Archive for Matt Kemp
Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees do not have interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp at the moment. Jon Heyman reports Los Angeles is shopping the 2011 NL MVP runner-up and his agent has said it might be best for both parties if he moves on. Kemp would welcome a trade if it allows him to move back to center field full-time, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Kemp, 29, is hitting .273/.339/.429 (119 wRC+) with eight homers in 369 plate appearances this year. He’s owed roughly $118M through 2019. There is almost always a point where it makes sense to acquire a player, especially someone of Kemp’s caliber, but I think this is the type of contract the Yankees have to avoid. The structural problems with his shoulder (surgery in each of the last two offseasons) suggest his power loss is not a fluke, plus he already contributes nothing defensively. Healthy Matt Kemp is a monster, one of the five best players in the world, but he hasn’t been that player for three years now.
Got eight questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Many asked: What about Matt Kemp?
Kemp, who is still only 29, is open to being traded to a team that will put him back in center field full-time, according to Ken Rosenthal. That obviously isn’t happening with the Yankees. The Dodgers have been playing Kemp in left field and a tiny little bit in right while guys like Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke play center. They think that little of Kemp’s defense, and, of course, they have veteran outfielders to spare. He seems to be the most movable.
Kemp missed basically half of last season with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle injuries — the shoulder and ankle problems required surgery and he’s had shoulder surgery in each of the last two offseasons — but he’s been healthy this year, hitting a solid .268/ .33/.422 (116 wRC+) overall. That’s much better than last year’s 103 wRC+ mark but far behind his 2011 (168 wRC+) and 2012 (145 wRC+) production. He has always struck out a bunch (25.8%) but makes up for it with walks (9.2%), though his power (.154 ISO) disappeared following shoulder surgery and he’s not the first guy that’s happened to.
There is approximately $118M left on Kemp’s contract through 2019 and that’s an avoid at all costs deal for me. The structural problems in his shoulder explain the missing power — Adrian Gonzalez had the same surgery a few years ago and his power isn’t close to what it once was — and doesn’t give me much reason to expect it to return. His defense isn’t good and it’s clear he isn’t happy playing a corner spot. This isn’t a “let’s take a flier on him” situation, there’s too much money left on his deal for that. I’d steer clear unless Los Angeles was willing to eat a substantial sum of money and take back only middling prospects in return. Too many red flags.
(For what it’s worth, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system projects Kemp for a total of 7.7 WAR from 2005-19. Yikes.)
A few asks: What about Darwin Barney?
This is an easy no for me. Barney flat out can’t hit (58 wRC+ this year and a 67 wRC+ in over 2,000 career plate appearances) and while he’s a very good defender, he isn’t as good as the defensive stats said he was a few years ago because they were not yet accounting for the shift. The Yankees have the exact same player in Brendan Ryan — a better version, in fact, because Ryan can play shortstop. Very easy no for me. If they’re going to replace Brian Roberts, I’d hope they would call up Rob Refsnyder before going with someone like Barney.
Many asked: What about Brady Aiken? Should the Yankees go after him if MLB declares him a free agent?
The Astros failed to sign Aiken, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft, last week after a pre-signing physical showed his UCL was smaller than usual. It’s not torn, it’s just an abnormality, like Ty Hensley had in his shoulder. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5M bonus, but Houston dropped it down to $5M after seeing his elbow and they couldn’t come to terms. Fifth rounder Jacob Nix agreed to a $1.5M bonus that was based on savings from Aiken’s below-slot bonus, but the Astros went back on that deal too. Nix really got screwed.
Anyway, the MLBPA filed a grievance on Aiken’s (and Nix’s) behalf because of how negotiations were handled. The usually mild-mannered Casey Close represents both and he tore into Houston for how they handled talks. The odds are strongly against MLB making either player a free agent, however, because the team did make both players the minimum required offer according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league declared Barret Loux a free agent a few years ago because the Diamondbacks never made him an offer after taking him sixth overall and not liking something they saw in his shoulder. But yes, in the unlikely event Aiken (or Nix) is declared a free agent, the Yankees should go after him, clearly. They never got a chance to sign talent like that. Flex those financial muscles.
Daniel asks: Looking to next season, I was wondering if it would be possible if not likely that the Yankees would look to re-sign Chase Headley. I know there is the A-Rod potential issue as always but what kind of a deal would Headley require? If he continued at his pace of below average offense and strong defense, is it possible he’d sign a one year relatively low cost deal to rebuild value? Or is there a team out there other than the Yankees desperate enough to bet on his past production and go all in with a multi year deal?
As with Brandon McCarthy, I think it’s possible the Yankees will re-sign Headley after the season, but how he plays the next two months will play a huge role in that. Remember, when they traded for Lance Berkman a few years, there was immediate talk of re-signing him as a part-time first baseman/DH, but he played his way out of town.
Headley should have a decent market after the season because third basemen are always in demand, so I don’t think a one-year deal will do it. Plus he’s at that age when he’ll look for the biggest payday possible. Brian Cashman made it clear Headley was a rental after the trade, so maybe the team is dead set on playing Alex Rodriguez at third next year and won’t even consider bringing Headley back. But yeah, to answer the question, I think there’s at least a small chance he’ll come back, but it’ll take multiple years. I don’t see a one-year deal doing it in this market.
Steven asks: Any update on Andrew Bailey? Is he in any position to help the team? And is he on a two-year contract so that the real upside of the deal is 2015? I honestly forgot about him.
The last update we got on Bailey came back on June 26th, when VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed the right-hander was throwing bullpens in Tampa, but only fastballs and changeups. He had yet to start throwing breaking balls. The Yankees have maintained that if Bailey does pitch this year, it’ll be very late in the season, sometime in September. This signing was always about 2015 (his contract includes a club option). Anything Bailey gives them this year is gravy. It’s pretty amazing how the four injured relievers everyone wanted their team to sign — Bailey, Jesse Crain, Ryan Madson, and Joel Hanrahan — have yet to pitch this season. Hanrahan just suffered a setback and is done for the year, in fact. Arm injuries suck, man.
Dan asks: Assuming the season won’t be lost at that point; why not wait on Cliff Lee to get to waivers and then put in a claim on him and see if you can get him just for his salary? He’s making a lot, but it’s only for one additional year and the Yanks can afford it. Better to save the prospects I think then squabble over Philly eating $5-10M.
The Dodgers actually claimed Lee off trade waivers in August a few years ago, but the Phillies pulled him back. I’m sure they would do the same this year — you don’t let aces go for nothing more than salary relief — unless they have serious concerns about his elbow. Then they might just dump him and walk away, but I think that’s unlikely. From where I sit, it would make sense for the Yankees claim, if for no other reason than to block a team like the Orioles or Mariners or Angels from potentially acquiring him. It is a risky move though because you could wind up with a $25M a year pitcher with a bum elbow. This seems like a “yeah definitely do it” move to us, but there’s a lot of other stuff to consider that we’re just not privy to, like his medicals and the team’s financial situation.
Jeff asks: If you had to chose between a power hitting RF’er or a starting pitcher at the Deadline, and you could only have one or the other, which would it be?
As much as the Yankees need offense, it would have to be another starter. I have much more faith in the team’s ability to fix their lineup internally than I do the rotation. They could call up Zoilo Almonte or Rob Refsnyder, or Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran could get hot, something like that. The rotation though? There’s nothing left in the minors, they’ve used up all of their depth. Chase Whitley gets major props for what he’s done as a recently converted starter, but replacing him is a priority before the deadline. The Yankees need both, a right fielder and a starter, but I’ll take the pitcher if I can only pick one.
I’ll say false, true, and false. Austin (wrist) and Banuelos (elbow) have had injury trouble the last few years and I think they need more time to get over that and show what they can do at 100%. Williams has been healthy these last two years though and he just hasn’t made any progress whatsoever. A third straight year of that would not be the end of his career, but it would be pretty damning. Talent and tools alone don’t buy guys unlimited opportunities, especially when they’ve had attitude and makeup issues like Williams.
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams that have called the Dodgers to inquire about Matt Kemp. Los Angeles has four outfielders (Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig) for three spots and are reportedly looking to deal one of the veterans to address a different hole on the roster. I assume the two sides talked before New York dropped big bucks on Brian McCann.
Kemp, 29, hit .270/.328/.395 (103 wRC+) with six homers and nine stolen bases in 73 games this past season while missing time with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle problems. He had surgery on the ankle a few weeks ago and surgery on the shoulder last winter. Kemp was an absolute monster in 2011 (168 wRC+ and 8.4 fWAR) and excellent in 2012 (146 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR) despite missing more than 50 games with hamstring problems. He is owed $128M through 2019 and comes with a $20M annual luxury tax hit.
A trade for Kemp would be complicated for several reasons. First of all, what do the Dodgers want in return? I doubt they’d take prospects; they’re a win now team and probably want a third baseman or a starter, two things the Yankees don’t have to offer. Second, there’s the money. If Los Angeles kicks in enough cash to make him a $16-17M a year player instead of $20M, Kemp would be way more appealing. Third, those injuries. These aren’t bumps and bruises, it’s serious stuff. That said, the upside is insane. He just turned 29 in September and could legitimately be one of the five best players in baseball if healthy. Trading for Kemp is a great idea that might be too complicated to actually pull off.
Nine questions this week, so it’s another rapid fire mailbag with short-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.
Peter asks: Should the Yankees speak to the Tigers about trading for Drew Smyly and turn him back into a starter? How well do they match up and what would you give up?
To answer the question, yes, I think the Yankees should look to trade for Smyly so they can convert him back into a starter. Jon Morosi says the Tigers are fielding offers for Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello as a way to plug other roster holes and clear payroll with Smyly taking over the vacated rotation spot. The Yankees should have interest in all of those guys — slightly less interest in Porcello, who needs a good infield defense to be effective — including Smyly. I looked at the 24-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate last winter and everything still holds true, except he now has a season as elite reliever (2.37 ERA and 2.31 FIP) under his belt and one fewer year of team control. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t trade for prospects (he trades them away), he’ll want big league pieces in return. Detroit needs bullpen help and I’d give them David Robertson (free agent after 2014) for Smyly (free agent after 2018) in a heartbeat, but I suspect it’ll cost a bit more than that.
Ross asks: With the focus on the $189 million goal this off-season, what’s the likelihood the Yankees give extra years to free agents with a lower average annual value to separate their offers from other bidders?
An example of this would be signing Brian McCann for eight years and $81M ($10.125M luxury tax hit) instead of five years and $75M ($15M tax hit). The extra years lower the average annual value and thus the luxury tax hit while putting a little more money in McCann’s pocket for his cooperation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement covers potential luxury tax circumvention, and this type of maneuver would fall under that. The league would flag it and probably void the deal. It’s a good idea in theory — I’ve seen people suggest giving Alex Rodriguez a multi-year extension worth $1M a year to lower his tax hit — but I don’t think it would fly in reality. MLB doesn’t take too kindly to teams trying to game the system.
Mark asks: How do you like Chris Iannetta as a consolation prize for losing out on McCann? Would add a little bit more power to the bottom of the order.
Iannetta, 30, hit .225/.358/.372 (111 wRC+) this past season and has a 100 wRC+ with a 15.5% walk rate over the last three seasons. He’s also usually good for double digit homers. Iannetta isn’t a good defensive catcher these days (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s owed $10.225M through 2015 ($5.1125M tax hit). The Angels are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold themselves and one way they’ve discussed doing that is by dealing Iannetta and giving the catching reigns to young Hank Conger. Iannetta is better than the guys the Yankees have in-house and if they don’t bring in another catcher via free agency, he makes sense as a trade target. The Halos want pitching, so maybe something like Adam Warren for Iannetta makes sense for both sides. Not sure if that’s enough though. Just spit-balling here.
Glen asks: The White Sox are open to trading Alexei Ramirez. What would it take to get him and should the Yankees do it?
Well, according to Mark Gonzales, the White Sox turned Carlos Martinez when the Cardinals offered the one-for-one swap prior to the trade deadline. Jon Heyman shot that down, which makes sense because I can’t imagine Chicago would decline an offer like that. They’d be crazy. The 32-year-old Ramirez is basically Eduardo Nunez with a better glove and a much more expensive contract ($10.25M tax hit through 2015). He’s a total hacker (3.2% walk rate last two years) with no power (.098). I would prefer simply signing Brendan Ryan, who will play similar (if not better) defense and hit for a lower average but come far, far cheaper. I know good shortstops are hard to find, but I am not a Ramirez fan at all.
Bill asks: Any interest in Matt Kemp as a trade target?
Yes, but two things need to happen first. For starters, the Dodgers would have to eat a whole bunch of money. Kemp is owed $128M through 2019 ($21.3M tax hit) and I’d be willing to take him on at $16M or so annually. That means Los Angeles would have to kick in about $32M or so, a lot in the real world but little relative to the contract. Secondly, Kemp would have to go through a very thorough physical. The guy had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and left shoulder (labrum) surgery last winter, plus he’s missed a bunch of time with hamstring problems the last two years. There is evidence that hitters who have their front shoulder surgically repaired (like Kemp last winter) can lose bat speed and power for a long time and perhaps permanently. Adrian Gonzalez is a very good example — his power isn’t nearly what it was pre-2010 shoulder surgery. It has to do with the mechanics (and biomechanics, I suppose) of the swing and everything like that. Click the link, it’s interesting stuff. Kemp just turned 29 in September and his upside (MVP level performance fro, 2011-2012) is so very high that it’s hard to ignore. The salary needs to be offset and the body (especially the shoulder) needs to be checked out first, but yes, I’m interested.
Aaron asks: Any interest in Gordon Beckham for 3B? I know its been a few years but I think he’s still young enough to handle the switch back over.
Not anymore. I liked Beckham a few years ago and thought he was salvageable, but we’re going on nearly 2,500 career plate appearances with an 86 wRC+ now (88 wRC+ in 2013). Yes, he is only 27 and a breakout could be right around the corner, but Matt Swartz projects him to earn $3.5M next year and that’s a little pricey for a reclamation project in my opinion. I don’t think the transition from second base over to third will be much of a problem — hell, he still might be an option at shortstop — but it’s everything else that comes along with it, namely the price tag and noodle bat.
Travis asks: I’m thinking outside the box and more than likely this is one of the stupidest things you’ve heard in a while, but what if a team traded for Josh Beckett and made him a closer? He’s a former Red Sock, so I wouldn’t suggest Yankees, but someone?
stupid outside the box. (Kidding!) Beckett, 33, made only eight starts this year before needing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is what effectively ended Chris Carpenter’s career. It’s serious stuff but not always a career-ender. Dillon Gee and Matt Harrison have both dealt with it recently and come back perfectly fine. Beckett’s stuff has been fading in recent years and he was only sitting 90-91 with his fastball before getting hurt this year, and he’s a very different pitcher at 90-91 than he was was 95-96 a few years ago. Maybe a move to relief will bring back some velocity. If he can’t hold up as a starter anymore following the surgery, the bullpen would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to trade for him and try it, though.
Mark asks: Assume the Yankees part ways with Robinson Cano, any chance you see them trying to acquire Ryan Braun? Or does he have too much baggage with his PED suspension? Not sure the Brewers are open to dealing him, but I suspect they are given how bad the team is. Assuming he is available, he could fill the void in RF or 3B (can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera), is just 29 and is signed to a super team-friendly deal through 2021 (when he turns 37) at $16.5 million per year.
Believe it or not, Braun is still pretty popular in Milwaukee. This isn’t an A-Rod situation where pretty much everyone hates him. Braun is beloved by fans and his team (again, unlike A-R0d) and there’s no real desire to get rid of him. He’s the franchise cornerstone and they’re going to move forward with him as the centerpiece despite the PED stuff. Even if they wanted to get rid of him, I don’t think the Yankees don’t have the pieces to get a player of that caliber. It’s not like the Brewers would just give him away to save face and money. It’s a nice idea — he’d fit wonderfully in right field (third base isn’t happening, I don’t think “can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera” is a good enough reason to play him there) — and in the middle of the lineup, but it ain’t happening.
Mike asks: Would Jed Lowrie make sense as a possible trade target? He’s in his last year of arbitration this season before becoming a free agent in 2015. He’s a SS who has played 3B and 2B in the past, and he had a good year where he stayed healthy (finally) in 2013. If Billy Beane was inclined to deal him (would he be?), what kind of package would the Yankees have to give up?
Yes, he definitely makes sense. The 29-year-old Lowrie managed to stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career this past summer, hitting 15 homers with a 121 wRC+ in a pitcher’s park. He can play shortstop but his defense is spotty, though he does make up for it with the stick. Matt Swartz projects him to earn $4.8M in 2014 and there’s a decent chance he’ll be worth a qualifying offer after the season, meaning he’ll net a draft pick if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. Again, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for a player of Lowrie’s caliber — for what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears the Athletics aren’t looking to trade him in the wake of the Nick Punto signing — but he’s a definite fit at this point in time.
Going with a rapid fire mailbag today, so nine total questions. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to send us anything throughout the week.
John asks: Hypothetically speaking, if the Yankees were to trade Robinson Cano today, what type of package do you think they could expect in return? Considering the new rule that the acquiring team will not get comp picks if they lose him, would the package really be that significant? In Spring Training I think they could’ve gotten, lets say, Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller from St. Louis. Now I don’t think they would get Taveras by himself. Am I off base?
Half-a-season of Carlos Beltran fetched Zack Wheeler, and Beltran had a clause in his contract that prevented the team from offering arbitration after the season. The Giants knew at the time they would be unable to recoup a draft pick. Beltran was also a corner outfielder with a long injury injury while Cano plays a more premium position and 159+ games a year, every year. There’s no way they should settle for anything less than a prospect of Taveras’ caliber. That said, Matt Carpenter is amazing and the Cardinals no longer need a second baseman. I know they were just an example though. A half-season of Cano should net the Yankees an elite prospect at the very least. I’d want someone MLB ready who could step right into the lineup after the trade.
Humphrey asks: Given the apparent need of the Tigers to improve their bullpen, is this a place the Yankees can match up? Is there something the Yankees could get in return that would be valuable to them?
The Tigers desperately need bullpen help, particularly capable late-game relievers. The problem is that they’re a contender and are unlikely to trade away big league players to get that bullpen. They’ll offer prospects instead, and they don’t have many great ones to offer. Sorry, but you’re not getting Nick Castellanos (or even Avisail Garcia, for that matter) for David Robertson. I can’t see the Yankees weakening the pitching staff, pretty much the only thing keeping them afloat these days, for minor league players who won’t help right away. I don’t see a good fit for anything more than a minor trade.
Travis asks: Do you think Adam Warren will get a shot at starting in 2014 or will he just stay in the bullpen?
Assuming Phil Hughes is allowed to leave and neither Hiroki Kuroda nor Andy Pettitte return, the Yankees will have to come up with three starters next year. Even if they sign some free agents, they won’t all be studs. I expect Warren to come to camp as a starter with the opportunity to win a rotation spot. I do think he’s best suited for the bullpen and have for a few years now. He’s been very good as the long reliever but I think he could also wind up contributing as a more tradition one-inning, late-game reliever at some point. Give him the chance to start though, he’s earned it. If they come to camp with an open rotation spot or two, they owe it to themselves to see what Warren can do.
SMC asks: What would it take to get Danny Espinosa from the Nationals? He’s clearly fallen out of favor with their organization, but he’s a young switch-hitter with power who plays the middle infield well, steals bases, and draws walks.
I have to preface this by saying I’m a huge Espinosa fan. He was awful this year (23 wRC+) while foolishly trying to play through a chipped bone in his wrist, and he’s since been placed on the DL and then sent to the minors. Espinosa has flirted with 20-20 in each of the last two years and came into this season with a career 98 wRC+. He’s also very good defender who can legitimately play shortstop on an everyday basis. I’d love to get my hands on him at this point while his value is down, especially since Washington has Anthony Rendon at second and seems disinclined to move Ryan Zimmerman off third. I don’t know what the Nationals would want in return, but if they wanted a good but not great prospect like Nik Turley or Ramon Flores, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Espinosa fits the Yankees needs very well going forward even if he is a low-average, strikeout-prone hitter. Power, speed, and defense on the middle infield is hard to find.
Ian asks: If Mark Teixeira‘s wrist is still hurting, what is the point of even trying to bring him back? It clearly isn’t right and isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season. Why not accept reality and do the surgery so the team can try to salvage the last three years of this now awful contract?
I disagree that it “isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season.” If the doctors say he is healthy enough to play, let him play. He can help the team. Wrist surgery is no small thing, you never want to cut into an important joint like that if it can be avoided.
Donny asks: The Yankees have three potential free agents who could be offered a qualifying offer — Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hughes. This would result in a total of four first round draft picks, correct? If that is the case, are there any limits on how many compensatory picks a team is allowed or, in theory, could the Yankees have their entire team turn down qualifying offers that then resulted in 26 first round picks? That seems a little ridiculous to me if that is the case, no?
We could add Kuroda to that list as well, he’s definitely a qualifying offer candidate. Hughes is very much on the fence right now. But yes, there is no limit to how many compensation picks a team can have. The idea of letting the entire roster walk and netting 25 additional first rounders is obviously unrealistic, but technically it is possible. I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all either. If you have a lot of good players, you should be able to reap the draft pick reward if they decide to sign elsewhere.
Colin asks: Saw a blurb that the White Sox may look to sell at the deadline. What are the chances they move Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham? Rios would be a great fit for the Yanks right now.
Beckham, even the disappointing version who is just an okay player and not the star he was expected to be, would definitely help the Yankees. I have a hard time trusting Rios though. He is so wildly up and down. Here, look:
You’ve got a star player one year, a replacement level guy the next, a league average player the next … who knows what’s coming in the future? The 32-year-old Rios has hit well since the startof last season and seems to have figured it out, but is it worth gambling ~$20M through 2014? The Yankees are already saddled with Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells through next year, I’d hate to add another dud outfielder to those two. Plus having Rios and Wells on the same team gives me nightmares about the mid-2000s Blue Jays.
Bill asks: Would never happen but say hypothetically the Dodgers were looking to trade Matt Kemp (once healthy) since they have Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier. What would the Yanks have to offer if they even have enough?
Kemp, 28, was having a terrible year (78 wRC+) before hitting the DL with a hamstring problem. He had left (front) shoulder surgery during the offseason, and the team has acknowledged it is still giving him problems. That said, he put up a 146 wRC+ just last year and nearly went 40-40 in 2011. He’s not old, though he is well-paid (~$140M through 2019). I really don’t know what it would take to acquire Kemp; we don’t have any comparable trades to reference. The first Alex Rodriguez trade maybe? The contract and shoulder should drag the value down a bit, but it’ll still take a huge package. Multiple top prospects, I’m guessing.
Ari asks: Chris Stewart hasn’t hit a double all season. What is the record for plate appearances without one? Can we start the Chris Stewart doubles watch?
I hadn’t even realized Stewart was double-less until this question came in. Stewart has three homers and no other extra-base hits on the season. That’s hard to believe. Anyway, the record for most plate appearances without a double by a non-pitcher is 321 (!), which Rafael Belliard set with 1988 Pirates. Here’s that list, and here’s the list of most double-less games to start a season by a Yankee (doesn’t include last night’s game, but it doesn’t change much):
Add in last night’s game and Stewart is at 41 games, still sitting in ninth place on that list. At some point he will yank a ground ball passed the third baseman and into the left field corner for a double … right? Yeah, it’ll happen eventually. He has about a month to do it before he sits atop that forgettable list.
Four questions and four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Travis asks: Do you think a trade with San Diego for Chris Denorfia could work? Denorfia had a .337/.390/.500 slash line with 15 walks and 16 strikeouts in 178 at bats against lefties in 2012.
Denorfia, 32, has very quietly emerged as one of the best right-handed platoon outfielders in baseball over the last few seasons. Since joining the Padres in 2010, he’s hit .281/.339/.423 (115 wRC+) overall and .323/.388/.468 (142 wRC+) against southpaws. He rarely strikes out (9.9 K%) against left-handers, can steal the occasional base, and grades out as average or better defensively in the corners. Denorfia would be a fantastic target for that righty outfield platoon bat role, but the Padres just signed him to a two-year extension and I doubt they’re looking to trade him.
Now, Denorfia is not San Diego’s only right-handed platoon bat. They also have 28-year-old Jesus Guzman, who’s hit .276/.339/.439 (118 wRC+) overall as a big leaguer and .311/.387/.509 (150 wRC+) against lefties. He doesn’t make as much contact as Denorfia (16.0 K%) and he won’t steal as many bases, but he draws walks (10.4 BB%) and can play all four corner positions while also filling in at second in a pinch. Guzman was a bit of a late-bloomer who didn’t stick in the show until 2011.
While Denorfia just received his new contract, there was actually some talk the Padres might non-tender Guzman a few weeks ago. I was planning to write a Scouting The Market post the very next day had they cut him loose. Instead, they’re going to bring him to camp and see how the bench shakes out. If there’s no room — San Diego has a ton of bench players to sort through in Spring Training — they could trade him or just option him down to Triple-A for depth. Denorfia would be nice, but I think there’s a much better chance of Guzman actually being available at some point. Needless to say, the Yankees should have interest in both.
A few people asked: What about Domonic Brown?
It’s that time of year again, huh? The Phillies continue to show no interest in giving the 25-year-old Brown a legitimate chance, this time signing Delmon Young (!) to play right field everyday. Not only are they not giving him a chance, but now they’re slapping him in the face in the process.
Anyway, I’m pretty much over Brown at this point. He didn’t look so hot during his 212 plate appearance cameo last summer (.235/.316/.396, 91 wRC+), plus he played awful defense. Like, maybe he should be a first baseman defense. Brown is out of options, meaning he’ll have to go through waivers to go back to Triple-A, plus the Yankees don’t really have a need for another left-handed hitting outfielder. I suppose there’s the DH spot, but meh. The Phillies did Brown no favors by jerking him around these last few years, but at some point we have to assign some blame to the player as well. I’m at that point and wouldn’t give up much of anything for him.
Justin asks: With the Diamondbacks loaded on young pitching, should the Yankees try and pry away Pat Corbin from them?
Corbin, 23, was part of the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Angels a few years ago. He made his big league debut last season and pitched to a 4.54 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 107 innings spread across 17 starts and five relief appearances. The strikeout (7.23 K/9 and 18.9 K%), walk (2.10 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%), and ground ball (45.7%) rates were all pretty strong. Certainly a solid showing for a rookie.
The Diamondbacks added yet another young arm yesterday, getting Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton trade. Delgado, Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs (another part of the Haren trade and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball) will compete for the team’s fifth rotation spot in Spring Training. The two losers will go to Triple-A and serve as depth. Kevin Towers is a pitching guy and will stockpile arms until the cows come home.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) said Corbin “projects as a No. 4 starter” before last season because he doesn’t light up the radar gun and none of his offspeed pitches is a true swing-and-miss offering. He’s almost like a left-handed (and slightly younger) David Phelps. That’s someone who is nice to have, but not someone you go all out to acquire. Corbin would be nice to have in stock come 2014 after Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes all hit free agency, but I think the Yankees should use their trade chips to acquire a bat first. That’s a much more pressing need.
Tucker asks: Back in the 2010-11 offseason, there was speculation of a Robinson Cano-for-Matt Kemp trade. In hindsight, would you have made the move?
I’m pretty sure that was much earlier than 2010-2011, no? I thought it was during the 2008-2009 offseason, after Robbie had his awful year. That’s usually when fans conjure up trade scenarios for players, after their down seasons. Anyway, I remember the idea was to trade Cano for Kemp and sign Orlando Hudson to take over at second base.
I was all for that trade at the time (not so much signing Hudson, but I digress) because I thought Kemp would turn into a star (he has!) and Cano would settle in a solid second baseman (he’s been much, much better than that). That was back when the Yankees were looking at replacing both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the near future, and before they acquired Nick Swisher or had seen what Brett Gardner could do in a full season. There was a need for an outfielder and I was all for such a trade.
Now, looking at this in hindsight is another matter. Cano’s been the better hitter (138 vs. 135 wRC+), the better defender (by a mile), and the healthier player (again by a mile) over the last four seasons. Kemp has the advantage in base-running (by a mile) and in terms of contracts ($21M vs. $39M). Despite the significant difference in salary, I would have not done that trade in hindsight. I valuable durability and Cano never ever misses a game. But, as I said, I was all for it at the time and it’s not like Kemp is chopped liver either.
The Dodgers’ ownership situation is a total mess at the moment, but that didn’t stop the club from locking up Matt Kemp for the better part of a decade. The center fielder and likely NL MVP agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $160M yesterday, securing the kind of deal that only comes along when 27-year-old center fielders have MVP-caliber seasons. Funny how that worked out.
Many Yankees fans, myself included, were already fitting Kemp for pinstripes since he was due to become a free agent after next season. Nick Swisher‘s contract also expires then, so naturally the Yankees would just sign one of the very best players in the world to fill the right field void, he’d crush opposite field bombs like this, and we’d all live happily ever after. I had a feeling the Dodgers would find a way to keep Kemp long-term (it’s only a matter of time before they sign Clayton Kershaw long-term as well), but now that dream scenario of signing him after next season is officially the table.
The Yankees still have to figure out what’s going on in right field though, because there isn’t anyone in the farm system coming up to fill the void and the idea of moving Jesus Montero or Derek Jeter out there is just a pipe dream. The free agent market without Kemp still boasts some star caliber names, but none are as young or offensively dominant as the Dodgers’ cornerstone. Josh Hamilton is a great story, but he’ll be 32 shortly after Opening Day 2013 and has had major problems staying healthy in recent years. It’s fair to wonder how his past substance abuse will hinder his ability to stay on the field down the road. Andre Ethier can’t hit lefties (.270 wOBA vs. LHP last three years) and is arguably the worst defensive outfielder in the game. Unless you happen to have a strong affinity for Carlos Quentin or Shane Victorino, there’s not much else to see here.
Without Kemp on the market, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ best long-term option in right field is the guy they have out there right now. Swisher certainly isn’t without his faults, but he’s extremely durable, hits for power from both sides of the plate, and catches everything he’s supposed to in the outfield. The Yankees know him (and his medical history) better than anyone else, and he offers a level of certainty that I really don’t see in the other candidates. Hamilton is the high upside play, but he could easily turn into the position player version of Carl Pavano. If a reasonable agreement – say three years or so – can be worked out between the Yankees and Swisher, then that is probably the team’s best bet with Kemp now a non-option.
Thankfully, the right field question isn’t one that needs an answer right now. The Yankees have an above-average player set to man the position in 2012 and twelve months for the market to develop. Trade options could emerge, internal options could emerge, all sorts of stuff can happen. Unfortunately Matt Kemp won’t be the answer, but that’s okay. That’ll give the Yankees more money to spend on pitching anyway.
I promised a Jesus Montero-free mailbag last week, so here it is. Instead you get a whole bunch of Dodgers-related questions, which seems like nothing more than a coincidence. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.
Evan asks: With the ongoing drama regarding the Dodgers and Frank McCourt, it’s looking more and more likely that Matt Kemp will hit the open market following the 2012 season. What type of contract do you think he will receive? Could it be the largest in baseball?
Kemp’s season was basically Curtis Granderson‘s season plus another 10-15% on top of it. He hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 homers and 40 steals, which works out to a .419 wOBA. All that happened in one of the game’s best pitchers’ parks and in a lineup with zero protection (if you believe in protection). He was a monster this year, I think the obvious NL MVP and arguably the best player in all of baseball.
Reportedly, Kemp will not talk about a contract extension once the 2012 season starts. He can be a free agent after next season (MLBTR projects his 2012 salary at $16.3M), and his agent says he isn’t giving a hometown discount. If Kemp has another year like this one, which is very possible because he is that talented and just turned 27 in September, I think we’re talking Joe Mauer money on the open market (eight years, $184M). He’s not a Scott Boras client, which will cost him some money and likely prevent him from getting an Alex Rodriguez contract, but he’s so young and so productive that it wouldn’t surprise me if he got it anyway. Who will give it to him though? The Yankees with at least three $100M+ deals already on the books? The Red Sox? The Tigers? Maybe the Rangers since Josh Hamilton will be off the books? Someone’s going to pay Kemp huge money and deservedly so.
Reggie asks: What’s the chances that Hiroki Kuroda could be swayed from returning to the Dodgers or Japan with a lucrative two-year offer? Kuroda could simply be trying to gain some leverage in talks with east coast teams. How awesome would it be to have a rotation featuring both Kuroda and Yu Darvish! The stadium would turn into lil Tokyo two days a week.
I think the economic impact of high-profile Japanese players is easy to overstate (we’ve seen studies about how revenue Hideki Matsui actually generated), but it’s definitely real. That’s neither here nor there though.
We’re Kuroda fans here at RAB, dating back to last offseason when we considered him the best Plan B behind Cliff Lee. The Yankees like him as well, judging by the fact that they wanted him in August 2010 and before the 2011 trade deadline. The 36-year-old right-hander (37 in February) still makes a ton of sense for New York on a short-term contract, but he likes Los Angeles so much that he took a below market contract to stay their last year and refused to waive his no-trade clause to come east at the deadline. Two years might be pushing it at Kuroda’s age, but I would much prefer that to five years for C.J. Wilson or four years for Edwin Jackson.
Mark asks: How would you feel about a deal for Chad Billingsley that centered around Eduardo Nunez and someone like Adam Warren or D.J. Mitchell? Given his mileage and down year, would that be too much?
No, I don’t think that would be too much at all. I like Adam Warren, but I’d drive him and Nunez to the airport myself if it meant getting a guy like Billingsley. He’s young (27), signed affordably through 2014 ($32M plus a $14M option for 2015), durable (at least 31 starts and 188 IP in each of the last four years), and really effective (3.52 FIP last four years). Even if that shoots up to a 4.00 FIP in the AL East, he’s still a really good pitcher.
My biggest concern is that Billingsley’s strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have declined every year since 2008 while his walk rate has hovered closer to 4.0 BB/9 than 3.0 BB/9. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness dubbed him “a conundrum, consistently inconsistent” just yesterday. On the bright side, he is a ground ball guy (47.3% last four years) and has only been on the DL once (16 days for a groin strain in 2010). Definite pluses.
I look at Billingsley almost like another Ubaldo Jimenez, and I think it would take a similar kind of package to get him. Ned Colletti isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it comes to making trades (as he’s shown with Casey Blake, Octavio Dotel, etc.), so perhaps that makes it easier to acquire the right-hander. I’d include Dellin Betances in a package for Billingsley no questions asked, but not Manny Banuelos and certainly not Montero. Betances plus two lesser pieces (Mitchell? Brandon Laird?) would be ideal, but probably not realistic.
Nick asks: Could the Yankees trade for Scott Elbert?
Sure they could. I have no idea how open the Dodgers would be to moving the lefty, who emerged as a dominant late-inning reliever in 2011 after going back and forth to Triple-A for a few years. The 26-year-old held same-side hitters to a .191/.267/.250 batting line this year (75 plate appearances), though the 18 strikeouts don’t really blow you away. Elbert battled some serious arm problems in the minors, which is why he can’t start anymore, but he’s still a power arm with a low-90′s fastball and high-80′s slider capable of doing the lefty specialist thing. He’d be a fine trade target, but I hope the Yankees don’t overpay for a LOOGY.
Jon asks: What are your thoughts on Mark Buehrle?
Brad asks: What are the details of Mark Buehrle’s contract situation? If memory serves, he is a free agent this year. He’s a durable lefty with a proven track record. Would he be a viable signing for the Yankees?
Yep, he is a free agent this winter, and just to get this out of the way, I can only see Buehrle pitching in two places next season: with the White Sox, or for his hometown Cardinals. He’d made it known in the past that he would only waive his no-trade clause to pitch in St. Louis, and he’s also discussed retirement if the right deal doesn’t come along.
Anyway, I’m not much of a Buehrle fan. He’s the definition of a soft-tosser, keeping hitters off balance with a mid-80′s fastball (both two- and four-seamers), a low-80′s cutter, a high-70′s changeup, and a low-80′s curveball. The 32-year-old southpaw (33 in March) doesn’t strike anyone out (three straight sub-4.80 K/9 seasons) and doesn’t get a ton of ground balls (sub-45.7% last three years), but he is stingy with ball four (no worse than a 2.14 BB/9 since 2003).
Buehrle’s a classic wily ol’ veteran that just knows how to pitch and keep his team in games and [insert cliche here]. His value is in his innings (just finished his 11th straight year of 200+ IP) and veteran presents. Viable signing? Sure, but a) I don’t see it happening, and b) definitely not with the expectation of him being a number two starter. Buehrle’s had a great career, but you don’t want to be the one on the hook when the other shoe drops.
Dave asks: We all know about the weak free agent class for starting pitchers this year, but I’m interested in next year’s pitchers. Or more specifically, which of next year’s free agents (or the following year) might be made available at the trade deadline, a la Ubaldo. Cole Hamels probably won’t be made available, but maybe Clayton Kershaw? BTW, I still refer to this post for future free agent pitchers.
Next year’s free agent class is right here, and it’s loaded with pitchers. Hamels, John Danks, Matt Cain, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano … the list goes on and on. I think Cain is by far the most likely to sign an extension, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamels does as well. Danks and Liriano could definitely be on the block if the White Sox and Twins fall out of the race early, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers try to flip Greinke for something better than two draft picks if they struggle without Prince Fielder. I’d be surprised if Tim Lincecum or Josh Johnson, two guys that will become free agents after 2013, hit the trade market this summer. Heck, in Lincecum’s case, I’d be surprised if he ever hits the trade market. He’s the definition of a franchise pitcher.