Archive for Nate Schierholtz
The Yankees have a long list of needs heading into the trade deadline, and the Cubs are one of the few teams that we know will be sellers for certain. They’re in the middle of a big rebuild and have been trading away veteran players for prospects since the Theo Epstein-led regime arrived in town during the 2011-12 offseason. This summer figures to be no different.
This morning we looked at Cubs’ pitchers (three, specifically) who could possibly help the Yankees not only this season, but in some cases next season as well. Now we’re going to look at the position players because hey, the Bombers really need some offense. The infield and right field are the two most obvious (only possible?) areas to upgrade. Here’s a look at the Cubs’ position players who could potentially interest the Yankees.
SS Starlin Castro
It’s amazing how quickly the perception of players can change. At the end of last season, Castro was an overpaid, unproductive malcontent who embodied the Cubs’ player development and rebuilding failures. Now? Now Castro is the co-cornerstone of the infield along with Anthony Rizzo, rebounding from a terrible 2013 season to be a top notch producer and model citizen under new manager Rick Renteria. The fielding gaffes and apparent disinterest have been kept to a minimum.
Castro, who is still only 24, has hit .284/.331/.478 (121 wRC+) with eleven homers in 320 plate appearances this season after mustering a weak .245/.284/.347 (70 wRC+) line with ten homers in 705 plate appearances a year ago. He hit .297/.336/.425 (102 wRC+) with 27 homers total from 2010-12, his first three years in the show. Castro’s batting ball profile returned to its pre-2013 levels and at his age he’s simply getting stronger and better. He remains a total hacker (5.6% walk rate) but his bat-to-ball skills are very good (17.2% strikeout rate). It’s also worth noting he’s played in 556 of 561 possible games from 2011-14. Castro’s tools are very impressive.
The Cubs have a top shortstop prospect in Triple-A in Javier Baez, though that doesn’t automatically mean they will trade Castro. Neither guy is a standout defender and could wind up at second base. Plus there’s the matter of Baez hitting .226/.278/.424 (74 wRC+) while striking out in 34.2% of his plate appearances this year. (He had a 28.8% strikeout rate in Double-A last season, so the hacktastic ways are nothing new.) The kid has electric, Gary Sheffield-esque bat speed, but he’s ultra-aggressive and there are serious concerns about his ability to hit at the higher levels. Trade Castro and the Cubs might wind up with no viable young shortstops within a year or two.
Castro signed an eight-year, $60M extension during the 2012 season and is under contract through 2019 (option for 2020), when he will still be only 29 years old. If the Cubs were open to trading him, they’d market him as if 2013 was just a bump in the road. Young, high-ceiling middle infielders signed through their peak years never get traded. I can’t come up with a comparable deal to reference and will simply say it will take a package of several high-end prospects to bring Castro to the Bronx. I don’t see this happening at all.
IF Luis Valbuena
Valbuena, 28, is quietly hitting .266/.359/.425 (117 wRC+) with four homers and a 12.7% walk rate in 237 plate appearances this year. He’s always been a patient hitter (career 10.2 BB%) and last season’s .218/.331/.378 (95 wRC+) batting line would have been better if not for a career low .233 BABIP. He has a .336 BABIP this year and a .267 BABIP since getting to the Cubs in 2012 (.266 career!), so his true talent level is probably somewhere between his 2013 and 2014 performances.
The Yankees need infield help and Valbuena has a lot of experience at both second and third bases, so he provides some flexibility. The various defensive stats rate him anywhere from average to slightly above at the two positions. Valbuena is a left-handed hitter with patience who could see his power production tick up in Yankee Stadium (his spray charts suggests it may), plus he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016. Not the sexiest name in the world, but Valbuena would be an upgrade at either second or third bases for New York. Yunel Escobar fetched a Grade-C upper level prospect (Derek Dietrich) when he was dealt from the Marlins to the Rays two years ago, if you’re looking for a comparable trade.
3B Mike Olt
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, then I’m sure you’re familiar with Olt. The Connecticut raised third baseman was discussed as a possible trade target more than a few times over the years, particularly when he was with the Rangers. Texas traded him to Chicago as part of the package for Matt Garza last year.
Olt, 25, is having a statistically fascinating season as a part-time with the Cubs. He’s hitting .146/.225/.354 (55 wRC+) with a 38.2% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate, so he’s an extreme hacker/swing-and-miss guy, but he’s also clubbed ten homers in 178 plate appearances. The right-handed pop is there and always has been. Olt is okay defensively at third and he has years to go before being eligible for arbitration, nevermind free agency. He’s a project. If the Yankees think their organizational hitting gurus can fix him up, then he would make sense as a buy low, possible long-term third base option. Olt is not someone who can help the team right away, however.
OF Justin Ruggiano & OF Nate Schierholtz
I’m going to lump these two together because they’re both platoon outfielders. Ruggiano, 32, is hitting .220/.321/.352 (88 wRC+) overall this year with a 102 wRC+ against lefties. The 30-year-old Schierholtz has a brutal .205/.260/.308 (52 wRC+) batting line overall and with a 54 wRC+ against righties. He’s the better defender of the two but Ruggiano is about average himself. Schierholtz will become a free agent after the season while Ruggiano is under team control through the 2016 season.
The Yankees are currently riding the underwhelming Alfonso Soriano/Ichiro Suzuki platoon in right field and could use some more power from the position. Neither Ruggiano nor Schierholtz seems likely to provide that based on their performance this year. Utility man Emilio Bonifacio got off to an insane start back in April but hasn’t hit a lick since and is sitting on a .261/.306/.340 (75 wRC+) batting line. He can provide some speed and versatility off the bench, but nothing more. None of these three would move the needle.
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Since it seems unlikely the Cubs will move Castro in the coming weeks for anything less than a substantial haul, Valbuena appears to be the only option who would actually help the Yankees this season. Olt is interesting in the sense that he has power and is a former top prospect, but he needs to be fixed. He’s not going to help anyone right away. Castro is a stud and Jeff Samardzija is very available and a true impact pitcher, but I think Valbuena and Jason Hammel are the more realistic fits for the Yankees.
12:59pm: Olney says the Cubs have already started exchanging names with other teams about their players, just to give you can idea of where they sit in the process. Doesn’t seem like they’re going to wait until the deadline to start dealing players.
12:00pm: Via Buster Olney (subs. req’d): Rival evaluators say the Cubs are “open for business” and ready to sell off pieces in advance of the trade deadline. Chicago is 29-42 with a -21 run differential, the fourth worst record and ninth worst run differential in baseball. Based on their situation and what the Theo Epstein-led regime has done since taking over, it’s safe to say they’ll be looking for prospects in any trade.
Olney says the Cubbies are “prepared to move” outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who received a contract offer from the Yankees this offseason and is hitting .288/.338/.545 (136 wRC+) in 208 plate appearances on the season. He’d be a fantastic fit for New York, just as he would have been over the winter. Alfonso Soriano, the currently-injured David DeJesus, various starting pitchers, and a bevy of relievers are said to be among the other available Cubs. Obviously adding offense is priorities number one, two, and three for the Yankees.
9:30pm: Schierholtz has agreed to a one-year contract with the Cubs according to Jerry Crasnick. So much for that.
8:24pm: Via Joel Sherman: Free agent outfielder Nate Schierholtz has an offer in hand from the Yankees. He says it’s believed to be the first offer the team has made to a position player this offseason. Progress!
Day Two of the Winter Meetings was busier than Day One for the Yankees even though they didn’t make any moves or announce another Alex Rodriguez injury. Brian Cashman confirmed speaking to the representatives for Kevin Youkilis, A.J. Pierzynski, Ichiro Suzuki, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. Jeff Keppinger and Mark Reynolds were also said to be on the team’s radar.
- 5:14pm: Reynolds is seeking a similar salary to the $7.5M he made in 2012. [Bryan Hoch]
- 4:42pm: The Yankees have been talking to the representatives for Mark Reynolds about playing third base. [Sherman]
- 1:20pm: The Yankees have been exchanging trade proposals with other teams about their players, including Curtis Granderson according to Buster Olney. He cautions that this is typical and the not necessarily an indication that something serious is brewing.
- 1:11pm: A deal between the Yankees and Youkilis is unlikely, and Keppinger remains the team’s top third base target. Agreeing to a contract length will be an issue. [Mark Feinsand]
- 10:56am: The Yankees checked in with Hannahan but are not very serious about signing him. Due diligence, I suppose. [Jordan Bastian]
- 10:16am: Nate Schierholtz is making “good progress” towards his next deal and the Yankees are considered the early front-runner to sign him. That would be swell in my opinion. [Buster Olney]
- 9:30am: The Yankees “really want” Keppinger and he could wind up with a three-year deal worth $13M. They’ve let Keppinger’s camp know they’ll give him two years. [Danny Knobler & Joel Sherman]
- There are “strong indications” the Yankees will not seriously pursue Pierzynski. A White Sox official indicated the catcher would be more willing to take a one-year deal with the Bombers than with any other team. [Sherman]
- Free agent infielder Jack Hannahan is also of “some interest” to New York. The 32-year-old is a great defensive third baseman who will draw a bunch of walks, but otherwise he can’t really hit. [Paul Hoynes]
Via Buster Olney: The Yankees are one of nine teams with interest in the recently non-tendered Nate Schierholtz. I’ve written quite a bit about the 29-year-old outfielder lately, so I’ll just refer you back to that. Schierholtz makes a ton of sense for the Yankees as the left-handed half of a right field platoon, especially since they would control him as an arbitration-eligible player in 2014. With so many teams interested, I suppose he could sign relatively quickly.
The deadline to offer a contract to players with less than six years of service time was midnight last night, so a whole new batch of free agents hit the market as players were non-tendered. Most non-tenders are fringe roster players, but a few of them are actually worthwhile. The full list of non-tendered players is at MLBTR, and here are a few who could help the Yankees.
- 1B/3B Mark Reynolds: The Yankees have a serious lack of right-handed power right now — it’s Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, that’s it — and Reynolds would definitely fill that void. He could be an oft-used DH and third base backup while also filling in at first. Adding all those strikeouts to the lineup would stink, but I think it would be worth it for a guy on the right side of 30 who draws lots of walks (13.2 BB% last three years) and could hit 30+ dingers.
- OF Nate Schierholtz: I’ve written about Schierholtz a few times already, so I’ll just refer you back to that. If the Bombers want a young and cheap platoon bat for right field, they’re not going to find a better one on the open market.
- C Geovany Soto: Soto didn’t hit a lick this year (62 wRC+), but there’s at least some hope it’s BABIP-related (.222) and not irreversible erosion of his skills. He had a 95 wRC+ as recently as last season, though he is pretty poor defensively. With Russell Martin off to Pittsburgh, Soto may have the most upside (relatively speaking, of course) among free agent catchers.
- 3B Ian Stewart: The 27-year-old Stewart has battled wrist injuries in recent years, but if the medicals check out he could be a serviceable Eric Chavez replacement on the bench. He’s shown nice power when healthy and would benefit quite a bit from Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. Risky though. Very risky.
Reynolds and Soto are worth more discussion and I’ll probably take a more in-depth look at them in the coming days. I know a lot of people will ask about Jair Jurrjens and John Lannan, but I wouldn’t touch either. Jurrjens has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now and has also battled lots of injuries. Lannan is a soft-tossing lefty I wouldn’t trust in the AL East. If they want to take minor league contracts and are willing to sit in Triple-A as depth for a few months, sure. No guaranteed contracts though.
Teams have until midnight ET this Friday to offer contracts to their players with less than six full years of service, and those who don’t receive an offer will become free agents. It’s a non-tender deadline, when a team decides if a player’s production is worth his expected salary through arbitration. Most non-tendered players are nondescript, but there are always some useful pieces to be found as well. The Yankees signed Russell Martin after the Dodgers non-tendered him two years ago, for example.
The Bombers have a number of holes to fill this winter, more than any other offseason in recent years, plus they’re looking to find cheap future production to help get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. Since many non-tendered players (like Martin) offer multiple years of team control, the Yankees figure to mine this market hard once the deadline passes. With an assist from MLBTR’s Non-Tender Candidates List, let’s look at a few players who could be fits for New York should they hit free agency at the end of the week.
Nate Schierholtz, OF
Part of the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco, the 28-year-old Schierholtz hit .273/.319/.379 (90 wRC+) in just 73 plate appearances for the Phillies before fouling a pitch off his foot and breaking a toe. I wrote a Scouting The Market post on him during the season, so I’ll refer you to that and give you the short version here: he’s a platoon left-handed bat with strong defense and one of the game’s best outfield arms. MLBTR projects him to earn just $1.6M next year, but there have been rumblings Philadelphia may cut ties and look for veteran outfield help. Schierholtz would make a ton of sense for the Yankees as a cheap right field option, and as an added bonus he’d remain under team control in 2014.
Sean Rodriguez, UTIL
The Rays have a knack for digging up annoyingly useful and versatile players, and Yankees fans have seen how annoying, useful, and versatile the 27-year-old Rodriguez can be over the last three seasons. He’s not much of a hitter (career .225/.301/.356, 84 wRC+), but the right-handed swinger can handle lefties (career .252/.362/.389, 113 wRC+), offer some speed, and play average or better defense at the three non-first base infield spots. He’s even dabbled at first and in all three outfield spots as well with Tampa.
The Yankees are said to be seeking a utility man capable of playing short and third a combined 100 times next year, basically someone better than Jayson Nix, and Rodriguez fits the bill. He is projected to earn $1.2M next season and remains under team control through 2015, though he fell out of favor with the Rays a bit this year and wound up spending a few weeks in Triple-A. I think they’ll be able to find a taker via trade before the non-tender deadline if they plan to cut ties, so this one is a bit of a pipe dream.
George Kottaras, C
Another guy I covered in a Scouting The Market post, Kottaras is a career .220/.320/.412 (97 wRC+) hitter and a three-true outcomes machine from the left side: career 20.9 K%, 13.1 BB%, and .193 ISO. Over the last three seasons, when the 29-year-old became a full-time big league backup, he’s produced a .217/.323/.417 (102 wRC+) line with 20.3 K%, 13.2 BB%, and .200 ISO. He’s a poor defender behind the plate but he has definite offensive value, especially for a catcher. Talks between the Yankees and Russell Martin are reportedly “heating up,” but they could still use Kottaras as a platoon mate even if Martin returns. MLBTR projects a $1.1M salary for next season, and Kottaras would remain under team control through 2014 as well.
Brian Wilson, RHP
Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson are getting all of the attention, but the 30-year-old Wilson is also coming off a season lost due to Tommy John surgery. He battled elbow problems last year and both his strikeout (8.84 K/9 and 22.2 K%) and walk (5.07 BB/9 and 12.8 BB%) rates declined considerably, but prior to that he was as good as any closer in the game. During the 2009-2010 seasons, Wilson pitched to a 2.27 ERA (2.35 FIP) with 10.78 K/9 (28.7 K%), 3.24 BB/9 (8.6 BB%), and 47.3% grounders in 147 innings. MLBTR projects him to earn a $8.5M in his third and final trip through arbitration, a hefty price for a reliever who hasn’t pitched in a year and been truly dominant in two years. If the Giants cut ties with their long-time closer (it seems likely), he could be a fit for the Yankees on a low-base salary, incentive-laden one-year pact. As an added bonus, he’d have to shave that stupid beard if he joined the Bombers.
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The Yankees don’t have many (if any) non-tender candidates themselves. Casey McGehee was the obvious one but they cut ties with him last month. Eli Whiteside and David Herndon recently signed new contracts for 2013, so they won’t be non-tendered. Nix is the only other player in the team’s class of arbitration-eligible players who has a chance of being non-tendered, but his projected salary comes in at less than $1M. Plus it’s not like the Yankees are in a position to be giving away infield depth at the moment. I suppose there’s a chance Frankie Cervelli could be non-tendered, but again, not in a position to give away catching depth. On the other hand, the Yankees could look to add several pieces following Friday’s deadline.
Via Buster Olney, the Giants tried to acquire Eric Chavez from the Yankees prior to the trade deadline by offering outfielder Nate Schierholtz. I’m curious about the timing of the offer; I assume it came before San Francisco acquired Marco Scutaro. That trade happened four days after Alex Rodriguez got hurt and five days after the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki.
Chavez, 34, is having a fantastic season off the bench (113 wRC+) and is indispensable following A-Rod‘s injury. I like Schierholtz more than most, he would have been a nice and cheap left-handed platoon outfielder for the next two years as the Yankees try to get themselves under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. He ended up going to the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade. I do think the offer was more than fair (if anything it favors the Yankees) but this isn’t a vacuum, the timing and roster pieces didn’t really fit. For shame.
There’s a decent chance the Yankees will be without Brett Gardner for the rest of the season, but that’s not the only reason they should be keeping an eye on the outfield trade market. Nick Swisher will be a free agent after the season and Curtis Granderson will be after next season, right before the 2014 payroll plan takes effect. Add in Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency (after 2013), and suddenly a cheap outfielder looks like something that should be near the top of the priority list.
On the other end of the baseball world — seriously, NL West baseball is like an alternate universe compared to the AL East — a young and cheap outfielder expressed some displeasure with his reduced role. Nate Schierholtz, 28, of the Giants has been relegated to spot start and pinch-hitting duties this season because the starting trio of Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Gregor Blanco have been so good. Manager Bruce Bochy simply can’t take them out of the lineup. As you’d expect, Schierholtz would prefer to be somewhere with more opportunity.
“There’s not one thing I can’t say I love about this place,” he said yesterday, “but I think I’ve come to the realization that maybe I’m not their guy. I’m not in the cards having a future here … I came in with the expectation to play maybe a little bit more than we’ve seen. A week-long slump kept me back on the bench for a couple more months … It’s a tough hole to dig myself out of and leaves me wondering if they don’t have a future for me here.”
Schierholtz has not and contractually can not request a trade, so he’s just voicing his frustrating. The Giants have no obligation to move him and there’s no indication that they’re even open to the idea, but usually when a player goes public about wanting to play somewhere with more opportunity, it’s only a matter of time before he winds up in a different uniform. That’s where the Yankees potentially fit in. Here’s a breakdown of the San Francisco outfielder…
- A left-handed swinger, Schierholtz has tagged right-handers for a .287/.358/.454 batting line (122 wRC+) this year and .268/.330/.434 (107 wRC+) since the start of 2010. His .166 ISO against righties during that time would surely be better if AT&T Park didn’t have one of the biggest right fields in baseball (89 HR Park Factor for LHB per FanGraphs, 82 per StatCorner).
- Schierholtz puts the ball in play, striking out in a below-average 16.8% of his career plate appearances. Over the last three seasons it’s 15.9% against righties. As you can see from his spray chart, he does quite a bit of damage back up the middle and into the gap the other way.
- Pick any defensive metric — UZR (+17.2), DRS (+7), Total Zone (+1), FRAA (+1.2), or ADR (+11) — and it’ll say Schierholtz is at least an average defender in the corner outfield if not better. He’s a true right fielder with a strong and very accurate arm, one of the better outfield arms in the game.
- He’s cheap and still under team control for a while. Schierholtz will earn $1.3M total this season before being arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason and the third time next offseason. He’ll be eligible for free agency after 2014.
- Schierholtz is a platoon player. His career .292/.326/.408 line (95 wRC+) against southpaws doesn’t look awful, but it’s a .125/.167/.219 line (-4 wRC+) this year and .231/.275/.286 (52 wRC+) since the start of 2010. He did most of his damage against lefties years ago.
- If he doesn’t get a hit, he’s probably not going to reach base. Schierholtz’s career walk rate is a miniscule 5.9% and he’s swung at 35.8% of the pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone. That’s astronomical. He’s lucky he can make contact well.
- You’re not getting much speed. He’s only 19-for-33 in stolen base attempts in his big league career, a 58% success rate. Down in the minors it was a 68% success rate in twice the attempts. It’s just not his game.
- Schierholtz has been on the DL twice in the last four years, the first time for a groin strain in 2009. Last summer he fouled a ball off his right foot and suffered a hairline fracture, missing a month. I have a hard time counting a fluke injury like that against him, however.
- Schierholtz is out of minor league options, meaning he can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers. He also hasn’t played an inning in center field in his professional career. That really limits flexibility.
If the Yankees do let Swisher walk after the season, one of the most cost effective ways to replace him would be with a platoon. I don’t love the idea of using two roster spots to fill one position, but platoons can be very productive as we’ve seen this season in left field following Gardner’s injury. Andruw Jones is an obvious fit for the right-handed half of the Swisher-replacing platoon and a guy like Schierholtz makes an awful lot of sense for the left-handed half. Young-ish, cheap-ish, can hit righties and play strong defense. Lots to like.
At same time, the Yankees are a club that places a lot of value on power and patience. Perhaps the short right field porch would help get Schierholtz over the 20-homer plateau, but he’s not a guy who will work the count and draw walks. It’s just not who he is. He’s going to go up to the plate and swing the bat whether he gets a pitch to hit or not. Robinson Cano is the same way and it works for him, but Schierholtz isn’t that caliber of hitter. The limitations against southpaws and the lack of plate discipline are real knocks against him.
As I said, there is no indication that the Giants are looking to move Schierholtz right now even though he’s unhappy with his role. They’re reportedly looking for a right-handed outfield bat and (like everyone else) bullpen help leading up to the trade deadline, two things the Yankees really don’t have to offer. Since the two clubs don’t match up well in a trade — and the fact that replacing Dewayne Wise with Schierholtz would leave the Yankees without a real backup center fielder — this would probably be a deal best explored in the offseason. I do like him as a player though and think there’s a chance he’ll be surprisingly productive in the friendlier offensive environment.