Martino: Yankees continue to monitor Hanrahan

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Outside of Matt Thornton and some minor league pickups, the Yankees didn’t do much to improve their bullpen this past offseason. David Robertson will take over as closer but the team did not replace Mariano Rivera in the sense that they lost an elite reliever and didn’t pick up anyone to take his spot. New York has a bunch of interesting young guys in camp and Joe Girardi always seems to cobble together a good bullpen out of nowhere, so it might not even be a problem.

The Yankees signed former All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to a minor league contract over the weekend, but that move is geared more towards 2015 than 2014. He is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule (and labrum!) and both Girardi and Brian Cashman confirmed that if he does pitch this year, it won’t be until late-August or September. According to Andy Martino, the Yankees have been monitoring two other relievers who are returning from injury and could provide more immediate help:

It turns out the Yanks sent a scout to a recent showcase for former Phillies closer Ryan Madson, according to a source — and while impressed by Madson’s arm after two years of rough recovery from Tommy John surgery, the team considered his asking price excessive.

The Yankees also continue to monitor another another former All-Star, Joel Hanrahan, who underwent Tommy John last year (the Mets have also watched him throw a bullpen session).  If Robertson is successful, a player like Hanrahan would probably serve as a setup man.

Madson is the rare Tommy John surgery failure story — he had the procedure two years ago and has not pitched since due to continued setbacks and complications. The 33-year-old has been working out for teams for a few weeks now and there have been no reports of his asking price, whatever it may be. After two lost years, I’ve been assuming he would have to take a minor league deal like Bailey. I guess he’s shooting for more since he’s in a better position to help a team right away.

Hanrahan, 32, not only had Tommy John surgery last May, he also had his flexor tendon repaired and bone chips removed from his elbow. They did all three procedures at once and while he is currently throwing off a mound, Hanrahan isn’t expected to be game ready until May or June. There’s a chance he will be ready sooner rather than later just because he’s a one-inning reliever and won’t have to get stretched back out like a starter.

Given his timetable and the nature of his injury, Hanrahan might be the best 2014 bullpen option among himself, Bailey, and Madson. We know Bailey won’t be able to help until late in the year, if at all. Madson hasn’t pitched in two years and since he’s already had so many setbacks with the elbow, I don’t think you can count on him to be healthy and productive until he’s actually on a big league mound being healthy and productive. All three guys were elite when they were last healthy, but Hanrahan’s injury is the least severe. (They’re all severe, obviously.)

The Yankees have been signing injured pitchers and waiting for them to get healthy for years. They did it with Jon Lieber (worked out) and Octavio Dotel (didn’t work out) back in the day and with David Aardsma (didn’t work out) more recently. Bailey is the latest example and if Madson’s demands remain excessive for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in two years, Hanrahan could be the next. With nothing but scraps left on the free agent market and teams not really looking to trade relievers at the moment, he is their best option for potential high-end bullpen help in the near future.

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A look at the reclamation project reliever market

Bailey. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Bailey. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

In 19 days, we will know where Masahiro Tanaka will pitch next season one way or another. He’ll either sign with an MLB club or return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for another season. The Yankees are expected to be heavily involved in the bidding for Tanaka, and, until his January 24th signing deadline passes, the right-hander figures to dominate the hot stove headlines.

The Bombers definitely need another starter — you can argue they need two more starters, really — and that is the top priority right now, but they also need bullpen help. Quite a bit of bullpen help, really. The Yankees have already signed lefty Matt Thornton to a two-year deal but he is just a lefty specialist at this point of his career. They could use another non-specialist — someone who can get both lefties and righties out — to pair with David Robertson and Shawn Kelley. Someone to knock the Dellin Betanceses and Preston Claibornes of the world down a peg.

We’ve already looked at Grant Balfour, who would be a great bullpen addition after his deal with the Orioles fell through. Great as long as the medicals check out, I mean. Other big-ish name relievers available in free agency are Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodney, and former Yankee Luis Ayala. That’s … not very appealing. There are also plenty of reclamation project types though, guys coming off injury and/or poor performance who could sign relatively cheap. Maybe even on a minor league deal. Here’s a run down of the reclamation project lot.

Andrew Bailey
Bailey, 29, is a New Jersey native who was one of the very best relievers in baseball while with the Athletics from 2009-2011 (2.07 ERA and 2.74 FIP). The last two years with the Red Sox have been a struggle both performance-wise (4.91 ERA and 4.68 FIP) and physically, as thumb and shoulder surgery have sidelined him.

Bailey had surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule in late-July and the next pitcher to come back from a torn capsule to be even league average will be the first. Its list of victims includes Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Prior, Rich Harden, Johan Santana, and John Danks. Given the timing of the surgery, it’s unlikely Bailey will be able to pitch at all in 2014. At least not enough to make a real impact.

Mitchell Boggs
Two seasons ago, the 29-year-old Boggs was a key cog in the Cardinals’ bullpen as they advanced to the NLCS (2.21 ERA and 3.42 FIP). Last season was a total disaster (8.10 ERA and 7.42 FIP) as he lost the strike zone (7.71 BB/9 and 16.7 BB%) and found himself back in Triple-A, where he wasn’t much better (6.07 ERA and 5.09 FIP).

Boggs wasn’t hurt in 2013, he was just terrible. He’s always been a hard-throwing guy with sketchy command, but everything fell apart last year. The Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Indians, and Mariners are among the clubs with interest in him according to Jayson Stark. The Cardinals know pitching as well as anyone, and if they cut ties with Boggs — they traded him to the Rockies for a small amount of international spending money in July — he might not be salvageable.

Octavio Dotel
The 40-year-old Dotel was still going strong in 2012, when he had a 3.57 ERA and 2.30 FIP for the Tigers. He was limited to only 4.2 innings last year thanks to elbow inflammation that which required platelet-rich plasma treatment, according to Bob Nightengale. Dotel hoped to be healthy in time to showcase himself in winter ball, but that didn’t happen. Given his age and injury, Dotel is as risky as it gets. Add in his career-long problems with lefties — he’s basically a right-handed specialist — and there’s even more reason to be skeptical.

Hanrahan. (J. Meric/Getty)
Hanrahan. (J. Meric/Getty)

Joel Hanrahan
The Red Sox acquired Hanrahan last winter and he lasted only 7.1 innings before blowing out his elbow in mid-May and needing not only Tommy John surgery, but also surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and remove bone chips from his elbow. Before getting hurt, he was awesome with the 2011 Pirates (1.83 ERA and 2.18 FIP) and slightly less awesome with the 2012 Pirates (2.72 ERA and 4.45 FIP).

Hanrahan, 32, is currently throwing off a mound as part of his rehab and he plans to showcase himself for teams in Spring Training, so says Tim Dierkes. Elbows are generally fixable and Hanrahan has always been a high-strikeout (career 9.29 K/9 and 24.0 K%) guy with no substantial platoon split. His experience as a closer is a plus, but, given the Yankees’ bullpen situation, not exactly a requirement at this point.

Ryan Madson
Elbows are generally fixable like I said, but Madson is the exception. The 33-year-old had Tommy John surgery in April 2012 and has not pitched since due to rehab and subsequent setbacks. He had another surgery last May to clean out scar tissue. Madson, who was unreal before getting hurt (2.78 ERA and 2.74 FIP from 2009-2011), has been holding private workouts for teams in recent weeks according to Jon Heyman. There’s really not much more he can do at this point. He’s a total unknown after missing two full years.

Eric O’Flaherty
O’Flaherty, 28, is the only left-hander in this post. He was stellar with the Braves from 2010-2012 (1.59 ERA and 2.98 FIP) because he dominated lefties (.219 wOBA against) and held his own against righties (.293 wOBA against). O’Flaherty blew out his elbow late last May and had Tommy John surgery, which figures to keep him out until midseason 2014.

The Braves have been talking with their former southpaw about a reunion all winter, and a few days ago Dave O’Brien said talks were still ongoing. With Thornton slated to be the top lefty come Opening Day, the Yankees can afford to be patient and wait for O’Flaherty — who is more than just a matchup southpaw, remember — to be ready at midseason. It’s worth noting O’Flaherty and former teammate Brian McCann are very good friends — McCann said he took #34 with the Yankees to honor O’Flaherty — which could give New York a recruiting edge.

* * *

The price for reclamation projects has gone up in recent years, just like it has for all free agents. Getting these guys on minor league contracts is the best case scenario but it might not be possible at this point. Bailey’s shoulder injury really scares me and the fact and he’s unlikely to help much in 2014 makes him an easy pass in my opinion. Hanrahan and O’Flaherty are the most appealing to me with Madson a distant third.

The Yankees can use some more certainty in the bullpen right now and none of these guys provides it. I think they need to add another reliever (or two) who they can count on to be ready for Opening Day. If they could snag someone like that plus, say, Hanrahan on a one-year deal (with an option, ideally) and treat him as a midseason pickup, great. I’d rather not see the Yankees treat a reclamation project as Plan A, however.

Angels, Madson set the market for Soria

The Angels have signed Ryan Madson to a one-year contract according to multiple reports, and the deal will pay the right-hander a $3.5M base salary. He can earn another $2.5M in roster bonuses (based on days on the active roster) and $1M in incentives (bases on games finished).

The 32-year-old Madson was one of two formerly-elite relievers recovering from Tommy John surgery on the free agent market this winter, joining Joakim Soria. Soria, 28, has indicated a willingness to setup for the Yankees just so he could be around his idol Mariano Rivera, and now we have an idea of what it would take to sign him. Soria is several years younger than Madson with a much longer track record in the closer’s role (saves pay) though, but he’s also coming off his second Tommy John surgery. It would be a pretty big coup if the Yankees could add him to their bullpen with a similarly structured contract, say a one-year deal worth $5M with another $3M in bonuses.

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.

Thinking Out Loud: The Tommy John Bullpen

(Madson via The Cincinnati Enquirer; Soria via Getty)

It’s been a pretty rough month for big name relief pitchers. Not only did Joba Chamberlain suffer an open dislocation of his right ankle, but both Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria blew out their pitching elbows. Those two guys will have Tommy John surgery in the very near future. Forgive me while I indulge myself a bit, but wouldn’t it be something if the Yankees bought low on both Madson and Soria next offseason? We can all dream a little.

* * *

Based on how he’s been talking in camp, Mariano Rivera is likely to call it a career after this season. It’ll be a very sad day whenever Mo hangs ‘em up, but it is inevitable. The Yankees do have two ready-made closer replacements already in-house, specifically Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Who knows what we’ll be saying ten months from now, but at the moment those two are more than qualified for ninth inning work. The Yankees will still have to replace a dominant reliever though, and both Madson and Soria qualify as dominant relievers when healthy.

Madson, 31, signed a one-year pillow contract with the Reds this offseason, so he’ll again be a free agent next offseason coming off elbow surgery. Needless to say, the big multi-year offers won’t be rolling in. Soria, 27, is at the whim of the Royals. They can either pick up his $8M option for 2013 or cut him loose and let him become a free agent for the first time in his career. Again, it’s safe to assume those big multi-year contract offers won’t be rolling in for the Mexecutioner. Sucks for them, but that’s how this baseballing thing works.

This is Soria’s second Tommy John procedure, and the two-timers don’t have a great track record of recovery. Chris Capuano and Hong-Chih Kuo are the two most notable success stories. For the sake of argument, let’s assume Kansas City decides not to sink 15-20% of its payroll into Soria and lets him walk. The Yankees could look at both guys on one-year contracts, allowing them to re-establish themselves as dominant late-game relievers before hitting the open market after the season in search of that big multi-year deal they won’t get next winter. One-year pacts would still allow the Yankees to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014.

Let’s say they could get both Madson and Soria on one-year, $3M contracts with incentives. Add in David Aardsma, who the Yankees can retain in 2013 for just $500k, and that’s three Tommy John guys in the bullpen. Joba could make it four depending on how the ankle injury impacts his elbow rehab schedule. Now, not all of those guys would work out. We may think it’s routine, but elbow ligament replacement surgery is a serious procedure. Two of those four guys may flame out and be completely ineffective, but if the other two guys get back to being their pre-Tommy John selves, the Yankees would still come out ahead in the whole production vs. cost thing.

Anyway, I’m just thinking out loud. Everyone loves the idea of landing a super-talented player on the cheap as they come off injury (hence all the Grady Sizemore-related mailbag questions this winter) but that’s because we’re not the ones assuming the risk. The team has to pay them real money to pitch real innings, and coming off serious surgery like that is no piece of cake. A bullpen staff of Madson, Soria, Joba, Robertson, Soriano, and Aardsma is drool-worthy regardless of who ends up closing, and there’s no harm dreaming about it. We are Yankees fans, after all.

Yankees in a “holding pattern” with regards to pitching

Earlier today we learned that the Yankees will reevaluate their budget in the coming weeks, and tonight the Jons (Heyman and Morosi) report that the team is in a “holding pattern” with regards to its pitching search. They are still in touch with Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, and Roy Oswalt, but they just don’t like the asking prices. They are not interested in Ryan Madson, however. So in other words … nothing new to report.

Thinking Out Loud: Ryan Madson

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

January has a way of making baseball fans go a little crazy, as the hot stove cools down while the light at the end of the offseason tunnel isn’t bright enough to start counting down the days just yet. We pass the days with trade ideas that will never materialize and by dissecting every last inch of the roster just in case we missed something the first three times we did it. The Yankees roster is set for the most part, aside from the bench and maybe another starting pitcher, so forgive me as I throw something against the wall: the Yankees should look into signing Ryan Madson as a starter.

Madson, as you know, is hung out to dry as a free agent closer at the moment, sorta like Rafael Soriano was last winter. Both are Scott Boras clients too, so they have more than one thing in comment. Unlike Soriano though, no one will have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Madson, who is one of those funny Modified Type-A Free Agents per the new CBA. He also doesn’t have the same history of elbow problems, though Madson is no stranger to the DL himself. He missed about four weeks this past season with a hand contusion, about two months last year after he broke his toe kicking a chair, and another two months in 2007 with a shoulder strain.

So Madson is just sitting out there begging to be signed. Just about every big market team has an established closer, so the demand for his services doesn’t appear to be great. Please note that we said the same exact thing about Soriano at this time last year. There has been speculation that he might be willing to take a one-year deal in hopes of hitting free agency next offseason as the top free agent closer, but nothing more concrete than that. Boras has gone for these “pillow contracts” before, namely with Adrian Beltre and Carlos Pena, and he knows that he and his client would make a ton more money if he hits free agency as an effective starter next year. Just watch what Edwin Jackson (another Boras guy!) will get compared to what the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon this winter.

Madson, 30, has the requisite three pitches to start, though he doesn’t use his slider all that much in relief. He’s a fastball-changeup specialist like Ricky Romero, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jaime Garcia. Those three rely on their top two offerings heavily and mix in a breaking ball roughly 8-10% of the time. Madson has started before, all throughout the minors and for 17 generally ugly starts in 2006, so he has some experience in the role. He hasn’t been over 100 IP since 2006, but 30-year-old pitchers are well past the point of coddling. Fatigue down the stretch would be an obvious concern, but I think that applies to all pitchers these days. I don’t put too much stock into this stuff, but he has pitched in a small park and in the playoffs and World Series and all that. Can’t hurt.

The table to the right shows Madson’s semi-projected stats as a starter using his last three seasons and the Rule of 17. Walk rate has historically held constant when moving between roles, but strikeout rate, homer rate (in terms of homers per plate appearances with contact), and BABIP all decline by approximately 17% with the move into the rotation. That projected performance — 22.3 K%, 6.5 BB%, 2.9 HR%, and .360 BABIP — is right in line with what CC Sabathia (23.4 K%, 6.2 BB%, 2.5 HR%) and Felix Hernandez (23.0 K%, 7.0 BB%, 2.8 HR/9) did in 2011, save that sky-high BABIP (.318 and .307, respectively). Now I highly doubt Madson would turn into another CC or Felix if he’s plugged into the rotation, but the point is that he’s an elite reliever that figures to be a pretty good starter even though his perfprmance will take a hit with the transition.

Like I said, I’m just thinking out loud here. If Boras and Madson are willing to take a straight one-year deal with no options for like, $8-10M, then I think I’d prefer to see the Yankees go this route rather than sink multiple years or too many prospects into Edwin Jackson or Matt Garza or someone like that. Theoretically, if it doesn’t work out, you can just dump him in the bullpen for the remainder of the season and employ the world’s most overqualified sixth inning guy (though Madson is better than either Soriano or David Robertson in my eyes). The odds of a move like this happening are basically zero though, especially since the Yankees already have a prime bullpen-to-rotation candidate that they’ve decided not to employ. It’s probably just the crazy January air talking, but Madson as a starter makes a tiny bit of sense for both parties.