Scouting The Trade Market: Detroit Tigers

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

The Tigers are going down in flames. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but things are not going well in Detroit right night. Last night’s win was their season in a nutshell: they jumped out to an 8-0 lead, then the disappointing starting pitcher and hilaribad bullpen let the other team make it interesting. Before you knew it, the tying run was on deck. The win improved Detroit’s postseason odds to a mere 25.4%, so says FanGraphs.

Depending on who you ask, the Tigers are either going to sell at the deadline or hold off a little longer before making a decision. They are still in the wildcard race, after all. Both Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman say the Tigers are preparing to sell and put some big names on the trade market, though Jayson Stark hears they won’t commit to anything until after Sunday, when they’ll re-evaluate their situation. So basically no one knows anything, pretty much.

The Tigers are like the Yankees: they’ve never truly going to sell, only retool so they can try to win again next year. They’re the ultimate win-now team, with a window based on Miguel Cabrera’s peak and whatever Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Victor Martinez have left in the tank. Detroit is not going to tear the whole thing down and rebuild. Expect them to seek players who can help them win in 2016 in any trade. Let’s run down the players who could possibly help the Yankees.

RHP Shane Greene

The players are listed alphabetically, I swear I’m not trolling. The 26-year-old Greene has been atrocious this season, pitching to a 6.52 ERA (5.03 FIP) in 77.1 innings. That’s after allowing just one earned run in his first three starts and 23 innings. His strikeout (23.5% vs. 14.0%) and ground ball (50.2% vs. 42.7%) rates are way down compared to last season. Greene’s been really bad this year. Shockingly bad. I feel bad for the poor kid bad.

At this point Greene is a reclamation project, and the idea would be getting him back into a familiar environment with the coaches who helped develop him into what he was last year after being drafted as a hard-thrower and not much else. Greene credited minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson for helping him more get on line with the plate and improving his walk rate two years ago, which raised his prospect stock and got him to MLB.

Now for some #RealTalk: If Greene was not an ex-Yankee, there would be zero interest in acquiring him. He’d be just another 26-year-old second year guy with a good but not great minor league track record and fairly limited big league success. He’d be Barry Enright circa 2010. But Shane is an ex-Yankee, so we dream. Dream of getting Greene back, waving the organizational magic wand, and watching him go right back to where he was last year. If only it was that easy. Greene has negative 2015 value. That’s the reality of the situation.

What Would It Take?: Trading Didi Gregorius for Greene seems insane now, doesn’t it? I can’t find another instance of a similar young-ish reclamation project guy being traded in recent years, so we’re out of luck there. Maybe a change of scenery deal? My busted Greene for your busted young player? I’m not sure who that would be on the Yankees. Mason Williams? Either way, I find a Greene trade unlikely. I expect the Tigers to try to fix him rather than sell super low.

Kinsler. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Kinsler. (Leon Halip/Getty)

2B Ian Kinsler

The Yankees desperately need a second baseman, preferably a right-handed hitting one to balance out the bottom of the lineup, so Kinsler is a natural fit. He’s having a fairly typical Ian Kinsler year at .284/.346/.403 (109 wRC+), with a decent amount of walks (8.3%) and few strikeouts (13.5%), two traits that are fairly common up and down the New York lineup. Kinsler has also consistently rated as a strong second base defender and base-runner, so hooray for well-roundedness.

Kinsler does come with some red flags, of course. For starters, he turned 33 last month, so he’s not young. He’s right at the age where a lot of second baseman seem to fall off the cliff. That’s part of the reason the Yankees shied away from re-signing Robinson Cano, the dreaded second base aging curve. Also, Kinsler is owed approximately $38M through 2017, assuming his $12M option for 2018 is bought out for $5M. He’s no rental. He’s quite expensive, actually.

Age and salary are out of Kinsler’s control. The third red flag is something he can control, at least in theory. His power is way down this year — he’s on pace for only nine home runs after hitting 17 last year and averaging 19 per year from 2006-14, and his .119 ISO is a career-low. As Nolan Meister noted last month, Kinsler came into the season with the intention of hitting the ball the other way more often, but he has gradually started to pull the ball more the last few weeks.

Kinsler has hit four homers with a .230 ISO in his last 22 games after hitting one homer with a .079 ISO in his first 71 games. The loss of power could have to do with a simple change in approach, something Kinsler may have already corrected based on the last few weeks. Pulling the ball has gotten such a negative connotation the last few years because of the shift, but it’s a good thing. That’s how most hitters hit for power. Kinsler is at his best when he isn’t focusing on the opposite field all the time.

The Yankees are looking for rental players, which is their standard trade deadline strategy, and Kinsler doesn’t fit the profile. That’s not a strict policy — they did acquire Martin Prado with two and a half years left on his contract last year, for example — and who knows if they would be willing to be flexible for Kinsler. He fits the team’s playing style and fills a position of obvious need, but he’s not young, he’s not cheap, and he also has a bit of a mouth on him. The Yankees tend to steer clear of players who could become distractions.

What Would It Take?: Is last year’s Prado trade comparable? Prado and Kinsler both had two and half years left on their contracts, they’ve both been 105-ish wRC+ hitters the last few years, and they play solid defense. Prado is two years younger and more versatile, and he is cheaper, but Kinsler had a much greater peak as a former 30/30 guy. One year of Howie Kendrick was traded for a consensus top 50 prospect (Andrew Heaney) this offseason, so I’m sure the Tigers have their eyes set on something better than Peter O’Brien. I know I would.

BRING ME. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
BRING ME. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

LHP David Price

I’m not even sure I need to go into much detail here. Price is inarguably one of the best pitchers in the world — he’s been one of the best for a half-decade now — and is the game’s third best left-hander behind Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale. This season the 29-year-old has a 2.32 ERA (2.78 FIP) in 132 innings with great strikeout (23.7%), walk (4.8%), and home run (0.68 HR/9) rates. He hasn’t gotten a ton of grounders (39.2%) but that’s never really been his thing.

Price is excellent. He’s been excellent this year, he was excellent last year, and he’s been excellent pretty much since the day he broke into the big leagues. There are zero arguments to be made he is anything short of an ace, a perennial 200+ high-quality innings machine. He makes every rotation better. Should the Tigers decide to put Price on the market, he immediately becomes the best available starter, ahead of Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels and whoever else.

As for the Yankees, Price is embodiment of everything they look for in a starter. He throws hard (averages 93.9 mph), he misses bats (11.5% whiff rate), he doesn’t walk anyone (again, 4.8%), and he’s tall (6-foot-6). As an added bonus, Price is left-handed, which fits well in Yankee Stadium, and he’s been through the AL East gauntlet with the Rays. He knows the division, knows the ballparks, knows the hitters. It’s a perfect fit. Perrrfect.

Price will be a free agent after the season and he’s going to end up with Max Scherzer money (seven years, $210M), and the Yankees shied away from Scherzer last offseason because they didn’t want to pay big bucks for his decline. That can’t be the focus with Price though. He’s a rental ace. Look at him as that and nothing more. Price is a someone who can actually complete seven innings on occasion (novel idea, I know) and change the balance of power within a division. If the Tigers make him available, the Yankees should be knocking down Detroit’s door.

What Will It Take?: So here’s where it gets interesting. The Yankees say they have “sworn off” trading top prospects for rental players, though I’m guessing Price would make them reconsider that stance. How could he not? I’d be pretty annoyed if the Tigers put Price on the market and Yankees didn’t make a serious push to get him because they don’t want to give up prospects.

Anyway, the Yankees were involved in best comparable rental ace trade: Cliff Lee! They were willing to give up their best prospect (Jesus Montero) and two others (reportedly David Adams and Zach McAllister) for two months of Lee back in 2010. The Rangers beat them out by offering their No. 1 prospect (Justin Smoak, who wasn’t too far behind Montero on Baseball America’s top 100 list), No. 17 prospect (Blake Beavan), and two non-top 30 prospects (Matt Lawson, Josh Lueke). So yeah, you want David Price on the Yankees? It’s gonna hurt.

Update: The key difference between Lee and Price is draft pick compensation. Back in the day the Yankees would have been able to get two draft picks had Lee left as a free agent after the season. They wouldn’t be able to get a pick for Price because of the current system. That matters.

Big Pasta. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Big Pasta. (Leon Halip/Getty)

RHP Alfredo Simon

After a fine start to the season, the 34-year-old Simon now owns a 4.63 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 105 innings this year. He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher (16.9% in 2015), but he has been a ground ball pitcher (career 46.1%), just not this year (41.3%). The walk (8.0%) and homer (0.94 HR/9) numbers are average-ish. Simon is the quintessential back-end guy. He chews up innings with his sinker/splitter combination, but they aren’t great innings.

Simon is a depth arm. Nothing more, nothing less. He has a ton of experience in the bullpen — he worked mostly in relief from 2010-13 before the Reds moved him into the rotation out of necessity last year — and would effectively replace Branden Pinder in the bullpen. Is that a good thing? I dunno. But Simon is someone who could start or relieve, and the Yankees wouldn’t have to worry too much about his workload. They could run his pitch counts up without concern for his long-term future. Harsh? Yeah. But that’s baseball.

(It’s worth noting Simon has had some trouble with the law the last few years, specifically this and this. The Yankees value makeup and good character way too highly for me to think they’ll overlook that.)

What Would It Take?: I’m going to refer back to what I wrote yesterday about Wandy Rodriguez:

Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was traded for two players to be named later last summer. The two players were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 (2B Jesmuel Valentin) and No. 29 (RHP Victor Arano) prospects in the Dodgers’ system before the trade, and both were down in rookie ball at the time of the deal. Wandy Simon shouldn’t cost more.

There you go. The Tigers surprisingly gave up a useful young infielder (Eugenio Suarez) and a hard-throwing pitching prospect (Jonathan Crawford) to get Simon in the offseason, but I can’t imagine anyone will give up a comparable package at the trade deadline.

RHP Joakim Soria

Soria. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Soria. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Detroit’s bullpen has been atrocious this season, even worse than usual, and Soria is the team’s best reliever almost by default. He has a 3.08 ERA (4.93 FIP) in 38 innings but has been extraordinarily homer prone (1.89 HR/9). His ground ball rate (44.3%) is okay, it’s just that his stuff isn’t as crisp as it once was, so when he makes a mistake, it gets hammered.

Soria’s strikeout (21.6%) and walk (6.5%) rates aren’t nearly as good as they were during his prime, which was now almost five years ago. Lefties have smacked him around a bit as well (.317 wOBA). Tommy John surgery is rough. Especially when you have two of ’em. Soria is more name value than actual production right now, following the two elbow reconstructions. He’d be an upgrade over the Branden Pinders and Chris Capuanos of the world, but at this point Soria would be the sixth best reliever in New York’s bullpen at best.

What Would It Take?: Rental relievers get traded at the deadline every year. Soria’s not going to command a top prospect like Andrew Miller last year, but he’s probably not going to come for almost free in a salary dump like Jonathan Broxton either. (Soria is owed roughly $3M the rest of the season.) Maybe an organizational top ten prospect (Nick Delmonico) like the Orioles gave up for Francisco Rodriguez two years ago? Maybe. Should the Yankees do that? Nah.

* * *

Like I said before, the Tigers are likely to look for MLB ready players able to help in 2016 in any trade. I doubt they want prospects. I don’t even know if they’re going to sell, but I can’t get my mind off a possible Price plus Kinsler package. The Tigers love hard-throwing pitchers, absolutely love ’em, which makes me wonder if they’d be interested in Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi plus Rob Refsnyder (to replace Kinsler) plus, say, Chasen Shreve (to help with their bullpen woes) plus a prospect like Jorge Mateo?

Actually, I’m going to stop right there and your trade proposal sucks myself. I’d do that trade in a heartbeat, which means Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski would say no. That’s a package of “good,” not “great.” Mateo is the potential “great” in that package and he’s three years away from MLB. The Yankees would be getting the two best players in that deal. That’s a package of junk drawer stuff for a rental ace and an above-average second baseman. Not happening. That doesn’t make Price or (to a lesser extent) Kinsler any less of a fit for the Yankees though. Now they just need to the Tigers to sell.

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Rangers agree to sign Joakim Soria

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Rangers have agreed to sign free agent reliever Joakim Soria to a two-year contract. Soria had expressed interest in setting up for the Yankees so he could be around idol Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees are very unlikely to offer anyone a two-year deal with offseason. Guaranteeing two years to a reliever coming off his second Tommy John surgery is pretty sketchy anyway. One year with a vesting option was my personal limit, but I’m not the one calling the shots.

Angels, Madson set the market for Soria

The Angels have signed Ryan Madson to a one-year contract according to multiple reports, and the deal will pay the right-hander a $3.5M base salary. He can earn another $2.5M in roster bonuses (based on days on the active roster) and $1M in incentives (bases on games finished).

The 32-year-old Madson was one of two formerly-elite relievers recovering from Tommy John surgery on the free agent market this winter, joining Joakim Soria. Soria, 28, has indicated a willingness to setup for the Yankees just so he could be around his idol Mariano Rivera, and now we have an idea of what it would take to sign him. Soria is several years younger than Madson with a much longer track record in the closer’s role (saves pay) though, but he’s also coming off his second Tommy John surgery. It would be a pretty big coup if the Yankees could add him to their bullpen with a similarly structured contract, say a one-year deal worth $5M with another $3M in bonuses.

Mailbag: Masterson, Ichiro, Hunter, Soria, Adams

Just four questions this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us your questions throughout the week. A word of advice: I tend to write these things Thursday evening, so get your question in before then if you want me to answer it that week.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Nostradamus asks: I like the idea of Justin Masterson in pinstripes with his ground ball tendencies. If he can pitch close to his 2011 numbers he’d be a great pick-up. What would it take to get him? Maybe we can get Shin-Soo Choo in a package deal?

Masterson, 27, was awesome last year (3.21 ERA and 3.28 FIP) and kinda crappy this year (4.93 ERA and 4.16 FIP). In fact, if you look at his last four seasons, 2011 is the outlier, not 2012 — he pitched to a 4.63 ERA and 3.98 FIP from 2009-2010. The success last year came from a drop in walk rate (2.71 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and a big drop in HR/FB (6.3%). Those two rates bounced right back up to his career norms — 3.58 BB/9 (9.2 BB%) and 9.9% HR/FB — this year, hence the 2009-2010-esque performance.

I think there’s a disconnect between what people think Masterson is and what he really is, but he’s still on the right side of 30 and has been pretty durable in recent years. His sinker is ridiculous (career 56.0% grounders), but he doesn’t have a changeup and lefties tend to hit him pretty hard (career .351 wOBA against). I can’t think of many pitchers like Masterson who have been traded two years prior to free agency, but he’s not someone I think the Yankees should go out of their way to acquire. I think the price will be inflated relative to his actual production. Add Choo on top of that and I’m not even sure the Yankees have to pieces to get it done. The Indians want pitching, pitching, and more pitching, and the Yankees don’t have enough to spare.

Jeff asks: With Ichiro Suzuki interested in coming back next year and the Yanks seemingly interested in Torii Hunter, could you see both on the Yanks next year? Hunter could play RF with Ichiro as the righty-hitting DH (like Raul Ibanez). Or would you rather see a DH who’s a infielder?

Well, in that case I would recommend playing Brett Gardner in center, Hunter in right, Ichiro in left, and Curtis Granderson at DH. I don’t think the Yankees would sign both guys though unless Ichiro came really cheap, like true fourth outfielder money. A million bucks or two, that’s it. Even then it would still be tough to squeeze all four of these guys into the lineup since Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter need semi-regular reps at DH. I’m not sure how Ichiro or Hunter would adjust to part-time work like that, so I’d prefer signing a DH who is used to being platoon bat and sitting on the bench for a while. It’s not an easy adjustment. Infielder or outfielder depends on whether or not Eric Chavez returns, really.

Patrick asks: So its been reported to Joakim Soria would be willing to set up his idol Mariano Rivera. Awesomeness. How much would you be willing to spend and are you overly concerned that he’s had to have TJ twice?

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Yes, the second Tommy John surgery is a big concern. Tons of guys have it and the procedure is relatively routine, but only the first time around. The second time is much different. We culled together some data on two-time TJS guys at FanGraphs over the summer, and only pitchers we dug up who threw at least 300 innings after the second surgery were Doug Brocail, Chris Capuano, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jason Frasor. Many other two-time TJS guys had more arm problems afterward, likely because there was something wrong (bad genes? bad mechanics?) that caused them to need the two elbow reconstructions in the first place. It’s also worth noting that a bunch of guys had the second procedure near the end of their careers, so they weren’t going to reach that 300-inning level anyway.

That said, Soria is a special pitcher because his track record is elite and he’s only 28 years old. He’s reportedly seeking a multi-year contract and that’s no surprise, but I don’t want to see the Yankees go more than one guaranteed year with him, especially if they’re serious about the 2014 payroll plan. A one-year deal ($4-6M?) with a club or even vesting option (based on appearances) would be ideal since it gives the club some protection in case he gets hurt again or just doesn’t pitch well. You can make the argument that it should be preferable for Soria since he’d be able to rebuild value and go back out on the market in search of a big contract next winter. If they guarantee him like $8M (salary plus buyout) and keep the deal to one guaranteed year, that would be perfect. Anything more would make me nervous.

Travis asks: So if A-Rod winds up having to DH a lot sooner than expected, is David Adams a legitimate internal option to play third base? My gut says no. Do you see the Yankees going after any free agent in particular to back up at third? Do they go after Chavez again? I’m worried about his durability if he sees increased workloads like he did last year.

Outside of Eduardo Nunez, who the Yankees say will stick to shortstop and only shortstop going forward, Adams is by far the team’s best internal hope for a third baseman. At least in the near future since guys like Dante Bichette Jr. and Miguel Andujar are way down in the low minors. It’s unlikely Corban Joseph can handle the position at the big league level and not because of his range or instincts or anything like that, he just doesn’t have the arm for it. That’s not an easy throw to make.

Adams could always hit, that was never really a question, but the injuries have been a problem these last three years. He missed an awful lot of time with the ankle problem and still hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2009. I think there’s enough patience and bat control there for him to be a .280/.340 guy with doubles power in the show, maybe 10-15 dingers at his peak. Obviously that’s someone you’d rather have at second than at the hot corner, where teams typically expect more offensively. I think the Yankees will break him in as a utility man down the line, but for next year the plan probably involves bringing Chavez (or a similar player) back if he’s open to it.

Report: Soria willing to setup for Yankees

Via Andrew Marchand: Right-hander Joakim Soria is willing to pitch as a setup man for the Yankees just so he could have an opportunity to play with Mariano Rivera, his idol. “If the Yankees call, we will be all ears,” said Soria’s agent, who has heard from eight teams so far. “If there is a fit, Joakim would be elated to work with Mo. He would close everywhere except there.”

Soria, 28, missed all of last season with his second Tommy John surgery, but was one of the game’s very best relievers prior to that. Marchand says the Yankees have not yet contacted Soria’s camp, but that’s not unusual this early in the offseason. New York has had on-and-off trade interest in the former Royals closer through the years and they were going to take him in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft before Kansas City beat them to the punch, so I imagine a phone call will occur at some point. The Yankees need relief help and landing Soria on a one-year, incentive-laden deal with an option for 2014 and the promise that he’s first in line to take over as closer following Rivera’s retirement would be a fantastic get.

Mailbag: Grandy, Polanco, Soria, Madson, Martin

Six questions but only four answers this week, the first official mailbag of the 2012-2013 offseason. Remember to please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar for all ‘bag related correspondence.

(Elsa/Getty)

Anonymous asks: Should they decide to trade him, realistically what could the Yankees get for Curtis Granderson?

The Yankees officially exercised Granderson’s no-brainer $15M option earlier this week, and he’s due to become a free agent after next season. He’s hit .247/.337/.506 over the last three seasons and that seems like a decent approximation of his expected 2013 production. Maybe less if you really don’t like him and think strikeouts are the root of all evil. Granderson is a center fielder but not a good one, though he is definitely an above average player signed for one year.

Guys like that don’t get traded all that often, but we do have a decent sample over the last few years, most notably Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Willingham, and Dan Uggla. Granderson is somewhere between Willingham (traded for two prospects, one being an MLB-ready reliever) and Gonzalez (three prospects, two being top 100 guys), which at least gives us a reference point rather than just guessing. He won’t fetch a Carlos Gonzalez type (like Holliday), but I think the Yankees could realistically demand two good prospects for Granderson in a trade. Two guys in a club’s top ten prospects list, for example. Preferably at least one of them would be an MLB-ready outfielder, of course.

Matt asks: What would you think about adding Placido Polanco as a back up utility guy to play the role that Chavez had?

Travis asks: Lets say the Tigers non-tender Ryan Raburn. Is he enough of a utility player for the Yankees? If he is, would he be an upgrade over Jayson Nix?

Might as well lump these two together. Polanco, 37, makes some sense as a backup corner infielder/emergency second baseman depending on his back. He’s missed a bunch of time these last few years with everything from inflammation to soreness to bulging discs. The Yankees would have to look him over really well during the physical. Polanco isn’t anything special on defense, has no power (.075 ISO last three years), no speed (only eight steals), and doesn’t walk (6.3 BB%), but he’s a contact machine who rarely strikes out (.281 AVG last three years with an 8.0 K%). The Yankees can use some of that, it just depends on whether they’re comfortable with his medicals and having a right-handed hitting corner infielder.

As for the 31-year-old Raburn, it would have to be a minor league contract only. I really liked him a few years ago, but he just hasn’t hit at all lately. He broke out with a .285/.348/.498 showing from 2009-2010 (.286/.373/.580 vs. LHP), but these last two years he’s hit just .226/.272/.370 overall (.232/.283/.397 vs. LHP) and been demoted to the minors. Raburn is far more versatile than Polanco, with lots of experience at second and in the outfield corners plus some time at third base as well, but he can’t hit. That 2009-2010 stuff is tantalizing, but I don’t think he’s better than Nix and I wouldn’t give him anything more than a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite.

(Norm Hall/Getty)

GB asks: I see that the options for Joakim Soria and Matt Lindstrom were declined. They seem like good targets to me. Your thoughts?

Lonnie asks: Do you see the Yanks making a play for Soria or Ryan Madson at low-cost deals to possibly close in 2014?

Gonna lump these two together as well, and yes, all three make perfect sense on short-term contracts. Obviously Soria and Madson are elite relievers coming off Tommy John surgery while Lindstrom is healthy and more of a middle reliever/setup man, but the Yankees need some bullpen help and all three offer it.

There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t take Soria or Madson on a one-year, low-base salary, incentive-laden “prove yourself then go out and get that big contract next offseason” contract, but the Royals are talking about re-signing the former while the latter still wants a closing job. The 32-year-old Lindstrom is probably a bit underrated, pitching to a 2.84 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 101 innings over the last two years. He throws very hard but is more of a ground ball guy than a strikeout guy, plus he spent most of this season with the Orioles and has at least some AL East experience. I’d take any and all of these guys on a one-year pact.

Jeb asks: If Brian Cashman offers Russell Martin another 3/20 and he turns it down, would you give him a qualifying offer? Assuming $/fWAR holds and fWAR might not capture his defense, perhaps this is worth the risk?

I wouldn’t worry so much about the $/WAR stuff since the Yankees are on their own little planet there. They’re well beyond the point of diminishing returns, meaning every additional dollar they spend adds less and less in terms of wins. You can only win so many baseball games a year regardless of how much you spend. More money means more probability, not more wins.

Anyway, the catching market is atrocious and that goes double for this offseason. There are two legitimate starting catchers on the free agent market this offseason: Martin and A.J. Pierzynski. Mike Napoli has caught more than 80 games once in a his career (2009) and no more than 70 games in the last three years. Kelly Shoppach hasn’t caught more than 75 games since 2008. Pierzynski turns 36 in December and is coming off a career year, plus he was never anything great on defense and is a world-class asshole. Martin doesn’t hit for average but he draws walks, hits for power, and is a pretty good (if not great) defender. He’s also won’t turn 30 until February.

For most of the season it appeared as though Martin (and his agent) made a huge mistake by not taking that three-year, $20M-something extension last winter, but I bet he gets a similar deal this offseason. There are enough big market teams who need a catchers (Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees) and Russ hasn’t yet gotten into his mid-30s, when catchers usually turned into pumpkins. Hell, Chris Iannetta just signed a three-year, $15.55M extension with the Angels despite hitting .240/.332/.398 while missing a bunch of time due to injury this year, and he didn’t even go on the open market. Martin should be able to find the extra $8-10M out there. I don’t think the Yankees will make him a qualifying offer, but I think it would make some sense. Worst case is he accepts and you’ve got him on expensive one-year contract. Considering the general lack of quality catchers, overpaying Martin for a year is a luxury the Yankees can afford.

Thinking Out Loud: The Tommy John Bullpen

(Madson via The Cincinnati Enquirer; Soria via Getty)

It’s been a pretty rough month for big name relief pitchers. Not only did Joba Chamberlain suffer an open dislocation of his right ankle, but both Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria blew out their pitching elbows. Those two guys will have Tommy John surgery in the very near future. Forgive me while I indulge myself a bit, but wouldn’t it be something if the Yankees bought low on both Madson and Soria next offseason? We can all dream a little.

* * *

Based on how he’s been talking in camp, Mariano Rivera is likely to call it a career after this season. It’ll be a very sad day whenever Mo hangs ’em up, but it is inevitable. The Yankees do have two ready-made closer replacements already in-house, specifically Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Who knows what we’ll be saying ten months from now, but at the moment those two are more than qualified for ninth inning work. The Yankees will still have to replace a dominant reliever though, and both Madson and Soria qualify as dominant relievers when healthy.

Madson, 31, signed a one-year pillow contract with the Reds this offseason, so he’ll again be a free agent next offseason coming off elbow surgery. Needless to say, the big multi-year offers won’t be rolling in. Soria, 27, is at the whim of the Royals. They can either pick up his $8M option for 2013 or cut him loose and let him become a free agent for the first time in his career. Again, it’s safe to assume those big multi-year contract offers won’t be rolling in for the Mexecutioner. Sucks for them, but that’s how this baseballing thing works.

This is Soria’s second Tommy John procedure, and the two-timers don’t have a great track record of recovery. Chris Capuano and Hong-Chih Kuo are the two most notable success stories. For the sake of argument, let’s assume Kansas City decides not to sink 15-20% of its payroll into Soria and lets him walk. The Yankees could look at both guys on one-year contracts, allowing them to re-establish themselves as dominant late-game relievers before hitting the open market after the season in search of that big multi-year deal they won’t get next winter. One-year pacts would still allow the Yankees to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014.

Let’s say they could get both Madson and Soria on one-year, $3M contracts with incentives. Add in David Aardsma, who the Yankees can retain in 2013 for just $500k, and that’s three Tommy John guys in the bullpen. Joba could make it four depending on how the ankle injury impacts his elbow rehab schedule. Now, not all of those guys would work out. We may think it’s routine, but elbow ligament replacement surgery is a serious procedure. Two of those four guys may flame out and be completely ineffective, but if the other two guys get back to being their pre-Tommy John selves, the Yankees would still come out ahead in the whole production vs. cost thing.

Anyway, I’m just thinking out loud. Everyone loves the idea of landing a super-talented player on the cheap as they come off injury (hence all the Grady Sizemore-related mailbag questions this winter) but that’s because we’re not the ones assuming the risk. The team has to pay them real money to pitch real innings, and coming off serious surgery like that is no piece of cake. A bullpen staff of Madson, Soria, Joba, Robertson, Soriano, and Aardsma is drool-worthy regardless of who ends up closing, and there’s no harm dreaming about it. We are Yankees fans, after all.