Yankees lose Kahnle, four others in Rule 5 Draft

Kahnle. (Robert Pimpsner)
Kahnle. (Robert Pimpsner)

The Yankees lost five total players in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, most notably Double-A RHP Tommy Kahnle. He was taken by the Rockies with the fourth overall selection. In a nutshell, New York receives a $50k fee and Kahnle must now stick on Colorado’s active 25-man roster all of next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to place him on waivers and then offer him back to the Yankees before being able to send him to the minors.

Kahnle, 24, was the team’s fifth round pick in the 2010 draft, out of Lynn University in Florida. They gave him $150k to turn pro. Kahnle had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (11.10 K/9 and 28.8 K%) and a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9 and 17.5 BB%) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton this summer. He throws very hard, regularly running his fastball up to 97-98, but he lacks a good offspeed pitch and his control is shaky at best. The Yankees offered him in trades for Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young before the deadline earlier this year.

The four players the Yankees lost in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft are OF Ravel Santana (Astros), RHP Mikey O’Brien (Reds), RHP Felipe Gonzalez (Pirates), and converted infielder RHP Kelvin Castro (Marlins). Santana is the big name here because he was once one of the team’s very best prospects. Injuries — most notably a shattered ankle in 2011 and a broken arm in 2013 — have hampered his development. The 21-year-old had a 157 wRC+ with the Rookie GCL Yankees in 2011, an 83 wRC+ with Short Season Staten Island in 2012, and then did not play in 2013.

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. The players do not have to stick on a certain roster all year, they simply become their new team’s properly. The Astros essentially purchased Santana from the Yankees for the $12k fee. Same applies to the other three guys taken in the minor league portion.

The Yankee left several other interesting relief arms — RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Fred Lewis, specifically — exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but none were selected. The Bombers have a full 40-man roster and were not able to make a pick themselves. The full Rule 5 Draft results can be seen here.

Yankees do not open 40-man roster spot prior to Rule 5 Draft deadline

The Yankees did not clear a 40-man roster spot prior to Monday’s deadline, so they will not be able to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. I thought they might roll the dice on a reliever or two given the state of the bullpen, but I guess not. Not a big deal, obviously. The success rate of Rule 5 Draft picks under the current system is so low it’s not even worth thinking about.

The Yankees will need to open a 40-man spot once Carlos Beltran‘s three-year contract becomes official. Otherwise all of the team’s recent additions are finalized and on the roster.

Contract snafu leaves lefty Omar Luis exposed in Rule 5 Draft

Last year, the Yankees signed 21-year-old Cuban left-hander Omar Luis to a $4M signing bonus, their last big money international pickup before the new spending restrictions were implemented. A visa issue kept him in Haiti for several months, but the southpaw made it to the United States this summer and pitched for one of the team’s two Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates. He is one of their better pitching prospects at the moment.

According to Ben Badler, a contract snafu leaves Luis exposed in next month’s Rule 5 Draft even though he signed his first contract just last year. Players typically are not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until they’ve played at least four and usually five years professionally. It’s complicated, so I’ll let Badler explain:

The Yankees signed Cuban lefthander Omar Luis last year for a $4 million bonus, with an official contract date of July 1, 2012, the day before the inaugural $2.9 million international bonus pools went into effect.

However, Luis and several other Cuban players also represented by Praver Shapiro Sports Management who were claiming permanent residency in Haiti ran into visa issues and were unable to get into the United States. When Luis arrived in the U.S. this year after spending eight months in Haiti, an unknown issue popped up in his physical, which led the Yankees to void the contract.

Luis signed a new contract with the Yankees for a reduced bonus—$2.5 million—on April 9, 2013. Since Luis signed his second contract with his original team and the Yankees did not place him on their 40-man roster, he is available in the Rule 5 draft, which is Dec. 12.

The timing of Luis’ two contracts also forced MLB to make a decision regarding whether his contract would be subject to the international bonus pools. While his April 2013 contract falls within the 2012-13 signing window where every team had a $2.9 million bonus pool, because his initial agreement came just before the new system kicked in, MLB determined that Luis’ new contract was exempt from the bonus pools.

Badler notes this is not unprecedented. The Brewers, Reds, and Mariners have had players go through similar situations in recent years.

The immediate impact is negligible. Luis had a 5.68 ERA and 43/29 K/BB in 31.2 innings at lowest level of the minors this past season, so even if a team loves his stuff grabs him in the Rule 5 Draft, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll stick in the big leagues for all of next season. Jumping from the rookie ball to the big leagues almost certainly will not happen, at least not successfully.

This is a problem long-term, however. Luis will be Rule 5 Draft eligible every offseason from here on out, so even though he won’t be able to stick in MLB right now, that might not be the case next year. The Yankees will likely have to add him to the 40-man roster and start burning through his minor league options sooner than expected. That means they might have to try to develop him pretty quickly.

Furthermore, if Luis is selected in the Rule 5 Draft and returned to the Yankees at any point, he will have been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The first time that happens is no big deal, but the second time will allow him to elect free agency over returning to New York. He could leverage that into a new contract, which two-time Rule 5 Draft guys have done before (though none were as good a prospect as Luis). That too could force the club to add Luis to the 40-man sooner than they would like.

This sounds like a really unique and unfortunate set of circumstances. I suppose the Yankees could have kept him on the original $4M deal rather than negotiate a lower bonus, but if there’s something in the physical they didn’t like, then they should protect themselves. We’re talking about a ton of money here. It sounds like their options were either deal with the contract/40-man headache or not get the player. Seems like an obvious choice to me.

Minors Notes: Sanchez, Whitley, Campos, Ravel

Got a collection of minor league notes to pass along, courtesy of Chad Jennings and Matt Eddy:

  • VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed C Gary Sanchez is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. I thought he had at least one more year to go, but it’s always tough to pin down the international guys. Obviously Sanchez will be added to the 40-man roster and protected from the draft.
  • RHP Chase Whitley may remain a starter in the future. The career reliever has made a handful of spot starts the last two years, and he’s the rare reliever who used three pitches fairly regularly. “He’s got a great changeup, so it was, let’s see if he can do this,” said Newman. “His velocity picked up over the last two years, he’s always had a very good changeup, we’re working on his breaking ball. We had some innings in the rotation, and he’s got starter stuff, so he may get a look in that way in the future.”
  • Newman confirmed RHP Jose Campos will again have his workload controlled next season. He was limited to three or four inning outings all summer. He’ll throw more innings overall, but they’re not yet ready to turn him loose just yet. Campos missed pretty much all of last season with an elbow injury.
  • Apparently OF Ravel Santana broke his arm at some point. That’s on top of the brutal ankle injury that completely derailed his career two years ago. “He’s had two really tough injuries,” said Newman. “He’s had a tough go.”
  • The Yankees re-signed UTIL Jose Pirela to a minor league contract. He became a six-year minor league free agent after the season. The 23-year-old has spent the last few years with Double-A Trenton, putting up a ~120 wRC+ in 888 plate appearances the last two seasons. Pirela’s not much of a prospect, but he can play all over the field. He’s the kind of guy who could sneak a call-up at some point.

Mailbag: McCann, Rule 5 Draft, Ryan, Shortstops

Five questions for you this week and they’re all good ones. Might be biased, but I this is a quality mailbag. Send us any questions or comments or whatever through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Many people asked: What about signing Brian McCann this offseason?

Not sure what sparked it, but we got a ton of McCann questions this week. I guess people are just sick of watching the team’s current catchers on a daily basis.

Anyway, the 29-year-old McCann is scheduled to become a free agent this winter for first time in his career. A right shoulder injury really hampered him last season (87 wRC+), but he’s rebounded very well from offseason surgery to produce a .258/.333/.472 (125 wRC+) line that is right in line with his career norms (117 wRC+). Surgery on the front shoulder is a scary thing for a hitter, but McCann has come back very well and hasn’t seen a slip in his performance. It’s encouraging if nothing else.

Elite catchers — if McCann isn’t considered elite, then he’s damn close — almost never hit the open market, so McCann will be one of the hottest commodities out there this winter. Yadier Molina signed a five-year, $75M extension last year and I think that’s the baseline for McCann. Yes, we’re comparing an extension to a free agent, but Molina is also the better player. I think 5/75 is in the ballpark at least. Seems reasonable enough to me.

Now, the problem with signing a soon-to-be 30-year-old catcher to a five-year contract is that you can’t expect him to catch full-time all five years. It could happen, but McCann would be the exception and not the rule. I think you have to go into the deal thinking he can catch full-time for the first two years, split the third year at catcher and first base, then split the fourth and fifth years at first base and DH. Maybe you get lucky and you get three years as a full-time catcher instead of two.

McCann makes a ton of sense for the Yankees for many reasons. First and foremost, he’s a massive upgrade over their current catchers. He’s better than all of them put together. Secondly, he’s a left-handed hitter who should see his production tick up with the move into Yankee Stadium. Third, he has plenty of experience with division and playoff races and all that stuff. And fourth, the timeframe works well. A young catcher like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be broken in slowly these next few years a la late-1990s Jorge Posada, and if things break right down the line, Gary Sanchez will be able to step in right when McCann is turning into a pumpkin. He’s a great, great fit for New York.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

Nick asks: Who is Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason?

For all intents and purposes — there are some exceptions, players drafted particularly young or old — it’s high school players from the 2009 draft and college players from the 2010 draft this year. International players who signed at 18 or younger prior to 2008 or signed at 19 or older prior to 2009 are eligible as well. It’s always tough to pin down the international guys because we usually don’t know the exact date they signed.

The Yankees already took care of one piece of Rule 5 Draft business by adding Murphy to the 40-man roster this month. He would have been eligible this year and obviously would have been protected. As best I can tell, the following players are also Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter: CF Slade Heathcott, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Chase Whitley, and RHP Zach Nuding. That appears to be it among the legitimate prospects. Sanchez has at least one and possibly two more years to go before becoming eligible..

Heathcott is obviously going to be protected since he is one of the team’s top prospects. Greene, Kahnle, Burawa, and Whitley are all damn near MLB ready and would be prime Rule 5 Draft bait. All four would get picked if left unprotected. The Yankees floated Kahnle’s name in trade talks before the deadline (for both Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young), which leads me to believe they are leaning against not protecting him. They were trying to get something before losing him for nothing. Greene had the best year of those four and is the only one with a realistic chance of starting.

Mitchell has a great arm but it’s hard to believe he could stick on a 25-man roster all of next season. He’s someone who would get a look in Spring Training and be offered back, more than likely. Nuding too. That said, Jose Ramirez was in the same boat last year and he wound up being protected. The Yankees have been rather aggressive when it comes to protecting Rule 5 Draft guys in recent years — I feel like almost losing Ivan Nova to the Padres in 2008 scared them into protecting everyone — so I wouldn’t be surprised if they added Heathcott, Greene, Burawa, Whitley, and Mitchell to the 40-man this winter. Greene, Burawa, and Whitley would be up-and-down bullpen options as soon as next summer, if nothing else.

Kevin asks: As bad as the farm system was this year, doesn’t it seem just as likely next year could be a bounceback season? Say two of Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Heathcott bounce back, Sanchez stays steady, and Greg Bird and Rafael DePaula continue to progress, can’t you see next year we’re talking about a Top 10 system? This stuff seems to considerably vary year-to-year.

Definitely. This was a bad year for the farm system but there is a lot of potential room for improvement. Literally every team has those “if this guy bounces back, if that guy stays healthy, etc.” prospects, but the Yankees have more than most. They’re adding what amounts to five first round talents into the system as well: 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Ty Hensley, and LHP Manny Banuelos. The first three were this summer’s first rounders and will be playing in their first full pro season while Hensley (2012 first rounder) and Banuelos (2012 top prospect) will be returning from injury. Full years from SS Abi Avelino and RHP Luis Severino will help as well. A lot would have to break right — it all won’t, some of these guys will inevitably disappoint — but the farm system has a chance to take a major, major step forward in 2014.

Huff. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Huff. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Paul asks: When does Joe Girardi have to announce a starter for a game? Is he able to use his Phil Hughes/David Huff tandem to somehow get the opposing manager to start his lefty-heavy lineup while starting Huff instead of Hughes?

The rulebook says that the starting pitcher becomes official when the lineup cards are exchanged at home plate before the start of the game. At that point the listed starter must face at least one batter before he can be replaced like every other pitcher. So, if they wanted the other team to start their lefty-mashing lineup against Hughes and replace him with Huff, they would have to wait at least one batter.

That said, this isn’t all that practical because Huff will need some time to warm up and the other club would see him getting ready in the bullpen beforehand. There’s also a gamesmanship aspect to this. I don’t think something like this would go over well around the game. If Hughes were to get hurt? Sure. But otherwise … eh.

Justin asks: Two part Brendan Ryan question. Recently, the YES announcers have quoted Kevin Long saying he could “fix” Ryan’s swing. A) Do you think that he can bring him to respectability of maybe a .260 hitter? B) Is he a better 2014 option over Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew?

Long is just a hitting coach, not a miracle worker. Ryan has never been an adequate hitter — career .252/.303/.341 hitter … in Triple-A — and it’s hard to think Long could do anything that would suddenly transform him from a .238/.300/.321 career big league hitter into say, a .260/.320/.350 guy for even one year. It could happen, baseball is weird like that, but I don’t think there’s enough starting material here for that to happen.

As for 2014, I think Ryan would be my last resort at shortstop. Well, second to last ahead of Eduardo Nunez. (Sorry Eddie, I’m over you.) I prefer Drew — a slick defender and a Yankee Stadium-friendly lefty hitter — over Peralta by quite a bit among free agent options, but both guys would be real nice fits next year. Drew could play short while Peralta takes over at third for the presumably suspended Alex Rodriguez. I do think — and this is completely baseless, by the way, just a guess — the Yankees want to avoid Biogenesis/PED guys going forward though, so Peralta might be a non-option. Ryan’s been a nice little late-season pickup but I absolutely do not want that guy penciled in as the number one shortstop come Opening Day.

2012 Rule 5 Draft Liveblog

10:45am: The Yankees did not take or lose any players in the Rule 5 Draft, in either the Major League or Minor League phase.

9:50am: The Rule 5 Draft marks the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings as executives will leave the meetings in droves in about an hour or two. Clubs will spend some time (and cash) this morning hoping to grab the next Johan Santana or Dan Uggla, or even just the next Joe Paterson or Lucas Luetge. Digging up a useful left-handed matchup reliever is a pretty great return on a Rule 5 pick.

Only three of last year’s Rule 5 picks managed to stick with their new team, highlighted by Luetge. The Mariners kept him, the Orioles kept infielder Ryan Flaherty, and the Astros kept right-hander Rhiner Cruz. The Yankees selected two players last year but neither made it out of Spring Training healthy. Right-hander Brad Meyers hurt his shoulder in an offseason workout, spent the entire season on the DL, then was returned to the Nationals after the season. Lefty Cesar Cabral nearly made the team out of camp before breaking his elbow. He’s still with the Yankees and will get another look in Spring Training.

The Yankees have a full 40-man roster and are unable to make a selection today, but they do have a handful of players who could be picked. Left-hander Vidal Nuno and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte were mentioned as possible selection candidates by Baseball America (subs. req’d), though Venditte has gone undrafted in each of the last two years and he’s now coming off right shoulder surgery as well. Marc Hulet at FanGraphs tabbed right-hander Graham Stoneburner as one of the draft’s best available players. I honestly can’t remember the last time the Yankees lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft and regretted it.

The Rule 5 Draft rules are pretty simple and if you’ve been reading RAB long enough, surely you know them by now. If not, I recommend taking a quick glance at the Wikipedia page. The draft is scheduled to begin at 10am ET and usually lasts a half-hour or so. I’ll liveblog the whole thing here because hey, someone’s gotta do it. All you hot stove talk should go here.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Dice-K, Rule 5 Draft

I took it a little easy this week, so I only have three questions for you. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Roy asks: Do you think that Alex Rodriguez will be so rusty as to be useless between now and the postseason? I expect that he will take a long time to be back in sync. Just a gut feeling.

Useless is a pretty strong word, but I am definitely concerned about his hand injury lingering and negatively impacting his production when he returns. I don’t just mean being rusty, but not having enough time to rebuild strength in the hand. It’s not at all uncommon for hand, finger, and wrist issues to linger like that even after the break is fully healed. If you can’t grip the bat properly, you’re not going to hit Major League pitching. It’s as simple as that.

For A-Rod, the concern is even greater since it’s his left (bottom) hand. The entire front arm — shoulder, wrist, hand, etc. — is where the power comes from, and that’s where the injury happened. What’s the old saying, the bottom hand is the car and the top hand is the driver? If the car isn’t working right, the driver is irrelevant. Rust and not seeing live pitching for a while is just a small part it. If A-Rod has lost too much strength in that hand during the downtime, he might be physically unable to drive the baseball with the authority when he comes back, at least initially. That’s what I’m worried about.

Chris asks: If the Yankees bring Hiroki Kuroda back next year do you think it would be worth it to try and bring in Dice-K for one year at say $4-6M? Scott Boras might want him to take a one-year show me deal and I think Kuroda might be able to get through to him.

Oh hell naw. He’s coming off the Tommy John surgery now so pretty much anything he does this year can be thrown right out the window as far as evaluating him going forward, but Daisuke Matsuzaka’s been around a while and we’re all well aware of what he is. He nibbles and avoids contact to the extreme despite having the stuff (at least pre-surgery) to challenge hitters, which results not just in walks, but also hitter’s counts. Those are the real problem, not so much all the ball fours.

Dice-K isn’t all that young anymore (32 next month) and even in his best years he was a low-4.00s FIP pitcher. He’s also been an extreme fly ball pitcher (career 36.2% grounders) and when you combine that with the walks (4.29 BB/9 and 11.00 BB%) and Yankee Stadium, you’re looking at a lot of multi-run homers. An NL team with a big park like the Dodgers, Giants, or even the Mets makes a ton more sense for Dice-K as a player, who needs to rebuild his value on a one-year deal. Staying in the AL East won’t do that, no matter how buddy-buddy he is with Kuroda. This one’s a definite no for me.

Travis asks: Who is Rule V eligible next offseason?

Marshall via Mike Ashmore.

The general rule of thumb is high schoolers drafted four years ago (2008) and college players drafted three years ago (2009). There are some exceptions, like Corban Joseph. He was a high schooler drafted in 2008 but had to be added last season because he was a little older than most kids when he graduated. Anyway, the big name this year is right-hander Brett Marshall. I’m not his biggest fan but he’s a no-brainer, you add that guy to the 40-man roster. If the Yankees leave him unprotected, he’d be a candidate to go first overall in December’s draft.

The rest of the drafted player crop is highlighted by right-handers Graham Stoneburner and Mikey O’Brien, though I don’t think the Yankees should protect either. I have a hard time believing both could stick on a big league 25-man roster all season. Adding Ryan Pope or Addison Maruszak to the 40-man would be a huge reach as well. Both are having nice years in Double-A but aren’t actual prospects. Fringe guys all the way.

It’s always tougher to tell which international free agent signees are eligible because their exact signing dates are unclear. I’m almost certain outfielder Abe Almonte is Rule 5 eligible this winter and I’m really on the fence about him. He’s been solid in Double-A while batting injury (.353 wOBA) and is a speedy, leadoff type of center fielder. Utility man Jose Pirela may be eligible as well, but I’d have no problem leaving him unprotected. He had a solid year in Double-A overall (.365 wOBA), but he was repeating the level and it was basically just a great first half.

Ultimately, I think the Yankees should only protect Marshall this offseason (among the player that I know are Rule 5 eligible). Almonte, Pirela, O’Brien, and Stoneburner may be capable of helping the Yankees down the line, but they’re unlikely to next season. There are already too many players like that on the 40-man. Sometimes the best way to keep a player is leave them unprotected like Ivan Nova in 2008. He wasn’t big league ready so it was inevitable that he was coming back. Those four are in the exact same boat for me.

Update: Left-hander Nik Turley is the obvious one I missed. He’s Rule 5 eligible as well. Turley’s had a great season (3.36 FIP in High-A) but I think he’s in the exact same situation as Nova a few years ago. Solid pitching prospect but not ready to stick on a big league roster all season. I wouldn’t protect him but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees did.