Winter Meetings Day Two Open Thread

(Elsa/Getty)

The Winter Meetings are only a day old, but they have yet to bring anything resembling good news to the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez will undergo surgery to repair some serious damage in his left hip next month, which will cause him to miss the start of the season. Now the club has to add a stopgap third baseman to a shopping list that already includes a starting right fielder, a starting catcher, a DH, a bench, and various depth players. Thankfully Spring Training is still more than two months away.

Joe Girardi will meet with the media at 5:30 ET today, but those things usually lack major news. Either way, I’ll have a recap. We’ll keep track of all the Yankees-related rumors and rumblings throughout the day right here, so make sure you check back in. Here are Monday’s rumors and here are today’s, with the latest up top (all times are ET):

  • 8:56pm: The Yankees have asked to see Youkilis’ medicals, though the two sides remain far apart on the dollars. I do not like where this is going. [Barbarisi]
  • 8:19pm: The Yankees remain in the mix for Scott Hairston. [Rosenthal]
  • 7:25pm: Brian Cashman confirmed that they’ve had conversations with both Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • 7:06pm: The Yankees are one of several teams with interest in Mark Reynolds. [Heyman]
  • 7:05pm: Updated demands! Keppinger is reportedly seeking $12M across three years now. [Heyman]
  • 6:02pm: The Yankees don’t want to break the bank on a third baseman even on a one-year deal. They’re nowhere close on money with Youkilis. [Curry]
  • 4:15pm: The Yankees have met with Chavez’s agent at some point during the Winter Meetings and expressed an interest in re-signing him for next season. This was inevitable following A-Rod‘s injury. [Ken Davidoff]
  • 3:33pm: Scutaro is seeking $24M across three years (!) while Keppinger is seeking $8M across two years. They’re basically the same player except Keppinger is five years younger. [Olney & Ken Rosenthal]
  • 2:01pm: The Yankees have “very strong” interest in Jeff Keppinger and met with his representatives yesterday. The A-Rod injury accelerated their timetable. [Jeff Passan]
  • 1:15pm: Kevin Youkilis is the top third baseman on the free agent market and the Yankees have spoken to his agent. The long-time Red Sox player is apparently open to a one-year contract if the money is good enough. [Jack Curry]
  • 12:55pm: The Yankees have checked in on Shane Victorino, who figures to get multiple years. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • 12:44pm: The Yankees have “likely interest” in Marco Scutaro, which means no one really knows if they have interest and are just guessing in the wake of A-Rod’s injury. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 9:43am: The Yankees are talking to multiple nameless third base candidates. Speculate at your own risk. [Heyman]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees are open to discussing Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes in trades. I wrote about what they could expect in return for their center fielder in a mailbag a few months ago, and I have a hard time seeing a realistic deal that would be worthwhile. [Buster Olney & Joel Sherman]
  • Although he intends to play in 2013, the Yankees have yet to talk to Eric Chavez about a new contract for next season. That figures to change pretty quickly in the wake of A-Rod’s injury. [Sherman]
  • Depending on who you ask, the Yankees either are or are not in on Yunel Escobar. I suppose they could have checked in before backing off. Considering their emphasis on strong makeup and character, I can’t imagine they would push hard to acquire him unless he came dirt cheap. [Jon Heyman, Jayson Stark & Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

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Heyman: Yankees believed to have interest in Shane Victorino

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are one of seven teams “believed” to have interest in free agent outfielder Shane Victorino. I wrote a Scouting The Market piece on the Flyin’ Hawaiian last week, so check that out. Heyman says several clubs are prepared to offer Victorino a three-year contract, and if that’s true you can forget about him replacing Nick Swisher in right field. No way the Yankees will offer that.

In other hot stove news, Jeff Keppinger recently suffered a broken leg during a fall in his home according to Heyman. It’s a small crack in his right fibula near his calf, and he’s expected to be ready in plenty of time for Spring Training following surgery. The Yankees have interest in the infielder, and coincidentally enough, their attempt to acquire him from the Astros two years ago was interrupted by another injury, that one a foot problem requiring surgery.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Shane Victorino

(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Plugging the right field hole left by the eventually departed Nick Swisher is going to be one of the Yankees’ biggest challenges this winter, especially given their self-inflicted payroll cap heading into next season. Top free agents like Hamilton, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, and even Swisher would look wonderful in pinstripes next year, but the team is unlikely to spend the kind of dough required to reel them in. They’ll instead mine the bargain bin.

One free agent outfielder whose stock is down coming off a subpar year is Shane Victorino, who will turn 32 in a little more than a week. The rebuilding-ish Phillies traded him to the Dodgers at the deadline, but he only hit .245/.316/.351 (88 wRC+) in 235 plate appearances with Los Angeles to close out the season. By late-September he was losing playing time to former Yankee Juan Rivera, among others. Victorino is just one year removed from a 13th place finish in the MVP voting though, so let’s see if he has enough left in the tank to help the Yankees.

The Pros

  • Just a .255/.321/.383 (94 wRC+) hitter in 2012, Victorino is one year removed from a .279/.355/.491 (133 wRC+) effort. He owns a 109 wRC+ over the last three seasons and crushes left-handers: .323/.388/.518 (148 wRC+) in this year and .318/.396/.550 (157 wRC+) since 2010.
  • Victorino definitely qualifies as a contact hitter, striking out just 12.0% of the time this season and 11.7% of the time over the last three seasons. His contact rates (86.8% in 2012 and 86.7% since 2010) are strong as well.
  • You’re going to get some walks in addition to that contact as well. He walked in 8.0% of his plate appearances this year and 8.5% since 2010, which is basically league average. Many contact guys are hackers, but not Victorino. He also stole 39 bases this year (87% success rate) and has topped 25 steals five times in the last six years.
  • Victorino remains a strong defensive outfielder, doing his best work in the corners even though he’s more than capable of playing center. His throwing arm isn’t the strongest in the world, but he gets rid of the ball quick and is pretty accurate.
  • For what it’s worth, Victorino plays really hard and that’s always pleasing to the eye. He also has plenty of pennant race and postseason experience given his time with the Phillies.
  • Because he was traded at midseason, the Dodgers could not make Victorino a qualifying offer and thus he won’t require draft pick compensation to sign. I doubt they would have offered anyway.

The Cons

  • Obviously Victorino’s offense took a step back this season, and his struggles come exclusively against right-handers. He hit just .229/.296/.333 (73 wRC+) against righties this year and .244/.311/.390 (91 wRC+) since 2010.
  • Although he avoided the disabled list this season, Victorino has been on the DL three times in the last three years and four times in the last five years. They were all minor strains (thumb, oblique, thigh, calf), but he tends to get banged up by playing so hard. Call it Slade Heathcott Syndrome.

The Pros greatly outweigh the Cons, but the inability to hit right-handers is pretty significant. He can’t hit righties despite being a switch-hitter, meaning he’d be relegated to the short end of the platoon stick. Perhaps the friendly right field porch in Yankee Stadium improves his output from the left side of the plate, but he’s not a big fly ball guy to begin with. He’s a line drive/ground ball guy who uses his speed to reach base. Being unable to hit righties is a pretty huge negative.

We haven’t even reached the Winter Meetings yet, and already we’ve seen two good but flawed outfielders since lucrative multi-year contracts. Torii Hunter landed two guaranteed years from the Tigers despite being 37 years old while Melky Cabrera received two years from the Blue Jays coming off a PED-related suspension. The market is flush with cash and teams seem willing to give that extra year to get their man. The Yankees, however, are fixated on one-year contracts in an effort to get under the luxury tax threshold in 2014.

That commitment to one-year deals hurts their chances to sign Victorino, who will presumably get offered starter money (and playing time) at some point this offseason. He would be the absolute perfect platoon guy/fourth outfielder for New York though given his ability to mash lefties, play all three outfield spots, run, and make contact. The Yankees have had success getting veteran players to take on reduced roles on one-year contracts in recent years, but Victorino strikes me as too young for that. I’d love to see them grab him as an Andruw Jones replacement on a one-year deal, even if they wind up paying him like $8M, but I have a hard time seeing those terms working for the player.

Heyman: Yankees exploring outfield market

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Yankees have been without Brett Gardner for all but nine games this season and they still have some concerns about his elbow injury according to Jon Heyman. He adds that they’re exploring the outfield trade market — moreso than the pitching market — and have spoken to the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton (yay!) and the Phillies about Shane Victorino (meh). Gardner will be back no earlier than July 27th.

I’ve written about Upton a few times in the past, including in last week’s mailbag. As I said when we first learned he was on the block, he’s the rare player you gut the farm system to acquire. Young (24!), right-handed power, speed, favorable contract … Upton offers it all. Unfortunately the Yankees are on his no-trade list and Heyman calls it a “major long shot.” Victorino, on the other hand, is a pure rental. The 31-year-old is having the worst offensive season of his career (93 wRC+) but is still a switch-hitter with speed (19 steals in 21 chances) and very good defense. Victorino is owed roughly $4.5M the rest of the season and will become a free agent this winter.

The Bombers have gotten by with Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones in left field during Gardner’s absence, but Heyman says they are concerned about wear-and-tear as the veteran duo spend more time in the field than anticipated. Victorino would be a fine fill-in if Gardner suffers a third setback, but as Brian Cashman said yesterday, the trade costs for even marginal upgrades are prohibitive at the moment. I doubt the Phillies will take a pair of Grade-B prospects for their center fielder when they can just recoup a pair of high draft pick after the season.

Heyman says the Yankees will monitor the Cole Hamels situation, but we’ve already heard that they have “no intention” of getting involved in a bidding war. They’ve also scouted Francisco Liriano recently, presumably since he’s returned to the rotation and has pitched exceptionally well. With CC Sabathia due back tomorrow, David Phelps stashed away in Triple-A, and Andy Pettitte scheduled to return in September, New York shouldn’t be desperate to add a starter. Frankly they need another quality reliever more than anything.