Mailbag: Melky, Soriano, Swisher, Felix, Garcia

Got seven questions for you this week, so consider this a jumbo-sized edition of the mailbag. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions and whatnot.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Countless people asked some variation of: Can/should the Yankees sign Melky Cabrera to a cheap one-year deal after the season following his suspension?

Sure, it’s worth exploring. Based on my last few days at MLBTR, the fans of the other 29 teams are wondering the same thing as well. I suppose the Yankees may have a leg up considering their history with Cabrera, plus the fact that his good buddy Robinson Cano plays here. Either way, I’m sure the club can make a competitive offer if they’re so inclined.

The real question is what kind of hitter do you expect him to be going forward? I don’t buy that testosterone alone turned him into an MVP caliber hitter, but I also don’t think this season’s performance — .346/.390/.516 (146 wRC+) — is a reasonable expectation going forward simply because I don’t believe anyone is a true talent .346 hitter. Not Melky, not Mike Trout, not Miguel Cabrera, not Derek Jeter. No one. If he’s more of a .310 hitter doing forward, that’s still really awesome and shouldn’t be considered a knock. If they can get him for one-year at like, $5-8M to shore up the outfield next season, sure that’s something they should seriously consider. Whether or not it’s actually realistic is another matter entirely.

Daniel asks: The Cubs are offering to turn Alfonso Soriano into a $3M/year player. Any interest in him as a RF solution next season?

This is an unequivocal no for me. Soriano is having a real nice .263/.320/.448 (112 wRC+) year with the bat, but he’s a 36-year-old one-dimensional player. If he’s not hitting homers, he has zero value. Soriano doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit for average, doesn’t steal bases anymore, and doesn’t play much defense either. He’s under contract through 2014 so you’re talking about a $6M commitment for a player that is basically a bad HR/FB% slump away from a forced retirement. Soriano would be like, my Plan F for right field next season.

Brett asks: Let’s say the Yankees don’t re-sign Nick Swisher this offseason and then think like you and let Cano walk after 2013. With Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson (Yankees sign him after Cano leaves) all two years older and currently not even performing that well, as well as a black hole offensively at catcher, do you really think the Yankees lineup will be good enough?

I spy a nice free agent payday. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Well that’s the thing, why are we assuming catcher is a black hole? If they let Cano and Swisher walk, the Yankees will have the opportunity to turn over the second base, right field, catcher, and DH positions in the next two offseason. If you think A-Rod is resigned to being a DH down the line, then you can bring in a new body for third base. That four of the nine lineup spots they have to work with. Plenty of room to add some offensive punch.

Bill asks: So with Swisher all but assuredly leaving next year, what do you think the chances are he ends up in Boston? The team needs some pop in right field and they need a good clubhouse guy, with everything that is going on in Boston right now. Think this is a possibility?

Absolutely. If for whatever reason the Yankees had declined his option last offseason, I think the Red Sox would have been the first team to call Swisher’s agent. Pretty much every contending team in need of a bat — the Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, Tigers, Giants, Reds, etc. — figures to have some interest because he’s versatile (corner outfield or first base) and a switch-hitter. Swisher could go 0-for-October and he’ll still have plenty of suitors on the free agent market after the winter.

Sal asks: Do you think we’ll ever get to a point where teams start structuring contracts so that players are paid appropriately in their peak years but the contract dollars are “tapered” in the end years so that they don’t over pay for a players decline?

No, definitely not. I’m sure the club would love it, but I highly doubt the players and agents would. I think it’s pretty normal to want to make more money the older you get, which is why most multi-year contracts include some kind of year-to-year raise. Another part of this is that most GMs won’t be around to see the end of the multi-year contracts they hand out, specifically the big six and seven-year ones. What do I care if I saddle the next GM with a back contract when I could win right now and enhance my reputation? It’s a good idea, but I don’t think the players and agents would go for it.

I found this floating around on Twitter and have no idea where it originated, but props to you good sir (or madam).

Tucker asks: This is a bit of a hypothetical, but would the Yankees even have the pieces to acquire Felix Hernandez if he were made available? Could the Rangers swoop in and nab him instead?

No, I don’t believe the Yankees have the pieces to acquire any kind of high-end talent like that right now. Not unless they’re willing to dangle Cano and the other club really values him despite being a year away from free agency. The lack of impact, near-MLB ready prospect really hurts them here.

The Rangers could certainly jump in and make a great offer for Felix if they wanted — if you’re Seattle, don’t you have to listen if Texas offers Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt? I have to think that would at least get their attention. The Yankees can’t put together any kind of offer like that right now, so they’re handcuffed on the trade market. As much as I’d love to see him in pinstripes, there’s just no realistic trade scenario for Justin Upton at the moment.

Craig asks: Do you think Freddy Garcia is now (or should be) in the post-season rotation?  Even if Andy Pettitte comes back?  I think I’d rather take my chances with him than Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes.

Right now, with both CC Sabathia and Pettitte on the shelf, yes Freddy would definitely be in postseason rotation. I’d probably have him start Game Two behind Hiroki Kuroda in that scenario, which is … yikes. If Sabathia and Pettitte come back, I would use Freddy as the fourth starter and stick Phil Hughes in the bullpen for October. I don’t see how they could trust Nova in the postseason given his current performance, but he does have about six weeks to figure things out.

Assuming David Phelps is headed back to the bullpen at some point, I’d rank the potential playoff starters are Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Garcia, Hughes, Nova. Just remove players and bump everyone else up as needed due to injury. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Phelps pitches his way ahead of Nova in the pecking order, but I wouldn’t count on it. I think he’ll run out of innings before that happens.

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The Offensive Slumps

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees seem like a relatively close-knit group of guys this year. They always appear to be enjoying each other’s company and whatnot in the dugout and off the field during various public functions. I don’t think the whole “25 guys, 25 cabs” theory applies to this team, just speaking as an outsider. The Yankees are so close-knit that they even slump together, as we’ve seen the offense do for stretches of time this season. There was The Great RISPFAIL Tragedy in May, and more recently a number of players have simultaneously hit the skids.

During this ugly 6-11 stretch, the Yankees have hit just .255/.313/.407 as a team and have averaged 4.4 runs per game. That’s down from their season marks of .264/.335/.458 and 4.8 runs per game. Slumps happen, they’re part of the 162-game season, but when a team plays .780 ball for nearly 50 games and suddenly hits a wall, it’s very easy to notice. Here are some of the top offenders…

PA AVG OBP SLG HR K% BB%
Mark Teixeira 41 0.147 0.244 0.235 1 31.7% 12.2%
Ichiro Suzuki 52 0.240 0.269 0.340 1 5.8% 0.0%
Curtis Granderson 84 0.205 0.262 0.372 4 37.1% 15.8%
Nick Swisher 114 0.213 0.342 0.319 2 30.7% 15.8%

Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and to a slightly lesser extent Raul Ibanez have been carrying their weight during this slide, but otherwise that’s basically half the lineup in some kind of slump. Teixeira’s coincides with his wrist injury (fun!), Ichiro‘s with his arrival in the Bronx. He was supposed to be a platoon player but has instead started every game the Yankees have played since being acquired. So much for that platoon idea.

Now, this is the definition of arbitrary endpoints here. You go back as far as the data lets you prove your point and then stop right there, the laziest kind of “analysis” out there. Teixeira’s is slightly less arbitrary because of the injury, but whatever. The point is that there are a number of players in the lineup right now who just aren’t performing as well as they usually do regardless of how long it’s been going on, and it’s contributing to the losing. Ichiro might not snap out of it because he’s 38 years old and rarely hits anything with authority, but Granderson and Swisher should get themselves right in due time and hopefully Teixeira will do the same as he gets further away from the wrist problem.

As poorly as Ivan Nova pitched yesterday, the Yankees still only mustered two unearned runs against Justin Verlander. He’s a great pitcher and all but the Yankees have gotten to him before, including twice this season. There was no way the team was going to continue to play .780 ball through the end of the season, but the Bombers have lost some very winnable one-run games during this stretch because nearly half the lineup — including three key top-five hitters in the batting order — just haven’t been themselves. I suppose that’s just the natural order of baseball’s balancing act.

Mailbag: Swisher, Ynoa, Phelps, Montgomery

Got five questions and four answers for you this week. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us any links, comments, or questions throughout the week.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Donny asks: With qualifying offers expected to be in the $13.3-13.4 million range, there seems to be a very small possibility that Nick Swisher could take that as his overall deal even though he would collect more on the open market, but I doubt his AAV would not approach that. Could you see more FA’s taking this route going forward?

Nick asks: Is it almost certain that Swisher will not be around next season? All this talk of getting a fill in third baseman for the rest of the season and then turning him into a right fielder has me thinking. A lot of the recent talk on RAB seems like he’s out of the picture come next season. As a fan favorite and clubhouse favorite it’s gonna be hard to see him go.

Might as well lump these two together. You’re going to see a ton of players decline that one-year, ~$13.5M qualifying offer in favor of a potential multi-year guarantee on the open market. It’s a similar process to arbitration but the stakes are much higher given the money, so that just means we’ll see fewer qualifying offers overall. I highly doubt you’ll see the same kind of handshake agreements we’ve seen in the past just because that’s so much cash. Fading stars will have a tough time turning that down, but otherwise guys like Swisher will pass in favor of the bigger payday. That’s what I would do at that point of my career. Get the multiple years while you can.

As for Swisher, I don’t think it’s 100% certain that he will be gone next year. It’s just that he’s going to require a pretty significant contract and it’s unclear if the Yankees will go that far for a player soon to be entering his decline years with the 2014 payroll plan looming. I’m sure the team would absolutely love to see him accept the qualifying offer, giving them a quality player on a short contract and buying them another year to find a long-term outfield solution. I just can’t imagine that happening, Swisher’s looking at a multi-year pact worth eight-figures annually given the state of the corner outfield market.

Andrew asks: I was looking over at MLBTR about Michael Ynoa the other day. I remember the Yanks had a deal with him but he went back on it; saw that the Athletics have to either add him to the 40-man or expose him to the Rule 5 in the offseason. Worth a shot to take him in the Rule 5 and stick him in the bullpen next year to see if his fastball plays up? If he’s bad send him back, if not, we hold him for a year, then send him down to stretch out as a starter in ’14 when he’ll only be 21 still.

Ynoa has battled a number of injuries through the years, facing just 37 total batters from 2008-2011. He’s healthy now and is pitching poorly in Rookie Ball, with more walks (11) than strikeouts (six) in 12.1 innings. In last week’s chat Keith Law provided an updated scouting report after the seeing the right-hander in Arizona: “89-93, touched 94 once, really loose and easy, so there’s potential there, but all the lost time means he hasn’t advanced much if at all in four years.”

The A’s haven’t gotten what they expected when they broke the bank and signed Ynoa for a then-record $4.25M bonus, and I have a really tough time thinking he can provide a big league team with any value right now. He’s more interesting than most Rule 5 Draft guys given the upside, but carrying someone on the 25-man active roster means you think he can help you win games. I’m not sure he’s capable of doing that right now. The Yankees have a number of internal options capable of being a long-man next year, forcing the issue with someone like Ynoa seems doomed to fail.

(REUTERS/Dave Kaup)

Johnny asks: With this setback for Andy Pettitte, do you think it’s time to give David Phelps a rotation spot? I really like this guy and think he can go places and be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.

Yeah I think so. Freddy Garcia has been perfectly fine and serviceable as the fifth starter since moving back into the rotation, if anything Ivan Nova has been the weak link in recent weeks. The Yankees aren’t going to take him out of the rotation though. Phelps has at least shown the ability to get big league hitters out and given the perpetual need for quality starting pitching, it makes sense to given him a little two month audition to see what he has. At the same time, I don’t think it’s some kind of huge injustice. I don’t see Phelps as some kind of ace in the making and he can be very valuable to this year’s team as a multi-inning setup man.

Travis asks: Do you think, even though he is currently at the Double-A level, that Mark Montgomery is a viable bullpen option for the start of 2013? Do you think they give him a September call-up?

I was planning to write about Montgomery yesterday, but Eric beat me to the punch. I might as well chime in with my thoughts here. Montgomery has obviously impressed in the minors and the easy comparison is David Robertson because they’re both sub-6-foot right-handers with nasty breaking balls who rack up strikeouts. There is a difference between a curveball pitcher (Robertson) and a slider pitcher (Montgomery) though, only because the latter tends to have more of a platoon split. Then again, Montgomery’s slider could be so good that it doesn’t even matter.

Barring injury or some kind of completely unexpected performance breakdown, I think it’s all but guaranteed that Montgomery will debut in the big leagues at some point next year. He has eight whole innings above Single-A to his credit so I’m not sure if a September call-up is in the cards this year, however. I suppose it could depend on the need at the big league level, if some guys get hurt or collapse Cory Wade-style, the Yankees could be forced to turn to him. As good as Robertson is, he was an up-and-down guy in 2008 and early-2009 before finally settling into a full-time role in 2010. Minor league relievers can be tricky to project because the numbers are so good, but I’d always say the odds are against someone coming up and having an immediate impact. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen though.

Injury Updates: A-Rod, Swisher, Joba

Got some late-evening injury news for you, courtesy of Marc Carig and Erik Boland

  • Alex Rodriguez (hand) had a cast put on today and isn’t expected to miss any more than eight weeks. No word on the earliest possible return, but I suppose six weeks is a reasonable estimate. Either way, the Yankees expect to get him back before the end of the regular season.
  • Nick Swisher (hip) came through today’s workout fine but Brian Cashman said “he’s not a player for us tomorrow (against the Red Sox).” He didn’t rule out a return Saturday or Sunday but insisted the team will play it safe.
  • Joba Chamberlain (elbow, ankle) will throw a bullpen session for the big league coaching staff tomorrow and make another minor league rehab appearance — with Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Empire State — on Sunday. Cashman acknowledged that Joba is “getting closer” but wouldn’t say when exactly he’ll be activated.

Swisher felt fine in batting cage, may not return until Saturday

Via Meredith Marakovits and George King, outfielder Nick Swisher took some swings in the batting cage yesterday and everything went well. He’s nursing a mild left hip flexor strain. Swisher won’t play today and Joe Girardi indicated that he will return to the lineup “probably Friday or Saturday.” The Yankees are off tomorrow and open a three-game series with the Red Sox at home on Friday.

With Alex Rodriguez going down for several weeks with his hand fracture, the club needs to get Swisher back into the lineup pretty soon to add some depth and power. He, Mark Teixeira, and Andruw Jones are the team’s only consistently sources of right-handed power at the moment, and of course the first two are switch-hitters while Jones only starts against lefties. A lineup without Swisher and A-Rod is quite short, so hopefully it doesn’t last very long.

Update: Swisher day-to-day after MRI reveals strain

11:48pm: Joe Girardi confirmed that Swisher has a mild strain of … something. Groin, quad, who knows. He should be able to avoid the DL and the Yankees are just going to play shorthanded for the final four games of the West Coast trip.

6:32pm: Via Marc Carig, outfielder Nick Swisher went for an MRI on his left hip flexor and will be out at least until the Yankees get to Seattle on Monday. The results of the MRI aren’t available yet. Hopefully he can avoid the DL, the last thing the Yankees need is to lose another outfielder.

Update: Swisher leaves game with mild left hip flexor

1:08am: The Yankees say it’s a mild left hip flexor for Swisher and he’s day-to-day. That’s generally good news, at least in the sense that it’s not a groin strain or something really bad.

12:09am: Nick Swisher left tonight’s game with an apparent left leg injury; he was pointing to his groin and quad in the dugout when talking to trainer Steve Donohue. Swisher pulled up lame while running out a ground ball in the seventh. The last thing the Yankees need right now is another outfield injury, so hopefully it was just a cramp and not something serious. Updates to come.