Archive for Tim Lincecum
Rapid fire mailbag this week, so ten questions and ten answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Max asks: At what point should we worry about Robinson Cano‘s bad lefty splits going forward? He’s hitting .254/.299/.476 against lefties this year and had a .239/.309/.337 line last year. Sure, he still mashes righties but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of giving a potential platoon player a megadeal. Thanks.
Oh it’s definitely a red flag right. Cano hit lefties nearly as well as he hit righties until last season, when his performance fell off a cliff. I looked at the data as part of our season review and didn’t find any significant red flags. This year though, both his ground ball (56.3%) and strikeout (22.4%) rates are way up against southpaws. That could change in a hurry since it’s so early in the season. If that continues into the summer, I’d be very worried. Giving a super-long contract to a middle infielder is risky enough, and it would be even worse if he’s morphed into a platoon bat. Not worried yet, but I will be watching this.
Steve asks: Single-season saves record is Francisco Rodriguez at 62. Mariano Rivera is on pace for 66. What are the odds he does it?
This isn’t really a Mo thing, right? The other 24 players on the team have to create those save opportunities for him. They’d have to give him like, 67 save chances over the full season to get to 62 saves, which means another 51 save chances in the final 121 games of the year. It’s doable, the Yankees play a ton of close games because their pitching is good and their offense mostly stinks (94 wRC+!), but only twice has someone saved more than 55 games in one year. I think the odds are very small, maybe 5% on the high-end.
Vinny asks: Assuming Travis Hafner gets and stays healthy (big assumption), what will the Yankees do with Lyle Overbay whenever Mark Teixeira comes back? His performance against righties has been excellent.
His performance against righties has been excellent (160 wRC+), but so has Hafner’s (151 wRC+). Pronk also does a much better job of holding his own against southpaws (98 wRC+, where Overbay has been basically useless (-21 wRC+). Their overall hitting numbers aren’t particularly close either (106 vs. 139 wRC+). The Yankees will have to decide if Overbay’s advantages on defense and durability make up the difference in offensive production. Considering he’s a first baseman and first baseman only, I think the answer is clearly no.
I definitely think they will see what they have internally first. That means Vidal Nuno and maybe even Josh Spence in addition to Rapada and Cabral. If those guys all manage to flop — or if Boone Logan gets hurt — in the coming weeks, yeah I could see them looking for lefty relief help at the deadline. It definitely isn’t a pressing need right now.
KG asks: Would the Yankees have the interest/package to trade for Nick Franklin? He may not end up a bonafide major league shortstop, but the Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second and Brad Miller just behind Franklin. Pipe dream?
I’m sure there would be some interest on New York’s part, but I don’t see why the Mariners would move him right now. He’s tearing up the Triple-A level (159 wRC+) and even though he’s unlikely to be a shortstop long-term, he’s much better than their big league shortstops. Ackley is awful but they won’t give up on him yet, but Miller is far from a sure thing. I think the Mariners will call Franklin up in the coming weeks and give him a chance. The only thing the Yankees have to offer are a bunch High-A and Double-A outfielders, none of whom is performing particularly well this year. I don’t really see a trade fit.
Anonymous asks: With Seattle having uber-catching prospect Mike Zunino just about ready for the show — any chance Seattle will take offers for Jesus Montero? What would the Yankees have to give to reacquire Jesus?
Teams usually aren’t quick to admit failure after a trade of that magnitude, so I don’t think Seattle would be open to moving Montero so soon without getting a big piece in return. They’re not going to sell-low and take two Grade-C prospects despite his dismal big league performance. The Yankees could stick him at DH, teach him first base, catch him on rare occasions … basically everything they could have done when he was with the organization. I don’t see this happening at all.
Anonymous asks: Do you believe the Yankees are planning to trade Joba Chamberlain for pieces around the deadline, considering the Yankees’ surplus of middle relief options? Joba could bring back a cost-controlled piece.
He’s an injury-prone middle reliever who will be a free agent after the season. You don’t get “pieces” in return for that, and the only cost-controlled piece he’ll bring back in a mid-level prospect. Joba’s value to the Yankees as a seventh inning reliever is much greater than anything they’ll realistically get in return. Teams aren’t giving up anything worthwhile for him, I know I wouldn’t.
Mike asks: Sort of a two-part David Aardsma question now that the Marlins released him. Firstly, why are teams not giving him a shot in the Majors, and secondly, would it make sense for the Yanks to go pick him up again?
I don’t know why he hasn’t been given a big league shot yet, but I don’t believe it’s because he’s been overlooked. Teams know Aardsma, and anytime a former standout closer becomes a free agent, he gets looked into. They must not like what they’ve seen, either in his stuff or command — he did walk eight in 14 innings before the release, which he requested — or whatever. If Aardsma wants to come back to the organization and pitch in Triple-A for a few weeks, great. I wouldn’t give him a big league job over Shawn Kelley or Preston Claiborne (or Joba) right now though.
Tuckers asks: I know it’s too soon to predict, but what do you think about the Yankees signing Tim Lincecum after the season? I think there’s a good argument to be made either way.
My answer at this exact moment is no. That is subject to change between now and the offseason, but his velocity continues to hover around 90 mph and his offspeed stuff isn’t as devastating as it was when he was 93-95. His walk (4.25 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (0.92 HR/FB and 15.6% HR/FB) rates are career-worsts, and that’s in a big park in the NL. The Yankees do a wonderful job of squeezing production from seemingly cooked veterans, but I don’t think Lincecum is coming on a cheap one-year deal. So yeah, right now my answer is no. If he adds some velocity this summer, my opinion will change.
Brad asks: So the Yankees seem to have a glut of serviceable, young starting pitchers. Is there a deal out there for them to turn some quantity of these into an impact bat?
I don’t think so. I don’t see any team giving up an impact back for guys like Ivan Nova and David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Two or three projected fifth starters doesn’t get you one really good bat. Maybe they could get a David Adams type, but that wouldn’t qualify as an impact bat in my opinion.
Remember when I said I would like to do a rapid fire mailbag featuring a lot of questions and short answers? I’m doing that now. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Joe asks: Do you think it’s a possibility the Yankees and Dodgers swap A-Rod for Carl Crawford?
The Red Sox put a ridiculous clause in Crawford’s contract prohibiting teams from trading him to the Yankees after they acquired him from Boston, so a trade isn’t possible. Even if it was, I don’t think the Dodgers would go for it. They’d probably rather add Alex Rodriguez to Crawford and go all-in than sell-off an undervalued asset. I think Crawford can come back and be a very good outfielder again, but it just won’t be with the Yankees.
John asks: Do you think this postseason has changed the mindset of ownership on Robinson Cano? There is no question he is a great hitter but this was an opportunity to make this his team and he has totally failed. Also with history of second basemen, do you think they will not sign a new deal?
I don’t expect the Yankees to change their long-term opinion of Cano based on one postseason, and frankly they shouldn’t. It’s not like Robbie has never hit in the playoffs (he mashed in October from 2010-2011), it’s just an ill-timed (and really ugly) slump. Barring a catastrophic injury or a total collapse in performance, I fully expect the Yankees to sign Cano to a massive extension at some point in the next 12-14 months.
Mat asks: Is Lance Berkman a viable one-year stop gap? Granted he’s coming off an injury but a one-year deal could make sense. With Michael Pineda needing time to heal and question marks about rotation, is Edwin Jackson another possibility? Finally with his versatility would Marco Scutaro make sense? He can back up 2B, 3B and SS and he’s still showing he can hit for average.
No on Berkman, his knees are so bad that he’s considering retirement because he can’t run anymore. That would be too much of a risk for the Yankees to take. I do consider Jackson an option regardless of Pineda’s status, but I think the team would look to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte to one-year deals first. That’s what I would prefer. I’m a Scutaro fan but he’ll sign somewhere that guarantees him a spot in the everyday lineup, likely back with the Giants. Maybe he becomes more of an option if A-Rod is actually traded somewhere. He’d be a great fit though.
Travis asks: Would the Yankees be interested in Scott Baker, Blake Hawksworth, or Mike Pelfrey (if he is non-tendered) this coming offseason?
I’ll say yes on Baker and Hawksworth but not on Pelfrey. Baker would have to be a minor league contract only since he missed all of this season and wasn’t exactly Mr. Durable prior to having elbow surgery. Hawksworth has a nice arm but is just a reliever (he missed 2012 with a shoulder injury), so adding him on a minor league deal and stashing him in Triple-A for depth is fine with me. Pelfrey just flat-out isn’t that good and I don’t expect the light bulb to turn on after Tommy John surgery. He could be a bargain for an NL team in a big park, but not the Yankees.
Kyle asks: Hey Mike, I saw Ryan Ludwick declined his half of the mutual option and (barring a new deal) will be a free agent. Any interest as a stopgap right fielder?
I’m skeptical of Ludwick because he’s never strung two really good years together back-to-back. He’s struggled for a few years, had one great year, struggled again, so on and so forth. That said, the crop of reasonably-price free agent outfielders is weak and Ludwick does have the kind of big right-handed power that would play in Yankee Stadium. He wouldn’t be Plan A or even Plan B, but he is a viable option.
Joe asks: What do you think about the Yanks bringing in Delmon Young to play right field? He’s had his character issues in the past, however he’s young and a playoff producer.
Not a fan at all. Don’t care that he’s young (27), don’t care about his playoff performance. We’ve got over 3,500 plate appearances telling us he’s a below average big league hitter (96 wRC+), and the last 1,100 plate appearances have been even worse (89 wRC+). Young also isn’t any kind of outfielder, he’s a DH. Unusable in the field. The character issues are pretty severe considering that he has a criminal record now, so add that all up and you get a big “no” here.
That’s basically every young pitcher in the organization who is a) healthy, and b) worth a damn. At the same time, Hughes will be a free agent in a year and Robertson in two years. Marshall is unproven above Double-A and we have no idea if Phelps can cut it as a starter in the big leagues. That deal would cripple the team’s pitching depth, but I also don’t think it’s an insane asking price for someone of CarGo’s caliber. I’d say no, too much pitching to sacrifice in one trade.
Will asks: As I’m watching the NLCS, I’ve had an opportunity to watch Jon Jay. His style of play really reminds me of the core guys during the late-90′s. What kind of package would the Yankees have to offer for him?
It’s funny, I actually liked Jay quite a bit in his draft year (2006), but he’s turned into the exact opposite of what I thought he would. I thought he would develop into a .260/.370/.440 type who drew a ton of walks and hit 20+ homers while playing a decent right or left field, so basically a number six hitter. Instead, he’s a .300/.380/.400 leadoff guy who plays a legitimate center field and steals bases with little power. Funny how that works. Anyway, it would take a lot to acquire him since he’s still under team control for another four years, so something along the lines of the three players the Yankees gave up to acquire Curtis Granderson. I don’t think the Cardinals are looking to move him anyway, but he would be a great fit for New York.
Patrick asks: How serious is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? Have there been enough cases to know what to expect how someone’s going to bounce back? How much would that procedure deter you from signing someone like Mike Adams?
Long story short, TOS occurs when a pectoral muscle (using on the pitching arm side) displaces an artery and it can lead to numbness, an aneurysm, all sorts of nasty stuff. I remember early last season, when the Yankees were still trying to figure out what was wrong with Hughes, there was some concern that he had TOS. That turned out to not be the case, however. Chris Carpenter had surgery for TOS in mid-June and didn’t return to the team until mid-September, and he’s the most notable recent example of the problem aside from Adams. Adams has a history of arm problems but TOS wouldn’t stop me from at least kicking the tires on the right-hander, who is one of the very best relievers in the game. You’d just have to go through the medicals very thoroughly and understand that he carries more risk (and reward) and your typical free agent reliever.
Ethan asks: Would you do Hughes and Nova for Tim Lincecum? I have no idea how much this makes sense (and yes, it probably totally sucks), but with Madison Bumgarner getting tired down the stretch and maybe affecting next season, Barry Zito being Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong maybe going up in smoke, I think they could use some back-enders that can at least give innings. Plus the whole AL-to-NL thing.
I would hold off on that deal for a few reasons, most notably that Lincecum has seen his performance decline steadily in recent years. He was basically league average this year in a big ballpark in the NL, so sticking him in Yankee Stadium could be quite ugly even if he doesn’t decline any further and remains the same guy. You dream of him turning back into the Cy Young caliber pitcher who could dominate anywhere, but it’s not a safe assumption. Lincecum will be a free agent after next season, so you’re getting one year of him, plus the Yankees would be creating a rotation opening with the deal. I don’t think it’s an unfair asking price, if anything it’s probably a steal considering what the Giants could fetch for him in a bidding war, but I don’t believe it makes sense for the Yankees at the moment.
Late last week, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports both suggested that the San Francisco Giants should consider improving their club by trading ace Tim Lincecum. Cameron roped the Yankees into his argument by suggesting a swap of Lincecum and Aubrey Huff to the Bombers for a package of Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez. He argued that the deal would clear plenty of salary, thus allowing the Giants to improve their offense with free agents as well as through contributions from Montero and Nunez, and would provide the Giants more long-term value that Lincecum’s two remaining contract years would. While the idea sounds interesting in theory and certainly caught the eyes of many Yankees fans, a look at the incentives and motivations involved when trading an ace for a package of highly regarded prospects suggests that this proposed trade, as well as others like it, is extremely unlikely.
One extremely important factor to look at when evaluating the trade value of an ace pitcher is service time. A pitcher that has more than 2 years of team control remaining obviously has more value than one with 2 or fewer relatively cheap seasons remaining, but quantifying that value in terms of prospects can be quite tricky. This issue makes it very difficult for teams to agree upon fair value in an ace-for-prospects trade. A general manager holding a pitcher with a lot of service time remaining is unlikely to accept fair market value for him, because there are a number of factors that incentivize him to hold onto his pitcher unless he is offered a massive package of prospects in return. For example, the ace is often the face of the franchise, and trading him can lead to disillusionment in the fanbase. Regarding a young star in particular, the fans have just enjoyed watching the pitcher bloom into ace-hood, and would react poorly to seeing him dealt. Take a look at Giants blogger Grant Brisbee’s reaction to Cameron’s suggestion:
How about instead of trading him to afford other good players, how about you just buy the other good players? In the short-term, it might put them overbudget, but when the wretched contracts come off the books in the next two years, the Giants will look for ways to spend that money. Spend it now while Lincecum’s here, and hope that they’re all still effective in the future when you have to stick to the budget.
Or don’t. Subsist on the David DeJesuses and Coco Crispix of the world because of a self-imposed budget. Whatever. But don’t trade Lincecum to chase after an extra win or two, especially if all it would take is money to get those wins. That’s an easy way to make some disillusioned fans.
The thread continues for about 1000 comments that largely agree with Grant, and is illustrative of the sort of reaction that comes with trading homegrown aces. Trading Lincecum, or pitchers like Lincecum, come with an added cost of upsetting the fanbase, which makes getting an enormous return an imperative.
Additionally, while the ace pitcher’s performance is reasonably predictable (assuming he is not an extreme injury risk), prospects are significantly more volatile. As such, there is always the risk that a number of the acquired prospects bust while the ace is winning regularly for the other club, which might look incredibly bad for the general manager as it plays out over a number of seasons. Again, this incentivizes the general manager to push for as many high-end prospects as possible in the deal, even if the prospects sought exceed “fair market value,” so as to increase to the probability that he has something of value to show from the trade.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the general manager holding a pitcher with plenty of service time remaining does not have to make a deal at all. Those pitchers are relatively cheap, and the GM can usually afford to sit back and allow the pitcher to rack up wins while he waits for an above market deal to come along. Unless the team is in serious financial trouble, they have little reason to even consider trading a young ace.
Taking all of these factors together suggests that a trade for an ace with more than two seasons of control remaining would usually require the acquiring team to “blow away” the trading club, making such deals fairly unlikely. In fact, the only two trades over the last 5 seasons that meet the criteria are those of Erik Bedard to the Mariners and Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks (the second Haren trade occurred when he had a 4.60 ERA and was not perceived as an ace on the market), and both of those trades were perceived in the baseball world as overpayments by the acquiring clubs. These trades do not happen because GM’s are incentivized to avoid them, and the only way to complete one is by emptying your farm system to allow the trading GM a perceived “win.”
Conversely, as a player drops below two seasons of contract time remaining, the incentives swing in the other direction. The trading GM can tell his fanbase that he needs to trade the pitcher before he reaches free agency, thus freeing the GM to make a deal without quite the same backlash as he would encounter under different circumstances. He is now incentivized to move his player rather than lose him for nothing, and is willing to accept a “fair” deal. However, as the player inches closer to free agency, the acquiring team has competing incentives that can often impact what sort of deal gets made.
On one hand, the GM does not want to relinquish top level prospects while only getting a few months of the star in return. There is little that looks worse for a GM than giving up a major prospect for a few months of a player, the player not carrying the club to any sort of success, and then seeing the prospect star in another city. Furthermore, the acquiring club knows that the other club is desperate to receive some sort of return from the player before he hits free agency, which further pushes them to refrain from giving up their best prospects. On the other hand, clubs that seem to be on the cusp of winning are often desperate in their own right, and that could lead to them setting aside the factors mentioned above and bringing a fair offer to the table. This sort of trade happens more frequently (I counted 8 over the last 5 seasons, and the return tends to be a mixed bag), but is fairly unpredictable and requires a very specific set of circumstances.
This brings us back to Lincecum and the Yankees. Lincecum, as a pitcher who has exactly two seasons of contract time remaining, could go into either category, but probably belongs in the first because the Giants have no real desperate need to move him. As such, the only way the Yankees could acquire him is to blow the Giants away, and that is simply not how Brian Cashman operates. He would likely offer Montero and Nunez for Lincecum, but it is doubtful that he would add more top prospects, and this trade is unlikely to happen without them. Any similar trade would likely run into the same problem, as Cashman’s unwillingness to include multiple top prospects in a single trade would prevent him from constructing a “blow me away” package.
This leaves those clamoring for another top arm looking to the second category of pitcher, those aces with two or fewer seasons of contract time remaining who are on teams that are motivated to move them. The problem is that unlike in past seasons, when pitchers such as Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, and Cliff Lee fit into that category, there is no obvious candidate to target. As I noted above, a very specific set of circumstances is required to make such a deal, and the first of those is that such a pitcher has to actually be made available. At this point, none are on the market, and it does not seem like any are on the horizon either. The only possibility seems to be Zack Greinke, and the Yankees have already shown an unwillingness to part with a representative package for him in the past.
All of this is a long way of saying that it is unlikely that the Yankees make a deal for an ace this offseason. However, there are a bevy of second-tier pitchers nearing the end of their contracts, all of whom could likely be had for the right price. Such pitchers make for fantastic trade speculation, because most of the incentives discussed above diminish greatly when shifted to a lower quality pitcher. Teams are more willing to relinquish such arms, and the lower cost makes them more attractive to acquiring general managers. The Giants actually have one such pitcher, with Matt Cain being a year closer to free agency than Lincecum and not quite as talented as Timmy is. John Danks and Francisco Liriano fit into this category as well, as do a handful of other pitchers who could become available in the coming months. Over the next few weeks, RAB will profile a number of these pitchers in a series that will look at trade targets who are 1) not quite aces but are still talented pitchers and 2) are in the final year of their contracts.
Stuff like this absolutely fascinates me. Enjoy.
Since we fetishize good young pitchers around here, I thought I would share with you Tim Lincecum’s pitching line tonight against the Astros. He went 7 IP, gave up 2 hits, 1 run (unearned) and 1 walk while recording 10 strike outs. He threw 60 of his 95 pitches for strikes. That’s pretty damn good. I think he’ll stick around San Francisco.
The Superfreak took a nice little pounding in his first ST inning. I think he’s just an absolutelyÂ fascinating pitcher, and the Roy Oswalt comp is probably the most accurate comp I’ve ever heard regarding any player, ever.