Yankees make qualifying offers to Cano, Kuroda, Granderson

The Yankees have officially extended qualifying offers to Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Curtis Granderson, the team announced. Qualifying offers are worth $14.1M this offseason. Players have until next Monday to either accept or reject the offer. If they reject and sign with another MLB team, the Yankees will receive a supplemental first round pick as compensation regardless of whether their new team has a protected first rounder. All three guys are likely to reject the offer and test the open market.

Heyman: Yankees won’t make qualifying offer to Hughes, undecided on Granderson

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees will not make Phil Hughes a qualifying offer before Monday’s deadline and they are still undecided about Curtis Granderson. Our poll this week shows fans are very much in favor of making the offer to Granderson but not Hughes. Heyman also confirms Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda will receive the tender while Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and every other one of the team’s free agents will not. None of that is surprising.

Hughes, 27, simply pitched his way out of both a qualifying offer and a monster multi-year contract. I don’t know what kind of deal he’ll get this winter, but at his age, I expect it to be something short so he can rebuild value and go back out on the open market before his 30th birthday. Granderson seems like an obvious qualifying offer candidate given the lack of power in baseball right now, but apparently the team is afraid of him accepting and throwing a wrench into the all-important plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. 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.

Poll: Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, and the qualifying offer

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

One way or another, the 2013 baseball season will be over within the next 48 hours. It could end as soon as tonight. Once it does, a couple hundred players will become free agents and the offseason officially gets underway. There is a five-day waiting period before players can negotiate and sign with new teams, but a lot happens in those five days. Specifically, teams must decide whether to tender qualifying offers to their top free agents.

The qualifying offer system is rather simple. This winter it is a one-year contract worth $14.1M, and if you make the offer to an impending free agent, you are entitled to a supplemental first round draft pick if he rejects and signs elsewhere. If he accepts, then he’s back on your team at that price. The Yankees will surely make Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda qualifying offers — the $14.1M actually represents a pay cut for both — but not others like Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan. Only super-elite relievers get paid that much.

Guys like Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay and Brendan Ryan won’t receive a qualifying offer for obvious reasons. There’s also no need to extend an offer to either Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte since both are retiring. Even if they do have a sudden change of heart and decide to pitch next year, the $14.1M price would be a bit steep. As much as the Yankees would love Pettitte and/or Rivera to return, they also don’t want either accepting the offer and blowing up their plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold.

Two players are on the qualifying offer fence: Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes. They’re on the fence for different reasons, obviously. There’s a case to be made for extending the $14.1M tender to both guys and a case to me made for not making the offer at all, so let’s make them.

(Ron Antonelli/Getty)
(Ron Antonelli/Getty)

Curtis Granderson
The Case For: Before an injury-plagued 2013 season, Granderson was one of the game’s premier power hitters. His 84 homers between 2011 and 2012 were the most in baseball, and during those two seasons he hit .247/.342/.522 (131 wRC+) while playing in 316 of 324 possible games. Granderson is still only 32 (he’ll turn 33 in March), so he’s not yet at an age when you’d expect him to start a significant decline. The Yankees were power-starved last season so even if Granderson accepts, he would go a long way towards correcting that problem.

The Case Against: Curtis was limited to only 61 games this past season due to a pair of fluky hit-by-pitch injuries, pitches that broke bones in his right forearm and left hand. When he was healthy late in the year, he only managed a .229/.317/.407 (97 wRC+) batting line and only seven homers, so he didn’t show his usual power. It could have been the result of the hand/arm injuries or it could have been signs of decline. Granderson has always struck out a ton (26.5% even during 2011-2012) and he doesn’t have a ton of defensive value, even in a corner spot. I think we can all agree the one-year aspect would be great, but the $14.1M price might be a tad pricey.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Phil Hughes
The Case For: Pitching is hard to find, man. Tim Lincecum landed a two-year deal worth $17.5M annually despite pitching to a 4.76 ERA (3.95 FIP) over the last two years. Hughes, who is two full years younger than Lincecum, had a 4.65 ERA (4.53 FIP) over the last two years in a much tougher ballpark and division. That isn’t to say he’s worth the same annual salary (or more) than Lincecum, just that Timmy’s deal might encourage him to explore the open market. Hughes will be the youngest free agent starting pitcher by far and his ability to get ahead in the count — only Cliff Lee has thrown a higher percentage of first pitch strikes these last two years — could have a pitching savvy team thinking he’s a new grip or some tinkering away from being a frontline starter with his (theoretical) prime years still to come. Even if he were willing to take a one-year contract in an effort to improve his stock before going back out in the market next year, Yankee Stadium and the AL East is not the place he’d do it. At his age, there are plenty of reasons for Phil to want to explore the free agency.

The Case Against: Hughes has been pretty terrible these last two years, especially in 2013. He had a 5.19 ERA (4.50 FIP) overall and a 6.65 ERA (4.57 FIP) in the second half. Phil only threw 145.2 innings across 29 starts (and one relief appearance) because he led baseball with 14 starts of fewer than five full innings. Barry Zito was a distant second with ten. His fly ball tendencies are an awful fit for Yankee Stadium and even if you think he’s ready to turn the corner and break out, $14.1M is a very steep price to pay. That kind of salary is reserved for sure thing starters, not projects. Even if Hughes were to find a multi-year contract offer this winter, it’s possible he wouldn’t be guaranteed that much money total. Phil could take the money, hope to either rebound or get traded to a team with a ballpark that better suits his skillset, then go back out on the market next year, when he’ll still only be 28. A pitcher coming off this kind of season could very easily decide to take the money, which would severely impact the team’s payroll situation heading into 2014.

* * *

If Granderson and Hughes had typical Granderson and Hughes seasons — for Phil I think that means repeating 2012 (4.23 ERA and 4.56 FIP in 191.1 innings) — then making both guys the qualifying offer would be a no-brainer. Especially Granderson. That isn’t the case through, and now the Yankees are left with a difficult decision to make for both guys. How much do they value potential compensation draft picks compared to financial flexibility and having a better chance to stay under the luxury tax? That’s the question they have to answer within five days of the end of the World Series.

Should the Yankees make Granderson or Hughes a qualifying offer?

Mailbag: Beltran, Gomes, Payroll, Ethier, Arroyo

Eight questions and seven answers this week, so let’s do this rapid fire style. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever throughout the week.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Vinny asks: Who would you rather have in right field next year, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson?

In a vacuum, Beltran. No doubt about it. But this isn’t a vacuum. In reality, we’re talking about Beltran and a 30-something overall draft pick or Granderson and the 18th overall pick. There’s also the contract size to consider. I think Beltran winds up with a similar deal to the one he has now, meaning two years and $26M or so. Granderson could wind up with three years and $39-45M. Something like that. Injury history (Beltran’s knees vs. Granderson’s fluky hit-by-pitches), potential age-related decline (Beltran is four years older than Granderson), and the team’s current situation (are they really good enough to win during Beltran’s two years?) all have to be considered. I’d take Beltran though, the difference between the 18th pick and a 30-something pick is pretty small.

Bill asks: How much do you think a pitcher can theoretically make or lose based on a few postseason starts? Take Ricky Nolasco the other night. Would an eight-inning, 11-strikeout game have given him a different label going into this offseason and been worth that much more?

Unless a guy gets hurt, very small. Remember, C.J. Wilson was awful for the Rangers during the 2011 postseason (5.79 ERA and 6.31 FIP in 28 innings) and it didn’t matter at all. He still got a very fair contract and reportedly turned down even more money from the Marlins to sign with the Angels. Maybe a history of good or bad postseason performance would affect a player’s market value, but I don’t think one individual postseason or series or start would. Teams are too smart to let one game change their valuation of a player that much.

Mark asks: Not that more payroll is the answer to the Yankees’ problems, but say hypothetically they were to win the World Series with a 2014 team payroll of say $210 million, would the increased television ratings, higher attendance and playoff ticket revenue make a major dent in the luxury tax they would be assessed for going over their $189 million target? Not sure if this is calculable or not, but it seems like it sure bears some serious discussion if I were them.

A $210M payroll means they’d be paying an extra $31.5M compared to staying under the luxury tax threshold ($21M in overages plus $10.5M in tax). Vince Gennaro’s work has shown that simply making the postseason is worth about $40M in increased revenue for the Yankees while winning the World Series is worth about $70M. His study and calculations were done in 2007, before the new Yankee Stadium opened and baseball’s economics changed with the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. I have to think those $40M and $70M figures are a bit light these days. So yes, I feel very comfortable saying winning the World Series with a $210M payroll is far more lucrative than not making the postseason with a $189M payroll. Far, far more lucrative. Of course, they could always win a title at $189M. I’m sure the Yankees have run their own numbers. They aren’t doing this on a whim.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Sean asks: With the emergence of Yan Gomes as the everyday catcher, do you think the Indians would be willing to deal Carlos Santana?  I know they’ve used him at first-base and at DH, but Santana has apparently made it clear that he wants to play behind the plate.  What sort of package do you think we’re looking at for the Yanks to land him?  Do you think he’s a better option than signing Brian McCann?

Guilherme asks: I want to know what you guys think about Yan Gomes. Would he be a fit? For what the Indians would be willing to trade him?

Might as well lump these two together. I do think there’s a chance the Indians will be open to trading either Santana or Gomes for pitching help this winter, and I suppose the choice between the two may come down to the offers. Santana is far more established but more expensive (owed $17.75M through 2016 with an option for 2017) while Gomes has five years of team control and only 300 or so awesome plate appearances to his credit. Unless the Indians love them some David Phelps or Michael Pineda, I’m not sure what the Yankees could give them for Santana or Gomes aside from Ivan Nova. I’d happily take either catcher though. Backstops who can actually hit (!) and are under contract/control at an affordable rate for another few years are a super hot commodity.

Joey asks: When a scout is evaluating prospects, do they ever take what organization he is in in to consideration? What I mean by that is if the Yankees struggle to develop SP and the Rays crank them out year after year, will the scout look at the player and assume the Yankees can’t develop this guy in to a SP where maybe they says the Rays can?

They shouldn’t. The scout is evaluating a player’s package of tools and those don’t change from organization to organization. Scouts might look at a player and know their organization has a chance to help him develop more than another, but I don’t think that would change his evaluation. Gary Sanchez‘s physically ability is Gary Sanchez’s physical ability whether he’s a Yankee or a Twin or a Padre.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Brad asks: What are your thoughts on going after Bronson Arroyo this winter? He’s an innings-eater and he’s had experience in the AL East. I think we need a veteran arm to round out the rotation, especially if Hiroki Kuroda retires.

No way. It’s been a long time since Arroyo pitched in the AL East and he isn’t close to the same pitcher anymore. Over the last three seasons, he has a 5.52 K/9 (15.1%), a 1.43 BB/9 (14.0% HR/FB), and the fifth slowest non-knuckleballer fastball in baseball (86.6 mph). There’s a small chance three of the four guys ahead of him (Barry Zito, Shaun Marcum, Jeff Francis) will never throw another big league pitch. (Mark Buehrle is the other.) On top of all of that, Arroyo wants a multi-year contract. Innings are good, you need guys to soak up some innings, but I have no interest in bringing a soon-to-be 37-year-old guy with fringe stuff into the AL East and a small ballpark.

Kevin asks: Doesn’t Andre Ethier make sense if the Dodgers are willing to eat some salary and make him, say, a $7M player? He gets on base and doesn’t strike out that much and can take advantage of right field. I know he’s not any good on defense but they could pair him with someone like Justin Ruggiano and have one of the most productive corner outfields in the league.

Spending $7M on an injury-prone DH doesn’t sound like a great idea. Ethier has consistently been a 120-ish wRC+ player throughout his career but he can’t hit lefties at all (73 wRC+ this year and 67 wRC+ since 2011) and is a major defensive liability. I suppose you could hide him in right field for another year or two, but he’s already 31 and will turn 32 right around Opening Day. Ethier can mash righties and there is definitely a spot for him in the Yankees lineup, but that’s an awful lot of money — he is under contract through 2017, remember, so you’re essentially talking about a four-year, $28M contract if the Dodgers eat enough salary to make him a $7M a year player — for a very limited player. With payroll coming down, I’m more than happy to continue dumpster diving for Raul Ibanez types to fill that DH spot. I think that’s the last place the Yankees should commit huge bucks.

What Went Wrong: Curtis Granderson

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a player whose season was sabotaged by fluky injuries.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As the Yankees went through last offseason with nary an offensive upgrade, there were two things Yankees fans could count on in 2013. We all knew with damn near certainty that Robinson Cano would be an elite all-around player with high-end production at the plate. It was pretty much a given and Cano delivered.

We also knew Curtis Granderson would hit a ton of dingers and be the team’s primary power source. Ever since revamping his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in August 2010, Granderson has been one of baseball’s preeminent homer hitters, going deep 40+ times in both 2011 and 2012. Maybe he wouldn’t do that again in 2013 — that’s an frickin’ ton of homers, I have a hard time expecting almost anyone to do that in a given year — but 30+ homers seemed like a lock.

Instead, Granderson’s season was derailed before it even got a chance to start. Five pitches into his very first plate appearance of Spring Training, he took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm and suffered a fracture. The injury was expected to sideline him for three months, so in a sense the Yankees were lucky it happened so early in camp. The first half of that three-month recovery time took place before Opening Day.

On May 14th, after three months on the sidelines and a week’s worth of minor league rehab games, Granderson finally made his season debut for the Yankees. He took an 0-for-4 in the first game but had a hit the next day and three hits the day after that. A few days after that he had three more hits, including a double and a homer. Curtis missed all of Spring Training and it made sense that he would start a little slow, but he was starting to show signs of life and the Yankees desperately needed offense.

Then, just ten days after returning from the DL, Granderson took a Cesar Ramos fastball to his left hand. He stayed in the game to run the bases but was eventually lifted and sent for tests. The result: a fractured pinky and hand and a six-to-eight week recovery timeframe. He didn’t need surgery, but just like that, Curtis was back on the DL and the Yankees were woefully short on power.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That six-to-eight week recovery time turned into ten weeks for no apparent reason — Granderson was just slow to heal, I suppose. He didn’t return to the team until August 2nd, and in his second game back he hit a two-run homer at spacious Petco Park in San Diego. By then the Yankees were well out of the AL East race and only on the fringes of the wild-card race.

In his first month off the DL, Granderson hit .278/.394/.444 (132 wRC+) with three homers in 109 plate appearances. He wasn’t hitting for the kind of power we’re used to seeing, but he was certainty having an impact at the plate. In his second month off the DL, Curtis hit .177/.233/.375 (60 wRC+) with three homers in 105 plate appearances. Suddenly he wasn’t having an impact. Not coincidentally, the Yankees faded right out of the postseason picture.

Overall, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 (97 wRC+) with seven homers and eight stolen bases (in ten attempts) in 245 plate appearances around the injuries this year. His power production took a big step back from last season, but there’s really no way to tell if he was still suffering the lingering effects of the injuries — hand/wrist injuries are notorious for hurting a player’s performance even after he’s been cleared medically — or if this was a sign of age-related decline or if he just had 245 substandard plate appearances. Could be all or that or none of that. Who knows?

The Yankees had planned to shift Curtis to left field and install Brett Gardner as their regular center fielder before the season started — they never committed to it and called it an experiment in Spring Training, but it was pretty obvious a change was being made — a plan they implemented when Granderson came off the DL (the first time). He bounced between left field, right field, and DH before Gardner’s oblique injury forced him back into center. I thought Granderson actually look pretty good defensively in the corners. Maybe not above-average, but pretty solid. That was a plus.

“There’s no getting around [it], missing 100 games the year you’re becoming a free agent isn’t great,” said Matt Brown, Granderson’s agent, earlier this month. The 2013 season was disastrous for Granderson due to two unpredictable fluke injuries and the shift to a less valuable defensive position. Maybe the Yankees will be able to bring Curtis back on a one-year pillow contract — his “first choice” is to return to New York, reportedly — but I suspect he’ll wind up with a multi-year contract elsewhere. The Yankees were power-starved this summer and losing Granderson for so much time was a huge reason why. He brings a power element to the team that is damn near impossible to replace these days.

Sun-Times: White Sox will “make a hard push” for Granderson

Via Daryl Van Schouwen: The White Sox are planning to “make a hard push” for Curtis Granderson when he officially becomes a free agent in a few weeks. The outfielder is from the area and attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, which recently broke ground on a new baseball stadium funded by and bearing Granderson’s name.

Granderson, 32, hit .229/.317/.407 (97 wRC+) with seven homers in 245 plate appearances this year while missing more than 100 games thanks to a broken right forearm and broken left hand suffered on hit-by-pitches. Just last week, his agent confirmed Curtis’ “first choice” is returning to New York next year. I don’t expect Granderson to have a hard time finding contract offers this winter, but with every report that another club is interested, the likelihood of him declining a qualifying offer increases.