Mailbag: Salty, Andrus, Cruz, Anderson, Perez

Eleven, yes eleven questions this week. I combined two into one so there are only ten answers. Needless to say, I went rapid fire. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us stuff, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Dustin asks: With Jarrod Saltalamacchia not getting a qualifying offer, does he become a more attractive option for the Yankees over Brian McCann? Or does the fact that he only has one above-average season keep McCann in the lead?

It’s a combination of several things, really. The lack of track record and defensive shortcomings mostly. I do think there’s a strong case to be made that Salty at his price (three years, $36M?) is a better deal than McCann at his price (five years, $80M plus a pick?). Given where the Yankees are as a franchise, with some young catchers on the way and payroll coming down, a shorter term deal for a backstop makes more sense than going big on McCann. I would prefer Carlos Ruiz in that case — he is a far better defender than Saltalamacchia, plus he should come even cheaper — but I think McCann is elite relative to his position. Guys like that are hard to pass up.

Nick asks: So it seems that Texas would be willing to move Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus. What would it take to get either? Andrus isn’t as attractive now because of that contract, but still should be considered. And Kinsler is always hurt.

Kinsler makes sense only if Robinson Cano signs elsewhere this winter. I don’t buy him as a first baseman or corner outfielder. I was excited about Andrus a year or two ago and thought he made a ton of sense as a Derek Jeter replacement — his free agency lined up perfectly with the end of Jeter’s contract (after 2014) — but I also thought he would continue to get better, not have a career-worst season in 2013. He’s owed $124.475M through 2022 ($13.8M luxury tax hit), which is scary. Furthermore, I’m not sure the Yankees and Rangers match up well for a trade. Texas is presumably looking for a young outfielder or high-end starter, two things New York a) doesn’t have, and b) needs itself.

Aside: Wouldn’t it make sense for the Rangers to trade both Andrus and Kinsler, then sign Cano and play Jurickson Profar at shortstop? Dealing Andrus and Kinsler would surely net them that young outfielder and high-end starter.

Ryan asks: I haven’t heard any mention of the Yankees and Nelson Cruz. His name hasn’t been floated on here since the trade rumors last January. Whats the deal? I would have though he’d be a great addition to the lineup.

Grant Brisbee explained why Cruz is such a risk yesterday, so I’ll link you to that. Long story short: Cruz is basically Alfonso Soriano without the defense. His numbers against righties aren’t anything special (.249/.299/.465 since 2011) and while home/road splits usually get way overblown, it’s hard to ignore how much more productive Cruz has been at his hitter-friendly home ballpark (.279/.340/.546 since 2011) than on the road (.247/.299/.432). The Yankees already have one Soriano, no need to give up a draft pick (Cruz received a qualifying offer) to get another.

Kevin asks: Juan Oviedo and Eric O’Flaherty seem like natural fits for the Yankees next year given the payroll and need for bullpen arms.

Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, the ex-Marlins closer. He’s missed the last two seasons due to elbow problems that eventually required Tommy John surgery. I would bring him in on a minor league deal no questions asked, but there’s no way I’d guarantee him anything after missing two years. He took a minor league deal (with the Rays) last year and will have to take one again. O’Flaherty missed most of 2013 after having his elbow rebuilt. He was one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball before the injury (held same-side hitters to a .195 wOBA from 2011-2012) and I think he’ll get a nice contract this winter despite coming off surgery. Would he take one year and $2M to rebuild value? I’m not sure the Yankees can afford to go higher than that for an injured pitcher who won’t be ready until June or so.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Bryan asks: How about a flyer on Brett Anderson? The A’s have rotation depth and the cost wouldn’t be super high (you’d think) right now. Or would they be better off with a guy like Josh Johnson (who only costs money) if they want to take a gamble?

Man I love Anderson, but he just can’t stay healthy. He’s thrown more than 115 innings just once (175.1 in 2009) and over the last two years he’s been limited to 79.2 innings total. Anderson has been pretty awesome whenever he’s stayed healthy for more than a month at a time, but he’s going to make $8M next season. That’s a huge chunk of change for an always hurt pitcher. I’m not sure the Yankees can afford a risk like that. Payroll is tight as it is, and that doesn’t even factor in the trade cost. If I’m going to bring in a reclamation project starter, I’d go with Johnson because he only costs money. I’d prefer neither, to be honest.

Biggie asks: If Curtis Granderson accepts his qualifying offer would there be a market to trade him? What type of return would you expect? I would love him to accept, move him for another piece and sign Carlos Beltran for two years and $28M.

I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble finding a taker for Granderson if he accepts the $14.1M qualifying offer. Chances are they could get a better prospect in return than they’d be able to select with the compensation pick as well. A contender in need of a bat like the Cardinals (if Beltran bolts), Tigers (for vacant left field), and Reds (if they don’t think Billy Hamilton is ready) would presumably show interest in Granderson on a one-year deal, ditto non-contenders like the Phillies, Mets, White Sox, Giants, Mariners, and Rockies. They wouldn’t get an elite prospect in return, but a rock solid Grade-B prospect who is at Double-A or higher. That’s very fair value if not a bargain.

Mike asks: What about Kelly Johnson as a free agent? He can fill in around the infield except at short and play the corners in the outfield.

If Cano does leave as a free agent and the Yankees decide to pass over David Adams and Corban Joseph as internal replacements, Johnson is the guy I’d want them to bring him to play second base. He shouldn’t required a multi-year contract like Omar Infante nor would he require the general headache of trading for Brandon Phillips. Johnson is a Yankee Stadium friendly left-handed hitter who hits for power (16+ homers in four straight years), plus he’ll steal a decent amount of bases and play solid defense. As an added bonus, he can also play left field in a pinch. The trade-off is a low average and strikeouts, which aren’t the end of the world for a number eight or nine hole hitter. Even if the Yankees re-sign Cano, Johnson makes sense as a lefty bat off the bench. Definite fit.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Tucker asks: While the idea of the Yankees signing Brian Wilson has been floated out there, and it definitely has a lot of appeal, I just can’t imagine him being willing to go to the barber, even if it means forfeiting a couple million. Do you agree with this?

Wilson already turned down a million bucks to shave his beard, but maybe $6-7M will change his mind? Ultimately, I think Wilson will wind up signing with a non-Yankees team because they’ll offer more money and guarantee him the closer’s job, not because he wouldn’t have to shave his beard. That would suck, he’s a perfect fit in my opinion (as long as you look beyond the beard and seemingly intentionally insufferable personality).

Thomas asks: Is there any chance that the Yankees try and get another full-time DH this season? If so, if he doesn’t retire, is it possible we would get another taste of Raul Ibanez? I’m sure Yankees fans would like to see him again.

Zac asks: Jason Kubel is one year removed from a 30-HR season and should come cheap following a poor year in which he battled injury. Is he s fit for the Yankees?

Going to lump these two together since Ibanez and Kubel are nearly the same exact player. If the Yankees don’t sign Beltran — he’s pretty much the only big name outfielder I can see them realistically signing — either guy would make sense as a part-time right fielder and part-time DH. They could also serve as that lefty bat off the bench I always seem to be talking about. New York could find a spot for their power even if they sign Beltran, though I think Ibanez is the safer bet at this point. Supposedly he’s only considering retirement or a return to the Mariners (he lives in Seattle during the offseason). As long as they keep him or Kubel away from lefties and have a defensive replacement handy, they’d make some sense for the current roster. I still don’t like the idea of adding a full-time DH. They need to keep that spot open for various old guys.

Anthony asks: Hey Mike, Chris Perez was just released by the Indians. Being that the Yankees will look to add a piece or two to the bullpen this offseason, do you think the team should give him a look? While I don’t see him serving as the closer, perhaps he can provide some value in the 7th or 8th?

I wrote about Perez in a mailbag back in May and said I wanted to see how he performed the rest of the season before thinking about him as an option for 2014. Well, from that date forward, he pitched to a 5.21 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 38 innings while opposing batters hit .283/.351/.520 against him. He and his wife were also arrested for drug possession. So … yeah, things didn’t go so well. The Indians got so sick of him that they didn’t even wait until the non-tender deadline to release him. Perez has really nasty stuff, but he clearly has some things to work on. I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough bullpen depth (or payroll space) to take on a second project reliever in addition to Dellin Betances.

Granderson hints at declining qualifying offer

During a recent radio interview, Curtis Granderson hinted at declining the $14.1M qualifying offer the Yankees made him on Monday. “You definitely got to continue to weigh all your options to see what’s the best fit for you … There are 29 other ballclubs out there, and we’re now at a point where every team has the chance to be a contender here in the near future,” he said. Justin Terranova has a transcript, so check it out.

Granderson, 32, should have no trouble finding a multi-year contract this winter. The question is whether he wants to take what he can get right now, or accept the offer and hope to rebuild some value with a full healthy season in friendly Yankee Stadium before going back out onto the market next winter. There’s a strong case to be made for both and it’s a win-win situation for New York. If he rejects and signs elsewhere, they get a high pick. If he accepts, they get him back on a one-year deal. That might destroy their plan to get under the $189M luxury tax, but that’s life.

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.