Archive for Possible Trade Partner
With the Yankees scaling back their spending, the Dodgers have emerged as baseball’s new financial superpower in recent months. The team’s new ownership has absorbed roughly $600M in salary obligation since July, and this year they’re likely to set a new MLB payroll record. All of that money has brought stars to Los Angeles, including big name guys like Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Zack Greinke. It’s been fun to watch from afar.
All of the spending has left the team with some surplus though, including on the infield as Ken Rosenthal notes. The Dodgers have seven (!) backup infielders after acquiring Skip Schumaker this week, though we should really say it’s just six backup infielders because Juan Uribe is completely useless and likely to be released before Opening Day. Seriously, he’s posted a 55 wRC+ in the two years since signing a three-year, $21M contract. Yikes. The Yankees need infield help among several other things, other things the Dodgers can offer as well.
Jerry Hairston Jr. & Nick Punto
Two veteran utility men that offer different skill sets. We all remember the elder Hairston brother from his time with the 2009 Yankees, when he most notably scored the game-winning run in ALCS Game Two on Maicer Izturis’ walk-off error. He’s a contact-oriented (11.3 K% and 87.4% contact rate since 2010) right-handed batter who has little power (.111 ISO) but will take a walk (7.8 BB%). Hairston can adequately play almost any position, though he only played 13 innings at short over the last two years. Hairston had hip surgery in September (labrum tear and bone impingement) and is a question mark for Opening Day. He’s 36 years old and is owed $3.75M in 2013.
Punto, 35, is a contact-oriented switch hitter who saw his strikeout (22.0%) and contact (84.1%) rates decline noticeably in 2012. It could be a small sample size thing (191 plate appearances) or it could be a sign that the end is near. Punto had a big platoon split this year (62 wRC vs. RHP and 107 vs. LHP) but hadn’t in the past. He’s an infielder who grades out as about average at second, third, and short these days. Neither he nor Hairston offer much speed, but Punto is a slightly better bet to steal a base. He’s owed $1.5M next season.
Rosenthal says the Dodgers are most likely to move Punto (and Uribe, but yuck), which isn’t much of a surprise. Hairston is the more desirable player despite his hip surgery, and they’re going to keep him in an effort to win this year. Punto is never going to hit like he did in 2011 again (125 wRC+) and history suggests he’s a true talent 70-75 wRC+ guy, which stinks. Is he better than Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix? Not offensively, but he surely is with the glove. He’s someone the Yankees could look into just for depth if the Dodgers are willing to give him away.
Scott Van Slyke
Van Slyke, 26, was designated for assignment yesterday to clear room on the 40-man roster for Schumaker. He is Andy’s son and a right-handed hitting corner outfielder/first baseman. Van Slyke didn’t hit a lick in his big league debut this season (38 wRC+ in just 57 plate appearances), but his Triple-A performance was huge (152 wRC+). The problem is that it didn’t just come in the Pacific Coast League, he also played his home games at altitude in Albuquerque. It’s hard to find a more hitter friendly environment, so take the hitting stats with a big grain of salt.
Baseball America ranked Van Slyke as the team’s #21 prospect prior to this season, saying he “has a nice swing with good wrist action (and) started showing solid power to all fields.” They also note that he’s adequate defensively in left and at first base. He tagged lefties for a .329/.398/.593 batting line with 10.9 BB% and 15.8 K% in the minors over the last two years (again, grain of salt), and profiles as a platoon corner bat.
What makes Van Slyke especially appealing is that he has two minor league options remaining, so he can be shuttled back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2013 and 2014 without having to be put on waivers. The Yankees need a right-handed platoon bat given their all-left-handed outfield, but I assume they would prefer someone more established. Van Slyke could be just a depth piece stashed in the minors though, which has value. I don’t think he’ll clear waivers, so the Yankees would have to swing a trade to acquire him.
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The Dodgers don’t have many roster holes to fill, but they do need a left-handed bat off the bench and a reserve outfielder capable of playing center field. Chris Dickerson, who obviously will never going to get an opportunity with the Yankees, fits both of those needs and could be dangled. He’s not much, but then again neither are Punto and Van Slyke. They also need an extra catcher, but the Yankees aren’t in a position to give away catching help at the moment.
There is absolutely nothing exciting about the prospect of acquiring players like Punto and Van Slyke, but they would potentially fill some needs for New York. The cost shouldn’t be anything prohibitive and if either guys bombs, it would be easy to cast them aside and eat the money since it wouldn’t have any impact on the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. The Yankees need infield help and a right-handed bat, and Punto and Van Slyke could serve as depth pieces in those roles.
The Reds finished this season with the second best record in baseball, but their World Series hopes came to a crashing halt when they blew a two games-to-none series lead over the eventual World Champion Giants in the NLDS. Their core remains very much intact though, so they’ll look to retool and improve what they already have rather than conduct some kind of rebuild. Should they decide to explore the trade market, they have some pieces who could be of interest to the Yankees.
Stubbs, 28, is a true four-tool player and that’s a problem because the one tool he doesn’t have is the most important: the ability to make contact. He owns a career 29.3% strikeout rate and posted a career-worst 30.5% mark this year, leading to a .213/.277/.333 (64 wRC+) batting line in 544 plate appearances. Look at his various year-to-year graphs and you’ll see that he’s trending the wrong way in basically every significant offensive category. So, after all that, why would the Yankees want him? Because of those four other tools.
Stubbs has stolen 30+ bases in each of his three full seasons and is an above-average defender in center with a strong and accurate arm. Here, look. He’s hit at least 14 homers in his three full seasons with a solid 8.7% walk rate. Oh, and he’s a right-handed batter who mashes southpaws. Despite his miserable overall numbers this year, Stubbs still tagged lefties for a .283/.324/.464 (111 wRC+) line. He’s hit .275/.335/.448 (121 wRC+) against lefties since 2010, which is better than popular free target Scott Hairston (.263/.308/.464, 110 wRC+). Then you’ve got the stolen bases on top of it.
Stubbs has fallen so out of favor with the Reds that there was talk they would non-tender him prior to last week’s deadline, but they decided to hold onto him instead. MLBTR projects him to earn $2.9M next year (less than Hairston figures to get) and he’ll remain under team control through 2015. Stubbs is going to strike out a ton* and that’s just the way it’s going to be, but he can hit lefties while also contributing quite a bit both on the bases and in the field. This is a major buy-low candidate who can help a lot if he’s platooned properly going forward.
* It’s worth noting that while his strikeout rate is getting worse, his contact rate is actually getting better. He still swings and misses a lot, but a big part of his problem is that he’s taking more called strike threes than ever before.
Cincinnati’s other right-handed hitting outfielder, you might remember the 27-year-old Heisey from his three-homer game against the Yankees a few years ago (video). He’s a .259/.315/.438 (102 wRC+) career hitter with a reverse split, though that’s a small sample size issue rather than an accurate representation of his skills. Heisey owns a .214/.272/.376 (71 wRC+) line in 255 plate appearances against southpaws since breaking into the show three years ago. He’s rated as an average defender in the three outfield spots (though again, sample size) and doesn’t offer much speed either. Heisey is under team control through 2016 and should settle in as a right-handed platoon bat if used properly and given the opportunity.
Ryan Hanigan & Devin Mesoraco
The Reds have two starting-caliber catchers, at least in theory. Manager Dusty Baker has been known to distrust young players, so the 24-year-old Mesoraco quickly fell out of favor this year when he didn’t hit (.212/.288/.352, 67 wRC+). Hanigan, 32, continued to serve as the team’s starter with a .274/.365/.338 (87 wRC+) batting line. He rated very well in 2012 catcher defense rankings and has more unintentional walks (92) than strikeouts (90) over the last three years.
Mesoraco is the big hotshot prospect (Baseball America ranked him 16th on their Top 100 List his year) while Hanigan is the reliable and generally underrated veteran. It’s worth noting that Hanigan is signed for just $2.05M next season and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2014 as well. Mesoraco still has five years of team control left. If the Reds decide to commit to one as their starting guy going forward, the Yankees should have interest in acquiring the other regardless of who it is. Both Mesoraco and Hanigan make sense for New York.
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The Yankees now have a need at third base given Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury and New Jersey native Todd Frasier sure would look nice in pinstripes, but he seems entrenched as Cincinnati’s third baseman of at least the present and most likely the future as well. I wouldn’t count on that happening despite the obvious fit.
The Reds are set in the rotation — their five main starters combined for 161 starts last year and now they’re now moving Aroldis Chapman into the rotation — and at most positions, but they are actively seeking a leadoff hitting outfielder. They were in on Denard Span before he was traded to the Nationals and they don’t really have the financial wherewithal to sign Michael Bourn. They’ve been linked to the more affordable Shane Victorino of late and were said to be considering Juan Pierre once upon a time.
The Yankees have a leadoff hitting outfielder to offer in Brett Gardner, but they are short on outfielders in general. They would be able to replace Gardner’s speed and defense by re-signing Ichiro Suzuki though, so he shouldn’t be completely off limits. My trade proposal sucks, but I think the Yankees would be better off in 2013 and 2014 if they could work out a Gardner plus prospect(s) for Stubbs plus one of the catchers trade while then re-signing Ichiro. Depends on the prospect(s) and which catcher of course, plus the team’s willingness to have zero starting outfielders under contract beyond 2013.
The Twins and Yankees had a very one-sided rivalry in the mid-to-late-aughts, a rivalry that included four ALDS matchups from 2003-2010 and two wins by Minnesota. Not series wins, individual game wins. New York took all four of those ALDS meetings by a total of 12 wins to two.
The Twins have run off a pair of 95+ loss seasons since last getting bounced from the postseason by the Yankees, so they’re in something resembling a rebuilding phase. I say “something resembling a rebuilding phase” only because they’re still signing free agents and trying to piece together a contender given their weak division, yet they’re still closer to another 95-loss campaign that a playoff berth.
If Minnesota does decide to commit to a rebuild this winter (unlikely but possible), they would have several pieces of interest to the Yankees. I’m not talking about Joe Mauer, whose contract is prohibitive and days behind the plate are numbered, or even Ryan Doumit, who just signed a contract extension. Yesterday I wrote about utility man Jamey Carroll, now here are two outfielders who might fit in New York…
When you hit .260/.366/.524 (143 wRC+) with 35 homers and a 12.4% walk rate, you’re going to generate some buzz like the soon-to-be 34-year-old Willingham did this season. The Twins reeled him in with a three-year contract worth $21M last offseason, a deal that sure looks like one of the biggest bargains of the winter at this point.
The Yankees need to replace Nick Swisher and Willingham is one of the few outfielders who can provide similar offensive production. This year was a career year for him and I don’t expect him to repeat it, but he still hit .257/.360/.476 (127 wRC+) with an average of 23 homers per year from 2009-2011. He’s consistently offered power (.233 ISO since 2010) and patience (12.2 BB%), plus his right-handed bat would help balance out a lineup short on righty power given Alex Rodriguez‘s decline.
Willingham, however, is an atrocious defensive outfielder who has only gotten worse following 2010 knee surgery. His best position is probably first base or even DH at this point. You’re also getting nothing on the basepaths and usually a stint on the DL at some point during the season as well. His value stems exclusively from his bat, but luckily for Willingham he can really hit.
The 28-year-old Span is generally considered to be more attainable than Willingham because the Twins already have his center field replacement lined up — Ben Revere put together an 88 wRC+ and stole 40 bases while playing stellar defense this summer. Span is signed to a long-term contract that will pay him $4.75M next year and $6.5M the year after before a $9M club option ($500k buyout) comes into play for 2015. For luxury tax purposes, the average annual value is a friendly $3.3M.
The concern for the Yankees is that Span is basically Brett Gardner with half the stolen bases and half the called strike threes. He broke out during the 2008-2009 seasons (119 wRC+ in 1,087 plate appearances) but has hit just .271/.334/.397 (95 wRC+) in 1,584 plate appearances since. Concussion and shoulder problems have hampered him the last two years and could be to blame for the declining offense, but he was perfectly healthy in 2010 and still managed an 89 wRC+ in over 700 plate appearances.
What Span does provide is crazy good contact skills from the left side (10.9 K% and 92.0% contract lasts three years) and some patience (8.5 BB%) to go along with dynamite defensive ability. He ranks ninth in UZR (+21.9) and tenth in DRS (+24) among all outfielders over the last three seasons, but he hasn’t played anywhere other than center since 2009. Although it would create a stellar defensive outfield, Span and Gardner are completely redundant. The Yankees would be lucky to get ten homers out of the duo combined.
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One of the oddest trade discussions to (reportedly) take place in recent years involved Span and the Nationals at last year’s deadline, when the Twins were willing to trade him for a reliever (Drew Storen) but Washington haggled over which reliever (offered Tyler Clippard instead). Given their lack of a long-term center fielder, it seemed like an easy call for the Nats. I highly doubt the Yankees would be lucky enough to pry Span away with just a reliever now that Minnesota has revamped their bullpen (3.77 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 2012), but even if they wanted to replace Swisher with a contact-and-speed, defense-first outfielder, they’d probably just re-sign Ichiro Suzuki. They know him and it would only cost money.
Willingham is a different case since the only free agent outfielders who could match his offensive production are Josh Hamilton and Swisher. Normally bringing a dead pull right-handed hitter to Yankee Stadium would give me pause, but Willingham has the kind of power to overcome Death Valley in left-center. I’m not too concerned about that with him. Considering his luxury tax friendly contract (just $7M average annual value through 2014), maybe the Yankees have to overpay a bit to get the production they need at affordable rates. The Twins appear to be very disinclined to move him however, so chances are this is all moot.
The Angels and Yankees have developed a long-distance rivalry over the last decade or so, and as a result they’ve only made two trades with each other since 1996: Jeff Kennard for Jose Molina (2007) and Bret Prinz for Wil Nieves (2005). That’s it, two swaps involving spare arms and backup catchers. The Halos have since appointed a new GM however, plus they haven’t made the playoff since losing the 2009 ALCS to the Yankees, so perhaps they’re a little more open to the idea of trading with a rival for the sake of improving the club.
Los Angeles Anaheim spent big bucks on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last year but fell into the trap of being top heavy. They had little depth, especially on the pitching side, meaning they had few alternatives when Ervin Santana stunk and while Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Scott Downs were on the DL. The end result was a third place finish and another offseason spent trying to figure out how to compete with the Rangers (and now the Athletics as well). The Angels have a few pieces who could help the Yankees, so perhaps the two sides could get together for the rare deal.
Alberto Callaspo & Andrew Romine
The Yankees are said to be seeking a utility infielder this winter, specifically someone who can play shortstop and third base a combined 100 times next year while representing an upgrade over Jayson Nix. It sounds simple enough, but that will be one very tough position to fill. The “super-sub” player who can play a different position everyday and actual hit doesn’t really exist. It’s a romanticization of what people used to think Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa were.
Anyway, the Angels do have some infield depth despite the defection of Maicer Izturis. The 29-year-old Callaspo has taken over as the Angels mostly full-time third baseman in recent years but has plenty of experience at the other infield spots. He’s just a .266/.338/.358 (96 wRC+) hitter over the last three seasons, but he’s also a switch-hitter who can at least hold his own on both sides of the plate (108 wRC+ vs. LHP and 92 vs. RHP). Callaspo’s strength is his command of the strike zone (9.8 BB%) and freakish ability to get the bat on the ball (90.9% contact rate). He’s walked (126) more than he’s struck out (120) over the last three years, and only nine hitters have swung and missed less often since 2010. One of them is not Ichiro Suzuki (90.2%), just for perspective.
The problem with Callaspo — more than the utter lack of power (.096 ISO) and speed (17-for-24 in steal attempts since 2010) — is that he hasn’t played shortstop at all since 2009 and regularly since basically ever. He’s a career second and third baseman who could probably fill in at short in case of emergency, kinda like Nix. He’s also had several run-ins with the law in the past, which might not satisfy the whole “good makeup and character” requirement. Callaspo projects to earn $4.2M in his final trip through arbitration this winter, so he’s not exactly cheap either.
The Angels also have the 26-year-old Romine (Austin’s older brother) on the infield depth chart, but he’s far less established that Callaspo. Romine owns a 49 wRC+ in 51 career big league plate appearances and a .283/.350/.367 (86 wRC+) in over 800 career Triple-A plate appearances. He’s a left-handed hitter and a true shortstop (his defense is his best tool by far) with experience elsewhere on the infield. With all due respect, I think I’d rather see the Yankees try to make Eduardo Nunez into a utility guy again rather than play the elder Romine as much as they seem to looking to play their utility infielder.
I wrote about Calhoun in-depth prior to the trade deadline, so I’ll point you to that and give you the short version here: he’s a left-handed hitting corner outfielder who can hold his own against southpaws, spot start at first base, and offer both patience and some power. He’s also gotten slapped with the “gamer” tag because he’s short, white, runs really hard, and hasn’t gotten a big contract yet. The Angels are still being hung by the Vernon Wells noose and will likely use him as the fourth outfielder behind Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, and Peter Bourjos this year, meaning Calhoun will probably spend another year in Triple-A waiting for someone ahead of him on the depth chart to get hurt. The Yankees are looking at life after Nick Swisher right now, and the 25-year-old Calhoun offers pretty much everything they’re looking for in Swisher’s replacement, at least on paper.
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The Angels were reportedly seeking a quality left-handed reliever prior to the trade deadline and are said to be focusing on pitching in general this winter, meaning both starters and relievers. The Yankees don’t have much starting pitching to offer at the moment, at least not until Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are re-signed/viable replacements are acquired, but they do have some left-handed relief depth. Boone Logan, who is coming off a career-high workload (55.1 innings and 80 appearances) and is due to be a free agent after 2013, is theoretically made expendable by Clay Rapada, the recently-claimed Josh Spence, and the soon-to-be healthy Cesar Cabral.
Obviously it’s very unlikely that one year of Logan can fetch the Yankees any of the players above, but at least he’s a piece who might entice Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. A conversation starter, something like that. I have no reason to suspect the Angels would have interest in acquiring Alex Rodriguez even if the Yankees ate a big chunk of his contract, so I’m not even going to discuss the possibility. Finding the right prospects or young big leaguers to package with Logan in a trade would be the key for New York, who could theoretically plug their utility infielder and right field holes in one fell swoop. It takes two to tango, of course.
Outside of the fact that they both lost a ton of players to injury in 2012, the Yankees have Padres have very little in common. They play in different style ballparks in different divisions in different leagues on different coasts, and they’re far apart on the roster age and payroll spectrums as well. Those differences also happen to make them pretty compatible trade partners, as each team’s surplus matches up with the other’s need.
Chase Headley is obviously the most desirable player on San Diego’s roster, but you’d be buying high following his monster second half. The time to get him was at the trade deadline, and besides, I don’t think the Yankees even have the pieces to swing a trade for the third baseman anyway. Instead, let’s look at some lesser but still valuable Padres who make sense for New York if the free agent market doesn’t swing their way in the coming weeks.
The 30-year-old Venable is one of those players who was so underrated that he’s actually become overrated. He’s been a consistent .252/.323/.411 (105 wRC+) hitter over the last three years, but his road numbers (120 wRC+) are substantially better than his homr numbers (89 wRC+). Petco Park is brutal on all hitters, but especially left-handed hitters. Venable does have a sizable platoon split (112 vs. 64 wRC+), but he plays strong defense in all three outfield spots and is a threat to steal 25+ bases. Although he will strike out some (20.0 K% in 2012), he deserves a lot of credit for working hard to get the whiffs under control in recent years…
San Diego is locked into big money commitments in left (Carlos Quentin) and center (Cameron Maybin), so right field is the only open spot for Venable, the underrated Chris Denorfia, James Darnell, and down the line, top Double-A prospects Edinson Rincon and Rymer Liriano. Venable is what he is at this point, but move him out of Petco and into Yankee Stadium could turn him into a 15-homer, 25-steal guy if platooned properly. He would be a bit redundant with Brett Gardner (and to a lesser extent Curtis Granderson), but he is a fit. Venable will become a free agent after 2014 and is projected to earn just $2.5M throughout arbitration next year.
The Padres gave their 29-year-old backstop a three-year, $9M contract last offseason, and he rewarded them by playing so poorly (29 wRC+) that he had to be demoted to Triple-A at midseason. Hundley hit a solid .259/.323/.435 (110 wRC+) from 2009-2011 however, which earned him that contract. Oddly enough, his performance on the road (85 wRC+) was far worse than his performance at home (135 wRC+) during those three years. The various catcher defense rankings (2010, 2011) have rated Hundley anywhere from average to a tick above in recent years, though it’s worth noting that he had minor elbow and knee surgeries in the last 18 months.
Yasmani Grandal posted a 144 wRC+ in 226 plate appearances this year to solidify his place as the team’s catcher of the future, turning Hundley in a pricey ($3M in 2013 and $4M in 2014) backup. If the Yankees (or any team, really) believe Hundley is fixable — ultra-low .196 BABIP and 4.7 HR/FB% in 2012 — he might be the best trade candidate should Russell Martin sign elsewhere. They’d certainly be buying low, that’s for sure.
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Trading for Hundley got a little complicated yesterday because Grandal was suspended for 50 games, meaning the Padres will likely hold onto him for at least the first two months of the season. That doesn’t help the Yankees all that much. Venable still could though, as could the legions of relievers on San Diego’s 40-man roster if they want to expand the trade. The Yankees already claimed one Padres reliever this week, I’m sure there’s another one or two they’re interested in.
Anyway, by all accounts the Padres are seeking starting pitching this offseason, which is odd because usually they look for offense and just turn random arms into league average or better pitchers via their ballpark. The walls are coming though, so finding quality pitching won’t be as easy. The Yankees are short on starters themselves at the moment, but surrendering a Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova or Adam Warren or David Phelps would be easier to swallow if Hiroki Kuroda and/of Andy Pettitte return for another year. There are no indications that these two clubs are talking about a trade involving any of this players — or that the Yankees are talking trades with anyone, for that matter — but they match up fairly well if they want to get together for a deal at some point in the coming weeks.