King: Yankees do not have interest in bringing back A.J. Burnett

Via George King: The Yankees do not have much interest in acquiring A.J. Burnett from the Phillies. Philadelphia has the fourth worst record in baseball at 38-51 and there are more and more rumblings that they be ready to sell. Cliff Lee is hurt and Cole Hamels has a ton of money left on his deal, so Burnett is a lower cost option.

Burnett, 37, has a 3.92 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 19 starts and 124 innings this year, though his strikeout (19.1%), walk (9.9%), and ground ball (49.6%) rates have dropped off considerably from last season. After coming to New York with concerns about his durability, Burnett has made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 186.2 innings every year from 2008-13. He’s a workhorse, if nothing else. The Yankees can use another innings eater even after acquiring Brandon McCarthy, but bringing Burnett back isn’t happening. The Javy Vazquez reunion seems to have eliminated the “bring back a guy who stunk in pinstripes one before” option.

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Phillies Gone Crazy: GM Indicates Lee, Hamels, Papelbon Available

No chance I'm posting a picture of Lee in a post-Indians jersey. (Elsa/Getty Images)
No chance I’m posting a picture of Lee in a post-Indians jersey. (Elsa/Getty Images)

If the Phillies are selling, the Yankees should be interested in buying. At the start of the off-season it didn’t seem likely that the Phillies were in any kind of selling mode. Does a team that spends $44 million on Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd sound like a team that is ready to trade away its best players?

In the last few days, though, the rumor mill has churned out plenty of Phillies content, mostly related to them potentially trading their most expensive players. It started when we learned that they want to trade Jonathan Papelbon and his entire contract, using the cash savings for a starting pitcher. Peter Gammons took the issue further, saying the Phillies might even attach OF Domonic Brown to a Papelbon trade to sweeten the pot.

Trading a high-salary closer doesn’t necessarily fly in the face of the Phillies’ off-season moves to date. If they can free up enough cash to sign one of the free agent starters while losing only Papelbon, they could be better off in the long run. The rumors from this morning, on the other hand, will make you scratch your head. They might also make you say “gimme gimme gimme.”

Buster Olney reported that the Phillies “have indicated to other teams they are ready and willing to talk about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in trades.” So, to review: the Phillies want to trade Papelbon to free up cash to sign a starting pitcher, but also are seeking to trade one of their very good starting pitchers. OK. Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Ruben Amaro, Jr. It’s his club and he can run it how he sees fit. It just so happens that the Yankees could be beneficiaries here.

Hamels, at age 30, might seem the more attractive of the two. Yet he has five years and $118.5 million left on his contract, including a $6 million buyout on a $20 million option for 2019. It’s not the worst contract for a 30-year-old; I’m sure he’d get more than that if he were a free agent today. Of course, his age and general effectiveness (2013 notwithstanding), he’ll probably fetch a decent price in a trade.

Lee, on the other hand, has two years and $62.5 million left on his contract — though that could be three years and $77.5 million, given his vesting option. That’s a lot of money annually, but the short-term nature of the deal, combined with Lee’s general elite level of play, makes that deal more palatable. It would certainly free up payroll for the Phillies, who could then sign another player to a dumb contract.

Plenty of roadblocks exist between the Yankees and Lee. For starters, Lee can block trades to 21 clubs, and surely the Yankees are on his list. It’s tough to forget that he spurned more guaranteed money from the Yankees — six years and $140 million at least, and it was rumored that the Yankees added a seventh year to the deal — in order to sign with the Phillies. Throughout the process we heard of Lee’s reluctance to play in New York, citing their older roster* and an incident wherein New York fans allegedly spit on his wife.

Time, of course, can change matters. The Yankees are looking a bit better than the Phillies right now, so Lee, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011, could be more amenable to a trade. That’s when we hit another roadblock: the Phillies’ demands. According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies will want the receiving team to take on all of Lee’s salary, plus give up a “huge return.” That makes the deal seem less likely — not only because the Yankees don’t have much in the way of major prospects, but because Brian Cashman has shown no indications of trading prospects for a player with a huge salary (paying twice, as he says it).

Few teams can afford a contract of Lee’s size, even though it runs only two or perhaps three years. That gives the Yankees an advantage. Given their need for pitching, and the immense help that Lee would provide on that front, they should look into a trade. Yet it’s unlikely anything gets done here. The Phillies want it all, and it doesn’t make sense for teams to give that up. Yet given the Yankees’ needs, we can all dream a little.

Rosenthal: Yankees are “aggressively pushing” Joba and Hughes

2:16pm: For what it’s worth, Rosenthal says the Phillies are not one of the teams pursuing Joba. The turntables have … turned.

12:49pm: Jon Heyman says the Yankees have been talking to teams about trading Hughes for a bat, and the Angels might have interest. “I think he could fetch quite a bit,” said a rival executive.

11:30am: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are “aggressively pushing” both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes on the trade market. He hears Joba could be moved to an NL club soon. Another source says that while the team is talking about both, nothing is imminent. The non-waiver trade deadline is exactly three weeks away.

The Giants, Braves, and Phillies are among the clubs who are said to have interest in Chamberlain. There have been rumblings of a salary dump trade involving Michael Young and/or Carlos Ruiz with the Phillies, but that’s one I’ll have to see to believe. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says the Yankees are planning to make Hughes a qualifying offer after the season and therefore seek something worth more than a supplemental first round pick in a trade. Plans change of course, and what the team says and what they actually do are two different things. It’s all posturing.

Feinsand: Phillies interested in Joba, open to moving Young & Ruiz

Via Mark Feinsand: The Phillies are open to trading infielder Michael Young and have interest in Joba Chamberlain. Feinsand says it would be a salary dump trade that saves Philadelphia roughly $7M, but I think his math is wrong since the Rangers are paying $10M of the $16M owed to Young this year. He says catcher Carlos Ruiz is available as well.

The Yankees are said to have interest in both Young and Ruiz, which makes sense because they’re rental players who represent big upgrades over the team’s current options at third base and catcher. The idea of acquiring one of those guys in a salary dump featuring Chamberlain seems just a little weird to me because the Phillies aren’t exactly poor. They’re talent-starved more than anything. For what it’s worth, Feinsand says Brian Cashman is “lukewarm at best” about a deal with the Phillies, but I suspect that’s just typical GM poker face stuff.

Possible Trade Partner: Philadelphia Phillies

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

The Yankees are in a very dangerous place right now. Their glut of injured players are due to start returning in 2-3 weeks, but the current roster simply isn’t good and the team is fading fast. They’ve lost five straight and 21 of 33, falling to 6.5 games back of the Red Sox for first place on the AL East. They’re four back of a wildcard spot. It’s a deficit they can still erase with 81 games to play.

The re-injuries to Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis (and Curtis Granderson to a lesser extent) should keep the Yankees from relying on the injured players too much. Even when guys start coming off the DL, there’s no guarantee they’ll help the offense. Heck, there’s no guarantee the team will even be close enough to the race for the lineup additions to matter. The season is half over and the Yankees need to start improving the offense — the time for patience has come and gone. They need help and they need it right now.

Over the last few days, we’ve heard them connected to both infielder Michael Young and catcher Carlos Ruiz. Those two aren’t the only Phillies who fit with New York though. In fact, the Fightin’s are a great trade match for the Yankees, and I’m not talking about Brian Cashman‘s white whale (Cliff Lee) either. Here are a few more fits.

IF Chase Utley
Once one of the very best players in all the land, age and injuries have reduced Utley to a merely above-average player. He’s hitting .284/.348/.517 (138 wRC+) on the year, and that is broken down into a 144 wRC+ against righties and a 123 wRC+ against lefties. The rebound against southpaws is nice to see after a few years of below-average production. Utley is a left-handed power hitter who draws walks (8.5%) and doesn’t strike out much (14.7%), and it’s worth noting that he’s also one of the very best base-runners in the game. I’m not necessarily talking about bulk stolen base totals, but being a high-percentage base-stealer and going first-to-third on singles, stuff like that.

Utley is owed approximately $7.5M through the end of the year and is due to become a free agent after the season, so he isn’t exactly easy on the wallet. He is cheap relative to his production, however. The Yankees are being reimbursed for a big portion of Mark Teixeira’s salary by … someone. Either the World Baseball Classic or insurance, depending on who you believe. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who pays them back. It’s a big amount of saved salary that will more than cover the last few months of Utley’s contract. The money really isn’t the problem.

The Yankees have no need for a second baseman and Utley tried and failed to transition to third before the season, but first base is a viable alternative. He played a handful of games at the position earlier in his career, so it wouldn’t be completely foreign to him. Lyle Overbay turned into a pumpkin sometime in mid-May and Utley would be a fantastic replacement. Playing first would require an adjustment though, an adjustment and his willingness. Utley has ten-and-five rights and can veto any trade, so he’d have to be okay with leaving from the only team he’s ever known for the Yankees at a time when more legitimate contenders like the Orioles, Athletics, and hometown Dodgers figure to show some interest as well.

For what it’s worth, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Ryan Lawrence he would be open to moving Utley if the circumstances dictate a trade. “Even though he might be the most popular player, if there are things we have to do with some of these popular players that are going to make our club better, then we have to keep our minds open,” he said.

Frandsen. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Frandsen. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

IF Kevin Frandsen
With all due respect to certified baseball player Jayson Nix, the 31-year-old Frandsen is a way better utility infielder. He’s a career .269/.328/.372 (88 wRC+) hitter in the big leagues but has found a home in Philadelphia, hitting .320/.382/.448 (129 wRC+) since joining the Phillies last year. The right-handed hitter does most of his damage against lefties (169 wRC+), which fits well with New York’s needs. Frandsen won’t steal bases or draw walks (5.5%), but he won’t strike out either (9.0%). Even if he has been playing over his head these last two years, he’d still be an upgrade over Nix if he reverts back to his career averages.

Frandsen plays first, second, and third bases regularly, but he hasn’t seen time at shortstop since 2009 and has only played there sparingly as a big leaguer. He has played short in the minors over the years — 25 games there as recently as 2011 — so it’s not something that is completely off the table. In fact, he’s played short about as often as Nix did prior to coming to the Yankees. Frandsen is a flat-out better player than Nix and would be an upgrade to the bench even if all the healthy guys return perfectly fine. As an added bonus, he is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2015.

OF/1B John Mayberry Jr.
Mayberry, 29, became a platoon darling after cracking Philadelphia’s roster full-time three years ago. He’s a righty bat who’s hit .278/.302/.490 (116 wRC+) against lefties this year with a 130 wRC+ against them the last three years, basically since breaking into the league for good. His numbers against right-handers — 102 wRC+ this year and 91 wRC+ since 2011 — aren’t great, but they aren’t disastrous. Mayberry will draw some walks (7.7%) and he will strike out a bit (21.6%), which isn’t surprising.

Mayberry. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
Mayberry. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

Despite his size — he’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 225 lbs. on the team’s official site — Mayberry is a really good athlete who can legitimately play center field as well as the corners. He’s not a great defender in the center, but he can do it. Mayberry has also spent a bunch of time at first base, making him an ideal platoon candidate. He could partner with Overbay (or Utley!) or the outfielders on any given day depending on who else is in the lineup. Mayberry will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next year and remains under team control through 2016.

* * *

It’s hard not to dream about a blockbuster trade that sends Young, Ruiz, Utley, Frandsen, and Mayberry to the Yankees. That would shore up the corner infield spots, the catcher position, and bench in one fell swoop. Trades that big are complicated though, plus the Phillies have yet to decide to sell. They seem very tentative at the moment, but remember, they took the plunge and traded away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the deadline last year. They made be tentative, but they have shown they will do it.

As for the asking prices … who really knows. They traded Victorino and Pence for prospects and okay young-ish big leaguers, but that doesn’t mean the same will be true this year. One thing I do know is that they won’t want rental players like Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. That defeats the purpose of selling. Adam Warren? Ivan Nova? Zoilo Almonte? The Phillies always target toolsy up-the-middle athletes in the draft, so would Mason Williams or Angelo Gumbs pique their interest? We have no way of knowing. All we do know is that the Yankees have a ton of position player needs and Philadelphia has several players who would fill those holes.

Winter Meetings Day Four Open Thread

(Scott Cunningham/Getty)

The Winter Meetings officially come to a close today, and the rumor mill should start to dry up around noon (probably sooner) after the clubs flee the Gaylord Opryland. The two biggest free agents (Zack Greinke & Josh Hamilton) are still on the board and the Yankees haven’t done a thing other than announce Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury. Somehow they’re actually going to leave this week with more questions than when it started.

The Rule 5 Draft starts at 10am ET and I’ll have a liveblog up for that, but otherwise this is your thread for various Yankees-related rumblings throughout the day. Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. All times are ET.

  • 3:49pm: The Yankees have not contacted the Padres about Chase Headley, which is a little surprising. Even though San Diego says he’s off-limits, you’d think they’d at least ask to hear it from the horse’s mouth. [Chad Jennings]
  • 12:06pm: The Yankees spoke to the Mets about R.A. Dickey this week, but apparently they didn’t have the right pieces to swing a trade. I can’t imagine the PR hit the Mets would have taken had they dealt the reigning Cy Young Award winner to the Bronx. [Andy Martino]
  • 10:53am: The Yankees did not inquire on Michael Young because they don’t believe he can handle third base full-time. Can’t say I disagree. [Joel Sherman]
  • 10:49am: Cashman met with reporters during the Rule 5 Draft and said he’s been engaged in trades more than free agents so far. [Chad Jennings]
  • 8:40am: Curtis Granderson is one of five players the Phillies are targeting for their center field opening. It’s unclear if (or how much) the two sides have talked and what Philadelphia could give up in return. [Danny Knobler]
  • 8:00am: Agents who have spoken to the Yankees get the impression that a clamp has been placed on the team’s spending. Brian Cashman is supposedly frustrated by his inability to act and is working with ownership to see what he can spend. This is ridiculous. [Joel Sherman]
  • Veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez is in the team’s mix of third base candidates. The 35-year-old has some pop, but he’s a sub-.300 OBP candidate. Gonzalez is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL and was considered a strong defender at short, though he’s never played a big league game at another position (even DH). The Yankees need to see him work out following surgery before discussing a contract. [George King]
  • The Yankees are open to discussing Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in trades. This isn’t that surprising, they’ve always been a team that will listen on pretty much every player. [Andrew Marchand]

Mailbag: Posada, Nunez, Burnett, Martin, Wilson

Another Friday, another mailbag. This week our focus is on players currently with the team that may or may not be next season, plus some miscellaneous stuff about C.J. Wilson and prospects. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in some questions.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Ryan asks: Do you guys think that Posada makes it onto the playoff roster?

I do think he’ll make it, assuming the Yankees get to the postseason, of course. We don’t want to jinx anything. Jorge Posada still has some value as a veteran pinch-hitter against right-handed pitchers, plus it won’t be a real chore to carry him on the roster since they figure to drop down to an eleven man pitching staff. I try not too put too much stock into intangibles, but we know Posada won’t be overwhelmed in a big spot in October, which is comforting (if nothing else).

Chris asks: If Posada does not retire at the end of the season do you see him trying to get a catching job in the NL or as a DH in the AL? I think he has a chip on his shoulder and would be looking to prove the Yankees (and Girardi) wrong.

I think he’s going to retire, but if he doesn’t, I imagine he’ll go to an AL club to DH. Maybe he’s open to being a part-time first baseman and primary pinch-hitter for an NL club, but I think that’s a big if. I see two likely destinations if he sticks around after 2011: the Rays and Mets. Both are close to home for him and could use someone for those roles.

Tucker asks: What trade value does Eduardo Nunez hold? Ken Rosenthal recently wrote that he has a lot because he’s hitting well and can “play” premium positions. What’s your take?

You all know that I’m not Nunez’s biggest fan, but there’s no denying the dude has some serious trade value. He’s shown that he can hit in the limited at-bats he’s gotten this year, and his impressive contact rate is in line with his minor league track record and scouting report. His defense has improved as the season has gone on (likely because he’s getting more reps), and he’s a legitimate shortstop. That last part alone is hard to find.

Let’s be conservative and says he’s a .320 wOBA, 25+ stolen base, average defense guy going forward. That’s basically this year’s version of Erick Aybar, who’s already a two-win player with six weeks left in the season. Five years of that guy at a bargain price will have a ton of value on the trade market. I don’t think that it’s an accident the Mariners wanted him in a potential Cliff Lee trade last year, legit middle infielders that are more than zeroes with the bat are pretty rare these days.

Preston asks: What are the chances the Yankees would/could trade or cut Burnett at the end of the season?

Maybe they’ll try to trade him, but I’m positive the Yankees won’t just release A.J. Burnett this offseason. If they do that, they’re still on the hook for his entire contract, so why not just keep him to see if he can give you anything, even as a reliever? For better or for worse, the Yankees are stuck with A.J. for the next two seasons.

Jeff asks: What do the Yankees do with Russell Martin in the off season? He narrowly qualifies as a Type A player. Do the Yankees offer arbitration whether he is Type A or B? Are Montero or Romine ready to take the job as a catcher in the big leagues? Could the Yankees platoon those two guys with Montero getting some time at DH?

The Type-A stuff doesn’t matter because he doesn’t have six full years of service time yet. You can’t get compensation picks for players you non-tender, and Martin won’t get those six years of service time until after next season. He’d probably get something like $6-6.5M his final time through arbitration after the season, which is a steep price but not the end of the world. The Yankees could use him as a caddy with either Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, breaking those guys in gradually rather than just handing them the starting catcher’s job.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Mark asks: Do you see the Yankees and Rangers getting into another testy free agent battle for C.J. Wilson this offseason? If yes, do you think he’s worth the high cost and whose spot in the rotation he would take? Thanks!

I have a feeling that we’re going to spent a lot of time talking about Wilson in November and December, so I don’t want to get too deep into it now. He’s obviously worth inquiring about, but I can’t see how in the world he gets less than Burnett or John Lackey did. He’s straight up better than those guys were at the time of their free agency, he’s left-handed, and he doesn’t have the recent injury history either. I like Wilson but I don’t love him, especially at that price. But as the second best starter on the market, the Yankees are bound to show some interest.

As for the last part of your question, I’m guess that one of Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon will not be back next year. Even if they are, it won’t be too difficult to free up a rotation spot for a pitcher of Wilson’s caliber.

Chris asks: I read an article that said the Phillies haven’t depleted their farm system in spite of all the trades of the last few years. A) is this true and if so, B) how is it the Yankees are seemingly one deal away from depleting their own? Is the Phillies system that much better?

To answer (A) first, the Phillies have traded 13 prospects (not counting J.A. Happ, who technically wasn’t a prospect) for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence over the last two years or so, and they’ve somehow managed to hold onto Domonic Brown. They started out with a very good farm system and have done a nice job of replenishing it by developing mid-round picks. That said, you can see the toll all those moves have taken on their farm system. They had to scrounge up a pair of Single-A kids to headline a package for Pence because they didn’t have the players in Triple or Double-A to get it done.

The Phillies are in the middle of the best stretch in franchise history and are rightfully in win now mode, because guys like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and even Lee and Halladay are on the wrong side of 30 and will see their skills decline over the next few years. Their window isn’t infinite, and at some point the well will dry up. It’s kinda like what happened to the Yankees in 2005 or so, but they obviously had a much higher margin of error given their payroll.

As for (B), it’s just a matter of perception. The Yankees could deal two of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances and still boast a very strong farm system with two legitimate number one type prospects (whichever one of those three is left plus Gary Sanchez), one super-toolsy guy with some major helium (Mason Williams), and a cast of rock solid prospects close to big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Corban Joseph, etc.). Yeah, the farm system would take a big hit dealing two of those three, but it would still be in much better shape than half the farm system’s out there.