Mailbag: Special Hot Stove Rapid Fire Edition

Remember when I said I would like to do a rapid fire mailbag featuring a lot of questions and short answers? I’m doing that now. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

Joe asks: Do you think it’s a possibility the Yankees and Dodgers swap A-Rod for Carl Crawford?

The Red Sox put a ridiculous clause in Crawford’s contract prohibiting teams from trading him to the Yankees after they acquired him from Boston, so a trade isn’t possible. Even if it was, I don’t think the Dodgers would go for it. They’d probably rather add Alex Rodriguez to Crawford and go all-in than sell-off an undervalued asset. I think Crawford can come back and be a very good outfielder again, but it just won’t be with the Yankees.

John asks: Do you think this postseason has changed the mindset of ownership on Robinson Cano? There is no question he is a great hitter but this was an opportunity to make this his team and he has totally failed. Also with history of second basemen, do you think they will not sign a new deal?

I don’t expect the Yankees to change their long-term opinion of Cano based on one postseason, and frankly they shouldn’t. It’s not like Robbie has never hit in the playoffs (he mashed in October from 2010-2011), it’s just an ill-timed (and really ugly) slump. Barring a catastrophic injury or a total collapse in performance, I fully expect the Yankees to sign Cano to a massive extension at some point in the next 12-14 months.

Mat asks: Is Lance Berkman a viable one-year stop gap? Granted he’s coming off an injury but a one-year deal could make sense. With Michael Pineda needing time to heal and question marks about rotation, is Edwin Jackson another possibility? Finally with his versatility would Marco Scutaro make sense? He can back up 2B, 3B and SS and he’s still showing he can hit for average.

No on Berkman, his knees are so bad that he’s considering retirement because he can’t run anymore. That would be too much of a risk for the Yankees to take. I do consider Jackson an option regardless of Pineda’s status, but I think the team would look to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte to one-year deals first. That’s what I would prefer. I’m a Scutaro fan but he’ll sign somewhere that guarantees him a spot in the everyday lineup, likely back with the Giants. Maybe he becomes more of an option if A-Rod is actually traded somewhere. He’d be a great fit though.

(Chris Trotman/Getty)

Travis asks: Would the Yankees be interested in Scott Baker, Blake Hawksworth, or Mike Pelfrey (if he is non-tendered) this coming offseason?

I’ll say yes on Baker and Hawksworth but not on Pelfrey. Baker would have to be a minor league contract only since he missed all of this season and wasn’t exactly Mr. Durable prior to having elbow surgery. Hawksworth has a nice arm but is just a reliever (he missed 2012 with a shoulder injury), so adding him on a minor league deal and stashing him in Triple-A for depth is fine with me. Pelfrey just flat-out isn’t that good and I don’t expect the light bulb to turn on after Tommy John surgery. He could be a bargain for an NL team in a big park, but not the Yankees.

Kyle asks: Hey Mike, I saw Ryan Ludwick declined his half of the mutual option and (barring a new deal) will be a free agent. Any interest as a stopgap right fielder?

I’m skeptical of Ludwick because he’s never strung two really good years together back-to-back. He’s struggled for a few years, had one great year, struggled again, so on and so forth. That said, the crop of reasonably-price free agent outfielders is weak and Ludwick does have the kind of big right-handed power that would play in Yankee Stadium. He wouldn’t be Plan A or even Plan B, but he is a viable option.

Joe asks: What do you think about the Yanks bringing in Delmon Young to play right field? He’s had his character issues in the past, however he’s young and a playoff producer.

Not a fan at all. Don’t care that he’s young (27), don’t care about his playoff performance. We’ve got over 3,500 plate appearances telling us he’s a below average big league hitter (96 wRC+), and the last 1,100 plate appearances have been even worse (89 wRC+). Young also isn’t any kind of outfielder, he’s a DH. Unusable in the field. The character issues are pretty severe considering that he has a criminal record now, so add that all up and you get a big “no” here.

Travis asks:If the Rockies wanted to trade Carlos Gonzalez to the Yankees, but wanted Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, David Robertson and Brett Marshall, would you do it?

That’s basically every young pitcher in the organization who is a) healthy, and b) worth a damn. At the same time, Hughes will be a free agent in a year and Robertson in two years. Marshall is unproven above Double-A and we have no idea if Phelps can cut it as a starter in the big leagues. That deal would cripple the team’s pitching depth, but I also don’t think it’s an insane asking price for someone of CarGo’s caliber. I’d say no, too much pitching to sacrifice in one trade.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Will asks: As I’m watching the NLCS, I’ve had an opportunity to watch Jon Jay. His style of play really reminds me of the core guys during the late-90’s. What kind of package would the Yankees have to offer for him?

It’s funny, I actually liked Jay quite a bit in his draft year (2006), but he’s turned into the exact opposite of what I thought he would. I thought he would develop into a .260/.370/.440 type who drew a ton of walks and hit 20+ homers while playing a decent right or left field, so basically a number six hitter. Instead, he’s a .300/.380/.400 leadoff guy who plays a legitimate center field and steals bases with little power. Funny how that works. Anyway, it would take a lot to acquire him since he’s still under team control for another four years, so something along the lines of the three players the Yankees gave up to acquire Curtis Granderson. I don’t think the Cardinals are looking to move him anyway, but he would be a great fit for New York.

Patrick asks: How serious is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? Have there been enough cases to know what to expect how someone’s going to bounce back? How much would that procedure deter you from signing someone like Mike Adams?

Long story short, TOS occurs when a pectoral muscle (using on the pitching arm side) displaces an artery and it can lead to numbness, an aneurysm, all sorts of nasty stuff. I remember early last season, when the Yankees were still trying to figure out what was wrong with Hughes, there was some concern that he had TOS. That turned out to not be the case, however. Chris Carpenter had surgery for TOS in mid-June and didn’t return to the team until mid-September, and he’s the most notable recent example of the problem aside from Adams. Adams has a history of arm problems but TOS wouldn’t stop me from at least kicking the tires on the right-hander, who is one of the very best relievers in the game. You’d just have to go through the medicals very thoroughly and understand that he carries more risk (and reward) and your typical free agent reliever.

Ethan asks: Would you do Hughes and Nova for Tim Lincecum? I have no idea how much this makes sense (and yes, it probably totally sucks), but with Madison Bumgarner getting tired down the stretch and maybe affecting next season, Barry Zito being Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong maybe going up in smoke, I think they could use some back-enders that can at least give innings. Plus the whole AL-to-NL thing.

I would hold off on that deal for a few reasons, most notably that Lincecum has seen his performance decline steadily in recent years. He was basically league average this year in a big ballpark in the NL, so sticking him in Yankee Stadium could be quite ugly even if he doesn’t decline any further and remains the same guy. You dream of him turning back into the Cy Young caliber pitcher who could dominate anywhere, but it’s not a safe assumption. Lincecum will be a free agent after next season, so you’re getting one year of him, plus the Yankees would be creating a rotation opening with the deal. I don’t think it’s an unfair asking price, if anything it’s probably a steal considering what the Giants could fetch for him in a bidding war, but I don’t believe it makes sense for the Yankees at the moment.

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Update: Dodgers and Red Sox complete blockbuster trade

Saturday: It’s a done deal. The Sox are sending Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects — RHP Allen Webster, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, IF Ivan DeJesus, and OF/1B Jerry Sands. Boston is paying just $12M of the $270M+ they’re dumping. Pretty crazy. I’ll have some more analysis on how this indirectly impacts the Yankees sometime this weekend.

Friday: Via Gordon Edes, the Dodgers and Red Sox are working on a blockbuster trade that would send Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. Both Beckett and Gonzalez were claimed off trade waivers by the Dodgers earlier today while Crawford and Punto cleared earlier this month. For what it’s worth, Edes says the two sides are “closing in” on a deal.

First of all: holy crap. Second of all: why couldn’t it be Pedro Ciriaco instead of Punto? Third of all: Boston clearing that much money would be bad for the Yankees, at least in the sense that the Sawx could theoretically spend the savings elsewhere to improve the team. That’s much easier said than done, of course. Either way, this would be some kind of trade, potentially the largest of my lifetime considering the caliber of players and the size of the contracts involved.

Crawford denies contact with the Yankees

About 24 hours before he signed a contract with the Red Sox, Carl Crawford dined with Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ brass at the Winter Meetings. Before that, there were reports that the Yankees were “very much engaged in discussions” with Crawford’s agents. According to Crawford himself, either none of those things happened, or he just has a terrible memory. He spoke to Dennis & Callahan on WEEI this morning, and his story doesn’t exactly match what we heard this winter.

“To be honest with you, I never talked to New York. They never offered me a contract. I never had any kind of communication with New York, so it was never an option to go to New York.” Emphasis mine. Maybe he’s talking about the Mets?

Cashman: Dinner with Crawford was just a bluff

When the Yankees wined and dined then-free agent outfield Carl Crawford on Tuesday night, most assumed that he was their Plan B to Cliff Lee and the team was just doing its due diligence. As it turns out, it was nothing more than a bluff. The Yankees never made an offer to Crawford, and Brian Cashman conceded to Jack Curry that they had no interest in signing him. It was all designed to jack up the price for whoever signed him, though we’ll never know if it actually worked.

So what’s the narrative here? I guess there’s two. If you’re a Cashman-backer, you think it was a sweet like move. If you’re a Cashman-hater, you think he’s just trying to save face after Crawford landed in Boston. What side do you fall on?

Report: Crawford lands in Boston for megabucks

A Greg Golson throw from right field beats Carl Crawford to third base during the tenth inning of a Rays-Yanks game. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Update (12/9, 12:58 a.m.): The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of signing Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142-million contract, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe and Ken Rosenthal are reporting right now. In pure non-inflation-adjusted dollars, the deal makes Carl Crawford the highest paid outfield ever, and the big-market Red Sox have spent the dollars they had coming off the books this year.

The Sox, clear off-season winners so far, had long been a likely landing spot for Crawford, but after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and locking him up long term, many assumed the Sox would be out. But Theo Epstein and Co. know they have a market advantage and knew they had the dollars to spend. So spend it they did. For $300 million in long-term deals plus three prospects, the Red Sox have sealed the holes left by the departures of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez and have added two potent left-handed bats.

For the Yankees, this move will, of course, raise some eyebrows and perhaps intensify their pursuit of left-handed pitching. At one point today, it appeared as though Crawford would emerge as a Yankee target. The club had the payroll space to afford him, and it seemed as though Yankee brass would consider signing Crawford in order to flip Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson in the event that Cliff Lee signs elsewhere. It is not to be. The Bombers, though, never even made an offer, according to one report.

In fact, it now appears as though the Yanks’ interest was purely a negotiating tactic. They talked to Crawford to drive up his price, and now Ken Rosenthal says that Boston did the same with Cliff Lee. The Red Sox, says the Fox Sports reporter, made Lee a seven-year offer at a lower salary than he would take in order to force the Yankees to pay more. The Yanks’ interest in Crawford over the last 24 hours clearly raised some eyebrows in New England.

Meanwhile, a deal of this magnitude surely sends more shockwaves through an already-inflated market. Crawford’s deal tops Jayson Werth’s by $16 million over the same period of time, and Lee stands to make just as much as Crawford, if not more, over a shorter period of time.

In the near time, Yankee fans are sure to wring their hands over this. Does it become more imperative to land Cliff Lee? Perhaps a little, but it shouldn’t force the Yanks to pay even more. At most, it will make the Yanks intensify their efforts at finding another lefty out of the bullpen and could cause them to apply more pressure on Andy Pettitte to return. “It’s not going to change the way we allocate our money,” Brian Cashman said this evening.

The question being bandied about right now though concerns this contract. Is it a good one? Crawford is coming off of his age 28 season, which was his best, and is primed to cash in during his peak seasons. He’s a career .296/.337/.444 hitter with a 107 career OPS+. He’s never hit more than 19 home runs but is good for around 50 stolen bases a year. He also plays a premiere left field, but his defensive impact will be negated a bit by the Green Monster. (Check out Baseball Musings for more on how Crawford and his speed will decline with age.)

It’s certainly not a deal I would have wanted the Yanks to dole out, but I can see why the Red Sox did. It’s a fine one in this market, and it reinforces what we already knew: The 2011 Boston Red Sox will be a top team in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won’t get their number one off-season target, and the Tampa Bay Rays have gotten weaker. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

The Lee-Crawford payroll situation

This morning we heard some writers float an interesting idea: could the Yankees add both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford if Andy Pettitte retired and they flipped one of their outfielders? It sounded interesting, if a bit unrealistic. I decided to put together a spreadsheet, based on the one found at Cot’s Baseball Contracts. I took out Pettitte and Swisher while adding $24 million for Lee and $18.75 million for Crawford. Here’s how it would play out:

Add in another $10 or so million for arbitration raises (per B-Ref), and the payroll gets to around $220 million. That’s a bit above last year, but it still seems within the realm of possibility. I did take the liberty of naming the fifth starter as Ricky Nolasco, but that could be any starter making around $6 million. It could be even lower if they went with Ivan Nova instead of an outside pitcher in that fifth start spot.

Of course, signing Lee and Crawford would add plenty of money to future payrolls. He’s how the Yankees would look from 2012 through 2016 were they to sign those two.

And that’s before they play a single zero to six player. Maybe winning in the earlier years will make the later years sustainable. But those numbers just don’t seem within the realm of possibility.

Could the Yanks afford both Crawford and Lee?

Of course they can. But are they willing to take the payroll to that level? That remains to be seen. Buster Olney says Brian Cashman had a long meeting with Carl Crawford’s people last night, and that Crawford himself might have even been there. Jayson Stark adds that if Andy Pettitte does indeed retire, the team is hinting that they’ll have room for both Crawford and Cliff Lee. I suspect this is all posturing though, Darek Braunecker is playing games and Cashman wants to get the ball rolling with Lee. Showing interest in Crawford is likely nothing more than a decoy.