Mailbag: Soriano, A-Rod, Pineda, Jeter, Cashman

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.

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Update: Cashman confirms Yankees hope to re-sign Girardi

June 3rd: Cashman confirmed to Ian O’Connor that the team does indeed want to re-sign Girardi. “We’d like to have Joe Girardi back … We have a great interest in keeping him, and hopefully Joe will be here. I think there’s really no reason to believe Joe won’t be here,” said the GM to no one’s surprise.

May 18th: Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have not yet had contract extension talks with either Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman. Cashman is under contract through 2014, so that’s no big deal, but Girardi’s deal expires after this season.

The Yankees do not negotiate new contracts until the current one expires thanks to their archaic team policy, and right now I have no reason to believe they won’t try to bring Girardi back after the season. The team is far exceeding post-injury expectations and the credit for that deservingly goes to the manager. If Girardi doesn’t return, my guess it will be his decision — wants a new challenge, another club makes a huge offer, burnout, etc. — and not the team’s.

ESPN’s Sunday Conversation with Brian Cashman

Brian Cashman sat down for a chat with Buster Olney for ESPN’s Sunday Conversation recently, and the two discussed a number of topics including the idea of buying World Series titles, Alex Rodriguez‘s contract, and Robinson Cano‘s inevitable contract. Part of the interview can be seen above, but the entire thing will air later tonight, so check it out.

Brian Cashman interview with Index Universe

Yankees GM Brian Cashman will be a featured speaker at a finance conference next month, and in advance of the conference he conducted an interview with Index Universe. There are a lot of analogies made between baseball and investing and other finance topics, but Cashman does talk about the team’s statistical analysis department, why they are conservative when it comes to Japanese pitchers, undervalued assets, his worst mistakes, all sorts of stuff. The interview gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you check it out. (h/t SG)

Season Review: The Front Office

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Just as with the manager and coaching staff, it’s difficult to evaluate a front office from the outside. Yes we can see the moves they make and speculate on moves they didn’t make, but we’ll never know the inner workings and all of the factors involved. Things like opportunity cost and the club’s internal evaluation of players are beyond our scope. Remember, a move can both make perfect sense at the time and be laughably bad in hindsight.

The Yankees started the year by making a series of front office changes in January, most notably hiring former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout and promoting pro scouting director Billy Eppler to assistant GM. I’m a fan of having multiple voices in the front office and Hendry is well-regarded within the game, so I liked his hiring just as I liked the Kevin Towers hiring back in 2010. The Eppler promotion was significant because for the first time since Brian Cashman took over as GM, an obvious line of succession had been established. Eppler was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM job last winter and now appears to be in line to replace Cashman down the road.

On the field, the Yankees made a number of great, good, okay, poor, and disastrous moves like every other team. Signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract was a masterstroke while the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade went sour in less than three months. Low-cost, one-year stopgap solutions like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, and Clay Rapada worked out well while others like Chris Stewart and Andruw Jones did not. Minor league free agent signings like Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise contributed while midseason pickups like Chad Qualls, Casey McGehee, and Steve Pearce were non-factors. Derek Lowe worked out fine after being plucked off the scrap heap in August.

The Yankees made one significant midseason move, acquiring Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners for two young arms. The 39-year-old agreed to a set of conditions prior to joining the team, specifically that he would move over to left field, bat towards the bottom of the order, and sit against tough lefties. Ichiro performed so well (.322/.340/.454, 114 wRC+) that he forced his way into regular playing time and a higher spot in the lineup by the end of the season. Even Ichiro’s biggest detractors (i.e. me) have to admit he gave the team a big shot in the arm down the stretch.

At the same time, I do feel the Yankees dragged their fit a bit making in-season upgrades. Obviously Brett Gardner‘s three setbacks contributed to that, but the team also didn’t act swiftly when it was obvious bullpen help was needed. Both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson went down with injuries in May, then a few weeks later Cory Wade completely imploded. The only help they brought in before the deadline was Qualls, who predictably stunk. It appeared as though the Yankees were counting on Joba Chamberlain‘s return from elbow and ankle surgery to shore up the bullpen, whether that was actually the case or not.

The Yankees intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014, and the front office has major work to do these next 15 months or so to make that happen. The Pineda trade was, by far, the team’s most long-term move this year and so far the worst case scenario has played out. The right-hander’s ability to rebound following shoulder surgery may be the biggest factor in getting under the luxury tax threshold.┬áThe Kuroda signing and Ichiro trade worked out marvelously this year, but fair or not, the performance of the front office going forward will be heavily influenced by the results of that swap with the Mariners.