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.

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What Went Wrong: Lyle Overbay

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the replacement level replacement first baseman.

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

The Yankees acquired their 2013 starting first baseman with only six days to go in Spring Training. Mark Teixeira suffered a wrist injury in early-March and at the time he was expected back in mid-May, so the team only needed a stopgap for six weeks or so. The Red Sox gave their lefty bench bat spot to Mike Carp and cut Lyle Overbay loose with a week to go in camp, which is when New York pounced. He was the best available option.

Much like most of the team’s veteran retread pick-ups, the 36-year-old Overbay was quite productive for the first 50 or so games of the season. He wasn’t exactly hitting for average or getting on-base, but Lyle hit for a surprising amount of power and had a knack for big, late-inning hits. During an 86 plate appearances stretch in early-to-mid-May, Overbay hit .269/.318/.526 with eight doubles and four homers while pacing Robinson Cano for the team lead in runs driven in. Many of those runs he plated came in crucial situations:

  • April 28th: Two-run homer against R.A. Dickey to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead in the seven inning.
  • May 10th: Overbay went 4-for-5 with five runs driven in against the Royals, including a sixth inning run-scoring double that broke the tie and gave the Yankees the lead.
  • May 20th: Solo homer against Orioles lefty Troy Patton to break the tie and give New York a lead in seventh inning lead.
  • May 25th: A solo homer off Rays righty Josh Lueke gave the Yankees the lead in the 11th inning.
  • May 28th: Broke a scoreless tie with a run-scoring single against Matt Harvey.

From the start of the season through the game with that single against Harvey, Overbay managed a robust 0.928 WPA, meaning he chipped in close to a full win of value with timely hits despite having a mediocre .251 average overall. His numbers with runners in scoring position (.268/.367/.415 in 49 plate appearances) were okay but he was a monster in situations defined as “close and late” (.286/.407/.714 in 27 PA), though sample size caveats apply. “Close and late” plate appearances come in the seventh inning or later with a one-run lead or the tying run at least on deck, plus anything in between.

Overbay played well enough in the first two months that even after Teixeira returned from his wrist injury at the end of May, the Yankees kept his bat in the lineup by sticking him in right field, a position he had not played since rookie ball in 1999. The right field experiment lasted four games and was mostly a disaster defensively. Well, not mostly. It was an outright disaster. No one could blame Overbay though, the team was desperate for offense and he was one of their most productive players, so Joe Girardi & Co. did what they had to do to help the team win.

Teixeira re-injured his wrist during a series against the Angels in mid-June and eventually needed season-ending surgery, allowing Overbay to reclaim the first base job outright. He hit an acceptable .266/.346/.415 with five doubles and three homers in 28 games between Teixeira’s injury and the All-Star break, which was fine production for an offensively starved team. Overbay carried a .251/.307/.436 (101 wRC+) batting line into the break. He was also playing strong defense, which is pretty much his calling card.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The second half is when things went really south. Because Kevin Youkilis was hurt in addition to Teixeira, the Yankees did not have a proper right-handed platoon partner for Overbay. He was out there everyday, against righties and lefties, and it completely exposed his weakness against southpaws. It also might have worn him down physically. Lyle closed out the month of July by going 10-for-42 (.238) with no walks, three doubles, and a homer (.381 SLG) in 12 games.

August was slightly better — .250/.307/.324 (72 wRC+) in 20 games — though he did have a stretch of 18 straight plate appearances without a hit towards the end of the month. September was just brutal — .163/.250/.245 (36 wRC+) line in 20 games — and by the middle of the month he’d lost his starting job to Mark Reynolds, even sitting against righties. Overbay started just ten of the team’s final 19 games and four of their final eleven games. He’d hit his way out of the lineup.

That .251/.307/.436 (101 wRC+) batting line in the first half was broken down into .272/.330/.485 against righties (224 plate appearances) and .198/.247/.309 (89 plate appearances against lefties). Overbay hit just .220/.272/.314 (58 wRC+) in the second half, including .234/.292/.339 (137 plate appearances) against righties and .171/.194/.229 (36 plate appearances) against lefties. His overall season batting line was .240/.295/.393 (93 wRC+) with a huge platoon split: .258/.316/.430 (103 wRC+) against righties and .190/.232/.284 (35 wRC+) against southpaws.

Overbay is perfectly symbolic of the 2013 Yankees. He was asked to be play everyday and hit near the middle of the order after being cast aside by a contender because they didn’t even have a spot for him on the bench. The only reason he got the job was because the Yankees don’t have any internal solutions for, well, almost anything. Lyle did an admirable job in the first half of the season and had a bunch of big hits, but his performance was below-average overall and well-below-average compared to the typical first baseman. Stepping in after being signed less than a week before the start of the season is not easy, but Overbay was a net negative in 2013 and the very definition of replacement level (0.0 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR).

2013 Midseason Review: Grade B’s

No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. Yesterday we tackled the A’s, today we continue with the B’s.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees remain just three games out of a playoff spot despite their plethora of injuries, and the reason they remain so relatively close is a number of unexpectedly strong performances. Some new faces — I mean really new faces, as in guys acquired during Spring Training — have stepped up and assumed larger than expected roles, taking pressure off stalwarts like Robinson Cano in the lineup and David Robertson in the bullpen.

The Grade B’s are not the team’s elite players. They are the guys who have performed well, better than average really, and served as consistent complimentary pieces. One of these guys is actually a disappointment relative to his typical production, but his standard is so high that a disappointing year is actually pretty good. Without further ado, here are the Grade B’s.

Brett Gardner
Outside of Cano, Gardner has been the team’s only other consistently above-average offensive player. He missed basically all of last season with an elbow injury and has emerged as a legitimate leadoff hitter, putting up a .272/.338/422 (107 wRC+) line with a career-high tying seven homers. Gardner has only stolen 13 bases (in 19 attempts), which is surprising and a letdown, but he has made up for the lack of speed by hitting for power. He has also continued to play his typically elite defense while replacing Curtis Granderson in center field — Gardner was slated to play center even before Granderson’s injury. He can be streaky, but Gardner has been very good for the Yankees this year.

Shawn Kelley
Acquired from the Mariners early in Spring Training, Kelley shook off a horrid April to emerge as Joe Girardi‘s trusted seventh inning guy. His 3.67 ERA and 3.12 FIP are built on a dynamite strikeout rate (13.37 K/9 and 36.2 K%), which has allowed him to strand 21 of 22 inherited runners. Kelley has essentially been a second Robertson with the way he can come out of the bullpen and snuff out rallies without the ball being put in play. What looked like a depth pickup in camp has turned into something much more. Kelley is a key part of the bullpen.

Boone Logan
The theme of New York’s bullpen is strikeouts, and none of their relievers — not even Mariano Rivera — can match Logan’s ability to miss bats (12.60 K/9 and 34.7 K%) and limit walks (1.80 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%). His 7.00 K/BB is the eighth best in baseball among relievers who have thrown at least 20 innings. Logan has excellent strikeout (42.4%) and walk (3.4%) rates against lefties, but he’s run into a little bad luck (.429 BABIP) and they’ve put up a decent .246/.271/.404 line against him. That’s not good for a primary lefty specialist, but it has improved of late and Logan remains an effective cog in Girardi’s bullpen. He’s been the team’s best left-handed reliever since Mike Stanton way back in the day and it’s not all that close either.

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Lyle Overbay
The Yankees signed Overbay with just three days left in camp and he was only supposed to hang around until Mark Teixeira returned, but Teixeira’s season-ending wrist surgery has made him the everyday first baseman. Overbay has responded by hitting an ever-so-slightly above-average .252/.308/.437 (101 wRC+) with more than a few clutch, late-inning hits, plus he plays very good defense at first. He’s a platoon bat — 121 wRC+ vs. RHP but only 46 vs. LHP — but the Yankees have had to play him everyday, so the fact that his overall season line is a bit better than average is a testament to how productive he’s been against righties. Overbay has exceeded even the highest of expectations and has probably been the team’s third best everyday position player. No, really.

CC Sabathia
Sunday’s disaster start makes this seem silly, but even the diminished version of CC Sabathia is a reliable innings eating workhorse. As I’ve been saying the last five years now, even bad Sabathia is still pretty good. He’s got a 4.07 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 137 innings, the fifth most in all of baseball. His biggest problem this season has been the long ball — CC has already surrendered 21 homers, just one fewer than his career-high set last year. Learning to live with reduced fastball velocity is not an easy thing to do, but Sabathia has worked through it and typically gives the team a chance to win. Well, at least gives a team with an average offense to win. He’s not an ace right now and he may never be again, but the sheer volume of innings he provides makes him a better than average hurler despite the an ERA and FIP that are worse than his career norms.

Mailbag: Outfield, Draft, Overbay, Sim. Games

Got seven questions and six answers this week, so the answers aren’t crazy long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.

Paul: Kevin Youkilis to the OF? He’s played there before (albeit only 22 games and not really recently). Any chance David Adams has been shagging fly balls during BP recently?

Oh hell no on Youkilis. Aside from what will very likely be awful defense — as you can see above, he has played left field in Yankee Stadium before, rather lolingly at that —  I’m not sure I want a 34-year-old with a history of back problems running around the outfield day after day. Stick him at third base and be done with it, no need to needlessly complicate things.

Adams has zero outfield experience as a pro and from what I can tell, he never played it in college either. I’m guessing he didn’t play it in high school as well because of the unspoken “best player plays shortstop unless he throws left-handed” rule. I haven’t seen any reports of him shagging fly balls lately — he has taken ground balls at shortstop, but that’s not unusual — so I’m guessing the Yankees don’t consider him much of an option out there. I don’t see any outfield help coming until Curtis Granderson‘s pinky heals up.

Jeb asks: As unlikely as this is to happen, suppose that draft day is rather chaotic and there is a top-15 talent available for each of the Yankees’ first round picks (e.g. Ryan Stanek, Austin Meadows, etc.). Would you select each of these high-caliber guys and not worry about how to sign them, or would you perhaps take two and then go for some guys who likely would have lower demands to ensure that you can sign your top two picks?

This is very unlikely as you said, but this is where the new draft pool system would really screw a team over. The top 15 picks are all slotted at over $2.2M apiece, so those guys were expecting large bonuses. The Yankees have a touch less than $7.96M to spend this year, which probably isn’t enough to sign three top-15 guys even going super cheap with $10k senior seniors in rounds two through ten.

Given the team’s need to add impact talent to the system, I’d hope they would just blow through the draft pool number and get the three players signed. It’s an extreme circumstance and you can’t pass up a haul like that. The Yankees can spend up to $8,753,140 before forfeiting a future first round pick (that would come with a $596,805 tax) and up to $9,151,010 before forfeiting a future first and second round pick ($1,193,610 tax). If they could add three legit top-15 guys, they’d have to grab them and get them signed. It it costs a pick next year, so be it. They never have access to those guys.

Mike asks: What could the Yankees get in a trade for Lyle Overbay when Mark Teixeira returns? Who would be a potential trading partner? The draft is on my mind, what about a competitive balance pick?

Ryan asks: With Teixeira going on a rehab assignment and very close, what teams may have a need/interest in Overbay? They will likely keep him for a little bit to make sure Tex is healthy, but what might a trade look like, what kind of a return might they get?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees will hold onto Overbay for at least a few weeks while they make sure Teixeira’s wrist is healthy and he’s in the clear. He’d be a bench bat/part-time starter at first and DH, basically.

As good as he’s been, Overbay is still just a 98 wRC+ first baseman who can’t hit lefties. There usually isn’t a huge market for those guys, but I could see clubs like the Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Rockies having some interest. Obviously injuries could create more openings, and that includes the Yankees. If they could get one of those competitive balance picks — #34-39 and #69-73, and they are tradeable between now and the draft — I’d take it and run. Otherwise I think the Yankees would be lucky to get a C-prospect out of Overbay in a trade. He’s been better than expected but still below-average overall. The demand just isn’t that great.

Matt asks: Which Yankees FA from last offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez) would you most like to have back, given their current performances and the injuries/general awfulness of their replacements?

All of the above? If I had to pick one, I’d go Swisher over Martin even though he plays the less important position because the Yankees really need offense and he’s the better offensive player. I think the difference between Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki is greater than the difference between Martin and Chris Stewart. Chavez has quietly been awesome by the way (153 wRC+) — he did leave yesterday’s game hurt — and I didn’t think he’d do it again. Good for him.

Michael asks: Could you write a post where you explain exactly how a simulated game “plays?” For instance, are there nine fielders? Are they playing at 100% or is it simply a way for the pitcher and hitter to do their work? Are there two discrete sides playing and changing between batting and fielding? Is the pitching coach calling balls and strikes? And so on … Thanks.

It’s glorified batting practice, basically. There’s a pitcher (with no L-screen) and usually two batters (one lefty and one righty) alternating at-bats in simulated “innings.” No fielders, and a coach will call balls and strikes and declare balls in play hits or outs or whatever. The pitcher will sit down for 15 minutes after getting three “outs” before going out for the next inning. The players are supposed to play at 100%, but you can’t truly simulate the adrenaline levels of a big league game. It’s just a way to get work in.

Bernie asks: How many wins do the Yankees have when trailing in the 7th or later and how many did they have all of last year? Has to be close?

I’ve spent more time on Baseball-Reference than I care to admit over the years, yet I always seem to be finding stats and info I didn’t know they had. Win-loss records when leading after a specific inning are one of those things I discovered within the last few weeks, so I can actually this question.

The Yankees are just 3-19 (.136) when trailing after seven innings this year, which is better than the league average winning percentage (.104). Small sample size, yadda yadda yadda. Last season they went 9-58 (.134) when trailing after seven, so a negligible difference. It’s basically the same pace. This year’s team does, however, already have more wins when trailing after eight innings (two) than last year’s team (one).

Mailbag: Cano, Mo, Overbay, Joba, Montero

Rapid fire mailbag this week, so ten questions and ten answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Max asks: At what point should we worry about Robinson Cano‘s bad lefty splits going forward? He’s hitting .254/.299/.476 against lefties this year and had a .239/.309/.337 line last year. Sure, he still mashes righties but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of giving a potential platoon player a megadeal. Thanks.

Oh it’s definitely a red flag right. Cano hit lefties nearly as well as he hit righties until last season, when his performance fell off a cliff. I looked at the data as part of our season review and didn’t find any significant red flags. This year though, both his ground ball (56.3%) and strikeout (22.4%) rates are way up against southpaws. That could change in a hurry since it’s so early in the season. If that continues into the summer, I’d be very worried. Giving a super-long contract to a middle infielder is risky enough, and it would be even worse if he’s morphed into a platoon bat. Not worried yet, but I will be watching this.

Steve asks: Single-season saves record is Francisco Rodriguez at 62. Mariano Rivera is on pace for 66. What are the odds he does it?

This isn’t really a Mo thing, right? The other 24 players on the team have to create those save opportunities for him. They’d have to give him like, 67 save chances over the full season to get to 62 saves, which means another 51 save chances in the final 121 games of the year. It’s doable, the Yankees play a ton of close games because their pitching is good and their offense mostly stinks (94 wRC+!), but only twice has someone saved more than 55 games in one year. I think the odds are very small, maybe 5% on the high-end.

Vinny asks: Assuming Travis Hafner gets and stays healthy (big assumption), what will the Yankees do with Lyle Overbay whenever Mark Teixeira comes back? His performance against righties has been excellent.

His performance against righties has been excellent (160 wRC+), but so has Hafner’s (151 wRC+). Pronk also does a much better job of holding his own against southpaws (98 wRC+, where Overbay has been basically useless (-21 wRC+). Their overall hitting numbers aren’t particularly close either (106 vs. 139 wRC+). The Yankees will have to decide if Overbay’s advantages on defense and durability make up the difference in offensive production. Considering he’s a first baseman and first baseman only, I think the answer is clearly no.

The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)
The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

Brad asks: Do you see the Yankees shopping for another LOOGY? Or do you believe Brian Cashman will wait to see what Clay Rapada and/or Cesar Cabral can contribute?

I definitely think they will see what they have internally first. That means Vidal Nuno and maybe even Josh Spence in addition to Rapada and Cabral. If those guys all manage to flop — or if Boone Logan gets hurt — in the coming weeks, yeah I could see them looking for lefty relief help at the deadline. It definitely isn’t a pressing need right now.

KG asks: Would the Yankees have the interest/package to trade for Nick Franklin? He may not end up a bonafide major league shortstop, but the Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second and Brad Miller just behind Franklin. Pipe dream?

I’m sure there would be some interest on New York’s part, but I don’t see why the Mariners would move him right now. He’s tearing up the Triple-A level (159 wRC+) and even though he’s unlikely to be a shortstop long-term, he’s much better than their big league shortstops. Ackley is awful but they won’t give up on him yet, but Miller is far from a sure thing. I think the Mariners will call Franklin up in the coming weeks and give him a chance. The only thing the Yankees have to offer are a bunch High-A and Double-A outfielders, none of whom is performing particularly well this year. I don’t really see a trade fit.

Anonymous asks: With Seattle having uber-catching prospect Mike Zunino just about ready for the show — any chance Seattle will take offers for Jesus Montero? What would the Yankees have to give to reacquire Jesus?

Teams usually aren’t quick to admit failure after a trade of that magnitude, so I don’t think Seattle would be open to moving Montero so soon without getting a big piece in return. They’re not going to sell-low and take two Grade-C prospects despite his dismal big league performance. The Yankees could stick him at DH, teach him first base, catch him on rare occasions … basically everything they could have done when he was with the organization. I don’t see this happening at all.

Anonymous asks: Do you believe the Yankees are planning to trade Joba Chamberlain for pieces around the deadline, considering the Yankees’ surplus of middle relief options? Joba could bring back a cost-controlled piece.

He’s an injury-prone middle reliever who will be a free agent after the season. You don’t get “pieces” in return for that, and the only cost-controlled piece he’ll bring back in a mid-level prospect. Joba’s value to the Yankees as a seventh inning reliever is much greater than anything they’ll realistically get in return. Teams aren’t giving up anything worthwhile for him, I know I wouldn’t.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mike asks: Sort of a two-part David Aardsma question now that the Marlins released him. Firstly, why are teams not giving him a shot in the Majors, and secondly, would it make sense for the Yanks to go pick him up again?

I don’t know why he hasn’t been given a big league shot yet, but I don’t believe it’s because he’s been overlooked. Teams know Aardsma, and anytime a former standout closer becomes a free agent, he gets looked into. They must not like what they’ve seen, either in his stuff or command — he did walk eight in 14 innings before the release, which he requested — or whatever. If Aardsma wants to come back to the organization and pitch in Triple-A for a few weeks, great. I wouldn’t give him a big league job over Shawn Kelley or Preston Claiborne (or Joba) right now though.

Tuckers asks: I know it’s too soon to predict, but what do you think about the Yankees signing Tim Lincecum after the season? I think there’s a good argument to be made either way.

My answer at this exact moment is no. That is subject to change between now and the offseason, but his velocity continues to hover around 90 mph and his offspeed stuff isn’t as devastating as it was when he was 93-95. His walk (4.25 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (0.92 HR/FB and 15.6% HR/FB) rates are career-worsts, and that’s in a big park in the NL. The Yankees do a wonderful job of squeezing production from seemingly cooked veterans, but I don’t think Lincecum is coming on a cheap one-year deal. So yeah, right now my answer is no. If he adds some velocity this summer, my opinion will change.

Brad asks: So the Yankees seem to have a glut of serviceable, young starting pitchers. Is there a deal out there for them to turn some quantity of these into an impact bat?

I don’t think so. I don’t see any team giving up an impact back for guys like Ivan Nova and David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Two or three projected fifth starters doesn’t get you one really good bat. Maybe they could get a David Adams type, but that wouldn’t qualify as an impact bat in my opinion.

Yankees designate Clay Rapada for assignment

The Yankees have designated Clay Rapada for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Lyle Overbay, the team announced. The move allowed them to finalize their 25-man roster by today’s 3pm ET deadline.

Rapada, 32, hasn’t pitched in about three weeks due to shoulder bursitis and he wasn’t particularly close to returning. He is crazy effective against left-handed batters (career .231 wOBA against), but righties do hit him hard (.453). Rapada’s a true lefty specialist and the Yankees have lefty relief depth (Juan Cedeno, Josh Spence Vidal Nuno, Francisco Rondon, Cesar Cabral when healthy), though he’s a useful piece the team doesn’t have anymore. I don’t see much of an alternative, really.

Yankees sign Lyle Overbay to minor league deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

5:33pm: Overbay told Andy McCullough that he can opt out of his contract on Friday. So yeah, the Yankees basically have three days to determine if he’s a fit for their roster.

4:14pm: Back to the scrap heap the Yankees go. The club has signed Lyle Overbay to a minor league contract, reports Erik Boland. The team has confirmed the signing. He should be in camp soon, as in tomorrow. The Red Sox released the first baseman earlier on Tuesday and the Yankees will not need to make a 40-man roster move.

Overbay, 36, hit .259/.331/.397 (91 wRC+) with two homers in 131 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks and Braves last season. Over the last three seasons he’s hit .241/.322/.401 (97 wRC+) in nearly 1,200 plate appearances with a big platoon split: 100 wRC+ against righties compared to a 84 wRC+ against lefties. Overbay has always been an all-fields gap-to-gap guy who might not benefit much from Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch despite being a lefty. He can play a solid first base, however.

Juan Rivera seemed to have the inside track on the first base job in the wake of Mark Teixeira‘s wrist injury, so at the very least Overbay gives him some competition before the start of the season. The Yankees do have an open bench spot at the moment and could carry both guys in a platoon, but they will need some versatility on the bench. They don’t have enough bench spots to accommodate all of these platoons they seem to want to use.