruce Levine]
  • 9:00am: “That’s the last thing I’m worried about,” said Cashman when asked about acquiring a closer. He acknowledged they’re seeking another starter and bullpen help in general. “Listen, we have enough voids that you don’t have to prioritize any of it. You hope to run into something sooner than later that makes you better.” [Dan Martin]
  • The Yankees did look into a reunion with Raul Ibanez but he isn’t much of a fit now. The outfield is crowded and there’s no room for another DH-type. Ibanez is expected to sign this week. [Joel Sherman]
  • The Yankees still have interest in Omar Infante as a Cano replacement. They are not talking to Mark Ellis, however. [Ken Rosenthal]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

147 players, 13 Yankees officially become free agents

As I mentioned this morning, eligible players officially became free agents at 9am ET this morning. They still have to wait five days to sign with new teams, however. The MLBPA released a list of all 147 free agents this afternoon, which you can check out right here. Among those 147 players are 13 Yankees: Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Andy Pettitte, Mark Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Brendan Ryan, and Kevin Youkilis.

There are currently 28 players on the 40-man roster, though Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Francisco Cervelli, and CC Sabathia all have to be activated off the 60-day DL by Monday. So, in reality, there are 34 players on the 40-man.

What Went Right: Boone Logan

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a bullpen stalwart and one of the most undeserved punching bags in recent Yankees history (I’m guilty).

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Given all the money they’ve spent over the years, it’s pretty obvious the Yankees value having a quality left-handed reliever in the bullpen. And they should. The AL East is full of powerful lefty bats, from David Ortiz to Chris Davis to Colby Rasmus to … uh … James Loney. Once upon a time they had to deal with guys like Carlos Pena and Carlos Delgado as well. It definitely makes sense for New York to have that shutdown southpaw. For the fourth straight year, Boone Logan was that guy.

Fittingly, Logan’s season was book-ended by elbow problems. He was on the 2013 Yankees, after all. The team took it easy on him in Spring Training — Logan only appeared in four Grapefruit League games, less than half what a regular big league reliever usually makes — because of a tender elbow, which likely had something to do with his a) career-high 55.1 innings and league-leading 80 appearances in 2012, and b) extreme slider usage (51.4% in 2012 and 44.8% from 2011-2012). Lots of appearances — not to mention all the times he warmed up but didn’t get into the game — and lots of sliders are usually bad for the elbow.

Despite the elbow issue, Logan was his usual self for most of the regular season. He had his first notable meltdown on May 5th and even that was just a solo homer by MVP candidate/right-handed batter Josh Donaldson to break a tie in the eighth inning. Logan allowed only three runs between that game and the All-Star break, striking out 26 and walking three (one intentionally) in 16.1 innings across 27 appearances. He was dominating both lefties (.189/.225/.324, 50.0 K%) and righties (.190/.217/.333, 26.1 K%).

Logan hit a rough patch in mid-August, allowing four runs on four base-runners in one full inning of work across two appearances against the Angels. He allowed one run in nine appearances going into that stretch and followed with seven straight scoreless outings. It was just a hiccup. When August came to an end, Logan had a 2.68 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 37 innings across 56 appearances. Lefties hit .230/.266/.392 with a 38.8% strikeout rate against him during the first five months of the 2013 season. A little too much power (three homers), but fine overall.

For all intents and purposes, Logan’s season came to an end on September 6th. That was the game in which he inherited a bases loaded situation and allowed the grand slam to Mike Napoli. I know you remember that game. He left that game with what was originally called tightness in his biceps, and subsequent tests showed only inflammation. Logan received a cortisone shot and started a throwing program, but he didn’t improve and headed to see Dr. James Andrews. Andrews found a bone spur in Boone’s pitching elbow. He was given the okay to continue pitching but Joe Girardi only used him once more that season: on September 24th, when he struck out the only man he faced (Sam Fuld).

(Dave Reginek/Getty)
(Dave Reginek/Getty)

Logan ended the season having thrown 39 innings across 61 appearances, posting a 3.23 ERA and 3.82 FIP overall. Obviously his primary job was to neutralize lefties and he did that, limiting same-side hitters to a .215/.274/.377 (.281 wOBA) line with very good to great strikeout (14.57 K/9 and 40.0 K%), walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), and ground ball (44.2%) rates. Among left-handed pitchers, only Clayton Kershaw (41.5%) had a higher strikeout rate against lefty batters this summer (min. 20 IP). In the quirky stat department, Logan led all relievers in appearances in which he struck out every batter he faced this year with 12. Kinda cool, I guess.

Homeruns were a bit of a problem for Logan this summer, as he allowed a career-high seven dingers in those 39 innings (1.62 HR/9). That’s a lot of homers even for Yankee Stadium, especially for a pitcher with a very good 47.3% ground ball rate overall. His 20.0% HR/FB ratio was more than double the 9.3% HR/FB ratio he posted during his first three years in pinstripes. The long ball spike could be due to a number of things, including the elbow issue that he acknowledged had been bothering him all year. The homers were a bit of a bugaboo this summer.

Logan had surgery to remove the bone spur right after the season and is expected to both start throwing again in December and be ready in time for Spring Training. He will become a free agent in the coming days and has already expressed an interest in returning to the New York, though it’s unclear if the feeling is mutual. The Yankees are trimming payroll and lefty reliever sure seems like a potential spot to save money. Either way, Logan capped off a rather successful four-year stint in pinstripes with another very good performance this year. He has been, by far, the team’s best left-handed reliever since Mike Stanton.

Mailbag: Phillips, Logan, Wilson, Butler

Five questions this week, including some long-ish ones. By know you should know how to contact us, but if not, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go. Send us mailbag questions or anything else that way.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Many asked: What about Brandon Phillips?

Lots of questions about Phillips this week after it was reported the Reds are looking to move him and get out from under his contract. Apparently he’s run his mouth — he called his recent contract extension a “slap in the face” in light of Joey Votto’s extension — a few too many times and has worn out his welcome.

Anyway, the 32-year-old Phillips hit .261/.310/.396 (91 wRC+) with 18 homers and five stolen bases this summer, his worst offensive season in five years. His defense at second base remains very good, among the best in baseball, but the bat is starting to slow down just a bit. Here is a rather troubling graph:


Source: FanGraphsBrandon Phillips

That is what amounts to a seven-year decline in ISO. Yeah, he did rebound a whole two points from 2010 to 2011, but that’s negligible in my opinion. Two points of ISO is one extra base every 500 at-bats, so yeah, negligible. Phillips has hit 18 homers in four straight years — I mean exactly 18 homers, kinda weird — but his doubles and triples are coming down. So are his stolen bases — this was the first full season in his career he didn’t swipe at least 14 bags — so maybe the power drop isn’t so much as a “not hitting the ball hard” thing as it is a “not fast enough to take that extra base on balls hit into the gap anymore” thing.

Either way, Phillips is 32 years old and he has another $50M coming to him over the next four years. That’s a lot of money for a player with very clear signs of decline. If Robinson Cano were to leave as a free agent — pretty much the only scenario in which I would even entertain the idea of acquiring Phillips — I’d still scour the trade market for a short-term stopgap than take on that contract. Phillips is more name than production right now and the Yankees have too much of that as it is.

Wilbur asks: What kind of contract would it take to keep Boone Logan in pinstripes? He’s made it clear he wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’ll be coming off surgery to remove bone spurs, which’ll drive the price down (but also raises the question of do the Yankees even want him?).

Logan had surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to start throwing in January and be ready in time for the Spring Training. It sounds like a minor procedure but there’s really no such thing. There’s risk anytime you cut into pitcher’s elbow. CC Sabathia had a similar surgery last winter and after the awful season he just had, it’s fair to wonder if the elbow cleanup had something to do with it.

As for Logan, the market for top left-handed relievers if pretty well established. On the low-end you’ve got Sean Burnett (two years, $8M), on the high-end you’ve got Scott Downs (three years, $15M), and in the middle you have Damaso Marte (two years, $12M). Logan is several years younger than Marte and Downs were when they got their contracts and roughly the same age as Burnett when he got his. Burnett had much greater injury concerns though, much much greater. In this free agent-friendly market, I think Logan should be able to pull down Marte’s contract without much of a problem and maybe even land Downs’. Do the Yankees want him back? I don’t know. Lefty specialist seems like an easy spot to save money with payroll coming down though.

PitchFX clocked that at 95.7 mph, by the way.

Patrick asks: The only reliever I have any interest in is Brian Wilson. How many years and millions do you think he’ll get?

Wilson, 31, joined the Dodgers in August and quickly became their setup man, allowing just one run on twelve hits and six walks in 19.2 innings between the regular season and postseason. He struck out 21 (28.8%) and got 28 ground balls (60.9%). Wilson showed his usual pre-injury stuff — a nasty mid-90s two-seamer and an upper-80s slider — so that was one hell of a late season audition following elbow surgery. He was damn impressive with Los Angeles.

With Wilson, it’s necessary to look beyond the ridiculous beard and (intentionally?) insufferable personality. The Yankees need to add a late-inning arm to replace Mariano Rivera — they’re losing an elite reliever either way, regardless of whether David Robertson takes over as closer or stays in the eighth — and Wilson is close to the perfect candidate. He’s got power stuff and he misses bats, he’s got big game and World Series experience, and he’s an off the charts competitor. This is a guy who pitched through a torn elbow ligament for a while and worked his way back from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries. You don’t do that without being a determined and generally tough dude, both mentally and physically.

It’s tough to figure out what kind of contract Wilson will get this winter given his situation. He’s a not all that old formerly elite closer who has thrown fewer than 20 innings following his second elbow reconstruction. I’d call that unique. The Rangers gave Joakim Soria two years and$8M last winter as he was coming off his second Tommy John surgery, but he was not expected back until midseason. Wilson is obviously ready to go. Joe Nathan got two years and $14.5M one year removed from Tommy John surgery after 2011. If the Yankees could get Wilson for something between those two deals, say two years and $12M, I’d definitely do it. Forget the beard and the Taco Bell commercials, he’s a great fit for New York’s bullpen needs if the medicals check out and they can get him at a reasonable price.

Dan asks: MLBTR is reporting that the Royals might make Billy Butler available. He’s owed $8M in 2014 with a $12.5M club option in 2015. I know the last thing the Yankee need is a 1B/DH but would you consider him to DH and provide backup in case Mark Teixeira re-injures the wrist?

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

First things first: If the Royals are indeed making Butler available, they probably want something big in return. I doubt they’re going to trade their second best hitter for a prospect or two after having the franchise’s best season in 19 years. If they trade him, it’ll be a win now type of move, perhaps for a starting pitcher. The Yankees don’t really match up well with Kansas City. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume they do.

I am not all that interested in seeing the team spend even a moderate amount of bucks on the DH spot, and that’s what Butler is. He can fake first base during interleague play and that’s pretty much it. He’s awful defensively and he doesn’t hit for much power either. After hitting 29 homers in 2012, he dropped back down to 15 this year, in line with his 2008-2011 totals. He is a high-average, high-on-base guy and that’s very valuable, but the Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring David Ortiz here.

Spending $8M (and then $12.5M in 2014) for position-less, just-okay-power DH isn’t something they need to do in my opinion. They have so many other holes — more important holes like catcher and the left side of the infield and the rotation — that using a good amount of resources (both into terms of players traded away and then salary) to go after Butler doesn’t make much sense to me. He would make the team better next year, no doubt, but at a high cost that would limit their ability to make moves elsewhere. The Yankees could use a hitter like Butler, but they can’t ignore positional needs.

Kevin asks: If there is a weak draft and the next draft is projected to be loaded, do teams intentionally draft somebody they know they aren’t going to sign to essentially trade the pick in the weaker draft for another pick next year?

No, never. The only team who has something of a history of not signing top picks since the compensation system was put in place is the Blue Jays and that obviously hasn’t gotten them very far. Most scouting directors (and GMs) know they might not be around to make that pick next year if they intentionally do not sign a first rounder. The prospect now is always more valuable than the pick later. Always. Plus it’s impossible to judge the quality of the draft class a year in advance, so very much can change. Every club would rather make the pick now and get the player into their system as soon as possible. Waiting a year delays everything, including the ability to use that player in a trade to improve the big league. It’s a very, very risky strategy. There is always high-end talent available in the first round, you just have to find it.

Logan expected to start throwing in December following elbow surgery

Via Andy McCullough: Boone Logan had surgery on Thursday to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. We first heard he needed the procedure about three weeks ago. Logan is expected to begin a throwing program in December and should be ready for the start of Spring Training. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Florida.

Logan, 29, had a 3.23 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 39 innings this year. He told McCullough his elbow started aching in Spring Training — he was delayed at the start of camp due to a then-unspecified reason — and it continued all season, forcing him to throw fewer sliders. The PitchFX data backs that up*. Logan will be a free agent this winter and since his elbow ligament is fine, I think he’ll still be able to find a deal in Sean Burnett (two years, $8M) to Scott Downs (three years, $15M) range. No idea if the Yankees will look to bring him back, but he has some interest in returning.

* “Fewer sliders” is a relative term. He still threw 40.4% sliders this year, which was the 16th highest rate among all pitchers (min. 30 IP). Last year he threw 51.4% sliders (!), the seventh highest rate in baseball. No wonder his elbow started barking.