Mailbag: Grandy, Polanco, Soria, Madson, Martin

Six questions but only four answers this week, the first official mailbag of the 2012-2013 offseason. Remember to please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar for all ‘bag related correspondence.

(Elsa/Getty)

Anonymous asks: Should they decide to trade him, realistically what could the Yankees get for Curtis Granderson?

The Yankees officially exercised Granderson’s no-brainer $15M option earlier this week, and he’s due to become a free agent after next season. He’s hit .247/.337/.506 over the last three seasons and that seems like a decent approximation of his expected 2013 production. Maybe less if you really don’t like him and think strikeouts are the root of all evil. Granderson is a center fielder but not a good one, though he is definitely an above average player signed for one year.

Guys like that don’t get traded all that often, but we do have a decent sample over the last few years, most notably Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Willingham, and Dan Uggla. Granderson is somewhere between Willingham (traded for two prospects, one being an MLB-ready reliever) and Gonzalez (three prospects, two being top 100 guys), which at least gives us a reference point rather than just guessing. He won’t fetch a Carlos Gonzalez type (like Holliday), but I think the Yankees could realistically demand two good prospects for Granderson in a trade. Two guys in a club’s top ten prospects list, for example. Preferably at least one of them would be an MLB-ready outfielder, of course.

Matt asks: What would you think about adding Placido Polanco as a back up utility guy to play the role that Chavez had?

Travis asks: Lets say the Tigers non-tender Ryan Raburn. Is he enough of a utility player for the Yankees? If he is, would he be an upgrade over Jayson Nix?

Might as well lump these two together. Polanco, 37, makes some sense as a backup corner infielder/emergency second baseman depending on his back. He’s missed a bunch of time these last few years with everything from inflammation to soreness to bulging discs. The Yankees would have to look him over really well during the physical. Polanco isn’t anything special on defense, has no power (.075 ISO last three years), no speed (only eight steals), and doesn’t walk (6.3 BB%), but he’s a contact machine who rarely strikes out (.281 AVG last three years with an 8.0 K%). The Yankees can use some of that, it just depends on whether they’re comfortable with his medicals and having a right-handed hitting corner infielder.

As for the 31-year-old Raburn, it would have to be a minor league contract only. I really liked him a few years ago, but he just hasn’t hit at all lately. He broke out with a .285/.348/.498 showing from 2009-2010 (.286/.373/.580 vs. LHP), but these last two years he’s hit just .226/.272/.370 overall (.232/.283/.397 vs. LHP) and been demoted to the minors. Raburn is far more versatile than Polanco, with lots of experience at second and in the outfield corners plus some time at third base as well, but he can’t hit. That 2009-2010 stuff is tantalizing, but I don’t think he’s better than Nix and I wouldn’t give him anything more than a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite.

(Norm Hall/Getty)

GB asks: I see that the options for Joakim Soria and Matt Lindstrom were declined. They seem like good targets to me. Your thoughts?

Lonnie asks: Do you see the Yanks making a play for Soria or Ryan Madson at low-cost deals to possibly close in 2014?

Gonna lump these two together as well, and yes, all three make perfect sense on short-term contracts. Obviously Soria and Madson are elite relievers coming off Tommy John surgery while Lindstrom is healthy and more of a middle reliever/setup man, but the Yankees need some bullpen help and all three offer it.

There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t take Soria or Madson on a one-year, low-base salary, incentive-laden “prove yourself then go out and get that big contract next offseason” contract, but the Royals are talking about re-signing the former while the latter still wants a closing job. The 32-year-old Lindstrom is probably a bit underrated, pitching to a 2.84 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 101 innings over the last two years. He throws very hard but is more of a ground ball guy than a strikeout guy, plus he spent most of this season with the Orioles and has at least some AL East experience. I’d take any and all of these guys on a one-year pact.

Jeb asks: If Brian Cashman offers Russell Martin another 3/20 and he turns it down, would you give him a qualifying offer? Assuming $/fWAR holds and fWAR might not capture his defense, perhaps this is worth the risk?

I wouldn’t worry so much about the $/WAR stuff since the Yankees are on their own little planet there. They’re well beyond the point of diminishing returns, meaning every additional dollar they spend adds less and less in terms of wins. You can only win so many baseball games a year regardless of how much you spend. More money means more probability, not more wins.

Anyway, the catching market is atrocious and that goes double for this offseason. There are two legitimate starting catchers on the free agent market this offseason: Martin and A.J. Pierzynski. Mike Napoli has caught more than 80 games once in a his career (2009) and no more than 70 games in the last three years. Kelly Shoppach hasn’t caught more than 75 games since 2008. Pierzynski turns 36 in December and is coming off a career year, plus he was never anything great on defense and is a world-class asshole. Martin doesn’t hit for average but he draws walks, hits for power, and is a pretty good (if not great) defender. He’s also won’t turn 30 until February.

For most of the season it appeared as though Martin (and his agent) made a huge mistake by not taking that three-year, $20M-something extension last winter, but I bet he gets a similar deal this offseason. There are enough big market teams who need a catchers (Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees) and Russ hasn’t yet gotten into his mid-30s, when catchers usually turned into pumpkins. Hell, Chris Iannetta just signed a three-year, $15.55M extension with the Angels despite hitting .240/.332/.398 while missing a bunch of time due to injury this year, and he didn’t even go on the open market. Martin should be able to find the extra $8-10M out there. I don’t think the Yankees will make him a qualifying offer, but I think it would make some sense. Worst case is he accepts and you’ve got him on expensive one-year contract. Considering the general lack of quality catchers, overpaying Martin for a year is a luxury the Yankees can afford.

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Martin, Teixeira, and Cano among Gold Glove finalists

Russell Martin, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano have been announced as finalists for the Gold Glove Award at their respective positions. Martin is up against Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, and A.J. Pierzynski while Cano will compete with the Dustins — Pedroia and Ackley. Teixeira is up against Eric Hosmer and Adrian Gonzalez, who I assume won’t win since he was traded to the Dodgers in August.

I’m surprised Derek Jeter isn’t a finalist at shortstop considering how well he hit this year. Gold Gloves are more of a popularity contest than an actual measure of defensive excellence. Anyway, the awards will be announced tomorrow night.

Twelve Yankees hit free agency

A total of 137 players around the league officially hit free agency today, including a dozen Yankees: Eric Chavez, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Lowe, Russell Martin, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, and Nick Swisher. Rafael Soriano can join them if he opts out of his contract by Wednesday’s deadline, which seems likely. Feliciano’s inclusion in the list of free agents is an indication that the Yankees have already declined his $4.5M club option. That is not surprising at all after the left-hander threw zero meaningful pitches during his time in pinstripes.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players don’t even have to file for free agency anymore. They just hit the open market. I never understood the point of that anyway. Players are free to sign with new teams starting Saturday. Click here for the full offseason schedule.

Cashman talks Martin, Ibanez

Via Kristie Ackert: Brian Cashman chimed in on the status of both Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez, two of the team’s impending free agents, during a recent radio interview. The Yankees and Cashman love what Martin brings to the table but “me liking him doesn’t guarantee us keeping him.” The backstop turned down a three-year, $20M-something extension offer last year and honestly I would not be surprised if he winds up with something like three years and $27M on the open market. There will be competition for him, specifically from the deep-pocketed Red Sox and Rangers.

Meanwhile, Cashman also seemed to indicate that a second tour of duty for Ibanez was unlikely. He said he was a great one-year signing who hit some massively huge homers, but his price went up and he won’t be as cost effective. The Yankees landed him at a discount last winter because of his poor 2011 season with the Phillies. Raul won’t ever have to buy himself dinner in New York again, but I would have no problem with the team bringing in someone else to DH. Ibanez is the kind of guy you want to get rid of a year too early rather than a year too late.

Notes from Girardi’s end-of-season press conference

(Seth Wenig / AP Photo)

The Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers almost a week ago, but it wasn’t until today that Joe Girardi conducted every manager’s annual end-of-season press conference. He said the team has yet to look back and evaluate the 2012 campaign just because everyone takes a few days off to be with their families and kinda get away from baseball immediately after the season ends. They’ll obviously evaluate the club top to bottom in the coming weeks. Here are the important notes from the press conference…

On Alex Rodriguez

  • “These were things that we evaluated a lot before we made our decisions,” said Girardi when asked about benching A-Rod in the postseason. “I don’t go back and second guess myself.”
  • Girardi has not yet spoken to Alex (or any other player for that matter) about their relationship, but said “that will take place … it just hasn’t yet.” He isn’t worried about things being strained but acknowledged that actions have consequences and he will deal with them if need be.
  • Girardi said he believes A-Rod was healthy in the postseason and was just struggling, particularly against righties.
  • “Can Alex be a very good player again? Absolutely, I don’t have any question in my mind,” said the skipper. He praised A-Rod’s baseball smarts and said he expects him to be his everyday third baseman next season.
  • Chad Jennings has Girardi’s full quotes about A-Rod if you aren’t sick of hearing about it yet.

On the playoffs…

  • “Yes it was somewhat puzzling,” said Girardi on the offense’s struggles. He attributed Robinson Cano‘s disappearing act to being pitched well and just falling into a poorly-timed slump. He did acknowledge that Robbie was frustrated, which likely compounded the problem.
  • Girardi said he doesn’t think the team’s unfavorable postseason schedule contributed to their lack of hitting, ditto all the tough games they had to play down the stretch in September. He basically said he doesn’t believe his team was worn out after a month of playoff-type games.
  • “I hope not,” said Girardi when asked if he may have he lost the trust of some players by sitting them in the postseason. “I was making moves trying to win ballgames … I’ve been honest with our players and I will continue to do that, and I will do my best for this organization to win every game.”
  • Girardi attributed the dull Yankee Stadium atmosphere in the postseason to a lack of scoring on the team’s part, nothing more. “I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees (because) we see it even on the road.”

On injuries…

  • “(It has) not taken place,” said Girardi when asked if CC Sabathia has gone to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. He is encouraged by his ace left-hander’s performance in September and the ALDS and he expects to have him in Spring Training. “We’re always concerned that it’s maybe something more than you think it is … I don’t like people going to see doctors (but) sometimes people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is okay.”
  • “We expect him to be back and playing for us next year on Opening Day,” said Girardi about Derek Jeter and his fractured ankle. He added that there are always concerns following a surgery, including Jeter pushing his rehab too hard and having some kind of setback.
  • Mariano Rivera did throw sooner than expected this year but Girardi never did ask him if he will definitely return next season. “I don’t think you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in coming back,” he said.
  • There were no undisclosed or “hidden” injuries this year, so to speak. Russell Martin‘s hands are banged up but that is typical catcher stuff and isn’t a long-term concern.
  • Both hitting coach Kevin Long (elbow) and third base coach Rob Thomson (hip) will have surgery this offseason, if you care.

On free agents and the team moving forward, etc…

  • “There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him,” said Girardi about Andy Pettitte, but he doesn’t know if the veteran southpaw will return next year. He expects him to discuss things with his family before making a decision.
  • He mentioned briefly that like Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda is among the players who will make a decision about his future and playing beyond this year.
  • Girardi said he was unsure about Ichiro Suzuki coming back next year but he knows the veteran outfielder enjoyed his time in New York. He also praised Ichiro for making adjustments like playing left field and batting towards the bottom of the order.
  • “I think this kid has something to offer us,” said the manager about Eduardo Nunez while also acknowledging that his role for next year is undetermined because other parts of the club are unsettled. “There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, he has a lot to offer.”
  • “There’s a lot of players we have to decide what we’re going to do with, but I believe when Spring Training starts next year, we’ll be a championship club,” said Girardi, acknowledging that the team has a lot of players with open contract situations.
  • He also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter (i.e. Nick Swisher) if that happens this winter.
  • Girardi acknowledged that the team has a busy offseason coming but doesn’t expect the chaos to be a problem. “Sometimes quiet is a bad thing,” he joked.

On the status of him and his coaches…

  • “No. The pressure you see I put on myself,” said Girardi when asked about the pressure of entering a contract year. He doesn’t expect the team to talk about a new deal until his current one expires and he doesn’t anticipate asking for an extension before then either.
  • Girardi expects the entire coaching staff to return next year but again pointed out that the team has not yet discussed everything.

Miscellaneous…

  • Girardi praised his role players for stepping up into more prominent roles than expected this year, mentioning Raul Ibanez, David Phelps, and Cody Eppley by name.
  • When asked about Cano’s general lack of hustle down the line to first base, Girardi said he “will address with every player to play hard.”