Mailbag: Grilli, Ross, Villanueva, Peavy, DH

Got five questions for you this week, including three already looking forward to potential offseason roster moves. Aren’t you people excited about the pennant race and a potential postseason run? We’ll have more than enough time to toss roster moves around in winter, trust me. Anyway, please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Kyle asks: Hi Mike, I’m sure you’re going to get asked this a few times now that MLBTR wrote about him, but any interest in picking up Jason Grilli in the offseason? What potential contract could he get?

Obviously the future of the bullpen is going to depend a lot on what happens with Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera after the season, but I think either way the Yankees should look into bringing in a free agent reliever to shore up the middle innings. That doesn’t mean dumping three years and $30M on someone, but I do think they need someone better than Cody Eppley to hold down the fort until the Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery types are ready.

As the MLBTR post explains, Grilli is missing a ton of bats (13.58 K/9) and otherwise pitching extremely well (2.91 ERA and 2.95 FIP) after what amounts to a career of mediocrity. His strikeout rate has been trending up for years, so it’s not like this is completely out of the blue. Even though he’s 35 and will be 36 in November, I think Grilli will still be able to find two guaranteed years on the open market at like, $4-5M per year. I’d rather see the Yankees bring someone in on a one-year deal rather than start committing 2014 payroll to middle relievers. Grilli’s a good pitcher worth discussing, but I don’t think is price will matchup well for New York.

Anonymous asks: Do you see the Yankees pursuing Cody Ross this off-season to possibly replace Nick Swisher? He might be able to fill a need against lefties, and is said to be looking to play for a “winning team.” Thoughts?

No, I hope not. He’s a right-handed dead pull hitter, which plays great in Fenway Park (152 wRC+ home) but almost nowhere else (86 wRC+ road). Sure, Ross can definitely hit lefties, but he isn’t much against righties and he’s a poor defensive outfielder. He has decent range and can run some balls down, but he’s also one of the most fundamentally unsound players you’ll ever see. Can’t play the wall properly, misses the cutoff man or just flat out throws to the wrong base, dives when he should be keeping the ball in front of him … it’s brutal.

I’m sure Ross and his agent will be looking to parlay his big career year into a multi-year contract and a full-time job somewhere, which is not something I want the Yankees to get involved in. He’s not a great fit for the ballpark, not a good fit defensively, and likely to sign a contract that is far too lucrative for for the light half of an outfield platoon. One-year and $3M for the Red Sox was a great deal, but someone will get sucked into two or three years at $8M+ this offseason. Just watch.

Travis asks: If Hiroki Kuroda goes back to Japan and Andy Pettitte re-retires, could the Yankees sign guys like Carlos Villanueva or Jake Peavy (with their success in the AL) as two or three-year guys in the rotation?

(J. Meric/Getty)

Yeah, if the Yankees are unable to bring at least one of Kuroda or Pettitte back next year, they’ll definitely need to sign some kind of stopgap starter. I’m a big Villanueva fan but you have to be skeptical about his ability to make 30 starts and throw 200 innings next season just because he’s never done it in his life. I’d love him as an overqualified fifth starter/swingman, but a) some team will give him a full-time rotation slot, and b) the Yankees are going to need more than that.

Peavy is interesting, and yesterday we learned that the White Sox are likely to decline his $22M option. The concern here is health more than anything, but he’s held up well this season and has certainly pitched well in a tough ballpark. In a perfect world the Yankees would find another one-year, $10Mish stopgap starter this winter, but Peavy will end up with more than that, probably fro the White Sox. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look into signing him, it’s just tough to answer because I have no idea what his market will be. Two years and $30M? Three years and $36M? I don’t have any idea. But yeah, if Kuroda and Pettitte walk this offseason, the Yankees will definitely be in the market for a veteran innings eater.

Anonymous asks: With interleague play becoming an everyday reality next season, how will that affect the DH issue going forward?

It won’t. The number of interleague games did not change, they’re just spread out throughout the season now rather than localized in June. So now instead of playing nine games in interleague parks in the span of two weeks, they’ll be spread out and played at various points of the season. If anything, it will actually helps the Yankees because they can just sit their DH for a few games at a time rather than worry about losing a big bat for a longer stretch of time. I still expect them to have some kind of DH rotation next year, especially with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira getting a year older.

Travis asks: Have you heard any recovery news about Cesar Cabral, Brad Meyers, Jose Campos or Manny Banuelos? I’m just wondering if those guys are going to be ready for Spring Training 2013 and if so, what are the Yankees going to do with Cabral and Meyers?

Joel Sherman confirmed the other day that Banuelos will pitch in winter ball this year and be healthy in time for Spring Training. I believe his former Mexican League team still controls his winter ball rights, so he’ll probably spend the winter pitching there. Don’t quote on my that though. The last we heard about Campos was that he was slated to participate in Instructional League, which will start any day now. If he does that, I assume he’ll be healthy in time for Spring Training.

I haven’t seen a single update on Cabral (elbow) or Meyers (shoulder) since they suffered their injuries in camp. Since neither guy spent 90 days on the active roster this summer, the Rule 5 Draft rules will carry over to next season. I get the sense that the Yankees will just cut Meyers whenever they need a 40-man roster spot this offseason, though the Cabral situation is a little different because he’s a two-time Rule 5er. I explained that whole thing back in March. Maybe the Yankees can leverage his injury into a minor league contract instead of a big league deal, but either way I think he’ll be on the 40-man chopping block this winter if a spot is needed. That’s a shame, he was pretty impressive in March and had a very good chance of winning the final bullpen spot over Clay Rapada.

Mailbag: Peavy, Mustelier, Jeter, Teixeira, Mo

Kind of a long mailbag this week, with five questions that cover everything from trade candidates to prospects to historical comparisons. Remember to use the Submit a Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Peter asks: Mike, you wrote up Jake Peavy as a trade candidate on MLBTR a few weeks ago. Do you see the Yanks possibly targeting him in July? If so, what’s a fair price?

Here’s the link to that MLBTR post. Peavy, 30, has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball this season, pitching to a 1.89 ERA (2.22 FIP) with 7.57 K/9 (22.6 K%) and 1.20 BB/9 (3.6 BB%) in 52.1 IP across seven starts. He’s been absolutely phenomenal, no doubt about it, but there are still some red flags.

For one, Peavy’s recent injury history is quite scary. He’s been on the DL five times in the last four years, including lengthy stints for an elbow strain (2009), an ankle strain (2009), shoulder surgery (2010), and shoulder inflammation (2011). The shoulder surgery was not a typical labrum or rotator cuff issue, he torn his right lat muscle right off the bone. The injury is  rare and the medical procedure so unique that the recovery timetable was completely unknown. Peavy is showing now that he’s healthy, but the injury stuff has to be in the back of everyone’s mind.

Statistically there’s not much to worry about. He’s always been a fly ball pitcher but now he’s taken it to the extreme, with a 28.7% ground ball rate on the season. That explains his .234 BABIP to a certain extent and even though not every fly ball is hit deep, you have to assume his 2.8% HF/FB rate is going to correct at some point. That’s insanely low. Peavy’s salary — $17M this year with a $22M option for 2012 ($4M buyout) — is quite high as well.. I mentioned Erik Bedard as a trade comp in the MLBTR post, meaning one top-ten prospect (in a farm system, not all of baseball) and another Grade-C secondary piece could work as a trade bounty. The Yankees could have interest, and thankfully we have a few months to see if Peavy holds up physically and can maintain his performance before the deadline.

Willie and many others asked: Is it time to start getting a little excited about Ronnie Mustelier?

(Rudy C. Jones/

I was surprised by how many people asked about Mustelier following his promotion to Triple-A earlier this week. We must have gotten at least ten questions about him, but I guess that’s what happens when a player hits .351/.397/.550 in 295 plate appearances since signing last summer.

Just some real quick background info: Mustelier is 27 years old (28 in August), short (5-foot-10), kinda fat (210 lbs.), a right-handed hitter, and versatile (has played second, third, and the outfield corners). He spent a number of years playing in Cuba before defecting, and as a hitter he makes consistent contact (13.2 K%) but doesn’t walk much (6.4 BB%) or steal bases (12-for-18). The Yankees like Mustelier enough that they sent him to the Arizona Fall League last year, where he hit .344/.354/.516 in 16 games while missing time with injury. Here’s some video.

The most important thing to understand is that Mustelier has been very old for his level since signing. This is an older guy pounding young pitchers and that can skew the results. The Yankees have done a good job getting him to Triple-A quickly so they can evaluate him against the best pitching in the minors, though I wouldn’t expect to see him in the big leagues anytime soon. Baseball America didn’t even have Mustelier on their 80-player Yankees prospect depth chart in the 2012 Prospect Handbook, so there’s a whole lot of unknown here. His versatility is a plus, but we need to see another few hundred minor league at-bats to know if there’s anything worthwhile here.

Arad asks: Had this argument with my brother, who is the better player over their careers using everything, Jeter or Honus Wagner? Thanks Mike!

Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history and it’s not all that close. Obviously it was a much different era, but he hit .325/.392/.462 during his 16-year career despite not officially joining the big leagues until age-27. That’s worth 110.0 bWAR and only one other shortstop is over even 75 career bWAR (Cal Ripken Jr. at 90.9). Jeter is at 69.4 bWAR and counting. No version of WAR is perfect, but the gap between Wagner and everyone else is impossible to ignore.

Jeter is very clearly the best shortstop in Yankees history and is in the conversation for a top five spot all-time with Wagner, Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Arky Vaughan, and Luke Appling. Robin Yount and Alex Rodriguez deserve acknowledgement as well, though they both spent significant portions of their careers at other positions. Wagner’s the best shortstop ever though, very hard to dispute that.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Alex asks: Mike, I read all the pieces you wrote about Mark Teixeira. One thing, which you addressed, slightly still interests me. Since Tex is a switch hitter, it seems like hitting righties from the right side is out of the question. But isn’t everyone a “switch hitter” to a degree? I bet A-Rod could turn around and produce a poor line from the left as well. Has any switch hitter ever became a one-side hitter? Will it hurt to try?

Here are those three posts on Teixeira (part one, two, three, four). I don’t know of any players who successfully dropped switch-hitting this late in their careers. Lots of guys stop switch-hitting in the minors, including Frankie Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez, but that’s very early in their careers. A lot of players mess around with switch-hitting in batting practice and may be able to survive on athleticism in a game situation, but I’d put money against it.

Teixeira’s been switch-hitting his entire life, going all the way back to high school. The guy has never been at the platoon disadvantage at a high level and he’s never seen a breaking ball that breaks away from him. If he were to stop hitting from the left side, he wouldn’t magically replicate his performance against lefties as a righty (.397 wOBA) as a righty against righties. If Teixeira’s offensive problems become so severe that dropping switch-hitting is being seriously discussed, it’s a transition that would have occur during the offseason and in Spring Training. I don’t see any way you could ask him to do that midseason and be productive. You’re setting him up for failure both short and long-term that way.

Jon asks: I literally got physically ill when I heard about Mariano Rivera‘s torn ACL. The question is does Mo fit into the new budget? Do they bring him back next year at $10-15 million if it costs them Cole Hamels?

Well the new budget doesn’t kick in until 2014 unless ownership decides to implement next season. That would suck. I can’t imagine any scenario in which Rivera gets a two-year contract after this season, not at his age and not coming off a major injury. In that sense they could pay him whatever and still sign Hamels knowing that Rivera and his salary will be gone in 2014, when the payroll tightens up. It would be a major surprise if Mo’s next contract somehow extends beyond next season.

I am curious to see how negotiations with Rivera play out this winter. Are the Yankees going to pay him the $15M+ next year just because he’s Mariano Rivera? Or will they try to scale it back a bit, maybe $10-12M given his age and injury? Considering that they offered Andy Pettitte eight figures this past December after he sat at home for a year, I’m willing to bet they’ll have no problem paying Mo something similar to, if not in excess of his current salary.

Scouting the Trade Market: Jake Peavy

The non-waiver trade deadline is behind us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean trade activity ceases in August. As we discussed this morning, teams can still swing trades for players who clear waivers. This is where the Yankees can find an under-the-radar deal. The typical player who clears waivers in August has a high salary; that is, teams won’t put in a claim because they won’t risk getting the contract dumped on them. The Yankees can swoop in there and work out a trade, since they’re in a better position than any team to assume salary. One candidate who fits that description this year is Jake Peavy.

Yankees fans got an up-close look at Peavy last night as he handled the Yankees with aplomb after allowing three early runs. He’s not the same guy that brought home a Cy Young Award with the Padres earlier in his career, but there are indications that he’s not just some washed-up bum. Once he clears waivers, he could represent one of those upgrades that the Yankees could use this year and next.


  • He’s started to adapt to the AL. Peavy’s most dominant days came when he pitched in the league’s most pitcher-friendly park while the AL was the dominant league. He only came over in 2009, and his numbers aren’t exactly pretty since then. But this year he’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the park despite playing in one of the AL’s better hitters’ parks. In fact, he’s pitched far more often at home, and has allowed just two of his four homers there.
  • His control has improved, too, as he’s walking under two per nine. It amounts to a 2.89 FIP, which is quite stellar. He does have a 5.13 ERA, which is alarming at first, until you consider that the White Sox have among the worse defenses in the majors. He’s also been blown up in high-leverage spots this year, which, considering it’s just 64 PA, is not skill-based. In other words, as his luck evens out there his ERA will drop accordingly.
  • ERA estimators in general think he’s a quality mid-level, or even bordering on No. 2, starter. SIERA, tERA, and xFIP all have him in the mid-3s. Other pitchers with a SIERA in the mid-3s: Ricky Romero, Chris Carpenter, Daniel Hudson, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Cain, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
  • He had surgery for a rare injury — a tendon in his arm tore completely off the bone — a little over a year ago. That delayed the start of his season until May, and it’s taken him a while to get back into the swing of things. Last night provided some positives in that regard, as he went seven innings without visibly growing fatigued.
  • He has a $22 million option for 2013 that would certainly be declined. Why is that a positive? It means that the Yankees would have another arm in 2012, allowing them to bypass the one option on the 2012 free-agent market (C.J. Wilson) and focus on the 2013 market, which appears far more robust (Matt Cain, John Danks, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, and Jered Weaver).
  • The White Sox would probably love to shed his salary in 2012, perhaps kicking in money (maybe the $4 million buy-out for 2013) in exchange for a middling prospect. Again, this plays to the Yankees advantage of having deep pockets.


  • He hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in the past few years, pitching just 200 innings since coming to the AL in July, 2009. His last injury, however, was a freak one — no MLB pitcher has been known to have completely torn a tendon off the bone — so that might mitigate the circumstances a bit. But only a bit.
  • His strikeouts are down from his peak, as is his velocity. He seems to have compensated by developing even better control over his pitches, but there could still be a learning curve. As we saw with Mike Mussina and even Freddy Garcia, it can take a while to acclimate oneself to a diminished arsenal.
  • In 17 starts last season, by far his largest continuous sample in the AL, he had a 4.01 FIP and 4.63 ERA in 107 innings — and that was while striking out nearly eight per nine innings.
  • The money owed him in 2012, even if the Sox pick up some, means that he’s a lock to remain in the rotation. So while that might be a good thing, it also might work against the Yanks if he can’t continue to improve his game while working with low-90s velocity.
  • As mentioned on YES last night, he seems to fade after he hits 75 pitches, which is about five innings of work. Even after he held the Yanks last night, opponents are still hitting .441/.444/.542 off him after pitch 75. That is, however, 22 singles, three doubles, a homer, and two walks, so there might be some luck there, too. But considering his recent injury history it could also be fatigue. Maybe last night was a sign that he’s getting stronger, but it’s hard to make a solid determination based on one start.
  • He’d fit right into a six-man rotation: on six-plus days’ rest this year opponents are hitting .266/.291/.352 off him in 128 PA, which is his biggest sampling of rest splits.

Given what we’ve seen and heard from Brian Cashman this year, I’d give this maybe a one-percent chance of happening. Maybe less. The Yankees are seeking only proven upgrades, and while Peavy at his best, or even near his best, is a definite upgrade, in his current incarnation he might be too big a risk. Win, and you have not only a pitcher for the stretch run and the playoffs, but also someone to fill a rotation spot next year as the Yankees await a big 2013 free agent class. Lose, and he’s an expensive 2012 liability that could make it difficult to field a top-notch rotation. But when we weigh his positives and negatives and then combine it with the expected costs and risks, I think he’s as good an option as any for the Yankees.

Get well soon, Jake Peavy

Peavy leaving the game. Check out that kid in the stands. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

On July 6th, 2010 Jake Peavy threw a 94 mph fastball off the outside corner to Mike Napoli.  He then grimaced in pain, held his pitching arm awkwardly, and took himself out of the game.  You can see the video of his injury here.  Peavy had detached his lattisimus dorsi, a broad muscle in the back, and soon underwent season-ending surgery to reattach the muscle.  At the time Will Carroll described his injury accordingly:

Peavy has pulled the muscle out at the insertion. That’s the point where it connects to the upper arm, as seen here. It’s not the best comparison, but if you’ve ever broken down a chicken, this is very similar, though obviously there’s a size (and species) difference. It’s the same kind of muscles and tendons that are pulled apart when taking the wings off before adding the delicious sauce.

Despite the gravity of the injury, Peavy’s surgery went well.  Nearly two months later Carroll updated readers on the status of Peavy’s injury, saying:

Remember when Peavy tore the muscle off the bone in his shoulder? He had the surgery back in early July and he’s making good progress. While he’s a ways off from throwing, he’s been cleared to begin a more involved rehab process including lifting weights and range of motion. Peavy is on track to be on a “normal” throwing program in January leading up to spring training.

The latest update, via, is that Peavy is on track to begin a throwing program in early January.  White Sox GM Kenny Williams hasn’t put a timetable on Peavy’s return, but has also stated that he doesn’t expect him back for the start of the season. There’s a lot of runway between now and when Jake Peavy returns to the mound for the White Sox, but there is reason for Yankee fans to hope that he recovers in full.

Heading into the 2011 season, the White Sox may have the rare luxury of having more starters than spots in the rotation.  Along with Jake Peavy they boast Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Edwin Jackson.  They also have the option of using Chris Sale in the rotation.  Sale is a rail-thin hard-throwing lefty drafted by the White Sox in the first round of the 2010 draft.  He spent time in Chicago’s bullpen last summer, but is a starter by trade. Having Sale and a healthy Peavy may enable the White Sox to deal another one of their starters to fill holes elsewhere or to free up salary.  In fact, the White Sox seem to be thinking along the same lines.  Jon Heyman indicated as much in his Offseason Winners and Losers column a week ago, saying: “They flirted with the idea of trading Gavin Floyd, but appear to have decided they don’t want to touch their rotation until Jake Peavy returns.”

Before Cliff Lee broke our collective hearts and signed with Philadelphia, Mike reviewed Gavin Floyd as a possible alternative to signing Lee, concluding that Floyd would be an excellent Plan B.  Unfortunately, he noted that there were two big obstacles to the Yankees acquiring Floyd: the potential needs of the White Sox and the timing of the deal.  Mike wrote:

The problem I see is that the two teams don’t really line up for a trade. Williams asked the Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart in return and the Yanks simply don’t have that kind of bat to give up. The ChiSox already have a speedy singles hitter in Pierre so Brett Gardner doesn’t do much of anything, and you know they won’t want Nick Swisher back. That leaves Curtis Granderson, but I can’t imagine the Yanks will cut bait on him so soon after all the progress he made late in the season. Based on the present construction of their team, the White Sox are trying to win now, so a bunch of prospects probably won’t cut it. I just don’t see how this would work from where I sit, but KW likes to do crazy stuff, so maybe he figures out a three team trade or something. I’m not sure if the timing will work out either, meaning the ChiSox might want to act and make a trade before Lee is ready to sign, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Fortunately, the question of when the White Sox may look to deal Floyd now appears more advantageous for the Yankees.  Cashman’s stated plan is “patience”, and if Andy Pettitte returns he might not attempt to do anything with the rotation until June or July.  The same questions regarding the White Sox’s potential needs still linger, though, despite a busy offseason.  This winter the White Sox have solidified their lineup with Konerko and Adam Dunn, and strengthened their bullpen by inking relievers Jesse Crain and Will Ohman to multiyear deals.  Despite that, the team has a few holes. They jettisoned Bobby Jenks, and it wasn’t a pretty ending, leaving Matt Thornton as the putative closer.  They’ve been linked to Rafael Soriano, but he appears to be out of their price range for now.  Their biggest hole remains at third base. Prospect Brent Morel has the inside track on the job, with Dayan Viciedo and Mark Teahen behind him on the depth chart, but it’s possible that Morel’s bat may not be strong enough for the position.  If so, the Sox may be looking for a replacement.

All told, a healthy Jake Peavy may enable the White Sox to deal one of their starters this summer.  Yet it’s difficult to handicap how the White Sox roster, and the trade market this summer, will firm up.  An unexpected injury could change everything.  This is the price of needing to find players on the trade market rather than acquiring them as free agents: you become increasingly reliant on the relative health, performance and goals of other organizations.  There is little that Cashman could have done differently, but it doesn’t change the fact that whether Gavin Floyd becomes available in a trade later this year may hinge simply on how well Jake Peavy’s lat muscle heals.

By way of introduction, my name is Stephen and I’m very excited to join the River Ave Blues weekend crew.  The best way to contact me is via my Twitter account or by email (stephen dot m dot rhoads at gmail).

Peavy a possibility for the Sox?

We’ll pay this one lip service because there’s not a ton moving in baseball right now. We know that talks to send Jake Peavy to the Braves and to the Cubs have broken down, possibly beyond repair with the Braves. Peavy’s agent, Barry Axelrod, has said that while his client prefers the National League, he would consider moving to the Yankees, Angels, or Red Sox in the AL, but that’s it. So it comes as no surprise that we hear, via MLBTR, that Boston has “some” interest in Peavy. Of course they do. Just like they had some interest in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Check out this line, though, by Nick Cafardo at the end of the article:

“But if there’s a Teixeira splash, the Red Sox might not have the money to entertain it.”

Laughable. If the Red Sox wanted both Teixeira and Peavy, they could afford them. No question.

(By the way, don’t forget to submit your questions for the podcast.)

So that should wrap up the Peavy rumors

MLB Trade Rumors notes that the Padres are no longer shopping Jake Peavy. According to the team CEO, Jake Peavy will be with the team on Opening Day. All of the Yankee fans who think our team should leap at the chance to acquire Peavy for nothing can come up with new and better trade proposals for other pitchers that aren’t going to be dealt this winter. Of course, this all could change in a moment’s notice, and Sandy Alderson may be bluffing to get other teams back to the table. I’m inclined to believe, however, that the Peavy talks are really and truly dead. He will remain a Padre, for now.

The Peavy rumor that just won’t die

As Joe noted a short while ago, no one knows much of anything in Las Vegas. For Exhibit A, let’s take a look at yet another Jake Peavy rumor.

According to a tidbit in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jake Peavy wants to be a Cub, but seems to expect to land with the Yanks if the Cubs deal falls through. So, over the last few months, we’ve heard various rumors saying that the Yanks are in and out of the Peavy deal, that Peavy doesn’t want to leave the NL or the NL West or doesn’t mind coming to New York, that he will or won’t be traded to the Cubs or the Braves.

Basically, this is a prime example of no one knowing anything. No one knows anything about Peavy. No one really knows anything about CC Sabathia‘s state of mind, the Angels’ intentions with Mark Teixeira, or what’s going on in Manny’s head. So when you start reading reports about what players want or don’t want, take them with a rather large grain of salt.

Hat tip to Will in Chicago for e-mailing this one in.