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.

Midseason Review: Falling Short of Expectations

During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Although the Yankees have the best record in baseball, they have yet to really fire on all cylinders. They have a number of players who have not produced as expected so far, including some high-profile guys in prominent roles.

Alex Rodriguez
Father Time catches up to everyone, even players who were once historically great. A-Rod was able to avoid the DL in the first half thanks to Joe Girardi‘s plan of regular rest, but the production has not improved as hoped. Alex is hitting just .269/.357/.436 with 13 homers overall, on pace for what will likely become the worst season of career after setting a new low-water mark a year ago. His strikeout rate (22.0%) is his highest since 1996, his walk rate (10.3%) his second lowest since 2001, and his ISO (.167) his lowest ever.

Obviously there’s a lot going on here. A-Rod will turn 37 later this month, so age-related decline as already set in. Numerous lower body injuries in recent years — torn hip labrum and knee surgery chief among them — have impacted his ability to incorporate his lower half into his swing, resulting in the power decline. He’s more of an arms hitter than ever before. His struggles with runners in scoring position (.215/.354/.367) only exacerbate the problem. There’s no BABIP correction coming (he’s at .318 right now) and the power is unlikely to re-emerge. A-Rod is not a superstar anymore, get used to it.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Mark Teixeira
Teixeira’s offseason and Spring Training work drew lots of attention as he focused on hitting the ball the other way to beat the shift and improve his declining batting average. Everything looked fine during the first two weeks of the season, as he hit a solid .288/.354/.508 through the team’s first 15 games. Teixeira fell off in a big way after that, hitting just .135/.185/.220 in his next 16 games. He got hot a few games after that, but then Girardi decided to sit him for three games due to an ongoing cough that has since been diagnosed as nerve damage to his vocal cords.

The rest helped the cough and at some point during those three days, Teixeira decided to abandon everything he’d been working on and get back to being a pull-happy slugger. What he was doing before just wasn’t working. The early returns were positive — four homers in his next seven games — but Teixeira’s production soon slowed down once again. Through the team’s first 85 games, their first baseman is hitting .250/.334/.473 after putting up a .248/.341/.494 batting line last year, the second worst of his career outside of his rookie season.

Teixeira’s production has been better than league average but again, below his normal standards even if you were expecting him to simply repeat last year. His 15 homers are well behind his usual pace — he had 25 at the break last summer — and his walk rate has dipped from 13.1% in 2010 to 11.1% in 2011 to 10.7% in 2010. A ten-point boost in BABIP from last year hasn’t helped his average much, unsurprisingly. The big problem right now is that not only has his average and OBP suffered, but he’s not hitting the ball out of the park as often either. His defense is still all-world, but Teixeira’s production at the plate has declined for the fourth straight season.

(Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Nick Swisher & Russell Martin
The Yankees can survive a few sluggish bats because they have a deep lineup, but even the production from lower down in the order has suffered. Swisher is in the middle of a contract year but is hitting just .262/.336/.477 so far. The power production is obviously fine, but his 10.1% walk rate is the second lowest of his career and well below his 13.3% career average. Swisher’s strikeout rate (22.0%) is up slightly compared to recent years, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s swinging at 23.6% of the pitches he sees outside of the strike zone. Last year it was just 17.5%. He’s doing damage when he makes contact, but a big part of Swisher’s value is his ability to be get on-base in ways other than a hit. He hasn’t done much of that in 2012.

Martin, on the other hand, hasn’t done much offensively at all. His .179/.300/.348 batting line is below average even for a catcher, and although he’s shown signs of breaking out on occasion, it never lasted. Martin will have a good game or two every once in a while then slide back into a prolonged slump. He’s striking out way more than usual (20.2% strikeouts this year, 14.6% career) despite swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (15.4%) than ever before. His .193 (!) BABIP should improve in the second half just by pure luck, but the quality of Martin’s contact has not been good all year. You really can’t understate how awful he was in the first half.

Freddy Garcia
Although he just turned in a damn fine start against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, Garcia has been a disappointment overall. His first four starts in April were a total disaster, I’m talking a 20 runs in 13.2 innings kind of disaster. The Yankees shipped him off to the bullpen where he worked sparingly in low-leverage situations, then reinserted him into back into the rotation once CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte hit the disabled list. Freddy has pitched well in his two starts back, but that doesn’t wash away the stench of April. Overall, Garcia has pitched to a 5.23 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 43 innings. Here’s to a much more successful second half.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Eduardo Nunez
When the season opened, the Yankees planned to give A-Rod and Derek Jeter time at DH against left-handed pitchers while Nunez filled in on the infield. They did just that for a few weeks, but Nunez’s defense — four errors in 20 games plus several other botched plays — became such an issue that he had to be demoted to Triple-A in early-May. He was hitting just fine, especially for a utility infielder (.294/.356/.373), but the glovework just could not be tolerated anymore. Nunez committed two errors in four Triple-A games before being placed on the DL with a thumb injury. He had a chance to really step up and force his way into the team’s long-term plans this season, but now he doesn’t even have much trade value.

Cory Wade
For the first two months of the season, Wade was absolutely lights out while David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were on the DL. He also threw a lot of innings and made a lot of appearances, and that may have contributed to one of the worst pitched months in recent Yankees history. Wade has allowed 25 hits and 18 runs in 10.1 innings since the calendar flipped to June, earning him a demotion to Triple-A. His ERA climbed from 3.34 to 6.48 in his last three appearances alone (13 runs in 3.2 IP). It’s all about command with him; when he missed his spots with his soft stuff, it got hammered. Wade was tremendously useful last year and at the start of this year, but now the Yankees have to be wondering if he’s even salvageable.